1 Samuel 2:1-10 reads:
And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. [There is] none holy as the LORD: for [there is] none beside thee: neither [is there] any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let [not] arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD [is] a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men [are] broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. [They that were] full have hired out themselves for bread; and [they that were] hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble. The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, [and] lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set [them] among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth [are] the LORD’S, and he hath set the world upon them. He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.
This prayer of Hannah is fascinating in ways that are almost too many to count. I will focus on some things that struck me about it as it read this text this morning.
1. How God uses adversity to bring about His purposes in His elect. This was a time of spiritual crisis among God’s people, during the time of the Judges. In these days Eli was the high priest charged with service of the tabernacle, as were his sons Phinehas and Hophni. However, Phinehas and Hophni were exceedingly wicked, and Eli, though he went through the motions of being outwardly righteous, refused to act to stop his sons, and also was willing to personally benefit from their evil deeds. God does not leave His people without a shepherd, however, so it was his purpose to raise up new spiritual leadership; a special child chosen from before his birth and set apart for this purpose.
In order to bring this about, God selected a righteous man, Elkanah the son of Jeroham, and his righteous wife Hannah. God temporarily closed the womb of this righteous woman, and permitted Peninnah, the other wife of Elkanah and who was bearing children, to vex and torment Hannah over her condition. Now this is yet another occurrence of rivalries between wives that the Bible tells us occurs with polygamy, including to the point of a woman using her children to gain status in the eyes of her husband at the expense of the other wives. However, also remember that during this time, childbearing was associated with God’s blessing and favor being with a woman, so a barren woman was often presumed to be disfavored by God, perhaps due to some sinfulness on her part. When you consider the very strong language that the Bible uses concerning Peninnah’s treatment of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1:6 – and her adversary vexed her sore, forasmuch as she upbraided her, because the Lord made her barren – it appears that some very strong accusations were involved, and should make one consider the charges against Job by his friends: that Job’s sins were the cause of his condition.
But rather than her trials and tribulations being evidence of her sinfulness or her not being smiled upon by God, they were instead evidence of the work that God desired to work both within and through her (James 1:2-4)! For God wanted to use the seed of Hannah and Elkanah to raise up new spiritual leadership. God wanted the child of Hannah and Elkanah to be given totally over to Him; to learn about God’s laws and ways to that this child would be able to use this knowledge to execute his leadership more effectively and perfectly. God allowed – or caused! – the affliction of His servant Hannah so that – in her grief – Hannah would make a prayer to the Lord that was acceptable to the Lord. Now of course, this prayer was not of Hannah, meaning of her own flesh and carnal nature, but came as she was carried along by the Holy Spirit. But the point is that the trials and tribulations that God saw fit to have Hannah experience plowed and tilled the ground of her heart, to create the conditions for her to be carried along by the Holy Spirit to make this prayer. She prayed for a man-child (for the spiritual leader had to be male) and dedicated the child to lifetime service to God (thereby renouncing parental or familial rights that were very important in that culture for legal, economic and social status reasons) in her prayer, including the vow that her child would be a Nazerite. Remember the Lord’s Prayer, where we are supposed to petition that God’s will in heaven be done on earth. It was the will of God in heaven for such a child as this to be born and dedicated to Him, so God created the conditions whereby this woman would pray for the birth of this child, and sacrificially offer up her son – and herself – as vessels for this divine service. That Hannah’s motivation may have been to remove her own reproach, take away the ability of her rival wife to torment and provoke her, and thereby gain the peace of her own mind is of little consequence. The main thing is that through her trials, she offered up a prayer that was acceptable to God because it was the will of God, and thus God granted what she requested. And it should be pointed out that by Hannah’s giving the child to God – as opposed to her desiring to hold onto the child herself for the purposes of getting back at her rival Peninnah, the natural thing to do – was evidence of this woman’s righteousness and Godly heart. So, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ that is currently enduring hardships, heartaches, persecution and tribulation, then do not despair but rejoice, because God will use these things to bring about His purposes in you as He did with Hannah! On the other hand, if you are mocker and persecutor of God’s people like Peninnah, well beware! Please note that the Biblical record treats Hannah much more favorably than Peninnah, and moreover just as the evil behavior of Peninnah was recorded for posterity, God is keeping inventory of our behavior in His book!
2. Let us not ignore the positive role and influence that Hannah’s husband, Elkanah played. Though many men did mistreat their barren wives in that day and time, Elkanah did the opposite: he comforted, elevated, loved and had compassion on her! Unlike Peninnah, 1 Samuel 1:5 hints that Elkanah knew that Hannah’s being barren was not any indictment against her value or character, but was of the Lord’s doing. So, rather than despising and rejecting his wife after the worldly manner that his wife took, Elkanah respected and submitted himself to the will of God – to the right and prerogative of God to make his wife barren – and instead loved his wife as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). Rejecting his wife because God decreed her to be barren would have been akin to rejecting the decree of God, and thus rejecting God. But by honoring the will of God through loving his wife, Elkanah honored God. Now perhaps one can fault Elkanah for not intervening when Peninnah persecuted Hannah, but the Biblical evidence in such instances like Abraham dealing with Sarah and Hagar and Jacob dealing with Rachel and Leah leads one to believe that the custom of the day was for men to generally refrain themselves from disputes among their wives.
Elkanah did not merely behave righteously with his wife, but also with his son. Imagine if your wife has a son, and she tells you “No, this is not going to be your child to love, raise, be proud of and carry on your name. No, I am going to give this child – your child – to the church. You are not going to have anything to do with raising this child … you aren’t even going to SEE this child. Instead, I am giving him away.” Even in our modern culture, that would be a difficult, almost unthinkable thing to do: the equivalent of a wife deciding to give up the child – the husband’s child – for adoption. In that culture, where men had almost absolute rights over their wives and children, and where male children gave great honor and esteem to their fathers before society, it was even more pronounced. Yet Elkanah willingly gave up his fatherly rights and privileges and consented to the designs of his wife. Why? Because he knew that the child was the result of God’s blessing his barren wife! He knew that this child came as the result of God’s honoring his wife’s petition, and that this petition included Hannah’s promise to give the child to God’s service. So, just as Elkanah submitted himself to God’s will when his wife was barren, he did the same when his wife was fruitful. This means that Elkanah’s love and obedience to God was not conditional! Instead, he honored and obeyed God regardless of the circumstances. Whether the Lord giveth (allowing his wife to bear children) or the Lord taketh away (causing his wife to be barren), Elkanah honored – or blessed – the Name of the Lord! In this manner, Elkanah reminds us of Joseph, earthly father of Jesus Christ, when he submitted to God’s will in taking Mary as his wife and raising Jesus Christ as his adopted son. Both Elkanah and Joseph chose sacrificial giving over behaving selfishly according to the interests of their own flesh. The union of Hannah and Elkanah was definitely that of a believing, obedient, faithful man and spouse, and such things are blessed indeed. Blessed is the man who has a believing, righteous woman. Blessed is the woman who has a believing, righteous man. And blessed is the God who providently brings the two of them together for His service and to His glory! In this case, God brought together a holy husband and a holy wife for the purpose of producing a child that would lead His people.
3. The angel of the Lord told Joseph in Matthew 1:21 “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Jesus, or Joshua, or Yeshua, means “God saves.” In the opening of her prayer, Hannah rejoiced in her salvation by this same Jesus spoken of in Matthew 1:21. Let no doctrine or teacher deceive you concerning this fact. The Hebrew word used by Hannah was “yĕshuw`ah“, which means salvation by God. Later in this prayer, she states “The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up” … a reference to death and resurrection by the will of God, just as the death and resurrection of God the Son Jesus Christ occurred according to the will of God the Father. Further: “He will keep the feet of his saints …” that is none other than a reference to the perseverance of the saints doctrine where Jesus Christ said concerning the redeemed that none could take them out of His hand (John 10:28-29). Instead, “the wicked shall be silent in darkness” which is exactly where the Lord Jesus Christ said that they would be cast (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30). As for “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, [and] lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set [them] among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth [are] the LORD’S, and he hath set the world upon them” recall when our Lord said “the spirit of the Lord is upon me to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” in Luke 4:18? Also when Jesus Christ said “Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” in the Beatitudes? Further, “The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth” is a summary of “the day of the judgment of the Lord” teachings both given by Jesus Christ and revealed to John in the apocalypse. Thus, this prayer of Hannah was packed with a startling amount of things that Jesus Christ would later teach. By the Holy Spirit, Hannah revealed some of the very things that Jesus Christ would preach many hundreds of years later. But that is not all.
“And he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed!” Keep in mind that this prayer of Hannah was given generations before Saul, generations before David, long before Israel asked for the king or the establishment of the monarchy. Yet here Hannah prophesies concerning the coming king – God’s king – whom she also calls God’s anointed! Christ, or Christos in Greek means the same as Hannah’s term mashiyach (Moshiach or Messiah) in Hebrew: anointed. In this prophecy song of praise, Hannah reveals Jesus Christ as king, savior, and Messiah. And again, as the monarchy had not been instituted and was not even on the horizon or thought process of the Hebrews at the time of the Judges, the context points to a UNIQUE king, savior and Messiah that God will pour out HIS strength upon and that God would uniquely empower, exalt and glorify to the point that through this king God the Father would subdue, rule and judge the entire earth. When one adds the reference to death and resurrection, the only major doctrine apparently absent in Hannah’s Messianic prophecy song is an explicit reference to Christ’s Sonship, and hence His divinity, whereby this anointed king of the latter verse would also provide the salvation of the Lord spoken of in the former verse. Yet by virtue of both being included in Hannah’s song – and one prominently in the beginning and the other prominently in the end, and please remember the nature of Hebrew poetry where ideas that are in the beginning and end of a poem go together, a type of parallelism or harmony – the concept of the divine Saviour and the Messianic king being one and the same is still contained within the prophecy even if it is not yet explicitly given at this point in progressive revelation.
It is amazing to read God’s Word and see how He used His handmaid Hannah to both bear the child Samuel that would lead His people in that time, but also to prophecy of Jesus Christ, who would save and lead His people for eternity! Thus Samuel, the child that Hannah had was the prefigure or the type of the child that Mary would later have. And this came after God created the circumstances for this event by making Hannah (temporarily) barren and having her suffer persecution in her own home for this condition, yet not leaving her alone during this time of affliction but providing her with a believing husband as her minister to comfort her and help her endure it (and view this in the context of the promise of God given to believers in 1 Corinthians 10:13 concerning God’s giving us the ability to bear trials).
The wisdom and might of God knows no end, and neither does His blessings! For these reasons and an infinite multitude of others, let us not be slack in giving God His due praise!