St Phils Editorial – 23rd June 2019

This week we return again to the Ancient Near East of nearly 3000 years ago.  We return to a time when Israel and the Philistines were locked in an ebbing and floing  struggle.  Last week we read of Samuel being brought onto the scene by God.  This week we see the Israelites seemingly trying to take things into their own hands.  After a defeat to the Philistines, the elders of Israel ask “Why did the Lord bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that it may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.” (1 Sam 4:3)

On the surface, this seems to be quite a rational and logical thought.  If God is with us then of course we will gain victory!  … Or so they thought. To much fanfare and excitement, the ark of the covenant of the Lord Almighty enters their camp.  And in spite of their thinking that God would win for them, the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tents (1 Sam 4:10). 30, 000 foot soldiers were lost, the ark of God was captured and Eli’s sons died.

Why?  If we have learnt anything so far, it is that God is sovereign over the entire universe.  His plans cannot be thwarted and God cannot be contained.  When the Israelites thought of bringing the ark into battle, they were conceiving of God as a lucky amulet or attempting to manipulate God by thinking that “He would not let the ark be captured!”  But God cannot be confined to our human purposes and desires.  God cannot be told how he will display his power and glory.  The Creator is not manipulated nor cow-tows to his creation.  And mankind has always struggled with this concept.  For that is how they treated our Lord Jesus – saw him as weak and pathetic; rejected the way that God was going to save the world; demanded God to work in ways that might impress us.  But God is God and we are not.  As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him (Psalm 18:30).

And so the message of 1 Samuel 4 to us is the same – give God the honor and respect that is due to Him, continue trusting and be obedient to him and his plans all the days of our life.

St Phils Editorial – 16th June 2019

As we continue our series in the Books of Samuel, we again look at the theme of power.  Hannah was the epitome of powerlessness. In the world’s eyes, she was nothing and would never achieve anything. In the world’s eyes she should learn her place, stay out of the way and stay silent. In the world’s eyes, you be lowly and you may have been oppressed and silenced. But Hannah found strength in God alone, and so can you.

In the last verse of her song, she points us to the messiah. She says, 2:10 “He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

In the gospel, we have our messiah who suffered the greatest humiliation of death on the cross. But as Hannah’s story anticipates, God gave strength to Jesus and exalted him by raising him up from the grave and giving him the name that is above all names.

Hannah and Jesus’ story testify to God’s faithfulness to his people.

  1. SO, trust God completely, as Hannah teaches us – find our strength in God. She reminds us that He is our Rock, our Creator, the one who knows all and judges fairly.
  2. And in light of God’s judgment, Hannah advises us to keep check on our pride. Boasting is basically the opposite of trusting. It’s in what we do ourselves rather than a humble reliance upon God to provide. Hannah reminds us 2:3“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.”
  3. Finally, the way to avoid talking proudly is to praise God constantly – when Hannah finds strength in God, she went from silence to publicly praising God. I hope we would be like Hannah, that we might tell others without fear of our God’s great character, of incredible saving act of Jesus and of our awesome king who is not only our king, but the king of the whole world.

St Phils Editorial – 9th June 2019

In our modern secularist society, we’ve manage to push God into a dark corner which is conveniently far from where we’d like to live our lives. We say God’s domain is over our spiritual needs and no more. Even for us Christians, we believe in Jesus in order to be saved but the day-to-day reality shows God has no place in other areas of our lives: not in our work, leisure, politics, finance, education. What the whole Israel Folau saga has highlighted is precisely this point: in todays world, faith must remain private. We’re told that sports, work, politics are not the domain of God.

In some ways, it kind of make sense, doesn’t it? Back in 1000 BC, people relied on God for healing, food, protection, social order. Now, we rely on our human ingenuity – in medicine, food production, our management skills, economics, technology, government. In Hannah’s time, people took great long trips to the temple each year and every day had to offer sacrifices for everything; nowadays, for many Christians, even church is not a sacrifice worth making.

But 1-2 Samuel reminds us that God is sovereign.

In 1v5-6, twice it says: the Lord had closed her womb.; in v19-20, “… the Lord remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah conceived”

In Hannah’s song, hunger and satisfaction, defeat and victory, poverty and wealth, death and life, are all attributed to God. The God of the OT remains the same God of the NT who remains the same God for us. We might be able to explain the science behind Hannah’s barrenness and her conception, just as we might be able to explain how the oxygen exchange from the air into our bloodstream keeps us alive. But if can’t recognize God’s hands in the provision of life, then our pride and presumption will spell our end.


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