Power in Prayer and Benediction

Rejoicing Women - Fourth in a Series

There are mysteries hard to fathom in the story of Hannah, whose prayer of rejoicing is viewed as prophecy by Rabbis and Christian commentators alike, both who see the Messiah in view in 1 Samuel 2:10.

Why does God delay childbirth when he has a significant plan in store? Why did he honor Hannah's vow, not within earshot of her husband who could have overruled it — a vow that resulted in separating a child from his parents at too early an age? Would God ever accept a child as a barter?

These questions are mostly apart from our topic of Rejoicing Women except as they relate to her vow. If her words of rejoicing were prophetic, what of her words in prayer as she cried silently to God for a man child? She promised he would be a Nazarite, devoted to the Lord.

Yes, her agonized prayer was prophetic, for only God could achieve such a steady heart as Samuel had. No amount of upbringing, prayer or desire could ever create a Samuel; God authored Hannah's vow.

As her story opens in 1 Samuel 1, we find that her husband, Elkanah, a Levite by ancestry, had two wives, Peninnah, with many children, and barren Hannah. Annually they traveled to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the Lord, where the ark was. It is early noted that Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, the priest, were there (1 Sam 1:3). Their behavior made it necessary to raise Samuel to serve in their place, for they were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord. (1 Sam 2:12)

Elkanah gave a double portion of meat for sacrifice to Hannah, so she could better entreat God for forgiveness and help. It angered Peninnah who would provoke her to tears. (1 Sam 1:7)

One year, Hannah was distressed beyond endurance, and made her prophetic vow, O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon 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. (1 Sam 1:11)

Her strenuous posture in prayer caused Eli to exhort her to stop drinking wine. She then explained, Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief. Eli then said, Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him. (1 Sam 1:16, 17)

God had closed Hannah's womb until his priest could be involved in benediction on her behalf, and not long after, she gave birth to Samuel. After weaning him she returned to fulfill her vow, stating to Eli, As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD. (1 Sam 1:26-28)

Eli worshipped in response, and Hannah rejoiced in prayer, My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. (1 Sam 1:2)

Hannah's song, which we will consider in the next post, celebrates the Lord as a deliverer.

Are you in need of a deliverance? Is there a problem in your life that has existed a long time, and you cannot find a way to resolve it? Have you given up on praying? Are you confused in your heart with your lack of certainty in matters that do require assurance?

In Hannah's song, may you gain new strength to seek once more for the help you need.

to be continued

Men rejoicing with women

Rejoicing Women - Third in a Series

continued from previous post

The entire army of Sisera was defeated by Barak and his men who had no horses! But Sisera fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. (Jdg 4:16-17)

Evidently, Jael was not kindly disposed to Sisera. Her loyalties were with the Israelites, even though the Kenite family was on good terms with the Canaanites (Jdg 4:17).

After giving him milk to drink and covering him so he could nap, she pretended to guard his hiding place, but turned on him shortly by driving a tent peg into his temple as he slept. He died. (Jdg 4:21) So when Barak reached her tent in his pursuit of Sisera, she showed him the dead man.

These were the events recounted in Deborah's song, which Barak joined in singing.

The song begins with PRAISE: Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves. Here O ye kings; give ear O ye princes; I, even I will sing unto the Lord… (Jdg 5:2, 3)

Then Deborah turned in thought to Israel's entry to the Land in the days of Moses. LORD, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water. (Jdg 5:4)

The Lord began ushering his own into Canaan as they went around Mount Seir that belonged to Edom. The victory over the Amorites, just past Seir, (Num 21:21-25) trumpeted to the nations that God's people were entering — the earth trembled!

She also recalled the fiery mountain on which God's Law was delivered to Moses…The mountains melted from before the LORD, [even] that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel. (vs 5) (Deut 5:22, 23)

This was the heritage that had been forgotten so that Israel was decimated. Deborah described the desolations: In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways. The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel. They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel? (Jdg 5:6-8)

Evidently, though Shamgar had fought successfully against some Philistines (Jdg 3:31), the land was not delivered from evil. John Gill's commentary describes the promised land at that time:

the public roads were so infested with thieves and robbers, who stopped all they met with, and robbed them of what they had, that travellers and merchants with their carriages were obliged either to quit their employments, and not travel at all; or, if they did, were obliged to go in private roads, and roundabout ways, to keep clear of those rapparees the highways and public roads abounded with. Not only did those Canaanitish robbers go upon the highway, and robbed all they met with, which made travelling difficult and dangerous; but entered into the villages and unwalled towns, and broke into houses and plundered them; so that the inhabitants of them were obliged to quit their dwellings, and go into the fortified cities for security; by which means the villages were left empty, and in time fell to ruin, and ceased: for they were the villages which belonged to the Israelites that were plundered, and not those that belonged to any of the Canaanites; and these were the unhappy circumstances Israel were under. (studylight.org, ibid, 1-9-13 post)

The problem was, the Hebrews had been unfaithful to the Lord (Jdg 5:8). They had thus lost the capacity to defend their lives; few had shields or spears. But from this wreckage of their society, God raised up Deborah who saw herself as a mother, loving God's children by administering his judgments.

In her song, she is inspired as a leader to praise the faithful men who stood up for the Lord and to exhort those who drew back and did not assist in defeating Sisera. Let it be known who is on the Lord's side!

Though there were prancing of their mighty ones, (Jdg 5:22) yet the Lord gave Barak the victory, and Jael was to be thanked for ending Sisera's terrible crimes. According to Judges 5:27, he fell down at Jael's feet; her blow to his head did not at first kill him, but it was enough.

Deborah's song of rejoicing ends with these beautiful words, So let all thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might. And the land had rest forty years.

Like Deborah, let us strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, (Rev 3:2) and we shall be as that sun.

The woman saw a sword...

Rejoicing Women - Second in a Series

Judges 5 begins, Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam, however, it soon becomes clear that it is her song. Barak joins with her but does not phrase it. Let's look at Judges 4 to understand why.

Early in the book of Judges, after being delivered from many enemies by three judges, Othniel, Ehud and Shamgar, roughly two centuries after the death of Moses and one century before Israel's last judge, Samuel, would rule, a strange occurrence is introduced: A woman is judging Israel under the shade of her own palm tree (Jdg 4:4, 5).

Evidently leadership in proclaiming God's Word had fallen to a woman, an unusual occurrence. In any case God honored her, which some commentators view as his way of provoking the men to be ashamed of themselves for their lack of desire to serve the Lord.

As Deborah sat beneath her private palm judging the Hebrews, a time came when she sent for Barak and charged him, Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? (Jdg 4:6)

Evidently Barak had received a word from God to go to war and Deborah was assuring him. He lacked confidence even though the Lord had stated he would deliver Sisera, captain of the Canaanite army, into his hand. (Jdg 4:7) So he said to Deborah, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go, but not if you don't. (Jdg 4:8)

She agreed to go but prophesied, The journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honor; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. (Jdg 4:9) She knew that Barak ought to look to the Lord, not to her.

So Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh and there were 10,000 men, and Deborah (Jdg 4:10). It is also noted that Heber the Kenite, a relation of Moses by marriage, was living in the area and that his kin helped Sisera by showing him that Barak had stationed his army at mount Tabor (Jdg 4:11).

Sisera gathered 900 chariots of iron and his troops. A historian, Josephus (ref) states that his army consisted of 3,000 infantry and 10,000 calvary besides the iron chariots. In an excellent commentary, John Gill has written this of the chariots: (ibid)

...chariots which carried scythes at the side of them, fastened to the orbs of the wheels, and were on both sides; and in some stood out ten cubits which running furiously among the infantry, cut them to pieces in a terrible manner; of which Cyrus had in his army at first but an hundred, afterwards increased to three hundred; and yet here a petty prince of Canaan had nine hundred of them.

Deborah said to Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the LORD hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the LORD gone out before thee? So Barak descended mount Tabor followed by his 10,000 troops.

Seeing the active obedience of his people, the Lord discomfitted their enemies by the edge of his sword so that Sisera jumped from his chariot, and then Barak pursued his troops. (Jdg 4:15-16)

Today, when we are called to defeat terrifying enemies against all odds, our Lord still goes before us with his sword, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God Eph 6:17, our Bible. This word has power to clear our way, strengthen us, and give us the victory. The sword of the Lord driving, reaching, polished, pure, strong, tested, reflecting the light of a thousand suns, going before Barak all the way down the mountain, pictures the Word as our shield and defense (Prov 30:5; Mat 4:4).

to be continued

Attention Readers

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