1 Samuel: Rejoicing in the Lord

Sermon by on March 15, 2009

1 Samuel 2:1-11

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The Lord’s Day
Evening

March 15, 2009


I Samuel 2:1-11


“Rejoicing in the Lord”

Dr. Derek W. H.
Thomas

Now turn with me if you would to I Samuel 2. Our reading
tonight is going to consist of the first eleven verses, the song of praise and
thanksgiving that Hannah sings in the temple at Shiloh. You remember last week
we began to look at this great book of I Samuel, were introduced to this little
family of Elkanah and Hannah and another woman — another wife in this home by
the name of Peninnah. And Peninnah is having children seemingly annually, and
rubbing it in to poor Hannah. We watched her last week making the journey to
Shiloh and pouring out her heart and soul before the Lord, only to discover that
not only did she have a husband who said to her, ‘Why are you not eating and why
are you not sleeping, and am I not worth more than ten sons to you?’… she
discovers that the priest Eli mistakes her for being drunk.

Well, God has heard her prayer. God has visited
Hannah, and a little boy, Samuel, has been born. But Hannah, you remember, made
that extraordinary prayer. I mentioned last week that I think this is perhaps
one of the most eloquent, moving prayers outside of the prayers of Jesus in the
whole of the Scriptures, because she says to the Lord, ‘Lord, if you give to me,
I will give him back to You.’ And it’s in fulfillment of that…Samuel is now
possibly three or four years old. He has been weaned from his mother, and
they’re making the trek from wherever Ramathaim-zophim is in the hill country of
Ephraim. Not sure where that is, but wherever that is, they’ve made the trek to
Shiloh to leave Samuel there in the care of Eli and his two not-so-likable sons.

Well, tonight we’re going to read and study together
this great song. We’ve sung some beautiful hymns tonight…beautiful hymns…one
modern and contemporary whose words were just so very appropriate for the
context of what Hannah is going through, and Allen and Kristi’s song, too. If
you were looking at the title of that song and listening to the words, it’s
getting right into the very heart of the trial and pain that Hannah has known.
Well, tonight she sings a song of thanksgiving and of praise and of worship.
Before we read it together, let’s look to the Lord in prayer. Let’s pray.

Father, it’s a joy and a privilege for us to read
the Bible that You have spoken, that You are there and you are not silent, that
You have spoken Your word. You’ve spoken through the lips of prophets and
through the Prophet, Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom all the fullness
of the Godhead dwelt bodily. As we read the Scriptures tonight, O Lord, we pray
for the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Help us to read, mark, learn, and
inwardly digest, and all for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Now this is God’s word:

“And Hannah prayed and said,

‘My heart exults in the Lord;

my strength is exalted in the
Lord.

My mouth derides my enemies,

because I rejoice in your
salvation.

‘There is none holy like the
Lord;

there is none besides You;

there is no
rock like our God.

Talk no more so very proudly,

let not arrogance come from your
mouth;

for the Lord is a God of
knowledge,

and by Him actions are weighed.

The bows of the mighty are
broken,

but the feeble bind on strength.

Those who were full have

hired themselves out for bread,

but those who were hungry have
ceased to hunger.

The barren has borne seven,

but she who has many children is
forlorn.

The Lord kills and brings to
life;

He brings down to Sheol and
raises up.

The Lord makes poor and makes
rich;

He brings low and he exalts.

He raises up the poor from the
dust;

He lifts the needy from the ash
heap

to make them sit with princes

and inherit a seat of honor.

For the pillars of the earth are
the Lords,

and on them He has set the
world.

‘He will guard the feet of His
faithful ones,

but the wicked shall be cut off
in darkness,

for not by might shall a man
prevail.

The adversaries of the Lord
shall be

broken to pieces;

against them He will thunder in
heaven.

The Lord will judge the ends of
the earth;

He will give strength to His
king

and exalt the power of His
anointed.’

“Then Elkanah went home to Ramah. And the boy ministered to the Lord in the
presence of Eli the priest.”

Thus far God’s holy and inerrant word.

You have to try and put yourself now in the shoes of
Hannah. It’s understandable that she is rejoicing, in one sense. She has borne a
son. God has heard her prayers. God has visited her. God has come to her in ways
that perhaps she had begun to think would not be possible. But put yourself in
her shoes now. She is handing over her four-year-old son to a stranger; a
priest, to be sure…someone presumably that she could trust. She is perhaps
unaware of what kind of priest Eli is and what kind of family he has. It’s hard
for me to even conceive what must have been going on in her mind. She’d made a
vow, you see, in days when vows were both made and kept. She made a vow to the
Lord in the presence of Eli. There was no turning back, even if the thought has
crossed her mind — and who would think that it had not crossed her mind in the
past two or three, perhaps four years.

But she is handing him over now to the Lord, and
she’s worshiping. She’s in the place of worship. She’s in the house of God in
Shiloh. She’s come to the place where God has promised His presence, and she
opens up her heart to the Lord and sings. It’s a prayer; it’s a song. It’s a
psalm. Perhaps you’re asking the question, “Did she actually pray like this? Did
these precise words come out of her mouth in this very elaborate poetic form?”
Well, perhaps not. Some have conjectured…Arthur Golding, for example, has
conjectured that in the temple in Shiloh there were perhaps already some psalms
and songs, and even prayers, that she is now accommodating to her own situation.
There are general statements here, and then there are very specific statements,
and perhaps she is utilizing one of these forms of prayer and she’s turning it
into her prayer.

You know, you can do that. Some of you here tonight
have experienced great deliverances. Some of you this week. Some of you have
emailed Ligon and the staff, and I’ve had occasion to see some of the things
that have happened even in the past seven days — acts of deliverance, acts of
divine intervention; some of them small and relatively insignificant, but to you
and your family they were big things, things you will remember, things you will
talk about for weeks and months and years when family will gather at
Thanksgiving and Christmas, and when children grow and get married, and you’ll
be talking about events. These are some of the things that you will remember.
You can do what Hannah does here. You can take a Psalm, one of the great Psalms
of thanksgiving, and make it your Psalm, make it your prayer, make it your act
of adoration and praise.

I want us to see four things in this Psalm, all of
them encapsulating the idea which must surely have been dominant in Hannah’s
mind and heart as she approached this day: namely, the providence of God.

The providence of God; the overruling of God; that things happen because God
orders them to happen. And they happen because God orders them to happen before
they happen, and He orders them to happen in the way that they happen.

I. The providence of God.

In the first place, I want you to see that Hannah
learned to read the providence of God in her own life.
I say that because of
how she begins: “My heart exults [or rejoices] in the Lord.” Her dominant
thought as she begins this song is that she’s thankful. That’s the dominant
thing. You know, you could imagine that perhaps she was regretful, that she
might have regretted having made that vow — (‘Whatever possessed me?’)

But the first thing that I want us to see is this
thankfulness, this spirit of contentment, this spirit of well-being in Hannah.
Now, you can only achieve that, you can only get to that point when you live
under the umbrella — the conscious umbrella — of the providence of God. She saw
her life, you see, as under the control of God–every part of it, every aspect of
it, all the details of it: her family life; her marriage; her children; her
little Samuel. She rejoices. It reminds me so very much of Paul in Philippians
1. He’s in prison. He’s expecting — what? Possibly his death. Now we know that
he was released, but as far as he knew he was in a prison in Rome and he was
facing possible execution. And you remember he urges his beloved Philippian
brothers and sisters to be filled with joy and filled with thanksgiving, because
it’s through this trial, it’s through this peculiar event in his life that the
gospel is now being spoken of in Caesar’s household. In other words, he’d
learned to view his trials, his difficulties, his problems, as part of a larger
picture, a larger framework: that God was in charge; that God was working out
His plan and His purpose even in dark providences.

Hannah’s situation was surely dark. As Anne Duncan
said to me after the sermon last week… “…Surrounded by insensitive men,” she
said. Elknah…what an oaf! Seeing her miserable and crying and off her food, and
saying to her, “Am I not worth to you more than ten sons?” And Eli accuses her
of being drunk. What dark days she had been through — the taunting of Peninnah.
And even in the dark providences, Hannah has come to a point in her life, in her
experience of the Lord’s ways in her life, where she has begun to see, I think,
that despite the darkness and despite the trials, and despite the difficulties
and problems and things that she would wish had never been, there’s an
over-arching plan and purpose of Almighty God, so that she can rejoice. She’s
not rejoicing because of the trial; she’s not rejoicing because she’s a
masochist. She’s rejoicing because she has seen that she is an instrument in the
outworking of the mighty plan and purpose of God. That’s why Paul could say, “I
have learned in whatsoever state I am, therefore to be content.” I think you see
it here in Hannah. There’s a spirit of contentment here in a difficult place, in
a difficult task…handing over your little son for the rest of his life as a
Nazarite, to serve the Lord in Shiloh.

She would visit him no doubt from time to time. We‘ll
see that in the coming weeks. But the incredible difficulty of what she is
facing, and yet she is exulting in the Lord. She is finding her strength in the
exaltation of the Lord: “My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in Your
salvation.” That’s the first thing that I want us to see, that she has learned
to read her life in view of the providence of God.

My friend, until you get to that point you will
always be discontent.
Until you begin to submit yourself to the providence
of God, to the rule of God, to the sovereign overruling of God in your life and
your family there will always be a spirit of restlessness and a spirit of
discontentedness. Learn from Hannah.

II. God’s providence reflects
His character.

The second thing I want us to see is that she
learned to trust God’s providence because she understood God’s character.

You notice in the second verse — it’s like a mini-systematic theology, it’s like
a mini-catechism:

“There is none holy like the Lord….” You
remember when Isaiah went into the temple, in Isaiah 6:

“In the year when King Uzziah died, [he] saw the Lord high and lifted up…and
seated upon a throne…and seraphim crying,

‘Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts;

Heaven and earth is full of Your glory!’”

And what did Isaiah do in response? He was conscious of his
sin. He was conscious of the fact that he oughtn’t to be in the presence of one
so holy. “I’m a man of unclean lips,” he said. Now Isaiah had the cleanest lips
in Israel. He was a prophet. But in the face of the holiness of the God who
cannot even look upon sin, who is so far removed from us as the Creator of the
ends of the earth, all that Isaiah could do was say, “Woe is me! I’m a man of
unclean lips!” And here is Hannah, and she’s exalting the holy character of God.
No wonder God’s ways are not our ways. No wonder God’s thoughts are not our
thoughts, because He is holy.

“There is none besides You…” which I take it
to mean a statement of the fact that there is no other god but this God. It’s a
statement of Jewish monotheism, that there is only one God, and all the gods of
the surrounding nations were no gods at all. She knows this God. She loves this
God. She worships this God. She has covenant fellowship with this God. She is in
a relationship with this God whereby she can speak to Him and commune with Him,
and bless Him and thank Him, and revere Him.

“There is no rock like our God.” The solidity
of God, the firmness of God, the reliability of God, the protection of God.

“Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come
from your mouth,

For the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him
actions are weighed.”

He knows everything. He’s the only God there is, and
He’s holy and He’s our protector, and He’s a firm foundation and a bedrock…and
He knows everything. You think God doesn’t know your trial? You think God
doesn’t know the details of the anguish and torment and difficulty through which
you pass?

“Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should not ever be
discouraged;

Take it to the Lord in prayer”

because He’s a God who knows.

And do you see what she’s doing? She’s rehearsing
in embryonic fashion what we sometimes call the attributes of God.
You know,
there are several lessons there. One of the lessons is that the way to peace,
true peace, the way to contentment is not by looking at yourself. It’s not by
finding some inner strength within ourselves that is just bursting to emerge.
The way to spiritual contentment and peace is to reflect upon the being and
character and attributes of our God.

Now, my friends, how often to you do that? You say
you have difficulty praying. Well, stop and think and rehearse some of the
attributes of God. Go through them: that God is holy; that God is one; that God
knows all things; that God is everywhere present; that all power in heaven and
earth is given to Him. Rehearse them. Remind yourself of the greatness of the
character of this God, and then certainly remind yourself that this immense God
deigns to come and have fellowship with you and commune with you, and speak to
you and reassure you by His words; and send His Son for you, to die for you, to
rise for you, to ever live for you, to intercede for you.

You think that secularism doesn’t affect the church?
Whenever we take our eyes off the character of God, whenever our worship isn’t
God-centered, whenever our living isn’t God-centered, we succumb, you and I, to
the secularism of our age. That’s what’s wrong, isn’t it? That’s the verdict of
what is wrong with the church today. What’s wrong so very often with our own
lives is that we’re not reflecting enough upon the character of our God.

She learned to put her trust in God’s providence
because she knew the character of God. This isn’t John Owen here. This isn’t
John Calvin. This isn’t Louis Berkhof. This is Hannah. This is a woman who has
given birth to a little son, and is giving her son away to Eli as a Nazarite for
the rest of his life in fulfillment of a vow that she has made to the Lord, and
this is what she’s doing.

III. God’s providence covers
both good and “bad.”

But thirdly, I want us to see that she learned to
put her trust in God’s providence even in the darkest of places.
Even in the
darkest of places. Look at what she says in verses 6, 7,
and 8. She’s still reflecting on the character of God, and she says,

“The Lord kills and brings to
life;

He brings down to Sheol and
raises up.

The Lord makes poor and makes
rich;

He brings low and He exalts.

He raises up the poor from the
dust;

He lifts the needy from the ash
heap

And makes them sit with princes

And inherit a seat of honor.”

There are dark things here. God brings down…God
brings low…God destroys…God kills…God brings death. Oh, I know that it’s part of
accepted Christian belief today at a funeral where there’s been a great tragedy
to say some sentimental mish-mash that God isn’t here; God wasn’t in this; God
doesn’t have a part in this tragedy, in this problem, this evil, this
catastrophe. How different the perspective of Job when he lost all ten of his
children and went through an economic crisis much worse than anything that you
have been through in recent days. Some of you know the pain and difficulty of
that. And what did Job say? “The Lord gave, and the Lord takes away.” God is in
this. The sovereignty of God in life and in death: He exalts and He also brings
low. Hannah knew that. She had been there.

I remember reading…twenty years ago I was sent a copy
of Calvin’s sermons on the book of Job, 159 preached in 1554 and 1555,
translated in 1572 by an Englishman by the name of Arthur Golding. I remember
thinking about that…how in the world did anyone read this? The old Elizabethan
English text…small, small print. On the very first page…I had just opened it. It
had come in the mail as a gift from The Banner of Truth to me, and on that very
first page I spied these words, “It is a great thing to be subject to the
majesty of God.” Hannah has subjected herself even in the dark places. Do you
remember what Mrs. Job said? And you remember what Job’s response to her was
after she had said “Curse God and die”?

“Shall we not accept good at the hands of God
and not evil?”

Good and evil. Yes, in the dark places.

And maybe that’s where you are tonight. Life is dark;
dark in your family, dark in your marriage, dark in your relationship with your
children, dark in your job — or perhaps you don’t have one. Things have happened
in recent weeks that you could not have foreseen. No one would ever have wished
them. Will you learn tonight with Hannah to trust in the providence of God in
dark places?

You know, if it hadn’t been for the dark places,
Hannah would never have been here. She would never have made that prayer. Samuel
would never have been born if there hadn’t been the dark places, if there hadn’t
been a Peninnah in her life. I think Hannah came to the point where she saw a
glimpse of why God had allowed a Peninnah in her life, because she caught a
glimpse of what it means to live in subjection to the majesty of God even in
dark places.

IV. God’s ultimate purpose in
His providence.

But there’s a fourth thing I want us to see. And
perhaps it’s the most important, because she learned to trust in God’s
providences…because she glimpsed something of God’s ultimate purpose.

Do you notice how the song begins? “I rejoice in Your
salvation.” Do you notice how it ends? There’s talk about a king. Now there are
no kings in Israel yet, but she’s talking about a king — an expectation perhaps
because in Deuteronomy 18 there had been talk, a prophetic disclosure that a
king would be born. And do you notice how it ends? With mention of “an anointed
one.” Now you’ve run ahead. You know that this song is cited elsewhere in
Scripture — much of it. The bringing low and exalting, it’s the language of Mary
in The Magnificat in Luke 1. It’s exactly how she had felt! And Hannah?
Oh, I don’t know how much Hannah understood of what she was saying here, but she
caught a glimpse that part of the strategy of God in the personal affairs of her
own life was that there was something far greater at work. It was salvation…that
her small little experience of pain followed by deliverance was part of a
picture that would grow and grow to be a picture of how God would ultimately
work through a king, through an anointed one.

And from our perspective (if not Hannah’s)…from our
perspective we can turn the pages of the Old Testament and from Malachi and into
Matthew behold something of the fulfillment of what Hannah was really trying to
say: that through Hannah’s pain God was working out
a plan and a purpose in which He would send His own Son, the anointed One, a
King to rule over His and our enemies.
Hannah glimpsed a little
salvation in her own life, but it was just a shadow of a far greater work that
God was doing.

My friends, can you view what’s happening in your
life in that larger picture? That this is just part of God’s way of fulfilling
His purpose: “I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail
against it.” May God give us grace to do that.

Let’s pray together.

Father, we thank You for the Scriptures. Thank You
for this song of Hannah. We pray now, Lord, for one another. Give us a peace
that passes all understanding as we bow in acknowledgement of Your overruling
providence. And we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Please stand; receive the Lord’s benediction.

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and
the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

______________________________________________________________________________

© First Presbyterian
Church, 1390 North State St, Jackson, MS (601) 924-0575

www.fpcjackson.org

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