Rabbi Schneider - The Truth About Hard Times
Beloved, we're going today into the book of 1 Samuel, where I'm beginning this series, once again, called Hannah Song. Some of you know the story of the life of Hannah. Hannah was a Jew. She was an Israelite. She was unable to conceive. She went to the temple one day, she was crying bitterly to the Lord. As she was crying bitterly to the Lord, she was praying from her heart. Her lips were moving, but no sound was actually coming out of her mouth because she was praying from her heart. And her lips were just moving. Well, the priest at the time, Eli, saw her and he thought she was drunk. He thought she was, you know, intoxicated. And he confronted her and he challenged her, "What are you doing here at the temple drunk, intoxicated"? And she said, "I'm not drunk". She was so respectful. She said, "I'm crying from my heart because the Lord," she said, "has closed my womb and I've been unable to conceive".
Well, Eli, the priest was very touched and moved by her humility and her petition, and he blessed her. And lo and behold, beloved, it wasn't long after that she had a baby. And as we pick up in the book of 1 Samuel 2, Hannah now has brought her child that she supernaturally conceived and named Samuel, who became the great Prophet Samuel. And she was praising the Lord in what we call the song of Hannah, back in the temple. So that sets the stage for today. And now that the stage is set, what I'd like to do is to actually go right to her song, beginning in chapter 2, verse 1, and we're going to dig in to plumb the depths of the revelation in her song. The grass withers and the flowers fade, Baruch Hashem, but the word of the Lord, bless His name, abides forever. Hear the Word of God. "Then Hannah prayed and said, 'My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in Yahweh...'" That's the Hebrew word with the Hebrew letters Yud Hei Vav Hei, which is translated in our English versions capital L, capital O, capital R, capital D.
As many of you know (I've taught it many times) whenever you see in your English translation, the name "the LORD" in all caps, it's actually the way God's Hebrew name, a personal revelation covenant name that He revealed to Moses. Most scholars believe it's pronounced a reverent, breathy Yahweh, is translated in our Hebrew Bible simply as LORD, capital L, capital O, capital R, capital D. So she's actually praising the Father by His personal covenant name, which was first revealed to Moshe, to Moses, and then was actually used by the writers of the Hebrew Bible 7,000 times. So I know that today many people are very uncomfortable addressing God by His personal covenant name. And I totally understand that because we can begin to take His name irreverently and begin to say it as if it's common. And by doing so, we profane His name. But we should also balance that with the understanding that the writers of the Hebrew Bible actually called upon the LORD by His covenant name, Yahweh, approximately 7,000 times. And that's recorded for us in the scriptures. So she calls upon the name of the LORD by His covenant name, and she says, "My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies because I rejoice in your salvation".
Now, one of the things is we take a step back a little bit, beloved ones, to understand the heart of Hannah, is to conceive of the revelation that when she was not able to conceive, she took that as part of God's plan for her life. So if we go back to the first chapter, we read there in verse 6 the words "because the Lord had closed her womb". You see, Hannah's husband actually had two wives. Her husband loved Hannah but Hannah was unable to conceive. And the understanding of the Scripture writer is that it was the Lord, in verse number 6, that had closed her womb. So we see this concept of the sovereignty of God very strongly illustrated in the Old Testament, in the Hebrew Bible. For example, in the book of Job, when Job struck tragedy, Job's response was: "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord".
We see, for example, in the life of Nebuchadnezzar that Nebuchadnezzar understood after the Lord caused him to go mad, because Nebuchadnezzar wouldn't humble himself. And then later after Nebuchadnezzar had learned his lesson, because the Lord caused him to be driven into a spirit of madness for a number of years, when the Lord restored him out of that, Nebuchadnezzar declared, "There is God and there's no other. He's Lord in heaven and He's Lord on earth, and He does what He will with the host of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth, and no one can stop Him". My point, beloved one, is that the people of Israel, that we see their lives being illustrated in the Hebrew Bible. We see how they thought. They understood that both good and bad came from the Lord. Now, without an understanding of the sovereignty of God, we have this dichotomy of understanding God's lordship. We think that the good things come from God and the bad things come from the devil, and the two never meet. But when we look at the life of Job, we see that Satan had a come before the Lord to get permission to torment Job. And so Job correctly understood that everything that was going on in his life ultimately could be traced back to God.
Now, I know this is hard to digest. And let me humbly say I don't have all the answers for this. I know there are many, many hard questions that people could pose that I don't have answers for. But let's not let, beloved ones, what we don't understand to keep us from clinging to what we do understand. The simple and profound point that I'm making, beloved one, to you, is that God is sovereign. And the Hebrew people as illustrated in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible or the Tanakh, they perceive the world in terms of there being only one god that was reigning over the universe. And when something bad happened, they didn't simply attribute it to the devil, as if God's hand had no purpose in it. They always tried to interpret whatever was happening back to God.
So we see in the Hebrew Bible that many bad things did happen as a result of God's sovereignty. For example, what about the flood, when God drown the entire world saved Noah and his family, because the earth was exceedingly wicked, and His purpose was to cleanse it and start over? Who was responsible for the flood? Well, God was responsible for the flood. But yet in today's church theology, in many circles, there's no room in that theology for God to be responsible for anything bad. But if we're honest with ourselves, and we look at the Hebrew Bible, who Paul said was written not just for Israel, but also for us, for the Ecclesia, for the church upon whom the end of the ages has come, when we look at the Hebrew Bible we see that many bad things are directly attributed to God's sovereignty.
Now, when I say "bad things," there is no evil in God. But I'm saying from a temporary perspective, from a temporal perspective, we see God's judgment falling upon the earth, which if we just perceive it only in the realm of the here and now, we'll say it's evil. Like if we were living during the time of the flood, we would say, "Well, that's evil". But ultimately, it wasn't evil because God had a higher perspective. There was a higher reality at work than just what was going on in the moment. We see the same thing with Sodom and Gomorrah. What happened? God destroyed the city. Who destroyed the city? God destroyed the city. And yet today if there's a natural disaster that strikes a city in the United States or around the world, God forbid that any preacher should say that the Lord may have had something to do with it. God forbid, a man of God or a woman of God says, "that was a judgment from the Lord".
Now, I'm not saying that in any particular situation it was a judgment from God. But if we're honest with ourselves and we study the Hebrew Bible, we see that the Lord did break judgment upon certain peoples and cities. And it was a direct result of God's judgment. Now, how does this apply to our text today from the book of Hannah? It applies, and I'm trying to make sense of all this, because Hannah not only rejoiced in the Lord when she conceived, which is the main theme of her song, but when she was not able to conceive, she filtered that unto the Lord as well.
And so we read in the first chapter, verse 6, that the Lord had closed her womb. Now again, I realize this is very sensitive because there's a lot of hurt and a lot of pain. And people could be saying to me, "Rabbi, are you saying that the Lord did this, that the Lord closed my womb"? I'm not saying anything particular about any city or about any person or about anyone's specific circumstance. I'm just giving you the broad lens of a theological perspective that we see revealed in both the Old and New Testaments that we should try to take into account when we get our life view. Because there is one God and from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
Before we move on, I want to just simply make a point that we often overlook. Again, we're tying it back into the life of Hannah, because Hannah, no matter what was going on in her life, she filtered it all from the Lord as opposed to many quote Christians today. And I'm not saying that they're not Christians, but I'm just saying that theology is deficit, it's weak, it's shallow, it's lacking, because they don't filter their understanding of God or scripture through the lens of the Hebrew Bible. They only look at the New Testament, so all they see is a part of God's revelation. They don't have the full part of God's revelation like Jesus taught. When Jesus said in Matthew 13, "Every scribe", that was somebody that knew the Hebrew Bible. "Every scribe," Yeshua said, "that becomes a disciple of mine will be like the owner of a mansion that brings forth out of that mansion treasures, old and new".
In other words, Jesus said, when someone knows the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, they're able to bring forth rich, deep revelation from both the Old and the New, as opposed to so many people today that love Jesus but have no understanding or willingness to filter the Hebrew Bible into their perspective of who God is and how He operates. So Hannah, once again, she took not only the good from God but when something painful was going on in her life, she also humbly submitted to the Lord. And her understanding was that the Lord had shut her womb. For example, in my life, I don't have any sons, I have two daughters. But I just feel like, for me, God knew maybe that in my younger years I couldn't have handled a son. Maybe he would have been too rambunctious for me. Maybe I wasn't mature enough yet to be able to handle all that energy from a little boy. So he protected me by giving me two beautiful daughters.
We have to filter everything that happens in our life from the Lord. Because even what we perceive sometimes as the hard things or the bad things, God has a higher purpose for. And when we give everything back to Him, He causes everything to be used for good. And the good that He is using everything for is to conform us to His image. Now, before we move on from this subject-this is just a very basic foundation that we're going to begin to launch into Hannah's song and more fully in the weeks ahead-I want you to consider as we're considering the fact that Hannah, again, she filtered both the fact when her womb was closed, she looked to the Lord about that and attributed that to God. And then when she was able to conceive, she gave praise to God. She realized there was only one God. And even though we realize that Satan is at work in the world and he causes evil, we have the understanding that God is sovereign.
And we see, once again, from the book of Job that when Satan brought torment into Job's life, he had to get permission from God to do it. There's one God. The Lord said in Deuteronomy 4 that He's God in heaven above and on the earth below. And I want you to hear this now. It's hard to hear. But today many believers have no room in their understanding for who God is and how He operates. They have no room to filter in the reality of God's judgment. You see, judgment is part of God's moral attributes. In other words, if God does not judge sin, if God does not judge evil, how can we respect Him? There would be something lacking in His character. So because God is holy and a judgment against sin and evil is necessary in order for God to satisfy His predisposition towards holiness, we need to understand that sometimes judgment can be God's best gift to us.
You see, I know many people that did not come to faith in God until they experienced God's judgment in their life, until they were running in the world, they wouldn't repent, God had tried to knock on their heart, He couldn't get their attention, they wouldn't respond to His gentle voice. So what did God have to do? He had to bring judgment into their life. Hard judgment against their lifestyle against their sin, by putting them in a hospital, by putting them on a sickbed, by causing some catastrophe to happen in their life. And it was only when they were judged that they were able then to come out of their hard-hearted, stubborn mindset and lifestyle to be able to open themselves up to the Lord. You see, in the book of Deuteronomy, once again, chapter 4, we read about Israel. And the scripture says there that in the last days when Israel is under much distress, they will come to their senses and they will turn back unto the Lord. What was it that brought Israel back to the Lord? It was their distress. It was God's judgment.
Listen. Deuteronomy 4:30, speaking of Israel, "When you were in distress and all these things have come upon you". What things? Judgment. "When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the LORD and you will listen to His voice". God uses everything for His glory. He was preparing Hannah for the purpose He had for her even when He had her womb closed. And now when the time was right, when the time was perfect, He opened her womb and He brought forth from her womb one of the greatest prophets, Samuel, that has ever been born in the world.
So I want to encourage you, beloved ones, to get on your knees with me today and to repent, to recognize there is only one God. It's not God fighting against the devil. God is sovereign. He's Lord in heaven and on earth. And regardless of what is happening in our life, we need to say to the Lord, "God, what is your purpose in this? What should I do in response to what's happening? Help me to understand what I'm going through right now, and why. Because Father God, there's only one Lord and all things are from you, according to the book of Romans, through you, and to you". God is the ultimate reality. He's the ground of all being. He is uncreated life.
And when we begin to lead our lives like this, as Jesus taught us, not to fear man that can kill the body, but only to fear the Lord that can destroy both soul and body in hell, when we begin to live with the mind of Christ who sit before Pilate when Pilate said to Him, "Don't you know I have the power to crucify you". And Yeshua's response to him was, "You'd have no power over me unless it had been given to you from above". When we begin to live like Hannah, when we get the mind of Jesus and recognize that there is only one sovereign, when we don't bow to fear, when we don't yield to Satan, but only give honor and glory to the One forming light and creating darkness, according to the book of Isaiah, we'll, beloved, enter into the way that leads to life. Who is the Way? King Jesus, Yeshua the Messiah. Let's be like Him, beloved ones, that fear no one and nothing but God, and build your everything through the understanding that God is the ground and source of everything.