Not by Might

2959436086As I read through Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 this week, I couldn’t help but notice that parallelism is everywhere:
“My heart exults in the Lord; / my strength is exalted in my God.”
“Talk no more so very proudly, / let not arrogance come from your mouth;”
“The bows of the mighty are broken, ~ but the feeble gird on strength.”

As a recovering English major, I got terribly excited about this. I went through the whole poem pairing off lines, making one mark to show lines with similar meanings and a different mark to show lines of opposite meaning. Line after line after line . . . until I got to verse 9: “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, ~ but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail.”

It’s this last phrase that threw me. “For not by might does one prevail.” There is no parallel line. There is no opposite line. Out of this entire poem, this one line stands alone.

“For not by might does one prevail.”

Sometimes the power of the powerful is found in unexpected ways. (Like in this example about Nelson Mandela.)

“For not by might does one prevail.”

Sometimes, one prevails with instruments of peace and playfulness in the midst of foreign troops and roadside bombs. (Like in this example of the circus parade in Afghanistan.)

“For not by might does one prevail.”

Sometimes, one prevails in ways that seem, at first, to be defeat. (I encourage you to listen to this father’s story–starting at 13:10; or read the transcript–last section of Act 1. )

“For not by might does one prevail.”

Hannah sang it in the temple. Mary sang it in the home of Elizabeth. God sang it in that Bethlehem stable, amidst the blood and sweat and joy of birth. Jesus sang it from the cross.

“Not by might does one prevail.”

As people of the resurrection, it is the song we sing. It is the promise to which we cling: “Not by might does one prevail.”

Thanks be to God.

[This post is adapted from the sermon I preached on December 8, 2013.]

 

 

 

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