"Why Am I Forgotten?"
In God's distribution of blessings, do you sometimes feel forgotten or overlooked? Do you think everybody else is enjoying God's favor while you are being neglected? That seems to happen to all of us at one time or another. We wonder what God is doing, and we ask, "Why am I left out?" Even though that may appear to be the case, we know it is not true. God is love. He does not forget anyone, but distributes His blessings as He sees fit. He knows our needs better than we know them ourselves. He oftentimes shows up at just the right time and does something totally unexpected. It is in those times we can know with full assurance that God indeed cares about us and we are not forgotten. In the midst of those feelings, the last thing we may want to do is to trust God or even offer to Him our worship and praise. We may wonder if He really is worthy of our praise or if He even considers the prayers we offer. Even though that might be a temptation, we can never give up on the Lord. In the Old Testament story for today that same scenario takes place. A woman who feels forgotten and overlooked by God finally experiences His love and blessing. When she does, she expresses her thanks to God and praises Him for His love and kindness. Perhaps you can relate to this story in your own life. If so, I hope you will open up your Bible and study with us today on "Key to the Kingdom."
In the Old Testament book of 1st Samuel, we read about a wealthy and a godly man named Elkanah. Now Elkanah had two wives named Hannah and Peninnah. Hannah perhaps was his favorite wife, but she could not bear children. On the other hand, Peninnah had many sons and daughters, and that was very important to Elkanah, for it ensured him that his name and his estate would be passed on through his sons. Three times every year Israelite men like Elkanah were required to go to a nearby tabernacle, or temple, and to offer sacrifices and worship to God. And so, Elkanah would pack up his family and they would make that 15 mile journey from Ramah, where they lived, to the city of Shiloh; and there they would offer sacrifices and worship. Every year the same thing happened. Elkanah offered double portions of sacrifice on behalf of Hannah, because she could not bear children; and, every year her rival, Peninnah, would make fun of and laugh at Hannah because she could not bear children. Yes, Peninnah noticed that Hannah had not brought children into this world, and she made fun of her. She ridiculed her and lowered her self-esteem. Hannah knew that was happening. So, one day Hannah finally had enough and she broke down. She wept bitterly. She was so upset she did not even eat and she did not know how to handle that any longer. Hannah felt forgotten by God. Well, Elkanah saw what was going on and he went to Hannah. He tried to comfort her and console her. He said, "Why is your faith so downcast? Why are you no longer eating? Do you not realize that I am worth more to you than ten sons?" Yes, in his way he tried to offer some compassion and comfort to his wife. Well, she then went to the temple and she offered prayer to God. Sincerely and from her heart, she prayed to God for a child. She wept bitterly as she prayed and she poured out her heart to God in a very sincere way. And as she prayed to God she also made a vow to God. She made an agreement with Him, or at least from her standpoint. We find that prayer recorded in chapter 1 of 1st Samuel. Listen if you will to verse 11. "She made a vow, saying, 'Lord Almighty, if you will only look on 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.'" Hannah, as she prays to God, says, "God, give me a son; and if you will just give me a son, then in gratitude I will give him back in service to You." It's interesting to notice what else is included there in that prayer, and that is the vow. She says "If you will just give me a son, then no razor will ever be used on his hair." That's interesting. Well, that was part of what was called a Nazarite vow. Oftentimes people took that vow by way of showing separation from the things of this world and dedication to God. Other things involved with that vow included refraining from eating grapes or drinking alcohol and avoiding dead bodies. As Hannah prayed, she said, "God if You will just remember me and give me a son, I will give him back to You, and he will be devoted to You all the days of his life." Well, Eli, the priest, was stationed there at the entrance in the temple and he saw Hannah praying. One of the unusual things about it was that he saw her mouth moving, but no words were coming out. He could not hear anything, so he confronted Hannah. He accused her of being drunk. He said, "You are drinking too much alcohol and strong drink. You don't need to be here in the temple praying to God." He was ready to kick her out. Hannah said, "Oh, no. I am not a drunken woman, but rather I am filled with anxiety. I am pouring my heart out to God because I am without a child, and I am requesting a son." Well, Eli believed Hannah, and in fact he even blessed her. He says some very encouraging words to her, and they are found in verses 17 and 18. "Eli answered, 'Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him.' 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." As Eli offered this blessing to Hannah she felt encouraged. She went out from that place feeling assured that God indeed had heard her prayer, and she was blessed by Eli the priest, and her spirits were uplifted. She took some nourishment and she was ready to receive the blessing of the Lord. Notice what happens next as we continue on in verses 19 and 20. "Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with Hannah, his wife, and the Lord remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, 'Because I asked the Lord for him.'" Oh, Hannah was no longer sad. God remembered her. She bore a child and his name was Samuel. Yes, God had not forgotten Hannah. And when He remembered her, it does not mean that He forgot she existed, but rather He showed her special attention. He answered her prayer in a very special way. Hannah was overjoyed. She was excited that this boy was born, and she named him Samuel, meaning "I have asked of the Lord and the Lord has responded." Well, that's not all. Hannah followed through on the vow she had made in that prayer; and after spending a few years with Hannah, Samuel was then taken back to Eli the priest in Shiloh and Hannah dedicated her son Samuel to service in the temple with the priest. Then something else special happened. In verses 1 through 10 of chapter 2, Hannah records a very beautiful prayer, or hymn, of praise and thanksgiving to God. She recognizes that, indeed, God remembered her; that He showed her special attention and that He is the God of creation and He heard her prayer and He answered, and she praises Him for it. Many people can relate to Hannah's prayer. We can relate to Hannah's story. Many people feel as if they have been forgotten and overlooked in a variety of ways. I'm not just talking about someone overlooking a birthday or an anniversary, but those people feel as if they have been overlooked by society. They might feel as if nobody knows they exist. They are simply passing through life unnoticed. In many cases they even feel forgotten by God. Yes, they might feel different from everybody else around them, for one reason or another. They might feel left out and neglected. They might see others around them enjoying every aspect of life while they struggle just to get by. They look at other people around them and see that those individuals have wealth and prosperity. They have a family and friends, they have a job and they are enjoying life to the fullest; and yet, they are not. Again, they might see other people bringing children into the world, and they are not able to do that. And no doubt, in those times they feel forgotten. In the distribution of blessings, they think they have been overlooked, they have been forgotten by God. Perhaps the question they ask themselves is not why, rather, "Why not me? Why haven't I been blessed? Why haven't I enjoyed some of these blessings like other people enjoy them? Why am I overlooked and forgotten?" Now let me pause right here and ask: Is that the way you feel? Do you sometimes feel forgotten by God? Do you feel as if He has overlooked you and He doesn't remember you anymore? If that is the case, let me tell you something very important, and it comes from God's Word. God does not forget people. He never has, and He never will. One of the recurring themes that we find over and over in the Bible is that God gives hope to those who feel forgotten. He gives encouragement and blessings to those who feel as if they are overlooked. We find that in several different places in God's Word. I want to look at three specific places where we find that to be true. The first one is in Psalm number 139, a Psalm written by David. We won't read all of it, but I want to look at verses 13 through 18. "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How gracious to me are your thoughts, O God. How vast is the sum of them. Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you." Oh, there are several phrases there that jump out to me. David writes, "You knit me together. I am wonderfully made. You took great effort and time to create me in a very beautiful way." He also writes that "every one of my days was recorded in a book even before they came to be. You knew what was going to happen. You had me in mind when you made me and brought me into this world." Then the one passage that really grabs me is at the very end. "When I awake, I am still with you." David, no doubt, slept at night, and it could have been for a long time, six, eight, ten hours, whatever it might have been, but God did not sleep. God was watching over him. God considered him, and every thought about David was precious to God. Then when David awoke in the morning, God was still with him, as he enjoyed the new blessings that God provided him for that new day. As I think about David's psalm there, we can relate to that. We know that God formed us and brought us into this world, and every day God has prepared and planned for us. He watches over you, even while you are asleep at night. When I think about that I realize that I am not forgotten, and neither are you. God knows you by name. When we know that God thinks about us, we will be amazed. We will be amazed, just like David was amazed, and stand in awe of God. Another passage is found in Psalm 66. Notice the words that begin in verse 16. "Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me. I cried out to Him with my mouth; His praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld His love from me!" The psalmist says, "Everybody come close. I want to tell you something special; and that is, God heard my prayer. He heard my voice as I prayed to Him and He answered my prayer. He did not withhold His love from me, but He knew that I was sincere in the prayer request that I made. I eliminated the sin in my heart and my life, and I approached God, and God heard me." Now the psalmist writes, "I want everybody to know that. I want you to know what God has done for me as I sing His praise, and as I honor and worship Him." Likewise today, as we approach God in prayer with sincerity and with a pure and a clean heart, He will hear and He will answer. And our response is to worship God, to sing His praise and to let everybody know that God loves us. He has not withheld His love, but He has remembered us and blesses us in a special way. When we know God hears our prayers, we will praise Him. There's one more passage I want us to notice. It's in the New Testament letter called 2nd Corinthians. The apostle Paul writes to a group of believers, some of whom felt as if they were overlooked and neglected. There was division going on there in that church in Corinth, and some of them felt as if they did not belong, they were on the outside looking in. And so, Paul writes this in chapter 1, verses 3 and 4: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God." Four times in just two verses Paul uses the word 'comfort;' that God is the Author, the Father, of comfort and compassion. He pours out His comfort on those people who need it. Then as those people receive that comfort, they in turn share it with others who feel perhaps they are overlooked or forgotten by God. When I think about that passage, in fact, it is true. I have been comforted by God on a number of occasions. Perhaps you have too. Yet, as we receive that comfort, we know that we are to pass it onto other people who feel overlooked and neglected. When I think about the story of Hannah and Samuel, when I think about these passages of scripture, three primary things come to my mind. Number one is this: God hears and answers every prayer. Oh, at times it may seem that He doesn't, but God hears your prayer as you approach Him with a sincere heart. He hears the request that you make of Him. Now He may not answer that prayer exactly the way you pray it. He may suggest in some way, why don't you wait a while and depend upon Me and trust Me, and then I will answer. Or, perhaps He holds back and He says, "No, I'm not going to answer it that way, but there is a better answer that is coming that will bless you even more." Then of course on some occasions He will answer the prayer just as we have prayed it. When I think about Hannah, she approached God with sincerity, the same as the psalmist there in Psalm number 66. They prayed and they sought the Lord; they made that request and God heard and God remembered and God answered that prayer. No doubt, the same is true even still today. The second thing is this: God desires our worship and praise. After Hannah was in the temple praying to God, the next day she and her family worshiped God together. She worshiped God even before her prayer was answered. Then after it was answered, as we notice there in chapter 2, she praised God. She thanked God for hearing and for remembering her. Then again, the psalmist of Psalm 66 gathered everybody together and said, "I want to tell you what God has done for me," and he praised the name of the Lord. What happens when God answers your prayer? Oh, I hope that you take time to worship Him, to praise Him and to thank Him, to recognize that indeed He has you in mind. His thoughts about you are precious and He wants good things for your life. Then thirdly, God wants us to see those who are forgiven, or those who are forgotten. There are people perhaps in your life today, they may be in your family, they may be in your realm of association, somebody you work with, someone you know, and they feel forgotten by God. They feel overlooked. They feel as if they have been neglected, and they may even think that God doesn't know who they are or that they even exist. Maybe those people are in your life for a reason; that you can come alongside of them and offer comfort, offer the compassion and the comfort that you yourself have received from God. That's what Elkanah did with his wife. He tried to comfort her and love her and let her know that she was special. We have that opportunity to do the same, to let the people in our life know that they are not forgotten by God, and we are to comfort them. As we close our lesson today, there is one thing I hope you remember above everything else. That is, never forget God, because God never forgets you. Know that He loves you, He sees you, He knows what is going on in your life, and He will never forget that you exist. Therefore, never forget God.
I'm standing here in front of a hospital. I see many people walking in and out of this hospital, and some of them are carrying their babies. Some of them are also going into the hospital in order to deliver a baby. That is one of the most exciting things in a person's life, to bring a child into this world, to see that child come in and begin to grow and to develop. Yes, that's exciting. Yet, there are some couples who are not able to do that. Some couples, for one reason or another, are not able to bring children into this world. Oftentimes, those people feel overlooked. They feel forgotten by God and they wonder why they can't have that experience like so many other people have it. If that speaks to you today, I want you to realize you are not forgotten by God. There may be some reason that we don't even know or understand today as to why that is not able to be done, but I want you to know that God still loves you. He has a plan for your life. Things are going to be different perhaps, but God has not forgotten you. He never has, and He never will. That is something you can always trust in and believe. God has a plan and a purpose for your life. It may include children and it may not, but I want you to know you will never be forgotten by God. Believe in Him, believe and trust in His plan and His purposes for your life, and know with all confidence that you are not forgotten.
Many people can relate to the story of Hannah. Whether we are talking about bearing children or something else of great importance, you might see yourself in this Old Testament story. If that is the case, I trust this message gave you some things to consider about how to handle the feeling of being forgotten. This lesson can be found on our website. Go to keytothekingdom.com and you will be able to download it in video, audio, or written format. It is titled "Why Am I Forgotten?" Other lessons are available as well, and you are more than welcome to view any that might encourage you in some way. There is no charge for any of them, and you will not be contacted. The website offers many ways to study the Bible. There is a six lesson correspondent course; one minute summaries can be heard for each book of the Bible; short video messages are also available, which might be of interest. I hope you will find something that will bless you spiritually. The same free Bible study will be sent by mail when you call the number on the screen. Leave your name and address on the answering machine, and we will be happy to send it to you in a few short days. It is designed to assist you in your own personal study of the Bible. As always, it is a privilege to share these messages from God's Word. I trust you will tune in again next week at this same time. It is my prayer that with each lesson new insight is gained into the Bible and a closer walk with the Lord is achieved. Once again, thank you for watching today's program. And please, join us again next time as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."