God Rules Over Life and Death
1 Samuel 2:5-10 & Psalm 2
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #019
July 21, 2015
“Father, we’re thankful that we have this opportunity to come together to reflect upon You, to study Your Word, to be strengthened and encouraged, to be reminded of Your faithfulness, to be reminded of who You are in terms of Your essence; and that You can be relied upon to handle any and every situation and circumstances in our lives - from that which is personal to that which is national; that which is much larger than us, that which involves the historical trends and where we are headed as a nation, that we may relax and trust in You, remembering that our mission is to reflect Your character to the culture that we may shine as lights in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation, and that we may be a witness verbally to those around us as to Your grace, and understand the transforming power of Your grace. Father, we pray that You would strengthen us as we study Your Word this evening in Christ’s name. Amen.”
While you are turning in your Bibles to 1 Samuel 2 I thought I would give a little report on the trip last week to Gulfport, Mississippi. I was going to do this on Sunday, and we just didn’t quite have enough time. So I thought I would just do it tonight. The conference that I spoke at is called the Coast Bible Conference. This conference began in 1941.
For those of you who don’t have a whole lot of historical frame of reference on Bible conferences, the Bible Conference Movement or what became to be known as the Bible Conference Movement started in the late 1800s. It was probably an outgrowth of the old tent revivals that would take place along the American frontier. During the early mid-part of the 1800s you would go to areas that were sparsely populated.
I remember reading a biography of Davey Crockett when I was a kid in elementary school. At one point his father decided they should move to the next location because the neighbors were too close. They were twenty miles away. People lived very spread out in the time of the American frontier, and these frontier revivalist, these itinerant preachers would come. Many of them were Methodists back in the day and some were itinerant Baptists.
The way you could tell the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist was—what? Does anybody have any idea? The Baptist had a whiskey flask in his saddlebag. That’s not the way we normally think of Baptists and Methodists today. I always thought that was an amusing antidote.
There was a professor of religion at Rice University [Ross Phares] who wrote a book some years ago called Bible in Pocket, Gun in Hand: The Story of Frontier Religion. It was the story of frontier preachers. He did a pretty good job of telling a lot of interesting stories about frontier preachers.
People would come together in these revivals. They would come from 30–50 miles away and have a week of meetings. A lot of times they didn’t even have a local church. Some of these meetings got pretty emotional and out of hand because the people just weren’t used to being around other people at that time.
That was the old revival movement in the mid-1800s. By the end of the 1800s, as people were more settled, they would have Bible conferences, especially prophecy conferences, like the Niagara Bible Conferences that took place in New York. There were a number of others that took place in the northeast and around the country.
This Coast Bible Conference started just before WWII. They’ve had it every single year up until about 6–8 years ago when hurricane Katrina came in. That really had a devastating impact on the coast. Up until that point they would have around 200 people that would come. The conference itself was all week long. People would come with about a third of the attendees from out of the area. They would come and would go to the beach. They would have various activities in the area. Then Katrina hit and just wiped out so much. A lot of the locals that came probably were displaced. Since Katrina their attendance has dropped to about 80–90. They continue to meet, but they shrunk the length of the conference down to a couple of days, from noon on Thursday to noon on Saturday. But they still had as many sessions as they had before.
That’s kind of like the Chafer Conference. When we first started that pastor’s conference, it started on Monday and went to Friday, but they didn’t meet in the afternoon. Now we’ve shrunk it down to three days, but we still have just as many sessions as we did before. That helps people who are travelling and have a long way to go. They don’t have to spend as much on hotels and that sort of thing.
The Coast Conference was a good conference, and there have been a lot of speakers there over the years whose names you would recognize. People like Charles Ryrie, Stan Toussaint, John Walvoord, Wayne House, Chris Cone, who just a couple of years ago left his position as President of Tyndale Seminary, but they’ve had quite a number of speakers. They have different speakers every year. They have two speakers, and each speaker speaks six times. This year they met at a church in the area. There are two or three different churches that are in the area that are Bible churches. This particular church was a Bible Fellowship Church in Pass Christian, Mississippi, which is right along Gulfport and Long Beach and all these little communities over there.
The pastor there did his undergraduate at Southeastern Bible College. He did his Master’s and Doctoral work at Tyndale. He was pretty solid, although I didn’t get to hear three of his sessions because I had to leave early. He did a good job. His name was Don Trest. He was speaking on the Gospel of John and did a good job as far as I could tell from the three sessions I heard. I taught on the spiritual life.
My name had been recommended to them two or three years ago by a black pastor in the area, who had been one of my students with WHW. I had not seen that individual since 2000. He and a couple of other black pastors in the area, who had come to WHW back in 1999–2000, continue to listen. They have also shared the ministry with four or five other of black pastors in the area who regularly listen. He has recommended me. They invited me to come and speak. We set that up, and when he found out about it he wanted to know if I could come a couple of days early and speak to a group of pastors there, as well as speak at maybe one or two black churches while I was out there.
We left after church on that Sunday and went out there and had a day of rest on Monday. Then on Tuesday I met with this group of pastors. By the time that came together, they wanted me to talk about this same-sex marriage issue and how that was going to impact churches, ministries, 501c(3)s, tax exemption, and all these other things. I talked for about two and half hours to that group of pastors, and then there were another 10–15 people that came from several different churches to find out more about those issues. That was on Tuesday afternoon, and then there were three or four pastors who couldn’t make that, so we went to lunch on Wednesday afternoon.
Then on Wednesday night I spoke at Pastor Mark Turner’s church. The conference began on Thursday. I taught twice, Thursday afternoon and four times on Friday because I had to trade off with the other speaker on Saturday morning, so that I could get back for Gene Hannusch’s memorial service.
What was really great was to find a pastor there, Don Trest, and another pastor, Loren Faul, who was a Dallas Seminary graduate from 1982 or 1983. He started two years after I did. I think he took a little longer to get through the program. He is free grace and also dispensational. They said that nobody knows we exist out there. But now we’ve connected with them and they’re connecting with Chafer Seminary. They knew a little bit about Chafer Seminary. Loren had read in the Chafer Journal some things, and that was about it. It was good to make those connections. Loren told me, after about the fourth session, it is so nice to listen to a pastor with whom you don’t disagree, because he said so many people, and we talked about all these "icks, acts, and spasms" that are going on in Christianity and Evangelicalism today. I used to be the guy that was on the cutting edge and knew all of this stuff, but I don’t get out there and get around as much as I used to. I don’t hear; I hear little bits and pieces. It’s horrible out there. Very few people really do talk about the Bible.
There are a lot of people who talk about what they are doing—are teaching the Bible. But Dr. Tommy Ice told me on several occasions that he’s gone to some prophecy conferences where he’s been invited, and there may be 10–12 speakers, and he’s the only one that pulls out the Bible and starts doing verse-by-verse exposition.
People are just involved in all kinds of speculation. They get into lots of what I call “pop religion” which is loosely based on the Bible, but it really isn’t. They are not going through the Word. This is really sad today because we have the son of a very well-known Baptist pastor out of Atlanta. The son is a Dallas Seminary graduate, but he has taken some terrible wrong turns. He’s become pro-Palestinian-Christian. He’s become just a lot of different things. He apparently, I can’t remember whether he wrote it or had a sermon on it, but it was insulting to pastors who taught verse by verse and just went through the Scripture. He says that’s the laziest, most incompetent way to study the Bible. This sermon made it all the way around on the Internet about four or five months ago.
That’s what is happening today. You don’t find verse-by-verse exposition, but that’s the only way you learn the Bible. That’s the only way a pastor can really learn the text—it is to study it verse by verse. As a pastor studies it verse by verse, after you’ve been doing verse-by-verse exposition for maybe 10–15 years, then you’ve got enough time and grade and enough study to where you can do more accurate topical messages because you’ve worked through the exegesis of all those key passages. You understand what they are saying.
So often what you hear in topical messages is they are just proof texting. They are just pulling out this verse and that verse and this other verse to try to prove what they are saying. If you really study those verses in context they don’t any more prove what they are saying nor have anything to do with the topic they are preaching on, than the man in the moon.
This is what passes for Christianity today. This country is in a terrible situation. I’ve said, and we’ve heard from others: as goes the Christian, so goes the nation. The way the Christians are going in this nation is terrible! It is absolutely awful! Because they’ve gotten away from the Word of God and they don’t know it. They give the Word of God lip service, but they don’t spend time in it.
There ought to not be an empty seat in this building whenever I’m teaching. The fact that there are empty seats is a testimony to the fact that people don’t want to know the Bible anymore. Pastors don’t want to.
Every now and then Tommy and I get off on tangents when we’re on the phone, and we have our rants about the fact that back when we went to seminary you could talk to anybody you met at Dallas—well why did you come to Dallas Seminary? I wanted to teach the Bible. But that’s not the answer you get anymore. Isn’t that right, John? They don’t want to teach the Bible. They go for all kinds of other reasons.
I don’t know why they get into so much debt if they are not going to spend their money to learn how to teach the Bible. The Bible, it is the Word of God that is alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, and it is not human opinion. It is not motivational speaking. It is not making people feel good as your primary purpose.
Having said that it was a good conference, the people were very responsive. The people are a group of people who come. Some of those people have been coming 30–50 years. There was one lady we went out to lunch with on Tuesday. She had been coming almost since the beginning. She was 86 years old. She’d been coming almost since the beginning of this conference in 1941, when she was a teenager. It was good to see that there are people who come, and they sat through all 12 sessions. They took it in. They asked good questions.
There’s an US Armed Forces retirement center right there on the beach in Gulfport. The first day I was there we had a break and I went to a table and sat down in the fellowship hall. There were about six or seven guys all there, and probably two-thirds of them had come over from that retirement center. They were asking good questions, intelligent questions, showing that they had been taught the Word of God. That’s what is important.
Let’s look at our passage here in 1 Samuel 2 (slide 2). Going back, we haven’t been here for three weeks due to other studies, other things, but we’re looking at this great exposition. We’ll cover from probably 1 Samuel 2:5 on in this session because what we have here in this section primarily are different examples of God’s rule over life and death and all of the issues of life and death.
The real focal point of this passage is on the sovereign rule of God over history (slide 3). Yesterday I heard a great example of this. For those of you who are a little discouraged and might be a little down and feel a little defeated because over the last year or so, counting some local city problems and elections and things, and the Supreme Court rule, this horrible disaster of a nuclear agreement with Iran which is not going to limit anything. It has emboldened the Iranians. I’ll talk about this later, but this is setting the stage for another holocaust, just as Neville Chamberlain set the stage for the last holocaust in WWII by thinking that he had entered into a peace deal with Hitler. But we know that ultimately the Iranians are not going to drop a nuclear weapon on Israel. We know that because that would render the land uninhabitable. It is going to be inhabitable for the Tribulation to take place. Whatever gloom and doom we may think of we are confident God’s plan is not going to be thwarted by the craziness of the Ayatollahs of Iran. That doesn’t mean they won’t try to launch a nuclear weapon at the United States. It doesn’t mean they won’t try to launch a nuclear weapon at Europe.
Yesterday I had the privilege of going to a meeting with a number of other people with Senator Ted Cruz. He made an excellent point that there are so many parallels with what is going on today and what was going on at the end of the 1970s when we had Jimmy Carter, who was sort of an “Obama lite”. Probably Jimmy Carter thinks the world of Obama, primarily because it keeps him off the bottom; he’s no longer the worst president.
But if you were alive then, you know that we had double-digit inflation and interest rates on homes and mortgages. People were paying 14–18% interest rate on mortgages. The economy was terrible. Gas prices —we had gas lines. It was absolutely horrendous. People felt defeated. Then we had the whole situation with the Americans that were taken hostage by the Iranians. But we nominated a candidate for president to run in 1980 by the name of Ronald Reagan. He was solid on foreign policy. He was solid on defense. People knew where he stood. The Iranians knew where he stood. The very day that he was sworn into office the Iranians released the hostages, and from that point on things began to recover because we had a leader who was focused and understood absolutes.
That’s what we need. It is not impossible. God can change anything. Just as Hannah was being ridiculed and opposed by Peninnah.
We see Christians in a world today that are being attacked by many people in our culture, that are under assault from the homosexual lobby, that are under assault form liberal groups that want to take Christianity completely out of the public marketplace. Nevertheless, we know that God can change things.
Just as He changed things for Hannah He can change things for us, because that’s what God can do because He is God. The emphasis in this section is on God’s sovereignty and how He overrides the plans and the dreams and the hopes of mankind. It is God’s plan that works out in history, not the plans of the wicked. Hannah emphasizes this in her psalm of praise, this victory psalm, because God has given her this victory by giving her a son. Let’s review a couple of things real quickly:
1. The first thing we see here in terms of her emphasis is an emphasis that YHWH is the unique, incomparable, transcendent Sovereign of the universe.
One of the things I want to bring out tonight that I haven’t brought out before is that this psalm also stands as a polemic against the false religions of the Canaanites that had taken a hold of the Israelites during the period of the judges. They were worshiping Baal and the fertility religions. They were worshiping the Asherah. All of these had become dominate in the paganization of Israel. God is going to turn everything around through this one child He gives to Hannah. Often we see this in Scripture.
A polemic is an attack on another position. It is an argument that is given. Sometimes it is embedded within the structure to show the inadequacy and the inability of another view. So often we find in a lot of different events of Scripture that this emphasis on the uniqueness of God—as over against all of these gods and goddesses that are being worshipped by people—is that God alone (YHWH) is able to accomplish things. These other gods and goddesses can’t do anything. That is what we see here.
Hannah is emphasizing YHWH as the unique and incomparable transcendent Sovereign of the universe, and that He has no rival. In 1 Samuel 2:2 she says, “… there is none beside You.”
When you look at the myths, for example, there’s a Canaanite town by the name of Ugarit that was discovered back about 50 years ago. We discovered a lot of writing there. In the Ugaritic myths (Ugarit was a northwestern Canaanite city) there was the assembly of the gods. They met on Mt. Siphon, the mountain of the north in Syria comparable to Olympus. The gods were all referred to as the sons of the holy one who is El. That’s where we get in Hebrew, Elohim. El was just a generic name for God. El was comparable to Saturn or Uranus, and his son, Baal, would be comparable to Zeus. Baal was the god of thunder and lightning, pictured as throwing a bolt of lightning. El was viewed as the head of the assembly of the gods, but Baal was the one that came to dominate the pantheon.
One of Baal’s consorts was the goddess Anat, and in the writings of Ugarit, the mythology, Anat declares mightiest Baal as our king, our judge, over whom there is none. But against that backdrop, where there are many other gods, Hannah states that there is only one God, YHWH, and there is none like Him.
Let me just put those first four verses up on the screen (slide 4). These are the ones that we looked at. 1 Samuel 2:1–4, “… My heart rejoices in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation. No one is holy like the Lord,” like YHWH. “For there is none beside You, nor is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly; let no arrogance come from your mouth, for YHWH is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighted. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and those who stumbled are girded with strength.” The first thing we see is that YHWH is the unique, incomparable, transcendent Sovereign of the universe.
2. The second thing is that the omnipotent YHWH protects His people like no other. He is a Rock. This picture we’ve seen, and we’ve studied that, was that God was called “the Rock.” That was a metaphorical title for God. He’s the Rock. He’s immovable. He’s unshakable. A rock was a perfect place to hide for protection. It emphasizes the power of God and His omnipotence.
3. The third thing we saw from this is that God is a God of justice. YHWH dispenses justice by elevating the oppressed and humiliating the proud. This is developed in 1 Samuel 2:3 at the end where it says, “and by Him actions are weighed.” He is the ultimate and final judge in the universe, and His judgments are righteous. They are therefore absolute and perfect. So YHWH dispenses justice by elevating the oppressed and humiliating the proud. This is developed in 1 Samuel 2:3. It is going to be illustrated through the examples of 1 Samuel 2:5–10.
4. The fourth thing we see is that YHWH is the Sovereign over life and death. God rules history. YHWH rules history. Men can do many things, but ultimately God is the one who shapes and directs history. He’s the one Who brings human plans to fruition, or He completely reverses them, or He destroys them. YHWH is pictured as the Sovereign over life and death. He can send to the grave and He can raise up. We’ll have to study those metaphors as we go along. This is an allusion to resurrection, to send to the grave or raise up, though what we’ll see is that many modern scholars don’t think resurrection. There was no knowledge of resurrection at that time in Israel’s history. That is because they were influenced by a lot of human viewpoint.
5. The fifth point that we see in this section is that YHWH, not Baal or any other god is the one who makes barren women fertile. This is what we see. Baal is the god of rain that brings productivity. It brings water to the crops. It brings forth life. You have a reenactment of various sexual actions between Baal and the Asherah. This was to indicate fertility and prosperity. It is just an early form of what we call a prosperity gospel or the health and wealth gospel. YHWH is the one who is omnipotent, not these other gods. He’s all-powerful. He never changes.
In the Baal myth, at least once a year he had to succumb to death. The god of death was Muth. Once a year he had to succumb to death and he would be taken down to place of the dead. Then he would be raised to life again a little later on. But what we see in this picture is God does not succumb to death. He is the one who in 2 Samuel 2:6, “The Lord kills and makes alive.” He is the one who oversees who lives and who dies.
What we’ve seen here is an emphasis on a number of these attributes of God (slide 5). I’ve said this many times, that when you are thinking through life’s problems, what you need to do is to have a firm image in your mind of this essence chart, of the “essence box”, and think through these attributes and the role that these attributes have to play in the circumstances of your life.
God is sovereign. That means He has a plan and what is happening in your life might not be your plan. It might not be what you wanted to take place, but this is God’s plan. He is working something out. That’s why Romans 8:28 says that, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” He rules in the affairs of men.
He is righteous. That means that this represents the standard of His character, absolute perfection. He is justice. That’s the outworking of His righteous plan toward all of His creatures. He deals with His creatures in absolute justice. He is love. We see that somewhat embedded here in the fact that down further in 1 Samuel 2:9 it says, “He will guard the feet of His saints.” He guards the feet of His saints because He cares about the feet of His saints. God’s love is implied there by that particular statement.
We also see that He is immutable. He’s like a Rock. You can’t shake Him. He is indefatigable. He is always going to provide for us and protect us no matter what the circumstances are. He is going to provide for us so that we can accomplish His plan for our life. There may come a time when we may be imprisoned or persecuted or even martyred like Peter, Paul, Matthew, and James and so many of the early leaders in the Christian church, but that’s God’s plan. It is His plan for us to be witnesses to Him and witnesses of His grace.
What we saw last time as we went through this section in 1 Samuel 2:4–5 is that God intervenes to reverse the plans of fallen humanity. Man proposes, but God disposes. Tonight I want to look at 1 Samuel 2:5 (slide 6) and begin there. “Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread.” Let’s just catch this context. In 1 Samuel 2:4 it says, “The bows of the mighty men are broken, and those who stumbled are girded with strength.”
What we’re going to see in these examples is on one hand, the people who appear to be mighty according to human viewpoint. God is going to take them down. Then the people who are lowly and irrelevant according to human viewpoint are the ones that God is going to elevate and He is going to bless. It starts off, “The bows of the mighty men are broken.” God is going to break the power of those who are arrogant. We may not see it in our lifetime. We may not see it in certain situations, but eventually God is going to bring about that justice in a very real way in their lives. “And those who stumble,” those who are weak, those who can’t walk, those who do not have power in themselves “are girded with strength.” God is going to strengthen the weak and the weary.
We have the next set in 1 Samuel 2:5 (slide 7). This verse is made up of two contrasting statements: The first set has to do with hunger and satisfaction in the first two lines. The second two lines focus on childbearing and reversing barrenness. In both of these lines we see concrete examples of the principle from Matthew 19:30 that the first will be last and the last will be first. God is taking those who seem to be first. They are full, but now they are going to have to hire themselves out for bread. They will become the last. In the second set we have the person who is last; she’s barren, but the person who appears to be first, because she’s had children, she’s going to find no pleasure from them. They will not provide for her. They will not take care of her. She will find her children to be of no value.
As we look at the first two lines we read, “Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, and the hungry have ceased to hunger.” In this first line it says, “those who were full.” This is the word (slide 8) sabea, which means to be full or to be satisfied—those who were satiated, those who were satisfied, and those who were full of themselves. They are satisfied with life. They’ve accomplished things, and now they have been rendered destitute. They have to hire themselves out. They have to beg for bread. They have now become the ones who are starving. They had plenty of food to begin with, but God has taken them now. And now they have to look for work or beg for bread in order to be fed.
In the word “have ceased” in the second line, “and the hungry have ceased to hunger,” this is an interesting word in the Hebrew. It is the word hadal, and there may be two different words that have the same spelling. We have homonyms—words that sound alike, like hear and here. They sound the same, but they have two different meanings.
We also have some words that are spelled the same but have different meanings or different senses. We have to look at the word to see what it actually means. One meaning for hadal is to be fat or to be prosperous. This would have the idea that the hungry have become prosperous. Or there is a second root that is suggested which has the idea “the hungry have ceased.” Both of those words communicate basically the same thing; that the one who in the eyes of the world is worthless and has nothing, is the one who will be supplied and will be wealthy because of the provision of God.
In the second line we read (slide 9), “Even the barren has borne seven.” This is really a direct allusion to the victory God has given to Hannah. She is the one who like several others in Israel’s history was barren, unable to conceive and unable to have a child. She is like the mother of Samson. We’ve seen that parallel between Samson and Samuel. Here she is said to have had that reversed. When we read “Even the barren have borne seven,” when we look at the number of children Hannah had, it is five. She didn’t have seven. But seven is a number of completion.
This was a Hebrew idiom that when somebody had done something sevenfold it didn’t necessarily mean that it was literally sevenfold; it was done to completion or done to fullness. This word is used that way. This idea is used that way in two verses (slide 10). In Jeremiah 15:9, “She languishes who has borne seven.” In other words, this is talking about a woman who has had a number of children. She has fulfilled her role as a mother but now she is languishing.
A more precise example is in the second verse, Ruth 4:15. This a blessing from Naomi to Ruth, “may he (her husband Boaz) be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.” The idea of “seven sons” is fullness or completion. This is the idea there that the verse is saying that God is the one who can intervene even when life seems barren and empty. God is the one who can make it full and complete because He is the one who rules.
In that last line (slide 11), “And she who has many children has become feeble” is a word that I quoted here from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. It is a word that has the idea of being childless but it also implies or is used to refer to Israel as a nation that has become spiritually impotent. “She who should be blessed”, which is an allusion to Israel, has become feeble. They’ve become childless. They’ve become impotent spiritually because of their carnality.
Now we come to 1 Samuel 2:6–7 (slide 12). In these verses Hannah is going to express her confidence in God’s ability to change things. We see this specifically in 1 Samuel 2:6 (slide 13). We read the statement, “The Lord kills and makes alive.” Notice you have these two opposites. That’s a figure of speech called a merism. I’ve talked about these before when you want to include:
In the second line (slide 14), “He brings down to the grave and brings up.” This is an interesting statement. I think it has another implication here. But it does imply possibly a statement of resurrection. Some scholars will say resurrection is a much later doctrine. They didn’t really understand it then, and I would say that that’s completely fraudulent because you have this in passages like Hebrews 11:17–19 (slide 15). This is talking about Abraham. See? One of the things that happen with scholars is that they get too scholarly. One of the things that you have in a lot of Old Testament departments in seminaries today is the idea that if were not told that God told them something in the Old Testament, then they didn’t know it. But nothing in the Old Testament says that it records everything that God told them.
We don’t know everything that God told Adam, but Adam certainly knew a lot and learned a lot from God. He learned about sacrifice. He learned about what clean animals were and what unclean animals were. There were a lot of things that were taught by God during that period, roughly 1,800 years from Adam to Noah. When God told Noah to put seven of every clean animal and a pair of every unclean animal onto the ark, the text does not tell us what were clean animals and what were unclean animals or how no one knew which were clean and which were unclean. But obviously Noah already knew, but we never learned that. But there are a lot of things that they understood.
We only have 11 chapters in the Bible from creation to Babylon. That covers a period of about 2,000 years. But there is a lot that went on in those 2,000 years that we aren’t told about. The rest of the Bible from Genesis 12 until Malachi covers about 1,600 years. Look how much of that is in your Old Testament. So there is a lot that went on in those first 11 chapters about which we are pretty ignorant.
But in Hebrews 11:17, we are told that Abraham was tested. This is in Genesis 22 where God told him to take his son, his only son, Isaac, to the mountains of Moriah and to sacrifice him. “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.” God told Abraham, I want you to take Isaac up there and I want you to offer him as a burnt offering. You are going to sacrifice him. Abraham said, “yes.” He didn’t say, “well no I’m not going to do that because it is wrong.” People have said: “See, Abraham was going to commit murder.” No, Abraham understood finally that God’s plan was that through his son, the promised son, the seed Isaac, that God’s plan was going to go forward and that nothing could stop that. It was an ultimate test to see if Abraham was willing to completely give up his hope and his dream through Isaac knowing that God would fulfill His promise. We read in Hebrews 11:18–19, “of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up.” Abraham had a clear understanding of the doctrine of resurrection. He knew that God could raise him up from the dead. He was willing to go along and to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham had this clear understanding. I think that if that was approximately 400–500 years before Hannah, then Hannah clearly had an understanding of resurrection. Another thing that we see in this verse, 1 Samuel 2:6, “The Lord kills and makes alive.”
There are examples of this same kind of language in other verses related to God. We can see that in verses (slide 16) such as Deuteronomy 32:39, where God is speaking: “Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God beside Me.” That’s that same idea that God is exclusive. He is unique. There is no God beside Him. “I kill and I make alive.” It is the same language that we have in Hannah’s psalm in 1 Samuel 2:6, “I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.” I’m God. Nobody can mess with Me. 2 Kings 5:7, “And it happened, when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to kill and make alive?’ ” He understood that God is the one who is the Author of life and the Author of death.
I want to go back a couple of verses (slide 14) to this word mawet or muth, depending on how you do the vowels. This is the word that relates to killing. It comes from the word muth, which is the Canaanite god for death. Again, we see this understated polemic against Baal. In the Baal story Baal has to succumb to death to Muth, the god of death, and he goes into the underworld for a period of time before he is released and he comes back to life.
But in the Bible YHWH is completely in control. He holds the power of life and death in His hands. He cannot die. He does not die. He determines when death and life come to each one of us. God determines the time, the manner, and the place of our death, and there is nothing we can do to change that. You may change the quality of your death by not taking care of yourself. You may go through a period of time before you die that’s not as comfortable as it would have been as if you’d made some other good decisions. That may be true that you may go through negative situations or circumstances related to your death, and they may have nothing to do with your volition. That is just the way God is working in your particular life, but God is the one who is in control.
When we look at this language that we find in Hannah’s psalm, it is similar to the kind of language that we have in the story of Baal and Muth. In that story the verb that is used to describe Baal’s descent into the underworld is the same word that Hannah uses here to describe how YHWH “brings down to the grave,” brings down to Sheol. Then He brings up. Again, there’s just this allusion by vocabulary. She is sort of twisting the knife a little bit into the Canaanites and the pagans to show that the God of the Bible is the God who rules over death.
This line that we have here at the end of 1 Samuel 2:6, “He brings down to the grave and brings up.” I don’t believe by comparing with other Scripture that that’s what it’s talking about. It’s parallel, but it’s not identically or perfectly synonymous to the first line. Bringing down to the grave and bringing up are used in another sense in Psalm 30:2–3 (slide 17). There David says, “O Lord my God, I cried out to You, and You healed me.” He’s not talking about being brought back from the dead. He says, “O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave.” He is using hyperbole here. Life could become so miserable that he wished he were dead. He thought he was dead. He just couldn’t image anything being any worse. He was depressed. He was discouraged. People had deserted him. His enemies were winning the victory. He felt like he was one step from death. So David says, I was at the verge of death, but You restored me. You brought me back to life. You changed the circumstances of my life. You kept me alive that I should not go down to the pit. That I should not die. This is one way in which that was used.
It’s also a theme that is picked up later on by Mary when she is praising God after Gabriel has announced that she’s going to give birth to the Messiah (slide 18). She says in Luke 1:53, “He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.” That is what we see in 1 Samuel 2:7 (slide 19), “The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and He lifts up.” God is the one who changes the circumstances and gives us victory. The word that is used there (slide 20) for lifting up is a word we’ve seen already. It’s the word rawam or rum and it means to be high or exalted. It is used in 1 Samuel 2:7; 1 Samuel 2:8; 1 Samuel 2:10. That tells us that a major theme here is that God in His sovereignty is the one who can lift us up from whatever circumstances we’re in. When things are overwhelming; when things look like we’re on the edge of defeat, when things look like everything is going to be lost, God is the only one who can lift us up. That doesn’t mean God always will, but can. And we need to turn to Him to seek His strength and His guidance to be recovered from those situations.
1 Samuel 2:8 (slide 21) we read, “He raises the poor from the dust”, which reflects on Psalm 113:7. And he says, “He lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes.” That is also picked up in Psalm 113:8. “And makes them inherit the throne of glory.” Again we see another example. It is God who takes the one who is poor, and He raises them up. He takes the one who is rich by human viewpoint standards, and He destroys them. But here in 1 Samuel 2:8a, in the first part, it is focusing on two examples of those who are elevated to wealth and to power. The poor are raised from the death, from the dust, which is parallel to the beggar being lifted up from the dung heap, the manure pile. He’s taken out of the manure pile, given a bath, and elevated to be sat among the princes. Someone who would be overlooked and would have no value is now going to be cleaned up by God and sat among the princes, and he will make them inherit the throne of glory.
All of these examples that you read through here tell us that God is the one who has the ability and the power to transform our circumstances, that He is going to bring judgment to the arrogant, that He is going to lift up and strengthen the humble, and why can He do this?
This is what we see in 1 Samuel 2:8b (slide 22), the last part of verse 8, “For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s.” I put a little picture there of Ken Follett’s book The Pillars of the Earth, because this is the verse from which he got that title. That’s a great book if you like reading about things in the Middle Ages. You learn a lot about the architecture of cathedrals if you read that book. It is a great novel. I read it maybe 20 years ago. “For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and He has set the world upon them.” “The pillars of the earth,” I think, is an allusion to the foundation of the earth: that God laid the foundation of the earth. I think this took place in the first verse of Genesis. “In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth.” That’s when He laid the foundation of the earth. That’s when he laid the “pillars of the earth.”
Job 38:4–7 tells us that when God laid the foundation of the earth, the sons of God, all of them united before Satan’s rebellion, sang with joy. The foundations and the pillars are the first things you set up as you are constructing something. This is established at the very beginning. The emphasis here is God is the One who created out of nothing. Before God created the heavens and the earth, there was nothing but God for eons and eons, nothing but God. Out of nothing He created the heavens and the earth. If he can do that, then He certainly has the power to handle whatever our meagerly little problems are, because He is the One who created everything and oversees things.
We learn also that He continues to sustain things through the Lord Jesus Christ, Colossians 1:16–17 (slide 23), “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” If He can do that in His omnipotence, He can handle our circumstances and our problems.
Psalm 113:7–9 (slide 24) uses the same language as Hannah uses in 1 Samuel 2. “He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap.” The psalmist borrows from her language, which shows the influence of Hannah’s psalm down through the centuries. “That He may seat him with princes—with the princes of His people. He grants the barren woman a home, like a joyful mother of children. Praise the Lord!” This should also be read along with what Mary says, because she borrows a lot of that language in Luke 1, as she praises God.
Then we come to 1 Samuel 2:9 (slide 25) which says, “He will guard the feet of His saints.” He will watch over us, not just in some general way, but specifically. “But the wicked” in contrast, that’s the unbeliever, “shall be silent in darkness.” And then there is a statement, “For by strength no man shall prevail.” It doesn’t matter what power the wicked have. It doesn’t matter how much money the wicked have, what matters is to have God on your side. The interesting thing is the word for “saint” (slide 26) is the Hebrew word hasid. Have you heard that word before? Hasid – the Hasidic Jews. That’s the word where this comes from. It is built off of another word. It is built off of a verb you’ve heard before chesed. It refers to God’s covenant love. A lot of people did not understand this word until we got into modern times with the help and aid of archeology, but this idea of chesed indicates the free acts of grace or deliverance of God for His people. The ones for whom God acts are the “saints”, the holy ones, the hasid, or the hasidim.
Then we get to 1 Samuel 2:10 (slide 27) and this is the Messianic conclusion of this psalm. “The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces.” From this we see that Hannah is looking not only at her own circumstances, but it is the circumstances of Israel. And she’s got the long view on history; that the adversaries of the Lord are ultimately going to be destroyed. They will be “broken in pieces.” As Israel at this time is under the thumb of the Philistines and under their control, she is saying that that power will be broken through the one Who comes because of my son. “The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces; from heaven He will thunder against them.” Again, this is contra to Baal. Baal was the god of thunder, but it is YHWH who thunders from Heaven. “YHWH will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed.” There we have the word Mashiach, His anointed, tied to king. She recognizes that the Messiah who comes is going to be a king. He’s going to be a ruler. That Messiah is going to defeat the enemies of God. This is written about 1100 BC.
David probably hasn’t been born yet. David will probably be born in another generation or two, 50 or 60 years. David is going to write this psalm (slide 28), Psalm 2. Psalm 2 is a psalm we’ve gone to many times. It is a great Messianic psalm. It starts off with a look at a future battle where the kings of the earth are in rebellion against God. We read, “Why do the nations rage, and why do the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against YHWH and against His Mashiach, His anointed. Hannah understands this because she is going to say the same thing. This sets up the conflict in the future, and what the kings of the earth are saying are, “Let us break their bonds.” That is the bonds that God has put on us. “And cast away their cords from us.” But what is the Messiah going to do?
Look at Psalm 2:9–11 (slide 29), “You shall break them with a rod of iron.” What does Hannah say? Hannah says, “The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces.” She is saying the same thing. 1 Samuel 2:10 needs to be connected to Psalm 2. “You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel. Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who trust in Him.”
This is what Hannah sees. She understands this. David puts these words down, pens these words some 100 years later, but he is saying the same thing that Hannah says in this last verse. It doesn’t matter what is going on in the world around us or in our personal details. God is the one who can give us victory even when it looks like we’re on the verge of defeat.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things this evening. We pray that You’d help us to understand them and put them into practice, that we might learn to relax and trust in You because we know that You care about us, that You oversee the details of our life, and that we are to relax and rest in You, knowing that You are the unique Creator-God of the universe. And all these details are in Your control. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”