Hannah, A Devoted Mother, Day 4

Today’s reading is taken from 1 Samuel 1.

Out of the materialism and ruthlessness of Israel during the period of the judges, Hannah emerged as a woman of faith. From her home in the hills north of Jerusalem, she had traveled to Shiloh, the national place of worship. Her sadness of heart and persistence in prayer contrasted sharply with the prevalent corruption in worship led by Eli’s sons (1Sa 2:12-17).

Hannah’s personal life was one of despair in her childlessness as she recoiled from Peninnah’s pestering reproach. Her prayer exhibits selflessness as she pleads for a son whom she might present to God for his use (1Sa 1:11). Clearly, Hannah was loved and valued for herself by her husband, Elkanah, but even the intensity of a devoted husband’s love could not penetrate her inner disquiet nor overcome her yearning for a child (v. 8). The throbbing emotions of her despair were so evident in Hannah’s prayers that the aged Eli accused her of drunkenness. But beyond her prayers and tears, a vow erupts. Hannah, in effect, makes a pact with God; she pledges to give back to him the precious life he might give to her. God honored her bold and decisive act.

Hannah’s faith is rewarded, and her son is named Samuel (Heb., shemu’el, “Heard by God”) because she “asked the Lord for him” (1Sa 1:20). According to custom, she probably nursed him several years, giving time for her to convey to Samuel her own spirit of deep reverence and piety and also to knit her heart with his through maternal bonding. Nonetheless, she kept her word to the Lord. Into the defiled worship center, she placed her very young, impressionable son. Although humanly it seemed to border on foolishness, this was an act of saintly sacrifice. Her commitment was to God; her gift was prearranged with him. With prophetic insight, she planted the next generation just as promised.

Samuel grew up to become the last judge, an outstanding and gifted prophet and the one who would anoint the first two kings of Israel. Samuel was the pivotal spiritual leader who turned the nation toward Yahweh. His mother Hannah played her part in this spiritual awakening as she trusted God, leaving for all posterity an example of determined devotion in her motherhood.

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Doctrine: Atonement; God’s Forgiveness, Day 2

Today’s reading is drawn from Leviticus 6:6-7 and Leviticus 4:26.

On August 7, 2007, baseball slugger Barry Bonds hit career home run number 756, the home run that broke Hank Aaron’s record. However, many questioned whether or not the new record should count because Bonds was alleged to have used steroids. Sports buffs said if his name is listed in the record book, it should be accompanied by an asterisk to indicate that the record is a sort-of record, a tainted record. In 2008 Mark Ecko, the man who bought the ball Bonds hit to set the record, branded the baseball with an asterisk and donated it to the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. It’s not unusual for Christians to imagine we have an asterisk by our name. We may be destined for that Hall of Fame called heaven, but aware that our lives our tainted, we’re left with a sour taste in our souls. We’re grateful to enjoy eternal life with God, but we wish there wasn’t that sense of being tainted. The gospel is hard to believe at just this point, but it is nonetheless the great truth. There is no longer a need for sin offerings. The forgiveness we are offered through Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t just make our sin null and void, it also erases the asterisk. God doesn’t see a fixed sinner, but someone righteous and pristine. We are in Christ, and Christ is in us. We are a new creation. The old has passed away — so much so that there is no need for an asterisk — and all things have become new.

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The Marriage and Family Life Reading Plan, Day 12

Today’s reading is drawn from Proverbs 14:26-27.

A Place of Refuge

Would you like your family to exhibit strong courage in this fear-ridden world? Would you like your children to have a place of refuge in the midst of trouble? Would you like them to drink from a fountain of life and be able to escape the death traps that ensnare so many others?

Here is where that kind of courage and character begins, “In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.”

To fear God means that you practice the presence of God in the midst of everyday choices. This means that if you are to teach your children to fear God, then you must choose to live a life that seeks to please Him in all respects. If you have the fear of the Lord, then you can infect your children with the same life-giving disease.

Those who fear the Lord apply the Scriptures to effectively meet whatever challenges come their way. They aren’t perfect, but as they depend on God for strength, they will find that His power can equip them to meet every challenge they face. This is why the fear of the Lord is described as the beginning of wisdom—godly skill in everyday living.

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Gaither Homecoming: Stories Behind Popular Hymns, Day 12

Today’s reading is drawn from Hebrews 4:3 and Hebrews 3:18.

My Faith Has Found a Resting Place

Life today can sometimes seem like the Israelites’ wandering in the wilderness: journeying to a destination yet unseen, decades of pain and loss, witnessing God’s provision time and again, only to fall into despair and unbelief and sin over and over. The truly miserable part is that if only the Israelites had stuck to the truth—that God had freed them, that He had continued to provide for them, that He prepared a wonderful home for them—rather than become shortsighted and doubt Him, they would have known peace. They would have entered His rest. Instead, “And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:18).

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There were a few Israelites who did believe, who trusted God with their lives no matter the circumstances, and they had the privilege of leading the next generation into the Promised Land. And He offers His rest to us as well, if only we would believe: “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:1-3).

Eliza E. Hewitt knew all about needing a resting place. In her early adulthood she suffered an injury that would leave her bedridden for nearly the rest of her life. As she struggled with spinal problems, spending so many days in extreme pain and discomfort, rather than wallowing in self-pity and giving in to discouragement, she spent her time in bed writing songs of praise. Hewitt grew to understand the significance and longing for peace and that true rest comes only from one Source. The truth affirmed in her song “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place” proved to be an encouragement to Hewitt, to her loved ones, and still to believers today.

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