“And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. And in due time, Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said “I have asked for him from the Lord.” (I Samuel 1:19b-20, ESV)
Hannah was all too familiar with grief and sadness. She had been unable to conceive for years. And as she waited and hoped for a child, she watched her husband’s other wife, Peninah, give birth many times while she taunted and provoked Hannah for her childlessness.
One of the most difficult parts of this passage for me is the phrase “because the Lord had closed her womb”. Why was God was withholding from Hannah the one thing she wanted most? But “in due time”—when it was appropriate, and God determined that the time was right—He remembered Hannah. He honored her faithfulness and answered her prayers. He gave her a son, Samuel, who would himself be a deliverer for the nation of Israel. Hannah was watching for a child, but God was watching His people and waiting for the perfect time to provide the leader He knew Israel would need.
I am reminded that even when I think I know everything I need to know about any given situation, my knowledge is finite. God sees the big picture; He designs every circumstance in my life to complete His perfect plan. Occasionally, He graciously allows me a glimpse of His bigger plan but, most often, He simply asks me to trust.
In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue. (Psalm 120:1, ESV)
Psalm 120 is the first of the “Psalms of Ascent”—a collection of songs (Psalms 120-134) that the Israelites sang as they travelled to Jerusalem for their annual feasts each year. (They were kind of like those Spotify or Apply Music playlists we enjoy on road trips!) Each Psalm of Ascent begins with the writer calling out to God for help and ends with praise to God for His goodness and deliverance.
The unknown author of Psalm 120 was surrounded by liars and cheaters; he begins the song by begging God to save him. And just like the Lord heard and remembered Hannah, he heard the Psalmist. It’s interesting (and convicting!) to me that the author doesn’t ask God to help him deliver himself. He simply asks God for deliverance. How often do I pray assuming God needs Jennifer to accomplish whatever it is I’m asking for? The Psalmist knew God could handle the liars and cheaters surrounding him. Like Hannah, when he was distressed, he called out to God asking God to do what he knew God could do…remember, deliver, answer. My prayers don’t need to be lengthy works of poetry or perfectly curated speeches. God longs to hear from me. A simple “Help me.” or “Deliver me.” is beautiful to Him.
“They left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” (Acts 5: 41-42, ESV)
In the final verses of Acts 5, after a miraculous release from prison and narrowly escaping being thrown right back in jail, the Apostles were beaten once more and sent on their way. Just as God had delivered Hannah and the Psalmist, God delivered the Apostles. And their response was to rejoice that they were worthy to suffer for Him and to continue—not just occasionally or once a week, but every day—teaching and preaching about Christ.
Today’s passages include various examples of God’s deliverance, but I also know that “deliverance” doesn’t always happen the way I pray that it will. God always answers, but sometimes He answers with a “no” that I don’t understand. Why didn’t He heal that friend or repair that relationship or provide what I thought was needed? And I confess, in most of those situations, I don’t respond like Hannah or the Psalmist or the Apostles. But thankfully, my sinful responses don’t change my God. And, often, I can look back with the value of hindsight and see that what I prayed for and even thought I wanted was very small compared to God’s amazing plans for me.
Father, thank you that You are unchanging, regardless of me. Thank you for all the times You have taken my small, human desires and answered by delivering something so much better than I could have imagined. Help me to be obedient like Hannah, trusting like the Psalmist, and joyful like the Apostles. Deliver me from me, and make me more like You. Amen.