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 23, 2017

Learning From the Life of Hannah: A Woman with Serious Problems {Part 2}

{This is Part 2 in a series on the Life of Hannah.

Last week we set the stage to learn from the life of Hannah as recorded in the book of 1 Samuel.

Before we jump back in to the narrative, we first must understand that God sovereignly governs as we roll back the curtain and see a woman enduring Problems that fill her with Sorrow.

Hannah is a woman who loves the Lord. As women who love the Lord, we are not going to escape problems in this life.

God is God. All things are under His rule and control. He has the right to do all things according to His own good pleasure. That is essentially what sovereign means.

Charles Spurgeon said:

“There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God's sovereignty.”

Hannah’s husband is Elkanah. In the first chapter of 1 Samuel, we read that he takes his wives up to Shiloh to present a sacrifice. They make a feast of the sacrifice, which would indicate that they present a peace offering; an offering of praise and thanksgiving.

Peninnah, Elkanah’s other wife, has a quiver-full to give thanks for, but Hannah remains empty handed. Peninnah provokes Hannah and uses this opportunity to drag Hannah through the wringer year after year.

The obvious love triangle is a heart-wrenching tragedy: Hannah wants what Peninnah has, and Peninnah is jealous of Hannah and wants what Peninnah has.

One has the love of the man and one has the children of the man. Jealousy for the husband’s love drives Peninnah to provoke the one who desires his offspring.

Elkanah loves Hannah even though the Lord has closed her womb and Peninnah grievously provokes Hannah because the Lord has closed her womb.

Hannah is oozing like an open wound that won’t heal, subjected to the tender care from her husband as well as the cruel taunting from his other wife.

Hannah means ‘grace’. Her rival, Peninnah, is understood to mean ‘pearl’, but as you consider the situation, you see that she is a lot more like the grit in the oyster before it becomes a pearl.

As much as Hannah is full of grace, Peninnah is like the grit that irritates and provokes her in her painful problem.

When we are suffering, God uses the aggravating grit around us and pours out his abundant grace on us and a radiant pearl is formed.

Hannah is so heartsick she could not eat of the worthy portion Elkanah gives her. Elkanah attempts to console her, but fails to understand the depths of her grief. In his confusion, he questions (in 1 Samuel 1:8): “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad?”

Well, I think he should have stopped at that, but no, he continues, and he says: “Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

Oh, Elkanah!

I don’ think he quite gets it. The heartache a woman endures when she longs for a child or losses a child is intense. Other women wrestle when they are overwhelmed with an unexpected pregnancy. Ultimately, we realize we really don’t have a whole lot of control over our own wombs.

For years Hannah has lived in a family without the joy of her own children. Month after month, her womb remains empty, while her husband received children from another woman.

Elkanah didn’t understand her loss, her grief, or her suffering. But, perhaps this is the last straw, and she had come to the end of herself.

And this is where God would have us to be: to give up everything. His purpose is to bring us back to himself, to conform us into the image of His Son for His glory and for our good.

We will endure problems that will cause intense sorrow. God will bring us to these places where we are able to rest in the truth that God sovereignly governs over all of life.

{Continue to Part 3 here.}

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.}

Friday, June 9, 2017

Run Well While the World Rages On

Fixed with determination, she placed her feet firm at the start line along side seven and eight year old girls. As the siren blew, she sprang forward with the participants, hustling for position. 

By the first bend, her form and the look on her face were fierce. She charged ahead like a warrior. She fell into a steady pace, but then was set back in the transition station as she entered the cycling portion of the duathlon. She bent lower into the wind and embraced the challenge. It was as if she didn’t let the hindrance weigh her down. She pushed on toward the goal and with resolve she would reach the prize. 

After she dismounted from her bike, she began the last, but most difficult leg of the race. She set her eyes on the finish line and with sheer grit she reached forward.

All along the sidelines spectators cheered on the athletes. The goal for every child was to finish the race well. As every runner crossed the finish line, a medallion was slipped over his or her head and shouts of ‘well done’ rang out.

Our community had come together for our annual dualthlon and encouraged active participation and a strong finish.

As the sun warmed up the crisp morning, there were false starts and strong finishes. Weary bodies rose up and soared to the end. Nervous energy and tears of exhaustion were exchanged for courageous endurance and cries of victory.

While the athletes cooled down they were handed nourishment and parents snapped photos, stole hugs and planted kisses on flushed faces.

The whole day was filled with contagious enthusiasm and at the heart of the event was the essence of community. Working together to offer encouragement to those around us to press on to finish strong.

There are many things to hinder us in this race of life. We can be so easily weighed down and entangled.

When we take our eyes off the prize, we lose our footing. That is why we are told in the book of Hebrews to fix our eyes on Jesus. He is the founding leader and the finisher of our faith. He has pioneered and perfected the life of faith. He is the champion who rejoices to run his course to bring us back to God.

This world is aching and groaning. The horrific killings , devastating atrocities, the apparent lack of justice, the wickedness that makes our hearts heave in our chests.

We are called to run this race with perseverance. And the only way to do that is to look to Jesus. The One who with joy set before Him endured the cross. The greatest atrocity that has ever taken place or ever will was when Jesus died bearing the sin of the world. It is also where the greatest victory was won. The head of the enemy was crushed; wickedness will not reign forever.

The Psalmist sang: “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1) and yet mankind has stubbornly turned from God. And as Paul penned in the opening of his letter to the Romans: they have “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:23)

They have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie.” (Romans 1:25) Paul continued: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1:28)

Paul made it clear to the Roman Christians that we:

“ . . . all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:23-25)
We do not run this race apart from the grace of God.

Yes, we need to run with endurance. And, we need to fix our gaze on the glory of God and proclaim His name.

The Bride of Christ does not need to wonder if God is good, she gets to be in awe of His abounding goodness.

The Body of Christ needs to speak out that Peace only comes in the Person of Jesus Christ. And it is the peacemakers who “shall be called the children of God”. (Matthew 5:9)

The Church needs to rise up, to suffer for doing good, to spur one another on to fight the good fight of faith, to speak the truth in love, to press on to the end, to reach forward for the prize of knowing Christ.

The Church does not need to prove God exists, but she gets to pour out God’s love because “He abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12)

The Church needs to be exhorted with the message:

“ . . . that [we] have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another . . . By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:11, 16-18)
The Church should be the first to show up with love in our hearts, truth on our lips, and arms full of compassion, reaching out with kindness in one hand and care in the other for both the body and the soul.

Let us run onward with perseverance. Let us endure like the witnesses who have gone before us full of faith, and with fierce determination, but driven forward because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts.

We have a race to run. Let us cross the finish line strong with our eyes fixed on Jesus and our hearts full of adoration for Him.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Living with Purpose in this World

I know it like the back of my hand. How life takes on a whole new sharpness when any day could be your last.

You savour the sweet pleasures and the bitter sorrows of life when your days may be short. You stay attentive to living, keenly aware that life is a mere puff of air. You lean into life, pressing in to squeeze every drop of meaning out if it. Suddenly you cannot get enough and you are stuffed to the brim all at the same time.

All week the clouds have poured down rain on the fading flowers. Tulips have dropped their petals and the cherry blossoms have blown away.

As quickly as the thunder rolled in, the sun chased the clouds away and we ran to scan the heavens for rainbows. We saw promises hung in bows across the sky and new life forming in the all small green cherries that have burst forth on the tree in the backyard.

How does one take hold of each day that is strung together to span a lifetime that fades like a passing shadow? Here today, gone tomorrow.

How does one measure one’s life?

Surely life is more than the length of days lived or the dash between two dates.

When you don't know if you will grow old with your beloved or watch your children grow up into adulthood every new sunrise becomes precious. I know about this.

I know it’s hard to live every moment to the fullest. But do we open our eyes wide to every new day we are given while eagerly waiting for our future hope?

Try to hold a shadow in your hand. It is futile. But, cling to hope and hope never disappoints.

The way to measure a life is to know that our ultimate purpose is to glorify God. Our days are numbered but our hope is in the Lord.

C. S. Lewis, in his book, Mere Christianity wrote:
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
Made for another world. Made to find our rest in God. Made to enjoy God forever.

When dying young is a threat in your day-to-day life, fear can grip you and ensnare you to waste moments and throw away opportunities to really live.

Fear of the known as much as the unknown can keep you from living life to the fullest.

We desire to live abundant lives but our lives are far from full when they are filled with fear.

No one wants to live an empty life. Yet, we let fear tighten its grip on our lives and choke us until we fall silent.

How do we loosen this hold that cages us into living pitiful lives?

When we remember that our days are numbered and our time on earth is brief, that we are simply passing through, life is put into perspective.

But, it is the present hand of the Lord in our lives that releases us from these pointed fingers of fear.

The knowledge that the Lord is near is what allows you to live without worry, fear, and anxiety.

Right before Paul exhorted the Philippians to not be anxious about anything, he reminded them that the Lord is at hand.
“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” {Philippians 4:5-7}
The way to overcome fear is to be confident that the Lord is near.

Fear subsides when you rest secure in the presence of the Lord.

He is in our midst, a present help, and he is coming to make all things right again.

The promise that He is coming again should make us live every day of our present lives ready for all eternity.

King David knew where his hope came from and it made him ready for his death at any hour. Psalm 39 records his words:
“O LORD, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.”
The promise that the Lord is with us and is coming again empowers us to not be anxious about anything, gives us confidence to come before the throne of grace, and grants us a peace that surpasses all understanding.

C.S. Lewis also wrote these words in Mere Christianity:
“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next . . . It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

Let us ask ourselves: Do we desire to live abundantly while here on this earth? Do we wake every day with the resolve to live effectively in this present world? Have we set our mind on things above and fixed our eyes on things that are eternal?

Know that the Lord is near and you will be freed from fear and filled with the joy and peace of God as your shadow fades and your hope overflows.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...