Have it Out with God
We begin our Monarchy series with a look at how Hannah deals with infertility and suffering.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
In churches, there are really two different types of teaching: One is topical (you preach on a topic from the Bible like selfishness, or joy, or busyness), and the other is verse-by-verse teaching.
That’s where you teach through a Book of the Bible by reading all of the verses in chronological order.
Most churches nowadays simply do one or the other…we happen to do both J
And every year for the past three years, I’ve taken us through a book of the Bible
We actually did 43 weeks on Acts, 18 weeks on Galatians, and 14 on Matthew
This year, for the first time, we are going to do a book in the Old Testament (the part of the Bible that takes place before Jesus)
We are going to do 1 Samuel.
Our hope is to spread it out and break it up into 3 sections in the spring, summer, and fall, and do about 18 weeks on 1 Samuel
We are going to try and cover all 31 chapters…so some week will have combined chapters, and for the first time, we’re also going to be covering some of the missed chapters in House Groups…
Yet another great reason to get in a House Group
Before we get into the heart of today’s passage, I’ve got to start this series by giving you some context on the book of 1 Samuel.
For instance, when in history does 1 Samuel even take place?
If you were here with us this Fall (I know many of you are new), we learned about Abraham, who is in some of the very first chapters of the Bible.
We learned that God gave him the promised land…which is now Israel
Abraham’s Great-grandson Joseph was sent to Egypt as a slave, and the Israelites ended up living there for 400 years.
God frees them from slavery, they wander in the desert for 40 years, and about 1400 BC, they begin to reclaim the promised land.
If you’ve read any of the Old Testament, this is basically when the Book of Judges starts.
The time of the judges lasts for about 300-350 years.
It’s up and down…with mostly downs.
In fact, by the end of the Book of Judges and the beginning of 1 Samuel (and they slightly overlap in time), the people have mostly forgotten about God.
The Book of Judges puts it this way:
(Judges 17:6) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION!!
In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.
And the majority of 1 Samuel is about the people asking for a king…even though God says…I’m your only KING.
That’s why we called this series “Monarchy,” which is 1 ruler.
It’s going to take us a few chapters until we get to that part.
But at the beginning of 1 Samuel, the people are really falling away from God, and they need some sort of revival. Something to bring them back.
But kind of like the book of Judges ends, the book of 1 Samuel starts out in a place of pain.
And just a warning, this isn’t an easy message.
Like the passage, it’s quite hopeful, but it starts from a painful place.
The people are in pain…and they need help.
Let’s take a look at the very first chapter in 1 Samuel
(1 Samuel 1:1-8) – NIV
There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah (P. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. 3 Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. 4 Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. 6 Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8 Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
So one of the first things you probably notice as a modern person is that Elkanah had two wives. He was polygamous.
Polygamy was technically legal under Israelite law although not God’s original design from the beginning (read the first few chapters of Genesis)
And we know this…because there is not a single place in the Bible where a polygamous family is not depicted as absolutely miserable.
And this is yet another example.
But why does he have two wives in the first place?
It’s because his wife Hannah is struggling with infertility. She’s been unable to have kids.
And as incredibly painful as infertility is nowadays (and it’s quite painful), it was even worse in ancient times.
Back then, your family’s economic status was directly tied to how many kids you had.
The more kids you had, the more employees you had in your business J
And not just that…there was no social security back then…the only way you wouldn’t be put out on the street as an older adult was if you had adult children to care for you.
And to many people (even though it’s an oversimplification) children were a direct sign of God’s blessing.
This is still true in much of the world.
In Rwanda, when you introduce yourself, the more children you have, the louder they cheer!
HANNAH DOESN’T FIND UNDERSTANDING IN OTHERS
But Hannah’s been unable to have children.
And it’s been incredibly painful for her.
So much so that sometimes she can’t even eat.
Sometimes she just weeps.
One of the tough things about infertility is that most people don’t understand it.
And even if they sort of do, they don’t know what to say.
There was a recent study of women who had struggled with infertility and also got divorced.
Of those women 63% said infertility was more painful than even their divorce.
Partly because people don’t understand it.
We see that right in our passage from 3 different people:
Hannah’s rival wife, Peninnah, certainly isn’t giving her any grace.
She’s taunting her it says.
Probably saying things like, “Oh you wouldn’t want any children anyway…all they do is bring you grief”
Hannah’s husband doesn’t get it.
He says, “Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
Uh…probably not the right thing to say…
Even the pastor doesn’t get it.
We’re going to see in just a moment here, that while Hannah’s praying to God, the priest Eli sees her praying passionately, and says, “Are you drunk or something?”
Nobody seems to get it!
I’ve heard a lot of stories over the years of insensitive things people have said to those struggling with infertility.
One of my favorites is when people to say to others:
“Have you guys thought about having kids?”
What is someone supposed to say to that, “Wow! You’re right! We should! Totally never thought of that!”
But I’ve said enough dumb things to people over the years to know that often people don’t really mean what they say.
Often they’re just nervous, well-intentioned people.
My personal favorite blunder was when I asked a someone at a funeral for their loved one, “Are you having a good day?”
It’s not often you hear a message on a topic like this, but Scriptures like this are for churches like ours.
It’s part of the advantage of doing verse-by-verse preaching…you cover some things you wouldn’t normally ever cover.
And this is a Scripture for a church like ours:
The average age of this church is 32.
It’s a church full of all sorts of people who’ve struggled with this issue.
And honestly, in some sense, I think it can be a hard place to deal with infertility.
We were sitting in the Port-au-Prince airport two weeks ago, and someone started talking about all the pregnant people at Renovation.
So we counted them up, and figured out that there are going to be at least 12 babies born in 2015…just by July!
And that doesn’t mean that all of those people just popped out a baby on their first try, but all the same, it can be hard to rejoice when your friends have kids and you can’t
But God puts Scriptures in the Bible like this for a reason.
If it’s hard to rejoice for a friend, think about how much infinitely harder it would have been to watch a rival wife get pregnant.
HANNAH HAS IT OUT WITH GOD
So what does Hannah do it about it?
Let’s keep reading.
(1 Samuel 1:9-20) – NIV
9 Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” 12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth.13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.” 15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” 17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” 18 She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. 19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”
In verse 9, they had just finished the meal.
A meal that Hannah probably didn’t even eat because she was in such anguish.
And it says that Hannah stands up, walks away from the meal, and walks over to the House of the Lord to pray.
Except she’s not just going to “pray some prayer”
She’s going to go have it out with God.
Look at the descriptions from Scripture here. I’m going to read you some of the highlights:
Verse 10: “in her deep anguish” “weeping bitterly”
Verse 11: She’s making vows even
Verse 13: She’s praying so passionately the priest thinks she’s drunk
Verse 15: “I am a woman who’s deeply troubled” “I’m pouring out my soul to the lord”
Verse 16: I’m praying out of my great anguish and grief”
Hannah didn’t just “pray a prayer” that day…she had it out with God.
I’ve had a few of these moments in my life.
For some of you they come more often…it’s easier for you to just open up to God, and cry it out with him.
That’s not me.
I’m a “cry once a year” kind of guy
And by cry, I mean, “I felt a tear coming on”
But I think a lot of us have had those moments where we “have it out with God” in our suffering…and it doesn’t have to be infertility…it can be anything.
Whether you call them “come to Jesus” moments of whatever
I can remember being so frustrated with my wife towards the end of college, that I got out of my car where I was driving and walked into an empty driving range (because it was like 11pm at night), and just got on my knees and starting crying out to God.
Having it out with Him about everything that was happening
If you’re married, you probably have moments like this…where you finally let out all of your emotions.
If you’re a guy, usually (not always), but usually this is harder for you.
But I think when you get to that breaking point, where you finally have it out with God about something…
Maybe you even shed some tears…
And there’s something special about it if you get there:
I’ve seen it happen. In my own life. In small groups. While talking with close friends.
There’s something about letting your guard down for a moment.
And you operate, if only for a few moments, with no filters in your communication.
And you become completely honest with someone.
There’s a sense, after moments like that, through anguish and sorrow, that you’ve made your peace with God.
That you’ve finally been honest with Him.
This is a really curious thing about suffering.
And, again, it doesn’t have to be infertility.
We’re talking about that issue more than others today since that’s what the passage is about, but the truths from Scripture are just as applicable to all types of suffering.
It could be with a failed relationship, or divorce, or health, or job loss.
So often in our sufferings, we don’t really ever “have it out with God” like Hannah has it out with God
Sure we throw up a few prayers while we’re driving or in church, but we rarely (I’m serious about this)…we RARELY take our deepest emotions to God, and tell Him what’s really on our mind.
But I think when you do, something changes.
Because when you really meet with “God Almighty” (as Hannah calls him), you get a sense of whom this God really is.
This is the ONE person who can truly understand what’s going on in her heart.
This is the ONE person who can actually do something about it.
HANNAH SHIFTS HER FOCUS
And something changes in Hannah after she has it out with God.
And the order in which her disposition changes is really important to the text.
Notice something about the passage here:
It says, “She prays, she gets happy, she gets pregnant”
NOT, “She prays, gets pregnant, then gets happy”
At some point, while having it out with God, she’s able to shift her focus.
Her focus shifts from just having this child to make her happy, or secure, or to show up the rival wife..
Her focus shifts to God’s mission.
She tells God, “I will give him to you to serve you all the days of his life”
And this isn’t like a modern American Baby Dedication where we “give our children to God”
If you read the final verses of chapter 1, when Samuel was about 3, she literally dropped him off with the priest, and he grew up serving in God’s house.
Hannah’s not going to get much out of this.
She’s not going to economically benefit from Samuel here…she’s never going to get to show off his 4H trophies to the rival wife.
She’s given him to the Lord.
And at some point while she was having it out with God, she shifts her focus from herself to essentially saying (what we taught on back in December) YOUR WILL BE DONE.
It’s about YOU. Not about me.
And that’s the goal for any type of suffering that you might be facing right now.
That you would take it to God.
I mean REALLY take it to God.
And that you would offer up your life to be a witness for Him and his plans, and His glory.
Even if, just like Hannah, you don’t directly benefit from it.
And recognize, that so much of suffering…is about timing.
One important question that needs to be asked out of this passage is, “Why did it take so long for Hannah to get what she asked for?”
Answer: Because she was part of one of God’s large and incredibly important plans.
The timing of the birth of the boy Samuel is integral to God’s plan.
If Samuel is born years earlier, when Hannah first wanted a child, it’s possible that he might have been too old to later spot David as a Shepherd boy…finding Israel’s great King (which we’ll get to later this year)
I often think of it this way:
When I went to St. John’s University for college, there was almost nothing going on there on a spiritual level.
No Bible Studies…no one getting saved…nothing really.
And in 2004, God sent a TON of leaders all there at once.
Many of us had just become Christians.
And we randomly met at a Bible study of 10 kids, which exploded to 200 people in a little over a year, and God did amazing things
In fact, that ministry we started in 2004, still exists today…reaching hundreds of students for the Lord
Maybe impacted thousands over the last 11 years
And I often think, what if some of my friends (many of them pastors of their own churches now), would have been born a year earlier? The timing would have been all wrong.
God’s timing is everything.
Especially when it comes to birth.
And if you are struggling with infertility, maybe it’s because God’s great plan for your child doesn’t start until next year…or the year after.
Or think of it this way: If Hannah wouldn’t have had to wait…if she wouldn’t have had to suffer first…she would have never gotten to the point where she was able to turn her son over to the Lord.
NO way! She would have just kept him like any other kid.
And he probably would have been…just like any other kid.
But it’s through her suffering, that God’s people were eventually saved (years later) by the great leader Samuel, and God’s mission was accomplished.
When you suffer (no matter what it is), don’t assume God is punishing you.
What if Hannah would have assumed that?
God wasn’t punishing her.
On the contrary, he was shaping her because he was going to use her to be one of the most famous mothers in history.
And if you are here this morning, and you haven’t been able to have kids… (or maybe your 50’s or 60’s…and your children have been unable to have kids)….
Or if you’re suffering from another kind of suffering…many of these principles apply too
Bring your pain to God. Really open up your heart to him.
And I encourage you to talk to a trusted friend…
Too many people suffer in secret with infertility.
When I was in Rwanda this summer, I was praying for people at an outreach in the park.
There were about 500 people there.
They asked me to pray for people who were dealing with infertility (because again…having kids is everything in their culture)
So, I did as they asked, and I said, “If anyone needs prayer for this, come on down, and we will pray for you”
And I’ll never forget this the rest of my life.
ONE woman…all by herself…quietly and slowly walked down and knelt for prayer…in front of 500 people in a local, public park.
It was one of the boldest declarations of faith I’ve ever seen in my life.
I’m not saying you need to do that…but let someone in whom you trust
So bring your pain to God…talk to a friend…
And then surrender to God’s will.
Don’t rule anything out.
God can answer prayer.
And don’t rule out the possibility that maybe God’s timing is meant to push you towards something else too. Maybe even adoption?
Or maybe you adopt now, and maybe have kids later.
Maybe you’ve even been trying to have a second child or a third child, and it isn’t working.
Maybe God’s leading you towards adoption.
Pray about it.
Like Hannah, seek His WILL…His purposes.
There are kids all over the world, that have already been born, that don’t have moms and dads.
We saw that up close and personal in Haiti when we were building bunk beds.
I was trying to explain to my 2-year olds that I was going to Haiti, and I said, “We’re going to help kids. They have no bed.”
And they’d say, “No bed!”
And I said, “And no blankies.”
And my daughter said, “No blankie?!?”
And it just hit me…something as basic as bed and a blanket. They didn’t have it. Not even a mom or dad.
And it hit me harder there….
One person on our team remarked that no kid ever cried at the orphanage while we were there.
Because it doesn’t do them any good.
No one comes to comfort them.
There are currently over 150 million orphans worldwide.
So don’t rule out anything.
I could tell you multiple stories of people that adopt kids, and then 6 months later end up having their own kid too.
Even Hannah, after she gives up Samuel, gets blessed by God immensely
She ends up having another 3 sons and 2 daughters.
Don’t rule out anything, have it out with God, and ultimately, put your life in His hands…and in His will.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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