1 Samuel 2:1-10
Then Hannah prayed and said, "My heart exults in the LORD; My horn is exalted in the LORD, My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, Because I rejoice in Thy salvation. There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides Thee, Nor is there any rock like our God. Boast no more so very proudly, Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; For the LORD is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are shattered, But the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, But those who were hungry cease to hunger. Even the barren gives birth to seven, But she who has many children languishes. The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts. He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap To make them sit with nobles, And inherit a seat of honor; For the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, And He set the world on them. He keeps the feet of His godly ones, But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; For not by might shall a man prevail. Those who contend with the LORD will be shattered; Against them He will thunder in the heavens, The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; And He will give strength to His king, And will exalt the horn of His anointed."
He's Got the Whole World In his Hands
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Our Old Testament lesson, this morning, is a song of praise. It is both about life in this world and eternal life and eternal condemnation. Although it is the praise offered by Hannah, a woman of limited distinction in the Bible, let alone in world history, it is clearly prophetic, in that it is clearly inspired by God and preserved for us in the pages of Holy Writ. The message of this song of praise for you this morning is summed up briefly in our sermon theme, He's Got the Whole World in His Hands.
Before we consider the words of Hannah, I invite you to consider Hannah herself, and remember her. Hannah is the favorite wife of Elkanah. Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Hannah was the favorite, but Peninnah was the wife who bore children, and therefore was the socially more valuable wife, in those days. Barren-ness was considered a curse back then, and as lovely and beloved as she was, the curse of barren-ness troubled Hannah to no end. And Peninnah delighted in making sure that it did. No matter what Elkanah did to comfort and to prove his love for Hannah, the lack of child-bearing caused Hannah great personal grief.
Hannah is the one who we read about praying in sight of Eli, the high priest in those days, praying silently for a son. Eli thought she was drunk and tied to chase her off with a scolding about drinking early in the day, but she explained, and Eli prophesied - unknowingly - that God would grant her petition, which God did, and she gave birth to Samuel the prophet. That is her sole distinction, other than the fact that God saw fit to record this episode as an example for us and a lesson, and when her son was weaned, about four or five years old, she presented him to Eli as she had promised, dedicated to serving the Lord from his birth, and left to serve in the tabernacle from that time on. At his presentation to Eli, Hannah spoke the words of this song of praise.
I tell you all of these details again not just because it makes a great story, but so you can think about Hannah's life. She was not without her blessings, but her life was largely frustration, being tormented by Peninnah for years, and when she finally had a son, she had to fulfil her vow and give him up as a very young child, which she appears to have done willingly. The song of praise almost seems inordinately glorious, considering that she endured all those years of bitter provocation, and then gave up her son in just four or five years. But that is why the words are so obviously inspired. She speaks the truth of life and of God, but not from a position of fame and power, or obvious blessings, but from the ordinary position of someone in the midst of an ordinary life. For those in the midst of similarly ordinary and unremarkable lives, the message is, He's Got the Whole World in His Hands.
The message of Hannah is that life is what it is, outwardly, but that God is aware and God is at work, and we can rest our faith and our hopes and our confidence in Him and in the fact that He is true to His promises and faithful with His people. In the story of Hannah, it is not her ordinary-ness that sticks in our minds, but her faith, her prayer, and her recognition of God's goodness toward her which she acted out in her giving of Samuel to Eli for the service of the Lord. That had to be difficult for her to do, and yet it was as much an act of faith as her prayer. She placed her trust in the Lord. We do not know if she ever had other children, and it doesn't matter to the account in Scripture or to what we are to learn from it. She trusted God, and her trust was ultimately, and after a long wait, confirmed by God's gracious blessing. Hannah is an example for us.
Your wait will also be long, but God will ultimately confirm your faith by His gracious blessing. That is what the song of praise is about, in part. Hannah reminds us not to set too much store in what we see, or what we experience in life. She talks about the rich and the poor, the mighty and the powerless, the hungry and those who have an abundance, and she says, those conditions don't count as much as one might imagine they do. God created both - or all of them. The rich and the poor are both created by God, and given their station in life by God. The LORD makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts. Those are the words of Hannah. She even notes that God can, and frequently does, change their condition without warning. The bows of the mighty are shattered, But the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, But those who were hungry cease to hunger. Even the barren gives birth to seven, But she who has many children languishes.
The conditions of our lives are the conditions of our lives - meaning we have to live with them and in them, but they are not as permanent as they seem and they do not necessarily mean the things we might imagine them to mean. God creates the conditions of our lives, and He is aware we are in them. He can change them when that change is right or needed, and He often does for this one or for that one. The reason we don't often recognize that happening is that when something we desire happens, we consider it the way things should be, something that we have finally wrangled or earned or worked out after long years of trying. In any case, it is as we think it ought to be, and while we are happy about it we don't trouble ourselves a lot about how it really happened that we succeeded this time when, in other times, we did not.
Bad circumstances, or turns to conditions we do not like trouble us, and when we can see no direct necessity for the change in the things we have done, we chafe over the changes or the lack of changes if undesirable circumstances persist, and they tempt us to believe that something sinister is to account for it; God is displeased with us, we have sinned, or we just have really bad luck. We feel something is amiss, and we go to great pains, many times, to figure out how to assign the cause or who to blame.
God is the one to blame - good conditions or bad. God creates the conditions of our lives and places us in them. He's got the whole world in His hands, literally! What we do in them either serves Him or works against Him, either confesses our faith in Him or confesses our lack of such faith. The Song of Praise of Hannah reminds us not to place too much stock in what our circumstances seem to say to say to us. For the LORD is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed. He knows us, our needs, our desires, and our sorrows and frustrations. What matters more is how we face life and what we do about where we are and what we confront.
Hannah had some advice: Boast no more so very proudly, Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth. Whether we pat ourselves on the back or grumble and moan about our circumstances, we are boasting and being arrogant. Either we think we are something special and unique and deserve better than we have, in which case we grumble, or we are so arrogant we think we are responsible for all of our good things, and that we are somehow better or more deserving than those who have less or suffer more difficult circumstances. Either attitude is boasting and arrogance of a sort. In either case, good circumstances or uncomfortable ones, we are in the hands of the Lord and given His blessings to enjoy.
Hannah did acknowledge her own blessings, and her circumstances in speaking about the barren, and she who has many children, and counseling against boasting so very proudly. Her response was to understand that God is in charge, and that He can and will change our circumstances in an instant. She notes the major conditions men struggle with or for today as always, hunger vs. enough to eat; rich vs. poor; victory vs. defeat; life vs. death. All of these conditions are under God's hand. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, And He set the world on them.
She transcends all of those, and enters in prophecy into the realm of salvation with her words about keeping the feet of His godly ones, He keeps the feet of His godly ones, But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; For not by might shall a man prevail. Those who contend with the LORD will be shattered; Against them He will thunder in the heavens, The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; And He will give strength to His king, And will exalt the horn of His anointed.
The thing is, we won't necessarily see the things that Hannah describes here in this life. God's people often endure the worst of things, and so they do not appear to be kept by God, sometimes. The wicked prosper. Only occasionally do we see the wicked crushed or shattered, as we did in the case of Jerry Sandusky. But even then, it hardly seems fair. Honestly, how satisfying was it? Look how long he prospered. Note how well he lived for so long! We think about how many people suffered while he went on abusing those children! And, you might ask, what about those who never get caught?
Hannah said it, she was talking about judgement! The LORD will judge the ends of the earth. The keeping of the feet was salvation talk, and the wicked being silenced in the darkness speak of those who run from God and fail to believe and therefore fail to receive the salvation which He has prepared.
Jesus Christ is the keeping of the feet of His godly ones. He has purchased us from our own sins, from death, and from the power of the devil with His suffering and death on our behalf. His life demonstrates the truth that how things look to others - or even to us - does not always speak to how God views us. Jesus lived in poverty and died in agony, falsely convicted, but He died the holy Son of God, and with His death He won life everlasting for us, and by His resurrection He won and demonstrated our resurrection.
The might of the mighty man is of no avail, as Hannah said, for we cannot earn or win salvation from our sins. We cannot un-ring the bell of sin, and we cannot bear the penalty for it and live, since the wages of sin is death. We are in the position of those who contend with the Lord, until Jesus redeemed us. Those who contend with the LORD will be shattered. But now our sins are forgiven, for Christ has died that death in our place. He that believes and is baptized, shall be saved!
In our salvation, Christ will be truly and fully glorified. Hannah said, And He will give strength to His king, And will exalt the horn of His anointed. I know that she was talking about Jesus, because Israel had no king, but God, in those days. Samuel, her son, was the prophet who anointed the first two kings, Saul, and then David, so when she spoke of God's King and His Anointed, she could only have been speaking in prophecy of the King to come, Jesus Christ, our King and Savior. And in the salvation He has worked for us He is exalted in glory. So, Hannah sang the praise of God as one who had experienced both the bitterness of waiting for the desired blessings, and the joy of seeing the hand of the Lord at work in her life. She rightly said that He is in control, and life goes forward according to His plan and decisions. Hannah was right, and we do well to imitate her faith in God, He's Got the Whole World in His Hands!
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)
These sermons are for the Church. If you find it useful, go ahead and use it -- but give credit where credit is due.
Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church's Website can be found by clicking here.
Send Pastor Robin Fish an email.