Epiphany 1 2019 Sermon

Epiphany 1 2019

I have asked for him from the Lord. This statement from Hannah on the birth of her son Samuel summarizes I Samuel 1 and in many ways, the book of I Samuel. Today, we begin a journey as a Parish for most of this year through the book of I Samuel. This is an important book because it is a transitional history of God’s people.  For us to remember in terms of God’s work in the lives of His people, three names are crucial to understanding this book; Samuel, Saul, and David. There are also important people behind these men; Hannah, Eli, and Jonathan. This book presents us the close to one system God used to govern His people through the last Judge of Israel in Samuel and through the establishment of a Kingdom and a line of Kings starting with Saul and then to the line of David that eventual lead to Jesus Christ, King over all. Let us embark on this journey through this book together in prayer, meditation, and openness to God’s gracious Word to grow anew in Him to bear His fruit for the benefit of each other.

Hannah, why do you weep? I Samuel 1:1-8

      First, Elkanah’s question to his wife is important, summarizing I Samuel 1:1-8, “Hannah, why do you weep?” The close to the Judges period in Israel’s history was a time of weeping. Hannah symbolizes this with her weeping over her inability to have children and her maltreatment by Elkanah’s other wife that bore children. Yet, deeper, as a people, Israel had gone through hundreds of years since entering the Promised Land of failure after failure to obey the Lord. There was no end in sight.

      God raised up Judges to bring the people back to Him through repentance and through physical deliverance from their enemies. It was a period marked by mass wavering of the people between God and worship of self and idols through immorality and rebellion. The times Hannah lived were described best at the end of Judges, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” In such an environment, people disregarded others and only thought of self. Even in the midst of families, this was the attitude, putting self first while treating others with contempt as Hannah was treated.

 We read that Hannah and Peninnah’s husband traveled to the city to worship the Lord and offer sacrifices year by year and presented portions as gifts to both of his wives. He would always give Hannah a double portion.

      Due to this favor for Hannah we read in verses 6-7 that Peninnah responded by provoking “her grievously to irritate her.” We need to take the gracious lesson here when interacting with others dealing with misfortunes. Sometimes, we do not even know it when we grievously irritate others through provoking with our words, even if they are intended to be nice. The Job rule of thumb is important here, that things went well while his friends were present with him for several days in silence and then went to trash when they opened their mouths to give advice and to try to explain why he was suffering. Often, the best recourse IS prayerful silence, listening, and presence with others as they go through misfortunes. It is one thing to give advice or counsel when asked. When called upon to listen, it is best to listen and pray. We often do not know what we are capable of doing to others as occurred to Hannah to weep and not eat, with sad heart. It is our call rather as fellow brothers and sisters to love and to pray in humility.

      What do we do when we are the subject of both overt and non-intended provocations? The call is that of humility as we read today in Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly that he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” In God’s grace, when provoked and irritated, we need to cling to Him rather than to vengeance.

      God does not call us to some sort of stoic resolve when facing provocations. Emotions are normal. When channeled toward God in heartfelt supplication, it is most helpful. As I Samuel 1:8 records the words of Hannah’s husband to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad?” Instead of going with worldly replies to provocations which would be rage toward those provoking us, seeking their injury, and through seeking to make the hearts of those hurting us sad; we are called to prepare to worship and pray to the Lord through Hannah’s response. Weeping enables us to humble ourselves to God. Not eating enables us to prepare for worship and prayer with fasting. A sad heart drives us towards God in lowly prayer as we read Hannah that did in the next part of this chapter.

Hannah’s Prayer. I Samuel 1:9-11

      Verses 9-11 contain Hannah’s prayer in the House of God. It is her godly reply to provocations. As we read in verse 10, “She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.” Verse 11 contains her prayer. It is a prayer with a vow, asking for a son. It is a prayer in the midst of a time where the people all around did what pleased them. It was a rarity for people to seek God with genuine heart, pining for His favor and grace. She prayed, “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” Such a prayer in lean times both spiritually and physically due to the people’s idolatry and the external pressures from the Philistines was most selfless.

      Hannah asked to bless the Lord and His people with a son that would be dedicated to God. She sought the LORD in her pain. She asked for favor with a son to end the constant abuse from Peninnah. In her times of bitterness, associated with the travel of the family to Shiloh to worship and offer the proper sacrifices, she sought God. It is God’s grace alone to do as Hannah did here. It is the natural inclination of sinful humanity when hitting tough spots in the same circumstances to try to avoid such circumstances. Instead, in the midst of the trial she sought the Lord. As Psalm 92:1 reminds us, “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High.” We often associate giving thanks in times where we feel like doing so emotionally. For Hannah, she worshipped and prayed in the midst of a sad heart.

      Further, our Epistle in Romans 12:1 states, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”In asking for the favor of the Lord to give her a child, she did so sacrificially, with full willingness to give the child to the Lord’s service. Often when we come in deep supplications to the Lord, we have to be mindful of our tendency to ask for things from a selfish perspective rather than from a sacrificial perspective.

Go in Peace. I Samuel 1:12-18

      Our next section in verses 12-18 speaks of the High Priest Eli observing Hannah and the movement of her mouth as she prayed what we read a moment ago. In her silence with her lips moving, Eli thought she was drunk and admonished her. Hannah answered with this in verses 15-16, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. Do not regard you servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” In her circumstances, one normal sinful route to take is to seek solace through getting drunk. Instead, Hannah poured out her soul to the Lord in His House.

      The way of this world is to seek help outside God with drugs, alcohol, and so forth to deal with the type of stress Hannah faced. Yet, Jesus in His grace and love for us calls us to pour out our souls to Him in prayer. Such is to go contrary to the herd mentality of this world that seeks help through self-gratification. As Romans 12:2 states, “Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Often in our times of deep anxiety, we will do all we can to avoid what is good, acceptable, and perfect in Jesus Christ. Instead, we find sinful and worldly remedies that only serve to make us covet more and more, driving us into deeper despair.

      After hearing what Hannah was really doing, Eli said the following in verse 17, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant  your petition that you have made to him.” Instead of wallowing in self-pity, Hannah sought God’s help both through prayers to Him and through speaking to the High Priest of the Lord. When we go through difficulties, we move from prayers to God to seeking the prayers and counsels of fellow Christians and our Pastors. With this peace spoken over her by Eli, we read this at the end of verse 18, “Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” In reading these events, it looks as if the taunting Hannah endured occurred over several years. Here though, she turns to the Lord and the minister of God pronounced peace over her, a blessing.

In our fast-paced world, we need to stop to pray and worship, especially if what we face in terms of adversities are recurring. We need to stop, pray, and seek the peaceful blessings of our fellow Christians and Ministers of the Gospel. Sometimes, all that is called for in such is presence with each other in the love of Christ.

For sake of time, we will cover the last section of this chapter next week. May we learn the lessons of God’s loving grace from Hannah’s trials and trust in the Lord. May we be a people that seek Him when in adversity instead of the enticements this world offers that only serve to dull our senses and callous our hearts to be colder and colder to our both fellow human beings and Jesus Christ. May we seek His peace through worship and through loving presence with each other in blessings and love. Let us Pray.