The Extraordinary 12/11/16
Genesis 3, Luke 1:39-56
There once was a woman named Hannah. She was in a polygamous marriage, and her rival Penninah, year after year would taunt Hannah for one simple reason: “Penninah had children, but Hannah had none”.
Year after year after year of being taunted nearly broke down Hannah. Her husband would come to her and she would cry and he would say, ‘aren’t I worth more than 10 sons’ and she probably replied back that that wasn’t the point. She had wanted children.
Hannah finds herself in the Lord’s house one day, weeping bitterly as she prayed. Put yourself in her shoes, imagine a time when you wept bitterly. As she wept she made a promise to God: if you let me have a son, I will give him to your service”.
The priest in that time was an ambivalent man named Eli. He hears her crying and assumes she is drunk. When Hannah tells Eli that she has been praying out of her great anguish and grief, his answer is for her to ‘go in peace, and may God give you whatever it is that you had asked for.”
I assume that God had heard Hannah’s prayer, rather than the half-hearted blessing of the priest. Indeed, the Lord remembered Hannah, and she gives birth to a young boy named Samuel. Samuel means “heard by God”.
After the boy is old enough, he is sent back to work at the temple. This time, Hannah prays again: My heart rejoices in the Lord.
God has heard.
The river of bitter tears that Hannah prayed did not start with her, but they had come to her from long ago. In fact, we can trace tears back to the Garden of Eden.
The man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid.
If the scene wasn’t so pathetic, it would be humorous. Their voices calling out from behind a tree when God asks where they are. But it wasn’t funny at all. Sin had entered the world. Shame and separation were already hard at work. God calls out, “where are you?” What does he hear?
Fear I was afraid
Shame I was naked
Distance So I hid
Blame The woman you put me here with
Deception The serpent deceived me
The first sin wasn’t eating the fruit; it was hearing the serpent. Did God really say? Well, in fact, yes he had. Opening one self to challenge God’s integrity and word is the beginning of the end of paradise. Tragically, we see this in the first response, when it is incorrectly identified that they cannot touch the fruit, or else they would die. God is not recorded as having said this. They heard wrong.
We see our LORD God taking one of his treasured walks, looking forward to seeing man and women and their enjoyment of paradise, only to hear something horrible had gone wrong. We long for paradise to return, so that we might once again be with God when he comes to walk in the garden. But before that great day comes, there is work to do.
God clothes the shame filled man and woman. Many read the text that some sacrifice had to be made in order for the skin of clothes to be given.
Praise be to God, for commanding the cherubim to guard the way to the tree of life with their flaming swords. They guard the tree, but also, “the way to the tree”. At any cost, the man and woman must not get to that tree of life. God drives them out of the garden. He has heard enough.
The good, the very good, the garden, the unity of the man and woman, the rivers and the gold and the cool of the evening, and the tree of life, and all the trees of the garden; all of it changes.
is lost. Only God has the power to
We will start to see the plan emerge in the coming chapters: a people will be made from an old couple past child bearing years, as good as dead Scripture says, though one who had faith to believe God would do what he promised. From that chosen nation the Messiah was to come. Before he comes, God would send prophets to keep the people on track. These prophets call the people to stop their fear and shame, their distance and blame, their self-deception. The prophets will call the people to face the living God, by grace, by faith, because they had heard the promise, and because God heard himself swear that promise. Samuel is one of these prophets. And Hannah sings the faith to her son as she sends him off to the temple.
A millennium after Hannah and Samuel return to dust, two women meet in the hill country of
Judea. They are relatives. Older
greets young Mary, and she feels her son jump for joy in her womb when Mary
greets her. Elizabeth has felt the power of God. Blessed are you, she tells Mary. Blessed is the child you will bear. Elizabeth
considers the favor of God that has come to her. Why her? She wonders. And then before the answer comes, she
blesses: “Blessed is she who has
believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her”. Elizabeth
had heard the Lord. Just like Mary had
heard the Lord before getting up and going to the Hill country, which must have
been some endeavor with a child growing inside you. But faith sometimes equips us to do things
beyond our strength. Elizabeth
After greeting her relative, Mary then sings a song. It is a new song with clear roots from a song sung 50 generations before. My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
On this 11th day of December, in the year 2016, we continue to look to these two amazing women who heard God. They inspire us. The story of the Garden has affected all of us. It is literally in our dna, in our bodies, in our souls. But God has heard the human plight. He has set up the answer, and prepared
and Mary to be
a special part of that. Elizabeth
Mary’s song ends with a reference to God’s help to
that God remembered to be merciful, just as he had promised Mary’s ancestors. Israel
Did you hear that?