It Is Not By Strength That One Prevails

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1 SAMUEL 1:1-2:21 | JOHN 5:1-23 | PSALM 105:37-45 | PROVERBS 14:28-29

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We enter today into the book of I Samuel. The book opens with a touching story of a man named Elkanah who loves his wife Hannah much despite her being unable to bear children.  This is remarkable in and of itself in the context of an old-world schema where a woman’s worth was measured in the number of children she bore her husband. 

But what is even more remarkable is this young woman’s great faith in asking the Lord for a child and vowing to the Lord that she would dedicate the child to the Lord’s service in the temple.  Her prayer is answered, and when the boy-child is born, she names him Samuel which means, “because I asked the Lord for him.”

Elkanah, the husband, allows Hannah to do with her little boy Samuel just what she intends, and in time, Hannah takes Samuel to the temple to dedicate him to the Lord and to leave him in the care of Eli, the priest.  Upon her return, Hannah sings a song of praise.  What a beautiful song it truly is.  These words of her song are indeed timeless and may be offered up in prayer and praise by any one at any time:

6“The LORD brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.
7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth;
he humbles and he exalts.
8 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.

   “For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s;
on them he has set the world.
9 He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.

   “It is not by strength that one prevails;
10 those who oppose the LORD will be broken.
The Most High will thunder from heaven;
the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.

Hannah’s faith and faithfulness to the Lord is duly rewarded.  Although she has dedicated her firstborn Samuel to the Lord and left him in the Temple, the Lord blesses her with five more children in due time.

Turning to our reading in the book of John, we find the healing of the paralytic man at the pool of Bethsda.  Jesus says simply to the man, “Get up!  Pick up your mat and walk” and the man is made whole again. 

What simple yet powerful words Jesus utters, and what faith for that man to do as he is told!  Of course, the miracle itself would have been enough for all who witnessed it to have wanted to believe in this man called Jesus, but alas, they are more caught up in the fact that the miracle was performed on the Sabbath, the day of rest!  Woe was unto all the scribes and elders of the day who saw the great truth and yet did not see. 

And when they question Jesus to ask by what authority he performs these miracles, Jesus gives them a straightforward answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

Turning now to our Psalm of the day, we see in Psalm 105 a continuation of the reflection of the great history of the Jewish people.  David is recounting how God has brought out from Egypt his ancestors, and all because of a promise made to man called Abraham.  It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word Hallelu Yah literally translates to:  Praise the Lord.

Finally, our one verse from the Proverbs that I wish to offer up here–more for myself than for my reader—is this:

9 Whoever is patient has great understanding,
but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

One thought on “It Is Not By Strength That One Prevails

  1. My attention almost always goes immediately to the gospel story – and today’s does not disappoint – but I like how you highlight Hannah’s canticle (to resurrect that term from Luke 1). This is an apt followup to the story of Ruth. TFS!

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