Joy Comes From Trusting the LORD
1 Samuel 2:1
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #014
May 19, 2015
“Father, it’s a great privilege we have to come together to fellowship around Your Word, to be reminded of the eternal truths of Scripture, to get us to focus our thinking away from the details of life and the problems, the adversity, the circumstances, the stress, whatever is going on in our life, that we put our hope and trust in You; for we recognize that there is no hope in any other source. There’s no happiness in any other source. There’s no joy. It all comes from You, and we need to get our minds right and focused upon You. And we need to reevaluate the priorities of our life that we might be focused upon Your Word. That Your Word can reshape our thinking, and that we may be transformed from the inside out. Father, as we study Your Word tonight, especially in this tremendous song of praise from Hannah, we pray that God the Holy Spirit would help us to see how we need to think about the principles that are enunciated here – that lie behind these statements; and that they need to be very much a part of our life as well. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles to 1 Samuel 2:1–10, and as we look at this verse, this is as I pointed out last time, this is a psalm of praise. It is a declaration of triumph in Hannah’s life at the end of years of problems. We all face that at times. Nobody gets out of this life without going through some adversity. Some have gone through more; some have gone through less, but even if you’ve gone through less, it’s still been devastating. I have come to realize over the years that as you get to know people, you realize that everybody has faced heartache and disappointment. Everybody has faced failure. Everybody faces different things that have gone on in their own life that God has allowed to take place in their life to teach us and to train us and to bring us closer to Him.
Hannah’s situation was that she was unable to have any children. This was a critical thing in that culture at that time. In the Jewish culture, it was very significant because they trace this back to the thinking of Genesis 3:15 that it would be through the Seed of the woman that redemption would come. It was the desire of every Jewish woman to have a male child in the hopes that if he was not the Seed, he would be in the line of the Seed. Hannah has failed in that because the Lord had closed her womb. She goes through some years where not only is she faced with the personal disappointment of not being able to have children, but she is tormented by the second wife that her husband had taken in order to provide children to carry on his line.
Hannah is tormented. She is ridiculed and she is looked down upon every day. She is faced with this circumstance in the home every day where she is facing failure. We know today that that’s a major problem that everybody deals with: failure from a lot of different things. And it creates guilt; it creates bitterness; it creates anger, frustration. All kinds of things come out of our sin nature in order to respond to negative circumstances. Many of us are driven to try to solve that problem through wrong ways, through the sin nature. Hannah did not do that. She may have done that at points, but ultimately her solution is the divine solution. She turns to God as the only One who can solve her problems. And that is the lesson. That is the focal point that we see in this psalm of declarative praise. This is a song but it was ultimately to be put to music and was sung.
Whenever we look at any hymns that we sing the words, the lyrics, are basically poetry, and that’s a good starting point for learning to appreciate and identify what makes a good hymn. It should be good poetry and a focus on that. And so we see this, an example of divinely inspired poetry here in 1 Samuel 2:1–10. What Hannah is expressing is tremendous joy (slide 2). She is exalting in what God has done for her, and several times you see this word. It is translated “exalted” in 1 Samuel 2:1 in the third line, “my horn is exalted in the Lord.” You know, one of my little pet peeves is when you have a word in the Hebrew, as you go through a passage, when that word is repeated three or four times it should be translated by the same English word each time so that people can understand that there’s a connection. We totally miss this again in this translation.
When you look at 1 Samuel 2:7, it says, “The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up.” That word there is the same word. It should be translated “He brings low and He exalts.” That way you get an understanding of what one of the major themes is in this psalm. 1 Samuel 2:8 says, “He raises the poor from the dust and exalts the beggar from the ash heap.” The same word, “lifting the beggar from the ash heap,” is not the same word, by the way; it’s a manure pile. I really want to make sure you get the imagery there so that you can really just smell where the beggar is living.
Then we get to 1 Samuel 2:10, and at the end, it is translated with the same word ‘exalt.’ “He will give strength to His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed.” We see four times this word is used in these ten verses. That tells us that the focal point of this hymn is joy. It’s Hannah’s exuberance at how God has rescued her and delivered her from the circumstances. And He has become the source of her joy.
We begin by looking at that opening verse, 1 Samuel 2:1 (slide 3) “Hannah prayed and said,” and then the psalm begins. We have four lines there in 1 Samuel 2:1 that express that. As we look at these ten verses (slide 4) I changed the terminology here a little bit from when I showed this slide last time, but this is roughly the outline and it emphasizes God’s sovereignty over human history. Another way to put that is simply, Jesus Christ controls history, or God controls history – the Lord controls history.
- In 1 Samuel 2:1b-3, the focus is on the sovereignty of God. He rules over the affairs of men.
- In 1 Samuel 2:4–5, we see He overrides the plans of man. God works out His desire. Often what man thinks will happen, what man is pursuing, what human beings are trying to accomplish, gets overruled by God; and He changes things.
- There is a return to the theme of Yahweh’s unique sovereignty in 1 Samuel 2:6–7.
- Then in the first part of 1 Samuel 2:8a, we see this return to the sovereignty of God. He overrides the plans of man at the beginning of verse 8.
- Then He turned back from 1 Samuel 2:8b–10a to His unique sovereignty again.
- Finishing up with the theme of kingship, 1 Samuel 2:10b.
That gives us our structure. We’ll go through it as we analyze the verses.
Hannah prays (slide 5). And at the beginning this word prayer is the word palal in the Hebrew (slide 6), which means to pray or to intercede. If this is a psalm of praise, and it is a prayer, then what does that tell us? It tells us that praise is prayer and prayer is praise. We live in a world today which has in an evangelical climate that has perverted the meaning of the word ‘praise’, where praise has been dumbed down to where it equals music and certain kinds of music, and we hear this terminology of “praise music” and “praise choruses.”
I like to contrast the choruses that are often sung in modern praise services with what I sang when I was a kid, and what was typical for certain children’s music as Bible choruses because the emphasis was on the content of the Bible. Whereas, many modern praise choruses today repeat the same words over and over and over again. The focal point is on the person, and the first person pronouns are heavily emphasized throughout many of these modern praise choruses. In other words, it’s all about “me” and “my” experience with God. It’s not about God.
Whereas what we see when we go through a psalm like this is that it’s all about God; it’s not all about “me”. In fact, the first person pronoun “my” is only used at the very beginning in those first few lines: “My heart”, “My horn”, “I smile at my enemies”, and “I rejoice.” After we get out of 1 Samuel 2:1, that is the end of the focus. But even when you read that, the focal point in 1 Samuel 2:1 is not on what Hannah is personally experiencing in terms of her emotions, but on what God has done for her that has brought this about. She has written this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is a psalm of praise. It expresses her prayer. She has thought about this. This is something that people can do, and I know people do this individually. You can think about your own experience. You can write your own. You may not be a great poet, but the mental exercise of going through the attempt to write out what God has done for you in terms of a prayer can have great benefit.
We as evangelicals, coming from our sort of pietistic stream if you look at the history of Christianity, see the rise of a movement, a more subjective movement, in some ways, a little bit mystical, but it was very much a part of our heritage back in the late 1600s and early 1700s called pietism.
Pietism was contrasted to a cold, dead orthodoxy that had developed especially in Lutheranism in continental evangelicalism at that particular time. It was an emphasis more on a personal relationship with God. We use the word “pious” and “pietistic” in a more negative way today but that’s not how they understood it. They understood that to refer to someone whose relationship with God was more personal than formal. It is less based on a creed, what they would call creedal, than an individual, personal walk in relationship with the Lord.
As a result of that stream that has influenced us, we, as Bible church Christians, have a heritage that comes out of late 17th century pietism. It comes to some level out of influences of Wesleyanism, which manifests itself with the Keswick Movement, Victorious Life Movement, a lot of which we don’t agree with. But people who were prominent in the Victorious Life and Keswick movements as Bible teachers were people like C.I. Scofield and Lewis Sperry Chafer and others, even though they didn’t hold to that sort of Keswick view of Victorious Life thinking. So there is a stream of heritage from the Wesleyan view. It is less Calvinistic. We also have a heritage that comes out of a Baptist background in that we believe that baptism is a sign or a symbol of what happened at the instant of salvation, and that baptism is for believers only. We don’t sprinkle. We don’t have infant baptism, and we believe in the separation of church and state.
There are only two things that make a Baptist a Baptist. A lot of Baptists don’t understand this. I’ve asked Baptist preachers if they know this, and most of them that I’ve asked did not know what made a Baptist a Baptist. It is interesting. I was in a Baptist church in Mystic, Connecticut with a non-messianic Jewish urologist, a friend of mine. He’s quite knowledgeable and quite well read. I said, “By the way, do you know what makes a Baptist a Baptist?” He said yes. They believe in baptism by immersion, and they believe in the separation of church and state. I thought “Bingo! He’s got it!” A lot of Baptists don’t understand that. That’s what makes a Baptist a Baptist. It’s not anything to do with the Messiah or Christ or substitutionary atonement or faith alone in Christ alone or any of these other things that come along. What distinguishes Baptists, coming out of the Protestant Reformation, was that they (unlike their other Protestant strands, Lutherans and Calvinists, and others) believed in separation of church and state and baptism by immersion, believer’s baptism. That’s what makes a Baptist a Baptist.
We come out of that heritage. We’re influenced by that. We’re also influenced to a certain degree by Calvinism. There are a lot of positive things that came out of the Calvinistic part of the Reformation. The French-Swiss Reformation and the German-Swiss Reformation merged together where you have a merger of those who were under the tutelage of John Calvin in Geneva, and those who came out of an influence from people like Balthasar Hubmaier and Ulrich Zwingli in Zurich in the Protestant Reformation.
We believe in a view of the Lord’s Table that is a memorial view of the Lord’s Table. That was first articulated very clearly by Ulrich Zwingli, who was the reformer who came out of Zurich. Calvin didn’t hold to that view. Luther didn’t hold to that view, so that was something distinctive. So, as we sit here, we are really the heirs to a lot of different streams of evangelical theology.
Well, part of that that we should honor, and that we should represent, is that element that I’ve pointed out – that comes out of pietism – that more personal relationship with God. We don’t always think like this, but writing out our prayers and thinking them through should be part of our heritage. You go to some churches – you go to high-church worship at an Anglican Church or Episcopal Church, and some Presbyterian churches, they read all their prayers. They are all written out ahead of time, and they read them. They are a little more formal. Some people think, “Well that’s not very spiritual. He wrote them out three days ago.” Well, you’ve got a book of 150 prayers in the Bible that were thoughtfully written out and prepared ahead of time, and they would be repeated frequently word for word at the feast days in the temple.
We live in a world that because of our Baptist heritage everything has to be extemporaneous. We think the more extemporaneous, the more spiritual. Well that’s not true. There’s nothing wrong with being extemporaneous. I’m also pointing out that there’s nothing wrong with really thinking through your prayers and maybe writing some out in a little more elevated style, which gives you and me, when we do something like that, the discipline to meditate upon the Word and upon just exactly what God has done. So it’s not just something that we’re quickly spouting off. If you were going to go (think about another administration. Don’t think about this president. Think about another administration) to the White House, and you were going to have three minutes with the president (pick your favorite president) and you were going to talk to him, don’t you think you would probably write out very carefully, very contentiously, what it was you were going to say when you came into his presence? To make sure that you got everything in as succinctly and just the way you wanted it said?
Of course you would. We ought to think about prayer like that a little bit. It demands a little more thought than most of us give to it, and a little more effort and intellectual activity. That’s what we see in Hannah. Hannah’s developed this over a period of time under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which does give it a level of excellence that ours will never achieve, but it still serves as a pattern. She prays, and this is what she says, and this is what is covered in the next ten verses. Just a couple of points about prayer (slide 7):
- Prayer is communication with God.
Prayer is just talking to God. In a lot of ways we can talk somewhat informally with the Lord. If you read the Psalms, there are times when the writers of the Psalms express their frustration and anger and the fact that they are really upset about some of the things God is doing. It’s an honest and open communication with God, as we think through who God is and what He’s doing in our lives. Basically I try to summarize the elements of prayer in an acronym, CATS. Prayer includes:
- Adoration, (thinking through who God is, praising Him for who He is and what He has done);
- Thanksgiving, thanking God for what He has done; and
- Supplication, which includes two things: asking God for things, and asking things for other people. That’s intercession. Sometimes we’re asking God for things for ourselves. That’s petition. These are the elements in prayer.
Some prayer is purely confession. We have some what we call penitential psalms, or confession psalms like Psalms 51. It is just about confession and ends with praise to God. You have other psalms, like the one we are looking at that’s primarily adoration. It’s declarative praise, praising God for what He has done, and there is assumed within this an element of thanksgiving, even though there is no overt statement of thanks to God. It clearly expresses gratitude and thanks to God.
Other prayers may be purely supplication. We pray for a specific incidence and for other people and for ourselves. So prayer doesn’t always have to include all four elements. They can include any one of these elements. It can include confession and then a large part of another element, but these are basic elements that are evident in prayer. As I pointed out earlier:
- Prayer gets nowhere without confession, Psalm 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear.” That’s just as true today as it was in the Old Testament (OT).
The last point I want remind you of:
- Prayer in and of itself isn’t a spiritual skill. It is not a problem-solving device. It is a tool that expresses one or more spiritual skills.
- Confession is a spiritual skill. It’s the first problem-solving device. We have to get back in fellowship. That’s expressed through prayer.
- Faith-rest drill, where we are claiming promises. That’s also expressed through prayer.
- Grace orientation, expressing our gratitude to God. That’s also expressed through prayer. Prayer is just the vehicle through which often we apply those spiritual skills in our life. Prayer incorporates several of these in its expression.
As we see here, we talk about the 10th problem-solving device as joy, sharing the happiness of God. I would say that Hannah is clearly expressing that in her great joy for what God has done for her in this psalm. So that’s expressed through prayer at this particular time, and that is stated right at the very outset as she talks about her joy (slide 8): “My heart rejoices in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord.” That word “exalt” is parallel to the verb “rejoice” that is expressing this great joy, this great enthusiasm and excitement that Hannah has because of the way God has intervened in her life to bring about the birth of her son Samuel.
Now as we go through these verses and look at the structure here, I want to point out a couple of things just by way of observation. Some of you have gone through the class that I taught a year or so ago on Bible Study Methods, how to study. Basically, if I do that again I am going to rename it, I am going to call it How to Read the Bible Intelligently, because this is basically what that is. It is how to read the Bible intelligently, how the everyday believer can sit down and read their Bible in a more intelligent way coming to understand what it means. How to look up words, how to figure out what the Greek or Hebrew word is behind the English word, how to think about the structure, the organization, all of those different things, most of which fits under the first step of reading anything.
We think about the steps in Bible Study Methods, it is observation, interpretation, and application. So if you sit down and read the Constitution of the United States, which part of that don’t you use? (A trick question. You use all of that.)
You sit down and you read a real estate contract. Which part of those three elements do you not use? None of them. Anything that you read in life you observe it, what is it saying? You think about what it means. That’s interpretation. And then you answer the question what does this mean to me? How is this going to impact my life? How should this impact my thinking? What am I learning from this? So those are your basic three stages in anything. That first stage is observation, thinking about what is being said here. A lot of that just involves structure, thinking about what is being said, and then asking the questions that we will wait to answer perhaps as we approach it.
Why is it said this way? That’s more of an interpretive question. As I point out in reading the Bible, if you look at those three things, observation, interpretation, and application, you ought to spend 80% of your time in observation. If you do, the interpretation (What does it mean?) pretty much becomes obvious. If you’ve spent 80% of your time just looking at what the text says then the application is going to be pretty obvious at the end.
So if you spend 80% of your time doing observation, you’ll spend about 15% of your time doing interpretation. What’s the result going to be? It’s going to be pretty obvious what God expects you to do. That’s going to fall out pretty easily. The trouble is that most people don’t want to take the time to observe. They don’t want to think about the text. So they spend 5% of the time doing observation. They spend about 15% of the time doing interpretation. But because they haven’t observed the text, their answers to the interpretative questions are probably wrong most of the time. And then they spend the rest of the time doing application, which means that’s also going to be wrong because they didn’t understand the passage to begin with, because they didn’t think about it enough. So we always have to think about it. What does this passage say?
Well the first thing we ought to notice (slide 9) is that we have this first person pronoun four times. I already mentioned that, where Hannah starts with what God has done for her. But she is not really focusing on her emotions per se. But she’s really focusing on the Lord. The object and focus is on the Lord.
She uses verbs (slide 10). Rejoice, exalted, smile, and rejoice. What is she talking about? She is enthusiastic. She is excited about what God has done for her. She is happy. She has joy because of what God has done for her. These four lines all emphasize some aspect of her joy and her exaltation. But it is the Lord who has done this.
And so (slide 11) we see the Lord mentioned twice. It is uppercase, so that means it is Yahweh. She is rejoicing in the Lord. He is the source of her joy. Her joy is not in her circumstances. Her joy is in the Lord, and because of that she can smile at her enemies who are the Lord’s enemies, as I pointed out last time.
When we are walking with the Lord and we come to a certain level of maturity, we realize that our enemies are His enemies, and His enemies are our enemies. Hannah is rejoicing in salvation. So the thought moves from her joy to how God has delivered her. That is how we should think about things in life. Focus on our joy comes from the Lord because He has delivered us. He has provided for us. He has given to us. He has strengthened us. He has done something on our behalf.
Now if we take the ideas that are present there, which is that God has delivered us and the result is joy, then we go and we look at the very last verse in this psalm (slide 12), in 1 Samuel 2:10, and we see a similar emphasis on the Lord. It’s “the adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces.” Who are the adversaries of the Lord? Those are the enemies. Hannah says her enemies, but she moves it to a higher level by the time she ends the psalm. From “my enemies” to the “Lord’s adversaries”. They’ll be broken in pieces.
“From heaven He will thunder against them. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed.” As we look at that (slide 13), it talks about the adversaries of the Lord at the beginning, and then we have the Lord mentioned again, “The Lord will judge the ends of the earth,” but that line is parallel to the line above it, “from Heaven.” Who lives in Heaven? The Lord. “From Heaven” is not just some astronomical location. It is the dwelling place of God, and that’s what is seen by the parallelism with the Lord. It is the Lord’s Heaven where this originates. So often you’ll find in Scripture that Heaven is put in place of the Lord, especially in poetry, as a synonymous parallelism, because that’s the location of the Lord’s throne and His dwelling. So “the adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces.” This is a prophetic statement. Hannah moves from her present circumstance to where she sees how this fits in the angelic conflict.
I reviewed the angelic conflict last time, how Satan led a revolt against God in eternity past. A third of the angels followed him. He challenged God’s verdict as being unjust, and God gives him an object lesson which is human history to demonstrate the justness of eternal condemnation in the Lake of Fire, because any act of disobedience, any act of sin, any act no matter how small it may be, like something inconsequential, like eating a piece of fruit, any act that is in disobedience to God sends a shockwave through all of God’s creation that brings so many horrid unintended consequences that an eternal death penalty in fiery hell is a just penalty.
So God is going to demonstrate that. Adam ate a piece of fruit, and because of that, all the wars, all the famines, all the economic catastrophes, all the meteorological catastrophes, all of the plagues, all of the pestilences, all of the horrors that have existed in human history, all get traced back to one minor (it appears), one almost inconsequential act of disobedience to God. God is demonstrating to Satan that any act no matter how apparently inconsequential it is, any act of independence from God has irreversible and horrible consequences.
What we see here is that Hannah, as she meditates upon what God has done for her in solving her problem through the gift of this son Samuel, sees where she fits within this cosmic conflict – that ultimately the provision of Samuel, who is the prophet who is going to anoint the king who will deliver the nation from the Philistines – that it is through this king that Samuel anoints that God is going to bring another greater king who will provide salvation and deliverance for everybody. Notice how she moves from her deliverance in her little universe and her little world in some obscure village about eight miles north of Jerusalem. She moves from that to realizing that this fits within the cosmic conflict and ultimately reflects upon the salvation of all mankind.
In some sense we can all do something parallel to that because the traumas, the difficulties, the adversities, and the challenges we all face are not random. They’re not chance; they all fit within what God is doing in my life. And what God is doing in my life and what God is doing in your life fits within the pattern of what God is doing in creating a body of mature believers who will rule and reign with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom. And that all fits within His ultimate victory over Satan in the angelic conflict. Nothing that happens in your life or my life is inconsequential; it all fits within a broader pattern. We may not see it now, how it fits, but it is ultimately going to be part of God’s incredible victory over Satan and the destruction of all the forces of evil that will occur at the end of the Tribulation, Armageddon, and eventually at the end of the Millennial Kingdom.
Hannah puts it there. She sees what’s happened in her life as a microscopic look at how God brings about justice in the universe. “He will thunder against them.” He “will judge the ends of the earth (slide 14).” This is what will come about eventually. There is accountability. And what happens (slide 15) is this will ultimately occur when His king is established. “He will give strength to His king,” which is parallel to the phrase “He will exalt the horn of His anointed.”
Look at this (slide 16). In 1 Samuel 2:1, Hannah says, “My horn is exalted.” What does that mean? We’ve got to look at that phrase “My horn,” but basically it means my power, my prestige. I am lifted up. My power is exalted by the Lord. But what’s going to happen in history eventually? He’s going to exalt the horn of His anointed against His enemies and His adversaries. The word there for “anointed” is the word mashiach, meaning Messiah, that’s parallel to His king.
Here’s this woman who lives in an obscure village in Israel, and God has given her one of the most significant messianic prophecies that we see in the Bible. She connects the dots between what happens in God’s answer to her prayer and the ultimate resolution of the angelic conflict and God’s provision of a Messiah. That is phenomenal! Hannah is not some woman who is a problem because she whined and mewed about the difficulties in her life. She saw the solution. She focused on it, and God has exalted her because He focused on her.
What we see in 1 Samuel 2:1 is that God is the source of our joy (slide 17). He is the One who delivers us from the problems and adversities of life, whatever they might be. He is the source of our strength in oppression, whatever it is. Whether the oppression is the problems you’ve got with your own sin nature, or whether the oppression has to do with external circumstances, economic circumstances, social circumstances, or physiological circumstances. Whatever it may be, God is the One who strengthens us in those circumstances.
That doesn’t mean they go away. For Hannah, there were years where she is being verbally abused and ridiculed by her adversary Peninnah, and she sees no deliverance. God doesn’t answer our prayers immediately. When we come to 1 Corinthians 10:13, with the promise that there’s no testing taken you but is common to man, but God will make a way to escape, that doesn’t mean that we get away from it. It’s a way that we can endure it by being faithful to God and applying the Word, even though that pressure, even though those circumstances still continue. We learn throughout this hymn that God is the One who is the Source of our joy, not our circumstances. If your mental state of happiness is based on circumstances, how you feel, how you look, how people respond to you, how they praise you, then to the degree that you’re dependent upon people and circumstances and emotions for your happiness, to that degree you are a slave to those people, those circumstances, and those emotions.
Every time we sit and we think well, I’m not happy because of “this.” What we are saying is “this” controls my happiness. “This” is what controls my stability. “This” is what gives the real source of joy in my life. We have to learn to think about it and say no. The choice of joy is in God’s sovereign control over things, and that I have a purpose; He has saved me for a reason, and I am here to serve Him, and that should be the source of my joy, and that should be the source of my happiness. Then we can have stable emotions because our focus is on the only One who is stable. He’s immutable. He never changes. But if you think happiness is somehow related to your job, or your job performance, or your level of success, or your academics, or your grades, or how people like you or don’t like you, or how you look in the mirror or don’t look in the mirror, and is based on any one of those things, then that’s always going to change because all those things are mutable. They are going to change. They are going to vacillate. One day they’re one way, another day they’re another way, but God never changes.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His love for you and His love for me will never change. It’s always the same. It’s always the maximum amount of love, and it was demonstrated for us at the Cross. We can have emotional stability because our focus is on the Rock who is the only Source of our stability. Hannah prays, and she starts off by saying: “My heart rejoices in the Lord. The word “heart” in Scripture is a word that rarely refers (I think there are only one or two examples) to the biological organ. Mostly, it refers to the inner part of man. It refers to the inner makeup of man. It refers to the core of our being. Sometimes it is synonymous with soul; sometimes it is synonymous with the thinking of our soul; and on a few occasions it relates to emotion. But primarily, the focus by the word “heart” is on our thinking. And “joy” in the Scripture isn’t just emotion. Joy is a mental attitude. Jesus Christ said, “My joy I give to you.” Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever never had a diminishing of His joy.
Well wait a minute. The night before He went to the Cross, He went through a lot of sorrow and grief as He struggled with His destiny to go to the Cross the next day. That’s right, but He still had perfect joy. See, we want to juxtapose those things and say “well I’m either this or I’m that. I’m either joyful or I’m sad.” Sometimes we can have the joy of the Lord but also experience grief and sorrow and sadness at a lower level, but it is controlled by joy. Paul said that we are to grieve, but not like those who have no hope when somebody dies. We grieve, but we still have joy. We can count all things (good things, bad things, difficult things) joy because we understand their framework in Scripture. Hannah is saying, “My heart” – that is who I am at the core of my thinking. My mental attitude is focused on the Lord. It is stable, and I have maximum joy. So she says, “My heart rejoices in the Lord.” This is the word alatz in the Hebrew, which means “to exalt.” It means “to be glad.” It means “to be joyous,” and it means “to rejoice”, even “to exalt.” So it is a synonym for the next word, which we will look at, which is “exalt.”
This is expressed in several passages and translated “exalt” in some of these passages (slide 18). For example, in Psalm 5:11 we read, “But let all who take refuge in You be glad. Let them ever sing for joy.” So what is the key to having this kind of joy? It is taking refuge in the Lord. When we are faced with the assaults of life we take refuge in the Lord and there we have joy. We have gladness here. “Let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them. That those who love Your name may exult in You.” That’s the expression of our gladness. So we take refuge in the Lord, and our mental attitude is of stability and joy. Hannah expresses this. She has taken refuge in the Lord.
In Psalm 9:2, the Psalmist says, “I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” In other words, being able to exult or have this kind of joy is related to being in right relationship to God and focused upon Him. Another use is in Psalm 25:2, “O my God, in You I trust.” The one in Psalm 5:11 who takes refuge in the Lord is the one who trusts in the Lord. And it goes on to say, “Do not let me be ashamed; do not let my enemies exult over me.” Why? Because I am exulting in the Lord.
Then in Psalm 68:3 (slide 19), “But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God; yes, let them rejoice exceedingly.” So again we rejoice because of our relationship with God. That is the key for having joy. Hannah is filled with gratitude. Her mental attitude is focused upon the Lord. She has taken refuge in the Lord to aid her and strengthen her in the midst of troubles, and the result is she is able to exult in the Lord.
In the next line she says (slide 20), “My horn is exalted by the Lord.” Here it is interesting because in the Hebrew we have the same preposition, which is the Hebrew letter bah, which just means in or by or with. It’s parallel to the Greek preposition ‘EN’ and it can have the standing of location in the house, or it can have the sense of means, which is instrumentality by means of something. So in the first line it is used to reference “in the Lord” because ‘in’ is the relationship with the Lord. But in the second line “My horn is exalted,” I think it should be translated “by the Lord” because it is the Lord who is lifting her up. It is the Lord who is her strength. It is “by the Lord” that she is experiencing this victory over the difficulties that she has faced.
Now we look at this phrase “my horn,” and we have to understand that this is not a literal statement. She is not going into her closet and pulling out a ram’s horn and saying “this is what’s exalted.” The term “horn” was an idiom to refer to power, to refer to what gave you influence and power over others. Many of you have seen videos where you have these big horn male sheep and battle for territory. They run at each other with an incredible speed and butt heads, and you hear this thunder clap as those horns hit each other. That’s power. It’s from observing that kind of thing with animals with horns, male animals with horns fighting each other, that you get this imagery and metaphor developed for power. The horn was thought to be that which gave the animal power and strength and control over others.
That’s what Hannah is talking about, because she’s been in a situation where she was being ridiculed and abused and put down by her rival. And now her prestige has been elevated. Her influence within the home has been elevated because she has had a child. She says her horn has been exalted or lifted up by the Lord.
The metaphor “horn,” also relates to the imagery of the power and influence of a king. So there is a thought that comes here because the word is often used in relation to the power of the king, and it is used in Psalm 89 (slide 21) twice. Whenever we think of Psalm 89, we ought to think about the Davidic Covenant. Psalm 89 is a meditation by David on this covenant that God made with him: that through him would come the Messiah. In Psalm 89:17 he says, “For You are the glory of their strength, and by Your favor (that is the word grace) our horn is exalted.” The influence of David in history is lifted up by God’s grace. Psalm 89:24, God is speaking, “My faithfulness and My lovingkindness will be with Him (that is the Seed of David) and in My name His horn will be exalted.” His influence, his power, his prestige, will be lifted up. There is a reference here to the power that God is going to exalt in the Messiah.
Then we have it in another one of my favorite verses (slide 22) that is parallel to Hannah’s psalm. Psalm 18 picks up a lot of the same ideas, but here we have these various words that are used to describe God and His power. “The Lord is my Rock and my Fortress and my Deliverer, My God, my Rock, in whom I take refuge; My Shield and the Horn of my salvation.” There is that word “horn” again: the power of my salvation. So God is described here as a rock, a fortress, a deliverer, a place of refuge, a shield, and the horn of my salvation, a stronghold. Those are great terms to describe how God protects us. That is where I picked up the imagery of the soul fortress. God is the One who fortifies our soul in times of difficulty and in times of trouble. This is a phrase when she talks, that her strength, her power comes from the Lord. It doesn’t come from herself.
We see the mirror of this idea in the New Testament (NT) as Paul is struggling with the angel or the messenger of Satan, the thorn in the flesh, which I believe was a demon that was behind the opposition, oppression, and adversity testing and torture of the Apostle Paul, the persecution of Paul. He prayed to God to remove this, and God said (slide 23), “ ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect (or it is brought to completion) in weakness.’ Therefore, most gladly I would rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” That is grace orientation. It is to realize that God’s grace is sufficient for us. That is the same thing that Hannah is expressing here. It is that “My horn is exalted in the Lord.” The Lord is the One who gives me strength. It’s grace orientation. His grace is sufficient for me; and she’s expressing that through this idiom that “My horn is exalted in the Lord.”
Hannah then goes on to say (slide 24) as we look at the next line, 1 Samuel 2:1, “My horn is exalted in the Lord.” This word here is the Hebrew word rawam, and it basically has the idea of being higher, being lifted up and exalted. It is used in 1 Samuel 2:1; 1 Samuel 2:7; 1 Samuel 2:8; and 1 Samuel 2:10 – four times in these ten verses, indicating this is a major theme of this particular psalm. What she recognizes is if the Lord doesn’t exalt us, then we’re not exalted.
Put it another way, if the Lord doesn’t build a house, then those who build it labor in vain. That’s Psalm 127:1 (slide 25), “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” There’s a great application to that. If the Lord is not protecting your house, then your burglar alarm system, the 45 by your bedside, everything else is irrelevant.
Now that doesn’t mean you don’t get a burglar alarm system, and that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a 45 by your bedside; it means that ultimately our protection is in the Lord, not in these other things. That doesn’t mean you don’t do those things. You don’t drive your car until the gas is empty just because you think “well the Lord’s going to get me where I want to go.” You do what you can do under your responsibility, but ultimately you trust in the Lord. So if you are worried about your house being broken into, ultimately you trust in the Lord. You do everything you can. If you forget on occasion to lock the door, turn on the burglar alarm, or jack a shell in the chamber or whatever, then the Lord is still going to protect you, and He’s the One who’s going to watch over things. If you do all those things, I wonder what the statistics are. I wonder how many houses get burglarized by somebody who knows they have a burglar alarm system. They get in there or whatever it is? You’ve done everything you can to protect it and you still get broken into and you lose everything?
Ultimately protection is in the Lord. The Lord has to be the One to build our life, not us. And we have to put our trust in Him. That doesn’t mean we disengage and go passive or mystic. It means we do what we’re supposed to d, but we trust in the Lord to bring about the fruition of what He’s done.
The third line in the poetry (slide 26), “I smile at my enemies”. is one that is translated a lot of different ways. It’s an awkward and odd idiom. What does it mean “I smile at my enemies?” That’s how the New King James translates it. If you look at the bottom of the slide we see in italics here some of the different ways the phrase is translated. The New American Standard in the 1995 edition says, “My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies.” Literally it means “My mouth is wide.” But what does that mean? My mouth is wide at my enemies.
The New English Translation (NET) Bible translates it, “I loudly denounce my enemies.” I think that that fits the context. I think that they probably captured the idea there. It is that she is boasting in the Lord. She’s praising the Lord that He has delivered her over her enemies, and they have not had victory over her. I think that is what fits the context here. It’s that she denounces her enemies because she’s boasting in the Lord. This is how the NET translates it (slide 27), “My heart rejoices in the Lord; my horn is exalted high because of the Lord. I loudly denounce my enemies, for I am happy that You delivered me.” She is expressing her great and tremendous joy at the Lord that He has given her victory over her enemies.
When we think about this, and about how Hannah expresses this it reminds us that we have enemies as well. As Christians, as believers, we have three basic enemies. The enemies may not be the people that you think that they are, okay? They are not the people that you think they are. They are just a manifestation. The three enemies are the world, the flesh, and the devil. The flesh is that enemy inside of us. It’s our sin nature and the temptations and the lust patterns that come from our sin nature that we yield to so easily. That’s the first and the most effective enemy against us. The other two are external. One is Satan, who goes about as Peter tells us, “Like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” He’s always out cruising either directly or indirectly through demons, cruising the earth to see who he can catch or tempt, who he can devour like a roaring lion.
So we have Satan and the demonic forces as our enemies. And then third we have the world system, which is basically the cosmic system, the human culture that is set totally against God: all of the ideas, values, and thoughts that are set against the Word of God. All the rationalizations that justify yielding to our sin nature. So we face these three enemies:
- Our own sin nature.
- The world system.
In Ephesians, Paul puts it this way (slide 28), that “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood.” If you’ve got a problem with a human being, you put their name there. They are not the problem. That’s what Paul is saying. The problem is not whomever you think is out to get you. The problem is greater than that. It has to do with demonic forces that are influencing human history and are influencing things against us. We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood. We “wrestle against principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” These terms all describe different levels of authorities in the hierarchy of Satan’s demonic forces. Paul says in Ephesians 6:13, “Therefore” here’s the solution. It is not to go out and punch Satan in the nose. I’ve seen some of these deliverance ministries on television where they get all dramatic and excited, and they are going to go out and punch the devil and give him a black eye and all this kind of nonsense. That’s arrogance.
The Bible says that the solution isn’t for the believer to do one-on-one combat with demonic forces or with Satan. We are to put on the defensive armor of God and God fights the battle. The victory is the Lord’s. So we put on the whole armor of God “that you may stand.” Stand is a defensive position. It’s not an offensive action. That we “may stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with the truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness.” We stand in the power of the Lord. It’s Psalm 18:2. We recognize all those protection metaphors. That God is:
- Our fortress.
- He’s our rock.
- He’s our defense.
- He’s our shield.
- Our buckler.
All of theses things. He’s the One who surrounds us and protects us. The battle is the Lord’s. It’s not my battle. That takes us through 1 Samuel 2:1. Next week we’ll come back and look at 1 Samuel 2:2 (slide 29), no one is like God. We’ll get into incomprehensibility and the uniqueness of God.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study these things and to reflect upon this magnificent psalm and this victory hymn that Hannah wrote. And we pray that we can learn many things from this as it applies to our own life as we face the adversities and challenges that are before us. We recognize that You are the only source of happiness, the only source of joy, the only source of stability in life, and that we need to learn that You and You alone are our fortress, our Rock, our Deliverer. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”