Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake: Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake, a fire: Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft gentle voice. (1Kings 19:11-12)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Learning From the Life of Hannah: A Woman with A Serious Problem {Part 1}

Are you a woman with a problem?

Perhaps a serious, heart-wrenching problem that fills your life with grief. You know what it is like to drag yourself out of bed, go through the motions of the daily mundane, push food around on your plate, toss and turn in the night and feed on your tears when sleep won’t come? You know how it feels when it hurts to breath and your heart races and flutters when you just can’t reach out and touch that which is your heart’s greatest longing.

Perhaps you are walking along side a friend who has a serious problem and you wonder how you can keep on encouraging her.

Over the coming weeks, we are going to become a little more acquainted with a woman with a serious problem and how her heart leapt for joy in the Sovereign Lord.

We will encourage our hearts with a narrative from the Old Testament that powerfully reveals the goodness of God in our day-to-day lives and his perfect redemptive plan for all eternity.

We will see how God:

Sovereignly Governs 
Providentially Guides 
Graciously Gives and is 
Eternally Glorified 

I am sure some of you are familiar with this woman and that your heart has gone out to her and at times you relate to her quite well.

We are first introduced to her as a wife, a woman of grace, and for those with astute observation skills, we see a woman who has a serious problem. And her problem led to intense suffering that filled her with profound sorrow and great anxiety.

She lived in Israel in the hill country of Ephraim, during the time of the Judges. She was married to a godly man who loved her dearly. However, her affliction overshadowed his love for her. She was so deeply distressed and that she could hardly eat.

We get to know this woman in the first chapter of 1 Samuel. As we observe her life and how she responded to her problem, we can’t help but to examine our own heart.

We are turning back the pages of history to look at Hannah: the woman with a serious problem.

Her problem was she had no children. This was a major problem in ancient Near East. Without a son her future was not secure.

The problem was intensified for her because not only did she have no children her husband had another wife. And the other wife had given her husband children.

Remember when Sarai offered her maidservant, Hagar, to her Abraham to obtain children by her. Once Hagar conceived she looked at Sarai with contempt and Sarai dealt harshly with Hagar.

Then there was great rivalry between Rachel and Leah as the Lord opened and closed their wombs.

So it wasn’t a unique problem only to her, but Hannah handles it with grace.

Her husband had more than one wife—which was a direct violation of God’s command—and he subjects his family to painful consequences that were difficult to bear.

During this time in Israel’s history, when the nation had reached its depths and everyone did what was right in their own eyes, we meet a few godly individuals. The Lord was setting the stage for his plans to unfold.

God required his people to go up to the house of the Lord three times a year. And so we meet Elkanah, faithfully going up to Shiloh, year by year, to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of Hosts. We see this nation was continuously unfaithful, the priesthood was corrupt, yet God Sovereignly governs over all. 

In 1 Samuel 1:3, we read the first occurrence in the Bible of the name: The Lord of Hosts, which means he is the LORD who rules over all.

The nation was weak, the time of the judges was drawing to a close and God is the Supreme Ruler over all—over the stars, the angels, the nation of Israel, all believers. It is a military term that implies God will fight for his people and will win the victory.

When you get to the end of yourself you will turn to the Lord of hosts, the name also translated: Lord Sabaoth.

In his hymn “A Mighty Fortress in Our God”, Martin Luther penned these words:

“Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right Man on our side,
the Man of God's own choosing.
You ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth his name,
from age to age the same;
and he must win the battle.”
In the Old Testament we read over and over, as the Lord warned the nation of Israel of their unfaithfulness and His coming wrath, how the prophets repeatedly called on the Lord of hosts.

When Paul, in Romans 9, speaks of the Gentiles that have attained a righteousness that is by faith, he quotes Isaiah: “And as Isaiah predicted, ‘If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.’”

For those who “by grace . . . have been saved through faith” we call on the Lord of hosts: Christ Jesus who has won the battle and reigns victoriously.

Hannah prayed to the Lord of Hosts. She did have a serious problem, but she turned to the Lord and sought His help.

Over time, Hannah’s circumstances changed, but the Lord does not change. Hannah’s joy did not come because her circumstances changed, but because she recognized God’s grace in her life. Yes, Hannah was a woman with a serious problem, but her joy was ultimately in the Lord God.

Come back next week as we will examine exactly what Hannah’s problem was and how God sovereignly governs over all. In the meantime, whatever trouble you are walking through right now, look to the Lord of Hosts and, know that He is the same God today and “know that in all things [He] works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

{Continue to Part 2 here.}

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