Monday, 13 February 2012

1 Samuel 2:1-10 God's Bigger Picture

Last night in LightHouse we were looking at 1 Sam 2:1-10, here are my notes, beginning with introductory discussion questions:

1. What do we praise God for in our singing and praying?
2. Do you think we tend to take God’s provision for us for granted and why?
3. What does un-thankfulness reveal about our hearts?

1 Samuel 2:1-10 functions as a theological primer for the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, it summarises the basic theology of the book and its place in God’s plan of salvation history.

1. This is my Saviour (1-3)
In chapters 1 and 2 of 1 Samuel we get to eavesdrop on two of Hannah’s prayers, the first is one born of a broken heart which cries out to God for help and the second is the response of praise as God has answered her prayer.

As you read the opening verse what do you notice? How personal this is; “My horn is lifted high...My mouth boasts, I delight in your deliverance.” This is the heartfelt praise of someone who has experienced God’s deliverance, salvation, or rescue from trouble.

Remember her prayer in 1:11 “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...” Hannah’s plea is personal and her praise is personal, the almighty lord of hosts has remembered her and she has not forgotten him.

But what does she specifically ask God for(1:11)? A son, but what is striking about this second prayer is that Hannah does not specifically thank God for her son, even though she prays this having just taken Samuel up the temple where he is to serve God. Instead she praises God for his deliverance or salvation of her, she is delighted, she rejoices in God’s provision of salvation for her. The two are connected; Samuel is her deliverance, in giving her Samuel God has delivered her from barrenness. And from this experience of God saving her from childlessness Hannah concludes that God is a rescuing God, this may be a comparatively little rescue but it still reveals God’s character, he is a personal saviour, one who delivers his people from trouble.

(2)There is no-one like God, he is set apart and he is his peoples refuge, he rescues his helpless people and Hannah rejoices in her rescue, and warns others not to boast arrogantly.

Hannah in ch1 approaches God because she knows his character as a God who hears and who is almighty and who rescues. In ch2 she praises God, rejoicing in her experience of his rescue, seeing it as a micro-salvation which testifies to God’s character as an able and willing rescuer.

We live in an age of cynicism and if we adopt that cynicism it erodes our thankfulness, it eats away at our rejoicing and delighting in God’s little rescues.

How is such cynicism seen? It leads us to think that the answer to prayer which we have received would have happened anyway. We may pray about it but what’s to say it was God acting and that it wouldn’t just have turned out that way. And so we do not rejoice in daily deliverances instead we write answered prayer off as coincidence. This is turn stops us rejoicing and trusting God and praying in the future.

The other enemy of delighting in God is expectation. We live in the because I’m worth it age, an age that expects. And sometimes those expectations prevent us from recognising God’s provision of rescue for us. Expectation says it’s just what I was due, I’m worth it and so we do not recognise what God gives as a gracious or undeserved gift and therefore we are not thankful for it.

Hannah does not expect in that way and neither is she cynical concluding well it would have happened anyway. She praises God her saviour, her deliverer for her experience of a small rescue, a small deliverance. We need to learn to see God as our daily personal saviour.

2. A God of reversals(4-8)
In this second stanza Hannah praises God because he is the God of reversals. She has seen the reversal in her own circumstances from barrenness to pregnancy and she describes and praises God for his actions in judging and reversing situations other than just hers. In other words part of God’s character is that he is a God of reversals.  What reversals does she list? (4-5)strength to weakness and weakness to strength, well fed to hungry and hungry to well fed, the barren to seven children and the mother to barrenness.

(6-8)These actions simply reveal God’s majesty and might, that he is sovereign not man he determines live and death, poverty and wealth, he is the king of kings and the lord of lords. He is the supreme king and sovereign and he rules and reigns. He is faithful to his people and he is righteous in judging and bringing down the wicked.

Hannah spots a pattern that runs throughout God’s peoples past – Abraham taken from idolater to worshipper, Abraham and Sarah from barrenness to being the father of a nation, Jacob from being a lonely fearful runaway to a father of many, Joseph from betrayal and wrongful imprisonment to Prime Minister of Egypt, Moses from runaway fugitive shepherd to God’s instrument of rescue, Israel from slave to free, from vagrant desert wanderer to a nation at home in the Promised Land.

And it is a pattern that will run throughout the book; Hannah is given a family, whilst Eli’s family will be judged and cut off for their sin, Saul will be raised up to be king from insignificance but will lose his throne for his sin, David will go from youthful shepherd boy to king, whilst the Philistines will go from strength to weakness.

God is sovereign and he brings down the proud and raises the humble, God will guard the feet of his faithful servants. God is a God his people can entrust themselves to, he is a God worth praying to because he is able and he is faithful. That ought to be a great encouragement for us God can change situations, when we see tyrants in power and misusing power in a nation we can bring that to god who can bring low. But also when we feel downtrodden and bereft God hears, God knows and God can reverse those situations.

3. God’s Big Plan to Save(9-10)
As Hannah closes her prayer she moves from the personal to the national and from the temporal to the eternal, from her personal deliverance to God’s great plan for deliverance.

Hannah’s prayer looks forward to the day when God’s rule will be fully known. When God’s covenant people will be delivered and his enemies silenced in the face of his just judgement. (10)How does that happen? Through God’s anointed king who he will exalt and strengthen. The idea of kingship is not just plucked out of the air by Hannah, turn back to Juedges 21:25; what do they need a King. But why? Turn back to Duet 17:14f what is the king to do? To know God’s law and mediate God’s rule over Israel. Now you can see why Hannah prays that prayer, why she prays for a king. She also uses another word to describe the King, what is it? That word anointed is the first use of the term ‘Messiah’ in the Bible.

This prayer gives us a primer to the book of 1 and 2 Samuel – God will save his people through his king. Israel is in the Promised Land but everything is not as it should be, we saw that in the comment at the end of judges, a comment which looks longingly for a king. We saw that Elkanah and Hannah are the exception, wicked godless Hophni and Phinehas are the rule – Israel is in danger and God will save his faithful people and judge the wicked and will use his king to do so. Kingship is the key concern of the book of Samuel. God will establish his king on his throne and give to David the promise of an even greater King, the Messiah who will rule forever.

Hannah’s prayer moves from the personal experience of her small scale salvation to reflect on the character of God to the plan of God who is a saving God of justice. Hannah’s experience is like a scale model of salvation which God’s king will bring.

We serve a God who saves, this side of Jesus we ought to praise God as those who have realised what Hannah only glimpses in her prayer – God saves through his king. His king who will one day return and judge the ends of the earth but who guards the feet of his faithful servants, one who will one day come and end all opposition, silencing every argument and before whom every knee will bow!
Questions for discussion afterwards:
1. Where do you tend towards cynicism and or expectation?

2. Do we have more or less than Hannah to praise God for and why?

3. How can we encourage one another to pray and praise God? 

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