Part 3: Samuel

Growing up, I was afraid of God’s voice. I feared He would tell me something I didn’t want to hear. And then I’d have to do it. And not talking to Him was easier, right?

Oh, how Satan would love for us to stay as far away from God as possible.

But the closer I got to God, the more I realized that He doesn’t speak with the voice of fear or a wagging finger. But to discern how to hear God’s voice, we have to sit next to him so we can hear it often.

When you get close to someone you learn all about them: their likes, dislikes, and what makes their heart beat. If we’re not close enough to someone, we might mistake their voice for someone else’s. Or even worse, mistake God’s voice for man’s voice.

Remember Hannah from part one? Her son, Samuel, became a great example of listening to God’s voice.

He was staying in Eli’s house. The Lord called Samuel three times! Samuel repeatedly thought it was Eli who called him. Finally, Eli tells Samuel to say, “Speak, Lord, I’m listening” (1 Samuel 3:9). And he does just that.

I love that God always gets our attention even when we’re not looking for Him to speak. Even when we mistake God’s voice for man’s voice (often today in the form of opinions), He still seeks our attention.

Just like you and I, Samuel needed practice hearing God’s voice. Knowing about God, and knowing his voice are different. It is never too late to learn this distinction.

We can simply quiet the noise and let Him know we are listening; He meets us in that space.

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Part 2: David

If you want to follow along, you can read 1 Samuel 17

The Philistines stood on one side of the mountain, and the Israelites gathered on the other. With one valley between the two crowds stood a nine foot Philistine for the Israelites to conquer. They were terrified.

The fear stands out on the Israelites’ faces. David comes forth, volunteering to fight. I can imagine the confused looks when this scrawny boy steps up. Saul tells David he’s “just a youth” and that Goliath has been a man of war since he was young.

David tells Saul about the times he tended the sheep, and how he would fight off the lions that tried to attack the sheep. David killed the lions, and he could kill Goliath in battle.

With confidence, David explains to Saul that the Lord will be with the Israelites. Saul allows David to represent the Israelites in battle, and David even takes off his armor because he’s not used to it.

I can imagine the Israelites’ fear and rage at David taking off his only security. This is a boxing match (so to speak) with a young boy against a nine foot reigning champion. This scene is as good as grade school dodgeball when you’re depending on the littlest guy to catch the ball to save the rest of the team. David really has his odds stacked against him.

But he remains confident. He strips himself of armor and shows up against Goliath with a couple of rocks. Bold. And probably comical to the Philistines. Of course, we know David flings his rocks to hit Goliath in the face and kill him. But David teaches us more than just how to defeat someone double your size.

David teaches us how to trust God for fighting his battles.

David says with confidence, “For the battle is the LORD’S, and he will give you into our hand.”

I want to face my battles this way. All too often, I raise my skeptical eyebrow at God. I question whether he can really perform a miracle for me, or if he just saved them for everyone else. And if you find yourself there, you’re not alone. A crowd of Israelites shared this same doubt. Thank goodness for David who decided to trust God rather than partner with the Israelites’ fear. Faith in God’s hand is more powerful than the strongest man or glossiest armor.

David also teaches us that God prepares you in the quiet to fight battles in public.

When we see God’s hand in the quiet place with him, we can trust his hand in the big things. This quiet place is where God reveals himself.

You see, David explains that he knows how to fight Goliath because he spent his time tending sheep. He spent time fighting and killing the lions that preyed. Isn’t it amazing that God used David’s time watching sheep, of all things, to prepare him for saving the Israelites?

What’s in front of you might seem insignificant, but we can TRUST that God has a plan in mind. God is good at using the small thing in front of you to prepare you for the big you can’t see yet.

We might take the small, seemingly insignificant things more seriously if we trust that God will use all of it! What a difference it would have made if David complained about his time with the sheep.

When we can see God’s faithfulness in the daily tasks, we approach the next hardest thing with grace and confidence in God. May we be expectant for God to use our “ordinaries” and know it’s all important for seeing God’s hand in our lives.

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Part 1: Hannah

Reading: 1 SAMUEL 1-2

Have you experienced a dead end to a desire you’ve had for a long time? Maybe your expectations led you to where you’re at now, and you’re confused and hurt. You’re not alone here (a common theme in the Bible by the way).

1 Samuel 1 describes a woman named Hannah; as the Bible puts it, her womb was closed up. With a deep yearning for a child, the Bible describes Hannah weeping and praying. Later in the passage she prays for God to remember her. From this one verse, I find that we have a friend in God that we can weep and pray to. That we can just ask that he remembers us in the midst of our tears, frustration, and deep longing. The very nature of his character is listening, caring, and close.

She prays for the gift of a child, and God remembers her. We see his character not just in the way he answers her prayers and gives blessings; his eyes are on us!

God’s character is so evident after reading this passage.

God remembers what we ask for.

1 Samuel 1:19 says it clearly: “…and the Lord remembered her.” This verse is a reminder that God doesn’t forget, that he doesn’t hold out on us, and that he doesn’t ignore us.

She knew God was her safe place.

Verse 10 talks about Hannah weeping bitterly as she prayed. I can feel the intensity of her desires as I imagine her pain-filled tears turn into prayers. I know I have been in a place of longing. Sometimes it has manifested itself in anger, but Hannah models giving her burden to the Lord. Though she is probably tired, and most definitely anxious, she releases it to the Lord on her knees.

She recognized that the Lord gave her this gift.

Verse 27 describes Hannah remembering her weepy prayers, attributing her new baby as God’s answered prayer. She makes this a lifestyle and gives Samuel to the Lord.

I want this authenticity that Hannah had: to let God know I’m sad, and give him glory for what his answer to my prayers is.

-How has God remembered you lately?

-What does it look like to be more authentic with God in this season?

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Day 3: God With Us

Immanuel means “God with us.” You might have known that already, but have you felt it? This simplicity of Jesus’ birth redeemed my thoughts about God four years ago.

On December 23rd, 2014, I heard the garage door open. My parents walked in from the doctor appointment. They sat my sister and I down on the couch and I knew the words before they said them. I could feel the weight of what they were about to tell us.

“Cancer,” my dad said. My mom couldn’t speak, but her tears said enough. To hear that cold word made me angry. How could a good God have this written in the plan? Why did December 23rd have “cancer” on the agenda? I felt tricked and I questioned God. This was the same God my 18 year old self ran to for life’s struggles thus far and nothing lined up about his character in that moment.

At the time I wished this news could’ve waited a few days just so Christmas wasn’t so shaken. We were even going to a Christmas church service that night. If I’m being honest, didn’t want to hear about sweet baby Jesus coming and I didn’t want to sing about God’s goodness. I wanted God to fix it. I wanted my happy life back. I had a choice: to invite Jesus into my pain or wallow in self-pity.

My heart began to open up.

More than fixing my situation, I felt him with me. He met my tears with peace, with thankfulness, and with comfort. This was a peace that went quite literally beyond my understanding (Phil. 4:7). And come to think of it, Jesus was birthed when the world was desperate. I was desperate on December 23rd. But he came. He loved us so much that he came to be with us not just in a moment of grief, but for eternity.

God taught me so much about himself on that winter night. He showed me that his name wasn’t just another fancy word; it’s his character. It’s a sort of promise of never leaving or forsaking us, even when life doesn’t look like we thought it would. Immanuel means that when the ground beneath my feet goes unleveled, I have someone to hold onto. He doesn’t shake with me; he holds me steady. This baby is the same Jesus that spoke to wavy waters and they stood still.

I’m thankful God sent Jesus to be with us. God saw a hurting world and sent his son, who would pay for our sins on the cross. All of this just to be with us.

It doesn’t take tragedy to feel God’s presence with you. In fact, if you have breath in your lungs he is with you.

Four years later, I’m happy to remind you he never changes. Thank goodness he came. Thank goodness he’s still with us.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. -Isaiah 7:14

For to us a child is born,
   to us a son is given,
   and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
   Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. -Isaiah 9:6

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Day 2: Our Redeemer

Redemption: the currency God uses to restore broken things.

This redemption story of Jesus’ arrival finds me marveled at his knack for restoration. I’m reminded of where our story fits into his. What we cheapened with sin, he restores with his love. From the fall with Adam and Eve, Noah building the ark, and the Israelites’ rebellion, God has been restoring his perfect plan. When Adam and Eve sinned, God gave them new clothes rather than the leaves they tried to cover up with. Though the earth mocked God’s perfection with its sin, God kept Noah and his family safe so His plans to restore the earth would flourish. God still made a way out of the wilderness for the Israelites when they complained their journey out. And when this wasn’t enough, Jesus came to restore us back to relationship with God the Father. What we mess up, God has plans to fix.

In my own reading of the She Reads Truth Advent study, I read Exodus 16:1-12 and John 6:22-40 together, and in a brand new way. God showed me how he uses bread both to satisfy hunger and save his people forever.

I challenge you to thoroughly read these verses, even if it means reading in more than one sitting. Allow God to speak to you about who he is.

The Israelites’ rebellion makes Jesus’ redemption a little sweeter. This was a group of people that complained their way through God’s provision and liberation. And yet God saw that they needed another way closer to him.

Verse two explains that the Israelites “grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.” After God has freed and delivered them from bondage under the leadership of Moses, they groan, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full…”

Haven’t we all been here? These Israelites were complaining, even to the point of wanting their bondage back just so they could have their temporary fill of food. I know, they were truly hungry. But how often does our focus dwindle to what’s right in front of us? How often do we fail to look at what God is doing in the grand scheme of our journey that we start wishing we had it our messy way instead?

I am so glad God doesn’t answer our wishes like that. If they only knew that he would deliver mankind much different than merely filling them with the food they wanted.

And even in their complaining, God sends bread from heaven. Bread was exactly what they needed at the time. God saw they were hungry and he sent food.

Fast forward to the New Testament when Jesus is teaching in John 6:22-40. In verses 32-15 Jesus refers to this very segment in Exodus:

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

God saw the hunger of his people again and provided Jesus, who is the true bread of life. You could say that the bread from heaven to the Israelites was a foreshadowing of what God would do again for his desperate people–for us! God provided Jesus, who is our everlasting fill of life. We no longer have to reach for unsatisfying food that perishes, but we can reach for Jesus to sustain our hearts. He redeemed his people with Jesus; when we abide in him, we never need anything else. This closeness to God through Jesus is his gift to us.

My prayer is that we recognize Jesus this Christmas. I want to recognize his redemption in my personal life and to his people across generations of failing, complaining, and bondage. He still desires to be our fulfillment even in our trivial complaining.

God always uses mistakes for the beauty of his best plan; he’s always restoring us back to closeness with him. Because of his faithful restoration again and again, we can trust him with the next steps.

I’m thankful for this side of history, where I can remember that Jesus came for us to meet our heart’s deepest cry.

Jesus, Help me to look for you today. Help me to see you, even when I’m tempted to complain. Thank you that you see me and you hear me amidst those temptations. Thank you for your restoration, and thank you for making it possible to be fulfilled by you today.

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Day 1: Thanks for Coming

Advent is a time marked by expectation of Jesus’ arrival. Every year, I pray that Jesus would reveal himself to me in a new way. Growing up in church, I’ve heard the story, seen it reenacted in the plays, and have done the routine. But Jesus’ arrival was not routine. I want to take time to expect Jesus. His birth means that I can tell a story of redemption and point our messy lives back to him. His arrival means that we can have peace, joy, and freedom. 

People heard the prophecies of the Messiah; they were just waiting indefinitely for this Savior to come. And wouldn’t you think a king would make an extravagant entrance? With all the power in the world, God chose to send a baby. How confused these people must have been that God sent a baby to be the answer to a dreary world. But maybe there’s power in the intimacy a baby brings. A king with a grand entrance stops the show, but a baby has to be seen and heard. Maybe the world had enough kings and grand entrances that a baby seemed like the best way to turn heads. You have to bend down to really take notice. And was this not the point of Jesus’ coming anyway? Just to be close to us. 

I think of the ones who didn’t expect a baby to save the world. I think of the ones who turned Mary and Joseph away. How they turned Heaven away because it was inconvenient and they couldn’t make room. How could they expect the Messiah to be born among animals in a condition more humble than ours? How could they expect this baby to save them? How could a promise this deep be fulfilled on a night like this? 

His arrival meant something for mankind as a whole, but it also means something for you and I as individuals. 

Lately, have you found yourself waiting for anything? Have you found yourself worn out from looking for answers? What if you and I waited in expectation together, knowing that God has already fulfilled his promise to be with us through Jesus Christ. 

I think waiting on God will be different if we change our doubt to expectation. If nothing else, just to experience Jesus waiting with us. Walking with us.

When Jesus shows up for you, will you see him? Will you see him in the mess, and will you let him in? 

Though it may be inconvenient, invasive, or unorganized, may we let his arrival change us this Christmas season. 

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. -John 16:33

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16

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