Sunday, June 25, 2006

Set Upon His Own Glory (1 Samuel 2:22-36)

Recently, we saw the downfall of Eli's sons. Instead of serving as priests for God's glory, they chose to pervert His ways for personal gain. Usually, this type of perversion in the House of God was punishable by death. Though Eli spoke warning to his sons, he did not follow the example and teaching given through Moses regarding the holy things of God. Ultimately, God chose to discipline Eli for honoring his wicked sons above honoring Himself.

Through this historical event, as students of the Bible, we should ultimately be growing in a relational knowledge of our God. Today, instead of focusing on a summary and interpretation of the text, we will be looking for specific characteristics of God's character. Here's a few that I pulled out of 1 Samuel 2:22-36:

  1. God will discipline those who are His. Discipline helps us to navigate our relationship with God. It leads us closer to Him.
  2. The knowledge of God in all nations is His will. - Those who are most influential in Israel were to be an example to the whole nation. The nation, as a result, would then be a shining example of relationship with God among the world. God was and is concerned about Himself being known by all the earth.
  3. God provides hope. - Though this portion of the chapter is focused on the decline in the priesthood, Samuel is noted twice (v. 21-26). He is growing in favor with the Lord and men, a light of hope in comparison to the decline. God frequently gives us hope to sustain us for His purposes.
  4. God is set upon His own glory. - He disciplines to reveal His greatness within us. He seeks for truth (Himself) to be known by all people. He provides hope as we live in His will. He is the source and center of life. This truth is core to everything He does.

© 2006 by Kendra Hinkle.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Corruption of the Sacred (1 Samuel 2:11-21)

At the Temple in Shiloh, Hannah relinquished her newly weaned son as a faithful completion of her vow to God. Verse 11 says that Elakanah returned home, which means that he confirmed his wife's choice and relinquished to Eli the fatherly authority to raise Samuel as a servant in the Temple. This transference of guardianship ends our time with Samuel's family.

The Scriptures now have us peering into the current state of the worship in Israel. Eli, the High Priest, had two sons who were very rebellious. They used their position as priests to greedily demand and steal portions of food from worshippers, to eat the fat of the sacrifices (belonging to God alone), to deal harshly with the people, and to have sex with women serving there. The fear of God was not in them.
Serving the Lord as a priest was a sacred position. It was reserved alone for the tribe of Levi. The books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy expound upon the role of the priests, who were lifelong servants before God. According to these books, the Levites blessed the other 11 tribes of Israel by standing between them and the presence of God. Holiness befits His house, and the Levites were to fear the holiness of God in the way they dressed, ate, and ministered. Their lives were a constant reminder to the people that God is not to be approached irreverently.

The corruption in Eli's sons is a heavy thought to weigh. It is repulsive in comparison to the holy standard of God. Through them, I am reminded that my own sin should be repulsive to me as I consider the holiness of God. I am loved and have a life purpose in God's will, but I still must daily choose between sin and obedience. Having a relationship with God did not, and does not, remedy the nature of my flesh. I, as Eli's sons were, am still tempted by my own evil desires. I am daily tempted in my sin to lower the standard on what is sacred.
With gladness, God gives me hope. Samuel, even as a youth, stood as a stark contrast to the rebellion of Eli's sons. You and I are to be that contrast to the world in our present time. As sinners, we blend in with the world around us. But as the saved, we stand apart because of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Day by day, God is working to grow us before Himself as He did with Samuel. Temptations abound, but we have the blessing of a responsive relationship with God to lead us in repentance and being made new in Christ.

As you seek to honor the Sacred One, be wise in recognizing, confessing, and repenting from sin and fleeing the temptations to lower His standard. Consider these wise words by Charles Swindoll in his sermon "It's the Work and It's Sacred":

The work of God is Sacred.
It is not our place to lower His standard.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Hannah's Song (1 Samuel 2:1-10)

The character of God which I see most illuminated by Hannah's song is His incomparable power and willingness to heap blessing upon those who are His. He is the judge and one who weighs men's actions. He sets the world on its foundation, allowing blessing to all, but choosing more specifically to exalt certain ones. He is a rock who alone is holy, whose decisions shatter the might of those who oppose Him and bring honor to those who love Him. Hannah witnesses to us through this song -- more than filling a human need, the love of God is extravagant to those whose hearts are fully His.

The lyrics to this song include those attributes and characteristics of God to which Hannah has been exposed. She found herself very lowly, only to be exalted by God's choice. What seems impossible is the very thing that God uses for the display of Himself among all people. This is not a God who needs anything from us. Instead, He is pleased to reveal himself through us. The song says that from the dust heap and the ash, one is seated among the noble. Those who are lowly receive honor that befits Him and His ways. It is for His glory. Hannah was included in God's plan to bring glory to Himself. He chose a barren woman to birth a boy who would do what is right in Israel. He would grow to be a man to lead all of the people in relationship with God. In choosing the lowly, God reveals His compassion and ability.

Have you taken the time lately to respond to God in your own creative song? These days I have few hiding places where my voice could be hidden if I were to sing, but it used to be common for me to sing prayers to the Lord, to sing praises, and even some worship songs that related to the place of my heart before God. I miss it. Hannah's song reminds me to sing new songs to the Lord. Such a responsive relationship with God is an honor, a place of undeserved mercy, and a place for holy fear.

© 2006 by Kendra Hinkle.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Responsive God (1 Samuel 1:19-28)

The book of 1 Samuel has so far introduced us to sin's effect in the marriage unit and the family. It is a reflection of the deterioration of a God-centered nation. The revelation of sin's effects will get worse, but before it does the author gives us a promise of hope.

God hears. God responds.

Looking ahead (3:1) we will see that a word from the Lord was rare in those days. Yet, outside of what her experience may tell her, Hannah makes a petition based on the character of God. Unchanging and reliable, Hannah believes that though God has been silent, He exists, hears, and has full ability to act. She humbles herself before His mighty hand, and He chooses to exalt her in her request for a son.

I've made plenty of petitions in my prayer life, but a petition based on God's character is a mature action in prayer. Many of my petitions are quick thoughts about what I think is best, but really I'm just moving my way through a mental shopping list so I don't have to feel responsible any longer. I did my part. Check it off the list. I should learn from Hannah in her remembrance of who God has faithfully shown himself to be through history, and her bold faith to request based on His character.

What a romancer is our God! He hears the words that Hannah didn't speak. (She was saying them in her heart, but not making a noise. The Priest, Eli, accused her of being drunk.) Then, according to His will for her, he opens her womb and she is given a son. The son's name is Samuel, which sounds like the Hebrew for "heard of God" (NASB Study Bible footnotes on 1:20).

Hannah is a woman of her word. She vowed to God that she would dedicate the boy to His service should God grant the request, and so she did. Samuel became a lifelong servant leader to the nation of Israel. God had in mind a man pleasing to Him, who would humble those involved in the corruption in the priesthood. From one broken woman who had nothing to offer God, He supplied in a way that would bless the whole nation of Israel. Samuel was no Savior, but He was a breath of hope for a disobedient nation.

Knowing that He hears and is able to respond, run into the arms of your dear Savior. Recount His great ways in saving you, or ask Him to show you more of His ways. He is a great Romancer, wanting of our dependent relationship with him.

© 2006 by Kendra Hinkle.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Good Girl, Bad Girl - Part 2 (1 Samuel 1:8-18)

Peninnah and Hannah have had quite the battle going on year after year. While both of these wives of Elkanah are sinners, Peninnah acts on selfish ambition to the detriment of those around her. She is a contrast to the broken vessel of Hannah, who eventually chooses to act upon faith.

Elkanah blessed Hannah with love and double portions, revealing no grudge against her in their childless marriage. Yet, Hannah allows herself to sink away from faith in God. As Peninnah provokes her to tears each year, Hannah accepts despair as an appropriate state of mind in her relationship with God. She is distracted from worship because of what she feels she is missing out on. Honestly, her future was bleak outside of God's hand, for sons would carry on their family inheritance within the Israelite tribe. In that day, it was normal for women to outlive their husbands, so widows were common. Sons would be a boast of God's blessing upon a family, as well as breadwinners able to care for their aging parents and widows. Hannah had a mountain of evidence waiting to affirm her despair.

Yet, one day her husband challenged her despair by offering the blessing of himself. He suggested to her that what she needed was right in front of her. Her husband's willingness to alter the family dysfunction opened a door for healing in Hannah. I assume that God whispered into Hannah's heart, moving her to believe that what she needs IS right in front of her. Next, Hannah went straight for the Tabernacle where she poured out her heart to the Lord. Hannah loved her husband, but her greatest need was the Lord.

Ladies, as much as we may want a man who gives of himself and desires to be our pursuer, there is no replacement for the centrality of Jesus Christ in our heart. If I were Hannah, it would have been so easy to rest in the man's assuring words, not moving to a place of active faith in God. I may have simply rest in the advantage of a supportive husband. I admire Hannah for acting dependently on God to rule over her situation. More than comfort in her husband's love, Hannah allowed her desperation to become God's business. As women, we are responsible for seeing that we choose to yoke ourselves with men who love the Lord and serving Him in their masculinity, but who also push us to greater faith in God instead of allowing us to rely on him for all of our needs. (How exhausting would that be for him to bear!)

You've got to love the expression of Hannah's heart in the temple. The priest confronted her as if she were drunk, but Hannah confessed complete dependence on God. Her expressive prayer has an audience of one. Though it was her prior reason for hiding in shame, Hannah now shared honestly with the most honored man in all of Israel, the High Priest. She had no reason for shame any more, because the Lord had accepted her into His house and heard her plea.

We have no reason to cower in shame. Those who approach the Lord through the High Priest (for Hannah it was Eli, for us it is Jesus) have appropriately approached God. There is no reason to hide our expression of love for God, nor relent when the highest of the high come before us. We stand secure in the righteousness of Christ and may rest in the peace of having our place before God. As Hannah did, so we too may go our way, eat, and have a face that no longer bears the sadness of sin's weight. Truth lives in our hearts and is replacing the lies of the evil one.

© 2006 by Kendra Hinkle.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Good Girl, Bad Girl (1 Samuel 1:1-7)

Welcome to 1 Samuel! As a quick review, the time of the Judges showed us a depressing outlook for the nation of Israel. Under Joshua, Israel had begun to conquer the land promised to Abraham so many generations prior. But, Israel did not obey God's command as they overtook the inhabitants of the land. This created an open temptation to chase after loves of the flesh, such as beautiful, exotic women from other nations. Israel intermarried with the nations around them, an act of disobedience to God. Instead of trusting in God's use of them to bless all nations, Israel intimately joined themselves to that which God forbade. Judges showed us that man's potential in sin was headed quickly away from their LORD, though the initial sin seemed reasonably beneficial. Isn't it so easy to disobey, especially when the infringements look minimal in the beginning? But the seemingly minimal infringements, not fully conquering the land and marrying women from the other nations, would soon catch up with Israel. The worship of God was now in competition within the homes of Israelites. Foreign gods were now being exalted alongside the God who calls Himself "jealous."

With the decline of true God-centered worship, the family, the religious system, and the leadership of the nation are corrupted and begin their plunge farther away from God's holy standard. We see this in part as 1 Samuel opens. A man of God has taken for himself two wives, Hannah and Peninnah.

If we learned from history, we'd remember that we've seen this before. Firstly, polygamy appears in the Bible with Lamech (Genesis 4:19, 23-24), a man who exalted himself in his sinfulness. Then we watch as Abram listens to Sarai's faithless plea for children through marriage to her maidservant, though it is noted as the LORD who chose to close Sarai's womb at that time. Both of these situations contrast the monogamy of Adam and Eve, as well as the Law given through Moses. God's command and Biblical history both cry out for us to live by faith, but human nature is to live apart from faith in God.

Once again in 1 Samuel, we start with the work of God among a sinful people, His people. They've missed the mark, but His own glory and purposes still include the sinners He has entered into a covenant relationship with. He loves them with patience and steadfastness, allowing their sin to be a part of His fatherly discipline and consequences.

Our good girl, Hannah, is the husband's favorite. She receives a double portion for the yearly sacrifice, though she has born no children for him. Her barrenness is the work of the Lord's hand. Peninnah, our bad girl, is also a sinner. Yet, her character is shown in contrast to that of Hannah. Peninnah jealously provokes and hurts her co-wife, seeking destruction and selfish ambition. While everyone is feasting as part of a yearly celebration in Shiloh, Hannah is so upset and mournful that she will not eat. Peninnah knows how to play her cards to her own benefit.

Hannah and Peninnah keep their home in a yearly roller coaster through jealousy and competition. Can you imagine what the children and the husband felt like with this cat fighting going on each year? Ladies, we would be wise to note that we can strongly influence the climate of our homes. We have the honor of influence as we either set our hearts upon God or upon our own selfish ambition.

So, in response to the Lord's teaching about these women, what is the climate of your home right now? How are you contributing to it as either a single woman or a married woman?

In your relationships with other gals, especially those you may feel twinges of jealousy toward, do you pursue opportunities of self-promotion (destruction for them) or do you rest in dependence on God's hand, who has chosen to make you "barren" in the area of your jealousy? If God is allowing you to see the areas of your jealousy, then begin to search out what about you seems to be "barren." What do you feel you are missing out on, and how does it compare to the Bible's teaching about you? What truth can you cling to this week as you seek to live with character that edifies instead of destroys?

© 2006 by Kendra Hinkle.