God of Heavenly Armies, Weaver of Unborn Infants
“…and the LORD remembered her.”
– 1 Samuel 1:19
He Remembered Her
Hannah is barren. She has no – and can have no – children. This loss is the ache of her waking life and a burden she’s carried for many years. In 1 Samuel 1:15 we read that Hannah took this pain and groaning of her heart and poured out her soul to the Lord. What’s interesting to note here is that she refers to God in her prayer as “Lord of Hosts” (v.11).
Why does that catch my attention? Because that title means, “Lord of heaven’s armies,” it is a grand, military term that envisions YHWH as a transcendent ruler, a cosmic general commanding archangels like a human leader would command foot soldiers. This is not the sort of person someone approaches lightly. And yet little Hannah comes to the God of Heaven’s Armies with the aches of her soul and asks for a child…
And then in verse 19, we read that “the Lord remembered her.” Awesome. It doesn’t say that He remembered her prayer or her situation or her promises or her achievements, it says He remembered her. The Almighty, transcendent, universe-upholding God remembered her…and not only does He remember her, but in love He stoops to ensure that two cells meet in her body and form a son. By His word galaxies spin and atoms hold together and electrons orbit and gravity endures and kingdoms rise and empires fall and angels move like winds across the face of creation….and by His word a child is knit together in the body of Hannah because He remembers her.
This is our God! He rules Heaven’s host and weaves life in the womb, He commands archangels and comforts mourning mothers, He holds reality together with His sustained thought, and remembers the woman named Hannah who lives in the hill country of Ephraim. He is higher, more glorious, more infinite in transcendence than we can imagine, while at same time being more intimate, more near, more infinite in immanence than we can conceive.
Exalted Above All in Majesty, Descending Beneath All in Love
“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
– Isaiah 57:15
Absolutely glorious. There is no God like YHWH! In this passage from Isaiah the Lord is promising intervention and salvation for the sake of His people and He grounds His saving work in the same aspect of His character that we see in 1 Samuel 1, namely, in the fact that He dwells both in the “high and holy” place and also among those who are of a “contrite and lowly” spirit. YHWH God treads the mountain heights of His own Triune glory where no created being can approach unbidden, and at the same time He walks in the trenches of His people’s suffering; His revealed beauty blinds seraphic eyes of fire, and yet He condescends to dry the eyes of His weeping people….this is one of the key and unique beauties of the One True God, and it is of deep and unshakable comfort to His people (as He intends it to be!)
As I said above, I will say again: there is no God like YHWH who is both exalted above the highest and near to the lowest. And I can say with confidence that there is no God like Him in this regard because no other so-called “god” does what YHWH does in Jesus Christ….no other God takes on human flesh and walks on the dust of this earth with His creatures. In the person of Christ, the heart that we see in 1 Samuel 1 and Isaiah 57 (and hundreds of other places in scripture) is supremely communicated to us.
YHWH in Christ: No God Like Him
Jesus Christ is the High and Holy One who takes on the dust and ashes of His heart-crushed people and is crushed in their place. He is the climactic declaration that the One True God is the infinitely glorious one whose glory includes infinite condescension for the sake of love. What a God we have! What a heart He has shown to us! How could we love or trust or worship or serve or obey any God but YHWH? How could we run after and hide in any Lord except the One who hung on Calvary’s throne to slaughter our sin, and now sits on Heaven’s throne to welcome us in?
Oh, could Hannah have guessed that the intimacy of the transcendent YHWH displayed in His answer to her humble prayer would climax with this same YHWH in the flesh hung on the tree of condemnation in His people’s place? Could anyone conceive of such a God had He not declared Himself to us? Do you want Almighty and All-intimate? Do you want Glorious and Humble? Do you want Strength and Sweetness? Do you the Lion and the Lamb? Do you want a Warrior who shatters the enemy and a Shepherd who binds up the broken? Look to the cross – now empty – and to the throne – now occupied! Look to the Calvary, where our Lord and our God upholds the universe with His word even as He exhales His final breath to give us life. Here is the exalted one who is near, the glorious one who is humble, the almighty one who is all-loving, the holy one who draws the unclean to Himself…..Here is our God who is both Lord of heavens armies and Shepherd of earth’s sheep.