God Creates; God Rules
1 Samuel 2:4; Psalm 135
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #018
June 30, 2015
“Father, we continue to pray for our nation as we observe this nation on a trajectory away from Truth, away from Your Word, away from any concept of absolute truth or righteousness. We know that it continues to deteriorate and devolve into pure paganism.
Father, this will destroy all prosperity. It will destroy all freedom as it always has throughout history. There can never be freedom unless there is freedom within a framework of absolute truth.
Father, we pray that You might continue to raise up men and women to lead this nation, who have the courage, the fortitude, the wherewithal to be able to stand in the gap, to influence policy, to talk intelligently about the issues, and to convince people of the truth. We pray that You would continue to raise up leaders who can do that. We pray that You would continue to restrain the evil that seeks to take over this nation and the policies that they wish to inflict upon this nation that ultimately will destroy any freedom that we have. Those who have a historical perspective see such similarities between what is taking place here and what has taken place in numerous other civilizations that are on the decline.
Father, we know that the only hope is grace. The only hope is the Lord Jesus Christ. The only hope is biblical truth, and so we pray that You might give us the courage, the wisdom, the grace orientation, the graciousness, the kindness to communicate the truth in love and in kindness to those who are in desperate need to understand that their sins are forgiven and that eternal life is a free gift. It is not a judgmental gospel, but a gospel of grace and a gospel of forgiveness.
Father, as we study today, this evening, especially related to Your sovereignty, it is such a comfort at a time when we see history deteriorate before our eyes, that we know that You are still in control, and that even though this may have surprised us, shocked us, may cause us to want to despair, nevertheless, we know that Your will and Your plan will be victorious in the end. It is our job, our privilege, to serve You no matter what the circumstances may be. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Before we get started I want us to turn to Psalm 135. What’s interesting, as we come to the end of the Psalms, is that there are a series of Psalms that begin with Psalm 120. Of course, many of you are familiar with Psalm 119, which is the longest chapter in the Bible, the longest of the Psalms. It is 176 verses.
But starting in Psalm 120 and extending through Psalm 134 (fifteen psalms), you will see in the superscript, just above the first verse, which is actually part of the original text, that they are called the Songs of Ascents. Do you have any idea what that means? A Song of Ascent. What are you ascending? What is being ascended? What are you going up?
You are going up the [steps at the] Temple Mount to worship at the temple. So these would have been hymns that would have been sung by the temple choirs, would have been sung by people as they walked to the temple to worship God. There is extra-added element in these psalms where the focus is upon the Lord and upon His greatness, and upon what He has provided for Israel and how He has delivered Israel out of the most oppressive of circumstances.
When we come to Psalm 135, it is a Psalm that reflects our topic. Our topic that we see in 1 Samuel 2:4ff is this emphasis on God’s sovereignty, which is a genuine comfort in times of difficulty in life because we know that God is still in control. It is not the Calvinistic doctrine, which is often nothing more than a veiled doctrine of fatalism.
It is a doctrine that says that God rules even when human volition seems to be out of control, and chaos seems to have entered into the scene. No chaos that man can create is too great for the grace of God or too great for the plan of God.
His plan is not dependent upon human volition. He can carry out His plan. He has built enough flexibility into history. His sovereignty and His omnipotence are so great that no matter how out of control things may appear to us, they’re never out of God’s control, even when human beings make the most outrageous decisions, whether they’re personal decisions or not.
We all know people who seem to just mess up their lives by the numbers. It gets worse and worse and worse, and they make some of the most outrageous and most horrible decisions. And then one day they wake up and they’re like the prodigal son. They find themselves in the pigsty eating garbage. They turn their life into garbage, and they still have a desire. They become so immersed in the garbage of the pigsty that they actually think that they are at a five-star restaurant.
This is what happens with sin. It clouds the judgment and so destroys the judgment, so attacks our judgment, because at the core of the sin nature is this bent that we keep reading about and studying about that is described in Romans 1:18ff: that man in negative volition seeks to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. That phrase there “in unrighteousness” is instrumental in the Greek, it indicates he’s suppressing the truth by means of unrighteousness. The means that he is using is a wrong means. It’s wrong.
Let’s plug that into something we’ve all heard and we’ve all studied many, many times. That is, for something to be right it has to be a right thing, a right objective, done in a right way. Right? That’s a lot of rights. I am not talking about left. We’re talking about right. A right thing has to be done in a right way. A right thing done in a wrong way is wrong. Two wrongs don’t make anything right. A right thing done in a wrong way is wrong. A wrong thing done in a wrong way is wrong.
What they are doing is they may have right ends. They may have right goals. But they are using wrong means to achieve them. They may also have wrong goals.
The suppression of truth operates on two things. They are trying to deny truth, so their ultimate goal is going to be wrong. Even within that framework of that which is wrong there may be some relatively moral things and right things that are part of their objective, just speaking generally; but their suppression mechanism is always that which utilizes unrighteousness in order to achieve its end. But God is still in control.
No matter how unrighteous a person becomes, no matter how much they reverse their thinking so that they are saying their right is wrong, and wrong is right (which is often what God indicts both the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom for), when we reject God and reject His value system, then what happens is a reversal of polarity in our conscience. We begin to think that right is wrong and wrong is right.
I think a lot of the decisions we make impact the biochemical nature of our make-up. It impacts the way our brains function and our brains operate. A lot of things do, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no recovery.
We are learning more and more about sugar and the toxic effects that sugar can have on the brain and the addictive nature of sugar on the brain. But even when you are addicted to sugar—and that addiction has been demonstrated pretty much through a lot of studies in the last 20 years—you can break it. It can be almost as bad as trying to get off of heroin and cocaine.
In fact, there have been studies where in laboratories they’ve gotten mice addicted to cocaine; they’ve got mice addicted to sugar. Then they take them off of it for two or three days so that they are just desperate to get it. Then they introduce them to a cage where on one end of the cage is sugar, the other end of the cage is cocaine, and 90% of the rats go for the sugar.
It is very addictive, but that doesn’t mean you can’t break it. Many of us have broken that sugar habit. Some of us have broken it many times. Some of us will break it many more times, but you can break it. You just have to stay away from the nasty stuff.
The same thing is true with other patterns, especially sinful patterns. They can have this sort of physiological impact on our brain. But that doesn’t mean we can’t recover. We can end up like the prodigal son. We’re sitting in the middle of the pigsty, and we’re eating pig food, and we’re thinking we’re at a five-star restaurant, and this is the greatest food that there ever is. That’s what happens.
We can live in a culture where we are surrounded by people like that. It is very difficult to communicate with people like that. We find ourselves in that kind of a culture today, where a lot of people just have lost their moral compass. They are trying to find some sort of standard, but when you’ve lost any sense of absolutes it is difficult to recover unless you dig down and really reverse yourself in what the Bible calls repentance, which means to change your mind, change your thinking. This is what in the Old Testament is often indicated by the word shuv, meaning to turn, to turn back to God; which was consequently, what He was telling the Israelites in the Old Testament to do.
When we are living in the midst of adversity, in the midst of tribulation, in the midst of persecution, in the midst of a culture where everybody is calling wrong right, and because you’re saying “no”, right is different, right is over here, then you get labeled as the enemy. This is unfortunately what has been happening in recent years as more and more voices are raised against Christians.
With this ruling last Friday [June 26, 2015] things have really gotten out of control. There are some vitriolic things that are being said about Christians. That just exacerbates itself. People who are hostile to Christianity because Christianity has a code of ethics that says that certain kinds of behavior are wrong can’t handle that.
Part of that is this dynamic of the fact that they are suppressing truth in unrighteousness. Anyone who comes along and calls them into account to a biblical standard, then they’re going to overreact because of this dynamic of truth suppression.
Then all of a sudden, once we call people to a moral standard—and the Bible recognizes, as Paul writes in Romans 2, that even the Gentiles have a conscience and recognize that certain things are right and certain things are wrong on the basis of natural law—when they are violating that, and just by our very existence it is a testimony to the fact that they are violating natural law, then they react in anger. They suppress truth down in the deepest, deepest basement of their conscience, in the deepest, deepest basement of their thinking. What happens is they see you as a Christian, and all of a sudden they hear this knocking on that basement door and they are trying to shut God down, and they react in anger and they react in hostility.
As believers living in that kind of a culture, we think back in the Old Testament to many different leaders who lived in that kind of a pagan environment. And we think especially of Jeremiah as he’s out trying to proclaim the truth in a spiritually rebellious, idolatrous nation that is promoting all manner of abomination.
Far beyond the horrors of homosexuality they’re emulating, they are sacrificing alive their children on the fires of Molech down in the valley of Hinnom. They are sacrificing their children alive, and they are saying that this is good. This was their religious practice. People who were telling them that that was wrong became their enemies.
How do we as Christians handle that? One of the doctrines we go to is the sovereignty of God. This is what Hannah went to as she is facing this horrible situation where she is the first wife of Elkanah.
Elkanah is in that horrible position that was sort of codified in a country western song, “It’s hard to love two women.” Elkanah is caught in between in this horrible situation. He’s got to take care of both of his wives. One is constantly ridiculing and putting down and persecuting the other one.
When Hannah writes this Psalm, it is not exaltation against Peninnah. She’s not thumbing her nose at Peninnah. She is praising God because God is the One who has exalted her. It is not her. It is not something that she has done. When we look at that doctrine, that’s the doctrine of sovereignty, Hannah derives comfort from the sovereignty of God.
Psalm 135 also is a psalm that extols the sovereignty of God. I want to direct your attention to this. Just to give you the context, I am going to read Psalm 135:1–4. Then we’ll look at the next three or four verses after that.
The psalmist starts off, “Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Yahweh; Praise Him, O you servants of the Yahweh! You who stand in the house of the Yahweh,” (those who are coming to worship in the temple), “in the courts of the house of our God.” That second line is just reiterating the same idea as the first line of verse two. Then there is another command, “Praise the Lord,” Why? Because “Yahweh is good;” He is intrinsically good. He has intrinsic righteousness.
When God speaks, God speaks truth, and God declares what is right and what is wrong. We go to His Word to determine what is right and what is wrong. The worshipers in Israel are called to praise the Lord. Why? Because He is good. He is the essence of goodness.
“Sing praises to His name,” Why? Because it is pleasant. It is pleasing. It is glorious to praise the Lord. Why? Because Psalm 135:4 gives us the ultimate reason. “For the Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His special treasure.” Israel went through a lot of ups and downs. They went through a lot of assaults in history. They went through times of spiritual obedience, but they went through even more times of spiritual apostasy and rebelliousness against God and idolatry and abomination in various different forms of idolatry.
Then in Psalm 135:5 the psalmist says, “For I know that the Yahweh is great, and our Lord is above all gods.” You live in a situation where people have all these other gods. Everybody’s got gods; everybody today has gods. They may say, “no, I am an atheist,” but they have, into the vacuum of God, they have removed Him.
But something else becomes their ultimate reality that they indeed worship in some form or another. They may put material things in there. They may put sex in there. They may put personal pleasure in there. They may put the pursuit of money or winning in competition in there. There are all kinds of things that people can put in there that is the ultimate driving force for their life. But what the Psalmist says is that Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the covenant God of Israel, is Who delivered them from the Exodus.
Remember that name Yahweh is given special meaning by God to Moses at the time of the Exodus. So whenever we read that in many of these contexts, the background to that word, the subtext, is remember, this is the covenant God of Israel who has a special relationship with you. He says, “I know that Yahweh, the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is great and our Lord.”
There is a word shift there. It is not Yahweh again. If you notice in your Bibles, it moved from small caps with “LORD” to the “Lord.” “Our Lord is above all gods.” That is sovereignty. Sovereignty means that God rules. God rules over His creation. This is why I entitled this lesson God Creates; God Rules, because He made everything.
God determines what reality is. God determines the rules, what right and wrong is. If we don’t like God’s rules, we can’t fight against Him, and that is difficult in the realm of morality and religion; because in the realm of morality and religion, if you disobey, you don’t immediately feel the consequences.
If you violate the physical laws that God establishes, and you put your hand on a hot burner, you immediately are burned. You say, “I am going to create my own reality.” This is part of postmodern thinking.
Most people on the street of America have never heard of Postmodernism, but they are postmodern. And Postmodernism is the ethos of the day. Postmodernism means I can deconstruct reality according to what I want. I can break it down and redefine everything. If I want to say that I’m really a woman or if I may be caucasian, but I’m really black, then I can be whatever I want to be.
Do you notice they don’t go out and say well, I’m an eagle, and I’m going to go up to the 20th floor and I’m going to soar like an eagle? They know that that’s not going to work. They are going to fall upon the harsh rocks of reality, or the harsh cement of reality; but in the realm of morality, ethics, and religion, they think that they can get away with it because there is not an immediate smack down for disobedience. The emphasis here is God rules because God creates.
That takes us back to one of those very important doctrines. Again, just referencing this latest decision, so many people and many, many pastors went to Matthew 19 this last week, where Jesus quotes from Genesis 2 that in the beginning God created them male and female. He said “for this reason you shall leave mother and father and cleave to one another”, combining statements from Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 showing that these two chapters were not contradictory, which modern liberal scholarship tries to argue, but Jesus accepted them both as being absolutely true. There is a plan and purpose for mankind, and God determines what it is because God is the One who creates. Therefore He rules; He sets the rules.
We read in Psalm 135:6, “Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places.” Four places are listed there. Heavens and the earth, and what else is there other than the heavens and the earth? That pretty much covers everything. In the beginning God created what? The heavens and the earth.
When we talk about language and figures of speech, when we say things like night and day, everything up and down, we use two polar opposite words. We’re basically describing two extreme opposites to indicate that we are including everything in between.
When we say “heavens and earth” that pretty much includes everything, but the psalmist wants to make sure that we don’t miss out on that, so he adds “in the seas and in all deep places.” By adding two elements to that he is making it even more certain that there’s no area in all of reality in all of the universe where God does not rule. He does as He pleases and He oversees the reign of creation.
People may ask questions, and they often do, as to whether or not there really is a God and why God allows things to happen. Ultimately, we always have to come back to the fact that if everything were perfect (which is what the creatures want to say), well, if God were really good, then this one thing wouldn’t have happened. It is always some sort of issue
It may be a very serious and extreme issue, such as the Holocaust. Or usually, it is something more personal that they didn’t get or that they lost, a child, a spouse, a friend, something like that in death, something horrible that’s happened. I am not minimizing it, but they say, “Well, if God were really good, He would not have let this thing happen.” But what God has allowed to happen from Creation is freedom of will, volition; and so He allows human beings to make bad choices that have really bad consequences.
That is part of what freedom is. If God were going to control things so that bad things wouldn’t happen, He would have to shut down freedom. He would have to shut down volition. You either have God controlling everything, or God gives man a large degree of freedom to make his own decisions and even make bad decisions, and to suffer the consequences. That’s His right because He is the Creator. That’s how He has designed things.
We read here, Psalm 135:6–7, “Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places. He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain; He brings the wind out of His treasuries.” There we are talking about three examples of physical phenomena: the vapors, the lightening and the wind, and that God controls the weather.
That really shocks some of the climate-change people, that God is still in control of the climate, but that is still what is here, which means that there are times that things are not good. At other times things are better, but God is in control.
Then there is a situation in history that’s giving us an example. Psalm 135:8–9, “He destroyed the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and beast.” That’s the tenth plague, when God brought death to the firstborn in the house of Egypt. God has a right to do that, to bring judgment upon those who violate His will. “He sent signs and wonders into the midst of you, O Egypt, upon Pharaoh and all his servants. He defeated many nations and slew mighty kings.” This is in reference to how God protected Israel in the wilderness.
Then the psalmist gives another example in Psalm 135:11 of Sihon, and a second example of Og, and then he includes all the kings of Canaan. This references the conquest. Psalm 135:12, “And gave their land as a heritage” (inheritance), as a possession, a possession to Israel, His people. The psalmist goes on, and he connects it ultimately because God creates, God rules. God is the One who holds us accountable. This is the same theme we see Hannah bringing up in 1 Samuel 2.
In Psalm 135:13–14 he says, “Your name, O Lord, endures forever,” emphasizing the eternality of God and His character, “Your fame, O Yahweh,” both lines refer to Yahweh, “throughout all generations.” Yahweh will judge His people. He will evaluate His people Israel, but He will have compassion on His servants, those who serve Him, which is a subset of His people because not all of His people, Israel, serve God. But those that served God, those who believed in Him and walked with the Lord according to Old Testament standards for salvation, “He will have compassion” upon them.
Then He shifts gears again in Psalm 135:15 to talk about the idols of the nations. In the ancient world they had sophisticated idols of the mind, just as we do today, but they expressed these in physical idols of gold and silver and wood and stone. He pokes fun at them. God is not politically correct.
Psalm 135:15–18, “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; Eyes they have, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear; nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them are like them,” which means that he is saying that all those who make idols can’t see, can’t hear, can’t breathe. They are just as deaf and dumb as the idols they make.
Then in contrast, Psalm 135:19–21, “Bless the Lord, O house of Israel! Bless the Lord, O house of Aaron! Bless the Lord, O house of Levi! You who fear the Lord, bless the Lord! Blessed be the Lord out of Zion, who dwells in Jerusalem!” Psalm 135 is a great psalm that focuses on the sovereignty of God because He is the Creator.
In 1 Samuel 2 we see Hannah doing the same thing. This is the structure of her thinking. Where that is helpful for us is that whenever we face, whether it’s personal catastrophe, personal chaos, or whether it’s on a broader scale, then we have to stop and think through the issues of life from a biblical framework. Think them through in terms of God’s plan and God’s purpose, and that God’s plan and purpose will never be violated. They will never be conquered by the plans of man. This is the theme as you see on the slide.
Hannah emphasizes three times in 1 Samuel 2:1b–3; 1 Samuel 6–7, and 1 Samuel 2:8b–10a the unique sovereignty of God. He is holy. He is the unique One. He is qadosh. That means that He is the unique, holy, distinct One. The one of a kind, as Hannah explains it in the middle line of 1 Samuel 2:2, “there is none beside You.” “Yahweh, You and You alone are God.”
The theme of this psalm is on the sovereignty of God and how He controls history: that man may propose to do many different things and may even be successful in certain areas, but ultimately it is God who is going to override what man does according to God’s own thinking and God’s own plans
This is the sovereignty of God. God can be sovereign because of those three attributes that are over here on the right hand side: the three “omni brothers”: He is omniscient and omnipresent and omnipotent, but that power is not just arbitrary power.
If you want to learn about arbitrary power, just look at some of the recent Supreme Court rulings. That if you read the rulings, the majority rulings, they are not following traditional legal argumentation, which is based upon the concept of legal precedent. They are making some things up out of whole cloth in order to achieve their end. That’s not unique for the Supreme Court. It happened in the Dred Scott decision back in 1857. It has happened several other times over the years.
The Supreme Court is not infallible, and the Supreme Court is often influenced by the politics of the day. Unlike that, God has an absolute standard internally, intrinsically. He is righteous, and He is just. So that which He decrees, that which He carries out, is always in conformity with His righteousness, which is the absolute standard of His character.
In Hebrew this is the word tsedeq, which means “righteousness.” It refers to that which is absolutely right and absolutely correct. Its application is “justice.” The righteousness of God is the standard of His character, and the justice of God is the application of His standard, but it is always done consistent with love.
Love is a big word. If you pay attention to what’s been going on recently, you see one of the sayings that came out with this celebration over this Supreme Court ruling is that “Love wins.” Well who is defining love? What do you mean by love? How do you define love? Love without integrity isn’t love. Love is not something that is selfish.
One of the greatest statements describing love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:1–7. What we are seeing today is just the opposite of that. There is a distortion of love, which by the way isn’t even mentioned in the Constitution or in the Bill of Rights. It’s not a legal concept, neither are the other concepts that were emphasized in the majority decision, which are dignity and equality. These things are not emphasized in the Constitution.
God exercises His omniscience because He knows everything, and He’s power. He’s able to do everything. He exercised that in righteousness and justice and love. Those are not in conflict with one another.
What we saw last time is that in 1 Samuel 2:4–5, Hannah emphasizes that God intervenes to reverse the plans of fallen humanity, the corrupt plans. Whenever we talk about fallen humanity, we are talking about sinful humanity. Sinful humanity is energized by his own arrogance, his own self-absorption. At this point there are several examples that are given in 1 Samuel 2:4–7 describing God’s exercise of His sovereignty.
Let me just summarize:
1. We see in 1 Samuel 2:4, God breaks the power of the mighty. These are the mighty in their own eyes: the mighty who have achieved their power apart from God’s power, apart from humbling themselves to God. They are a power unto themselves. They have achieved power and might on the basis of human viewpoint, on the basis of the exertion of their own will and their own strength.
We’re told that God breaks their power. They may have power for a season. They may look like they are winning for a season. It looks like the devil is winning for a season. But no, ultimately God will break the power of the most arrogant creature He ever created who is Satan. God breaks the power of the mighty, and He strengthens those who are weak and who humble themselves under His authority. They are weak in the eyes of the world.
God doesn’t promote the wise in their own eyes, but He promotes and uses the foolish in the eyes of the world, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2. This is emphasized in other passages. Those who humble themselves under God’s authority He exalts.
2. In the first part of 1 Samuel 2:5, Hannah is going to say that those who are full in terms of physical abundance:
They have achieved success. They have become well educated. They have achieved a name for themselves within their field of endeavor, and they are doing this in autonomy from God—that they’re full in terms of physical abundance. They have plenty of money. They have plenty of resources. They have lots of power, but they will be reduced to the position of being in need. They will be hungry.
And the hungry, those who have been poor, those who have not sacrificed their integrity for success, they will be satisfied. This is the first part of 1 Samuel 2:5, “Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread.” They were full, but now they have to beg for bread, for just the crust of the bread. But “the hungry have ceased to hunger.” God has supplied their need.
3. For Hannah this would be a personal example for her. She says, those who are barren will be blessed with children.
“She has born seven.” The idea there is that seven represents fullness. It is used here not in a literal sense, but it is often used. And we will see a couple of examples in Scripture where this is just used as an idealized number, not as a literal number. Those who are barren will be blessed with children, but those who have children will find no pleasure in them. This would apply to the situation with Peninnah. She has had children. She is using them. She is lording it over Hannah, but ultimately she is going to find no happiness in them and no pleasure in them, and she will be left bereft in her old age.
4. In 1 Samuel 2:6 we see that life and death are in the Lord’s hands, not ours.
God determines the time, the manner and the place of our death. We just don’t need to worry about that. Just go on and live with the best we can, being as responsible as we can with our health, with our safety, with our security, but ultimately, the time of our death is in the Lord’s hands. Life is in the Lord’s hands.
That’s the first part of 1 Samuel 2:6, “The Lord kills and makes alive.” The second part, “He brings down to the grave and brings up” emphasizes health and recovery. That’s how these terms are used. God is the one who brings low and may bring discipline due to illness, but recovery is also in the Lord’s hands. “He makes poor and He makes wealthy” in the first part of 1 Samuel 2:7. “He brings low and lifts up.” That means that He humbles and He exalts in the second half of 1 Samuel 2:7.
In 1 Samuel 2:8, “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the dung heap”, from the manure pile, from the sewage pile that is outside of the city. Their circumstances are the very, very worse, but God is the One who can exalt them. How? “To set them among princes.” He is going to take the humble and elevate them to the position of leadership, “to set them among princes, and make them inherit the throne of glory.”
We can think about Moses, who is exiled from Egypt. He goes out, and he is just a shepherd, which was the lowest job you could have in the socio-economic values of the ancient world. A shepherd was worse than a ditch digger, worse than a garbage man, worse than the worse occupation you might think of that was on the bottom of the pile. God raises him from the position of a shepherd to make him the leader of Israel and the one who, through God’s power, defeated Pharaoh.
God humbles and exalts in 1 Samuel 2:7–8. He exalts the poor and the beggar to positions of leadership and power. Why? “For” (that always indicates an explanation) “For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s.” What does this phrase “pillars of the earth” mean? I think it is a synonym for the foundations of the earth.
God, we are told in Job 38, laid the foundations of the earth. When He did, the sons of God sang for joy. “The foundations of the earth” is a reference to Creation. The pillars of the earth are the Lord’s. That is an allusion to the doctrine of Creation because God created everything from the foundation up.
It reminds me of that old joke about the scientist who became so convinced that human science had become autonomous, doesn’t need God anymore. So he challenged God to a contest. He said “God, we don’t need you anymore. We’ve created life in the laboratory. We can create life on our own. You are unnecessary, just go away.” He challenges God to a contest and God says, “Okay, I’ll accept that; I’ll let you go first.” So the scientist reached down to grab some dust of the ground, and God said, “No, no, no, you have to make your own dust.”
God is in charge of everything. He built everything. He can rule over things. “The pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and He has set the world upon them.”
Let’s go back and break this down. I looked at this some last time, 1 Samuel 2:4, “The bows of the mighty men are broken.” The bows represent their military might, their technological might, their economic might, their strength, their ability to defeat and dominate other cultures. That phrase, “the bows of the mighty men” is a phrase that emphasizes their power. The fact that they are broken represents the breakdown of power. “Those who stumbled are girded with strength.”
We looked at passages such as Job 34:23–27 emphasizes the sovereignty of God.
Psalm 47:2–8 also emphasizes the sovereignty of God.
As well as Psalm 75:6–7, just by way of review.
Then we get to other passages such as Proverbs 16:2 and Proverbs 24:12. Look at Proverbs 16:2, “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes” that is self-justification; “but the Lord weighs the (thinking) spirits.” That is what the concept of “spirits” is there. It’s not talking about demons.
It’s talking about the attitudes, the thinking. That word ruach often refers to thoughts and ideas and motivations. It comes down to the Lord is the One who evaluates things.
This is something that Hannah stated back at the end of 1 Samuel 2:3, “By Him actions are weighed.” We are ultimately accountable to Him.
As I pointed out last time, the NASB (New American Standard Bible) probably does a better job of translating 1 Samuel 2:4, “The bows of the mighty men are shattered.”
It is a strong word. The bones are not just broken, but they are shattered. That is a permanent destruction.
Then the words, “those who stumbled” is better translated “the feeble,” those who are unable to; they are impotent in their own right. They “gird on strength.” This is reiterated several times quoting the Psalms that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble”, which we see in 1 Peter 5:5, and the command that comes out of that “Therefore humble yourselves,” make yourself weak under the power of God. In our weakness, Paul said, He is exalted, because God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. So we humble ourselves under the hand of God, 1 Peter 5:6.
This is reiterated in James 4:6–7. “ ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
This idea of the bow is one that is often found in many passages in the Old Testament, like Psalm 11:2, “For look! The wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow on the string that they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.” It is a metaphor for their power and their ability to destroy. Psalm 37:14, “The wicked have drawn the sword and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy.” It is emphasizing their economic power to destroy those who have nothing.
What is interesting is this word that is translated “shattered” in 1 Samuel 2:4, “The bow of the mighty are shattered.” Is the word chath and this is a word that is used more than one time. It is used again in 1 Samuel 2:10, “The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces.” If you’ve got your Bible open here you can circle the phrase “broken in pieces” in 1 Samuel 2:10 and connect that back to the word “broken” or “shattered” in 1 Samuel 2:4. That’s the same word in the Hebrew.
That frames this section of how God rules. What is interesting is that some of this vocabulary, possibly because there are some textual variations, is used over in the Song of David in 2 Samuel 22, which seems to indicate again this connection between these particular psalms.
The emphasis here is on the fact that God is the One who strengthens those who are weak. We have some examples of that when we come to the New Testament. These are taken from the Old Testament: Hebrews 11:32. I could probably get by with just reading the first couple of verses, Hebrews 11:32–33, but I want to read the whole section because I think everyone needs to be encouraged by what we read in Hebrews 11.
The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 11:32, “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets.” These were all leaders who functioned in the time of rank apostasy and idolatry and sexual perversion in Israel in the Old Testament. And yet they stood firm. They had courage because they trusted in God. And God used them because they were not going to yield to their culture.
As I pointed out in the past, Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah all had flaws, because we all have flaws. Therefore, nobody who serves the Lord has any right to look at himself and think how great he is because we’re all flawed. They were certainly flawed. I’ve always taken great encouragement from the fact that men who were greatly flawed are listed as great heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11.
God goes on to say, Hebrews 11:33–35, “who through faith subdued kingdoms.” They were outnumbered, and they were in positions where they had no power, no prestige; but through faith they subdued kingdoms, they “worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong.” There is that key idea: God makes the weak strong. The weak are those who humble themselves under the mighty hand of God. They are not inherently weak. They are weak in the sense that they don’t have power in the eyes of the world. They are not relying upon their innate abilities, but upon God. These are the weak, and God makes them strong.
They “became valiant in battle, turned to fight the armies of the aliens.” That is, the enemies of Israel. “Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured,” like Isaiah and Jeremiah, “not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.” In other words, they didn’t compromise their stand for the truth in order to survive. They didn’t rationalize and say, well, if I compromise now I’ll live to fight another day.
Thomas Cranmer, who was an archbishop of England, is one of my favorite examples of this. He had finally converted to Protestantism during the time of Henry VIII. When Henry died his daughter Mary, who was a Catholic, took over for two years. She was the Queen of England, and she instituted a reign of terror against Protestant Christians.
They were burned at the stake at a place called Smithfield in England. They said the blood of the martyrs was the fertilizer for the saints in England. One who was tortured under her reign was Cranmer. They tortured and tortured him and they promised him that if he would recant of his Protestant convictions, then they would let him live.
Cranmer signed a recantation thinking that he would live. That’s what happened here. He accepted deliverance, but they couldn’t be trusted. They said, “well, it took you too long, so we are still going to execute you. We’re going to burn you at the stake.”
When they tied Cranmer to the stake he recanted of his confession and as the flames grew higher and higher he held out his right hand, which he’d used to sign his recantation, and he cursed his right hand because it had caused him to betray. He’d used it to betray his God, and he let his right arm burn off as he sang hymns to the glory of God.
That’s a person who has taken the Word of God into their soul and has the strength of moral courage that can only come from the Word of God. This is what these men and women are praised for in Hebrews 11:35. “Others were tortured not accepting deliverance that they might attain a better resurrection,” indicating rewards and inheritance in the kingdom.
Hebrews 11:36–38, “Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two,” that’s Isaiah, “were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented.”
Paul tells Timothy, “Those who desire to be godly,” to be spiritually mature, will be persecuted. This is what has happened through the ages to those who were really sold out to God. “They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins being destitute, afflicted, tormented of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.” This is high praise, high praise from God.
As we go forward looking at the text we come to Psalm 18:32, “It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect.” We don’t have the resources to withstand, but God does if we are trusting in Him. Psalm 18:39, “For You have armed me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.” The concept is that God provides the strength. Ultimately it is not about technology. It is not about education. It’s not about our strength, but God’s strength.
Psalm 33:16, “No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength.” It is God’s power, not our power. This is further developed.
I’ve already quoted from Psalm 18:2; Psalm 18:32; Psalm 18:39 where we have the word “strength” used, which is the same word that is used. God is the One who strengthens us.
Isaiah 53:2–5 talks about the Messiah, the Servant of the Lord, is One who is weak. “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant.” To look at the Messiah is to look at someone who appeared in the eyes of the world to be weak. Born to a carpenter. Born in Bethlehem, but reared in a small innocuous village in Galilee in Nazareth.
“As a root out of dry ground; He has no form or comeliness.” There was nothing about Him that indicated that He was who He was. His power was internal, not external. You wouldn’t have found Him on the picture of some modeling magazine, or He wouldn’t be the picture of someone who was the perfection of human beauty.
The text said He had “no form or comeliness.” There is nothing physical about Him that would have caused Him to stand out in a crowd. It goes on to say, “when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.” In terms of the eyes of the world there was nothing of value there, but if you look past the outside, the perfect righteousness and the virtue of the Lord Jesus Christ was perfect.
Isaiah 53:3, “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him.” That is, we rejected Him. This is talking about Israel—rejected Him.
“He was despised; and we did not esteem Him.” We didn’t value Him. Isaiah 53:4, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” But Isaiah 53:5 goes on to say, “But He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we were healed.” That is the role of the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah. He takes our punishment upon Him, and He is the one who bears our sins on the cross that we might be justified.
We see that God is the One who gives strength to those who are weak. He’s the One who is able to reverse life situations, so that failure is turned into success, and loss into gain. God turns losers into winners and winners into losers according to His plan and those who submit to His authority.
This is what is spelled out in the next verse, 1 Samuel 2:5, and we are going to come back and look at 1 Samuel 2:5–7 next time. God is the One who is in control.
Don’t let circumstances ever get you down. They should never get us down no matter what they are because God is the One Who is in control. We have to trust Him that His knowledge most of the time, more than 90% of the time—let me put it this way, just to get your attention—more than 90% of the time God knows more than you do. 100% is more than 90%. I just want to make sure that you understand that I’m not limiting the knowledge of God. More than 90% of the time God knows more than you do.
When we look at our circumstances, and we think that somehow they are out of control, it’s not out of God’s control. He declares the end from the beginning.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things, to be reminded of Your greatness, Your goodness, because You are the Creator-God. You rule over the affairs of men. You give us freedom. Often we use that freedom to abuse You. We use that freedom to go our own way. We use that freedom for self-destruction.
But you’ve given us that freedom. And Father, we pray that you might give us wisdom to use the freedom you’ve given us to wisely and humbly submit ourselves under Your authority and to Your Word. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”