1 Samuel 1:9-11, 19-20; 2:1-10
(watch here: https://youtu.be/b3oOSQ0sslM)
(sermon note: 10-18 sermon note)
After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. She made this vow: ‘O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.’
They rose early in the morning and worshipped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked him of the Lord.’
Hannah prayed and said,
‘My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in my victory.
There is no Holy One like the Lord,
no one 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 gird on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
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, he also 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 does one prevail.
The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered;
the Most High 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.’
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about Moses, Jesus, and an old man who were out playing a round of golf (yes, we return to our good friend Moses for the second week in a row!). On the 18th hole, they came upon a pond of water. Moses smacked the ball over the water and raised his staff. Suddenly, the waters parted and his ball rolled right onto the green. Then Jesus hit the ball toward the water but he closed his eyes in prayer and the ball rolled on the surface of the water all the way to the green. Then the old man hit the ball. The ball was about to hit the water when a fish jumped out of the water and swallowed it. A split second later a falcon dove out of the sky and caught the fish in its talons. As the falcon flew above the green, a bolt of lightning came out of the sky and struck it, causing the fish to fly out of its grasp. When the fish landed, the golf ball popped out of its mouth and into the hole. Hole in one! As they were packing up the golf cart, Moses leaned over and grumbled to Jesus, “This is the last time we’re playing with your dad!”
I like that one because all three characters illustrate uniquely different types of power. In his parting of the waters, Moses illustrated the power of faith. In his ball gliding across the top of the water, Jesus illustrated the power of prayer. And the old man, God himself, well…his mighty display of impossible wonder illustrated the power of God himself. Moses and Jesus are goooood, but ultimately no comparison to the Big Man himself! If you want to see some pretty awesome feats, look no further than God himself. God makes the impossible possible, the unthinkable thinkable, the unreal real. Nothing is beyond the power of God! Someway, somehow God finds a way to reveal his sheer glory to us by doing such amazing feats. Why? Perhaps to impress us. Perhaps to keep us in relationship with him through awe and wonder. Perhaps to keep us in a proper relationship with him in which He is the master and we are his lowly servants. Maybe, just maybe, He likes to simply show off from time to time, you know, humble us when we think we’re more important than we actually are. It’s a mighty, big world out there, full of unsolved mysteries and unanswered questions. God has the solutions and answers, we just need to humble ourselves and ask ever so graciously for them. There are no mysteries and unanswered questions with God. God knows all, sees all, IS all…
I don’t tend to believe God is much of a show-off myself. No, God is quite comfortable with his power and doesn’t feel compelled to flaunt it just for the sake of flaunting it. It’s not like any of our power is even comparable to his in the slightest degree. Yes, we can compel him to use his power when we act foolishly as the Israelites almost did at the foot of Mt. Sinai as we heard in our reading last week. We can also compel him not to his power as Moses boldly did on top of Mt. Sinai when he quelled God’s anger and wrath. Believe it or not, God listens to those who present him with a just argument for him not to display his power. Remember, our God is a good and just God, “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” The wayward Israelites (and us!) got to see that in how God reacted to their idol worship. His mind was changed! God wants to love us! God not only doesn’t feel compelled to flaunt his power, not only can be compelled to use his power when we act foolishly, but God is also inclined to use his power for our own good. Believe it or not, God is on our side! God wants us to survive and thrive in this world!
Just look at how He used his mighty power to bless the women in both our readings for this morning. Both Hannah and Mary conceived and bore sons even though they weren’t supposed to be able to. Recall that Hannah couldn’t bear children, that the “Lord had closed her womb.” Year after year, her husband offered sacrifices to God and gave thanks for his other wife and the sons she had borne him. And year after year, Hannah had to feel like a second-rate wife for not being able to bear her husband’s children until God finally answered her prayers for a son. And we know that Mary’s son was “immaculately conceived,” yet another impossibility. A barren woman and a virgin, both used to reveal God’s awesome and mighty glory! And for what? To show-off? To put them in proper relationship with him? To impress them?! Hmmm, perhaps there’s another reason…
I like to believe both miracles help illustrate another aspect of God that can’t be overlooked. Recall from last week’s message how I stressed that we need to be less focused on knowing God and more focused on believing in God. Well, belief comes through faith. Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29) Friends, to believe, to truly believe in our Lord, means to have faith. It means embracing the unknown and finding assurance in that unknown. Our Lord is found in the unknown. Why? Because God rewards faith: “BLESSED are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” We are blessed for our faithfulness and belief! Now what that blessing entails varies from person to person. We are each uniquely blessed for our faith. Some with good health, some with good relationships, some with good careers, some with good wealth, some with wisdom, some with death itself…not to get too “prosperity gospel” on you but it is true, God rewards the faithful. God blesses the faithful! In Matthew, we hear Jesus say, “ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) God blesses the faithful!
Hannah and Mary were blessed for their faithfulness. How do we know they were faithful? By their songs of praise and thankfulness! Their elegant words of gratitude and joy convey deep and abiding faith. They knew our God! They knew the love of our God! And, oh, how their hearts sang out in response to that love! Few words in scripture can compare in faithfulness and joy, perhaps only rivaled by David’s. He speaks on behalf of God in his 91st psalm, “When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them.” (vs. 15) Friends, this is the God we know and love! In David’s 145th psalm, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (vs. 18)
As we reflect on the beauty of Hannah’s words and witness this morning, let us be mindful of how we are each called to live faithfully. We are called to bear witness to God’s awesome love and glory in our lives and the lives of those around us. God is revealing his glory each and every day by continuously making the impossible possible. What a mighty and awesome God we know! Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.