Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Since this site is still high trafficked.

I am going to duplicate my posts on the Isaiah 54 Bible Study here. I am so glad you ladies are still here!
This was posted to GirlfriendsGospel.Wordpress.com:

it has been a while since I have written and committed to getting this new Bible Study kicked off. I've received several chastising emails regarding this. And, listen, I am duly chastised. *smile

So, onward...to Isaiah 54 and our first Biblical Sister Hannah.

There is so much packed into these verses that it might well take me all week to get this truly written out. I am moving out talkcast to Tuesday. So, if you are able, I will be recording the podcast/talkcast Tuesday evenings. I'll republish it on Wednesday for those who are unable to participate. Again, I can maybe fit in a lunch time talk cast if that would work for any of you, just let me know.

We are going to begin with Isaiah 54. I've explained before that I read EVERYTHING as such, I read many different versions of the Holy Bible. At times, one version will speak to me more emphatically than another. In the case of Isaiah 54, there is a footnote that I really want to highlight for you.

Isaiah 54:1 Although this chapter is primarily intended to express Zion's joy over redemption, it has also a very personal, long-neglected, and often overlooked message for women--the lonely, the disappointed, the childless, the widow. It has all the glorious confidence and assurance, the incentive and understanding, for which feminine hearts have longed throughout the ages! Every woman who will read it every week for a year with receptive heart and mind will find herself not only spiritually prepared for her own childlessness or widowhood, should it come, but also supplied with rich treasure with which to address the similar needs of countless other aching hearts to whom the Holy Spirit is here speaking.
--The Amplified Bible

I am going to say again, to the feminine naysayers that the Holy Bible is chauvenistic because men have altered it, etc...YES! resoundingly I agree. But, don't you just love a God who would not allow men to alter His word to such a degree--especially when altered with nefarious intentions--that His word, His intention would clouded to return void. In just one short year, I've been able to introduce you to many positive reflections of womanhood collected in God's word, and Isaiah 54 is just on of many examples that God has a very special and unique place for women in His/Her heart. We can not say we are made in HIS image, without recognizing that "His" image MUST BY HIS WORD reflect "Her." (If this is a new and revolutionary thought for you, Selah. Stop and think)

I am going to start and stop at verse 1 today:

SING, O barren one, you who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who did not travail with child! For the [spiritual] children of the desolate one will be more than the children of the married wife, says the Lord.

Ladies, each time I read this verse, I tear up. So, while i am typing through blurred tears, bear with me while I unpack this simple but profound verse.

We are in the times of last days where women, having been beat down and oppressed for many generations, believe that taking ownership of ones self and one's sexuality includes sharing men. That we can play the games that men can play. I'm not going to address this behavior ( I rarely do address behavior because I do not think the Christ himself does. He attacks the heart that causes this behavior!) Instead, I a want to appeal to the emptiness we feel inside when we are not married and have never given birth. This verse for me reinforces that we are not all called to marriage and children. If we are not all called to marriage and children, and yet that is what our traditional and conservative cultures tell us makes us women, how are we to find meaning and completion in our lives? Because the spiritual children you birth--the mission that God has for you life--will be meaningful, robust, and fulfilling. But before we can get to that point in our life where we are trusting and loving what God has for us, we have to see him as the LOVER IN OUR LIFE.

What we crave from another is deep, abiding, and intimate connection with another. This is what drives us into relationships. Only, human relationships are doomed with human frailty. We cheat. We lie. We fail. We have "stuff". Our human connections, although important and germane to living a healthy spiritual life, must be kept in perspective and must not rise above the necessity to have God's deep, abiding, initmate --and UNFAILING--connection in our life. At times, our desire for human connection will negatively impact the connection we have to God. God is a jealous God...but He is also one of infinitely love and understanding. He will give you the desires of your heart...just watch out, Ye Woman of FreeWill...all that glitters is not Gold. And your significant other is not God. They can not fulfill you.

Enter, My Girl Hannah. Her verses can be found in 1 Samuel 1. I am not going to put all of them in this post. But, please read the story in its entirety.

In short, Hannah was the first and primary wife to a very affluent, religious and loving husband, Elkahnah. Because Elkahnah needed offspring he took on second wife Peninah who was prolific in her ability to provide children. Aside from the second wife, which was culturally acceptable at the time ( just as women sharing men is today! Don't lose the significance here, girls!), we would all want to marry Elkanah. He treats Hannah wonderfully. But she is vexed. Why?

Because Hannah has something in her that she needs to give birth too, and she is frustrated by her inability to birth it on her own. Furthermore, her failure to give birth is continually highlighted and jeered at by her current living situation--by her surroundings. Hannah has a very intimate relationship with God, however.

Do you realize that when you have an intimate relationship with God, you do not get everything when you want it. I HATE when pop preachers tell you that God is magic and all you need to do is wish it and he will deliver. My God is not a pimp who gives me things to conjole me and then withholds things to punish me. That, my dear girls, is a manmade manifestation of relationship. If God is truly my lover, and he has control over certain things that affect my life, while giving me room to control personal aspects of my own life (read FREEWILL here), then He will only give what is good for me, and can help to further perfect me.

That being said, Hannah had a right to be upset with God. And instead of taking it out on everyone else, which would have been a breach of initmacy. Hannah took it to God. Lets take a glimpse into her private handling of her situation:

Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8 Elkanah her husband would say to her, "Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don't you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?"

Peninah irriated her because of her own bitterness (another lesson, I am staying on task with Hannah). But, I want you to see Elkanah. In all of his love for her, he thought he should be enough for Hannah. Hannah understood intimacy based on her relationship with God. Could she not have said back to him and Peninah, "you, oh so religious man, lack faith to know that God will provide son's for us? did you have to bring her into this house?" The reason Hannah was downcast was because she still knows and understands who her God is. And she understand that what she is to conceive is to be the will of God--the Lover of her Life. She is restless with anticipation..and confused.

9 Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the LORD's temple. [b] 10 In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. 11 And she made a vow, saying, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head."

I want you to see, she did not respond back to either Peninah or Elkahnah. Her issue was not with them. It was with the LORD Almighty. So, she went to him.

12 As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, "How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine." 15 "Not so, my lord," Hannah replied, "I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief."

When you accept intimacy with God...many will not understand you or it. It will seem a little "crazy" achieving intimacy with an unseeing God. Oddly enough, as humans, we find intimacy with Satan much less crazy. Gluttony, Selfishness, Bondage, Fickleness, those are all ways to worship Satan, and yet we do this with out even flinching. Gluttony is the opposite of the Offering. Selfishness is the opposite of love your neighbor, so forth and so on. Hannah who was a worshipper and lover to God brought to Him and Him only her sorrows and grief. She did not look for a worldly substitute in even her husband. She did not turn to food or drink for comfort. She simply took her grief to God.

17 Eli answered, "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him."

18 She said, "May your servant find favor in your eyes." Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.

I love this last line...Then, she went her way and ate something...When she received confirmation from the Lord, remember Eli is still doubtful, so he simply confirmed with a maybe what God must have already been saying to her. She went about preparing for God's word to be made manifest in her life. She began preparing for the pregnancy that must follow the conception of the mission she received so many years ago. And many of you can relate to staying in the conception realm. But, she ate...like a pregnant woman must eat to feed her baby...so we must prepare for and nurture the arrival of our own mission--our own spiritual children.

I will get to it...I promise...but I want to say it now. Hannah is one of the major prophets during this timeframe. I suggest what she was pregnant with, was not just Samuel...it was God's mission in her own life that she would give birth to samuel, and rise a prophet herself due to her committment and faith and intimacy with God during the conception, incubation, and pregnacy YEARS of her life.

And so I leave you with her prayer:

Hannah's Prayer

1 Then Hannah prayed and said:
"My heart rejoices in the LORD;
in the LORD my horn [a] is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.

2 "There is no one holy [b] like the LORD;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.

3 "Do not keep talking so proudly
or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the LORD is a God who knows,
and by him deeds are weighed.

4 "The bows of the warriors are broken,
but those who stumbled are armed with strength.

5 Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
but those who were hungry hunger no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
but she who has had many sons pines away.

6 "The LORD brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave [c] and raises up.

7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth;
he humbles and he exalts.

8 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.
"For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's;
upon them he has set the world.

9 He will guard the feet of his saints,
but the wicked will be silenced in darkness.
"It is not by strength that one prevails;

10 those who oppose the LORD will be shattered.
He will thunder against them from heaven;
the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.
"He will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed."

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