Remember when the stores were boarded up, the protests were in full swing, the news was full of riots and such? It seemed like things couldn’t get worse – and then they did. Dark days, violence, crime, etc. have been overshadowed recently by threats of wars and natural disasters. We look back to the darkness of the book of Judges and the chaotic time when “everybody did what was right in their own eyes.” Then, we reflected on a man whose name meant “My God is king – Elimelech” as he moves away from God’s people to obey a calling, we aren’t privy to hear about in the book of Ruth.
Behind the scenes – God was preparing a Messianic line. He was constantly at work. Behind the scenes God was preparing a people for Himself, behind the scenes God was getting ready to reposition the Ark which symbolized His presence but only we, the 2023 people, get to see things full circle. We can trust the God of this story because we have heard it many, many times, right?
I’m not sure why God allows us to get a glimpse into the life of little Samuel but I’m so very glad we can. Long before the prophet of the hour shows up, we get to see the backdrop. Peninnah (Elkanah’s first wife) has several kids, and she mercilessly persecutes Hannah – Samuel’s mom. It is not just on any day – she ramps things up every time Hannah goes to worship the Lord with her husband. It’s intentional and very painful. Hannah could probably tolerate the jabs but the discouragement right before going to the Lord was just too much. One day, she stood up. Yes, it means rising from a sitting position, but she also stands up and gets some fire in her heart because she cries out to God with such zeal, the priest notices. Have you seen those types of prayers in your church recently?
There are wonderful stories in this book about the prophet who hears God. He pauses to hear, then he obeys. Little Samuel is redirected from the old cleric to the very presence of God to find out what God will say. The God we saw in the previous books is now focused on speaking and the characters in our story are called to hear what God is saying. What is God saying to YOU today? Lift it all up to the Lord, who HEARS you when you pray.
In Psalm 25 we hear David praying to:
“Lead me in Thy truth and teach me: for Thou art the God of my salvation; on Thee do I wait all the day.” (verse 5), and “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on Thee.” (verse 21)
The rest of 1 Samuel tells us about the tribes uniting as one and God selecting Samuel to be a spiritual leader and then anointing Saul as King to be their national leader. Imagine being an anointed, spiritual leader who does a great job only to be replaced by one that tries to kill you! Samuel must have had some serious questions for God in his prayer life! At one point the god of the Philistines comes into view (Dagon), and we see a hilarious contrast between their god and the living God of Israel.
I got stuck on the story about Hannah:
10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”
12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” 17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”
Hannah had deep anguish. Her pressures drove her to her prayers. She did not have the ability to change her situation. There was no Facebook, therapy, anti-depressants, support groups, etc. Her plan of action – She wept bitterly. She did not hide her hurt from God so she must have trusted He was a good God. SHE PRAYED and she kept on praying. “See Your servant God, see my misery God, remember me God, give me a son God.”
What Hannah did not do: She did not call her girlfriends to attend her pity party. She did not blame her husband or priest or family. She did not go to a conference. She did not burn her garments, protest, or run through the village telling everyone her opinion.
She took her heart, her pain, to her Lord.
She poured out her pain and her requests to her Lord.
This is not a platitude or biblical anecdote or panacea. Hannah received her request – she was blessed with a son. God answered her prayer. It may seem simplistic or even childlike to say it like this but:
We hurt, we pray, we receive our answer, we thank God.
The world was full of chaos, power struggles, violence, and a huge vacuum of leadership. It was devoid of a prophetic voice. Long before Suzanna Wesley came on the scene, or Ruth Bell Graham or your mama, there was a barren woman who would change the nation with her prayer and spiritual care for her anointed son. That’s huge stuff. Parenting on steroids so to speak.
But first. . . . She was disgusted with her plot in life, her situation. She had to get tired of the persecution, tired of the opinions and sneers, tired of the carnal thinking and worn-out judgments. When she finally had her fill of the pain and sorrow – Hannah stood UP. Not just physically, she stood up to reach out to God. God saw it. God heard it, Eli witnessed it. God answered.
Where are your tears, modern-day Hannah? Where are your snot-filled Kleenexes by your chair? Where are your dog-eared Bible pages and prayer journal entries? Have you had enough sweet Hannah? Have you had your fill of the way things are yesterday, today, and tomorrow? God’s waiting. . . . Lift it all up to the Lord, who HEARS you when you pray.
“Oh, my people, trust in Him at all times; pour out your hearts to Him; for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:8
Now where does it say in the Bible to turn off the culture, avoid CNN, collect a pile of bricks, join the xyz political party? It does say Pray, beg Him to remember you and your plight. Then receive the answer.
Where are your tears Hannah? Has God heard your anguish, your cries and pain?
Hannah named little Samuel “Heard of God.” She trained him to meet every problem with prayer. Hannah could not see the glory that would fill Samuel in the latter days. She could not see the future where Samuel would prophesy over the nation and leaders. She could not foresee that he would anoint a King named Saul or a ruddy shepherd boy named David who would stand up to Goliath.
All she had was pain, tears, and anguish. That was enough.
And she gave them to God.
Dear Reader, we cannot all be Samuels but we can all be like Hannah. Do not keep bottled up in your heart what belongs to your heavenly father. Those tears are for Him. Those words are stored up for Him. HE’s not shy, or hesitant or afraid to hear. He is listening to every single whisper, whimper or sigh and He loves you. He wants to hear from you – every battle, situation, circumstance that causes you pain.
Samuel would forever be God’s mouthpiece and the answer to prayer for those in the time of trial. He would be the prophet impacting Saul, Jonathon, David, and the Messianic line. But he would not have come, he would not have been birthed or anointed or released if one woman had not made the choice to:
STAND UP, enough, I will not live in the prison of my thoughts and complaints and other’s opinions ANYMORE!
PRAY – I will not stifle my voice, my heart, my wishes, and dreams or sacrifice them on the altar of convenience or complacency ANYMORE. Enough is enough.
Lord – we need more Hannahs in our land today! Our families and nations need those prayers and tears.
Space prevents me from writing about all the other wonderful stories, but for you men reading this, the ones who don’t like to blubber like babies or cry in public, there are also male role models in this prophetic book that cover the lifespan of Samuel, the prophet and two Kings. You can be like Hannah, or you can take your cues from the valiant men in the end of the book. The valiant ones who did the right thing even when no one told them to do what was right. These valiant men were distinguished from the rest of the nation because they followed hard after God, they were loyal, and they CRIED OUT to God – with prayer and fasting.
Dear brothers, push that hamburger away. Find yourself wandering around the altar and through the grocery store looking for soup and fruit instead of at home looking through Netflix and ESPN. God waits to HEAR your words. He wants you to HEAR HIS words. Skip some meals and FIND HIM. Your family and nation need you desperately to fast and pray! Lift it all up to the Lord, who HEARS you when you pray.
Maybe we take a break from crazy news discussions for a while and cry out to a holy God for trans-formation. It’s time for a new identity – one that is like Hannah and these valiant men. Biblically it begins in moments like they had – with great pressure, not pretty, not polite, not PC, but essential and desperately needed in this hour. It starts with fasting and prayer. God doesn’t need our “read on the culture” as much right now as He wants a “read” on our hearts and for us to hear HIS heartbeat.
We can leave 1 Samuel and say, “what a nice little book on calling and leadership” or we can stand up and follow Hannah’s and the valiant men’s example and earnestly wait on God to do miracles in our homes, nation, and world.
Anybody got some pain they want to lift up? He’s listening.
Anybody got some irritation or anguish they want to lift up? That’s the stuff God is looking for.
Anybody want to experience breakthroughs? Fasting prepares us to hear Him.
This month’s post is shorter, and I didn’t include any fancy theological arguments. It is child simple but PhD appropriate. These folks in this book were wise – they cried out to the only One who could change things – God. Cry out, fast – prepare your heart to hear from God. We can apply this book right now, the only question is, are we tired of being barren, tired of being persecuted? Sick and tired of being sick and tired as some would say. Lift it all up to the Lord, who HEARS you when you pray.
You’ll like the results. Please do share them.