#121 "Stand Up, Pray and Be On Your Way!"
November 13, 2007
"And because the Lord had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year." (1 Samuel 1: 6-7a)
Scripture Reference: biblegateway.com
Two women. Married to the same man. One had children, one had none. Hannah was barren. The Bible says that the Lord "closed her womb". To add insult to injury, her rival taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in. (The Message) Hannah did nothing but cry. She couldn't eat. She couldn't sleep. She was depressed, despondent and discouraged. I can't say that I blame her. It's bad enough to long for what you don't have, to yearn for your heart's desire. It's another thing to have the exact thing you want, flaunted in front of your face day after day. What do we do when other people have the one thing we desire with our whole heart? What do we do about Peninnah?
What do you do when you're waiting for your Boaz and you're always the bridesmaid and never the bride? What is your response when your car is held together by duct tape and paper clips and your friend pulls up in their shiny new sports car? You don't need a sports car, for heaven's sake, you just need a car that RUNS! And how about that lady in your Bible Study who just got back from a long, expensive vacation? The only getaway you need is five minutes alone in the bathroom away from those screaming kids. And money for a vacation? What's that all about? How about money for groceries and bills and more bills and wait...more bills. Think about your own situation that fits this scenario. Not everyone around you is a Peninnah, deliberately provoking you. But it irritates you all the same. "What about ME?" You can weep. You can stop eating. You can throw a pity party. You can look depressed and let everyone feel sorry for you, or...you can do what Hannah did. I think she just got sick and tired of being sick and tired.
By definition, provocation moves a person to an action or a feeling. Therein lies the choice. Will provocation incite you to anger and resentment, self-pity and depression, or will it stir you to action? And will your action be positive or negative? If you've already determined that you've been provoked to move in the wrong direction, don't get down on yourself. Hannah started out that way too. But there was a point where she got fed up. She pulled herself up by her sandals and began to walk in a different direction. I hope that you have read the Scripture Reference by now so that you have a feel for the whole story. If not, please go back and read it now. My desire is for you to see Hannah's strategy and learn it for yourself, because the proper response will produce the most amazing results.
Verse 9 of our text tells us that "Hannah stood up". I don't know what happened at that dinner table on that particular day, but something inside Hannah said, "that's enough!" Enough with starving herself. Enough with crying. She wiped her eyes, blew her nose, pulled herself together, and set off on a course of action to the only place where there was any hope of getting help. The temple. The place where the Lord was. I don't know what your situation is today, but are you ready to say, "that's enough!"? Don't let your personal Peninnah provoke you to wrong action. Divine provocation will drive you to God. Hannah stood up. Will you?
Next, Hannah prayed. She told Eli, the priest, that she was "pouring out [her] soul to the Lord." This was no mealy mouthed prayer. So intense was Hannah's silent prayer that Eli noted the movement of her lips and assumed that she was intoxicated. Verse 10 says that "in bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord." I'm sure that she told God of her desire to have a child and how disappointed she was. I'll even bet that she spent some time tattling on Peninnah. You may not be this unspiritual, but I've tattled to my Daddy on a few people before. And in her prayer she proved that she knew a little about her God. She asked Him to look on her, to remember her and to give her a son. She knew that He was always watching over her. She knew that He would never forget her. And she knew that He was the Giver of every good and perfect gift. The Giver of Life. The Giver of All Things. Hannah prayed. Will you?
Knowing what she knew about the God she prayed to, caused her to take the last step. "Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast." (v.18) The Message says, "she ate heartily and her face was radiant." It reminds me of a verse that I was memorizing over the weekend in 2 Timothy 1:12. "...I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day." She was fully persuaded that the God of the Universe had it all under control. She was so convinced that she could now eat, and her countenance lost its look of depression. Are you convinced that when you pray, God hears? Are you convinced that He is in charge? Are you convinced that He answers prayer? Then go on your way. Eat. Smile. Hannah did. Will you?
Don't let your Peninnah provoke you to wrong action. Let Divine Provocation drive you to God. Stand up today, my friend. Dust off your slippers and go. Go to the place where you know God is. Maybe it's your favorite chair by the window. Maybe it's by the water's edge. Maybe it's a literal closet. Even if it's in the bathroom with the kids waiting outside the door....go! Pray. Pour out your soul to the Lord. Tattle if you want to. Lay it all out before Him. That's what relationship with Him is all about. Then, wash your face, have something good to eat and rest in Him. Go on your way, fully persuaded that He is able to do what you've entrusted to Him. Exceedingly, abundantly more than you could ever ask or think! (Ephesians 3:20) Hannah received her son, Samuel, whose name means "heard of God". Your Samuel is on the way, because, like Hannah you "asked the Lord for him." (v.20)
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