Yet I Will Praise Him

A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness:

10 I said, In the middle of my days
    I must depart;
I am consigned to the gates of Sheol
    for the rest of my years.
11 I said, I shall not see the Lord,
    the Lord in the land of the living;
I shall look on man no more
    among the inhabitants of the world.
12 My dwelling is plucked up and removed from me
    like a shepherd’s tent;
like a weaver I have rolled up my life;
    he cuts me off from the loom;
from day to night you bring me to an end;
13     I calmed myself until morning;
like a lion he breaks all my bones;
    from day to night you bring me to an end.

14 Like a swallow or a crane I chirp;
    I moan like a dove.
My eyes are weary with looking upward.
    O Lord, I am oppressed; be my pledge of safety!
15 What shall I say? For he has spoken to me,
    and he himself has done it.
I walk slowly all my years
    because of the bitterness of my soul.

16 O Lord, by these things men live,
    and in all these is the life of my spirit.
    Oh restore me to health and make me live!
17 Behold, it was for my welfare
    that I had great bitterness;
but in love you have delivered my life
    from the pit of destruction,
for you have cast all my sins
    behind your back.
18 For Sheol does not thank you;
    death does not praise you;
those who go down to the pit do not hope
    for your faithfulness.
19 The living, the living, he thanks you,
    as I do this day;
the father makes known to the children
    your faithfulness.

20 The Lord will save me,
    and we will play my music on stringed instruments
all the days of our lives,
    at the house of the Lord.

21 Now Isaiah had said, “Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, that he may recover.” 22 Hezekiah also had said, “What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the Lord?” – Isaiah 38:9-21 ESV

Hezekiah had been severely ill, and the prophet Isaiah had given him the divine prognosis that his illness would end in death. In his despair, Hezekiah prayed to God and received the news that he would be healed and his life would be extended an additional 15 years. The book of 2 Kings provides additional details concerning Hezekiah’s miraculous recovery.

Then Isaiah said, “Make an ointment from figs.” So Hezekiah’s servants spread the ointment over the boil, and Hezekiah recovered! – 2 Kings 20:7 NLT

Sometime after these events, Hezekiah composed a poem commemorating the occasion and recording the diverse range of emotions he had experienced.

Hezekiah had been rocked by the news of his pending death. It was unexpected and had caught him completely by surprise. Like anyone facing the prospect of an untimely death, Hezekiah thought about all those he would leave behind.

“Never again will I see the Lord God
    while still in the land of the living.
Never again will I see my friends
    or be with those who live in this world.” – Isaiah 38:11 NLT

He couldn’t help but feel that he was being robbed of life, and denied the joy of experiencing all the pleasures that come to the living. Like all men, he had a difficult time imagining what existence beyond death might look like. He refers to his soul being confined to Sheol, the abode of the dead. The ancient Jews did not have a well-developed understanding of the afterlife. Their concept of the blessings of God was closely tied to life on this side of death, not beyond it. Which led Hezekiah to wonder whether his premature death was the result of his own sin. He couldn’t help but consider that he had somehow displeased God and his terminal illness was a form of divine punishment. For the Jews, disease was viewed as a sign of God’s displeasure. The apostle John records a scene from the life of Jesus that reflects this common misperception.

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” – John 9:1-2 NLT

The disciples were reflecting the commonly held view that blindness was a curse, not a blessing. So, this man or his parents must have done something that angered God and brought about his blindness.

Hezekiah shared this mindset and saw his illness as a curse from God. Which led Hezekiah to pray incessantly, his voice sounding like the coos of a dove as he moaned out his pleas for God’s mercy. And yet, he somehow believed that his calls for healing would be ineffectual.

“But what could I say?
    For he himself sent this sickness.
Now I will walk humbly throughout my years
    because of this anguish I have felt.” – Isaiah 38:15 NLT

His illness was God’s doing, and there was nothing he could do about it. But his poem takes a dramatic turn at this point. Suddenly, Hezekiah begins to reflect his gratefulness for the dark night of the soul he experienced.

“Lord, your discipline is good,
    for it leads to life and health.
You restore my health
    and allow me to live!
Yes, this anguish was good for me,
    for you have rescued me from death
    and forgiven all my sins.” – Isaiah 38:15-17 NLT

God provided healing and the assurance that his life would be extended another 15 years. Hezekiah’s sorrow was immediately replaced with joy. His despair was replaced with delight in God’s mercy and unmerited favor. God was allowing him to live and, not only that, forgiving his sins in the process. Because Hezekiah believed his illness was the result of sin, his healing could only have happened if God forgave his sin.

You can sense Hezekiah’s rather earth-bound and limited view of life and the afterlife. From his human perspective, life was essential if one were going to praise God.

“For the dead cannot praise you;
    they cannot raise their voices in praise.
Those who go down to the grave
    can no longer hope in your faithfulness.” – Isaiah 38:18 NLT

He shared the commonly-held view that this life was where God’s blessings were to be enjoyed and where our devotion to God was to be displayed. You see this mindset reflected in the psalms.

The heavens belong to the Lord,
    but he has given the earth to all humanity.
The dead cannot sing praises to the Lord,
    for they have gone into the silence of the grave. – Psalm 115:16-17 NLT

Even King David had shared this view of life and death.

Return, O Lord, and rescue me.
    Save me because of your unfailing love.
For the dead do not remember you.
    Who can praise you from the grave? – Psalm 6:4-5 NLT

From Hezekiah’s perspective, long life provided an opportunity to praise God. “Only the living can praise you as I do today” (Isaiah 38:19 NLT). And he intended to take advantage of every single moment God was going to give him on this earth.

I will sing his praises with instruments
every day of my life
    in the Temple of the Lord.” – Isaiah 38:20 NLT

Hezekiah’s desire to spend his remaining years praising God is commendable. His ecstatic reaction to the news of his healing is natural and normal. He had been facing certain death and, suddenly, he had been given a new lease on life. In the excitement of the moment, Hezekiah expressed his desire to repay God by dedicating his life to the praise and glory of God. And again, this reaction by Hezekiah is commendable, but it raises some unavoidable questions: Are we only willing to praise God when He gives us the desires of our heart? Had God not chosen to heal Hezekiah, would the king have praised the Almighty anyway? Would he have accepted the will of God even when it seemed to contradict his own human understanding of what it means to be blessed by God?

The prophet Habakkuk provides us with a much more balanced illustration of how we, as humans, should understand and respond to the seeming incongruities of life.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
    and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
    and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
    and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! – Habakkuk 3:17-18 NLT

The apostle Paul shared this same viewpoint, declaring to the believers in Rome that, even in the face of trials and troubles, we have ample reason to praise God.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. – Roman 5:3-5 NLT

In Hezekiah, we have reflected a similar but significantly different sentiment.

Lord, your discipline is good,
    for it leads to life and health.
You restore my health
    and allow me to live! – Isaiah 38:16 NLT

The question is whether we, as those who believe in the sovereignty of God, are willing to accept both the good and the bad of life as coming through His hands. It was right for Hezekiah to rejoice in God’s healing. It was appropriate for him to respond with praise and adoration at his miraculous restoration by God. But the fact is, God does not always heal. Things do not always turn out for the better. Those with terminal illnesses do not always receive an additional 15-years of life. But those facts do not alter the goodness of God. They do not do anything to diminish the divine sovereignty of God. In our greatest moments of darkness and despair, our attitude should be that of Job who, when facing the loss of all that he had, was able to say:

“Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” – Job 2:10 NLT

Praising God in the good times is easy. Praising Him the difficult times requires faith and a strong belief that His will is always right and His plan, while not always clear to us, has our best interest in mind.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

 

Giving To Get.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.– Matthew 6:1-4 ESV

Jesus has just dropped a bombshell on His listeners: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 ESV). And as disconcerting and discomfiting as His words may have been, He was simply trying to explain to them about the true nature of godly righteousness – that alien, outside-of-yourself kind of righteousness that comes from God and can’t be manufactured, only faked. But how easily we trade in God’s view of perfection for man’s. How quickly we forget about what God expects of us and lower our standards. That is exactly what Jesus was confronting among the Jews in His audience. They had long ago traded internal holiness for external piety. They had learned to settle for the praise of men rather than the praise of God. They were stuck on a horizontal plain, viewing righteousness from a purely human standpoint, measuring themselves by comparing themselves with others. So, Jesus starts off this section of His message with a warning. He uses the word, “Beware.” In the Greek, it is prosoche, and it means “to beware, take heed, be attentive to.” Jesus used this word a lot.

Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.” – Matthew 7:15 ESV

But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. – Matthew 10:17 NLT

“Watch out!” Jesus warned them. Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” – Matthew 16:6 NLT

Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets.” – Luke 20:46 NLT

In essence, Jesus is telling His listeners to be perfect and to be careful. His use of the word, “beware” is designed to get their attention and to warn them to listen carefully to what He is about to say. Just as He had in the verses above, Jesus is trying to open the eyes of those sitting on the hillside, using stern words of warning to make His point.

If you recall, the word, “blessed” that Jesus used repeatedly in His opening remarks, really refers to the approval of God. So, those beatitudes or blessings could read like this:

Approved by God are the poor in spirit

Approved by God are those who mourn

Approved by God are the meek

Approved by God are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

Approved by God are the merciful

Approved by God are the pure in heart

Approved by God are the peacemakers

Approved by God are the persecuted, reviled and slandered

We are to seek the approval of God, not men. We are to seek the reward of God, not men. Those who do will be part of the kingdom, be comforted, inherit the earth, be satisfied, receive mercy, see God and be called His Son, and enjoy a great reward in heaven. Jesus is speaking of the vast difference between man-made versus spirit-induced righteousness. Jesus says they are to beware of practicing their righteousness before other people. In other words, their motivation should not be recognition. Those who seek to do good things so that they will be deemed good people by those who see them, will have all the reward they are going to get. They’ll get the praise of men, but not the approval of God. That kind of man-pleasing, praise-seeking righteousness will get you no reward from God. Why? Because it is not the kind of righteousness He requires.

Now Jesus gives us three examples from real life. The first has to do with alms-giving, which was giving to the poor and needy as an act of mercy. The Greek word is eleēmosynē  and it refers to “a donation to the poor” and was sometimes called, “compassionateness.” Jesus is accusing His audience of giving to get merit, rather than giving out of mercy. Their giving to the poor was motivated by a desire for recognition. That was the reward they sought, and Jesus tells them that they will have the reward they seek: The praise and approval of men. But they will not receive the one reward they so desperately need: The approval and blessing of God.

The kind of man-made righteousness that Jesus is describing is done only to receive the praise of others. It is done to be seen and to garner recognition and reward. But Jesus tells them that, when you give, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. In other words, keep your giving private. So private, that it will be like one hand not knowing what the other hand is doing. What a different mindset. Instead of seeking recognition, seek to keep your actions hidden. Do what you do, in secret – concealed, private, and hidden from the view of others. But know this, God will see what you are doing, and reward you – in His way and according to His own timing.

Jesus is not suggesting that there is anything wrong with alms-giving or charity. But anyone who thinks they are righteous because they give has missed the point and misunderstood what godly righteousness really is. In fact, giving in order to get recognition isn’t righteousness at all. At least, not according to God’s definition. And throughout this portion of His message, Jesus will emphasize that our greatest concern should be what God thinks and how He views our actions. In fact, Jesus will repeatedly emphasize that, when we give out of mercy, not in search of merit,  “your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” While no one around us may know what we have done, God will and, more importantly, He will know why we have done it. He will know the motivation of our heart. And that is still the key behind what Jesus is trying to teach here. This is all about the heart. Giving to get noticed is about the head. It’s about ego, pride, self-esteem and measuring our worth by what others think of us.

But alms-giving was intended to be an act of mercy. It was giving to those in need, not so you could get something out of it. To give to those who do not have, just so you could have what you desire, is a twisted and warped way of life. It is ungodly and unrighteous. It reveals a love of self, but not a love of others. And Jesus warns, “Beware!” Don’t do it. That kind of giving is hypocritical, mere play-acting, intended to give the impression of mercy, but motivated out of the insatiable need for merit and men’s praise. And, Jesus says, practicing that kind of righteousness will get you exactly what you desire, but not what you need: God’s approval and blessing.

In his letter to the believers in Ephesus, Paul wrote:

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT

We did nothing to earn our salvation. And we can do nothing to earn a right standing before God now. Our acts of righteousness do not earn us God’s favor. We perform acts of righteousness because we have already earned His favor and have His Spirit living within us. It is the righteousness of Christ, credited to us by God the Father, that allows us to do “the good things he planned for us long ago.” We have been made new so that we might live new lives, motivated not by merit and men’s praise, but out of willing obedience to God.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

A Living God.

“You delivered me from strife with my people;
    you kept me as the head of the nations;
    people whom I had not known served me.
Foreigners came cringing to me;
    as soon as they heard of me, they obeyed me.
Foreigners lost heart
    and came trembling out of their fortresses.

The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock,
    and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation,
the God who gave me vengeance
    and brought down peoples under me,
who brought me out from my enemies;
    you exalted me above those who rose against me;
    you delivered me from men of violence.

For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations,
    and sing praises to your name.
Great salvation he brings to his king,
    and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
    to David and his offspring forever.” – 2 Samuel 22:44-51 ESV

David knew that his life was inextricably linked to God. Nothing he did was outside the influence and direct impact of God. David’s victories were due to God. His power and position were attributable to God. His physical strength was a gift from God. And even his sins were lovingly disciplined by God. There was no area of David’s life that escaped the notice of God, because his God was a living, active god. The Hebrew word David used is chay and it literally means “alive”. It was used to refer to flowing water and a green plant. It was an expression that referred to the evidence of life. A stagnant pond would not have been “alive”. A brown plant would have showed no evidence of life. For David, the proof of God’s “life” was in God’s constant activity and non-stop involvement in his own life. He could “see” God. He didn’t have to wonder if God existed. He was convinced of it by simply by looking at the visible evidence of His actions and activities.

It is so easy for us to attribute the actions of God to something other than God. We refer to luck or good fortune. We say things like, “I was just in the right place at the right time” or “I guess I had that coming.” We jokingly refer to karma and kismet. We talk about fate like it was a real thing. Even a Christian can tend to think the outcome of their life is either completely up to them or at the mercy of unseen forces. But David would argue that God is the invisible, unstoppable agent of influence in the life of the believer. He is alive and active, and the evidence of His life is all around us. But seeing and believing it is a matter of perspective. When difficulties come into our life, we tend to ask, “Where is God?” In other words, we assume that the presence of trouble signals the absence of God. But David would argue that God is there, even in those dark moments. He is revealing Himself to us in the grace, peace and mercy He shows us in times of difficulty. Sometimes it comes to us disguised in the form of friends who encourage and comfort us. He sends His children to act as His representative, expressing His love and giving tangible evidence of His existence.

Seeing God requires that we look for Him. God told the Israelites, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me” (Jeremiah 29:13 NLT). But we have to look for Him. We have to assume His presence, even when our first impression is that He is nowhere to be found. God is there. He is always there. And He is always active, because He is a living God. He is not a lifeless idol sitting on a shelf. He is not a dead God bound up in an old, out-of-touch book written thousands of years ago. He is the living God of the Bible, a living, active document that has the ability to change lives. The author of Hebrews describes it as “alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4:12 NLT). Everything about God is alive, from His Word to His Spirit who lives within each and every believer. And unlike the false gods of this world, our God is a living, breathing, active and all-powerful God. Listen to how the prophet Jeremiah describes the false gods of his day.

A tree from the forest is cut down
    and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman.
They decorate it with silver and gold;
    they fasten it with hammer and nails
    so that it cannot move.
Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,
    and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried,
    for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them,
    for they cannot do evil,
    neither is it in them to do good. – Jeremiah 10:3-5 ESV

But Jeremiah goes on to describe God.

But the Lord is the true God;
    he is the living God and the everlasting King. – Jeremiah 10:10 ESV

He is the living God. He didn’t have to be made. He wasn’t result of man’s creative capabilities. In fact, God is the creator – of all things. He doesn’t have to be carried around. He doesn’t live on a shelf and isn’t restricted to heaven and dependent upon our efforts to call Him down. As followers of Christ, the living God lives within us. We are His temple. Paul reminded the Corinthians of this fact in his second letter to them.

For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” – 2 Corinthians 6:16 ESV

He lives within us and the proof of that life should be evident all around us. Paul told the Galatians exactly how to spot the evidence of God’s life within us:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… – Galatians 5:22 ESV

That is all the proof we need that our God is alive. He reveals Himself in us and through us. But He also shows up all around us, in the daily affairs of life. We can see Him in the many blessings we enjoy in our lives. We can sense Him even in the difficulties that show up in life, as He comforts and corrects us, encourages and perfects us. God is always there. We just have to learn to look for Him. David had become adept at looking for and seeing God in the everyday affairs of life. He had trained himself to seek for God and to expect to find Him. David wasn’t surprised when God showed up. It was his expectation. And David’s response to the presence of God was to praise Him.

For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations,
    and sing praises to your name. – 2 Samuel 22:50 ESV

God’s active involvement in David’s life caused David to praise Him. David bragged about God. He gave God the credit. He literally sang His praises. And while he directed his praise at God, he voiced it within earshot of the people of God. He wanted them to hear. He also wanted the nations to hear. His God was alive. His God was powerful. His God was worthy of praise, glory and honor. He wasn’t sitting on a shelf. He was actively involved in the lives of His people and working out His sovereign will among the nations.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

This God.

“For who is God, but the Lord?
    And who is a rock, except our God?
This God is my strong refuge
    and has made my way blameless.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer
    and set me secure on the heights.
He trains my hands for war,
    so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have given me the shield of your salvation,
    and your gentleness made me great.
You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
    and my feet did not slip;
I pursued my enemies and destroyed them,
    and did not turn back until they were consumed.
I consumed them; I thrust them through, so that they did not rise;
    they fell under my feet.
For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
    you made those who rise against me sink under me.
You made my enemies turn their backs to me,[g]
    those who hated me, and I destroyed them.
They looked, but there was none to save;
    they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them.
I beat them fine as the dust of the earth;
    I crushed them and stamped them down like the mire of the streets.”  – 2 Samuel 22:32-43 ESV

 

Whether we want to admit it or not, we have other gods we worship. And it has always been that way. While some of our national currency still carries the phrase, “One Nation Under God”, it has never said, “One God Over the Nation.” Like every culture and generation before us, we Americans have, and always have had, a predisposition toward idolatry. And the people of Israel were no different. That’s why God gave them the Ten Commandments, the first four of which have to deal with man’s relationship with God. God prefaced His list of commands with the statement, “I am the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:2 NLT). He was telling Moses and the people of Israel that He was to be their God, their one and only God. And then He clarified exactly what He meant. “You must not have any other god but me” (Exodus 20:3 NLT). In other words, unlike all the other cultures around them, they were to have only one god, not many. They were to worship one deity, not a plethora of gods like the Egyptians had. They were to give their allegiance to the one true God. And it was not as if God was admitting that He had real competition and was demanding their undivided attention. God didn’t have to worry about competitors, but He did have to be concerned about man’s natural tendency to create false gods, man-made substitutes or stand-ins for Him. That is why the psalmist wrote:

Their idols are merely things of silver and gold,
    shaped by human hands.
They have mouths but cannot speak,
    and eyes but cannot see.
They have ears but cannot hear,
    and noses but cannot smell.
They have hands but cannot feel,
    and feet but cannot walk,
    and throats but cannot make a sound.
And those who make idols are just like them,
    as are all who trust in them. – Psalm 115:4-8 NLT

But the fact that these gods are false has never stopped men from placing their hope in them. And while the psalmist is obviously referring to actual 3-dimensional idols made to represent a false deity, we 21st-Century human beings have moved to a much more sophisticated, yet sinister, form of idolatry. Our gods come in a variety of forms. They don’t sit on a shelf where we offer literal sacrifices to them. But they demand our worship nonetheless. We have made gods out of everything from work to entertainment, the television in our home to the money in our bank. There are so many things in our lives that demand our undivided attention or, to put it another way, our worship. We revere these things and sacrifice our time, attention and even our money to them. We turn to them in times of trouble, hoping they will rescue us. We lean on them for a sense of contentment and happiness during the dark days of our lives. We seek satisfaction from them. We put our hope in them. But the God would remind us:

“To whom will you compare me?
    Who is my equal?
Some people pour out their silver and gold
    and hire a craftsman to make a god from it.
    Then they bow down and worship it!
They carry it around on their shoulders,
    and when they set it down, it stays there.
    It can’t even move!
And when someone prays to it, there is no answer.
    It can’t rescue anyone from trouble.” – Isaiah 46:5-7 NLT

David knew there was no reliable source for help and hope in his life, but God. Which is why he rhetorically asks, “who is God except the Lord?” The answer is obvious: No one. There is no god but God. He has no real competition. We may attempt to find help elsewhere, but those things will always come up short. They can’t deliver. That is why David said, “This God is my strong refuge” (2 Samuel 22:33 ESV). It was God to whom he turned for help, hope, safety, security, rescue, rest, strength and victory. THIS God, and no other.

In this passage, David weaves together an interesting mixture of pronouns, repeatedly referring to both himself and God. He was not putting himself on the same level with God, but was simply trying to show that his life was totally dependent upon God.

He makes me as surefooted as a deer – vs 34

He trains my hands for battle – vs 35

You have given me your shield of victory – vs 36

your help has made me great… – vs 36

You have made a wide path for my feet – vs 37

It was God who had done these things for David and, as a result, David was able to say:

I chased my enemies and destroyed them – vs 38

I did not stop until they were conquered… – vs 38

I consumed them – vs 39

I struck them down… – vs 39

I ground them as fine as the dust of the earth… – vs 43

David had done his part, but only because God had made it possible. David knew he was not a self-made man. He could take no credit for his victories. He was in no place to brag about his exploits – apart from God’s help. Anything he had done of value in his life was attributable to God. God got the glory. God deserved the credit. Which is why David was able to say to God, “your help has made me great” (2 Samuel 22:36 NLT). He had no problem acknowledging God as the source of all his victories and the explanation behind any value he had as a person. Without God, David was nothing. Apart from God, David would have done nothing. At least, nothing of lasting note or significance. It was as if David was saying, “THIS God has made THIS man who he is.”

How easy it is for us to take credit for what God has done. How tempting it is to give credit to someone or something else, for what is clearly the work of God in our lives. We are sometimes prone to give more credit to luck than we do to the Lord. We explain our good fortune as fortuitous, when we should be given God the praise He deserves. Back in Exodus 20, we read the words of God. “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods” (Exodus 20:5 NLT). God will share His glory with anyone or anything. He will not tolerate faithlessness and infidelity among His people. Which is why He repeatedly referred to the people of Israel as adulterous. They cheated on Him, on a regular basis. They shared their attention and affections with others. They refused to give Him the credit He deserved and the honor His status as God demanded. But we are so often guilty of the same thing. And David provides us with a sobering reminder that THIS God of ours is worthy of our praise, glory, honor, gratitude, worship, and undivided attention. For who is God except the Lord?

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Worthy of Praise.

Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me! – Psalm 66:20 ESV

Have you ever stopped to consider the unbelievable reality that God hears your prayers? Not only does He hear them, He answers them. Maybe not in the way you would like or were expecting, and perhaps not on the schedule you were hoping for, but He always answers. But the even more amazing fact is that God hears our prayers to begin with. Think about that. Why should He? What have we done to deserve the attention of the holy, righteous, sinless God who created the entire universe. He is the one who made us and yet we have returned the gift of His creation with sin, rejection of His authority, indifference to His Word, and a constant love for creation instead of the Creator. So why does He listen? Because for those of us who are in Christ, He sees us as righteous because of the sacrificial blood of His Son. God no longer sees us as rebellious sinners, but as saints, sons and daughters. We are His children and, as a good Father, He listens to our calls for help, our pleas for direction, and our cries for mercy. The psalmist praised God because his prayers had not been rejected. He praised the fact that God was still in love with him in spite of him. He was able to say, “But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer” (Psalm 66:19 ESV). 

The sad fact is that we take that reality for granted. God listens to our prayers and the unbelievable nature of that thought doesn’t even seem to register with us. God chooses to hear me when I call out to Him. Not because I deserve it, but because His Son has paid the price for my sins so that I can come into the very presence of God the Father with no fear of condemnation or rejection. He hears me and He listens to me as His child. He loves me and answers me like a loving Father would one of His children. And I take it for granted. So do you. We have given God plenty of good reasons to reject our prayers and ample cause for Him to fall out of love with us. But He continues to hear and listen to us. He continues to love us unconditionally and unwaveringly. So why don’t we praise Him more? David did. He got it. He appreciated God’s love and the fact that He heard his prayers. Read the following words of David and ask yourself when was the last time you felt the same way.

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins
    and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
    and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things. – Psalm 103:1-5 NLT

God hears you. He answers you. He loves you. So why doesn’t that amaze you? Why doesn’t that produce an attitude of gratitude and praise in you? If you’re anything like me, it is probably because we don’t pray and truly believe He hears us or answers us. Or it could be that we pray and then fail to recognize His answers when they come. David said, “He fills my life with good things.” We have lost the sense of God’s goodness in our lives. We no longer see all the good things that He is doing in our lives every day. Instead, we have boiled down the proof of His activity in our lives to the list of things we ask of Him and expect Him to deliver. We are like a child who wants a new bike, but fails to appreciate the bed in which he sleeps, the food he eats, the clothes he wears, and the room full of toys he already enjoys. We want and demand more from God, while failing to appreciate and show gratitude for all He has already done. God is worthy of our praise – all the time. The very fact that He hears us when we pray and loves us even when we sin, should amaze and astound us. It should produce in us an overwhelming sense of thankfulness. Our attitude should be that of David. “Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!’” (Psalm 66:1-3 NLT). Praise Him. Not because of what you are waiting for Him to do for you, but for the very fact that He loves you enough to hear you when you call. Praise Him for all He has already done. Praise Him because He provided His own son as a sacrifice for your sins and has made it possible for you to enjoy a relationship with Him, free from fear and condemnation. He is worthy of our praise. So let us praise Him. Shout for joy to the Lord. Sing His praises. Let Him know just how grateful you are that He hears you and loves you.

The Lord Is Near.

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. – Psalm 145:18-21 ESV

Psalm 145

The last part of this prayer of David might seem a bit far fetched or to be over-promising just a bit. At least, when it comes to our own lives, it may feel as if what David says has not been our experience. There have been plenty of times in my life when it has seemed as if God was not near when I called on Him. I have also had to very real experience of not having all of my desires fulfilled. So either I have not been calling on Him in truth or I must not fear Him, or perhaps both. Why is it that I don’t always feel as if God hears my cry and saves me? Am I the problem? I think it’s safe to say that the problem is not with God, So what’s going on here? What is David telling us about God?

There is a very real sense in which our experiences with God may leave us feeling as if He doesn’t hear or answer. We may believe that our cries for help fall on deaf ears and that our circumstances don’t always turn out for the best. But David would have us know that God is always near. He always hears. He always preserves those who love Him. But how God does so may not coincide with our own expectations. We rarely go to God without some well-thought-out idea of what we want Him to do for us. In fact, most of our prayers consist of clear-cut instructions for God, telling Him exactly what it is we want Him to do and when we want Him to do it. If we have a bone to pick with God, it is because He doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we desire. But His job is to do His will, not ours. He knows what is best for us. Paul gives us some timeless counsel: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6 NLT). It is perfectly okay to tell God what we need. It is even okay to tell Him what we want. But at that point, we have to let go of our wishes and come to grips with the fact that His will may not be the same as our wish. He may choose to do something different altogether. And if His answer comes back in a different form or on a different schedule, it DOES NOT mean He is not near or that He does not hear.

A big part of this Psalm has to do with praise for God. As believers we tend to put far more emphasis on petition. We are all about what we can get from God, but fail to give as much priority to giving to God what He so richly deserves: Our praise. David even wraps up his prayer with the promise, “My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord”. Regardless of how God answers, David will praise Him. No matter the difference in God’s timing compared to David’s, he will still praise God. Why? Because God is near. Because God cares. Because God will ultimately do exactly what should be done. Regardless of whether we agree with Him or not. We must always remember that God’s schedule is based on an eternal timeline, not a temporal one. We live in the hear-and-now. He exists in timeless eternity. We have a hard time looking past today. He knows the future and has our eternal destiny already worked out in advance. Again, Paul is the one to remind us, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT). If we had our way, we would pray ourselves out of all our troubles. We would ask God to remove all our pain and problems. We would ask for a trial-free existence. And the truth is, that day is coming, but it is reserved for our future. It will come when God has decided to put an end to sin and death once and for all. We have to develop an eternal perspective and keep our eyes focused on what is to come. God will one day remove all pain, sorrow, sin, hatred, and sickness. In the meantime, we must remember that He is near, that He cares, that He rescues, that He preserve and protects, and that He deserves our praise and thanksgiving. So let all flesh bless His name forever and ever.

Word of Mouth.

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. – Psalm 145:4-7 ESV

Psalm 145

Commend. Declare. Speak. Pour forth. Sing aloud.

Silence may be golden, but it has no place in the life of the believer when it comes to God. We are to be blatantly verbal and vociferous about Him. According to David, the only time we should be silent about God is in order to meditate on the splendor of His majesty and on His wondrous works. But the meditation is simply intended to provide us with food for thought and then words of testimony and praise. When we think about God and His greatness, we will be motivated to turn those thoughts into verbal expressions. God is due our praise and if we are silent, we demonstrate either our ignorance of His greatness or our indifference. It is interesting to note that when Jesus was entering Jerusalem on the back of a donkey’s foal, the crowds were cheering wildly, exclaiming “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38 ESV). When the Pharisees witnessed this scene, they demanded that Jesus silence the crowd. But His response was simply, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40 ESV).

God deserves praise. And as the only members of His creation with the capacity for speech, we are intended to use our voices to verbally acknowledge who He is and all that He has done. We are to commend, declare, speak, pour forth and sing aloud. And of all people, believers should have the most to say about God. There is something normal and natural about talking about that for which we are grateful or by which we have been amazed. When we see a beautiful sunrise, we feel the urge to tell someone. When we take a memorable vacation, we can’t help talking about it. When we are proud of our children, no one will be able to stop us from bragging about them. We tend to praise that which we appreciate. We talk about what interests us. We unashamedly testify to others about what we find meaningful in our lives. It could be a delicious meal at a local restaurant, a good book, a movie, a newly discovered musical group, a recent Facebook post, a personal achievement or any of a number of other things. But how often do we declare the greatness of God? How many times do we commend God to others? How frequently do praises concerning God come from our lips and to the ears of those we meet? Are we prone to sing God’s praises out loud and outside the context of a Sunday morning worship service?

David so eloquently wrote, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world” (Psalm 19:1-4 NLT). The heavens declare the glory of God. We can see it in a sunrise or sunset, a cloud formation, a night sky filled with stars or the gentle breeze on a warm summer night. God’s creation constantly praises Him. The angels in heaven never cease to offer Him verbal praise and adoration. But as human beings, the pinnacle of His creative energies, far too often we remain silent. Rather than commend God to others, we complain. Instead of declaring the mighty acts He has already done, we demand that He do more. We speak, but do the words that come out of our mouths concern God? Do words of praise, thanksgiving and honor for God pour forth from our lips? Do we sing aloud of His righteousness?

Our silence condemns us. But it has even far greater implications. Our failure to speak up concerning God’s glory and greatness puts the next generation at a distinct disadvantage. They run the risk of growing up having never heard of who He is. And it is not that they are living in a verbal void. They are surrounded by voices of all kinds shouting messages of every type imaginable. Their ears are being bombarded by false messages and deceitful words that leave God out or attempt to diminish His significance. So we must speak up. We must commend, declare, speak, pour forth and sing aloud. What the next generation will know about God will only come from what we tell them about God. Paul would have us consider “And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:14 NLT). God deserves our praise. The next generation depends upon it.

The words of the chorus, “My Lips Will Praise You” say it all.

My lips will praise You
For You are holy
My voice will ever rise
Before Your throne
My heart will love You
For You are lovely
And You have called me
To become Your own
We have much for which to praise God. There is no reason to remain silent. Our silence indicts us. It reveals an ingratitude or at least an ignorance of His activity in our lives. And it leaves the next generation at a distinct disadvantage. So let us talk loud and often. Let us declare boldly and proudly. Our God is great and greatly to be praised.

Greatly To Be Praised.

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. – Psalm 145:1-3 ESV

Psalm 145

David loved God. In fact, he talked about Him and to Him constantly. God seemed to be on David’s mind a lot. Maybe it was because he knew just how much he needed God. He seemed to have a firm grasp on the reality of his dependence upon God – for everything. God had chosen him while he was just a shepherd boy and transformed him into the king of Israel. God had given David victory over Goliath, the Philistines, Saul and a host of other enemies. God had spared David from the full ramifications of his own sin with Bathsheba and allowed him to continue his reign as king. David had much to be grateful for and he constantly praised God for who He was and for all He had done. David extolled God. He lifted Him up, exalted Him and gave Him the glory and honor due Him. He didn’t treat God flippantly or casually. David refused to see God as common place or take Him for granted. In David’s estimation, God was great and greatly to be praised. As a matter of fact, God’s greatness was unsearchable. In other words, you could never plumb the depths of His greatness. Just when you think you know how great God is, He surprises you. God’s greatness isn’t limited or exhaustible. He doesn’t run out of wonders or miracles to perform – a fact that David had experienced personally, time and time again.

Here was David the king of Israel acknowledging Yahweh as his God and as his King. David would not have used the term “king” lightly. He was a king himself and he knew well the implications of that title. God was sovereign. He was the ruler over everyone and everything, including David himself. God was not just a deity to be worshiped, but a King to be honored and obeyed. God’s word was final. His majesty was incomparable. There was no other king who could compare to Him, including David. God was great and He deserved David’s praise, and David was more than happy to give it – each and every day of his life.

But what about us? Do we find God great and greatly to be praised? Is He worthy of our adoration, honor and daily praise? Do we think enough of Him or about Him that it results in us telling Him how much we love Him? Sometimes our problem is that we don’t give God enough thought. We allow our minds to be occupied with thoughts of anything and everything but God, including ourselves. We can end up praising all kinds of things but God. But David would remind us that God alone is worthy of our praise. He would encourage us to recognize and appropriately respond to the greatness of God. And he would have us see God as not only as a great God, but as our King. Recognition of God’s sovereignty and rule over our lives includes submission to His will for our lives. It entails giving up our rights for His righteous rule over every area of our lives. David was king, but he knew that his reign was subject to God’s. Any authority he enjoyed was God-ordained and could be removed by God at His discretion. David’s greatness was solely due to God’s goodness and graciousness. God had made him king. God had blessed his kingship. God had given him victory over his enemies. God had made him powerful. So God was worthy of honor and praise. Our failure to recognize God’s greatness can result in a tendency toward self-exaltation. We can begin to believe that we are responsible for our own achievements. We can end up taking credit for who we are and all that we have done. But an awareness of God’s greatness keeps us from becoming enamored with our own significance. All that we have and all that we are we owe to Him. He alone gives life and breath. He alone sustains and blesses. He alone does mighty deeds. He alone is worthy to be praised. But the truth is, we only praise that for which we are grateful and that holds our affections. So we praise our health, our homes, our jobs, our material possessions, our family and our own accomplishments – forgetting that we owe it all to God. He is great and greatly to be praised. He is our God and King. Every day we wake up, we should offer Him the praise, honor and gratitude He so richly deserves. And no matter how often we praise Him, we will never run out praiseworthy  things for which to honor Him. Because His greatness is unsearchable.

None Like You.

Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. – 2 Samuel 7:21-22 ESV

2 Samuel 7:18-29

God had transformed David from an obscure shepherd boy into a mighty king over the nation of Israel – God’s chosen people. Not only that, God had promised to give David an everlasting dynasty, with one of his descendants occupying the throne in Jerusalem. David could look back over his life and see the hand of God, and now he could contemplate the future with confidence, knowing that God had it all under control. Yes, David was going to have to die to his dream of building a temple for God, but his disappointment was replaced with joy as soon as he understood that God had an even great plan in store. The interesting thing to note is the David, the king of Israel, willingly submitted himself to God, the King of the universe. In fact, David repeatedly refers to himself as God’s servant throughout this prayer. Yes, he was king and held the most powerful position in the land. But he humbly submitted himself to God because he recognized that any power, authority, success or significance he enjoyed was due to the sovereign hand of God. He confessed to God, “you have brought about all this greatness”. David could look back over his life and see God intimately involved every step along the way. From his unlikely selection by Samuel to be the next king of Israel to his defeat of the Philistine warrior, Goliath, David saw God’s divine fingerprints. He knew that it had been God who had protected him all those years he lived in exile in the wilderness with a bounty on his head issued by King Saul. He knew that it had been God who had arranged his ascent to the throne. God had given him his victories over the enemies of Israel. God had been the one to forgive his sin with Bathsheba and allowed him to continue his reign. Everywhere David looked, he could see the hand of God.

They say hindsight is 20/20. It sometimes takes the passing of time and the opportunity to contemplate where we have been to give us a true perspective on just what has happened. Looking back allows us to view the events of our life more realistically. We are able to see the lessons learned even in the darkest moments. From our present vantage point, we are more apt to understand now what was going on then. In fact, our reflection on the past often leads us to say, “If I had only known then what I know now”. But as believers in Christ, there is far more benefit to reflection on the past than potential life lessons to be learned. Like David, we should be able to look and see God’s fingerprints all over every aspect of our lives. We should be able to see how He was leading us and eventually calling us to Himself. We should recognize the moments in which He had protected us or possibly disciplined us. Looking back allows us to better see our own sin and God’s gracious acts of salvation all along the way. And the result of our reflection should be the same as that of David. “Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you.”

But not only does looking back allow us to see the handiwork of God in our lives, so does looking forward. David could “see” into the future and rest easy, knowing that God had promised that He would “raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom” (2 Samuel 7:12 ESV). God had told David that He would “establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:13 ESV). And one of the reasons David could trust God’s word regarding the future was because he had experienced God’s faithfulness in the past. He had learned to trust God. He had no reason to doubt that God would fulfill His promises for the future because God had already proven Himself trustworthy and good for His word.

The greatness of God. Sometimes I think that reality escapes many of us who call ourselves Christians. We have somehow lost our awe for God. Rather than see Him as great, we simply take Him for granted. We fail to look back and see His hand in our lives. Any success we have achieved, we tend to take credit for. Any difficulties we have endured, we fail to see any value in. Some of us simply regret the past. Others of us inordinately revel in it. And either way, we can fail to see God in it. Recognizing God’s involvement in our past is essential if we are going to trust His promises for the future. If we don’t believe He has been there for us all along the way, we are going to have a hard time believing He will be there for us in the days ahead. One of the greatest lessons we can learn in this life is to recognize and appreciate the greatness of God. He is always great, whether we see it or are willing to acknowledge it. Sometimes, the best way to comprehend His greatness is to come to grips with our own weakness and insignificance. For David, the very thought that God had chosen him, an insignificant shepherd boy, and made him a king, was mind blowing. That God had chosen to protect him all those years he was running from a psycho king with a one-track mind focused on David’s annihilation, was almost too much for him to believe. But he did believe and he was grateful. He was awed at God’s greatness. And so should we be. Like David, we should be able and willing to exclaim, “Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness” (Psalm 145:3 NLT).

Our Incomparable God.

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.” – 1 Samuel 2:1-2 ESV

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Hannah’s in one of the more fascinating, yet little known, stories in the Bible. She was a wife who had the unlikely lot of having to share her husband with another woman. To make matters worse, she was barren and unable to have kids, but her husband’s other wife had been prolific. And the cause of her infertility? According to the Scriptures, it was God, because we read, “the Lord had closed her womb” (1 Samuel 1:5 ESV). And as if that was not enough, her trouble was compounded by the ridicule she received from wife number two. “And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb” (1 Samuel 1:6 ESV). As a result of all this, Hannah was distressed and disturbed, and while visiting Shiloh one year to worship and offer sacrifices to God at the tabernacle, Hannah took her problem to God. “And she vowed a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head’” (1 Samuel 1:11 ESV). In due time, and in answer to her prayer, Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son, whom she named Samuel. And when Samuel reached the age of about three years old, Hannah kept her vow to God and brought him to the tabernacle. “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:27-28 ESV). 

You would think that this would have been a very sad day in Hannah’s life. After all, she had waited so many years and suffered so much ridicule, and now that she had been blessed by God, she was having to give the most precious thing in her life to God. She was having to leave her small child in the hands of others and simply walk away. And while there was no doubt a high degree of sadness in Hannah’s heart that day, what she expressed to God reveals no regret, remorse and unhappiness. Instead, she said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:1 ESV). Having just placed her young son in the hands of the priest to raise, she rejoiced. She expressed joy in the Lord, thanking Him for what He had done. Not only had He given her a son, God had exalted her horn. That is a unique expression that doesn’t mean a whole lot to us in a modern context. But in an agrarian culture, the horn of an animal was a symbol of strength. An animal lifting up its horn became synonymous with strength and virility. Hannah’s strength had been renewed by God. She was confident and content with her lot in life because God had blessed her. She had once been childless, but now she could rejoice in the fact that God had showed her favor. And she was more than willing to keep her vow to God. He had saved her from her humiliation and allowed her to experience the joy of giving birth to a son.

In all of this, Hannah’s main takeaway was the uniqueness of her God. He was incomparable. Her God was not distant or disinterested in her problems. He cared for her greatly and took a personal interest in her life. He had taken her barrenness and turned it into blessing. He had replaced her humiliation with hope. Yes, she had just given her son to God, but she did so because God had given her son to her. It was the least she could do. She viewed the Giver as greater than the gift. And she could do all this because she recognized the greatness of God. She knew Him to be holy, set apart, and without peer or comparison. Her God was her rock. The Hebrew word she uses is tsuwr and it refers to a rocky cliff where one can find shelter. For Hannah, God was a refuge and protector from her enemies. No more would she have to suffer ridicule and endure the shame of her barrenness. God had done the impossible for her. And again, while she had handed over her son to Eli, the priest, Hannah didn’t wallow in regret and sadness, she rejoiced. She praised God. She was more than willing to give back to the one who had given to her. God hadn’t just given her a son, He had given her hope, joy, strength, and a new capacity to face the future with confidence. Her God was with her. He heard her. And He answered her when she called. As far as Hannah was concerned, her life and her son were both in good hands, because they were in God’s hands.