Thursday, September 6, 2012

Week Four. Hannah: Blessing Beyond Measure

As we close out our study of Hannah today I want us to ponder the effect one woman’s obedience and belief thousands of years ago still has on us today. We are going to be bouncing around in Scripture so I will ask you to keep you Bible handy as we continue. 

The Personal Blessings of Hannah continued long after Samuel was released to the Temple. In I Samuel 2:18-21 we find that Hannah visits with Samuel every year as the family goes to the Temple for the feast and each year she brings him a little robe she made for him. She never abandoned her child. She knew he was the Lord’s and she honored her agreement while still caring for her son. Furthermore, Eli blessed Elkanah and Hannah for their obedience and the Lord opened Hannah’s womb 5 more times. She pleaded to the Lord for a son and He not only gave her that son but also three more sons and two daughters. God just gives and gives abundantly more than we ever think or ask! (Ephesians 3:20) I am so thankful that God answers still this way today-so much more than we can think or ask.

We see another blessing here in I Samuel. There is a National Blessing. God had some serious plans for His people through Samuel. See during this time as Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were “serving” the Lord as priests but they were doing it all wrong. They were selfish and self serving. God had ordered the sacrifices to be done a certain way and these two men were perverting this sacrifice and evening threatening the people if they did not do as they were told in giving the choicest things to Hophni and Phinehas instead of to God. The whole nation was suffering because of their wickedness. When Samuel was still a young boy God called Him to Himself personally. At this time He gave Samuel a prophecy against Eli’s sons and a deliverer to lead His people. I Samuel 2: 35 says, “And I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind. And I will build Him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever.” Let’s see how this plays out. 

The Philistines were enemies of the people of God and they came and defeated the people of God and captured the Ark of the Covenant. God allowed the Israelites defeat because of their wickedness. Now because the Ark did not belong anywhere near the Philistines camp God punished them severely for having it in their midst and after about seven months of moving the Ark from place to place and horrible things befalling them they decided to put the Ark on a cart lead by cows who had never been hitched to a cart before and see where they took the Ark. If they cows took the Ark toward Beth-Shemesh that meant that all the evil coming upon the Philistines was from the Lord but if the cows headed elsewhere they would believe it just coincidence. Guess where the “unguided” cows headed. You got it! Bee line to Beth-Shemesh. About 20 years passes and finally it looks like Samuel got a bit fed up. He is the last righteous judge in Israel so he puts on his judge cap and gets to work. I Samuel 7:3 reads, “And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, ‘If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve Him only, and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.’” The people did as Samuel said and the Philistines were afraid-with good reason. The Lord heard the cry of His repentant people and fought for them and they were delivered from the hand of the Philistines!

Later we find Samuel is the man who anoints the first two Kings of Israel. Without going into too much detail here because this is a lesson in and of itself, the first is Saul whom the Lord later rejected and the second is David.  Through David’s lineage we have the birth of our Savior, Jesus. This is where Hannah’s story comes full circle. Hannah prayed for a son. She got him and dedicated him to the Lord. This son was a righteous man that God set apart to bring His nation and people back to Him and this son was the man God gave the duty of anointing a king who’s family line would include our King of Kings. 

How precious is your prayer, Daughter? How important is your need? Look at Hannah. All she wanted was a son. She got 4 sons and 2 daughters. Her firstborn son, Samuel not only answered her prayer but the prayers of many others. If want you are praying for is important to you it is important to God. Never underestimate what He can do with a mustard seed of faith. Never think you are insignificant. I love this little saying, “If you think you are insignificant and small things don’t matter, try sleeping with a mosquito in the room!” Through Hannah God changed a nation and taught us, once again, that we matter and God is listening to the prayers of His daughters and sons. Bring your petitions to Him today. You matter-especially to Him!!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Week Three. Hannah: Praise and Prophecy

This week we will be looking at Hannah’s prayer of praise found in I Samuel 2: 1-11. It is often compared to the Song of Mary (also known as the Magnificat) of Luke 1:46-55. This prayer is a beautiful example of heartfelt praise sung from a voice of gratitude.

I Samuel 2:1-11 (English Standard Version)

Hannah's Prayer

And Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the Lord;
    my horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
    because I rejoice in your salvation.
“There is none holy like the Lord:
    for 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 Lord's,
    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.
10 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 horn of his anointed.”
11 Then Elkanah went home to Ramah. And the boy was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli the priest.

Hannah prays this prayer while worshiping the Lord at the time when she dedicated Samuel to the Lord for his lifetime. She begins by announcing how overfilled her heart is with the gratitude and celebration because the Lord had answered her prayer. She says in verse two that her “horn in lifted high.” Sounds funny but in the ancient Jewish world when one said their horn had been lifted it meant that God had delivered them from a place of disgrace and placed in a position of honor instead. Remember back in those days to be barren was a very disgraceful position. Now Hannah was celebrating the fruition of her prayers and longing. Hannah also mentions in this verse that now she could boast over her enemies. Think back at Peninnah and all her loud taunting toward Hannah. This time Hannah could boast in the Lord and His answer to her prayers. As we continue through this chapter we find that Hannah continually puts the focus on God and His attributes-knowledge, strength, and provision. She exalts Him for Who He is. It is truly a song of praise.

I love the English Standard Version of this passage. Hannah exalts “There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides You; there is no rock like our God.” When we back up to verse one she says that she rejoices in God’s salvation. Hannah is pointing out and praising the strength and might of the Lord. She is pointing out how nothing is too big for our God! He is over all and all must bend to His will. Keep this in mind as you face struggles and trials in life. When the bills come and doctor shakes his head in frustration-God is too big for Your problem! Your troubles are in His hands and you are not forgotten. In fact, in verse three she points out that “the Lord is a God of knowledge.”

Verse four has a beautiful word picture. It states that the “bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength.” Think about that for a moment. Ever felt like the world was just shooting away at you with arrows of discouragement or it seems like nothing is quite “going your way”? Hang in there because those arrows will be broken! Furthermore you can “bind on strength!” I love this illustration so much! Think about a soldier going to war or a police officer heading into a standoff. They bind on armor. They put on Kevlar vests, boots, helmets-all kinds of protection. You can bind on strength. You can bind on this strength even when you are feeling feeble-which means you are lacking in strength, force, or effectiveness. Wow, lacking in effectiveness! I’m sure that sometimes, like I have, you have felt like all the work you’ve done is futile and it just seems like ,no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to get ahead. Hannah felt this way but she took it to the Father and He answered her prayer.  She then locked and loaded herself with His strength! The wonderful fact is that God has not changed in all this time and if you bring it to your Heavenly Father you can do the same. Lock and load, Ladies!

While the vast majority of Hannah’s prayer praised God’s deliverance of His children, I don’t want you to miss this often overlooked portion right at the very end. The last portion of verse ten states, “He will give strength to His king and exalt the power of His anointed.” Know what? There was no King at this time. Know what else? Hannah’s son, Samuel, is the prophet who anointed Israel’s first two kings. Hannah prophesied the anointing of Saul and David. Hannah’s son would be the last judge in Israel and anoint God’s choice as King to replace the judges of Israel. How cool is that! Look at how blessed the nation of Israel was and we today have been because one woman took her sorrows to the Lord and believed He heard her cries. He answered her and He blessed us all with the answer to her prayer.

What about you? Is there something in your life that you just can’t seem to get ahead in? Are you weak and beaten down by life until you can hardly hold up your own head? Bring your cares to the Lord. He hears. He cares. He will supply. Praise Him now for what He is doing in your life and how you trust He will bring you out and bless not only yourself but everyone who witnesses this deliverance. In my own life, I have seen the Lord deliver. I have felt His presence. Sometimes I can imagine His arms around me. He always comes through and I’ve never been the only blessed by it. Anyone who sees the hand of God on your life will be touched by and it may just be the push they need in their own belief. It may just be the example that gives them hope. My hope is in this, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I hold so dearly to those words. They are true for you as well. Bind on strength, Daughter. He is strong and He will fight for you.

Join me next week as we wrap up Hannah but taking a look at Samuel!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Week Two. Hannah: I am the woman

Welcome back to week two of our Bible Study on Hannah. We have much to cover this week so let’s get going! We will be in I Samuel 1: 19-28

I Samuel
19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel,[b] saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”

Hannah Dedicates Samuel

21 When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, 22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.”[c]
23 “Do what seems best to you,” her husband Elkanah told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the Lord make good his[d] word.” So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.
24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull,[e] an ephah[f] of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. 25 When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.

If we can back up just a verse to the end of Hannah’s conversation with Eli I want you to notice again that Hannah agreed with Eli’s blessing and then she got on with it. The Bible says was her face was no longer downcast. Now we are picking up the very next morning and we see that Hannah arose early the in the morning and worshiped before going back to her home. I don’t want you to miss the all important message in that short sentence. You see, before anything had even come to pass, Hannah went ahead and worshiped the Lord. She praised Him before she could see the answer to her prayer. God had already answered it but she could not physically see it so she looked with her spiritual eyes of faith and believed God would do as He said and worshiped Him for it. That’s such trust! If we could all just grab a hold of that kind of faith our lives would be much simpler lived. 

Now belief isn’t where Hannah stopped. You’ll notice also in verse 19 that Hannah did her part too! She didn’t just hear God’s answer, heed His call with acceptance, and sit around and wait. She did the physical requirements necessary to create a baby. She also needed a partner in this, Elkanah. Once again, don’t miss the practical implications of this. Do you have a goal? Do you have a calling? Has God laid something on your heart? It could be anything-a family vacation, wisdom with your finances, or a promotion at work. Don’t just set the goal, ask God for help, and sit on your haunches. Yes, there are times when we are to wait on the Lord and let Him work but something interesting was recently pointed out to me, You’ve got to see this! Turn to Isaiah 40:31. It reads, “but those who hope in (wait upon) the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on (mount up with) wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (KJV in parenthesis) Look at the order there. Doesn’t that seem a little backwards? Shouldn’t we walk, then run, then mount up? No! God’s got us mounting up, then running, then walking! He’s got us barreling through the gate. What a mighty God we serve! Let’s do as He says and “mount up.” On my desk calendar every week has a different little saying up at the top. This saying this week is perfectly fitting for me right now. It says, “Place your eyes on your goals and don’t move them.” As a wife and business owner I have many lofty goals right now in those two areas of my life. If I just prayed and asked God to “help” me and sat back and waited, do you think I would see much success there? No. God wants me to mount up! Hannah believed what God had promised so much that she worshiped Him for the answer before she ever saw the physical proof but she still did her part! God + you= ANYTHING! 

Verse 20 continues the story and tells us that in the proper time Hannah conceived and gave birth to her son and she named him Samuel which means “heard of God.” How beautiful is that word picture? Hannah was heard of God and her baby was a tribute to that. As we progress a bit into the story we see that Elkanah and the family still go to the temple for the feast every year but Hannah had shared with Elkanah that she wanted to refrain from going to the temple until such a time when the child was weaned and could stay there. Please don’t miss the trust and partnership Elkanah had with his wife. The two must have a positively full emotional bank account for he never questioned it. He knew her. He trusted her. There was no argument, he simply stated, “Do what seems best to you.” Wow. Imagine how life would be for so many couples if they kept this amount of trust and communication open! That’s another study altogether, so moving on! 

Here comes the hard part. It’s time. Samuel has been “weaned” and it is time to take him to the temple. At this time Samuel could have been as young as 3 years old. Can you imagine taking your 3 year old son somewhere to leave him for good? I see nowhere in this passage where Hannah was downhearted or regretting this decision. She knew from Whom she’d asked the child and  to Whom she’d dedicated this boy. So she brought him to the temple and dedicated Him to the Lord there. Hannah took Samuel to Eli and said, “As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child , and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” Eli, I am the woman. Eli, here is the physical proof of what I worshiped for. Eli, here you go! This is a beautiful passage but I also see a bit of humor in it. I’m sure there were others around in the temple to help raise the child, but imagine with me just a moment an elderly priest with two horrible grown sons of his own and here comes a woman with a 3 year old—here you go! In Eli’s defense he doesn’t appear to be against the idea. It appears he worshiped the Lord too for answering the prayer of the once downcast woman now full of joy.

What about you? Are you ready to get past this “hump” in your life and say, “I am the woman who…”? Have you been waiting on God but neglecting to do your part? Do you find it difficult to believe God hears your prayers at all? Don’t fret because I’m here to testify to you that He does! Pray and believe then worship Him for His ear towards you. Praise and depression cannot accupy the same space. Prayer really does change things. All those clich├ęs are true! I am the woman who desired of the Lord and I am the woman who received. I am the woman who is beyond blessed and I am the woman who is ready, willing, and expecting to receive many blessings more!

Join us next week as we journey through Hannah’s prayer of praise!! Don’t forget to leave your comments below or on facebook and follow us by email in the box above my picture!! See you next week.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Week One. Hannah: When You're Broken

There are many women in the Bible that I just adore. I love the book of Ruth and how beneficial she was to her mother in law and the way God blessed her (and, truly, all of us) because of it. Esther is a favorite. I admire her strength as she believes Mordecai’s declaration that maybe God brought her to where she was for “such a time as this.” Some people might not recognize her name but Jael is one of my heroes! She defeated an enemy of God using what she had around her—a tent spike and a hammer! But if there is one lady of the Word that I find myself identifying the most with at times it is Hannah. I love Hannah. Even her name means “grace.” 

There was a time in my life when I was so broken that one of the Pastor’s wives in my church at the time said that I reminded her of Hannah when Eli found her praying and she was so distraught that he accused her of being drunk. I remember it well. I will never forget it. It was a Sunday morning and I had been devastated. As soon as the worship music started I made my way to the altar and began crying out to God. And I don’t mean lightly tearing up, I mean flat out balling and weeping before God. It was one of those moments Paul speaks of in Romans 8: 26-27 where he says if we don’t know what to pray the Spirit of God prays for us. That was me. At that moment I began to feel hands all over me. Many ladies of the church began to surround me and pray against things in my life I hadn’t even uttered. How about that! I didn’t know what to pray. I wouldn’t speak aloud some of my feelings due to pride. Didn’t matter! The spirit spoke those things for me and told these women what to pray for as He was indeed making utterances for me Himself. Hallelujah, we serve a mighty God! When the praise and prayer time was over I went back to my seat. Still upset, though filling with peace, I couldn’t even stay for the service. I had to leave. Thankfully God wasn’t done with me yet and since that day I can say He’s still filling me with peace and blessing the life of this Hannah with immeasurable amounts of grace!

I encourage you to read through I Samuel 1:-2:11 several times over the next several weeks and let God minister to you each day through it. I find that the more I read a certain passage of Scripture the more I find in it and that God speaks to me in different ways and enlightens me about different passages as I continue to search His Word.
Today we are going to begin in I Samuel 1: 1-18

I Samuel
1 There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.
Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons? ”
Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”
12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him. ”
18 She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes. ” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. 

When we are first introduced to Hannah we are immediately made aware of that she is the one of the two wives of Elkanah. Apparantly, if the order in which they are mentioned is correct, she was the first wife and Peninnah the second. Then the order switches when we see that “Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.” Well, it our day and time that isn’t such a big deal. Some women choose to not have children; others choose to wait until later in life. What’s the big deal? Ever met a woman who really wanted children and was having difficulty? Yeah, it’s a BIG deal to her! In the time of Hannah it was a much bigger deal than that. It that time children were seen as blessing of the Lord so if a woman could not bear children it was seen as a source of humiliation and shame. One text in my research even compared the stigma of childlessness to that of adultery!  It was one of the worst plights a Jewish woman in this time could endure. No wonder Hannah was so upset! Not only did she have to endure this pain as a Jewish woman she had a constant reminder of her lack before her eyes everyday-Peninnah. Now, Peninnah was a piece of work. It is most likely that the two-Hannah and Peninnah-each had their own tents at home and probably didn’t interact much with each other on a daily basis, but when they did Peninanah showed no mercy at all. During the time of Feast of Tabernacles (which it is believed was the time of worship mentioned in I Samuel 1) Peninnah had a long journey to trap Hannah with and remind her of that fact that she was the mommie of the two. In fact, in I Samuel 2: 3 reveals that Peninnah would speak loudly in a proud way so that everyone could hear her taunts to Hannah. Regardless of the fact that Hannah was childless Elkanah loved her. The Bible even says at the feast he would give Hannah a double portion of the sacrificial meat. He knew Hannah was hurting and tried to comfort her. “Am I not worth more to you than ten sons?” he asked. Way to stick a foot in your mouth, Elkanah!

I want to camp out here just one second. You see, Hannah was loved. In fact, that could have been the source of Peninnah’s jealousy. The Scripture never mentions if Peninnah is loved of not. It only mentions she had children. Ever been in that place? That place where from the outside all looks well. It seems you have no reason to be in pain. You have everything you need. You are loved. You are cared for. Why aren’t you content? There is just that one thing you desire; that one thing out of reach. I’ve been there. Hannah was in that place. Let’s see what she did about it.

Hannah prayed. The Bible says that once the meal was over Hannah stood up. She got out of there. She couldn’t take it anymore. Hannah did more than that; she took her case before the One Who could do something about it. The Word says that “in bitterness of soul, Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord.” My heart aches for Hannah. I’ve know bitterness of soul and I bet you have too. It’s an ache deep down inside that you can physically feel. Bitterness of soul is so much more than sorrow, it’s so much more than pain—it’s like a weight on your heart. Hannah was so deep in “bitterness of soul” she just prayed. It was all she knew to do. She didn’t care how she looked. She didn’t care what people thought of her. She just laid it all out for God. 

In her much weeping, she apparently looked rather odd to the priest, Eli. The Bible says that even though Hannah was weeping and deep in prayer, she wasn’t making any noise verbally-only her mouth was moving. Eli mistakenly believed the woman was drunk! Now how about that? Not only are you so deep in pain from being childless and having another woman taunt you mercilessly about it now you’ve got a priest accusing you of being a drunkard while you are praying! Poor Hannah. But Hannah was not defeated. She defended herself and shared her situation with Eli. She says, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord…I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” Eli had pity on her. I believe he was moved by a woman who feared God and trusted Him to meet her need. Eli blessed her and asked the Lord to grant her what she had asked for. 

I love what it says after that. Verse 18 reads “…Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” What’s the significance of that? Well, simply stated, she believed and got on with her business. She had done the praying, she was doing the believing, and she was getting on with it. She trusted that God had heard her and that He would take care of it the best way possible. She took it out of her hands and placed it in His. She was no longer downcast because the weight had been lifted. It had been removed from her heart and lifted up to the heart of God. It was no longer her weight to bear—it was His. 

What about you? Is there something weighing on your heart? Have you “bitterness of soul?”  If so, follow the example of Hannah. Get up and get away from everything and everyone and lift up your prayer to God. Don’t know what to pray? No problem. Romans 8 says that if we don’t know what to pray the Holy Spirit Himself intercedes for you. Ask some godly women to lift up your burdens in prayer as well. In a journal, write down your burden and what you asked God to do. Now get up, get going, eat something, and believe the Lord will work it out the best way possible. You have brought it to the One Who can do something about it now trust that He will. It may not be exactly as you planned it—it may just be better! When we bring our cares to the Father, He hears. He wants what is best for His children and He never meant for you to live in pain. Trust God like Hannah did and expect a miracle like Hannah got!

Join us next week for a deep dive into Hannah’s prayer! See you then!! Leave your comments below and let me know how God is working in your life. Join me on facebook and share your stories there as well. My heart’s desire is that you will be encouraged and that you will know Jesus more. Be Blessed!