Sovereignty of God
1 Samuel 2:4–6
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #017
June 23, 2015
“Father, we’re so thankful that we have Your Word to study, to learn from, to reflect upon. Father, the more we think about it the more there is that we see. The more we see, the more we learn. God the Holy Spirit takes this and applies this to our spiritual life. It strengthens us, edifies us, builds us up, and this is the path to spiritual maturity. It’s Your Word on which we feed, and we’re so thankful that we have it.
Father, we pray for our nation. Right now we have so many things that are challenging that face this nation. There are decisions in the Supreme Court that will change forever the structure of this country. We pray that You would protect us from any evil influence from that direction.
Father, we pray for those who are running for president this next time. We pray that their issues will be made very clear to the public so that they may understand just who they are voting for and why. Father, we pray that You’d give us wisdom in selecting candidates and in the voting procedure.
Father, we pray that as we study Your Word that we might recognize that ultimately the real solution to the problem is always spiritual because the problem always comes down to spiritual issues. The real issues, the real answers start at the Cross and build on Your revelation. Help us to understand these things we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We’re in 1 Samuel 2. I will, if God is gracious, cover two or three verses tonight. We’ve been moving kind of slowly, but there’s just so much here. It is just so tremendous to be able to dig down into this.
I may have mentioned this before. I taught 1st & 2nd Samuel almost twenty years ago. It’s amazing how much I was learning then and how much I’ve learned since then; to go back and read my notes and to see how much more there is to get out of the Word as to what I was seeing a long time ago. That just comes from more time in grace and there’s not anything that can replace that. What we see here is that this is a victory hymn.
One of the things I like about looking at psalms is that they are the product of the personal life experiences of the writers of those psalms. They’ve looked at life, and they’ve looked at their experience.
They’ve looked in many cases at the trauma, at the adversity, at the difficulty that they had, and how they worked through it in their spiritual life in their relationship with God. How they called upon the Lord to deliver them, and how God answered them.
Some of those psalms are classified as lament psalms. That’s the scholarly term because the writer is bringing his problems to God. He is laying it all out there, and that’s the way we should be when we have problems. Go to the lament psalms to see (to be given a pattern for) how the psalmists faced their problems.
Then we have thanksgiving psalms when they write at the end and are thanking God for what He has done.
Then there are descriptive praise psalms. This is when the writer is writing at the end, and he’s praising God for how He’s delivered them.
When you look at a lament psalm, often they start with the problem. They focus then on God, who’s always the solution. Then they go to thanksgiving, maybe a verse or two within that lament structure, and then it will end with a praise; all of those elements may be within a lament psalm.
This one is really a song of victory. We have two previous examples of women in the Old Testament crafting a psalm. These were designed to be sung as praise. They are a great pattern of how music, how the lyrics should be structured and presented in psalms of praise.
When we sing on Sunday morning, we sing hymns. Those of you who have been with me for a while know that I’ve spent a lot of time studying and teaching on this aspect of worship because there is so much distortion about it today. There are so many people who misunderstand what is going on when it comes to music in the church and why it is important. Some people minimize it. I’ve heard people say, well, the main thing is getting to the Word. Why do we spend any time singing at all?
Well, the largest book in the Bible is a song book. It seems like God had something to say about singing. One of the first things that is mentioned about the result of the filling of the Spirit in the New Testament (Ephesians 5:19–20), immediately after the command to be filled by means of the Spirit, talks about singing psalms and hymns and making melody in your heart. That tells us that worship in singing is not something that is secondary in terms of personal and corporate worship, but is primary; along with the teaching of the Word of God.
It is not minimized. It doesn’t say be filled with the Spirit and study the Word. That wasn’t the first thing that Paul said. The first thing he said was singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs and making melody to the Lord in your heart. It is interesting that Paul does that.
I’m not saying that that makes singing the priority, or that it is more important. But it is significant that that is listed first as a result of being filled by the Spirit. It is not something that should be considered to be optional in a person’s spiritual life. It is important.
When we look at this song, this psalm of Hanna’s, it is a song of praise. She is stating that she has had victory over these circumstances in her life. I would bet that if I were to poll everyone here, we all would recognize that we face all kinds of problems and difficulties in life. We have problems dealing with older parents. Some of it has to do with their stubbornness. Some of it has to do with their health. Some of it has to do with their lack of memory and going into senility or Alzheimer’s; all kinds of different things, and that puts added levels of pressure and adversity in everybody’s life.
Then we have problems with children. We have problems with children and grandchildren. We have to deal with those things. We have problems that address just finances, because we are living in a country that is seeing a degradation occur in terms of the economy and a government that seeks to fantasize about it and say it is not really happening.
There are a lot of things that are going on in our culture, plus the fact that we’re seeing it become more and more paganized, and that you and I as believers in the Bible and the truth of God’s Word are becoming more and more distanced and more and more divorced from the culture that is around us. There are more and more challenges there. We are not unlike Hanna in a household with another wife who is constantly berating her, constantly making fun of her, constantly hostile to her, and constantly running her down.
Hanna discovered that the only solution that she had within the confines of her situation was to go to the Lord in prayer. This is her praise, focusing on God and how He has supplied the answer to her problem.
I don’t know about you, but I always find that exciting, especially when I am going through problems—that it takes time. She may have gone through this form of testing for five or six or seven years. Maybe even as much as a decade as she was unable to have children. That probably went on for three or four years before they decided she was barren and she wasn’t going to have children. Then Elkanah took another wife, and then she’s had several children. That would take another three or four years. It could conceivably have gone on for ten years.
Most of us, when we’ve had ten days of adversity, are impatient with God. Ten months, and we’re really beginning to question our faith. When it comes to ten years, it’s a wonder if you are still in Bible class. We have to focus on the fact that God’s plan and God’s timetable isn’t ours. Sometimes before the lesson is really learned and God is going to come in to resolve the problem, a couple of decades might go by.
In our lives we’re extremely impatient. We think that is way too long, but God looks at things from a different perspective. We see her rejoicing in this. This was a little bit of an outline that I structured here. The real theme of this is: God is in control.
- God controls history in the broad scale.
- God controls history in terms of your life and my life.
- The ultimate issues in the broad scope of history or the narrow scope of our life are our own response to God in terms of arrogance versus humility.
I touched on the doctrine of arrogance last week. That’s one of the themes that under girds this hymn of praise because Peninnah represents the arrogant ones who are opposed to God and are not relying upon God. They are self-reliant.
They are self-sufficient and are not depending upon God for providing what they have. They’ve accumulated wealth, and they’ve accumulated power. They’ve accumulated position. However they’ve accumulated it, it’s not something that God gave them. But those who are without are the ones who seem to be trodden under foot by those who have positions. Yet God turns the tables on the arrogant. He is the One who ultimately exalts or promotes the one who is humble so that the issue of our circumstances ultimately can be related to the lesson we’re learning regarding arrogance and humility.
In the first three verses, 1 Samuel 2:1–3, basically the focus is on:
1. God’s unique sovereignty.
I built that off of 1 Samuel 2:2, “There is none holy like the Lord.” That word “holy” is not a word that emphasizes purity, but emphasizes the uniqueness of God which is seen in the parallel of the second line, which expresses the same idea in another way and states, “For there is none beside You.”
The idea here is on the uniqueness of God and His sovereignty, His infallibility, His faithfulness, His immutability, “There is no rock like our God.”
Hanna begins with a statement in 1 Samuel 2:1 about her praise. She praises. Her praise is in the Lord. Her heart is exalted in the Lord. That is a phrase meaning it is her relationship to God that gives her joy. And that has lifted her up above her circumstances.
She smiles at her enemies. As I expressed that earlier, it is not really “I smiled”. That’s a difficult translation. There are several things in this hymn that are difficult to translate from the Hebrew. She opens her mouth, which means that she is expressing her victory over them by virtue of her dependence upon God. That’s another way in which she’s expressing her exaltation and God giving her the victory. The cause for all this is in the last line, “I rejoice in Your salvation.” That’s the last time we hear about Hanna. It is not all about her.
That’s one of the problems we face in our self-centered society today. It is all about “me.” People think that you go to church to hear how God’s going to solve “my problems.” I want to hear ten ways in which God’s going to solve my marriage, help my marriage, and solve my marriage problems. Ten ways I can straighten out my teenager. Ten ways I can make more money. Ten ways I can have health and happiness.
In fact yesterday I exercised control of my tongue. As I was in a Verizon store waiting for some assistance, there was a lady probably close to my age who was talking to a younger man. She was just going on and on about this wonderful new church that she was going to. The pastor has been an assistant pastor of one of the larger Baptist churches around and for some reason he was let go.
This pastor started his own church. They are meeting over here somewhere around Memorial City. She was telling this other guy about all the wonderful things. She said “the music is wonderful! It is a little loud, every now and then, but it is really wonderful!” “He gives these sermons that are just so practical.” And she went through… I was standing there and I couldn’t help hearing her… about nine or ten things about how wonderful this church is and part of me just wanted to say, “Really, that’s sounds so wonderful! Is he a good Bible teacher? What have you learned about the Bible lately?” But I figured maybe my motivation is wrong, so I better not say anything.
We see that in the biblical psalms, the focus isn’t on the person other than maybe at the beginning to express the adversity they are going through. Then the focus shifts to the Lord. It shifts away from that first person pronoun to a first person plural “like our God” at the end of 1 Samuel 2:2.
Then she will talk about the second person that comes up in 1 Samuel 2:3. That’s where we have an admonition, “Talk no more so very proudly;” do not talk so arrogantly. “Let no arrogance come from your mouth.” And then the explanation as to why this is an exhortation: “For the Lord is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed.”
What attribute of God is being brought into focus here? It is God’s justice. He is the One who weighs the actions of people. It’s connected to His omniscience. He knows all the knowable. He understands our motivation. He understands all the factors that are going on inside of our head, and He evaluates the actions because He’s the only One who knows all of the data.
What we see here is a lead up to the doctrine related to the sovereignty of God, which is what we see in the layout here—a focus on God’s unique sovereignty in 1 Samuel 2:1–3.
2. In 1 Samuel 2:4–5 we see the application of that sovereignty in that God overrides the plans of man.
3. In 1 Samuel 2:6–7 we come back to seeing the emphasis on God’s sovereignty, what He does.
4. Then it looks at Him overriding the plans of man, 1 Samuel 2:8a.
He does that because He is sovereign. Man wants to do one thing, but God is the One ultimately in control. This ought to encourage us no matter what we see going on in the national and international scene. And trust me, things just get worse and worse and worse.
What is going on in regard to these Iranian negotiations ought to keep you awake at night if you didn’t have promises. I have heard the same Iranian expert talk three or four times now with AIPAC. She’s got a PhD in whatever international studies she’s had. She’s worked for the CIA. She’s worked for several non-governmental organizations, and her specialty since the early 80s has been on Iran. I hear her talk, and after five minutes I say how can you sleep at night knowing what you know? The stock piles of weapons…
Iran has never kept even the smallest clause of any agreement that they’ve ever made with anybody over the last 35 years. It just goes on and on and on. They’re stockpiling uranium. They’re building everything they can to build the infrastructure necessary to launch nuclear weapons toward Western Europe and toward the United States.
The West is still burying its head. They don’t want to face reality. In all these negotiations, just to give you one example, one thing that is not on the table that Iran will not discuss is their ICBM program in the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, which only exists for one purpose, and that is to put nuclear warheads into Western Europe, or into Washington D.C., or New York, or Houston, or some other place in the United States.
There’s only one reason to have ICBMs, and that is to deliver a nuclear payload. Yet they won’t talk about it. When they talk about these negotiations, that’s not even on the table. None of this kind of stuff is on the table.
The lies that are being communicated to the American people to make us think that they are standing their ground is just abominable. It’s horrible what is going on out there. The only thing we can do is try to give some backbone to our congressman and to our senators to stand firm.
Right now the only thing basically that the Senate can do is that they’ve managed to get this bill passed on the Iranian negotiations so that no matter what happens… [even if they sign a deal, and it will be a bad deal if they sign one. Contrary to everything the administration has said—that no deal is better than a bad deal—trust me, what they mean by a “bad deal” is really a bad deal. It is as bad as no deal. They are going to allow the worse stuff to take place]… but the sanctions against Iran can’t be lifted without Senate approval, and they’ve managed to retain that.
So even if the worst case scenario occurs, and they sign some horrible bill, they can’t back off this action without Congressional approval. That’s going to be another battle that will come up. We need to pray for them. We need to call them. We need to give them some encouragement to stay the course. But God is in control; man disposes. Iran can scream and rant and rave, and they can have all the technology and develop all the weapons possible, but God is in control.
We can relax because our mission is ultimately to get the gospel out and to encourage people and use this as an opportunity for those who are running around in a panic state to say “relax, God is in control.” We need to do what we can do, but ultimately it’s in the Lord’s hands. God overrides the plans of man. We just keep seeing the repetition of this theme as we go through this particular section.
In 1 Samuel 2:3 Hanna admonishes arrogant man concerning their behavior before the omniscient sovereign God. Those last couple of lines there emphasizes the justice of God before it introduces us into the next five verses, which all relate to the sovereignty of God.
The first two show his actions as God overrides the plans of man. That’s a function of His sovereignty. 1 Samuel 2:6–8 is going to talk about examples of His sovereignty. In fact, 1 Samuel 2:6–8 is one of the key verses that you should learn in relation to the sovereignty of God. If you are teaching the “essence box” to the kids in prep school, this should be one of those verses. Maybe in the top margin of your Bible you ought to write “Sovereignty of God” because this is a critical section for that—talking about the sovereignty of God.
Let me just go over five points on the sovereignty of God just as an introduction:
1. Let’s look at the definition of the sovereignty of God. The term sovereignty relates to rulership and authority. When we just think about sovereignty, we think about a king. We think about a ruler. We think about His authority to rule over His domain. Sovereignty of God relates to God’s authoritative rule over His creation and over His creatures. When we ultimately get back to who is in charge, who is their boss, we end up with God.
God controls everything. But the way in which God controls everything is different. He exercises His control in direct ways and in indirect ways. As most of you know, one of the big theological conundrums that has caused theologians to argue for the last several thousand years, ever since the Scripture been revealed, is between where the limits are between the authority of God, His sovereignty and the free will, or the volition of man.
When we think about this one of the things that comes into question, just as an example, is the idea of causation. Who causes things? If God is in control, does He cause evil? If God is in control, did He cause Barak Obama to be elected? If God is in control, did He cause that great tsunami that hit in Indonesia several years ago that killed tens of thousands of people? What are the parameters here? When we think about causation in the human realm, based on our experience and our observation, we see one type of causation.
Actually, Aristotle divided things into four different categories of causation. I’m not going to get into that, but we see certain levels of causation that operate within the creaturely realm. Is God in the creaturely realm? No. God is above the creaturely realm. Causation, when it deals with the Creator to the creature, is not the same as the kind of causation that you and I observe.
One of the problems that we get into in discussing the issues between sovereignty and free will is we extrapolate to God the same kind of causation that we observe at the creaturely level. We’re trying to make the Creator conform to creaturely causation. That’s a logical fallacy, and that’s a basic problem.
God interacts with His creation in ways that are perhaps analogous to this, but they are not the same as the way in which causation occurs at the creaturely level. God rules over His creatures but does so in a way that allows for His creatures to utilize their independent will. Their volition is really a better term because they are never totally independent of God. There is creaturely will within certain boundaries. He gives them the freedom to exercise that volition within certain boundaries, but God can always override that volition.
You may have someone who wants to build an empire, whether it’s a business empire, whether it’s a national empire, and God can override that and slap them down. God may allow them a degree of success as He did with Nebuchadnezzar.
Then if you recall, He gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream saying remember your sovereignty? In that first dream when he is the head of gold over the statue, that might have gone to Nebuchadnezzar’s head. He’s the head of gold. He’s the greatest empire in the stream of empires. He was the ruler over all the earth.
Then God says, “This has gone to your head. Now you think that it is all because of you, and so I am going to strike you down. You’re going to crawl around in the dirt and eat grass and get water by licking the dew off the grass for the next seven years. You’re not going to be able to talk to anybody. You’re basically going to be an animal.” God demonstrates His sovereignty. Even when we exercise our will, God can still override that will.
A couple of ways that we express this is that the sovereign will of God is expressed through His plan and includes two things: It includes His permissive will, and it includes His decreed or revealed will.
Let me give you an example. God’s decreed will (and sometimes it uses the term decretive will) and His revealed will to Adam was “you shall not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” But God in His permissive will allowed Adam to exercise His will in rebellion to God; and we see what happened. God established enough flexibility in all of Creation and Adam’s sin didn’t just affect him. He became corrupt but it reverberated throughout all of creation. The animal kingdom changed; the universe changed; a lot of things changed.
I think it is at that point that you have the second law of thermodynamics go into effect where everything deteriorates into a state of entropy. It is at that point that we see this huge change because of God’s permissive will. He built enough flexibility into Creation to handle the chaos that comes from the exercise of independent will and independent volition when man went against His will.
We have God’s sovereign will, which incorporates both His decreed will and His permissive will. In His permissive will He allows His creatures to exercise their own volition, but He has determined that human beings can exercise their own volition within certain boundaries. The first part is just the definition that the sovereignty of God refers to His authoritative rule over His Creation and His creatures.
2. His sovereign will has determined the limits of human volition.
Have you ever noticed that you really want to do some things and you know that there’s not a prayer on this earth you are ever going to do it. God has limited whether or not you can fulfill those things.
Some people say, if I just had X amount of dollars I would give that to support missions, or if I had X amount of dollars I would do this… God says, nope. It is not going to happen. I don’t want you to do that because I don’t want them to have the money. If that’s what you are going to do with the money, you are never going to have any money. Sometimes it works the other way. If I had all this money I know what I would do. God says I am not going to let your sin nature get that much control of you, so you are never going to have the money. God exercises control and limits over our volition, and He overrides certain decisions.
3. God’s sovereign will is such that God has built into the framework of His plan for history the flexibility to handle whatever chaos results from human volition.
Just as He built flexibility into the creation world, the natural world, the physical world, the universe, to handle the chaos that came from sin, the same thing happens in history. When certain things happen in history as a result of human decisions, God can still override that and control it and still bring about what He has purposed in history.
He is in control. He has such great control that He doesn’t—in contrast to the Calvinistic concept of a sovereign God—have to control the entire minutia. He has enough control to where within those boundaries of human volition He still can allow human volition to operate and bring about what He desires.
One way that has been expressed is that God has decreed that human will/volition operates alongside of God’s sovereignty. But it really isn’t alongside of it; it is never alongside. God’s sovereignty just allows it to operate within those certain boundaries, but God’s sovereignty is always the ultimate determiner of what’s allowable and what’s not allowable.
4. God’s sovereignty does not infringe upon human volition on critical issues such as man’s response to general or special revelation.
When somebody looks up at the skies and sees the patterns in the skies, he says, “This universe is bigger than anything. There is no way this could happen by chance. Then there must be something else out there. It has such order that there must be an ‘orderer’, somebody who is in control, somebody who has intelligently designed the universe. I want to know about Him.” God allows it and He will give more revelation.
Somebody hears the gospel. God is not going to determine whether that person is negative or positive. That’s their decision. God the Holy Spirit is going to make that clear.
One of the pernicious doctrines in Calvinism is called irresistible grace. The reason you have to have irresistible grace in Calvinism is because their first point in TULIP is the “T”—total inability; not total depravity. Total depravity is solid because we’re all depraved in every area of our being. That’s sin. Sin has corrupted everything. It has corrupted every aspect of our being.
But total inability means that you can’t exercise positive volition. You can’t do anything in a positive direction toward God unless God enables you. God is not going to enable you in Calvinism, unless you are elect. Then because you are elect, when God begins to draw you (from John 6) that is going to be irresistible.
Their basic argument is that because of total inability, you are basically blind and you can’t see the truth. If you can’t see the truth then you can’t respond to the truth. God is only going to give light to those whom He has elected. That is why it is irresistible.
Think about this. If you are blind to spiritual truth because you are fallen and because of sin, then why does Satan have to blind our minds to the truth of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4)? Think about that. If you are already naturally blind because of sin and are totally unable to see truth or respond to truth, then why does Satan have to blind you to truth? 2 Corinthians 4:4 says that Satan is the god of this age that blinds men to the truth of the gospel.
He doesn’t need to do that if you are totally unable to do anything because of sin, according to Calvinism. But that is just a biblical point. Sometimes we don’t pay attention to those things. God’s sovereignty does not infringe upon human volition. He gives a little light. If that’s responded to He gives more light. If it is not responded to, He doesn’t give any more light. That’s the fourth point.
5. As we look at this whole issue, 2 Samuel 2:4–8 is one of the great passages on the sovereignty of God. It shows that God is the one who comes along and intervenes in human history. God messes with human history. He gets involved. That is one thing that really irritates unbelievers, the idea that God is an uncontrollable factor.
Under rationalism and empiricism man wants to control all the data. That’s why they think that with a doctrine such as global warming—or now it is called climate change and maybe a few other things—they think they can really get a handle on what is going on in the universe. That’s the arrogance of man. There’s so much data out there that they are ignorant of that can change the picture.
God is constantly intervening. I think we saw an example of the intervention of God as an answer to prayer last week. I don’t know how many of you paid attention to what happened when that tropical storm Bill came on shore last week.
Often you’ll see these hurricanes and storms come up. Just before they hit land they will bounce. Well, Bill took a 50-mile left turn when it came close to Matagorda Bay. All the projections had that storm coming straight in and coming straight north. If it has tracked on that track, the center of the storm would have gone right up Beltway 8, and we would have gotten, as they predicted, 10–15 inches of rain or more (just like they did out in the middle of nowhere between Katy and San Antonio). Columbus, Texas got hammered, and some of those other small towns, but Houston would have just been devastated.
Just as the center of that storm (and you can watch it on the radar) took a left turn for 50 miles and then took a right turn and went in, I believe that God just reached down and went, “Okay, you are not going to mess up that pastor’s conference. You are going this way.” That’s how God intervenes as a result of answered prayer. Prayer changes things. James says “you have not because you ask not.” We had a great answer to prayer. God does intervene.
We see here, in 1 Samuel 2:4–5 is a picture of that intervention. Hanna reflects upon how God changes things in human history. She says, “The bows of the mighty men are broken, and those who stumbled are girded with strength.” Not the best translation. Then she goes on to say, “Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, and the hungry have ceased to hunger. Even the barren has born seven, and she who has many children has become feeble.”
Let’s look at this. “The bows of the mighty men are broken.” The term for “bows” is a term for weapons. The “bows of the mighty men” are talking about the weapons, the technology, the military might and skill and the power of the giborim, those who are mighty. In the Bible the word giborim is often used to speak of mighty men and of warriors, but if you are in Israel, if you are a man, you will see it every time you go to the restroom. It basically means “men,” okay? That’s where men go. It’s on every restroom. Here we put “Gentlemen” maybe.
In Job, Job gives us a great example. Elihu is talking to Job, and he articulates a similar thought. The thought that we are looking at comes out of 1 Samuel 2:3, the last phrase, “by Him actions are weighed.” And because God weighs actions because He’s omniscient and just, He will make decisions. Job 34:23 says, “For He need not further consider a man, that he should go before God in judgment.” What is the theme of that verse? Talking about judgment.
God judges men. In Job 34:24, as a result of God’s judgment, and this is a judgment in time, “He breaks in pieces mighty men without inquiry, and sets others in their place.” God raises up some men and tears down other men. God is in control even if we have fools in the voting booth.
Job 34:25–27, “Therefore He knows their works; He overthrows them in the night, and they are crushed. He strikes them as wicked men in the open sight of others, Because they turned back from Him, and would not consider any of His ways.” This doesn’t always happen. He’s not saying that. This doesn’t happen when we want it to happen. God’s timetable is not necessarily our timetable.
The same thought is expressed in two great psalms, Psalm 47:2–4 “For the Lord Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth.” That’s a great verse for sovereignty, expressing His rulership authority over all the earth. “He will subdue the peoples under us and the nations under our feet.” The “us” is referring to Israel. This is obviously talking about what will eventually take place at the Millennial Kingdom. It too is like Hanna’s song, a victory song. “He will choose our inheritance for us, the excellence of Jacob whom He loves.” The point is, God rules in the affairs of men. God controls history.
In Psalm 47:5–8 it goes on to say, “God has gone up with a shout, The Lord with the sound of a trumpet.” That’s expressing victory. “Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with understanding. God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne.”
Psalm 75:6–7, “For exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another.” So no matter what things look like, no matter what they look like in terms of politics, no matter what it looks like in terms of the decline and fall of the nation, no matter what it looks like in terms of foreign enemies, God is in control.
Psalm 75:6–7 is stated this way, “For exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another.” Over and over again we have this idea expressed throughout the Psalms. Those are just some of the examples.
In Proverbs, we read that God is the One who evaluates and brings about His ultimate desire. Proverbs 16:2 “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes….” Everyone thinks he is doing the right thing. Often it is self-deception. “… but the Lord weighs the spirits.” And there that would be the idea, not demons, that’s not the idea there. The word for “spirits” is a word, just like in the New Testament, that relates to an attitude, relates to thinking, relates to all the attitudes and thoughts that are involved.
Proverbs 24:12 says, “If you say ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it?” Classic excuse: “well I didn’t know that was wrong.” If you are a parent here, you probably never heard that; right? “He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?”
When we look at 1 Samuel 2:4, “The bows of the mighty men are broken.” Who is breaking them? God is. This is stating a general principle: power and might do not make right.
God is the One who oversees. It is expressed this way in the New American Standard Bible, “The bows of the mighty are shattered,” which is a much more powerful expression of the verb, much more of a visual impact, “but the feeble”—that’s the idea there. It’s not just those who stumble. It’s the “feeble.” It’s the weak. It’s those that don’t have power in contrast to those who do have power: those who are feeble, those who are weak. They “are girded with strength.” Girding is a word for putting on armament, putting on your weapons, getting trained, being able to fight your enemy. They “are girded with strength.”
This is parallel to what we see in 1 Peter 5:5–6 where Peter, in addressing the younger people in the congregation says, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ ”
That is the same idea we have in 1 Samuel 2:4, that God elevates the humble and He puts down the proud. “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” The principle for us in terms of an application is like Hanna. She humbled herself under God versus Peninnah who is arrogant.
But there is a broader framework here, and that is that God is going to exalt those who are humble, because those who are humble and humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, are those who trust in Him as their Savior, those who believe in Christ, God will eventually exalt them, even though in this life they may be viewed as fools, and they may be rejected.
James 4:6–7, “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says, (this is the same quote as we have in 1 Peter 5:5) ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
As we look at 1 Samuel 2:4 we see that this is an antithetical parallelism contrasting the “mighty” and their technology, their strength, their weapons, versus those who don’t.
Now there are many passages in Scripture that use this. Just for the sake of time I’ll skip over these. Psalm 11:2; Psalm 37:14, verses that use “bow.”
Then we have verses talking about “strength” in Psalm 18:32. Psalm 18 is built on what Hanna says in this song: “It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect.” That’s a great verse to memorize. “It is God who arms me with strength.”
Whatever you are facing God arms you with strength and makes your way perfect. Psalm 18:39, “For You have armed me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.” God is the One who provides us with strength and provides the one who is stumbling with strength.
We have to be reminded from Psalm 33:16 that “No king is saved by the multitude of an army.” “It is not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord.” A mighty man is only delivered by the Lord.
Psalm 18:2 again. “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust.” Psalm 18:32 and Psalm 18:39, verses I just mentioned. It is all the Lord who emphasizes that. We are strengthened by the Lord. The one who seems to be weakened; the one who seems to be irrelevant, is the one that God exalts.
Next time we will come back, and we’ll finish this up a little bit more talking about those who are lifted up by the Lord and exalted by the Lord. The perfect example of course is the Lord Jesus Christ, who humbled Himself to the point of death, even the death on the Cross. Why? So that the Lord will elevate Him so that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The path to exaltation is always through humility, which means submission to the authority of God.
“Father, thank You for the opportunity to look at these verses this evening, to be reminded that You are our strength. And the key to tapping into Your strength is that we walk by the Holy Spirit, that we humble ourselves as we walk in obedience to You, and that we trust in You. You are the One who elevates us in due time. You are the One who will strengthen us no matter what the adversity and what the challenges may be. We need to learn how to relax and trust in You. Father, strengthen us with the study of Your Word this evening. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”