We rarely view adversity as an opportunity for something good to happen. It’s really not something that we can help, it’s just human instinct. However, since we serve a God who can see the end of the story from the beginning, which is not something we have the luxury of doing. However, when we truly submit to God’s guidance, we can learn that our seasons of adversity are the perfect opportunity for praise to be born.
Genesis 29:35 (NLT)
Once again Leah became pregnant and gave birth to another son. She named him Judah, for she said, “Now I will praise the Lord!” And then she stopped having children.
In the ancient Hebrew language, which the Old Testament was written in, Judah meant praise. Names were incredibly important in Biblical times, even more so than they are today. Parents today spend countless hours thinking of a name for their child, often looking to relatives who they love, friends who are a vital part of their lives, or even famous people who they view as heroes. However, in Biblical times, the name that a child was given at birth often dictated what his or her life was going to look like going forward. Names were a sort of prophecy, and that could be either good or bad.
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Leah even having children was a bit of a surprise. She wasn’t the wife that Jacob wanted. Jacob was initially drawn to Leah’s sister, Rachel, and he agreed to work for their father for seven years in order to be allowed to marry Rachel. However, Laban, the father of the two girls, tricked Jacob and forced him into a marriage with Leah. As the older sister, customs and traditions of the time dictated that she should be married first. Jacob was still so in love with Rachel that he agreed to work for another seven years so he would be allowed to marry her, too.
If you read the verses that come before the one that we just read, you will see that God felt sorry for Leah since she was unloved. Because of that, He allowed Leah to have children while Rachel couldn’t. Her first son’s name was Reuben. His name meant, “I have been noticed.” She then had a son named Simeon whose name meant, “the Lord has heard me.” She named her third son Levi, which meant, “joined together in harmony,” as she believed that Jacob would finally be united with her. Finally, with the birth of Judah, she declared that she would praise the Lord.
Suddenly, Leah realized that her life was not defined by a husband that didn’t love her. Instead, she was going to praise God. Our praise is often born out of hard times. Perhaps you have felt forgotten, unloved, and overlooked. While none of us want to face those times, it’s important to realize that those are often the perfect opportunity for praise to be born. Praise has long been the byproduct of seemingly impossible situations, and that can be the case for you.
Exodus 15:20-21 (NLT)
Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced. And Miriam sang this song: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea.”
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The 14th chapter of Exodus is one of the most harrowing stories in the Bible. God had supernaturally delivered the people of Israel out of Egyptian captivity. Moses had been hand-chosen to be their leader, even though he had very little faith in himself. Not long after Pharaoh finally relented and let them go, he regretted his decision and called his army together to pursue them.
Moses and the Israelites were way ahead of Pharaoh and his army, but that didn’t matter when they came to the Red Sea. With an angry Pharaoh behind them, Israel found themselves trapped at a dead end. Suddenly, God did what only God could do. He caused the waters to part, creating dry ground in the middle of the sea. However, the miracle didn’t end there.
After all of the Israelites were safely on the other side, God caused the Red Sea to collapse on Pharaoh and his army. In an instant, the people who wanted to pursue Israel and take them back into captivity were gone. Miriam burst forth with a praise that would have never happened if she had never found herself in a dead-end situation.
When she said that God had thrown the horse and rider into the sea, it was because she had seen it happen. Our praise is often born in a place where it seems like there is no hope. This is because once we see God do what we believe to be impossible, praise is the natural result.
1 Samuel 2:1-2 (NLT)
Then Hannah prayed: “My heart rejoices in the Lord! The Lord has made me strong. Now I have an answer for my enemies; I rejoice because you rescued me. No one is holy like the Lord! There is no one besides you; there is no rock like our God.”
Hannah wanted a child, but she had always been unable to have one. When we first meet her in the first chapter of 1 Samuel, she is praying with so much passion and anguish that Eli, the High Priest, believed that she was drunk. She wasn’t drunk, she was waiting and weakening.
Waiting is hard. We don’t particularly like waiting in any situation. We get frustrated when we’re stuck in traffic, we don’t like sitting in long lines at a local fast food restaurant, and we’re often so bad at waiting for the end of a movie that we find spoilers online. We don’t like to wait.
Once Eli realized how desperate Hannah was, he declared that she would have a son. Samuel, the same prophet who anointed David as the next King of Israel, was born. His birth sparked the response of praise that we just read at the beginning of 1 Samuel 2.
Praise is often born from a place of waiting and pain. It’s not uncommon for God to cause us to wait on His perfect timing. This not only ensures that His will is complete, but it also gives us the opportunity to praise God for strengthening us during the waiting.
Matthew 26:26 (NLT)
As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”
Finally, we read about Jesus thanking God in the hours that came before His arrest. As He ate the Last Supper with His disciples, He took bread, thanked God for it, and then broke it. This was not only a customary action at the time, it provides us with the final example of an opportunity for praise to be born.
Christ did not want to die, at least not by crucifixion. After this interaction with the disciples, He asked God if there was any other way for the plan of salvation to be worked out. However, there wasn’t, so He accepted His fate. But before that, He set another example with the bread. He thanked God for it, and He broke it.
Praise can be born in the middle of our brokenness. Christ’s method of praising God came through obedience. He didn’t sing a song or preach a sermon. He chose obedience, and His obedience, even in the breaking, was a form of praise.
All of us face times of brokenness, but when we choose obedience in the face of those seasons, we’re praising God. Christ’s commitment to obedience, and in turn, praise, led to the fulfillment of God’s plan for His life. Ours can do the same.
A Closing Prayer:
Heavenly Father, help me to shift my perspective of adversity. Instead of viewing it as the end, help me to see it as the beginning of an opportunity to praise. I know that You can work all things together for my good. In Christ’s name, Amen.