Bargaining With God

Life Notes—November 12, 2009 

“She made this vow: ‘O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death…’” 1 Samuel 1:11                                   

This is the story of Hannah, one of the wives of Elkanah.  Hannah had suffered much humiliation from Peninnah, another of Elkanah’s wives, for her apparent inability to have a child.  Deeply distressed, Hannah goes to the temple and weeps and prays the vow quoted above, and some time later gives birth to Samuel. 

Have you ever tried to cut a bargain with God?  If God will do this for you, then you promise to do something for God?  I know I have dabbled with this tactic, with little or no success.  I was 14 when my father collapsed on the bathroom floor early one Saturday morning.  As the ambulance transported him, unconscious, to the hospital I remember praying passionately that if only God would let my father live, I would live an upright life of service to God, perhaps as a minister—I don’t remember the details, but I do remember being willing to barter whatever I had for the life of my dad.  My mother arrived home from the hospital a short time later to announce he was dead on arrival. 

As a young adult I prayed fervently to God to arrange a hermit-like life for me, in return for which I would dedicate myself to study and worship.  God was eventually faithful with the divine side of this bargain, I was much less so with my follow through.  Actually, when I think of bargaining with God I remember Jesus as he was being crucified asking for ‘this cup’ to be taken from him.  But then, Jesus uttered the words that come so hard for us, “…not my will, but thine be done.”  The fact is we do not have the wisdom or the perspective to know what path is best for us.  Only God has that knowledge.  The way of the hermit was not for me.  Through my stubborn persistence that opportunity was granted, perhaps only to teach me how little I really knew about what path was best for me.  Through Hannah’s desperate pleading, a great King was born and lived a life of service consecrated to the Lord.  Me, I don’t try to bargain so much with God, anymore.  If I have gained any wisdom in my years, hopefully it is wisdom of the vastness of my ignorance. Sometimes, the best we can do is to make our wishes known, then trust in God’s wisdom for us. 

This Sunday Tom’s sermon is “Listen to the Lord.”  The scripture passage from 1 Samuel 1: 14-20.  Life Worship begins at 10:45 in Brady Hall.  Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Contemporary worship begins at 9:30 at the west campus. 

Come home to worship this Sunday!  No negotiating, just come and be…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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