How will you respond to God?
I am excited, this morning, as we jump into a new message series, a study of the book of I Samuel. I have never preached through this book of the Bible, and I would guess most of you have never heard messages on the entire book. But, I want to assure you that there is much here, for us, that God wants us to know; and based on this information, He wants us to grow spiritually, in Him. Most of all, the change that needs to take place in us is based on a foundational truth about God.
I have entitled this message series on I Samuel: GOD RULES. It has everything to do with God’s sovereignty. For those of you not familiar with the theological term, sovereignty, let me give you a working definition: God is in control of all things. Webster’s Dictionary defines sovereignty as “the supremacy of rule or authority; the rank, authority or power of a sovereign.” The New Compact Bible Dictionary defines sovereignty as “the supreme authority of God. God is not subject to any power or any abstract rule or law which could be conceived as superior to or other than Himself.”
Daniel 4:35 – “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he [God] does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, What have you done?”
This could be our theme verse throughout our study of I Samuel. We can get caught up in the characters of a good story; and we will see many good stories here in this book. But, the real focal point character is always God: what is revealed about Him; and what He is doing in our lives. As this verse says: who are we to question Him? This is all about God being sovereign!
The term “sovereign” is used often, as it relates to Kings, which is very appropriate, because in I Samuel, we are introduced to the first King of Israel, and then to the King, from whose line the future King, Jesus Christ, would come. This is a very significant book in the Old Testament; as it lays the foundation for the future birth of the greatest King to every live, who is yet to come back and set up His Kingdom. The foundation for that rule is laid here in I Samuel.
I Chronicles 29:29 – “Now the acts of King David, from first to last, are written in the Chronicles of Samuel the seer, and in the Chronicles of Nathan the prophet, and in the Chronicles of Gad the seer.”
Samuel is attributed with writing I Samuel and at least parts of II Samuel. And Samuel, himself, is one of the main characters of this book, along with the first two Kings of Israel: Saul and David. We follow Samuel, from the beginning of his life, to the end. And during his life, we see his interaction with the very first king, ever, of the nation of Israel; as well as his anointing of King David. And all along the way, what I believe we will see, very clearly, is the sovereign authority and control of God. That is where our message series title comes from: GOD RULES!
I Samuel 1:1-8 – “There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. He had two wives. The name of the one was Hanna, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the LORD. On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb. And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”
There was a tradition in those days, although a very sinful one, that a man with an infertile wife would take on a second wife that would bear him children. It was not right, but many men were doing it in that day. Hannah was loved by Elkanah, as these verses indicate, but she was the one who could not bear children. And in that day, the inability to bear children, especially a son to carry on the family name, was considered a curse by people. Elkanah did care for Hannah, and when the time for sacrifices came, he would give her twice as much to sacrifice as he gave his child bearing wife, Peninnah.
This led Peninnah to get revenge by mistreating Hannah. She would mock her, make fun of her, provoke her. I cannot imagine the kinds of things that she would say to Hannah, but we know that it went on year after year after year. Can you imagine that? Being mocked and provoked for a few days, or a few weeks, or a school year…well, that would be tough. But year after year after year? Unbearable! And the topic of the provocation was the fact that Hannah could not bear children.
We have been there. And for those of you who have been told, at some point, that you cannot bear children of your own, you know the pain, the longing, and the grief that is associated with that. You see all the pregnant moms, including some of your closest friends and relatives. You see children everywhere, at the grocery store, at the park, and around the corner. It is one of the most difficult things a woman could go through. And to throw gasoline on that fire of disappointment, Peninnah continued to rub it in.