"BY STRENGTH SHALL NO MAN PREVAIL"
1. This morning I want to expose you to one of the most astounding women found in God's Word, a woman of such deep and abiding spirituality that she can be held up to one and all as a model of godliness.
2. It's conceivable that had not Simon Peter referred to Sarah in First Peter 3.6 as an example of wisdom and humility and faith in dealing with a husband, he might have used this woman named Hannah.
3. Turn in your Bible to First Samuel chapter 1, so that I might rehearse in your mind the story of Hannah and her firstborn son, Samuel. My exposition easily divides into five considerations:
1A. FIRST, LET US CONSIDER HANNAH'S PORTION - She was barren
First Samuel 1.1-8: "Now there was a certain man of Ramathaimzophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite: 2And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. 3And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there. 4And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions: 5But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb. 6And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb. 7And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat. 8Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?"
1B. No, Husband, You Are Not Better To A Wife Than Ten Sons. When You Are Dead And Buried A Woman's Sons Will Still Be There To Take Care Of Her, To Love Her, To Provide For Her, To Honor Her In Her Old Age, And Her Grandchildren Will Keep Her Occupied And Will Extend Her Life By Decades, While Your Body Is Being Eaten By Worms.
2B. God Directed People To Leave Their Mothers And Fathers And To Be Fruitful And Multiply In Marriage. So It's Only Natural That A Woman Would Want To Marry And To Bear Children. It's Quite Simply The Most Natural And Normal Thing A Woman Can Do, Quite In Line With How And Why God Created Both Men And Women.
3B. Now, By Today's Standards Hannah Should Have Been A Happy And Content Woman. The First Wife Of A Man Who Had Two Wives, She Had It Just About As Good As A Modern Day Liberated Woman Can Imagine, For Hannah's Day And Age. She Had The Comfort And Security Of A Marriage To A Man Of Some Means, She Had His Love And Attentiveness, Yet She Wasn't Bothered By Children.
4B. So, What's Her Gripe? What's Her Beef? Simple, She Had This Crazy Idea That Children Were A Blessing, That Having Children When You Were A Married Woman Just Makes Sense, And That Great Fulfillment Can Be Derived From Living A Life That Is Not Quite So Selfish And Self-Centered As The Lives Of Those Who Are Married And Who Choose Not To Have Children.
5B. You Will Excuse Me, But I Am On Hannah's Side, And I Do Not Understand Or Appreciate The Dink Mentality (that's dual income, no kids). My Wife And I Were Married For Twelve Years Before God Gave Us Sarah, And We Enjoyed Our Life At That Time As Much As Any Couple. But We Craved A Child To Love, To Adore, To Raise Up In The Nurture And Admonition Of The Lord.
2A. NEXT, LET US CONSIDER HANNAH'S PRAYER - A prayer of commitment
First Samuel 1.9-19: "So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD. 10And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore. 11And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. 12And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth. 13Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. 14And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee. 15And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. 16Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto. 17Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him. 18And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad."
1B. Let's Pass By The Foolish Comments Of Old Eli. Let's Understand That The Godly Individual Will Always Find Obstacles In Her Path, Impediments Along Her Journey Through Life. But Notice That This Deeply Spiritual Woman Who Trusts God, Who Wants For Herself What God Wants For Her, Is Praying A Prayer Of Faith, A Prayer Of Concern, A Prayer Of Commitment To God.
2B. Does She Want A Child? Yes. Not So She Can Be Like The Other Wives In Her Village. Not So She Can Pass Her Time Each Day Playing With And Having Fun With Her Baby. This Precious Saint Of God Wants A Child For A Specific And Noble Purpose, A Purpose That Would Be Wise For Each And Every One Of Us Here Today To Emulate, To Imitate, To Copy.
3B. My Friends, Ladies, Mothers, Mothers To Be, And Even You Men And Boys Here Today, Learn Something From This Woman Named Hannah. She Cried Out To God In Her Grief, "O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head."
4B. "God, give me a baby so I will have a baby to give to you. Give me a child so I can give the child to you. And I won't just give you back the child you give to me, God. I will give you back a child who will serve you. And not just a child who will serve you, but a Nazarite." That's What She Meant When She Said No Razor Would Come Upon His Head. A Child Especially Set Aside And Dedicated To God.
5B. Do You See The Key To This Woman's Spirituality? She Did Not Want From God To Get From God, As With So Many Today. She Wanted From God So She Could Give To God. Would To God Each And Every Mom And Dad In Our Church Had Wanted Their Child From God So They Could Give Their Child To God. Amen? It Sure Does Change The Way You Raise Your Kids When Your Purpose For Having Them Is To Give Them Back To God. Kinda Shows The Extreme Selfishness Of Those That Don't Want Kids, Or Who Won't Train Them To Be Godly, Doesn't It?
3A. THIRD, CONSIDER GOD'S PORTION FOR HANNAH
First Samuel 1.19-20: "And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the LORD, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the LORD remembered her. 20Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD."
1B. God Remembered Hannah. Why Did God Remember Hannah? Because Hannah Remembered God. She Had A Great Hunger And Desire, But She Had No Means. She Was Barren, Unable To Have Children. So, What Did She Do? She Prayed To God And Asked For Divine Intervention. A Helpless Woman, Barren In A Culture That Frowned On Barren Women, Had Only God To Turn To And Turn To God She Did.
2B. The Word "Samuel" Literally Means "Heard Of God." So, There Is No Doubt That Hannah Attributed The Arrival Of This Precious Little Boy As Intervention On The Part Of God Into The Affairs Of Men In Answer To Prayer. God Blessed This Woman And She Didn't Forget What He Had Done, Or Her Commitment To Him.
4A. FOURTH, CONSIDER HANNAH'S PREPARATION
First Samuel 1.21-28: "And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and his vow. 22But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide for ever. 23And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him; only the LORD establish his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she weaned him. 24And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the LORD in Shiloh: and the child was young. 25And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli. 26And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD. 27For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him: 28Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there."
1B. Let's Avoid Having Such A Fixation On The Weaning Of The Child That We Overlook The Intent Of Hannah With Her Son. True, Mothers Did Nurse Children Much Longer In That Culture And In That Day Than Seems Appropriate To Many People Today. But More Went On During That Time Than Just The Nursing Of The Child, Samuel.
2B. From The Life And Testimony Of The Child In Later Chapters Of First Samuel, And From The Practical Necessity That A Child Delivered To The High Priest Of Israel Would Not Be And Could Not Be A Child Who Needed To Be Taken Care Of, But Was To Be Himself A Servant To The High Priest, It Can Only Be That During This Period Of Time Hannah's Days With Her Beloved Son Were Passed Teaching, Training, Motivating, Preparing Him For His Life's Work.
3B. And Lest You Think Upon This With Skepticism, Understand That Enthusiasm And Commitment And Desire Are Infectious. What Burdens Weigh Heavily On A Mother's Heart Will Weigh Heavily On Her Son's Heart. What Cause She Is Willing To Die For He Is Willing To Die For. What God She Has Given Her Life To Serving He Will Give His Life To Serving. If Your Son Does Not Love Church, Love The Idea Of Serving God, Love The Notion Of Living For Christ, It's Because Such Is Not Found In Your Heart, Mom.
4B. I Can Just See Hannah Talking To Her Son. "No, you carry the tray like this. And be careful how you hold it. Remember, you are the only little boy in all Israel who will allowed to do this. The silly little boys will spend their days playing and acting foolish. But you, Samuel, were given to serve God. And how grateful mommy is going to be when you are old enough and mature enough and trained well enough to serve God by tending to the high priest."
5B. Did Hannah Prepare Her Son Well? What Did That Boy Do When His Mother Took Him And Presented Him To The High Priest? Verse 28: "He worshipped the LORD there." Hannah Prepared Her Son Well, As Well As A Mother Can Prepare A Child To Serve God. And If You Doubt The Impact A Godly Mother Can Have On Her Son Or Daughter, I Remind You Of A Woman Named Susannah And The Impact She Had On The World As The Result Her Godly Devotion To The Raising Of Her Sons, John And Charles Wesley.
5A. FINALLY, CONSIDER HANNAH'S PRAYER
First Samuel 2.1-10: "And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. 2There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. 3Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. 4The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. 5They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble. 6The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. 7The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. 8He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and he hath set the world upon them. 9He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. 10The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed."
1B. What A Trophy Of God's Grace This Woman Is. And How Out Of His Depth Was Elkanah With This Wife Of His. And The Depth Of Her Spirituality Can Be Seen In This Prayer Of Hers.
2B. There Are Themes In This Single Prayer That Seem To Me To Be Found Here In God's Word For The First Time, And Are Later Developed In The Psalms And The Prophetical Books, And Even In The New Testament.
3B. How Would She Know Some Of These Things She Prayed About? Psalm 25.14 Provides A Clue: "The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him." This Woman Walked With God, Relied On God, Trusted God, Served God, Honored God, Promised God, Kept Her Promise To God. And All Of This Because She Feared God.
1. Motherhood, to Hannah, was far different than motherhood was to any of her contemporaries. It is fair to say that no other woman in Israel in her day wanted a child from God as badly as she did, or for the reason she did.
2. I wonder how many sons and daughters would end up serving God instead of blaspheming God, if only their mothers had wanted them from God so they could give them to God.
3. What other wisdom and insights might we learn from a woman of such profound godliness? What can a woman who fears God and who has such delight in serving Him have to say to the lost this morning?
4. The text for my sermon this morning is a single phrase lifted from godly Hannah's prayer to God after she had prepared and then presented her beloved and longed for son, Samuel, to the LORD: "by strength shall no man prevail."
5. You here today who have utterly failed in the raising of your children, or who are terrified by the direction your children are presently pursuing, or who are not yet mothers and fathers, but who someday shall be, learn this from Hannah: "by strength shall no man prevail."
6. Brother Isenberger now comes to lead us in a song before this morning's sermon.
1. "By strength shall no man prevail." This is the conclusion Hannah has drawn from the contrast she makes between the righteous and the wicked. God "will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail."
2. So, what are you up to, my friend? What is it that you hope to accomplish in your life, when all is said and done? What will be the conclusion of the whole matter for you?
3. Hannah prayed, and the rest of God's Word completely confirms that, "by strength shall no man prevail." By strength you will not win. By strength you will not be victorious. By strength you will not come to the place of rejoicing and happiness from the children you have raised.
4. Contrary to what Hannah prayed, and contrary to what the rest of the Bible shows to be true, let me spend just a few minutes developing what we know to be true about the lost from Hannah's declaration to God that "by strength shall no man prevail."
1A. "BY STRENGTH SHALL NO MAN PREVAIL." THIS STATEMENT RECOGNIZES THAT THE LOST MAN THINKS HE IS STRONG
All evidence to the contrary, you think you are physically strong, you think you are emotionally strong, you think you are intellectually strong, or you think you are spiritually strong. But what do we find instead?
1B. We Find That You Are Physically Weak
1C. Set aside, for the moment, any consideration of physical might, as if you were proportionally as powerful as an ant, or a monkey, or a chimpanzee. Set such notions aside, since man is the weakest of all creatures in proportion to his size.
2C. Let's consider things other than physical might. Let's consider the immune system. Let's consider how durable you are when there is a physical contest between you and an automobile, or between a bicyclist and the pavement.
3C. Men wear helmets and shoulder pads to play football. But what do mountain goats wear when they butt heads during rutting season? Or rams? What about bucks and bull elk? What do they wear?
4C. My point is, you are not physically strong in comparison to the One Who hung the stars in the sky, and Who shakes mountains with His spoken word. You are the weakest of the weak.
2B. As Well, Emotionally, You Are Unstable
1C. You have feelings that get hurt. You have egos that can be damaged. You have a will that can flag. You have motivations that drastically fluctuate.
2C. Some feel so badly that they destroy themselves by suicide. Others feel so badly that they destroy themselves with sex or drugs or alcohol. Others harm and even kill their fellow man.
3B. Third, You Have An Intellect That Is Uninformed
1C. Human beings think they are so smart. And there is no human being who thinks he is so smart as one who is profoundly ignorant.
2C. So many are convinced that by ignoring problems they will go away, by devoting yourself to things that interest you you will somehow survive, and that by reading a book to build your vocabulary you can somehow compensate for decades of intellectual laziness.
4B. Fourth, You are Spiritually Dead
1C. Scripture is very clear on this. According To Ephesians 2.1, anyone who is not genuinely converted is dead in trespasses and sins. That's you. You are dead spiritually while you are alive physically, but there will come a time when you are both physically and spiritually dead.
2C. How can you prevail in anything when you are physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually weak? Romans 5.6 sums up your dilemma with this brief phrase: "without strength."
3C. Yet, despite these obvious facts you conclude to yourself and oftentimes to others that you are strong. . . all evidence to the contrary.
2A. "BY STRENGTH SHALL NO MAN PREVAIL." THIS STATEMENT ALSO RECOGNIZES THAT THE LOST MAN THINKS HE WILL PREVAIL
1B. This Was The Main Feature Of My Own Thoughts Prior To My Conversion. I Recognized That Man Wasn't Particularly Strong, Or Smart, Or Emotionally Stable. I Had No Comprehension Of Spiritual Deadness. But I Was Convinced For Many Years That I Would Figure Out A Way.
2B. Like Jacob Tricking His Brother Esau Again And Again, Until Finally He Found Himself Homeless, Using A Rock For A Pillow. Or, Like Balaam, Prohibited By God From Cursing Israel, He Nevertheless Felt Himself Clever Enough To Make A Great Sum Of Money At Israel's Expense, Only To Be Eventually Caught And Killed. Or, Like Achan, Who Thought Himself Clever Enough To Hide The Silver And The Babylonish Garments Beneath His Tent, Realizing Only Shortly Before He And His Family Were Stoned To Death That God Almighty Sees All And Knows All. Or, Like Samson Delighting Himself In His Own Cleverness When Dealing With The Philistines, Until He Was Finally Brought Down By Delilah. Or, Like Judas Iscariot Playing Both Ends Against The Middle, Following Jesus As An Apostle While Scheming To Make Money By Betraying Him, Until Things Got Out Of Hand And Guilt And Remorse Overwhelmed Him Into Committing Suicide.
3B. You Who Concludes That You Will, Somehow, Prevail In Your Lifelong Conflict With God, Consider This: He Is The Lord God Almighty, Creator Of Heaven And Earth, Who Knows The End From The Beginning, And Who Laughs And Has Them In Derision Who Imagine Vain Things Against Him, Psalm 2.
4B. Sir, You Will Not Prevail Against God! You Will Not. You Cannot. And Were You Not Wicked To The Very Core, Fully Deserving Of An Eternity In The Lake Of Fire, You Would Not Dare Try To Prevail Against God, But Would Fall Down Before Him And Plead For Mercy That You Might Escape The Wrath Of His Hot Displeasure.
3A. "BY STRENGTH SHALL NO MAN PREVAIL." THIS STATEMENT FINALLY RECOGNIZES THAT THE LOST MAN DISCOUNTS GOD
1B. Think About This For A Moment. Is This Not The Reason You Think You Are Strong, Since You Cannot Think Yourself Strong In The Face Of Any Reflection On God's Creative Acts Or Miracles. It's Only When You Resort To Your Practical Atheism, With God Nowhere In Your Thoughts, That You Imagine Yourself Strong, Or Competent, Or Durable, Or Prevalent.
2B. And What About This Conclusion That You've Drawn That You Will Somehow Prevail When All Is Said And Done In This Conflict You Have With God? From Where Does This Optimism Come, Since We Know It Doesn't Come From God? Why Would God Seek To Convince His Enemies That They Shall Prevail Against Him? God Would Not Do Such A Thing Because It Simply Is Not True That Any Shall Prevail Against Him.
3B. No, The Only Way You Can Think The Way You Do, Can Live The Way You Do, Can Plan For Any Kind Of A Future The Way You Do, Can Have Hopes And Aspirations For Yourself And Your Family And Your Children The Way You Do, Is To Discount God, To Push Him From Your Thoughts And Considerations, To Pretend That He Is Not.
4B. But What Kind Of A Person Are You If God Is Not In All Your Thoughts? Psalm 10.4: "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts." In Order For You To Think You Are Strong Enough That You Do Not Need God's Strength, Strong Enough That You Can Even Imagine Prevailing Against God, You Must Completely Discount God, Remove Him From All Your Thoughts. It Takes Pride To Do What You've Done, My Friend, And It Shows You To Be Wicked.
1. "By strength shall no man prevail." This phrase has rung in my ears all week long, and is a cause of rejoicing to me as it was, no doubt, to Hannah.
2. You see, the Christian is one who knows he has no strength, who has no strength to prevail, and who can only trust in the strength that God provides.
3. But you who are not saved, who try to raise your children by your own wits, who try to live your life by your own wits, have to look at things a different way.
4. Because you discount God you must imagine yourself to have strength to prevail, since to try and tackle life any other way would be too depressing, too discouraging, and too hopeless.
5. So you encourage yourself, boost yourself, motivate yourself, by thinking positive thoughts and doing all the other things unsaved people do to propagandize themselves, and to trick themselves into thinking things that are simply not true.
6. But you are wrong. You think you are strong, but not only are you weak, you are dead. You think you will prevail, but you will only fail, you can only fail.
7. "Is there no hope, pastor?" Yes, after a fashion. And I would be honored to talk to you about such hope. But not here. Not now. Perhaps after the service, in my office, if your soul is important enough to you.