September 6th Devotion

A Joyful Heart – Alistair Begg

Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.” 1 Samuel 2:1

It is impossible to praise God too much or for our hearts to be too filled with joy at His love for His people. We should be quick to praise God when we can see His work in our own lives; but we should also be quick to locate that blessing in the context of His goodness to His people collectively. We see this repeatedly in Scripture. In 1 Samuel, for instance, when Hannah sought the Lord for help, she used phraseology which was related to the people of God, not just to her own personal circumstances: “O LORD of hosts…” (1 Samuel 1:11). Her appeal had been that God would look upon her in the way that He had looked upon His people in the past.

When God gave her the child she had longed for, her thanks echoed the language of Israel on occasions of great deliverance. Soon after God’s people were delivered from slavery in Egypt by the power of God, Moses had sung his song, and Miriam had led the way in dancing with her tambourine ensemble (Exodus 15). Hannah, too, had a song to sing—or rather, a prayer of thanksgiving to pray. And her prayer broke the bounds of her particular circumstances. She rejoiced that there was a connection between what God had done for her individually and what He was doing for His people corporately.

As she did so, her heart exulted. When the word “heart” is used in the Bible, it speaks to the very center of our existence, including our minds, wills, and affections. So when Hannah said, “My heart exults in the LORD,” she was expressing how the very centrality of her being was caught up in His greatness. Her mouth spoke out of her heart’s fullness.

Just as Hannah likely reveled in the example of Miriam, a thousand years on from Hannah’s prayer another woman sang to God in similar vein. Mary doubtless knew Hannah’s prayer and may even have borrowed some of it, continuing the established pattern of rejoicing in God’s mighty acts in the song we know as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).

What about us? Do we respond with similar jubilation when God works in our lives personally and in His people corporately? Or are we in any danger of seeing Hannah’s praise as a bit over the top? How would we respond if a “Miriam” stood up and started playing her tambourine? We can sometimes be too measured, or even merely go through the motions, in our praise. We sing in church about the Lord’s strength, power, goodness, and kindness, and yet we hardly open our mouths to sing or to smile. We must take care to remember that we’re not dealing with a philosophical construct, a concept, or something that we find within ourselves. No, we’re singing about and praying to the living God, who acts on behalf of His people!

So, like Miriam, Hannah, and Mary, embrace the purposes and works of God in your life. Be quick to pray, quick to praise, and heartfelt in both. Take time today to let your heart exult in the Lord!
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