Revive Our Hearts Podcast

God Is in Control

Leslie Basham: Sometimes we just need to be reminded that God is in control. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: God is the one who opens the womb. God is the one who closes the womb. If you have children, it’s because God gave you children. God determines our lifespan. Our days are counted by Him. He numbers our days. He decides how many breaths we will have. That is in God’s sovereign control, and He does as He wills for His good pleasure.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, January 16.

Moms have a tendency to try to control their kids, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is part of training and protecting children, but the truth is: We can’t control everything. That’s God’s job. As moms, we need to remember that. Nancy’s here to help us, continuing in a series called, Hannah’s Prayer and God’s Power.

Nancy: The feminist movement, for more than 50 years, has been telling women, “You didn’t have enough sense of purpose and meaning in your life, so we have to give you some. We’re going to help you find out why you’re here, what you’re made for, and how your life can have significance and purpose. "

By and large, our culture has come to tell us that you find your purpose—you find your meaning in a career, in a job, in reputation, in beauty, in physical appearance—in prosperity of different types.

The world has tried to tell us what it takes to make our lives meaningful and purposeful. But I love going back to the Word of God and seeing how God intended all along to provide something for us that the world cannot provide. The Scripture talks to us about how a woman’s life can find true purpose and meaning. We have here Hannah, who was an ordinary, everyday woman with everyday needs, everyday burdens, and circumstances—such as we all face.

She had a very real life in a very real world, and God says to her, “I have a purpose for your life. I want to use your life in a significant way to make a difference in this world.”

She did it, not through the world’s means, but through faith and surrender; through prayer; and through submitting herself to the purposes and the plans of God.

It took pain and affliction to get there, and we don’t want the process a lot of times, but the outcome is so precious—to be a servant of the Lord, to be used by Him, to give birth to a child who will make a difference in the nation.

God says, “Your role as a mother—your role as a praying mother is a significant one. It is a world-changing one!” The challenge of life is finding out, “Why did God make me?”

What has He called me to do and to be, and what are His purposes? What is He doing in this world? Through submission and faith and surrender, how can I fit into God’s great cosmic, redemptive plan?

It gives you something that is worth getting up in the morning for, something that will take you through the day. It’s not your job. It’s not your money. It’s not your kids. It’s the purpose of God in your life—whatever that is—finding it and filling it.

We’ve come to the second chapter of 1 Samuel. We looked at verse 1 in the last session, “And Hannah prayed and said, ‘My heart exalts in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.’”

Then as we pick up with verse 2 of her prayer—her praise—and again, I hope you’re following along in your Bible, she praises the character of God.

Verse 2, “There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.”

She exalts the character of God—the holiness of God. “Lord, You are transcendent. There is none like You. You’re a God of knowledge. You know everything. You weigh actions. You are the Lord” (paraphrase).

Then in verses 4 and 5 she ponders the ways of God. You’ll notice that the ways of God are just exactly the opposite of our ways. God’s math doesn’t follow our math.

We see here a series of divine paradoxes. Verse 4,

The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble [the weak] bind on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.The barren has born seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.

The passage that comes to mind when I read those verses is the first recorded message of the Lord Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5. We call them the Beatitudes.

Remember when Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” That doesn’t fit our way of thinking, but He says, “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (verse 3).

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted . . . Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (verses 4 and 6).

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (verse 10). We consider ourselves blessed if we’re full and happy and have everything we want—if we’re strong.

God says, “No, you have it the wrong way. You’re blessed if you’re weak, if you’re poor, if you’re needy.” If you’re cast upon God in utter, absolute dependence, you are blessed because God takes weak and useless and frail and needy things and people and He fills them with Himself. He uses them to bring glory to Himself.

Hannah is pondering the ways of God. If you’re a woman of God, you want to ponder the ways of God and realize that God’s ways are different than our ways.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are [His] ways are higher than [our] ways” (Isaiah 5:9). Then beginning in verse 6, she proclaims the sovereignty of God.

Here’s a woman who had come to know God as sovereign. She knew what it was like to long for a child when the Lord had closed her womb and to come to a place of surrender of her will and faith in God because He was sovereign.

So she says in verse 6, “The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and he raises up.” What is she saying?

The issues of life and death are in God’s hand. God is the one who opens the womb. God is the one who closes the womb. If you have children, it’s because God gave you children. God determines our lifespan. Our days are counted by Him. He numbers our days. He decides how many breaths we will have. That is in God’s sovereign control, and He does as He wills for His good pleasure.

I’m reminded of Revelation 1:18 where we’re told that Jesus Christ holds the keys to life and death. Hannah realizes that if any are born, He’s the one who gives life.

If any recover from sickness, it is His doing, and when the last breath is taken, God is sovereign over that, as well. She says in verse 7, “The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.”

Prosperity or adversity, gain or loss, promotion or advancement—it’s not by chance. It’s not your boss. It’s not your husband. It’s not your circumstances, ultimately, that are determining the course of your life. It’s God, and what a safe place to be! Why do we kick and scream and fret and demand and worry? You tell me. Why do I do it? I get in a passage like this, and I’m reminded He is the blessed Controller of all things.

Verse 8, “He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.”

God—who established the earth, who founded and created it, who upholds it, who sustains it by the word of His power—it’s all in His hands. He’s got the whole world in His hands. The pillars of the earth are His! Some commentators say that refers to the rulers and governors of the earth. They’re in His hand, too. He is the sovereign Lord.

Then in verse 9 Hannah prophecies or predicts the coming of the kingdom of God over all the earth. She also predicts His judgment—His final cataclysmic judgment over all who resist His reign and His rule. Let’s read those verses.

Verse 9, “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones.” Some of your translations say, “his saints.” “But the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail. The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth” (and verse 10).

Now, in these two verses we see a theme, a thread that runs through all of the Scripture. It’s one of the underlying threads of God’s Word. Make sure you get this.

First, we see God’s care of His people. God’s protection, His preservation of His people—“He will guard the feet of His faithful ones [His saints].” If you are a child of God, you’re a saint. If you’re a child of God, you’re a faithful one, not because you could be faithful on your own, but because God is faithful, and He is keeping you.

He will guard your feet. He will protect you. He will preserve you. “Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be honor and glory and dominion and power forever and ever” (Jude 24-25, paraphrase).

That’s a theme through Scripture. God protects His children. God delivers them. Whatever circumstances you may be in, ultimately, you will be delivered. Paul said, “I know that God will deliver me from every wicked person. God will set me free. God will deliver me from these circumstances” (2 Timothy 4:18). He will guard you. He will protect you.

There’s another side to this thread that runs through Scripture, and that is the final judgment of the wicked. Who are the wicked? They are God’s enemies.

“He has set Himself against them. The wicked shall be cut off in darkness. The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces. Against them He will thunder in Heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth” (1 Samuel 2:9-10, paraphrase).

That word thunder—have you heard that somewhere earlier in our series on Hannah? Do you remember in chapter 1 when it says her rival, Peninnah, the other wife, used to provoke her grievously to irritate her.

I said that word means, “to thunder within.” That’s the same word used here. From Heaven, God will thunder against His enemies. It means to crash like thunder, to be violently agitated. Hannah had experienced that sense of violent agitation, that thundering in her own heart, when she was longing for a child and when she was being provoked by this rival.

I think that’s part of what God had used in Hannah’s life to bring her to the place of realizing how God feels about the wicked—to realize that God’s heart is agitated. God’s heart grieves. God’s heart crashes and will crash in thunder against His enemies. She had come to identify with the thundering in God’s heart against sin, against the evil of her day.

Through her affliction I believe she had come to experience something of God’s heart. She’d come to sense what He senses, to feel what He feels, and that’s how she had become an intercessor.

We see in verses 9 and 10 something that you can count on. That is: In the final analysis, those who walk with God—God’s saints, God’s faithful ones—will be victorious, and those who are the enemies of God will perish. They will be judged. It doesn’t look that way now, but in time, that’s the way it will be. Then look at that last phrase in verse 10: “He will give strength to his king and exalt the power of his anointed.”

Now, that’s a very important phrase because it’s the first reference in the Old Testament to a king—His king—who is also God’s Anointed One. That word, anointedHis anointed, is a translation of the Hebrew word Messhiach. Does that word sound familiar?

It’s Messiah. She’s prophesying the coming of the Messiah—the King of God who will rule over His saints and will judge the enemies of God. In Hannah’s prayer we have a foreshadowing, a glimpse, of the King of God, the Messiah of God. His name is Jesus Christ.

So what is true through much of the rest of Scripture is true in this place. The Word of God is always pointing us back to Jesus.

Hannah rejoices in the fact that she has given birth to a son who will exalt the name of God and who will call the nation back to its spiritual roots. He will be part of God’s plan for restoring this nation so that out of this nation of Israel can come a redeemer—the Messiah. She rejoices in the fact that she has been able, by God’s grace and His incredible mercy, to have a part in that great plan.

As we come to the end of the narrative about Hannah, I want to wrap up the story by reading the concluding proportion of the narrative.

We are in 1 Samuel 2:11. “Then Elkanah went home to Ramah. And the boy [Samuel] ministered to the Lord in the presence of Eli the priest.” He was left at the tabernacle, having been dedicated to God for His service.

Verse 18 tells us, “Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy clothed with a linen ephod. And his mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice” (and verse 19).

As I was reading that passage again this morning, I found myself wondering, “Why did God put in that little detail? Why did He go to the trouble to tell us that little detail that could seem so insignificant?”

It says to me that apparently God didn’t think that was insignificant His mother had a continuing role in her son’s life, having given him over to the Lord, and that her practical acts of service, even in making clothing for this child were part of her act of worship and service and devotion to the Lord.

If God thought her making those clothes for that child every year was worth putting in the Bible, do you think that the Lord thinks that your acts of service in your family are insignificant?

It says that when you’re clothing and feeding and caring for and chauffeuring your family and meeting their practical needs—that’s part of being a woman of God and fulfilling God’s purposes for your life. God considers that significant.

Verse 20,

Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, "May the Lord give you children by this woman for the petition she asked of the Lord." So then they would return to their home.

Indeed, the Lord visited Hannah, and she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the young man Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord.

Now the young man Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor of the Lord and also with man” (verses 20, 21, 26).

Hannah had no way of knowing when she dedicated this child to the Lord that God was going to bless her abundantly beyond her wildest dreams and hopes with five more children—this woman who had been barren for so many years.

As we wrap this series, I have to go back again to this matter of Hannah’s prayer. Hannah was a praying woman. Prayer changed Hannah, and God used Hannah’s prayers to change her world. I believe that Hannah’s prayer in chapter 1 was a huge turning point. It was a turning point in her life. It was the beginning of a new point of surrender.

Now, that surrender came to its fullest fruition three years later when she took that child to the tabernacle and gave him to God—fulfilling her vow. But in the making of that vow, when she prayed the prayer and said, “Lord, if you give me a son, I’ll give him back to you for your service,” that was a point of surrender.

That prayer transformed Hannah. She was yielding to the will of God. I want to say, too, that that prayer was also a turning point in the life of her nation. For one hundred years prior to this point, the nation had been in steady decline. God heard this woman’s prayer. God answered her prayer, and God—as a result of her prayer and the child who came through that prayer—began the process of restoring the heart of the nation to Himself.

That makes prayer pretty significant, doesn’t it? I think of women I meet all across the country. There aren’t many, but there are a few here and there who tell me that for years they’ve been praying for revival in their church.

I say to them, “Don’t stop.” Prayer will change you and prayer, by God’s grace, will be an instrument of God fulfilling His purposes in the church and in our world. I don’t think we can begin to fathom the influence of prayer and the influence of a woman’s prayer far beyond our own needs and our own desires and our own problems.

As we pray we need to get engaged in what God is doing in our world and to take His concerns on our hearts, to make His burdens our burdens. Through Hannah’s prayer, God brought forth out of Hannah’s womb a son who would be a prophet; a leader who would prepare the way for the coming Messiah.

Throughout the history of the Church, you see the power and the influence of praying mothers. Now, it’s not the mother who has the power. It’s God who has the power, but God chooses to work through praying people and praying moms.

I think of Monica. She lived in the fourth century under Roman rule in what is now Algeria. She lived with her unbelieving, controlling mother-in-law and her husband, who was not a believer. He was a harsh man. He lived an immoral lifestyle. She lived in that home for years. After a miscarriage and a stillbirth, at the age of 23, Monica had her first child.

Being a believer herself, Monica was determined to raise this child as a Christian. Ultimately, she had the privilege of leading her mother-in-law to faith in Christ. She continued to pray for years for her husband’s salvation, and shortly before his death, he too, came to faith in Christ.

When Monica’s son was 17, he went away to the University of Carthage. He pursued advanced studies there. Those led him to worldly and wrong deceptive philosophies. He went far from his upbringing. He partied. He lived a profligate lifestyle. While he was away, he lived for years with a woman who wasn’t his wife. He fathered a child by her. Imagine Monica, who had been praying for this child all these years receiving the news of what her son was doing.

When her son told her that he planned to go to Rome, Monica prayed, “O Lord, don’t let him go to Rome. He will only get into further debauchery.” God didn’t answer that prayer. Her son did go to Rome, but he later wrote about that time. He said in the form of a prayer, “You did not do as she asked. Instead, in the depth of Your wisdom, You granted the wish that was closest to her heart. You did with me what she had always asked You to do.”

You see, it was in Italy that Augustine was finally converted at the age of 31. Years and years of a mother’s prayer. When he told her that he had come to faith in Christ, he said “She was jubilant with triumph and glorified You. You heard her, Lord, and You did not despise the tears which streamed down and watered the earth in every place where she bowed her place in prayer. You heard her.”

A son for whom Monica prayed and waited and labored with the Lord, Augustine, was to become one of the most influential figures in the history of the Christian church.

So as you pray, remember God cares about your grief, your heartache, your pain, your need, your situation. But more than that, He cares about His great redemptive plan. He plans about the fame of His name. He cares about His glory being known throughout the earth. He cares about the redemption of His prodigal planet.

God will take your prayers. He will change you. He will mold you. He will shape you. He will prepare you to fit into His plan and His purposes in a way you could never have imagined.

God will multiply those seeds that are sown. He will cause them to produce a harvest. You may or may not live to see all the fruit that will come of those prayers, but God will hear. He will answer. He will fulfill His purposes, and you can go into eternity knowing that you had a part in the great, glorious, redemptive plan of God.

That’s the way I want to live. That’s the challenge of Hannah’s life.

Leslie: Will your life be marked by prayer? Nancy Leigh DeMoss has given us an important challenge.

Today’s programs wraps up a series called, Hannah’s Prayer and God’s Power. If you’ve missed any of it, you can order a copy of the complete teaching on CD.

As you get busy shuffling kids around from one event to the other, you can pop in the CD and be reminded of why you’re investing so much in the lives of your children. Nancy’s teaching is also available as a DVD—perfect for a small discussion group. You can find out more by visiting our website, ReviveOurHearts.com. You can also call 1-800-569-5959.

This fall thousands of present-day Hannah’s are going to gather in Chicago for the True Woman ’08 National Women’s Conference. The line-up of speakers includes Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Janet Parshall. Dr. John Piper will be there, too. He’s one of the leading scholars explaining clearly what the Bible says about the roles of men and the roles of women. He is an engaging speaker who will challenge your heart to be the woman God designed you to be.

I hope you’ll visit ReviveOurHearts.com and get more information on True Woman ’08, and I hope you’ll be back tomorrow to hear John Piper speak on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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