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Posts Tagged ‘redemption’

Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren’t you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons? (1 Samuel 1-MSG)

 

He didn’t understand. A loving husband, he reassured her of his devotion and cast aside the expectations of the day. But thoughts of the other woman intruded—unwelcome—and the cruel sting of her words embedded themselves in the tender places of Hannah’s soul.

At times, Hannah’s heart felt as hollow as her womb and, despite Elkanah’s gentle encouragement and generous love-gifts, nothing relieved the emptiness of her arms.

How she longed to hold a baby—feel its precious weight against her, inhale the fresh-from-heaven-scent, experience the ebb and flow of mother-life pouring sweet and abundant from her body to nourish a child.

Yet the years passed—one, two, ten or more–and the journey to the Lord’s tabernacle became Hannah’s personal trail of tears—the path from sorrow to depression and depression to despair.

Maybe He was her last resort. Perhaps it was the nudging of the Spirit. But, on one particular return visit to the tabernacle, Hannah made a decision that changed her life and impacted the spiritual direction of an entire nation.

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She prayed.

Crushed in soul (1 Sam. 1-MSG) and weeping with abandon, Hannah poured out every bit of her brokenness before God—the hurt, the loneliness, the desperation. Her fervent praying even caught the attention of Eli, the tabernacle’s priest. Mistaking Hannah’s silent muttering for drunkenness, God’s man even reprimanded her.

You’re drunk. How long do you plan to keep this up?

 Upon hearing Hannah’s story, though, he pronounced a blessing—a salve to an aching woman’s wounds.

Go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you have asked of him.

 A few years later, Hannah returned to the place of her prayers—a young boy trailing by her side. Greeting the old priest, the woman who had bowed humbly before God explained that this child—her child—belonged to the Lord.

And they worshiped Him together.

What an incredible picture of God’s faithfulness and mercy! The God Who Sees All never lost sight of His daughter. He listened to her cries, captured each tear, and answered her prayers.

And this same unchanging, all-knowing, wonder-working God? He is there for us in the same way He was for Hannah—patiently waiting for us to come to Him with our needs…our burdens…our hurts.

And, one day? Maybe the same will be said of you or me.

She prayed.

 

Scripture for Reflection

  1.  Do you think it’s a coincidence that each time Hannah was preparing to worship, the enemy came against her?
  2. What causes you to struggle in worship?
  3.  How has God redeemed your past hurts?  Or, is there a heart-wound you are laying before Him now?
  4.  In what way does His faithfulness encourage you in your walk?

 

1 Samuel 1

1-2 There once was a man who lived in Ramathaim. He was descended from the old Zuph family in the Ephraim hills. His name was Elkanah. (He was connected with the Zuphs from Ephraim through his father Jeroham, his grandfather Elihu, and his great-grandfather Tohu.) He had two wives. The first was Hannah; the second was Peninnah. Peninnah had children; Hannah did not.

3-7 Every year this man went from his hometown up to Shiloh to worship and offer a sacrifice to God-of-the-Angel-Armies. Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, served as the priests of God there. When Elkanah sacrificed, he passed helpings from the sacrificial meal around to his wife Peninnah and all her children, but he always gave an especially generous helping to Hannah because he loved her so much, and because God had not given her children. But her rival wife taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children. This went on year after year. Every time she went to the sanctuary of God she could expect to be taunted. Hannah was reduced to tears and had no appetite.

Her husband Elkanah said, “Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren’t you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons?”

9-11 So Hannah ate. Then she pulled herself together, slipped away quietly, and entered the sanctuary. The priest Eli was on duty at the entrance to God’s Temple in the customary seat. Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—inconsolably. Then she made a vow:

Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
If you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain,
If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me
By giving me a son,
I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you.
I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.

12-14 It so happened that as she continued in prayer before God, Eli was watching her closely. Hannah was praying in her heart, silently. Her lips moved, but no sound was heard. Eli jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk. He approached her and said, “You’re drunk! How long do you plan to keep this up? Sober up, woman!”

15-16 Hannah said, “Oh no, sir—please! I’m a woman hard used. I haven’t been drinking. Not a drop of wine or beer. The only thing I’ve been pouring out is my heart, pouring it out to God. Don’t for a minute think I’m a bad woman. It’s because I’m so desperately unhappy and in such pain that I’ve stayed here so long.”

17 Eli answered her, “Go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you have asked of him.”

18 “Think well of me—and pray for me!” she said, and went her way. Then she ate heartily, her face radiant.

19 Up before dawn, they worshiped God and returned home to Ramah. Elkanah slept with Hannah his wife, and God began making the necessary arrangements in response to what she had asked.

 

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The familiar ping of the phone alerted me to a new message. A hurting friend and I had been sharing our thoughts and discussing the razor-edged struggles of the hard in her life. A loved one had said things….done things. She wanted to know–could the relationship recover?

I paused before responding. I don’t see the way. I don’t know how the hurt can be redeemed. I don’t have any great wisdom to offer. The words I chose? With God all things are possible. And you are worth it!

Tears blurred my miniature screen when this dear one answered —I feel worthless.

I understood. These words? I owned them for years. And I wonder…how many of us have been in that place? How many of us have felt the thrust of the enemy’s arrow digging into the tender flesh of our hearts with messages that seem more real than the love letters written so many years ago through the hands of those empowered by God himself.

Maybe you’ve believed the lies, too. The messages burning in your heart may have been lodged there since childhood—the result of words spoken by a parent, a teacher, or peers. Perhaps you were burdened with the weight of worthlessness when a marriage begun with promise ended in betrayal. Is it even possible that your own past—the sins you can’t seem to forget—prove you are worthless?

But Jesus wants to affirm you. He’s not offering a positive mantra for personal repetition or a feel-good, I-believe-in-you word of false praise. He wants to give you so much more!

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Listen… do you hear his voice? Just as He did with the disciples, Jesus is calling you to follow him. He shouts out your name–a personal invitation to leave your nets behind–those things that entangle and threaten to drag you into dark waters. Leave them in the sand, Friend. Like refuse scattered along the water’s edge after a storm, you can shed your hurts…cast off the lies…release your burdens.

I’m not suggesting Jesus is an easy answer. The world is still a place of broken people. Suffering continues. Tears still flow. Certainly, Jesus didn’t mince words when he said, “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

So what does Jesus offer? He gives Himself! The God who gave you life reassures you of His love.

“Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for a child she has borne? Even if that were possible, I would never forget you! See, I have engraved your name on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:15-16 NLT).

The God of the universe and creator of all things loves you so passionately that when He spread His arms wide on the cross He was thinking of you! You are that valuable. What a beautiful, amazing affirmation!

Friend, in all of our difficulty and doubts let’s respond to Jesus. Will you follow after Him? Because one beautiful day we’ll celebrate a heavenly homecoming and Jesus will have been our destination.

 

Encouraging Bible Verses

 (Exodus 33:17 NKJV) So the LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.”

(Psalm 100:3 NKJV) Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

(Isaiah 43:1-3 NKJV) But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. {2} When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. {3} For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”

(John 10:3 NKJV) “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he callshis own sheep by name and leads them out.”

LIVEFREETHURSDAY

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We are, if we have chosen the good part, sitters at the feet of Jesus, just as Saul
of Tarsus sat at the feet of Gamaliel; Christ is to us our great Instructor  

–Charles Spurgeon

 

An uncommon God, He lived as a common man. Exchanging the beauty of heavenly glory for human flesh, Christ—the One who had strolled through the streets of heaven–walked the streets of everyday towns filled with common people burdened by common problems.

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He–who had known perfection–surrounded himself with the imperfect. He willingly gave up abundance for poverty, worship for rejection, and self for others.

hands-731265_1280Why did Jesus—who once stooped to breathe life into dust—bind himself to the earth…to men and women whose feet carried them further from truth and deeper into the deception of self…of false hopes and misplaced dreams…of willfulness and rebellion?

 

Because He knows what we are made of. (Psalm 103:14) And simple dust, once stripped of protection, shifts in the wind—sometimes mere inches while at other times it is moved completely from its place…drifting and unsettled. For hundreds of years, Dust had lived under the dark curse of sin–tossed about this way and that.

No one remained untouched. Suffering. Disease. Death. Corrupt men subjugated innocents to forced labor—stealing youth and hope. Outcasts—considered less than human—suffered in pain on the edges of the city while rotting flesh ached for relief. Human souls cried out to heaven and Jesus was the answer. And in becoming like the rest of us, God made clear the extent of his love for Dust.

 

A love so encompassing and grace-filled that He intentionally wandered from place to place—offering forgiveness, speaking words of love, and bringing the kingdom of heaven to aching, hurting people. And, unlike any other god before or since, the man named Jesus died to save Dust. The same feet—soiled and dirtied from travelling to the dwellings of Despair and Need—were nailed to the tree. Their blood flowed downward and marked the hill at the base of the cross. And blood and Dust became inseparable.

Jesus gave everything for this woman of dust. He gave everything for you, too, dear Friend. And at the nail-scarred feet of Jesus we receive the life of a common man and an uncommon God. 

Scripture for Reflection

Surely it is you who love the people; all the holy ones are in your hand. At your feet they all bow down, and from you receive instruction… (Duet. 33:3)

…and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. (Luke 8:35)

…but few things are needed–or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

 

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Frayed edges

 

I methodically fold each piece of laundry–bending, creasing, aligning edges–and wish life would align as closely to my hopes.  If only the loose ends left from the hard, dirty places of living could be trimmed as easily as the loose ends left at the bottom of my son’s jeans–clipped away they look almost new.  Nothing remains of the damage.  But there are frayed, raw edges and nothing is as neat and trim as the cotton or flannel I press beneath my palms. 

The danger is that I begin to confuse the Designer with the one who creates the damage.  I forget that the One who wove each piece of fabric lovingly in His hands–stitching together flesh and bone and spirit–would never destroy his masterpiece.  But that January afternoon twenty ago when the farm girl and the ensign made a covenant with God to honor Him in their marriage and family, the Destroyer grew angry. 

He threatens and roars–while He can.  But this home?  This marriage?  These children?  They were purchased for a price.  Stains, rips, and faded places will all be made new.  The Destroyer may try to damage, but the Designer removes every blemish and stitches the beauty of His redemption in their place.

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A social outcast, Mary Magdalene was the bad girl of Galilee.  Women warned their sons about that woman and respectable men turned away in embarrassment at her knowing smile.  Mary was hopeless.  Rejected.  Irredeemable.

A beloved son rejected his father and his God for the false pleasures of the world.  Having ruined the family name, the young man returned home an impoverished and downtrodden fool…the stench of wild living still clinging to him.

Known for his religious zeal, Saul served as coat valet during a murderous rampage of  Christian converts.  Children cowered in his presence.  Families mourned.  A self-proclaimed executioner, Saul was guilty.

What do these people have in common with each other?  With a beloved friend or relative?  What do they have in common with us?

His name is Jesus Christ–the Savior sent to restore the rejected and rescue the irredeemable; the Shepherd commissioned to guide wayward children home to the Father; and the Lamb offering His life for those who are guilty.

Be encouraged!  Christ came to save the prostitutes, prodigals, and perpetrators.  He came to save the sinners.  He came to save you and me.  No sin is too great nor soul too tarnished to be outside the grasp of a loving God.

Verse for Reflection

We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so. God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn’t have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross.    (1 Corinthians 2:8-10)

Action Step

Who did God put on your heart as you read this devotion?  Are you struggling with the idea that God offers love and forgiveness to you?  Or have you been praying for a friend who hasn’t yet met the One who sets us free from our sins?  Tell the Lord about it and then give Him that concern, thought, or prayer for today.

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