And Hannah said: ‘My heart rejoices in the Lord! He has strengthened me. I smile at my enemies, because I’m full of joy in Your salvation.’ (1 Samuel 2:1)
Hannah was a barren woman who couldn’t have children, which was seen as a curse from the Lord back then. When she, her husband Elkanah, and his other wife Peninnah would go to the Tabernacle every year, Peninnah would taunt and make fun of Hannah until she broke down in tears and couldn’t eat (‘cus ya know, that isn’t cruel or anything). Long story short, the Lord heard her sorrow and cries for a son, and soon caused her to give birth to the prophet Samuel, an immensely important figure in Israel’s history! In response, Hannah praises God, and rejoices in His grace and love for her. We see this pattern repeated in two other women God chose to be incredibly blessed in bringing His plans to pass, Elizabeth and Mary.
Elizabeth, again barren and not able to have children, and her husband Zacharias were chosen to be the parents of John the Baptist, who would be the Forerunner and Prophet of the coming Messiah, despite their old age! And Mary, obviously, was the young, virgin woman God chose to be the mother of the Lord, Jesus Christ! When both Elizabeth and Mary discovered they had been chosen by God for such amazing places in God’s plan for humanity, they praised Him, and rejoiced in the grace and greatness of God their Savior!
In instances like Hannah, Elizabeth and Mary’s, it’s easy to rejoice in the Lord and praise Him. But the prophet Habakuk, the psalmist Asaph, and the apostle Paul show us what it looks like to rejoice in the Lord and trust Him at all times.
- Habakuk (the little book in the Bible that I’m sure everyone reads) was struggling with the question of how he could believe God was just and good when the world they lived in was full of so much evil and injustice. The answer God gives Him is simple: “the just shall live by faith” (2:4) So, by the end of it all, Habakuk comes to the conclusion that, no matter what bad things may happen around him, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakuk 3:18)
- Asaph, in Psalm 83, is crying out to the Lord to save Israel from the nations planning a coupe against them. Even when surrounded by enemies, Asaph has faith in God to come to their rescue, and praises Him as the Most High over all the Earth!
- Paul tells the Philippian church to rejoice at all times, no matter what they go through, even though he’s writing this letter from prison! He tells them how he can endure any suffering and worship through any situation because Jesus gives him the strength to, and how he’s learned to have joy in his pain because he’s sharing in the sufferings of Christ.
So we have examples like Hannah, Elizabeth and Mary, who teach us to praise God and be joyful in Him when blessing and grace fill our lives, and examples like Habakuk, Asaph, and Paul, who teach us to worship and be joyful in Him when things suck or don’t make sense. But we also have Zacharias, who’s the most like us. When the promise of a son comes to him and Elizabeth, he doubts this Divine good news altogether, and doesn’t rejoice at all, leading to him being rebuked and corrected. He not only had an opportunity to rejoice at this good news of blessing in his life, but an opportunity to rejoice and trust God despite the sorrow of being childless as well, but did neither. Zacharias needed to learn to trust the Lord despite the way things seemed, and be joyful in Him.
- This word spoke to me this morning, because the Spirit was calling me to stop doubting the promises He’s given to me, and instead choose joy and faith in the God who saved me from my sin and gave me a place in His Kingdom! We always have a reason to have joy in Jesus, the Cross, the resurrection, and the Gospel! Choose joy today, disciples, the joy that no one can take from you. (John 16:22)
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)