Grounded in Who God Is

In his commentary on 1st Samuel, John Woodhouse wrote,

“Do you believe in God? That may seem a strange question to pose to a reader of a commentary on 1 Samuel. Who would read a book like this except someone who takes God seriously and has an honest interest in his Word? And yet I ask the question with complete seriousness because those of us who do indeed “believe in God” very easily forget the astonishing difference such belief must make to our understanding of everything.  Too often to believe in God is treated as though it were simply one part of a person’s outlook on life, even perhaps a quite minor part. … However, such a domestication of belief in God is profoundly misguided. To believe in the God of the Bible is to see the whole world and all of life in radically different terms from the person who does not hold this belief. The person for whom believing in God is a small thing, just a part of their complex of attitudes, with no more drastic consequences than possible church attendance (or reading a commentary on 1 Samuel!), does not believe in the God of whom the Bible speaks. Not really. The person who believes (who actually does believe, not who just says he believes) in God (the God who is there, not just some idea of God) will not only understand things differently—such a person will live differently. Values will be different, as will ambitions, joys, sorrows, loves, hates, motivations, confidence, fears.”6Woodhouse, J. (2008). 1 Samuel: Looking for a leader (pp. 39–40). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books

 As we continue our study of 1st Samuel, we can’t help but see the different kind of life Hannah lived.  It was one that had more than a simple belief in God.  Despite the persecution from her husband’s other wife, despite the lack of empathy from her husband, despite the deep sense of grief and loneliness from being unable to conceive a child, and as we will later see in chapter two, despite that blatant testimony of total corruption among the spiritual leaders of Israel, Hannah refused to give up on God.  Even though her prayer for a child was not a true prayer of faith, she was nonetheless still building her life on the rock of God.  Hannah may have been angry with God, and she may have struggled to truly trust God with her desire for children, but Hannah nonetheless kept building her life on the ROCK!  She never stopped building her life in and on Him.  She refused to trade the rock for sand and it’s in 1st Samuel 2 that we hear why.  Hannah grounded herself on and in God because of who she believed God to be.  In 1 Samuel 2:1-10, she makes it really clear who exactly God is.

 1 Samuel 2:1-10 proclaims four truths that characterize the God whom Hannah grounded her life in.

The first truth that characterizes God is that

God is Salvation

 1 And Hannah prayed and said, "My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies because I rejoice in your salvation.

 The language in verse one is pretty vivid, and frankly, I believe it’s been overly toned down by translators. Many scholars believe that when Hannah is translated as saying, “My mouth derides my enemies” its better understood as “My mouth is wide against my enemies.”7Woodhouse, J. (2008). 1 Samuel: Looking for a leader (pp. 40–42). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.   The picture is of an animal that has defeated its prey and now stands over it with its mouth wide open getting ready to consume it for dinner!

This is not a gloating statement for Hannah. She doesn’t say she feels this way because of something she has accomplished but rather because of GOD’s salvation!!  Apart from God, her strength would have failed!  The only reason she was able to survive the torturous years of infertility and the attacks of her husband’s other wife was because her strength was grounded in and on GOD as her ROCK!  This is why she says, “My strength is exalted in the LORD.”  The strength that God has given me is only put on display because of Him.  It is God alone who has saved her!  He provided Samuel as her son as well as all the children she would have after Samuel.  It is God who opened her womb to the dismay of Peninnah who was clearly trying to push her out of Elkanah’s affection.

What is crucial here however is that the birth of Samuel is not her salvation, God is her salvation! Her life wasn’t saved because of Samuel, but because of God, and by that, I mean her passion to live; to press forward and abound, to keep trusting in the Lord, wasn’t because she had a child, but rather, because of GOD.  She truly loved Samuel, but she gave Samuel to the Lord.  She didn’t give God away, she gave Samuel away!

What or who we look to in the moment of crisis is what or who we believe will save us. For Hannah, despite her prayer not truly being a prayer of faith, she nonetheless kept running to God, she refused to leave the rock for the sand no matter how angry or upset she may have become with Him. Why? Because at the end of the day, she believed with all her heart HE was the answer to her problem.  He was the rescue for her soul!  He was the victory of her battle.  And listen church, HE IS!  HE himself is our salvation!  It's why the psalmists write,

8 Salvation belongs to the LORD; (Psalm 3:8)

2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

GOD is our salvation, not just from things, but of Himself, HE IS salvation! Therefore, if you have HIM you have salvation for all time!

The second truth that characterizes God is that

 God is Holy

 2 "There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.

 I’ve joked with our worship leaders that there is one particular contemporary songwriter who seems to just put the word “Holy” in a song wherever he can’t think of something else to write, to the point it seems arbitrary and meaningless at times. I won’t say who I say that of because it’s an entirely baseless opinion of a person who clearly loves Jesus and has inspired millions to do the same.   However, I think I feel that way about his songs because so often the musical presentation of the moments of repetitively singing the word “holy” feels so casual and unimpressive, when in fact, the Holiness of God is the single most impressive characteristic about Him!

God’s holiness is so profound Moses couldn’t even look on His face and survive! (Exodus 33:20).

When the prophet Isaiah had a vision of the Lord and heard and saw the Seraphim crying out “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts” (Isaiah 6:3) he responded this way,

5 And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" (Isaiah 6:5)

 Why would a man as holy and upstanding as Isaiah respond to the revelation of God with such a sincere confession of his depravity? It’s because in seeing God he saw true purity and righteousness; so true, that Isaiah realized all that he was, was profoundly undeserving of even being in God’s presence!

At its root, the word “holy” speaks of perfection, of being worthy of awe, of being beyond comprehension. God’s holiness makes Him uniquely more glorious in every way from all that is in the universe He created.  D. Philips notes,

The holiness of God implies his separation from all his creatures, but it carries especially the notion of God’s moral perfection.”8Phillips, R. D. (2012). 1 Samuel. (P. G. Ryken & R. D. Phillips, Duguid Iain M., Eds.) (1st ed., p. 44). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

The point being God’s holiness is of such a nature that it cannot be appropriately thought of with any casualness. His holiness is to such a degree that there is nothing mild or faint about it.  His holiness is so big, and bold, and loud that He cannot be ignored.  It is so massive that it drowns out the notice of everything else.  Seeing the holiness of God can only be compared to stuffing the sun itself into the very room you are in; it would completely and instantly consume everything in it!

And this is precisely why the Gospel, that gives us the right to stand in His presence with confidence, is so incredible! This is why building our lives on anything else other than Him is utterly ridiculous.  Listen to what the writer of Hebrews wrote,

 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:19-23)

If we truly understand that God is Holy beyond description and yet, we who are less than Him in every way are invited to know Him in every way; to stand confidently in His presence as favored children who have every right and every invitation to be there, then why would we ever consider getting off the rock to build a life in the sand! There is no rock like our God!  He is holy and He is ours!

The third truth that characterizes God is that

 God is Just

 3 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. … 9 "He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail. 10 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; he will give strength to his king and exalt the power of his anointed."

 The Bible is clear, though it may appear the wicked are not judged in this life, they will be. Because God is holy, no one can escape His judgments, and His judgments are perfect.  Those who have repented, believed, and by faith committed to follow Him will be saved because He is just, and those who haven’t will not be saved because He is just.  The Bible says,

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it--22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)

 God doesn’t overlook our sins. He is just and we are sinful sinners.  However, the punishment of our sins was suffered by Jesus.  Jesus is the propitiation of our sin, the just satisfaction of the wrath of God on our wickedness.  He will judge everybody, and according to His own law, I will be declared righteous not because of what I have done but because of what Jesus has done for me!  God’s justice will allow no other salvation because God has declared this is the only way for salvation.  Only Jesus saves because only Jesus can.  Anything else would fall short of the righteous standard of God and thus any other salvation would be unjust!

The fourth truth that characterizes God is that

 God is Sovereign

 4 The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength. 5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. 6 The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. 7 The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. 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.

 Verses four through eight are certainly intended to imply a justice from God as well, in that it is implied that God not only rescues those who have been unjustly forced into poverty, but He also punishes those who have unjustly caused people to be poor. However, it’s important to note that the Bible in no way teaches that all poverty is a result of injustice.  Some people are poor because they are lazy, and the Bible tells us it's actually unjust to help people who are poor for this reason.

 Note:  10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

 However, despite the continuing tone of God’s justice in this passage, the more prominent truth being presented is His authority and power to enact justice exactly how He sees fit! This is why I believe 1 Samuel 2:4-8 is ultimately about the sovereignty of God.

What does it mean to be sovereign?

To be sovereign means everything and everyone belongs to you.

To be sovereign means you have the uncontested right and ability to decide and do anything you want.

To be sovereign is to have supreme power.For God, this is not simply in a title but an actual reality.

And this why this verse ends with, “For the pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and on them he has set the world.” Because God is sovereign:

The bows of the mighty are broken when God pronounces it.

The hungry are filled when God provides.

The barren are made fertile when God declares it.

Life is ended when God says so and life is resurrected when God proclaims it to be so!

Despite the inability of our minds to comprehend it, God is not watching the Universe work itself out, but rather He is working all things out according to His will and to His glory, because He is the only SOVERIEGN one! Again, the prophet Isaiah wrote,

8 "Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, 9 remember the former things ofold; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,' (Isaiah 46:8-10)

This is the fortress Hannah hid herself in. This is the Rock that Hannah said I will not be moved from!  This is the God that Hannah grounded her life; the one she said I will stake all that I am!

There are so many places we could apply these truths about God, but when our teaching team met about this, we couldn’t get away from this question of what honestly grounds us.  As we talked it about Josh Sugg brought up the dangers of not grounding or even improperly grounding an electrical circuit.   Now I need to be honest here, if my life depended on explaining electricity then my family and the church would be collecting my life insurance!  However, even though I can’t really explain how it all works, their comments got me interested, so I did a little research on it.

Two prong outlets are not grounded.  Interestingly, if a home was built in the United States prior to 1960, then it likely has two-prong outlets instead of three-prong outlets.  However, because most home buyers want three-prong outlets, people who purchase older homes to “flip” them will often remove the two-prong outlets and install three-prong outlets to make the house more marketable.   Unfortunately, though, when installing the three-prong outlets, some “house flippers” will cut corners and install what’s called a “bootleg ground” to cut costs.

“A bootleg ground, AKA false ground, is the installation of a jumper wire between the neutral and ground screws. This wiring method will give false readings of correct wiring.”9

“It is illegal and does not actually ground the receptacle.”10

Because a bootleg ground can trick basic outlet testers, many homeowners may not even realize they have a “bootleg ground” until something terrible happens.  Check out this 30-second clip from a video on YouTube that demonstrates what can happen,

 Not only can somebody get electrocuted, but it can also result in electrical fires!

So, what’s my point?  Listen to what Jesus said,

24 "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." (Matthew 7:24-27)

Some people build grand-looking lives, but they build them on sand.  They aren’t grounded properly on a foundation that can hold it up, so even though they built something incredible, the moment something goes wrong, disaster strikes!  And listen, when a grand-looking house collapses, it gets your attention.  You’re not surprised when you see a rotten shack fall over, but when you see a huge impressive-looking building collapse, it gets everybody’s attention!  We can’t imagine things failing down that are impressive looking. It's why people couldn’t imagine the Titanic sinking to the bottom of the ocean or the Twin Towers collapsing in on themselves; and why the world was so shocked when they did!

The same is true with how so many have built their lives.  Everything looks so impressive, but if it’s built on sand when the storms of life get intense, their lives will fall apart.  It's why their commitment to excellence fails and their passion to achieve collapses.  It is why their ability to love and be loved becomes hardened.  It's why their commitment to their marriage and family gets tossed aside.  Most critically, it's why their faith in Christ doesn’t hold up.  If you built your life and faith on and in anything other than the God of the Bible, then you have a bootleg life and faith!  So, here’s my challenge,

 Challenge: Do you have “bootleg” faith that makes everybody around you believe your life is grounded in Christ when it’s not?  Is your life being built on and in a surrendered relationship to the God of the Bible or in somebody or something else?

Most people would agree that if your life is built on things like financial success or the affirmation of others then your life is being built on sand and it’s just a matter of time before it all comes tumbling down.  However, what often fools people, is the “bootleg” faith of a person who builds their life on religion about God, instead of an actual relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  When your life is all about religious rules or religious traditions; when it is all about trusting that you are doing enough things right to outweigh the wrong in your life; when it’s a trust in religious institutions or service; when it's built on His church instead of on Him, then you can expect your house to eventually come crashing down to the shock of all those you fooled.  You weren’t grounded in Him!  You had bootleg wiring!  You tried to shortcut a relationship with God that may have passed the test of the observers of your life, but it won’t pass the test of life itself, and it certainly won’t pass His test.  You can’t fool the rain, wind, and floods of life, but you especially can’t fool God!

5 Thus says the LORD: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6 He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7 "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.  8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?  10 "I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds." (Jeremiah 17:5-10)

 The life you have built on the sand may be impressing you and everyone around you, but I implore you to repent, believe, and follow him—it’s worth it!  A life built in and on the Rock; grounded in Him, is life!

Discussion Questions

  • How is Hannah’s prayer different from Chapter 1 to Chapter 2?
  • From the text, how do we know that Hannah had a spirit of worship as she prayed?
  • List the qualities of God to which Hannah gave testimony.
  • Who are the people that God shows his grace toward?
  • Why did Hannah find God’s grace to be extraordinary?
  • How does your knowledge of who God really is keep you “grounded?"