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PRAISE - THE NATURAL RESPONSE OF THE FAITHFUL

A SERMON DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

16 NOVEMBER 1997

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

1 Samuel 1:4-28; 2:1-11

Medical research has proven that when we are happy and joyful we are healthier.

This doesn't just mean that we are happy and joyful because we are healthy, but that when we are happy and joyful, we ward off illness.

If we are under stress or depressed, we also depress our immune system.

If we are joyful, we enhance our immune system.

And it's interesting that God made us that way, for we seem to be blessed when we are faithful, and cursed when we are not.

It's not that God actually curses us, but that we, in essence, curse ourselves.

For when we are faithful to the Lord, which includes giving Him our burdens, we also naturally find ourselves filled with the joy of the Lord.

Thus, in our praise, which is part of our response, we increase our joy, which in turn builds our faithfulness, which in turn increases our joy, and health.

It's like the links of a chain, or the rungs of a ladder, for as we follow along, or move forward, everything improves.

It also seems that our expressed praise of God builds up the entire community, along with ourselves.

And this is an important function of the Church.

When something is wrong in our own lives, and we run away from God and the Church, we get even more depressed.

Hanna, the mother of Samuel, was depressed because she didn't have any children, but year after year she would still go up to the Tabernacle of the Lord at Shiloh.

Her husband had two wives, and the other wife would tease and ridicule and reproach her, and she would become even more depressed to the point where she couldn't eat.

Her depression made her sick.

But then one day she reached out beyond her depression and began to earnestly seek the Lord.

Even Eli the priest misunderstood her intention, because of her previous depression.

But when Eli realized that she was sincere, he also prayed for her, that her request would be honored.

And it was at this point in her life, that her spirit was lifted.

She ate and was no longer sad or depressed.

Her sadness was turned into joy, even though nothing had as yet physically changed.

And because of her faith and joy, she was now able to conceive, and she gave birth to a son whom she named Samuel, because, as she said, "I have asked him of the Lord."

For the next few years, Hanna remained at home taking care of her infant son, while her husband continued to go up to worship at Shiloh.

But in the year that Samuel was weaned, Hanna went up to Shiloh. with her husband and son, and worshipped before the Lord.

And she did something very unusual, she dedicated her son, Samuel, to the Lord.

Not as we do in our Service of Baptism, but she actually dedicated him to the Lord, leaving him with Eli the priest.

Hanna dedicated her son to the service of the Lord.

And as we know, he grew up to be a great leader and priest of Israel .

To understand Hanna, we have to understand about true faith and joy in the Lord.

Hanna loved her son very much, and he obviously brought her great joy.

She didn't want to give him up.

But because of her faith, her joy was made even greater, because she knew that Samuel would be serving the Lord in a wonderful way.

She hadn't really given him up for she would still see him, and spend time with him every time she returned to Shiloh.

And, she was gaining from his service to the Lord, which to her was probably a way of continually being before the Lord herself.

And thus they sacrificed and worshipped before the Lord.

Sometime during this period, Hanna composed a song of praise, a poem of worship.

Let's listen to what she said (1 Samuel 2:1-10).

1.  Then Hannah prayed and said,
"My heart exults in the Lord;
My horn is exalted in the Lord,
My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Thy salvation.

As we talked about last week, the Lord has redeemed her and removed her reproach.

2.  "There is no one holy like the Lord,
Indeed, there is no one besides Thee,
Nor is there any rock like our God.

Hanna now truly understands the ways of the Lord.

But there are many people who do not, thus she cries out,

3.  "Boast no more so very proudly,
Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth;
For the Lord is a God of knowledge,
And with Him actions are weighed.

4.  "The bows of the mighty are shattered,
But the feeble gird on strength.

5.  "Those who were full hire themselves out for bread,
But those who were hungry cease to hunger.
Even the barren gives birth to seven,
But she who has many children languishes.

God's grace and love and mercy is always there for the humble of heart, but the proud lose even what they have.

And those who are proud face the judgment of God.

The Lord knows what is going on, we simply have to realize that, and allow His way to prevail.

6.  "The Lord kills and makes alive;
He brings down to Sheol and raises up.

7.  "The Lord makes poor and rich;
He brings low,
He also exalts.

8.  "He raises the poor from the dust,
He lifts the needy from the ash heap
To make them sit with nobles,
And inherit a seat of honor;
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's,
And He set the world on them.

9.  "He keeps the feet of His godly ones,
But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness;
For not by might shall a man prevail.

10.  "Those who contend with the Lord will be shattered; Against them He will thunder in the heavens,
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
And He will give strength to His king,
And will exalt the horn of His anointed."

And Hanna's song of praise of over 3,000 years ago is still heard today, with the same truth it had then.

11. Then Elkanah went to his home at Ramah. But the boy ministered to the Lord before Eli the priest.

We can learn a great deal from Hanna, but only if we allow ourselves to feel as she felt.

We need to feel how Hanna felt when she was ridiculed because she didn't have any children.

We need to feel her pain.

But, just as we need to feel her pain, we also need to look with her beyond her pain and see the Lord.

Hanna had to learn to do this, just as we do, but once she learned, she continually sought the Lord, and He blessed her.

We need to be strengthened by her faith, and we need to praise as she praised, and continues to praise the Lord through the words we read this morning.

She acknowledges the evil in the world, but she lives above it, and praises the Lord because she is able to do so.

But remember, that Hanna sought the Lord while she was still depressed, and as she did, her depression left.

And the key to this is to have a soft heart, and yes, a heart that is vulnerable to being hurt.

For unless we are sensitive, we cannot have true and unconditional love and compassion, and we will not have the joy of the Lord in our heart and soul.

It's this sensitivity of heart that just naturally sings forth its praise of the Lord, and in the process heals us and those around us.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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