I Samuel 1: A Change is Coming
In this book you will meet Samuel, the man who anointed the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David. You will meet his mother, Hannah, and a host of others including: Eli and his two sons, a giant named Goliath, Elkanah, Hannah’s husband, Peninnah, Elkanah’s 2nd wife, and others. Our three main characters are: Samuel, a former judge and now prophet, Saul the first king and David, his successor. These ancient stories contain many truths for us. As we will see this is also a study in character.
These two books of Samuel are about success and failure of both individuals and a nation. We will look at what caused success and failure of both individuals and nations. We will see there are always two voices which vie for our attention and desire to influence us. Both want to define success for us: we will see success as defined by the world culture and success as defined by God’s Word.
Success is defined as “accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) This defines success. But which voice you listen to- defines what your aim or purpose is. The culture which we live in today defines success as achieving wealth, respect or fame.
The Bible defines success as: obedience to God, empowered by the Spirit, directed toward the advancement of God’s kingdom. What our study will reveal is success or failure is a byproduct of our character. Character is defined as the excellence of moral being, moral qualities such as honesty, loyalty, an ethical person of principles. As the excellence of gold is measured by its purity, and the excellence of art by its beauty, the excellence of a man is measured by his character.
We will see in this study the nation of Israel fail, Eli and his sons fail, King Saul fails. And we will trace their failure to their character flaws and failures. David was a success in his character, his conduct and service. David was described as a man after God’s own heart. But even David failed also. We all fail. We all fall short sometime at something.
We read how character is developed by God in Romans 5: “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been give to us.”
Success is a byproduct of character. And this character is Godly Character, His Character, which is developed by perseverance in tribulations. Problems come into our lives, as we will see in this story. God has allowed these problems and the suffering they bring so we will learn to persevere, so you’ll develop His Character which will provide you with hope which does not disappoint. God wants you to experience the abundant life. The only way to prepare you is through tribulations and suffering. Endurance produces joy. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12) Did you notice the joy came after the endurance, the suffering and the sorrow?
Until we as individual believers, as churches and as a nation start emphasizing character and obedience, there can never be true success. Oh, we can attain wealth, our churches can build big building with gyms, coffee shops, book stores and entertainment, but never attain true success in the eyes of God. Only through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to His will can we have godly character and the kind of success which only comes from fiery trials, which Peter said we should expect. Most of us are aware how for the first time in our lives we are being ridiculed, called bigots, hypocrites, and our words called hateful as we speak the truth of God’s Word. Christians are experiencing tribulation for their faith. Imagine that! Peter is saying to us in the 21st century, I told you not to consider it strange when you endure fiery trials.
“As long as he (King Uzziah) sought the Lord, God gave him success.” (2 Chronicles 26:5) I believe God has a specific purpose for each of us. I believe in the sovereignty of God. I believe God is on the throne and when He is isn’t allowed to rule- He overrules. Therefore this story begins with Hannah who is in sorrow and suffering. Tribulation that has gone on for years.
We are first introduced to her husband, Elkanah. And we read he had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Penninnah had children, Hannah did not. Hannah’s womb was closed. It was an emptiness in her life which produced sorrow and suffering. To make matters worse, the 2nd wife, Penny made her life miserable because Hannah was barren and she was not. Our story opens with the annual visit up to the city of Shiloh to worship and make a sacrifice. This was probably the Feast of the Tabernacles which celebrated God’s care for the people in the desert journey to the Promised Land. It also celebrated the blessing on the year’s harvest. The very celebration of fruitfulness and the provoking of Penny made Hannah and her barrenness even more sorrowful.
Paul says we rejoice in tribulations because we know tribulations develop perseverance and perseverance, character which produces hope which does not disappoint. Hannah’s prayer comes out of sorrow and suffering. Have you experienced prayer that comes out of sorrow and suffering? Are you experiencing tribulation in your life right now? Has it been ongoing for some period of time? For Hannah’s has been going on for years, we can assume. She was her husbands’ first wife. After some period of time, when it was evident she was barren, he took a 2nd wife. We can conclude the suffering and sorrow grew even more intense over time as the 2nd wife had numerous children and the 2nd wife took every opportunity to provoke, irritate and belittle her. Do you have someone in your life who does that to you?
Let’s look at Hannah’s prayer as we now understand the depth of her sorrow and suffering. For I want you to see Hannah not only was suffering and in sorrow, we read: “And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish.” Do you remember the Lord’s prayer in the Garden before His arrest? He said: “my soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with me. Then Jesus prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26) It was a bitter cup. He despised it. Yet the suffering and the shame and the sorrow came before the joy. It was endurance that was needed and endurance was given- enduring the cross for the joy set before Him. Our Lord knows what it is to endure tribulations. Tribulations He did not deserve.
GOD ANSWERS PRAYER
Bitter. Empty. Sorrowful. Ashamed. Ridiculed. A soul in anguish seeking help from the only One who can help. This was Hannah. Been there? Maybe you are there this very morning. Facing a battle, a difficult, ongoing situation which you cannot win on your own? Then take hope- for God answers prayer.
I like what she called Almighty God- Lord of Hosts. Lord Sabaoth. Lord of the Host of Armies of Angels. She is calling on God who is Our Mighty Fortress. Martin Luther wrote that great hymn while meditating on Psalm 46, which begins with God, is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed. The Lord of Host is with us: The God of Jacob is our refuge.”
Luther wrote, “For still our ancient foe does seek to work us woe; His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal. So we do not fight him in our own strength we depend on the man of God’s own choosing, the Lord Jesus, our undefeated champion. We call on Him in this name, when we are overmatched by an enemy too powerful; when we are overwhelmed; defeat is sure, darkness is closing in- we are powerless and at the end of ourselves.
Hannah prayed out of her sorrow, shame, suffering and bitterness: “O Lord of hosts; if you will indeed look on the affliction (misery, NIV) of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”
Now Eli the priest is watching her pray. She is praying in her heart, but her lips are moving. For some reason, Eli concludes she is drunk. He says to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. “ ( * Notice she was in bitterness of soul- so she poured out her soul before the Lord. Take your bitterness and pour it out before the Lord.) “Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.” Eli answered and said, “Go in peace and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.”
Nine months later, Hannah gives birth to Samuel.
Her prayer came out of her sorrow. It was a prayer of submission which also included sacrifice.
Hannah would keep the baby boy, Samuel, until he was weaned, probably age 3 then take him and give him to Eli to be raised as a Nazarite priests.
Listen to her praise and worship for what God had done as she sacrifices a bull and brought the child to Eli to be raised.
“O my lord (Eli)! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord. So they worshipped the Lord there.” Do you have a testimony to share? Are you sharing it? If no- why not?
Hannah lived in a divided home. We live in the United States, it is our home, but it is a divided home. We live in a pluralistic society and culture. We are not one nation under God, we are a nation divided by race, gender, politics, sexual practices, beliefs, economics and geography. Our families are being torn apart, divorce is as common among Christians as among unbelievers.
The church is called the “house of the Lord”, but even our churches are divided.
God is in control. He is on the throne and when He is not allowed to rule, He overrules.
This story will make it clear. The life and future and character of a nation depends on the character of the home, the family. The character of the home depends on the spiritual life of the parents. The strength of a nation is dependent upon the strength of family. Now do you see why the enemy has attacked the family since the Garden? He knows the importance of family.
The principle of adversity, tribulation is very important. The Lord uses adversity in the life of a believer for many purposes, all of them ultimately good. He uses adversity to conform us to the image of Christ. This develops godly character and also a deeper relationship with Him
God is just and righteous and therefore He must judge and oppose sin. He allows both the saved and the unsaved person to bear the consequences of their willful acts of sin. God moves decisively against sin with the desire that all would repent of their sin and seek Him wholeheartedly.
Strangely, I am blessed by the fact that this godly woman, Hannah, had experienced bitterness in her soul as a result of her ongoing tribulations. It tells me God understands these emotions we experience. Our Perfect High Priest has experienced them personally. Both Hannah and the Lord Jesus poured out their souls to God in prayer. They emptied their souls of bitterness and sorrow for their situation in prayer. When Jesus finished pouring out his soul in prayer and prayed with such intensity He sweat great drops of blood, we read in Luke 22: “An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him.
Have you ever heard someone say about tribulations- they can make you better or bitter? ‘Every test in our life can make us better or bitter. Don’t let the winds of adversity blow you down, let them lift you up.
Hannah knew God had answered her prayer. For God answers prayer. Prayer allowed her to empty her soul of bitterness and be filled with the presence of God. In order to be filled with the Spirit, we must empty ourselves of anything which keeps us from being filled. Bitterness, envy, coveting, self-pity and unbelief are some of those things which keep us from being filled with the Spirit.
I think of the passage in John 5 of the man healed at the pool of Bethesda. Bethesda means “house of mercy.” Jesus came to the pool which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. Here lay a great number of disabled people: the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One was a man, who had been an invalid for 38 years. When Jesus saw him laying there and knew that he had already been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made whole, (well)?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Do you see the depression? The self-pity? The envy of those who have help? The unfairness of life which had made this man bitter, not better.
Jesus did not give him a stern lecture about pulling himself up by his own boot straps, He knows about the areas in your life, you find difficult to walk by faith. Jesus does not hold your weakness against you. Nor did He hold it against Hannah. He did not chastise her for the bitterness in her, for her sorrow over her condition of barrenness.
Jesus knows that is easy for physical weakness and mental depression and emotional pain to rob a person of hope and in their hopelessness lose their willingness to even try to do anything about it. The question is do you want this bitterness to be uprooted? Do you want the emptiness to be filled? Jesus said to the paralyzed man- “Get up, take your mat and walk.” What does this mean to us? It means if we put our faith in Jesus alone and obey His Word absolutely, you will have all the power you need. Your bitterness will be uprooted. Your emptiness will be filled.
Get off your mat of self-pity, depression, envy, bitterness and blame and shame, and pick up your responsibilities as a child of God, a royal priest and come walk with Jesus.
It is interesting the story and event right before this healing at the pool of Bethesda was the healing of the nobleman’s son. Do you remember the key verse? “The man took Jesus at His word and departed.” Took Jesus at His Word. And obeyed Him.
Have you taken Jesus at His Word and obeyed Him? Do you want to be made whole? Do you want bitterness and unbelief to be uprooted?
It is never too late to do the right thing. Take Him at His Word and whatever He tells you to do- do it.
I called on the Lord Jesus to save me on September 16, 1977. I was at the point of committing suicide. My life, I felt, was not worth living. I called on the name Jesus, because his name means ‘He saves his people.
But I would be introduced to Lord Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts that very morning in my first AA meeting. The first step says: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable. I could not defeat this enemy. I needed help The Lord is our very present help in time of trouble. I was no match for this enemy- I was overmatched- I was headed for sure defeat. The second step says: I came to believe a Power greater than our selves cold restore us to sanity. I met and began a journey led by Lord Sabaoth.