The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord‘s, and on them he has set the world. – 1 Samuel 2:6-8 ESV
1 Samuel 2:1-10
The world can be a very frustrating place to live – especially if you are a Christian. We say we believe in a God who is all-knowing, all-powerful and sovereign over all. We claim that He is creator of the universe and that He has full control over everyone and everything. And yet, when we look around, so much of what we see seems out of control. There is sickness and evil everywhere. Floods, famines, wars and injustice of all kinds are taking place all around us. From our perspective it can feel like the crazies are running the asylum. But Hannah’s prayer reminds us that we must have a much more biblical view of God. It is dangerous to attempt to assess God’s character based solely on what we can see. A glance around our planet can easily leave one with the mistaken impression that God is ether indifferent or incapable of doing anything about the injustices taking place. It would be easy to assume that God either lacked the power or the initiative to remedy the problems of the world. But that is where the Bible comes in. It contains a history of God’s interactions with mankind, from the beginning of the world. It shows us just how God operates behind the scenes accomplishing His divine will. In it we read story after story of God’s relationship with His creation, as He sovereignly orchestrates affairs, sometimes blatantly and, at other times, secretly.
The Bible would have us remember that God is in control. It does not matter what we think, believe, see or feel. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (Proverbs 19:2 ESV). “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples” (Psalm 33:10 ESV). “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 ESV). “For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27 ESV). Even God Himself said, “Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish” (Isaiah 46:10 NLT). The Bible reveals to us the sovereignty of God through the lives of the individuals found on its pages. So much of what we read in the Bible seems unjust and unfair. We read of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. Then we watch as time after time this seemingly unlucky young man finds himself facing setback after setback. He appears to have the worst luck in the world. But the story is less about Joseph than it is about God, who is working behind the scenes, orchestrating every aspect of Joseph’s life in order to accomplish His sovereign will regarding the people of Israel. When we read the story to the end, we realize that God was in control all the time. He had planned every aspect of Joseph’s life in order to put him in place to provide a safe place for His people to live during the coming famine. Even Joseph recognized the hand of God on his life. He was even able to tell his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20 ESV).
Hannah had suffered and struggled with her barrenness. There had to have been times when she wondered where God was in all of this. She had to have had moments of doubt when she questioned God’s care for her. But ultimately, she took her concern to God, because she knew He was the only one who could do anything about it. And she learned that God was in control. He has control over everything from the barren womb to who reigns in the throne room. He lifts up and Her brings down. He humbles and He exalts. He gives life and He takes it away. And while this view of God may make us uncomfortable and raise all kinds of ethical and theological questions, it is the key to understanding the world in which we live. There are those who find this view distasteful and unsatisfactory. They say it paints God as some kind of an evil ogre who sits in heaven wreaking havoc on mankind, indiscriminately taking life and allowing injustice to take place. Their conclusion seems to be that if God puts all kings on their thrones, then He must be held responsible for all the tyrants, dictators and corrupt despots who bring pain and suffering on so many. The question is really whether God causes evil, and the answer is no. All that God does is just and right. He is holy and righteous. He can do no wrong. He can commit no evil. But evil exists because sin entered into the world He had made. Man rebelled against God and the result has been a steady increase in sin, to the point where all looks lost and the world seems to be spinning out of control. But we must remember that God is in control. He is behind the scenes working His divine plan in ways we cannot see or comprehend. What we see with our eyes may not make sense to us. It may seem unfair and unjust. But we must always remember that our God is loving, just, merciful, gracious and sovereignly working His plan – for our good and His own glory.
God is in control. We must believe that truth. He is not done yet. He has a plan and He is working that plan to perfection. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by what we see. The Bible tells us that God has a plan in place and that He is working out that plan. He has an end in sight. He has a future resolution for all pain, suffering, injustice and sin. We must give God time to do what He has planned to do, and trust that He really does have the whole world in His hands.