Midweek Advent Worship December 20. 2023
“Heard By God” I Samuel 2:1-10
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
When you read the Bible I want you to look for something. You’ll find it everywhere. But if you’re not looking for it, it might just pass you by. But if you are mindful of it, you’ll see it and you’ll stand amazed that you hadn’t seen it sooner.
It is found in the Old Testament and the New. From Genesis to Revelation. The teachings of Jesus and of Solomon. Peter speaks of it. Paul, as well. You’ll see it in Hannah’s prayer and in what the virgin Mary spoke.
It is the Great Reversal. You would naturally expect one thing and God turns it all around. Like II Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus had no sin – none inherited and none ever done – but get this – He becomes filled with sin when he takes the payment for our sin upon Himself. And we, who are filled with sin – both inherited, and committed since, are considered blameless and righteous. That is the Great Reversal.
The account of the Prodigal Son is part of this Great Reversal. That wayward boy screwed up his life and the life of his family. But the father runs to him, embraces him, welcomes him back home and throws a party unlike any that that community had ever seen. You expect one thing – justice and you get mercy and forgiveness.
How about the women caught in the act of adultery? Jesus says to the lynch party – “Let the one who is without sin throw the first stone at her.” (John 8:8) Great Reversal. She was going to be stoned and Jesus gives her true freedom, “Neither do I condemn you, go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11)
The account of Hannah, the mother of Samuel is an account of a Great Reversal. It all happened about 1100 BC. A man named Elkanah had two wives (not a good idea by the way) one was Peninnah and the other has Hannah. Peninnah was a mother to a number of children through Elkanah, but Hannah had no children. And she desired to be a mother. Peninnah treated Hannah terribly, ridiculing her for not having any children. Peninnah was cruel and vindicative and arrogant. But a Great Reversal was about to happen.
Hannah went to the temple and sought help from the God who can do all things. When she went to pray she had the whole world on her shoulders. She mouthed words but nothing came out. Eli, the priest was angered at her. He thought she was drunk and the temple was a place for holiness and no place for a drunk. But she told Eli why she was in such a way, “I am a woman deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” (I Samuel 1:15-16)
Have you ever seen a person whose prayers are just sobs? Their emotions are consuming them. They can’t find the words, but God knows what is happening in the heart. Hannah was praying for a child. She told Eli that she would dedicate this child to the Lord’s service. This child was Samuel. He became one of God’s great voices.
The Prayer of Hannah is one that speaks of the Great Reversal. She looks at where she once was and now where God brought her. “[The Lord] he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.” (I Samuel 2:7-8) Earlier she spoke, “Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry hunger no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has many sons pines away.” (Verse 5) Hannah, once ridiculed and rejected, has a son, Samuel. The name Samuel means “Heard By God”. God heard her tears and her silent words, received her grief, and gave her Samuel – “Heard By God”. Her life is seen as a Great Reversal.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, must have known the Song of Hannah. It becomes her song. You’ll hear it tonight – it is the Magnificat. “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:46-53) What a reversal!!
I guess this is a good news/bad news type of word that God gives. If one is arrogant, prideful, self-righteous, or holier-than-thou, this is bad news. Like the person who gave to others just to be noticed and praised, (Matthew 6:1-4) or gave long winded prayers so that everyone would notice their eloquence, (Matthew 6:5-8) they already had received their reward, praise from others – but they got nothing from God. The good news in this reversal is that our God lifts up the humble. The Bible says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (I Peter 5:5-6) The Tax Collector, who would not even look to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God be merciful a sinner” went home justified before God. As Jesus, the one who fulfills the Great Reversal says, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)
Do you see it? The Great Reversal. Pride and self would have taken us over. We would have tried to solve the issues of soul and life by ourselves. But God stopped us. He gave us faith instead. Our trust and confidence find a home in Jesus. Immanuel – God with us. Forgiveness – never earned, never deserved, comes to us by God’s working. Jesus works the greatest reversal – purity through forgiveness instead of sins corruption. He gives immortality instead of mortal weakness. Great, Divine Reversal. Look for it. It will surprise you how often it is there.
Hannah saw it. Mary saw it. And we, for the sake of Jesus see it clearly. Amen!!