Monday, June 06, 2016

Prayers answered!

My Life Group lesson for June 5, 2016, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" commentary as a guide ...

Think of the word "entrust."

It makes a difference it makes in our lives when we understand that everything we have—family, friends, material possessions, physical health, spiritual gifts, time, and so forth—are gifts that God has entrusted to us.

In our study of 1 Samuel, we will be looking at the lives of several individuals to whom God entrusted great responsibility.

Today we will be discussing our responsibilities when God entrusts something to us.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

1 Samuel 1:1–2:11

*** We're studying the book of 1 Samuel for the next 12 weeks this summer.

*** 1 and 2 Samuel used to be one book in Hebrew texts. Jewish tradition says that Samuel wrote the first part of the book, which was continued by Nathan and Gad. But there had to be another, too, since the prophets lived at the same time as David.

*** 1 Samuel tells the history of Israel’s first kings and of wide-ranging wars and royal squabbles.

*** In the timeline of the Old Testament, Samuel lived about 1105–1030 B.C.

*** 1 Samuel comes after Judges, which ends with Israel in moral chaos and oppressed by the Philistines.

*** First, though, we meet Hannah, an Israelite woman who lived during this time of the judges (pre-Saul, David and the rise of kings).

*** Hannah could not have a child, and the book begins with an account of how God answered her prayers and gave her a son, Samuel.

HANNAH’S PRAYER (1 SAM. 1:10-11)

10 Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the LORD and wept with many tears. 11 Making a vow, she pleaded, “LORD of Hosts, if You will take notice of Your servant’s affliction, remember and not forget me, and give Your servant a son, I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and his hair will never be cut.”

*** The hand that rocks the cradle.

--- Hannah is one of the most sympathetic people in the Old Testament. She just wanted to have a child, to nurture and raise and to give her beloved husband Elkanah an heir.

--- Hannah wasn't just sad, the scripture says she was "deeply hurt."

--- The words translated as deeply hurt are literally “bitter of soul.” This is similar to how Naomi spoke of herself in Ruth 1:20: “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara.” Mara is the Hebrew word found in 1 Samuel 1:10. As we shall see, Naomi and Hannah were in one respect in the same situation.

--- Elkanah even had a second wife, Peninnah, who was a real pill. Elkanah married her just so he could have kids to pass on his property, so she taunted Hannah constantly.

(Remember how Abraham had to deal with his servant having a child and shoving it in Sarah's face. Polygamy wasn't explicitly forbidden in the OT, but it never seemed to work out very well, either.)

--- The Bible makes clear that Elkanah loved Hannah more and deeply than Peninnah, but in that time it was so important for a man to have a son to pass on his property, and a woman needs children to care for her in old age.

--- If Elkanah died, Hannah might very well find herself kicked out of the home, and she wouldn't have anyone to help her.

--- Remember what happened to Naomi in the book of Ruth, whose husband passed and she needed a relative, Boaz, to take responsibility for Naomi and Ruth.

*** Question - Through prayer, Hannah directed her pain toward the Lord. Why is it important to be honest with God about our pains and frustrations?

What do we always say about prayer? To take all of your cares – your discouragement, your pain, your despair, your suffering – and give it to God? Hannah is a great example of someone who did just that.

*** Let's make a deal.

--- In her desperation Hannah prayed to the Lord for help, with a promise.

--- Hannah vowed that if God gave her a son, she would give him up to God and he would be a Nazirite (see Numbers 6:1-21 for the rules).

--- This meant that Samuel wouldn't touch anything dead, wouldn't cut his hair and wouldn't eat or drink grapes or anything made from grapes.

--- The vow usually was in force only for a short period of time to show devotion to God.

--- We know of only two men who were consecrated from birth to be lifelong Nazirites—Samson and Samuel. Both were born to women who had previously been barren, and both became judges in Israel.

*** Question - So what do you think that Hannah seems to be making a bargain with God?

--- Usually we say that someone doing that doesn't understand God or pray often. But even believers can be desperate enough to try to make a deal with Him because of illness, financial crisis, etc.

--- The Bible does not forbid the making of vows, but it does encourage restraint and forethought. (Numbers 30:1-6)

--- Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 says clearly: “When you make a vow to God, don’t delay fulfilling it, because He does not delight in fools. Fulfill what you vow. Better that you do not vow than that you vow and not fulfill it.”

--- God is free to answer a personal appeal as He wishes. He can accept the proposal, or not. God's gifts are according to His grace, not because we make a grand bargain.

--- We must never bargain with God, but if we make a vow to Him, it is sacred.

ELI’S AFFIRMATION (1 SAM. 1:12-18)

12 While she continued praying in the LORD’s presence, Eli watched her lips. 13 Hannah was praying silently, and though her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and scolded her, “How long are you going to be drunk? Get rid of your wine!” 15 “No, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the LORD. 16 Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.” 17 Eli responded, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant the petition you’ve requested from Him.” 18 “May your servant find favor with you,” she replied. Then Hannah went on her way; she ate and no longer looked despondent.

*** You got to pray just to make it today! (With apologies to MC Hammer.)

--- Hannah and her household were in Shiloh, which was an important religious center before the kings and where the Ark of the Covenant was kept.

--- Eli the high priest is sitting nearby and sees Hannah praying so hard and emotionally that he thinks she is drunk. (Like the people who thought the followers were drunk during Pentecost.)

--- It’s possible that Eli’s never seen anyone actually pray so fervently. Or he’s seen too many people make a show out of praying just to look holy.

--- When Eli realized that Hannah wasn’t drunk but was pouring out her spirit to the Lord, he comes around and blesses her effort that God would give her as she asks.

--- He didn’t know what she wanted, but prayed for her “unspoken request” nonetheless.

*** How Hannah got her groove back.

--- After her prayer and Eli’s blessing Hannah is at peace. She looks good, and even gets her appetite back.

--- Her circumstances hadn’t changed, but she changed after casting her cares on the Lord. She left it in His hands.

--- Psalm 55:22 says to “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.”

--- In other words, God’s got this.

--- In this case, God blessed Hannah with a son, Samuel, who grew up to be a great man of God and the last of the judges.

*** Question - If you could ask God any question about prayer, what would it be?

(The disciples even asked Jesus how to pray correctly. We want to be worshipful, we want our prayers heard.)

HANNAH’S PRESENTATION (1 SAM. 1:26-28)

26 “Please, my lord,” she said, “as sure as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. 27 I prayed for this boy, and since the LORD gave me what I asked Him for, 28 I now give the boy to the LORD. For as long as he lives, he is given to the LORD.” Then he bowed in worship to the LORD there.

*** I love it when a plan comes together.

--- God answered Hannah’s prayer, and Hannah kept her vow.

--- As soon as they got back home Hannah got pregnant and had Samuel.

(Various meanings of the name “Samuel” have been suggested, including “heard by God,” “he who is from God,” “name of God,” and even “son of God” (as one “given” or “promised” by God).)

*** Ultimate child dedication service.

--- As soon as Hannah weaned Samuel, she took him to Eli so that Samuel would be of service to the Lord.

(At the child dedication two Sundays ago, you would have left your kids with Pastor David and said, “Here you go.”)

--- Eli didn’t adopt Samuel, but took on the role of father and mentor to his young apprentice.

--- Hannah went back home where she was even more blessed with three other sons and two daughters.

--- 1 Samuel 2:19 says that while Samuel grew in the temple, Hannah, every year, sent him a little robe. She’s still his mom!

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Nothing gets our prayer life going like being desperate.

When we’re at rock bottom, hopeless, helpless, ready to surrender, God does His best work.

God uses our troubles and our faith to bring out what’s best for us according to His will.

Question - What was a time when you have experienced a change of attitude as a result of praying about a difficult situation?

This chapter is about an ordinary woman who was in great distress and who prayed to God.

This is what gives it such appeal. Life is made up of the struggles of ordinary people, and while God’s work may have meant deliverance for Israel, it also meant deliverance for the private torments of one person.

When praying know that there is a specific reason the Lord has led you to the place you are currently in, with the people currently around you, with the job or no job you currently have, and in the specific time period you currently live in.

Paul wrote to the Philippians (4:6-7): Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

*** Think of your greatest disappointment in life at this moment. Take time to pray about this issue, following the example set by Hannah.

*** Don’t give up. Give it up to a gracious and holy God.

*** Think of one area of your life in which you need to be a more faithful steward of what God has given you.

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