1 Sam 2:10
The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven.
1 Sam 7:10
As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel.
Humm…maybe I wasn’t too far off thinking Hannah’s prayer was prophetic.
1Then Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the LORD;
My horn is exalted in the LORD,
My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.
10 “Those who contend with the LORD will be shattered;
Against them He will thunder in the heavens,
The LORD will judge the ends of the earth;
And He will give strength to His king,
And will exalt the horn of His anointed.”
I am struck by the prophetic feel of Hannah’s prayer. She could easily see herself as the lowly or poor who God has rescued from her enemies but her declarations seem to go so far beyond her on personal circumstances.
In fact, I see Hannah as a kind of Mary figure. There is no record she was visited by an angel or had God’s purposes declared to her in advance — but she seems to have a sense of destiny. Hannah prayed and struggled for a child even though it didn’t seem to matter to her husband. She knew when her petition was answered and exactly what she would do with the child who was given her. She was very clear on the time she would keep the child before taking him to the priest. She even continued to minister to her son in bringing him a robe every year.
On the day she gives him to God’s service you might expect weeping or sorrow or concern, but instead she announces fulfillment! It is almost like she has completed her calling by bringing Samuel to his “place” in God’s plan.
This is not a sad day for Hannah because Hannah’s prayer sees across time – to the fulfillment of all God has promised – victory, salvation, and Jesus, His anointed, being exalted.
“As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.”
Isn’t this exactly the best thing a mother could do for her child – lend him or her to the Lord? Whether our children have come to us by much prayer as in Hannah’s case or whether they have come in the natural course of life or even if they have come to us by other circumstances, the Psalmist tells us “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” (Ps 127)
In the truest sense, they have been lent to us. We are to love them by first by meeting their needs for care and instruction and then by launching them into their own adulthood. We hope for them to be successful in the world, be good citizens… be good neighbors, spouses, parents. We want them to make it – and without too much suffering. Make us proud and give us grandchildren. And before too long, we have taken possession of those who have only been lent to us.
It is an easy trap, really. We don’t mean to go there but it is easy to make our children an extension of us.
What if we could hold Hannah’s template in mind: “as long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.”? For all we would wish for our children, is there really anything better we could give them except to daily (or more often, as needed) “give them” back to the Lord? To see them through God’s eyes – His plans, His calling for them?
Hannah prayed for her son. I am certain she never stopped praying for him. Every year she made and brought him a new ephod. Every year a personal reminder that he belonged to the Lord.
My parenting would have been different. In fact I can only write about this because it was in many ways my own failing. But, I am reminded, “His mercies are new every morning.”
…the Lord had closed her womb
Hannah was chosen by God for a certain destiny. Reflecting on her life from my vantage, it is easy to see it play out.
God causes her to be barren. No one doubts He is the reason she cannot have children. Her family worships the Lord every year. It is their practice and they are serious and faithful about it. No one seems to think it is a problem that Hannah is barren or that it is something to be fixed. In fact her husband doesn’t even see it an issue. He is happy with this woman he loves just as she is.
But God has seemingly planted the desire for a son deep within Hannah. Every year at the time of worship she prays for God to open her womb. Her desire is visible to the point that she is teased and ridiculed. This is painful to Hannah but she is not distracted from the true source of her redemption. If anything, the pain drives her more fully to seek God’s salvation.
On this particular year during the time of worship, Hannah is unashamedly distressed before the Lord. She clearly has no concern over appearances. She is not thinking about anything except reaching the heart of God.
When her conversation with Eli ends she knows in her spirit God has heard, spoken to her through his agent and answered her request. She goes away rejoicing even when her desire has not yet been fulfilled.
Hannah reminds me of a book called Rees Howells Intercessor*. Rees was a man called by God to pray for others – those he did not even know and situations he could never influence on his own. God asked him to identify with those he was praying for in unusual ways – eating or living like them until he knew he had achieved his prayers. Then he praised God for the answers until he actually saw them come to pass.
Lessons from Hannah:
- She knew her desire and who could grant it.
- She was unashamed and undistracted in her intercession in spite of the ridicule.
- She knew when God answered her intercession and waited for the actual fulfillment in faith.
- Maybe Hannah knew somehow, that her desire for a child was God’s destiny for her: to birth and rear a Godly young man who would serve the Lord faithfully – even to the point of anointing Israel’s King David.
Much like Rees Howells, Hannah was a unique intercessor on God’s behalf – that He might rescue many from their distress.
* Rees Howells: Intercessor by Norman Percy Grubb
More about Rees Howells http://www.byfaith.co.uk/paulreeshowells.htm
It is interesting that so many women of prominence in the Bible start off being barren. In fact, God often seems to set this up just to make a point.
In Hannah’s case, it is her longing for a child that brings her to ask for the Lord’s favor. She is not drawn because of a promise or because her husband is pushing her. Except for the needling from the other wife, she has a loving husband who gives her extra honor and she could easily be content – but she is not. She longs for more and knows it is only God who can meet her need.
She seeks God’s favor through prayer. I remember Sarah who sought to fulfill God’s promise through her handmaid. Hannah did not look to her own ability to make something happen – she beat against the gates of heaven!
For the pleasure of a child Hannah offered him back to serve the Lord. She received the gift but with open hands of offering.
To learn from Hannah, these are the questions I must answer for myself:
- What “barrenness” am experiencing in my life?
- Is it pressing me to prayer?
- Am I willing to offer back to the Lord whatever He provides?
“We don’t believe something by merely saying we believe it, or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true.” ~ Dallas Willard
For the last few weeks I’ve been reading Just Courage by Gary Haugen. Haugen, the founder of International Justice Mission, is writing to challenge Christians to remember God’s priority of fighting for Justice. He asserts our failure to live up to this clear teaching of Scripture goes as far back as Adam and Eve – we don’t believe God is who He claims to be – One who both sends and empowers.
We may say we believe but we rationalize away our ability to accomplish it. This is where Willard’s quote becomes soooooo to the point. Belief results in action.
Deborah had a handle on the concept! She heard God’s words to her and she acted on them…taking a number of God’s people with her – some in spite of their hesitation.
If Deborah had been reading Just Courage she might have affirmed Haugen’s message because she herself experienced it to be true.
“Follow me beyond what you can control, beyond where your own strength and competencies can take you, and beyond what is affirmed or risked by the crowd—and you will experience me and my power and my wisdom and my love.” – God to Gary Haugen
Deborah, no doubt was also a song writer – a woman of many talents!
Praising God for the victory He has brought to pass is foremost in Deborah’s mind. When you have heard God’s voice so clearly and then have seen Him make it happen there is no doubt as to who gets the glory.
Deborah tells the story in some detail because every single detail was arranged by God and orchestrated to bring Him the victory. It is in the specifics that we find encouragement to believe God choses people to exercise His will – the prophetess, the general, the soldiers and the woman Jael – all called for this very purpose.
And Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the Lord go out before you?”
And behold, as Barak was pursuing Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.”
Deborah remains assured of God’s intention to overthrow His enemies by the hand of Barak and Israel’s army. “Get up and get going, Barak – God goes before you!” And in fact the Canaanites are destroyed – all but their general Sisera.
Deborah has also prophesied that victory will be accredited to a woman. While some would suggest that woman would be Deborah herself I think it much more likely the woman who got the credit was Jael.
Jael and her family were in an awkward position. They had a distant relationship with Moses, being descendants of his father-in-law, and therefore Israel and they had traditionally lived around Canaanite country. So when Israel and the Canaanites were living in a pressure cooker. Heber, Jael’s husband decided maybe his clan would put some distance between them and the rest of the people. In moving near to Kedesh they were more in a neutral zone.
So, the Canaanite General Sisera’s chariot gets bogged in the mud. He jumps out and runs from the battle. He ends up seeking refuge at Jael’s tent.
There are lots of thoughts about the politics of him entering her tent and there are some who condemn Jael’s deception and act of murder. However I believe she was in her tent for “such a time as this”. It must have taken a powerful and assured woman to carry out her plan. Rather than condemning her Scriptures calls her “blessed among women”, a title only used once before referring to Mary, Jesus’ mother.
The actions of these two strong, confident women resulted in the destruction of God’s enemy and peace in the land for the next forty years.
All in a day’s work when you serve in God’s army.
Deborah was one of the 12 judges mentioned in the Book of Judges however the nation of Israel had “judges” before and after these. In fact Moses was probably the first judge. Actually God used judges to lead his people from the time for Moses until Israel’s first king. If we were to note the judges mentioned throughout all the Old Testament there would be:
- Moses and those Moses appointed to help him (unknown number)
- Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthat, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon and Sampson – from the Book of Judges
- Eli and Samuel and maybe Samuel’s sons Joel and Abiah – from 1 Samuel
- Kenaniah and his sons – 1 Chronicles
- Amariah and Zebadiah (son of Ishmael) – from 2nd Chronicles
In this list of 20 plus names, I really only recognize 6. And while I know about Deborah I’m not sure I ever thought of her as in the same class as Moses or Samuel! But indeed, she was.
In this passage I love her certainty about what God has said. When Deborah calls Barak it is not because he has heard the same thing. Barak was the general, not the prophet. She calls him because she has heard from the Lord and is forwarding God’s command on to the military leader.
Barak, like many of us, wondered if this was truly God speaking. He asked her to put her certainty on the line. Of course, Deborah knew what she knew so she did not hesitate to go with the army.
Many in Israel trusted Deborah and acknowledged her positon of wisdom and her prophet station, as probably did he. But in this case, when danger was eminent we are prone to doubt.
All in all, I would rather be remembered as a Deborah than as a Barak – though surely on any given day I could be either or both!
I am so excited to see that Deborah is our next story. I know only the overview of her story and I really want to lean in but this week may not afford me that freedom. If it doesn’t I will surely come back here because I believe Deborah is important to our understanding of women in God’s economy.
Here’s a thought in today’s reading. Deborah is introduced in Judges 4:4 with two titles and one job description.
Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.
Prophetess was first – her first calling was to God. She spoke for Him.
Her second calling was as wife – she was married. I think this is significant in all our gender debates. Sometimes single women don’t have those clear “directives” to be “under a male leader” – at least in today’s culture single women don’t necessarily live under their father’s roof, so to speak. However, we have little problem determining some significant and one-way directives for Christian women who are married. We gravitate toward women’s submissive roles – often dismissing the mutual submission called for from both partners. Deborah seems to be standing in the boat and rocking it a bit – when much of Christendom would just like her to take a seat.
Finally, her job description – judging Israel. Apparently she went to her office – under the “palm tree of Deborah” – (she even had her name on the building!) – and held court. It seems pretty full time but there are any other details in that regard. She might have had children or not, she might have regularly been home in time to fix dinner – don’t know for sure. What we do know is those details were apparently not significant to her particular calling. There was nothing for us to learn from how she balanced work and home. Another telling (sort of by not telling) thing is her husband’s thoughts on her job or calling are not made known. I’m thinking he either was all for it (much as my very own husband is of me using whatever gifts or calling I have been given) or what he thought was not something God felt the need to record.