Full text of Zac Poonen’s teaching on the Book of 1 Samuel which is part of the popular series called Through The Bible.
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Zac Poonen – Bible Teacher
Let’s turn to 1 Samuel. I mentioned that Samuel was the last judge of Israel, and after that we have the first king. And the story begins with his mother who was barren, not having children. And it’s interesting to see how in Scripture there were many women like this in the Old Testament: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and now Hannah, from all of whom after a period of barrenness they sought God in prayer and they had a son. Each of them gave birth to a son that had a unique place in God’s purpose. They did not accept their barrenness and let it go like that. They began to seek God earnestly about it, and that’s how God’s purpose was fulfilled.
And there’s something in this. You know, when a woman is barren, in those days it was considered very disgraceful not to have a child. That drove them to God. So we can say that all these children born to these women were born in prayer — intense prayer. Most pregnant wives will pray for their children, but for these people it was very intense. And it’s very wonderful when a child is born into the world in an atmosphere of intense prayer that the mother has gone through over a long period of time.
And that’s the beginning of Samuel’s life. He was born with perhaps years of prayer. And we find Hannah going up and praying to the Lord for this child, and finally she says in verse 11 of chapter 1, she made a vow and said, ‘Lord, if You will indeed look upon the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give her a son, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.’
See, there’s a shift in her focus there. First of all, she was thinking of her need, I need a son. And then she thought, well, if I have one, I’ll give it to the Lord. The Lord has need as well.
You know, when the focus of our prayer shifts from our need to God’s need, that’s when we can get an answer to our prayer. Just like we were considering in an earlier study, the Lord taught us to pray, ‘hallowed be Thy name.’ There was a great need at that time in Israel, and if Hannah was a person who was alert to her surroundings, you know how it was in the time of the judges, it was chaos. God’s people were backslidden so badly. There was a great need for someone who could be raised up as a prophet.
And Hannah began to think of that, and said, ‘Lord, not just I will dedicate my son to You, but a razor will never come on his head. He will be a Nazirite dedicated to You, and if You can use him to restore this nation back to You, he’s Yours.’ Her whole prayer shifted from her own need to God’s.
Very often our prayers are not answered, because it’s focused so much on ourselves. And it’s wonderful that Samuel was born into such an atmosphere.
And we read that when she did conceive in verse 20, she was very faithful to her promise and brought her son to the temple there to Eli the high priest and said in verse 27 of chapter 1, “For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition, and so I have dedicated him to the Lord as long as he lives.’ He is dedicated to the Lord. I’m never going to take him back. She taught that little three-year-old boy or a four-year-old, whatever he was, to kneel down and worship the Lord there.
It’s wonderful to have a godly mother like that. If you’ve had one like that, you’re blessed. Samuel was. And she prays this wonderful prayer in chapter 2.
See, Samuel grew up to be the man who changed the face of Israel from the chaotic situation that there was in the book of Judges that we considered into the glorious reign of David. Samuel was the link between the book of Judges and the kingdom of David. And Hannah’s prayer was what led to Samuel being born.
Now, the leader at that time was a man called Eli, the high priest. And it says in Sam 2 verse 12 that his sons were worthless men, godless men who had no fear of God. It’s very sad when a high priest has children who are Godless, who have no fear of God. And what is worse, when they begin to take part in the ministry. I mean, if they are Godless and go and do something else, that’s okay. But these people were Godless, and they were there in the temple helping their father in the ministry with absolutely no fear of God. They did not know the Lord, and they would steal from the sacrifices, and they would commit adultery with the women in the temple.
And Eli’s response to all this was very, very weak. It says in chapter 2 and verse 22: ‘Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons were doing.’ And what does he tell them? He doesn’t turn them out of the ministry and say, get out of here, don’t dishonor the Lord if you’re going to live like that.
No, he says in verse 24: ‘My sons, it’s not good what I hear.’ And he’s so spineless and weak in the way he corrects his children. I mean, forget correcting his children as far as his family is concerned. Here God’s people were involved, and he would not correct his children.
But in contrast to those Godless children was Samuel, who grew up, it says in verse 26, ‘in stature and in favor both with the LORD and with men.’
And we read further in Chapter 3 how Samuel’s ministry begins, because God was fed up with Eli, and He sent a man of God to Eli in verse 27 of chapter 2 and told him that your ministry is finished, because your children are dishonoring Me and dishonoring My sacrifice.
And 1 Sam 2 verse 29, the middle, he says, ‘Eli, your sin is that you honor your sons more than you honor Me.’
And then we find this wonderful verse which is a very good verse for us to remember all through our life. In the middle of verse 30 the Lord says, ‘Those who honor Me, I will honor. And those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed.’ It’s a wonderful verse to live by. If you honor God, you can be sure that He will honor you. Eli did not honor God in the way he dealt with his children, and therefore he suffered and his children suffered too.
But Samuel was different. In the midst of all this Godless surrounding, Samuel –this little boy — grew up and he did not allow himself to be influenced by the godlessness around him. And that’s the example for all of you and us who are living today, particularly if you’re young. You cannot be influenced by the godlessness you see around you, you may go into a church situation and find compromise, but you should not allow yourself to be influenced by that.
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