Key verse: 1 Samuel 1:23
Big idea: God rules over the big and small things in our lives.
In a study like this one, trying to summarize all 920 chapters of the Old Testament in 260 chapters, going through all four chapters of a book like Ruth is time that I will have to make up down the road. But after spending so much time in the dark and depressing book of Judges, hopefully you can excuse the desire to find a bright spot. Today's chapter takes up a similar path, but a few years later. It begins sadly, but unlike the book of Judges does not deal with tragedy of national or regional significance. Rather there is a man who has two wives, one who has not been able to have children and one who has, and rubs the first one's nose in it. We find a tender husband (bigamy notwithstanding), a broken heart, and a rivalry. It is a good reminder that God is working in the big, dramatic pain, and the pain unseen by everyone else.
Hannah, the wife with no children, poured out her heart before God with such intensity that the priest thought she was drunk and reprimanded her. But she was simply broken in the presence of her Lord, begging for a child who she could send to serve Him. Hannah undoubtedly knew that God was dealing in the mess of her country, but also believed that He knew and cared about her own broken heart. If you take the time to read chapter 2, you will see that she did not really draw a sharp line between the two: God works big things through small people.
Her rival mocked her, the high priest questioned her, but God heard her. Isn't that good news for us? God is always working, no matter what anyone else thinks. He works in ways that seem to be small to us, but as in the case of Samuel, those small hinges often open great doors.
Discussion idea: What is an answered prayer in your life that might have seemed small to others but which had a big impact?
Prayer focus: Thank God for His attention to small details and sovereignty in the big picture.
Key Verse: Acts 19:27
Big Idea: When the message of the Church of Jesus is accepted, it changes everything.
My daughter got a blanket when she was a baby which has become one of her closest companions. In the last four years, it has gone from pink and white to grayish pink and gray. When we tried to swap it out for a new one with the same design, she smelled the new one and said that it was not her blankey (and not because we have not washed the old one, I promise). She has her comfort zone. The failure of Kodak is a classic business parable. The company that once dominated the photography industry is now a shadow of its former self. Although they invented the digital camera, they still bet big on chemical film and watched the world they had once shaped leave them behind. Of course, we are all guilty of loving our routine, sometimes to our own detriment. I may think it is cute how my kid cannot go to bed without their favorite blanket, but maybe I am not that different.
How many churches have considered the discomfort of change sharper than the pain of failing to carry out the Great Commission? How many marriages have collapsed because divorce seemed less frightening than living in a different way? We rarely think in those terms, but we sure live in them. Hating change is natural, but futile. If you work for a company and a new boss comes in, there will be change. When a new President is elected, there is change. In the ancient world, a king had much more power and a change of leader could have even more drastic consequences. What should we expect if we really recognize that Jesus is Lord? With such a drastic new regime, there will be a change! But the very thought of change is sometimes too intimidating for the benefits to ever be considered. Surely this was the case in Ephesus. Their business, their culture, and their civic pride were built on the cult of Artemis (Diana). To accept Jesus as Lord, whether He was or not, would painfully upend all of these institutions, and that is what the assembly could not tolerate. So, in a town hall meeting which nearly descended into a mob, Paul was forced to leave. The fear of temporary change kept them from receiving the good news that would change their eternal destiny.
For many who reject the gospel today, I think the same factors are at play. They will not ever really hear the good news because if it is true, the price is too high. Many things will be different if Jesus reigns. We cannot make it easy for them to take up their cross and follow Him, but may the cost of the change necessary to let them know never be too high for us.
Discussion Idea: Do we fear disobeying God or changing our circumstances more? Is the answer the same for every area of life?
Prayer Focus: Reflect on the idea that God alone is the unchanging, eternal constant, and pray that we would find our stability in that anchor, rather than our circumstances.