"And her (Hannah's) adversary also provoked her…and when she (Hannah) went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her."
I Samuel 1: 6, 7, K.J.V.
"Contention In The House" Part V
"Provocation" - To challenge. To stir to action. Incite. Enrage. Irritate.
"People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes."
Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby)
Is there someone in my life who "challenges" me and constantly causes me to be irritated?
Has becoming enraged at this person solved the problem?
What do I think Jesus meant when He said, "love your enemies?"
Who do I think He was talking about? _____________________ Everybody?
"That you do it willingly, pray for your enemy, that you are glad to do it, that you are delighted according to the inner (woman) to obey your Lord and pray for your enemy - this shows you are gold."
"You're familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives His best - the sun to warm and the rain to nourish - to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I'm saying is, ‘Grow up. You're Kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.'"
Jesus, Matthew 5: 43-48, The Message
Not long ago, I was reading a story where the author was describing the tension between two individuals as "two pieces of sandpaper rubbing together." For anyone who has used sandpaper before, with its rough and abrasive surface which can easily scratch anything it comes in contact with, this visual image for me, was a very distinct one. As we study the grating relationship Hannah and Peninnah had, it isn't hard to see that not only were Peninnah's saber-tongued remarks destructive, but her behavior was, too. At a certain point, the pot is going to boil over - I know it would for me. And so I asked myself this honest question as I read about Hannah, "As a child of God, as an heir to my Father's kingdom, how should I respond when provoked?"
In our world today, provoking behavior is most often called out by immediate retaliation, sometimes even before any thought to the long-term consequences are taken into consideration. It happens globally and locally - right down to the insides of our homes. Unfortunately, it is so easy, when goaded by another, to have some sarcastic look or speech be our first line of defense. Before you know it, sandpaper against sandpaper has destroyed something and left it with a lifetime of "marring scarring."
Interestingly enough, in Matthew 5: 44, Jesus was unequivocal in His instruction on how we treat those with whom we disagree or who are disagreeable to us - we pray for them! And I find it so uplifting that in I Samuel 1: 10, we are told this is exactly what the battered Hannah did. She "prayed unto the Lord." Believe me, Hannah was bitter and despairing. She was weeping "sorely." But she didn't allow the worst of the worst to turn her into the nastiest of the nastiest. She didn't let Peninnah's vicious behavior provoke her into retaliatory action.
In the book of John, there is a story of Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane. We are told that, "Just then Simon Peter, who was carrying a sword, pulled it from its sheath and struck the Chief Priest's servant, cutting off his right ear…Jesus ordered Peter, ‘Put back your sword. Do you think for a minute I'm not going to drink this cup the Father gave me?'" (John 18: 10, 11, The Message).
Now you may be wondering why I'm using this passage of Scripture up against the story of Hannah. Well, if we read I Samuel 1: 6, we find that the words Peninnah used to provoke Hannah were references to the fact that Hannah had no children, or as the Bible says, "the Lord had shut up her womb."
Jesus told Peter, "I will trust and drink from the cup my Father hands me." And in her prayer at Shiloh, Hannah chose to trust the hand of her Father who had "closed her womb." Instead of attacking their attackers or distrusting their Father, they hung on tightly to the Hand that holds not only the universe but you and me in His palm.
What a testimony down through the ages not only on trusting our Father but on how we should respond to those who try to provoke us into letting go of our Father when the going gets tough.
To those of us who have chosen to call ourselves by the name of Jesus Christ - Christians - what a powerful potential we have to represent heavenly gentleness during times of irritation; to exemplify forgiveness of all during times of harsh treatment; and never to allow, by word or action, our influence to be one that besmirches the reputation of the "One" who said, "Love your enemies - everyone of them."
"The world is wide, and I will not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum."
Love Your Enemy
"I heard him say, Love your enemy.
And I thought, well, I did.
Sort of. At a distance.
As long as I didn't have to talk to her
or share the same room for any time.
It wasn't that I hated her.
It was just a matter of principle.
I had to let her know
that I didn't approve.
But he kept saying, Love your enemy.
Over and over. Love your enemy.
And I thought, well, maybe
a bit closer wouldn't hurt.
A telephone call. Good morning.
Some questions of polite interest.
No need to compromise principles.
I could let her know
that I held no grudge.
He still kept saying it.
Love your enemy. Love your enemy.
So in the end, I had to go the whole hog.
Suddenly, there we were, talking about feelings,
laughing and crying and hugging each other.
And I was healed of the wound I'd given myself
with my judgmental attitudes.
So the next time he said, Love your enemy,
I knew clearly what he meant.
My real enemy
And I need all the love and forgiveness
I can get."
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
P.S. For the next two weeks we are going to look at what it means to be "Empty" and "Full." These two words define so much of what happened in Hannah's life when the "empty" woman was "filled."
My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is now available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian. You can also go to www.whenawomanmeetsjesus.com and purchase the book through Paypal for $10.00.
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