Hannah’s Prayer
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Hannah’s Prayer

1 Samuel 2:1–10  (ID: 3350)

After Samuel’s dedication, Hannah praised God for hearing her prayers and remembering her affliction. Alistair Begg explains that the joy expressed by her words was rooted not in her circumstances alone but in what God had done, was doing, and was going to do for His people. Her hope rested in the certainty that God guards the faithful and will triumph over His enemies. Only God, who stepped into the brokenness of our condition, can minister to aching hearts like hers as He works all things according to His good purposes.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in 1 and 2 Samuel, Volume 1

The Life of Samuel 1 Samuel 1:1–7:17 Series ID: 109011

Sermon Transcript: Print

Our Scripture reading comes in 1 Samuel and in chapter 2, and we’ll read the first eleven verses. First Samuel 2:1–11. Here we have what is “Hannah’s Prayer” or Hannah’s song:

“And Hannah prayed and said,
“‘My heart exults in the Lord;
 my horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
 because I rejoice in your salvation.

“‘There is none holy like the Lord:
 for 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.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
 but the feeble 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 borne seven,
 but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life;
 he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
 he brings low and he exalts.
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.

“‘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.
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 horn of his anointed.’

“Then Elkanah went home to Ramah. And the boy was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli the priest.”

Thanks be to God for his Word.

And as we come to the Bible, we come to God to seek his help. And this prayer from the Book of Common Worship:

Almighty God, who ordered the apostles with singular gifts of the Holy Spirit so that they proclaimed your Word with power, grant to me, as I prepare to minister and teach in your holy name, the same Spirit of wisdom and love and power, that the truth you gave me to declare may search the conscience, convince the mind, and win the heart of those who hear it; and the glory of the kingdom be advanced through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Well, we have already, in chapter 1, considered Hannah’s predicament, in that she was childless; and then the Lord’s provision in the gift that he gave her of a son, Samuel; and now, as we come into chapter 2, we turn to listen, as it were, to Hannah’s prayer, or to her praise. There’s a sense in which we could have referred to this as Hannah’s song.

Now, we know that Hannah did not have access to one of our favorite verses in the New Testament: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[’ve] been called according to his purpose.”[1] She didn’t have access to that verse, but it is clear from her prayer that she was absolutely convinced of God’s overruling providence in all things. She knew that God was working to the end that he had planned.

And she, I think, would have been perfectly content to repeat the verses that are in that little poem that we have referred to in time past, the one that pictures God as a weaver and weaving the various strands into the purposes that he has for us in our lives—and particularly the notion that not all of the pattern is immediately obvious to us, certainly from the back side, and many of the threads that are employed are not vibrant, primary colors. And the verse goes as follows:

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
[Will] God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver’s skillful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern he has planned.[2]

Hannah, through the rearview mirror, as it were, is going to see that the rivalry and provocation of Peninnah, which was such a painful thing, was actually, in the providence of God, used in her life to draw from her heartfelt prayers. And in chapter 1, the prayers that were marked by vexation have now been replaced in chapter 2 by this prayer which is marked by exultation or elation—and the reason being that God has provided, has looked upon his servant, has remembered her affliction.

And as she prays in this way, it becomes very clear that her prayer breaks the bounds of her own particular circumstances. And indeed, this prayer embraces not only God’s purpose for Israel, ultimately, but God’s purpose for the entire world. And I keep mentioning that in these early studies because if we lose sight of that, we will very quickly lose our way around the book.

Now, to try and help us move through these verses, I’ve broken it—or I observed three parts that I think are there for us to consider. First of all, in verses 1–2, considering what God has done in terms of Hannah’s personal circumstances; and then in verses 3–8, what God is doing generally in his work throughout history; and then in verses 9–10, what God will do ultimately when all of his plans come to their fruition.

What God Has Done

So, first of all, then, what God has done from the personal perspective of Hannah. After all, although this goes beyond her immediate circumstances, it certainly includes them. And she is writing out of the fullness of her heart.

Hannah’s prayer breaks the bounds of her own particular circumstances and embraces not only God’s purpose for Israel ultimately, but God’s purpose for the entire world.

You will notice that there are three “mys” in verse 1: “My… my… my…” First of all, “My heart,” she says, “exults in the Lord.” This doesn’t mean that she’s had an emotional surge. “Heart,” when it’s used in the Bible, speaks to the very epicenter of our existence. So when the Bible thinks in terms of heart, it includes also our minds and our wills and our affections. So when she says, “My heart exults,” or elates, “in the Lord,” she’s saying, “The very centrality of who and what I am is caught up in him.”

It’s quite a dramatic fact, isn’t it? It’s quite a stretch for her emotionally to be leaving behind this boy for whom she has longed—thereby making it obvious to us that her rejoicing is not circumstantial. Any mother worth her salt, having to do what she does, would find it a painful experience: to take the child that you’ve given birth to, that you’ve weaned, that you’ve loved, and now that you’ve promised to give up, and yet she says, “My heart exults in the Lord.” It’s a bit like Philippians 4, isn’t it? “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.”[3] It would be strange if we were to try and teach that she was rejoicing that she was now going to not have to look after Samuel anymore. That would be ridiculous.

No, “my heart,” and then, you will notice “my horn.” What does this mean? Well, “horn” in the Bible is a picture of strength. You’ll find it again and again—in the Psalms in particular. And the picture is, if you imagine, every so often that you see these amazing pictures of deer in the hills of Scotland with their amazing antlers and their expressions of power and of might. Or if you watch the National Geographic Channel, you’ll see a rhinoceros every so often, and you look at it, and you say, “I’m glad that it is nowhere near me, especially with that big horn that it has as such a picture of its magnificence and power.” Well, of course, you realize that it’s only a few verses since she was a blubbering mess. It’s only a few verses since she was crying all the time. It’s only a few verses since she was deeply distressed and vexed in spirit.[4] So what has happened to her? Well, you see, she’s discovered what we just sang: that her strength is in the Lord, her hope is in the Lord. And that is then given expression by her lips.

“My heart exults. My strength is exalted in the Lord. My mouth then speaks out of its fullness.” Now, notice that she’s referring there to “enemies” in the plural. And that ought to help us and save us from simply saying that this is a kind of vindictive response on the part of Hannah, who now is able to stick it to Peninnah, who’s been such a bad rival to her for so long. I’m sure there’s a sideways glance there; she would be less than human were that not the case. But what is it that she’s referencing here? Because you will notice that the control that will help us to understand the answer to that question is in the closing phrase of the verse: “because I rejoice in your salvation.” “In your salvation.” The triumph to which she refers is the triumph of the living God over the enemies of the living God, over those who oppose his covenant people.

Now, when you think about this for a moment, we might be tempted to say, “This seems to be a bit of an over-the-top reaction, doesn’t it?” After all, she’s had a baby. A lot of people have had babies. A lot of people have paused to pray after the baby was born. We look at this, and we say, “We know you’re grateful, Hannah, but goodness gracious, this is quite a prayer! What are you on about?”

Well, remember how her request had been made back in chapter 1. When she had sought the Lord for help in verse 11, she used phraseology which was related to the people of God, not just to her own personal circumstances. Verse 11. When she vowed her vow to the Lord, she said, “O Lord of hosts… ” In other words, she says, “You’re the God of heaven’s armies.” “O [God of heaven’s armies], if you will … look on the affliction of your servant…” Now, the language that she uses there is the language of the people of God in the preceding period of time. They have called out to God in their affliction. So she appeals in her request for God to do what he’s done before. “Look upon me,” she says, “in the way that you’ve looked upon your people in the past.” And now she’s actually echoing the language of Israel on the occasions of great deliverance. When the people were delivered by the power of God, then they exulted in their deliverance.

And again I say to you, she and we ought to be beginning to understand that there is a connection between what God has done for Hannah individually and what he is doing for his people corporately. You will notice in verse 2 that her song declares the incomparability of God: “There is none holy like the Lord.” He is, in his power and in his perfection and in his wisdom and in his might, he is a “rock,” he is a refuge, he’s a strong tower. “There is none like you,” we sometimes sing, “no one else could do the things that you do.”[5]

Now, what she has here as a declaration comes as a question in Isaiah the prophet when in chapter 40, declaring the might and power of God, he takes this notion and he poses it in the interrogative. Isaiah 40:18. You will be familiar with it. And the prophet says, or God through the prophet speaks,

To whom then will you liken God,
 or what likeness [will you] compare with him?
An idol! A craftsman casts it,
 … a goldsmith overlays it with gold
 … casts for it silver chains.

The one who’s “too impoverished” to have an idol like that gets a wooden one. But “he seeks out a skillful craftsman,” says the prophet, in order that he might “set up an idol that [won’t] move.” You know, it’s got to have some kind of solid base in it. You’re gonna have to make it not of balsa wood; let’s put it that way. And you want to make it such that when you open your windows and the wind blows, it doesn’t blow off the table, because it’d be very embarrassing: “Oh, excuse me, I’ve gotta pick my idol up and put it back in place.”

“What good is an idol that would be in this way? To whom will you compare God? Don’t you know?” he says, “Haven’t you heard? Don’t you know from the beginning who God is, that he sits above the framework of the universe? The inhabitants of the world are like grasshoppers. He brings princes to nothing. He makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.”[6] He’s not impressed with Theresa May, he’s not impressed with Donald Trump, any more than he was impressed with any of the other rulers throughout all of history. He regards the nations as a drop in the bucket, as the fine dust in the balance.[7] This is the God in whom Hannah exults. “There is none holy like the Lord: … there is none besides you.” There is no one.

Now, Hannah would have been very happy in this declaration to have employed the help of Miriam and her tambourine ensemble. If you don’t know about Miriam and her tambourine ensemble, then you can read about it at your leisure in Genesis chapter 15, which includes the song of Moses for deliverance. And towards the end of that—I should say Exodus 15, because otherwise they would still be on their way—Exodus chapter 15, and towards the end of the chapter it reads, “[And] then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.”[8] It’s quite a wonderful picture. So Moses has sung the song. Aaron is there. Miriam says, “I’m gonna get my tambourine and do a little dance.” And she says to some of her friends, “Would you like to do a little dance as well? Let’s get our tambourines and dance.” How stodgy so much of our stuff is! We sing about strength and might and power in the name of the Lord and hardly open our mouths. “There is strength in the [mumbling].” Goodness gracious, I don’t know what would happen to us if Miriam stood up and started banging her tambourine. Not that I’m requesting it! I’ll deal with it as it comes. But it certainly would be quite a wonderful expression with which Hannah could join.

God brings princes to nothing, he makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness, and he regards the nations as a drop in the bucket. This is the God in whom Hannah exults.

You see, we’re not dealing here with a higher power. We’re not dealing with a philosophical construct. We’re not dealing with a concept. We’re not dealing with something that you look in and find in yourself. No, we’re dealing with the living God. And so Hannah says, from a personal perspective, “I exult in God—my heart, my strength, my voice. I deride the enemies of God, because they are the enemies of God.”

What God Is Doing

Secondly, she then goes on essentially to give us, if you like, a view of the world which is distinctly biblical. I put it in that way to begin so that if we’re tempted to lose our way through this, we can have that as a kind of anchor. Not only is God holy and powerful, but she wants us to know in verse 3, which is a kind of bridge verse, that “the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.” In that same chapter of Isaiah, remember, the prophet says, “Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him … counsel?”[9] We should “not be deceived: God is not mocked.”[10] We cannot hide anything from God. As you sit here this morning, as I stand here this morning, God knows your heart. When Paul writes to the Romans in chapter 2, he says of God that God will judge “the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”[11] This is the state of affairs, even though we are tempted to believe other than that to be the case. By this Lord of knowledge, “actions are weighed.”

Do you remember how Belshazzar discovered this, back in our studies in Daniel? Some of us will recall, in chapter 5, how Belshazzar was having this amazing feast with a thousand of his folks, drinking wine, using the materials that had been stolen from the temple of the Lord when they had snatched the people up and taken them into exile in Babylon, and how as he went about his business, in the middle of all of their carousing, from the presence of the God of knowledge a hand was sent. And a hand appears on the wall and writes. And Daniel tells us that Belshazzar was reduced to a shaking mass. Calling for his sorcerers and astrologers and wise men, he asks that this might be interpreted for him. They’re unable to do anything. Someone says, “Well, the best hope you have is in Daniel,” who comes, of course, and speaks to him, and tells Belshazzar, “Let me tell you exactly what this is. God has written this. And God has written it in order that you might know, Belshazzar—that you can’t carry on like this, that you think you’re a big shot, you think that you and your friends can continue just to go on your way and reject the idea of the living God, and I want you to know that it can’t happen.”

And I’m just turning to it so that I can quote exactly what it is he says to him. He says, “Here’s the deal: You, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart.” He says, “You know that God rules over all of heaven and earth, that God rules the kingdoms of mankind, and he sets people in position as he chooses. And yet you’ve not humbled your heart. But you’ve lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven, and you and your concubines have drunk wine from them. You’ve praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, stone, which don’t see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath and whose are all your ways you have not honored.”[12] That is the word of declaration. What a wonderfully telling word on the Sunday that we have the Oscars! Such a classic celebration of self-assertiveness, man-focus, and a preoccupation with the “me” that pays scant if any attention at all to what it is that is declared when you read “God is the God of knowledge.” And what is the word that is said to him? “You have been weighed in the [balance,] and [you have been] found wanting.”[13]

This, you see, is at the very core of what the Bible teaches: that God will, in a final day, judge and separate people from one another. And that is why in his mercy he sounds out his Word, that is why in his love he speaks out into our condition, that is why he stops us in our tracks, that is why he arrests us in our foolishness: on account of his love, not wanting us to perish but wanting us to know the life that he has planned for us. The hand from his presence was sent. And as you read the end of the chapter, and “that very night Belshazzar [died].”[14] Done.

Now, the balance of this section, having sounded out her warning, is simply a catalogue of the ways in which God turns human estimates of significance and power upside down. If you want to just get ahold of the sort of prevailing notion, look at the final phrase of verse 9: “For not by might shall a man prevail.” “For not by might shall a man prevail.” Man qua man. No man or woman will eventually prevail as a result of their human and innate abilities. And so what she does is she unpacks that.

Now, we could have a whole series on this, which we’re not going to have, and I will disappoint some and encourage others by trying to move through it as quickly as I can. Look, verse 4: “The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength.” We’re not going to have to wait very long before we have a wonderful illustration of this when the Philistines are sent running for their lives—not because of the massive power of the Israeli army, because all they were doing was standing there every morning looking as the giant came out to taunt them. No, what did God do? He reached down for a feeble boy, for a young fellow, for a ruddy-faced boy who had a sling and five stones. And you will see there, this is what he does. “The feeble bind on strength.” You remember—we can’t anticipate it all—but you remember how Saul says, “No, you should wear my armor, because you’ll get killed if you don’t wear my armor.” And he tries on the armor, and he just—it’s ridiculous. And so he takes it all off again, and Saul said, “Well, what are you going to do?” He said, “Well, I’ll just do what I normally do. I’ll just take five stones, and we’ll go from there.” I can imagine Saul watching him walk out the door: “He’s a dead man. No question. But he wants to do it. He wants to do it. That’s okay.” The Philistines go running down the street.[15]

Those who were full have become beggars, notice, verse 5. Now they’re on the streets saying, “Buddy, could you lend me a dime?” The hungry now have been fed. Incidentally, as you read this song, it’ll make you think of other songs. We’ve already had Miriam. A thousand years on you will have the Magnificat, the song of Mary in Luke 1:46 and following. She doubtless knew this. She, I think, has borrowed some of it, we might say. Remember, she declares on that occasion, “He has filled the hungry with good things, [but] the rich he has sent … empty [away].”[16] “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, but the humble he has exalted.”[17] That’s exactly what she’s saying here. “The barren has borne seven”—seven, a picture of perfection. And she doesn’t have seven yet. Maybe she did; I don’t know. But what she’s saying is emptiness has been replaced by fullness. The person who has had many children and thinks that because they’ve had many children everything will be hunky-dory may actually discover that it is a source of pain. Security does not lie in prosperity. It doesn’t lie in numbers. It lies in God. Who is God? He is the Rock. “There[’s] no rock like our God.”

Yahweh is in charge, you will notice, of life and death: “The Lord kills and brings to life.” Now, here is a salutary, striking statement, isn’t it? Because our culture is focused on wellness. You say, “Well, it should be.” Yeah, but not to the extent that it is. No, our preoccupation with wellness is grounded in large measure in a view of the world which has us at the center. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that we’re around for as long as we could possibly be, because after all, we’re needed. Really? We hide from death. We deny its prospect. When we think of death, we ignore God, who raises the dead, and in that respect, our ideas of reality are just distorted. They’re distorted. Because one out of one dies. All the days of your life were written in his book before one of them came to be.[18] You don’t die early; you don’t die late.

And the God who brings about our demise is the God who raises us from the dead. People say, “In the Old Testament, you don’t have the resurrection.” Well, I’ll tell you what. Hannah believed in the resurrection. That’s what she’s saying here: “The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and [he] raises up.” “Goodness gracious, he’s raised me up. From chapter 1 into chapter 2, look at me! My mouth, my strength, my words! And one day he will raise me up!” I think she would have been very happy to join us in our song: “And when I [face that] final day, he will not leave me in the grave.”[19] Why? Because he is the God who kills and gives life. He is the God who raises us from our destruction.

He “makes poor” and he “makes rich.” Put that in your pocket and think about it for a while. “He brings low and he exalts.” What’s she saying? She’s saying this: that poverty and prosperity, obscurity and popularity, are in his hand. He determines this. “He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy” to “sit with princes” in the place “of honor.”

So, your money is not about the government, and it’s actually not about the stock market. It’s actually not about your view or my view of political, economic theory, whatever that might be. God sovereignly determines this—thereby, in Paul’s case, allowing him to say, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, there[in] to be content,” because he realizes that whether he “abound[s]” or whether he is “abased,”[20] the fact is that God is constant in his faithfulness. That doesn’t make poverty something special and wealth something horrible. It simply puts them in their place. And you find again the same thing when you listen to Mary sing.

Unless there is a God who is able to raise people up out of the ash heap, able to bring us up out of our poverty and in our need, to show us our need, then there is no hope.

What a picture this is: “He lifts the needy from the ash heap.” The Times this morning, in London—I know, because I read it last night, because it was already this morning when I read it—but it focuses once again on the opioid crisis in Great Britain, which is at a level that is almost unassailable. And as you just go through the headlines of the newspaper and you think about your culture, you say, “It’s almost like an ash heap.” You see those lives lost and wasted. You see the destruction of things. You see the chaos. You hear the politicians explain, “If we do this, we’ll fix that. If we could adjust this, we will deal with that.” You watch the chaos of the unfolding drama in relationship to Europe. You turn your gaze upon our own nation here, and what do you discover? That unless there is a God who is able to raise people up out of the ash heap, able to bring us up out of our poverty and in our need, to show us our need and so on, then there is no hope. We’re without hope in the world.

The ash heap is where Job is in Job chapter 2, remember, when his friends come to him. He’s outside the city wall. He’s at the place down here off Harper Road, that big mound of stink. That’s where he is. I know I shouldn’t say “stink” in church, but it is. It’s disguised stink. It’s a landfill. He raises people up from the landfills.

How does he do it? Well, where was Jesus buried? Where was Jesus crucified? Outside the city wall, in the city dump. He was dumped so that those of us who realize ourselves to be dumped may be raised up, may be made new.

There is a green hill far away,
Outside a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified,
Who died to save us all.[21]

Well, we must hasten to a close. But you will notice that Hannah writes, sings, prays, out of an unshakable conviction that God is in control. Verse 8b: “For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.” I don’t really understand what all that means, but I like it. It sounds good. Every so often, when you do building bricks with your grandchildren, you try as best as you can to build a solid foundation with the LEGO, and it’s only a matter of time before some little customer comes along and hits them a mighty swipe, and they’re all disintegrated, and they go everywhere. And you say to yourself, “I should never even bothered in the first place.” But God never says that. “For the pillars of the earth…” “The pillars of the earth”—the social, physical, moral, intellectual, scientific, artistic pillars of the earth—are grounded in God the Creator. How vastly different is that from the preoccupation of our culture.

We teach our grandchildren simple songs. The wonderful song from 1870, written by a merchant’s wife in Sheffield so that in the Sunday school the children might have their hearts and their heads filled with truth:

God who made the earth,
The air, the sky, the sea,
Who gave the light its birth,
Cares for me.[22]

You see how our view of the world absolutely matters?

So that’s 1870; it’s a children’s song. I grew up singing it. Somehow or another, I believed it. What an amazing grace!

Unnumbered comforts to my soul
[His] tender care bestowed,
Before my infant heart conceived
From whom those comforts flowed.[23]

Some of you have come along the pathway or on the pathway of agnosticism and atheism and so on. God in his providence is dealing with that. Some of us have never been there. God needs to save you out of that; God in his mercy has saved me from that. I believe that God “made … the air, the sky, the sea,” that he “gave the light its birth” and that he “cares for me.”

You see… Or do you want to go with the film The Thomas Crown Affair—version one, with Steve McQueen, not version two with Pierce Brosnan; version one, the song that won the Oscar for the best song in a film in 1969, when McQueen is flying that glider, and there’s no dialogue, there’s just the words:

Round like a circle in a spiral,
Like a wheel within a wheel,
Never ending or beginning,
On an ever-spinning wheel,

Like a snowflake down a mountain
Or a something-something balloon,

It’s just the most unbelievable nonsense you ever considered in your life. But you see, that was 1969. This is 2019. The seeds that were sown in 1969: that there is no beginning, and there is no end, and everything that’s in the middle is just completely out of control and chaotic, and there’s no way you can fix it, so let’s just either smoke dope and die, or let’s become crazy radicals, or let’s just become acquisitive, or let’s just get at least a wooden idol, for goodness’ sake, that will be able to satisfy our longings. As opposed to “My soul exults in the Lord. He made me. He cares for me. And he’s actually going to finally and ultimately put matters to right.”

What God Will Do

Our time is gone, but let me give to you verses 9 and 10. What is he saying there? What is she saying there? She’s saying that there comes a day of separation. The “faithful ones” will be guarded. That’s those who have trusted in him, who have taken him at his word. “The wicked [will] be cut off in darkness.” “The adversaries,” which is a parallelism for “the wicked,” they’ll “be broken to pieces.” The faithful will be welcomed.

And “the Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king.” To his king? We don’t have a king. No, but we’re expecting one. Hannah had some inkling that somehow or another, in the gift of this boy, we were on our way. In fact, the word that is used here in Hebrew for “anointed” is the word messiah, and you find that this is the first time that is used in connection with the king. “He will give strength to his king.” He will “exalt the horn of his messiah”—this Messiah who stepped down into the ashes in order that he might lift us up into glory.

If there is a missing note in some of our preaching and some of our thinking, it is surely the note of God’s judgment and justice. It’s not easy to proclaim. It’s not easy to hear. It is absolutely central to the truth of the Bible.

Here is a quote from a hymn that we have in our records. It goes like this:

But sinners, filled with guilty fear,
Shall see God’s wrath prevailing,
And they will rise and find their tears
Are wholly unavailing.
The day of grace is past and gone;
They trembling stand before his throne,
All unprepared to meet him.[25]

Would you meet him unprepared? What is it, who is it, that stands in between you and me and that reality? Jesus. The cross. In order to get there, you have to sidestep Jesus, step over Jesus, ignore Jesus, ignore the King.

Maybe that’s what you’ve been doing. Maybe today God says, “Hey, that’s enough.” Because listen, my loved ones: don’t go out of here and say, “I want it my own way, and I’m gonna have it my own way,” because God may actually say to you, “Go ahead. Have it your own way.”

It’s quite a prayer.

Let us pray:

O Lord our God, look upon us in your mercy and grace, we pray. Help us even in these final moments and in our song, as our hearts are uncovered before you, since you know the beginning and the end. Lord, grant that we might turn from ourselves and turn to your dearly beloved Son. For we pray in his precious name. Amen.

[1] Romans 8:28 (NIV).

[2] Grant Colfax Tullar, “The Weaver.”

[3] Philippians 4:4 (KJV). Emphasis added.

[4] See 1 Samuel 1:16.

[5] Lenny LeBlanc, “There Is None like You” (1991). Lyrics lightly altered.

[6] Isaiah 40:21–23 (paraphrased).

[7] See Isaiah 40:15.

[8] Exodus 15:20 (ESV).

[9] Isaiah 40:13 (ESV).

[10] Galatians 6:7 (ESV).

[11] Romans 2:16 (ESV).

[12] Daniel 5:21–23 (paraphrased).

[13] Daniel 5:27 (ESV).

[14] Daniel 5:30 (ESV).

[15] See 1 Samuel 17:1–54.

[16] Luke 1:53 (ESV).

[17] Luke 1:52 (paraphrased).

[18] See Psalm 139:16.

[19] Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, Nathan Nockels, and Jonas Myrin, “The Lord Is My Salvation” (2016).

[20] Philippians 4:11–12 (KJV).

[21] Cecil F. Alexander, “There Is a Green Hill” (1847).

[22] Sarah Betts Rhodes, “God Who Made the Earth” (1870). Lyrics modernized.

[23] Joseph Addison, “When All Thy Mercies, O My God” (1712).

[24] Noel Harrison, “The Windmills of Your Mind” (1968). Lyrics lightly altered.

[25] William Bengo Collyer, “Great God, What Do I See and Hear?” (1812). Lyrics lightly altered.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.