God’s word for me this year was GIVE. More specifically to give to Him, give myself and all that I have.
Halfway through the year I forgot about this word, wedding preparation took over and I was constantly in planning mode. I realised I needed Him and I began to pray more, speak to Him more, trust Him more (last year’s word!) I still did not remember the word I was given, but I was giving Him my time, my desires and my fears. I was also giving Him thanks for His provision of Himself and for the material things needed. The greatest prayer my husband and I had during this time of planning was to have a wedding that was Christ-centred, simple and beautiful. He gave that to us and we are still thanking Him today.
Last month Jesus reminded me of the word He had given to me and there have been changes in my attitude and in the way I think (‘…be transformed by the renewing of your mind…’ Romans 12:2)
To better help me understand God’s relationship with His people, including me, He requested I read 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel and Psalms. At the moment I am drawn to Hannah, we are told a little about her life; who her husband is and about her home situation. We learn about her grievances, about her desires and that she gives both to the Lord. The reason for her giving is very simple: Hannah knows the Lord. From the first chapter in 1 Samuel we are shown a woman who, because of knowing the Lord, is secure in leaving her battles with Him and in turn the dealings of her enemies. She does not retaliate when provoked by her adversary, instead she prays in her heart and gives her sorrow to Him who hears (this knowing that God hears is later reflected in the name of her son – Samuel means “God has heard”).
In the account of Hannah I appreciate the honesty and rawness of her emotions, ‘And she was in bitterness of soul and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish.’ (1 Samuel 1:10). She did not respond to her provoker, but nor did she pretend to be okay with the situation or deny the pain she carried (‘Hope deferred makes the heart sick…’ Proverbs 13:12a). When it comes to being honest with the Lord Hannah is uninhibited, in her own words she says, “…I am a woman of sorrowful spirit…[I] have poured out my soul before the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:15) This outpouring, this sharing from her innermost, is reminiscent of the woman with the alabaster jar (the scripture God gave to me alongside the word GIVE).
Hannah’s honesty and giving of herself is always followed by her honouring God and acknowledging who He is, and we see the same uninhibited outpouring and honouring from David in the Psalms. Hannah does not simply fill God in on what she is going through, give her requests and stop there. She honours Him and she gives back to Him at the same time. Consider 1 Samuel 1:11, ‘Then she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head”.’
Her greatest praise comes when God blesses her (‘…But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.’ Proverbs 13:12b). I find her praise and exaltation of our Lord, and her absolute belief in His sovereignty, pure and inspiring. The Lord does not operate on a “tit for tat”, “you scratch my back, I scratch your back” basis. As Lord of all He is always deserving of praise, of glory and of honour (Psalm 96:8-9, Revelation 4:8-11).
Hannah’s greatest desire is to have a child, a son. Knowing who the Lord is she gives her greatest desire to Him, first in word (by seeking Him for it) and then in deed (by giving her son to serve the Lord forever). Each time I read this it always amazes me how, in her sorrow, Hannah promises to give to God the one thing she deeply desires and then does it, without hesitation and without going back on her word!
Many years before Hannah, Abraham does a similar thing at the request of the Lord. We are not told of Abraham’s anguish when God tests him by asking for Isaac, his only son, to be offered as a burnt offering. However, it is not hard to imagine; this is the son our Lord promised to him, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” (Genesis 15:5). This is the son Abraham yearned for so much that he listened to unwise and ungodly counsel from his wife Sarah in order to produce this heir of promise. And yet, Abraham obeys God. No hesitation is recorded here and he did not run away like Jonah, but remained steadfast and obedient.
When the Lord is asking us to give, ultimately He is asking each of us to give ourselves: completely and willingly. There is nothing that we have, that we desire or fear that is worth more than Jesus. So I have prayed and I have given to Him the greatest desires of my heart and I have given to Him my greatest fear. I completely and willingly give them to Him, because He asks me to. Jesus tells us, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25).
Everything we hold dear, including our very lives, we must offer up to God and what you and I are given in return is Jesus Himself.
And Hannah prayed and said:
“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
My horn is exalted in the Lord.
I smile at my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.
No one is holy like the Lord,
For there is none besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly;
Let no arrogance come from your mouth,
For the Lord is the God of knowledge;
And by Him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty men are broken,
And those who stumbled are girded with strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
And the hungry have ceased to hunger.
Even the barren has borne seven,
And she who has many children has become feeble.
The lord kills and makes alive;
He brings down to the grave and brings up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
He brings low and lifts up.
He raises the poor from the dust
And lifts the beggar from the ash heap,
To set them among princes
And make them inherit the throne of glory.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s
And He has set the world upon them.
He will guard the feet of His saints,
But the wicked shall be silent in darkness.
 For by strength no man shall prevail.
The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces;
From heaven He will thunder against them.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.
He will give strength to His king,
And exalt the horn of His anointed.”
1 Samuel 2:1-10