Sometimes we know what we want and it’s a good thing but it just isn’t happening.
Sometimes totally unexpected things happen to us out of nowhere.
How do we live in a world like this?
The books of Samuel give two examples of people who faced these perplexing times of life.
The bookends of the books of Samuel
Authors often use bookends to reinforce important ideas. Bookends are similar words, phrases, or longer sections that repeat key themes.
The books of Samuel were originally one book and there are two prayers, one near the beginning and one near the end, that emphasize key themes of the books of Samuel
One is Hannah’s prayer after the birth of Samuel and the other is David’s psalm before his died.
The Great Reversal
One of the great unifying themes of Scripture is the Great Reversal. God is in charge and he doesn’t do things the way we do.
The first shall be last and the last shall be first.
Proud people will be brought down. Humble people will be exalted.
When God wanted to tell humble, smelly shepherds who lived with their animals about the birth of Messiah he sent angels that night. When he wanted to tell the king, the priests, and the other leaders he sent Gentiles who took a few months to travel to Jerusalem.
God doesn’t do things the way we do.
Hannah lived a little over a 1000 years before Christ was born and about 900 years after Abraham
She wanted a child.
She was the wife of a Levite and they lived about a day’s walk from the Tabernacle at Shiloh. They had been married a while and were childless so he took a second wife who bore him children.
She was taunted by the second wife and one time when they came to the Tabernacle for a feast she poured out her heart to God. She was so consumed in her prayer that Eli, the High Priest, thought she was drunk. When she told him her story he blessed her and prayed that God would grant her request.
They return home and she had a son. Her son Samuel served in the Tabernacle as a child and was the leader of the Jewish people as an adult. She later had three other sons and two daughters.
Hannah’s prayer to God is preserved in First Samuel, chapter 2. She gives thanks to God as the one who answered her prayer, changed her life, and gave her a position of honor after years of humiliation.
David’s story and psalm
David did not aspire to be king. He was the youngest child in a large family in a small village. When God sent Samuel to anoint a replacement for the failed King Saul, David was not invited to the feast. He was watching the family’s sheep.
God raised him from those humble circumstances to a kingship he did not seek. The path from anointing to reigning included years of being pursued, being outnumbered by his enemies, and being rejected by most of his countrymen.
When recognized as king he continued to face his country’s enemies and intrigue, rape, and murder in his own family. He had great strengths and great failings.
As he neared the end of his life, he reflected in a song that praised God as the one who raised up the humble and brought down the proud.
What do these bookends mean?
Our world is bigger than we are. It was here before we arrived and, if Jesus does not return, it will go on after we die.
We want things that we are convinced are good for us and don’t understand the delay.
Things happen that we don’t understand… good things and bad things.
Like Hannah and David, we live in a world beyond our control.
We can face the world with prayerful trust or control-freak frustration.
Questions for consideration:
When have you been humbled when you didn’t expect it?
When have you been highly regarded when it was a surprise?
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