"Do not just hear the Word of God and think hearing is enough. DO what it says!" James 1:22

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lesson 15, Servants of God

1 Samuel 1-2

Our Wrap Up from Mrs. Gettelfinger...

Each student was randomly "labeled" with a sign on their backs by the teachers before our Wrap Up began.  Some of the labels were such things as... "Loser," "Dork," "Snotty Girl," "Nerd," "Geek," "Weird-O," "Freak," "Goof-ball..."  You get the idea.  The students were next instructed to walk around and look at each others' "labels" and then try to guess what their own label said.  They could only ask someone else three questions and those questions could only be "yes or no" answer type of questions.  If, at anytime, the students asked "Am I a..." and they were wrong with their guess, the student had to sit down and wait until the activity was over.

As you can imagine, most of the signs brought about quite a few giggles and even some big belly laughs.  And although it was made VERY CLEAR that these "labels" were NOT ACCURATE of each of the students' characters, the labels were used to prove a very strong point; being laughed at NEVER feels good.  Regardless of how strong or confident we are, being made fun of hurts.  Even if we are strong and confident in our faith... in our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself... hurtful words from others can bring us down.

Hannah knew all about hurtful words.  Penninah pretty much "had it all."  She had the love and care of her husband.  She had many sons and daughters (1 Samuel 1:4b.)  She had plenty of offering to give to the Lord in times of worship.  She even had a sister-wife she could look to for support and sisterhood yet she certainly didn't take advantage of such friendship.   Although she lacked in nothing, Penninah was obviously jealous of Hannah.  Was it their husband, Elkanah's love of Hannah which made Penninah jealous?  Or was it Hannah's seemingly unblemished character that caused Penninah to experience jealousy to the point of being such a nasty person toward Hannah?

The Scriptures we studied for this Servants of God lesson do not tell us WHY Penninah is so cruel to Hannah.  Instead, what the Scriptures tell us is HOW Hannah was effected by Penninah's cruelty.   In 1 Samuel 1:6 we see that Hannah is made to feel "miserable" because of Penninah's nasty behavior.  And we know from verse 7 that all Hannah did was "wept and could not eat."

With grace of self-control, Hannah not once tried to shoot back hateful, hurtful words at Penninah.  Many of us today might even think Penninah certainly would have deserved it if Hannah had shot back.  But the beauty of Hannah's reaction to Penninah's cruelty was that there was really no reaction at all.  Hannah didn't even pray about the cruelty she was experiencing.  She didn't ask God to make Penninah stop.  She didn't ask for wise words to throw back at Penninah.  She didn't ask for Penninah to just go away.  Instead, she stayed focused on two things... her true desire which was to have a son... and God's sovereignty as her LORD (1 Samuel 1:9-10.)

Hannah's tears went beyond Penninah's cruel mistreatment of her.  She was brokenhearted because she had no child to mother.  Every Jewess woman had hopes and dreams of being "head of the home" while her husband was "head of the family."  And even though Hannah had a house... with no "family," there was no "home."  Alhough Elkanah deeply loved Hannah and showed her as much, she wanted so badly to have had a child to love and raise in honor of her husband... and more importantly, in honor of her God.

In many ways, Hannah was a beautiful foreshadowing of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Although Mary was not mistreated by a family member such as Hannah was by Penninah, can you just imagine how people must have talked behind Mary's back about her pregnancy while she was still yet to be married to Joseph.  I am sure if felt very much like the "labels" on the students' backs.  They had no idea what people were saying "behind their backs," but they could certainly see the reactions of others.  Instead of letting the words and mistreatment of others bring them down, Hannah and Mary "lifted up" our LORD.  (Compare Hannah's song -1 Samuel 1-10 to that of Mary's -Luke 1:46-55.)

We have two lessons to learn from our study this week.  The first lesson is that of Hannah's humility and how she remained focused on the LORD even though her heart was lonely for a child and her spirit was constantly being attacked by her enemy.  She didn't strike back or hold God accountable for her longsuffering.  She depended on God's faithfulness "No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days" Exodus 23:26.  Indeed, God kept His promise to Hannah.  Not only did He give her a son, He also gave Israel a judge and prophet in Samuel.  This was something the people had lacked for quite a long time at this point in our study.

The second lesson we learn is that of Penninah's behavior toward Hannah.  We can see through Hannah's pain how very hurtful our thoughtless and unloving words can be upon someone else's heart.  Is it any wonder God guides us to guard our tongues... "With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth comes blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be so" James 3:9-10.

Will you choose to follow the example of Hannah's heart-prayer and ask God "let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight?" (Psalm 19:14)  Will you be kind to EVERYONE you meet and remember Hannah when others have not been so kind to you?