How Should We Handle Dullards, Buffoons, Oafs, Layabouts, Scalawags, Gadabouts, Galoots, Rascals, Blockheads, Cads, and Rapscallions? #Prayer
Happy Tuesday, friends! I must confess that after writing the title to today’s podcast, which I kind of like because of the archaisms, the topic itself actually shifted quite a bit. Now, before you scream false advertising and call the attorney general, – don’t worry, we are going to seek to answer today’s question, but we are going to mostly focus on something far deeper than how to deal gracefully with jerks. Our Bible readings for the day are 1 Samuel 1, Psalms 13-14, Jeremiah 39 and Romans 1.
Our focus passage is 1 Samuel 1, and that is the focus mostly because Hannah has become one of my heroes in the Bible, and the beginning of 1st Samuel is amazing. Hannah seems to exude grace in the middle of absolute misery. Though it is not the same now, in the middle eastern culture of the time, it was incredibly difficult for a woman to be childless. That had a huge impact on the family’s economic fortunes (nobody to work the fields) and the other women tended to view childlessness as the disapproval of God. Hannah was in a tough spot. She had a husband who loved her, but he was married to at least one other woman, and he was an absolute blockhead. It does appear that he loved her more than his other wife (because he gave her more food) but we see that he is a blockhead when he tells Hannah she shouldn’t be sad about not having kids, because he loves her and his love is worth ten sons. That is quite the arrogant and insensitive thing to say to somebody who is suffering, but Hannah apparently holds her tongue with grace. Another time, Hannah was in the temple praying in the view of the high priest Eli, who was also an oaf. He saw her lips moving, and not hearing any words come out of her mouth, he assumed she was drunk and rebuked her. Imagine Hannah – she is pouring out her heart with loud sobs to God and she is accused by this guy – who has plenty of his own problems – of being a drunk. How does Hannah respond? With a stinging retort? Does she fly all over him for his pretentiousness and ridiculous statement? Does she demand a well-deserved apology, and ask to speak to a manager? No – she humbly tells the clod what she was praying about. Eli, to his credit, takes her at her word and blesses her…and so does God. Shortly after this, Hannah’s womb is open and she is given a child, and then several more. How do you handle an oaf/clod/cad/gadabout, etc? Hannah shows us that the answer is: With grace. Hannah is an embodiment of 1 Peter 3:
8 Finally, all of you be like-minded and sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble, 9 not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you may inherit a blessing.
1 Peter 3:9
Here’s Tim Keller talking about a greater and deeper truth we see in Hannah’s life: Her surrender to the will of God in the midst of pain – and the joy that surrender brought her:
Did you hear that? It didn’t say she prayed, she got pregnant, and she got happy, she got inner peace, she started to eat, she stopped being depressed, her face was lifted up. It didn’t say she prayed, she got pregnant, and she got happy; it said she prayed and she got happy, even though she had no idea she was going to get pregnant. Why? That would only be the case if she had shifted her hope to the mission of God and the son was a means to an end, not an end in itself.
She’d been liberated from the cultural idol system, because she said, “Now I realize what real mothering is, what it means to really bring life into the world.” By the way, this isn’t just for women. You financial types, do you want to add value? This is real value: the mission of God in the world. You artistic types, do you want to bring beauty into the world? This is the real beauty. Do you see that? Mothers, do you want to bring life into the world? This is the real life.
By turning God into the center and now making money is a means to an end, now doing art is a means to an end, now having children is a means to an end, not an end in itself, not a way of getting a self, not a way of getting significance and security, you’re free. What happened? Hannah had a son named Samuel, and she put him into the ministry, and he became one of the great deliverers, a penultimate messiah, one of the deliverers who foreshadowed the great Messiah to come. He rose up at a time of great crisis, and he led his people to victory over their enemies and saved them.
If Hannah had not suffered … See if God had just given her a child when she wanted a child, she would have crushed him under the weight of her expectations. She would have dangled him before Peninnah and said, “Ha, ha, ha. See I am okay. I’m all right. I’m a real woman. I had a son.” He never would have become the savior, would he? Never. He would have needed somebody to save him.
But because of her suffering and because of her sacrifice of him by sending him away … Through her suffering and her sacrifice the people were saved, because she accepted not knowing how God was going to use her suffering but simply said, “I’m at peace. I’ve made my vow. I’ve changed my heart. Now do what you want. Give me a son. Now it’s safe for me to have him. I won’t make an idol out of him.”
It was safe, finally. It was finally safe for her to have this thing. Because she suffered and sacrificed and put God in the center, he became the savior. So God actually used the suffering and sacrifice of Hannah to bring salvation. Now some of you say, “Wow … Hannah. She loved God so much and trusted God so much she was freed from the idol systems of her culture. Well, that’s her. I don’t have that kind of power.”
Yes, you do, because you have something she didn’t have. She points to it in her song. Do you know what it is? In her song she says, “God has lifted me up. He has taken away my disgrace.” That’s because God reverses things. Do you see in verse 4 of her song? The warriors now stumble, and the “stumblers” now are empowered. In verse 5 the hungry are filled; the full are empty. The barren are fertile; the fertile are barren. God reverses things.
Most interesting (verse 8), God has taken the poor off the ash heap. The ash heaps were the garbage dumps outside the city, they were so foul, and they were burned. They just burned their garbage, and any poor person who actually rooted around in the garbage dump, in the ash heap, was the poorest of the poor. Yet God takes the poorest of the poor and sets them up with princes, and takes the princes and sends them down to the ash heap. “Well,” you say, “that’s very interesting. So what?” So everything.
When Jesus Christ was led outside of the gates of Jerusalem to be executed over in the garbage area, ignominiously being crucified, which is the most disgraceful of all executions … As Jesus Christ was going out in disgrace and in weakness, everybody said, “That can’t be the Messiah.” Why? Because if you look at the forefathers of the Messiah, the penultimate forerunners of the Messiah, they were Samuel and Samson and David and Gideon, and they all brought salvation by being strong and getting glory.
So they looked at Jesus and said, “That can’t be the Messiah. The Messiah wouldn’t be weak. The Messiah wouldn’t be disgraced. That couldn’t be the Messiah.” Do you know what their problem was? They were looking at the forefathers of the Messiah but not the foremothers. They were looking at the men who were the forerunners of Jesus but not the women. Over and over again, God gave a foretaste of the real gospel and the work of Jesus Christ in the fact he continually brought his salvation of the world through the barren, through the rejected, through the unwanted women.
It’s old barren Sarah, not beautiful fertile Hagar through whom God brings the royal messianic saving seed, Isaac. It’s through Leah, the girl nobody wanted, the wife Jacob didn’t want, not Rachel the beautiful and the wanted that God brings the royal messianic saving seed of Judah. Samson is born to a barren woman who shouldn’t be able to have children. Samuel is born to a suffering disgraced woman, but through the suffering and disgrace of Hannah, salvation comes.
If you looked at the foremothers, you would have known Isaiah was talking about the Messiah when he said the one who comes to save us will suffer disgrace and will be crushed for our iniquities. Jesus experienced the reversal Hannah was talking about. Why can we be lifted up and seated in the heavenly places in Christ? Why can we be seated on thrones? Because Jesus Christ went deeper than the ash heap. He went literally into the ash heap.
He not only was crucified in the ash heap, but he experienced the disgrace and the punishment and the divine justice we deserve. Because our sins and our disgrace were put on him, through his weakness and through his suffering we’re saved. You could see it in Hannah if you were looking at Hannah not Samuel. You could see it in Samson’s mother. You could see it in Leah. You could see it in all of those women. The women in the Old Testament show Jesus Christ is not just a coming king, but a suffering servant.
Until you understand the true spirituality of women like Hannah, you won’t know what Hannah knew. Hannah did not know exactly how God was going to use her suffering to bring about salvation. I have no idea whether she even lived long enough to understand that. Maybe at the very end of her life, when she began to see what was going on with Samuel, she said, “Oh, that’s why I had to suffer. So that’s why I had to sacrifice.” But maybe she didn’t know. She didn’t care. She trusted him.
Well, that’s pretty good of Hannah, but you and I have something she didn’t have. We have the cross. On the cross I see that God brings life out of death, and through suffering, his own suffering, he brings about all kinds of life in the world. Therefore, O friends, you can trust him right now. If you are faithful to him and don’t give up on God but put God in the center even during your suffering, like Hannah, God will turn it all to gold for you and for others.
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).