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1 Samuel 2:1; 2 Corinthians 10:2–5
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #015
May 26, 2015
“Father, we’re so thankful for another opportunity to press on toward spiritual maturity. Our Lord said that ‘you shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free.’ An often misquoted statement, one taken out of context, and one that is often abused, but the Truth that He refers to is Your Word. It is only through the knowledge of Your Word that God the Holy Spirit is able to mature us, to teach us, to conform us to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to take us to spiritual maturity. So Father, we pray that we might at this time be useful to God the Holy Spirit in maturing us. Father, we each face situations in life that are calamitous, situations in life that distract us, situations in life that are often hard; and sometimes these go on for quite some time as they did in the life of Hannah. We gain great encouragement and instruction from seeing how she responded to the difficulties that she faced; and that may give us a great challenge to follow in those footsteps, focusing upon who You are and what Your plan is for mankind; and to take our eyes off of ourselves and our own wishes, our own desires and our own plans – that we might focus on the plan that You have for us – that You might be glorified. Father, we pray that this time together will be very profitable spiritually. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are in 1 Samuel 2. We started with the beginning of this hymn of Hannah’s, this song of Hannah’s. A psalm of praise to God, a psalm of thanksgiving for the way God intervened in her life in order to bring about the blessing of a son. But it was more than that because as we saw last time—as you think through what she is saying and the way she structured this psalm, and the fact that she took a good deal of time to develop this under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit—it shows that she recognizes that her life is obscure, as it might appear, as an out of the way, backward, small-town wife in a family that was not well known—that God would use her in order to bring about such a magnificent change in the history of Israel. That’s a pattern that can be true of any of us in the Church Age. Even though we do not have the heroes in the same way that the Old Testament (OT) did under the theocracy of Israel, every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is a hero. Every believer is part of the spiritual combat that we face in spiritual warfare in the angelic conflict. The way in which we are trained is by God who brings different circumstances into our lives so that we can learn to trust in Him and to depend upon Him in those circumstances.
That’s exactly what’s going on in this hymn. It is that Hannah is praising God for the way He has delivered her. It’s interesting for us to take the time to just narrow our focus and look at how her thoughts are developed.
I call this lesson The Rock (slide 2) because that’s what comes out of part of it in 1 Samuel 2:2, “Nor is there any Rock like our God.” It is fascinating how that term is used of God. It is not just a metaphor for God’s omnipotence, although it is that, it is used almost as a name for God many times in the OT. If we look at the structure (slide 3) as I put this up the last three weeks (I’ve modified it a little bit last week), the key idea is on the unique sovereignty of God.
That word “unique” is important because as we’ll see in 1 Samuel 2:2 today, when we look at this phrase, “No one is holy like the Lord,” our concept of holiness is often distorted. We have turned this word into a sanctimonious church vocabulary that we don’t really understand. As a result of that, people are often confused when they talk about this concept of holiness. And the word “unique” captures one of the major semantic nuances of this particular word – that He is a one-of-a-kind God.
Three times we have the focus on Yahweh’s unique sovereignty: in 1 Samuel 2:1b–3; 1 Samuel 2:6–7, and 1 Samuel 2:8b–10a. Then we see that God overrides the plans of man in 1 Samuel 2:4–5 and in 1 Samuel 2:8. Then we see the end result is a focus on kingships. How is God going to override the plans of man? He does so through the establishment of the divine monarchy.
We can think about this in relation to Psalm 2 that begins with a picture of how the armies of man are arrayed against Yahweh and His Messiah, what does God do? He overthrows the leaders of men, the kings of men, and establishes the divine rule upon the earth. Even in the structure we see this developing a very significant theme that is laid out throughout the Scripture.
In the first part of this section (slide 4) at the very beginning where we looked last time, we see a focus on “joy.” Hannah prayed and as we look at the parallelism here, as I’ve highlighted (slide 5) in the color coding here, the verbs here all relate to “joy.”
“My heart rejoices in the Lord; My horn is exalted in the Lord. I smile at my enemies,” [or my mouth is open. This is the idea that she is speaking about her victory over her enemies, and that again is expressing part of the idea of being exulted. The way we translated that last time, ‘I loudly denounce my enemies’ or ‘I speak boldly against my enemies,’ is an expression of her exultation in the Lord.] “Because I rejoice in Your salvation.”
I want you to notice something as we go back and review this a little bit that you have a first person singular pronoun used four times in 1 Samuel 2:1:
- “My heart”
- “My horn”
- “I smile”
- “I rejoice”
This is the last time we see a focus on Hannah. This is one of the things that we find often in the Psalms. When the psalmists start with their own circumstances they quickly shift focus to God. That is something that should be evident in our prayers. Our focus should be not on our problems and the negative circumstances or challenges or whatever is going on in our life, but we should put our focus and our attention upon the Lord.
The key idea here of rejoicing and exulting and then the opening of the mouth denouncing the enemies is a way in which God is praised. It is an expression of the mental attitude that Hannah has “because,” and that’s the last line.
In Hebrew poetry, we have the rhyming of ideas. It is always fun to go through and look at the text and identify the different kinds of parallelism. We have in the first two lines, “My heart rejoices in the Lord” and “My horn is exalted in the Lord,” an example of synonymous parallelism.
Then we have what is called a step parallelism that develops from that because the heart and the horn is exalted in the Lord. I then do something: I smile at my enemies; I denounce my enemies; I speak boldly against my enemies. It takes the thought to a climax. This is called the climatic parallelism.
As you’ll notice the way I’ve color coded this. We have the green for the first person pronouns, then we have the Lord in blue. We have the main verbs here in red, which shows their general parallelism; but then we have a totally new idea at the end: “I rejoice at Your salvation.” The way the thought is moving is to that last thought: that she’s rejoicing at that salvation.
That salvation is not the salvation from sin. She’s not looking at the Cross; she’s not talking about salvation from personal sin, she’s looking at deliverance from our trials and tribulations – hers specifically, which is that she was barren and couldn’t have any children. But also because God is the One who through the deliverance that He gave to her is going to deliver Israel. He’s going to deliver the nation, and He will do that through Samuel and his ministry as a prophet, and ultimately through the second king that he anoints, who is David, who will deliver the nation from the oppression from the Philistines. The point that we see here again and again is that only God’s solution is the viable solution.
This gets paralleled at the end (slide 6) developed a little more. We have the statement in 1 Samuel 2:10, “The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces.” That is the “I will denounce my enemies” in 1 Samuel 2:1. It is parallel to that third stanza in 1 Samuel 2:10, “From heaven He will thunder against them. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.” That’s how God ultimately will bring about deliverance, because He will destroy His enemies. And He does that in the last line of 1 Samuel 2:10: “He will give strength to His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed.”
That last phrase (slide 7), “exalting the horn of His anointed”, is parallel to 1 Samuel 2:1. We see how well this is structured together, how well this is put together, putting the focus and attention upon God as the One who solves our problems. Without God there is no real solution to problems. And this is something we have to emphasize.
I did this last time. We looked at the words (slide 8, 1 Samuel 2:1) that were used there, “My heart rejoices.” The word alatz means to exult, to be glad, to be excited about how God has intervened in our life and what He has done. One of the ways which we have this focus is on the character of God, on who He is, and that He is the One who exalts us. The second line, “My horn is exalted in the Lord.”
This idea is picked up in a number of verses I looked at last time (slide 9) but Psalm 18:2 also uses this phrase to relate to “the horn of my salvation,” putting both of those ideas together from 1 Samuel 2:1. This also shows that Psalm 18 borrows heavily. David’s psalm in Psalm 18 is borrowing heavily from the language and the doctrines that are encapsulated in Hannah’s psalm in 1 Samuel 2. That’s again important to see how this psalm connects to many subsequent statements in Scripture – later psalms and even some things when we get into the New Testament (NT).
It is important to see how in the progress of revelation things that are said earlier are developed as you go through the Scriptures. Again that emphasizes the unity of the Bible – that this is not just written disjunctively, where one person is doing something, another person is doing something else; but behind it, you have the Holy Spirit who is working and pulling and tying all of these things together.
We have the word rawam (slide 10) that is translated exalt. That’s picked up again several times toward the end, indicating that the theme is the joy that God gives each and every one of us. As I concluded last time (slide 11) I pointed out from Ephesians 6:12 (slide 12) that we’re all in a war. God’s enemies are our enemies, and we are targets in the angelic conflict. None of us get away from that. We think about sufferings. There are two basic reasons that we suffer:
1. We suffer because of something we do.
2. We suffer unjustly because of the way things are.
Then we can break down those two categories. But when we think about suffering because of what we do:
a. We suffer because we sin and that bring its own natural negative consequence.
b. We suffer because we sin and God enhances the natural negative consequences with divine discipline.
3. We suffer because we live in a fallen corrupt environment.
a. We suffer because we live in the devil’s world.
b. We suffer because we’re associated with fallen creatures that make bad decisions.
c. We suffer as a consequence of those bad decisions.
d. We suffer simply because we live in a corrupted world in a corrupted body. We’re going to face a number of negatives simply because of that corruption.
That brings about storms like we had last night, which brings about flooding. It brings about natural disasters, but a lot of these can also be just because of other people. We live in a fallen world. There is always a battle going on and the battle is not the one we think it is on the surface level where we’re struggling with other people. But as Paul says, we’re “not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
He uses the terms principalities, powers, rulers, spiritual hosts, as a description of the hierarchy within the ranks of the demonic hosts, the fallen angels. Ultimately behind what we see going on in the various realms of social interaction, whether it is politics or whether it is family, or whether it is in business, whatever it may be, there is also the negative influence in the spiritual realm from demon influence.
Demon influence really isn’t this sort of superstitious mystical idea where you have demons reaching in and tweaking people’s minds, but demon influence does come from ideas, and those ideas are related to our own sin nature. Our own sin nature seeks to advance its own cause. Our sin nature is focused on promoting its own agenda and it mirrors the original sin of Satan in eternity past. He wanted to be like God. That was his agenda. The focal point of sin is always promoting self over and against God.
This is evidenced in the verb that’s repeated five times in Isaiah 14:12–14, the five “I wills” of Satan: “I will”, “I will”, “I will”, “I will”, culminating in his final statement “I will be like the Most High.” He wanted to be like God. It was all about his agenda and what he wanted. We live on a planet where we have seven billion people who all want to be their own god, who all want to advance their own agenda, and in that thinking, they are imitating and following the thinking of Satan. That is one form of demon influence.
You have other forms of demon influence in the promotion of different ideas—philosophical ideas, religious ideas, and political ideas that are all contrary to the Word of God. Ultimately the source is a spiritual struggle. That is important to understand because so often when we get wrapped up and caught up in negatives in our own life in problems, adversity that we face, we want to look at it at the surface: this is a problem with a person; this is a problem with a system; this is a problem with a politician; this is a problem with something on the material level; but the real problem that Paul points out here goes beyond that.
The ultimate cause of all these surface problems that we deal with is a spiritual problem; therefore the ultimate solution is a spiritual solution. That doesn’t mean that if you are having problems at work with other people that you don’t need to somehow address that through personal conversation or confrontation with that individual. It doesn’t mean that you don’t sit down and talk to them. It doesn’t mean that at sometimes you might not have to go to another level and talk to a supervisor or a boss or management about what the problem is, but ultimately the battle is not at that level. The battle is at a higher level, a spiritual level. So the solution is a spiritual solution and if we don’t get the spiritual solution in place then the other solution becomes often an empty solution.
I’m using that example because I want to draw an analogy and a parallel with what happens in the political realm. We are in the most politicized environment that I’ve ever seen in my life in this country. From a study of history, I think there have been some other times in the history of this nation—maybe two or three—that have been pretty politicized as well. We just know more about it now because of the instantaneous nature of modern communication, but the battle ultimately is a spiritual battle. It is always a spiritual battle and one of the principles that we know from Scripture is that the kingdoms of man always run downhill. No matter how good they might be at their pinnacle of power, they always deteriorate and degenerate because they are the kingdoms of man, and fallen creatures run the kingdoms of man.
Again that’s no excuse for becoming uninvolved or disengaged from the process. But we have to be careful not to become so caught up with the political process that we forget that the ultimate solution is a spiritual solution, and if we don’t change people internally in this country, if we don’t change the culture, because the culture that we have today is not the culture that we had a hundred years ago, or the culture we had a hundred years before that; that culture has been transformed through the rejection of the gospel and the rejection of biblical truth.
Even if all of the Supreme Court Justices and all of the other court justices throughout the land started ruling constitutionally it wouldn’t change the hearts of the people. The hearts of the people have made the same mistake that the hearts of the people did in the time of the Judges and in the time of Samuel. They’ve rejected the authority of God, and they are doing what is right in their own eyes. We could elect all of the best politicians that you can think of and we could have all of the judges ruling the right things, and this country would still be in a state of collapse because the people are in a state of collapse. Unless you change the hearts of people you sre not going to change that.
The reason we have the government problems that we have and the systemic problems that we have socially is a result of sin. It is a result of that collapse. The point is always brought back in Scripture that the ultimate battle is over spiritual truth, and that is the solution. Whether you are talking about politics, whether you are talking about problems you have at work, problems you have in your family, or whether you are just talking about your problems and my problems, the spiritual solution is the only solution.
Paul describes that as putting “on the full armor of God,” described in Ephesians 6. That is basically taking a stand on the truth of God’s Word and letting that work itself out in our own life. A parallel passage (slide 13) to that is in 2 Corinthians 10:2–5. There Paul again is trying to deal with a very personal problem, a problem that involved personal attacks and personal rejection from the congregation in Corinth. Paul actually wrote four letters. Most scholars think it was three or four letters to the Corinthians. There was one between 1 & 2 Corinthians and probably one after that, but only 1 & 2 Corinthians were given in such a way that they were to be retained and preserved as Scripture. Paul says to them, “I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some.” What he is basically saying there is he doesn’t want to just get in their face and ream them out for the errors that they have committed. He does not want to create a divisive situation.
But he does characterize those who opposed him as people who are claiming that he is “walking according to the flesh” – that the opposition was saying Paul really isn’t spiritual enough, and Paul was just walking according to the sin nature and causing division by the doctrines that he is teaching. I’ve had this criticism by people once or twice over the years, that I pay a little too much attention at times to false doctrines, false teaching, what people are teaching that is a violation of the Word. The problem with that is that they don’t realize that their criticism is the result of living in this culture that we live in: everything needs to be positive, and nobody needs to be critical.
We have a whole generation of millennials that have grown up who believe that anything that you say that is critical of someone is wrong. That is inherently wrong; you are just being judgmental; you are being self-righteous; you never say anything that is negative about anybody. Well let’s just take the Bible and throw it away because God said something negative about everybody on almost every page. He picks on a lot of people. It is extremely negative and judgmental coming from the Lord.
When we get into the NT and you start looking at these epistles, and you look at Romans, and you look at 1 Corinthians, and you look at Galatians, and even the more positive ones, Ephesians, and the others, nearly every one of them has at its core dealing with and straightening out a congregation with some doctrinal aberration, some untruth, some falsehood that has taken hold in that congregation. Nearly every one of these epistles is written to correct theological and doctrinal error. So if you fail to juxtapose the truth of God’s Word with the popular error that is infiltrating congregations today, then the pastor is falling in his job. Because part of the pastor’s job is to protect the sheep from the wolves that come in deceived as sheep. That applies to their teaching and what comes out of their mouth.
The role of the pastor is to help develop the critical thinking skills of the people in the pew. It is not his job to pat them on the back and tell them that their superficial thoughts are going to get them by. They have to learn to think critically about circumstances.
This is a sad thing because we’ve got such a watered down education system in many places and in many areas in this nation, never more obvious than at the collegiate level where there is very little critical thinking taught. Even when I was in college I had a professor I ended up taking about five courses from. The last time I saw him I had an argument with him over the documentary hypothesis of Mosaic authorship of Genesis. He still didn’t want to agree with me but at least I had something to say, because when I first had him in Western Civilization he was throwing out all this stuff about the authorship of the Pentateuch and that Moses really couldn’t have written anything, and all of these arguments that come out of Protestant liberalism.
I didn’t have a clue how to answer any of those things but I knew I needed to. There was something in me that said, “How can I be a self-respecting Christian if I can’t answer the kinds of issues that are raised by the opposition?” We have to develop critical thinking skills. To his credit, what he really wanted was for students to challenge him, and as I got to know him, he really wanted students to develop critical thinking skills whether he agreed with them or not. He was more of a classic liberal.
A classic liberal really wanted you to think on your own and wasn’t interested in brainwashing you necessarily with progressivism. But they really wanted freedom, which is where the word liberal and liberty come from – it is true freedom of thought and to teach students how to think critically. This professor really imposed that on us as we came through those courses.
I’ve gone back after I’ve done doctoral work and read some of the books that he required us to read in freshman and sophomore history classes, and I still struggle to understand them. I’ve spent a lot more years reading a lot more on those topics. He was really challenging. This was a guy typical of someone who has just finished his PhD. He was really having us read and study at a level that was more of a graduate level because it had been a while since he’d been in an undergraduate level and taught at that level. But he challenged us to think critically and that’s what we have to do.
Paul emphasizes this, that thinking and how we think is part of the battle. He goes on and says he is facing this opposition from people who are challenging him. They are lying about him. They are saying he is walking according to the flesh, and he says no, “For though we walk in the flesh”—notice the difference. It is not according to; it is a different preposition. He goes from KATA to EN. We walk in the flesh. That is, in our humanity as fallen creatures. “… though we walk in the flesh” in our human corporeal body. “… though we walk in the flesh we do not war according to the flesh.”
That is what he says over in Ephesians 6. We are not wrestling against flesh and blood so ultimately the battle is not to be confused with the battle, the way you would engage according to the flesh or according to the sin nature. We don’t operate on the same principles of human viewpoint that the world operates on. We have in the Scriptures this emphasis on different spiritual skills or problem-solving devices that we use in order to overcome adversity.
The phrase “problem-solving devices” is a really interestingly crafted phrase. A lot of people without a military background don’t necessarily understand what the word “problem” means. In the military the word “problem” is any situation that you have to think through and create a solution to. You are presented with a set of circumstances that you have to work your way through, which means you have to solve that.
To the average person, they think of a problem as just a difficulty, as just something negative that has happened. It may not be anything negative at all, it may be just a set of circumstances you have got to evaluate and work through in order to resolve. It can be positive; it can be negative. That is the idea of a problem-solving device. What the world offers us when facing life is nothing more than management skills. If you think about it that is the phrase you’ll often hear in pop psychology – “management skills.” We need to learn how to manage our stress. But what the Scripture says is no, we live above the stress by trusting in God. We’re not going to do what the world says to do and just “manage” the stress that we’re faced with. We are going to live above it so that that stress does not impact us at all because we are going to be like Peter and walk on the water and not take our eyes off the Lord and put them on the waves or the adversity and sink below the water. We have to stand above it.
This is what Paul is talking about. The way in which Christians engage the challenges in their life is different categorically, qualitatively different from the way unbelievers address and engage the problems in their life. He says, “We walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal.” That is just the same word related to the flesh. It is not the product of the sin nature. There is always going to be a challenge in our lives as to whether we are going to handle whatever the circumstances of our life are on the basis of our sin nature or on the basis of the principles of the Word of God. It is either one or the other. One honors God and one does not. One is walking by the Spirit; the other is walking according to the flesh.
It goes on to say, “these weapons of our warfare.” These are the spiritual skills that we studied in Scripture. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” It uses a military image here of pulling down and destroying a defensive posture, a defensive fortification.
Last night if you were at all aware of what was on T.V. or had power to watch what was on T.V. (my power went out like two minutes after I started watching it), there was a new show that came on the History Channel. Anybody know what I’m talking about? Texas Rising. I still don’t know whether it is good, bad or indifferent because we had power problems last night. I thought I would wait until I have four different chopped recordings of that on my DVR, so I’ve got to just wait until tonight and see if it is up there on demand to watch. But at the beginning it started off with the defeat at the Alamo. You see the piles of burning rubble and you see the broken ladders up against the wall and the torn down walls. That’s the imagery that you have behind this. It is tearing down a fortification, tearing down a defensive position, and that is what we have.
We have created, as human beings, a defensive position in our soul to try to make life work on our own terms. We have created extensive and sophisticated rationalizations, philosophies, and religions which support our human viewpoint thinking over against the divine viewpoint thinking of God. These are pictured by Paul as a defensive position that we constructed around our soul to keep God out. What we have to do is pull down those fortifications. That takes thought, and that takes effort. You don’t just go against a defensive position and just wish that the winds will come up and blow it away, or that by being here all of a sudden those walls are going to fall down. Jericho only happened once in history. There has to be procedure, there has to be thought, there has to be technical skill to destroy those strongholds, and Scripture shows how we are to do that – to tear down the human viewpoint in our soul. It is a conscientious effort.
We are to be mighty in God according to the principle of the Word, which means that we have to know the Word. We have to really understand it and practice it and evaluate our own thinking so that we come to understand what is going on between our ears, because that is where real spiritual warfare takes place. It is not like Charismatic Pentecostal theology teaches, going out and doing battle with the devil somewhere or casting demons out of Christians; that’s your real problem. It is being engaged in destroying the false thought forms that have already taken root in our soul.
How do we do this? Look at how we do this. We pull down strongholds and then that next verb is “casting.” This represents a participle and should be understood as a participle of means. We do it by “casting down arguments.” How do you destroy an argument? With another argument. What is an argument? An argument is a series of rational thoughts that have been put together moving from a major thesis to a minor thesis, to a conclusion. It is thinking about a situation; it is applying reason. Christianity is not against reason; it is against the independent use of reason apart from the Word of God or the authority of God. We have constructed in our soul, whether you are consciously aware of it or not, certain arguments and rationalizations to defend why we are going to do things we want to do, and why God is wrong.
What we have to do is to construct arguments in our soul against that. Those arguments come from where? They come from Scripture, from passages that you’ve memorized and that you have incorporated into your thinking so that you can juxtapose the reason of God to the reason of our sin nature.
So to cast down arguments we have to know biblically based divine viewpoint arguments “and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” Here you have the word “every.” Is anything left out? No. That is Paul’s way of saying ‘any kind of thought that elevates itself against Christianity or against the Bible.’ If you just take the time to observe a lot of things that are on television, a lot of things that come across in our culture, there are a lot of thoughts that are out there targeted against biblical Christianity and biblical values. We have to understand what those arguments are. That means we have to read; we have to study, and we have to think through things. Every now and then I get a little chance to do some reading, and I’ve noticed recently that I’ve gone back and read things that I read a long time ago. I read them and I think wow! That’s interesting. I don’t really remember reading that. I remember certain things from this book but I don’t remember that was in this book, but somehow those ideas were incorporated into my thinking. Did I get that from this book?
The book I am reading right now is Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, which has a lot of great material in terms of thinking through from a biblical viewpoint the rational basis for biblical truth. It is very interesting to read some of the ways in which he handles some different things, but it takes time to think through these arguments and rationalizations unbelievers and pagans use against the knowledge of God. But it involves thought; it involves thinking. I’m reading two or three other books at the same time, and I’m only reading through 3–4 pages at a time. I have to stop and think about what it is that I’m reading. It is not simple work. It is not something that just pastors should do because we all have the same problems going on in our soul where we have to learn to think through what it is going on! What is the Word saying? How is that impacting me, and how am I drawn to respond from my sin nature, but what is the counter from the Word of God? We destroy these strongholds by “casting down arguments,” which means we need to understand these arguments, and “every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.”
The other thing that we see here is that there is knowledge of God, and there is everything else. There are only two ways to look at things: God’s way, and the creature’s way. The creature’s way is reflective of either Satan’s demonic thought or human thought. Whether we call it human viewpoint or Satanic viewpoint, or demonic thinking, it all represents the same thing, independence from God. We have to instead bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” That just doesn’t refer to the content of thought. The content of thought is, well, you may be lusting after something, so you may be thinking in terms of a monetary lust, and you are dreaming about what you can buy with all that money you are going to win from the lottery, or you are thinking in terms of sexual lust, and you have pornographic thoughts, or you are thinking in terms of lust for alcohol or drugs or something like that, so you are thinking about when you are going to get your next high, your next buzz, or something like that. That is the content of your thinking.
This goes beyond that. This is not only talking about the content of your thinking but the structure of your thinking, because you can structure your thinking in ways that will always end up with anti-biblical and anti-God conclusions because of the way that you have structured your thought. That is like someone coming up to you and asking you a question, and that question sets the structure of your thought. Someone says, “have you quit beating your wife yet?” That question structures a certain way of thinking, and if you answer it one way or the other you’re caught in a trap.
There was a similar type question that was asked and played out in the media over the last couple of weeks. I think the first reporter asked a question of Jeb Bush that if he had it to do over again would he invade Iraq like his brother did? Jeb Bush fell into the trap of a hypothetical. He should have said I’m not going to address that because the question is bogus and it’s unclear. He should have avoided that structure. But once he accepted the validity of the structure of that question, whatever he said was going to be a problem.
Then I think it was the following Sunday that Chris Wallace was interviewing Marco Rubio on FOX News and asked him the same question. Rubio tried to restructure it but it kept coming back to the original structure.
The point I am making here is that if we think according to certain non-biblical structures we will always end up with non-biblical conclusions and non-biblical answers, and it is hard. This is not easy. It is hard for sheep. Sheep is not a complementary term, as I always say. I had a professor in seminary and I always remember one thing he said. There were many things he said that I didn’t want to remember because he wasn’t one of the better professors, but he did say one thing that was true: “It is hard to think. It is even harder to think about how you think.” And that’s enough to put us all to sleep.
When we look at Samuel 2:2 (slide 14) Hannah is telling us by the structure of the psalm, how we should think about these challenges that we face in life. She shifts from 1 Samuel 2:1, talking about “My heart”, “My horn”, “I smile”, “I rejoice,” to talking exclusively about God and what He has done.
In 1 Samuel 2:2 she says, “No one is holy like the Lord, for there is none beside You. Nor is there any Rock like our God.” If we stop and take a little time to think about the structure of this, even in English, it can become pretty apparent what the word “holy” means. First, if you understand this is synonymous parallelism, then “holy” is parallel to what words in the second stanza? If Lord is parallel to You, then “holy” is parallel to “none like You,” “none beside You.” “Holy” is a word that is so loaded with a lot of religious connotation and religious usage we forget what it means. It is the Hebrew word qadash (the verb); qadosh is the noun, and it means to be set apart to the service of God. But most people think that “holy” has something to do with moral purity.
There were a lot of things that were designated by this word in the OT. The furniture in the tabernacle was called “holy.” Can furniture be morally pure? No. Can it be morally impure or unethical? No. It’s set apart to the service of the Lord though. It is distinct and uniquely set apart to God’s service. It is not to be used for everyday things. The eating utensils, for example, would only be used to eat the feast at a certain time. Holy, just in the English, is parallel to the idea of uniqueness. “There is none beside you.”
This is further developed in the third line, “Nor is there any rock like our God.” Notice how rock is used there – almost as a name or synonym for God or for any god. You would say there is no god like our God. Hannah says there is no rock like our rock. Rock has that connotation of strength, of power, of protection, and something that is totally stable. As we look at the word here in terms of holiness, it emphasizes the uniqueness of God – that He is distinct from everything else.
I was talking today with a couple at lunch and we were talking about the importance of understanding who God is, especially in evangelism. Don’t just jump into the Gospels. It is important to start in Genesis and not in John because when you start talking to people about, well, you need to trust in Jesus, He’s the Son of God, what in the world does that mean to somebody with zero background in the Bible?
We see in Acts that when the apostles were talking to those with a Jewish background they started with Abraham, but when they were talking to Gentiles they started with Creation. Because only in Creation do you see how the God of the Bible is unique and distinct. None of the other gods and goddesses are creators. Zeus, Apollo, none of the gods and goddesses in the Indian pantheon, ever created ex nihilo. They never created something out of nothing. But the God of the Bible is unique because He is the God who created everything out of nothing. That makes Him a unique, a distinct God, and He is not just another god. Often when you are talking to people and you start talking about Jesus, they just want to add Jesus to all the other good luck charms and gods and goddesses in their life.
We have to make clear that the Bible teaches this distinction with God, that He is totally distinct, and what Hannah is saying here is because God is this Rock, then He is the One who can handle any problem or any difficulty that we throw at Him and we dare not trust in man. This is substantiated in a number of passages (slide 15).
As we close out tonight, let’s turn to Jeremiah 17. These are the big books, the big prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and then Daniel. In Jeremiah 17, Jeremiah is challenging the people in Judah, the kingdom of Judah not to trust in human solutions to solve the problem that is coming their way—which is Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians. They are not to look to Egypt, or look to their military technology, or look to anything else to deliver them because God has already promised that He is going to bring judgment upon them; and as a result of that, there’s no hiding. There’s no place that they can go. God expresses this in an indictment starting in Jeremiah 17:5. He said, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength.”
Think about this in terms of what Paul says later on in 2 Corinthians 10, that we are not to war according to the flesh. We don’t rely upon the flesh. Those are the strategies, the tactics, the techniques and the management programs that are put out from human viewpoint. “Cursed is the man who trusts in man.” Ultimately we have to be involved in politics; it is part of good citizenship. It is part of our responsibility under the Constitution to be involved politically but we dare not get caught up in the thinking that the election of one political party or another is going to ultimately solve the problem, because the problem is the human heart that is “deceitful and wicked above all things. Who can know it?” Unless there is a spiritual solution, there won’t be any kind of permanent political solution. It didn’t happen with Israel; it didn’t happen with Judah; and it certainly is not going to happen with us.
We have to recognize it as sort of a dual way of thinking. We have to be engaged because that is our responsibility, and we can make an impact. And we should make an impact! But on the other hand we should not put our ultimate hope in politicians or in governments or in the system, especially living in a relativistic pagan society that is always going to fall apart. This is the indictment, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord.”
The Lord is always the ultimate solution. It does not matter whether you are facing a problem related to your own internal sin nature control, dealing with various lust patterns and temptations in your own soul, or whether it’s dealing with other external problems caused by other people, our heart has to be focused on the Lord. The word “heart” in the Hebrew is simply a word that relates to our soul. Sometimes it relates primarily to the thinking of our soul, which is the majority of uses, but sometimes it refers just as a synonym to the heart, the center of man. Especially our thinking needs to be focused on the Lord.
The person who “trusts in the flesh” is compared in Jeremiah 17:6, “For he shall be like a shrub in the desert.” See, the contrast is going to be with the man who “trusts in the Lord,” who is like a tree. The contrast is between the tree and just some small shrub. If you’ve been to Israel you know the shrubs in the desert are not very big. They are very small, maybe a foot tall, if that. They are not consequential, and that’s what Jeremiah is saying: “He shall be like a shrub in the desert and shall not see good when it comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited.”
The life of the person who is dependent upon human viewpoint is going to be a life that is devoid of life – a life that just is a counterfeit life. It is living in places that are parched, places where it is the salt desert. It is not a pleasing place to be. Some of you who went to Israel this last year and we went across the Negev can remember how parched that desert is down there in those particular areas, especially down south of Beersheba.
In contrast, Jeremiah says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord.” That word for “blessed” is not quite the word “happy.” Some people have translated it “happy.” Happiness is such an ephemeral emotion. It is more the word “content”; someone who is satisfied with life the way it is, someone who is content, someone who is stable in their emotions. They have a stable joy. It is not an emotional happiness but is a stable joy and contentment with life and a tranquility of their soul because they are resting in God. They are trusting in the Lord. And our hope, our confidence, is in the Lord.
Then he is compared in Jeremiah 17:8, “For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes.” Heat is external adversity, difficulty, challenges, tribulations and suffering. It borrows from the imagery of an earlier psalm, Psalm 1, that talks about the person that meditates on God’s Word day and night will be like a tree planted by the waters. It grows full. It grows rich to provide shade and blessing by association for others.
We have the same imagery here: that the person who has their thinking shaped by the Word of God does not suffer a loss of contentment or happiness or stability when adversity comes. “But its leaf will be green. It will not be anxious in the year of drought” (or in the year of the flood, which is what we’re having today). We’ve had the years of the drought the last four or five years and now we’re all being flooded out. It won’t be “anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” So we go through the prosperity tests, and we go through the adversity tests; but we’re stable because our focus is not on the circumstances but is on the God of the circumstances, who is the Holy God of Israel. There is none beside Him (slide 16) and He is compared to a rock.
We’ll stop there, and we’ll come back in two weeks, after I get back from the Grand Canyon, and we’ll continue with 1 Samuel 2:2, understanding the significance of this portrayal of God’s character as unique, one of a kind, and related to being a rock.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study and reflect on these things, and we ask that You help us to understand that the victory that we have is only in You, and we are cursed if we trust in man or the solutions of man. But we are to trust in Your solutions, trust in Your Word, and let Your Word shape and strengthen our souls so that we can withstand whatever adversity and challenges come our way. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”