God Remembers Hannah

God Remembers Hannah

God Remembers Hannah.

‘Hannah had no children, for the Lord had closed her womb… Then Elkanah and Hannah arose early in the morning and worshipped before Yahweh, and returned again to their house near Bethlehem. And Elkanah knew (had relations with) Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. And it came about in due time, after Hannah conceived, that she gave birth to a son; and she named him Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked him of Yahweh.” (1 Samuel 1:2, 5, 9-20).

(Please read the Song of Hannah in I Samuel 2:1-10.)

God had been listening to Hannah’s desperate prayers for a child, and the right time in God’s mind had come. The time was right for the pivotal prophet Samuel to be conceived and born, and Hannah was the one selected. God was mindful of Hannah and Samuel and Israel’s history, and He was moved into action. He remembered her in her barrenness. He never forgot her, of course. God was waiting for the right time. The time had come.

AUTHOR. This song of praise was written around 1170 BC by Hannah, the faithful prayer warrior. This was an important time in Israel’s history, the end of the period of judges. In fact, the last judge was Samuel, Hannah’s miracle child, who was raised in the Tabernacle by Eli the priest. It is thought that Hannah lived during the last years of Samson’s life.

HANNAH. She was the barren wife of Elkanah. He had another wife as well, who was able to bear him many children. This brought Hannah’s shame close to home. A barren woman in that culture was considered a failure, an object of ridicule. It didn’t help matters that Elkanah’s fruitful wife made fun of and taunted Hannah, humiliating her for her barrenness. Not once is it recorded that Hannah responded in kind. She took the taunting with grace, and turned it into prayers before God. Elkanah and Hannah were faithful Israelites, and they always traveled to Shiloh, the religious center of Israel at that time, since the Ark of the Covenant was housed there. Elkanah would inevitably offer a sacrifice each year, and Hannah could only fast and pray in tears. One year Hannah was offering her customary prayers at the altar and in her anguish, she made a vow to the Lord… If He would bless her with a child, she would give that child right back to the Lord to serve God for his entire lifetime. She had always been fervent in her prayers, she had always been faithful, and she is resolved to offer this child to God. While in prayer, Eli the priest saw her fervency in prayer, but he only heard murmuring from Hannah as she moved her lips. Eli immediately thought that Hannah was drunk, and rebuked her for it. Hannah clarified the situation, saying she was indeed not drunk but in intense prayer. Eli said, very well then. May God grant you your request!

“Hannah cast her prayer as a vow, she involved herself responsibly, even sacrificially, in her prayer, for she both asked and gave. She asked for a child from God, but she also gave this child back to God. Her generosity was as integral to her prayer as her poverty. Centuries later, rabbis would see Hannah as a model of authentic prayer, the prayer of the heart, that eventually replaced sacrifice altogether.” Eugene Peterson.

God blessed Hannah with a child, a boy named Samuel. And after three years when he was fully weaned, Hannah brought little Samuel back to Shiloh and presented him to Eli. After giving Samuel up to be raised in the Tabernacle as a priest-in-training, she broke into a spontaneous, inspired song of thanksgiving and praise.

“When Hannah gave away that for which she had prayed most deeply and which she treasured most closely, the moment was explosive with joy. Getting her child from the Lord was a happy day; giving him to the Lord, even happier. To our great surprise we hear Hannah singing and praying not about her precious pregnancy and her lovely child, but about her incomparable God and his incredible ways.” Eugene Peterson.

FLOW OF THE SONG. Hannah’s song has been outlined this way: First, she is exulting in the Lord; Then she is extolling the Lord; Finally, she explains her expectations from the Lord. Hannah is full of joy, she is intensely rejoicing in the Lord. She loves to point out God’s holiness, His character, and His likely courses of action. Her total trust in God is evident throughout her song, her faith in the Lord is solid and immovable. God is all-knowing and all-powerful in Hannah’s eyes, even to the extent that He can raise people from the dead (verse 6). Hannah sees God’s sovereignty, that God is involved with literally everything… death, life, rich, poor, high, low, the faithful, the wicked, the empty, the full, even the foundations of the earth. Hannah’s belief in God knows no bounds. She was exploding with joy because her fervent prayers have been answered, her faith has been honored, she has been delivered from her distress, and her hopes have been fulfilled.

ROCK. Hannah continues the theme of Jacob and Moses, of referring to God as the Rock (Deut. 32 and Gen. 49). Her words in the song seem to be quoted by the Lord Himself in Isaiah 44:8, “Is there any God beside Me, or is there any other Rock? I know of none.” God is the Rock, immovable, steady, faithful, solid, a foundation and support and a sure protection.

ELYON. In verse 10, Hannah used a popular Biblical name for God. “The Most High thunders in the heavens.” (NJB). That name was first used in Genesis 14:18-23, which details the sacred interaction between Melchizedek (the mysterious king of Salem) and Abraham. Melchizedek was called a priest of El-Elyon, God Most High. So Elyon means Most High, the Lord who is supreme to all creation, possessor of heaven and earth, the highest Sovereign, over all and above all. The Lord of lords is considered our Royal Highness. Hannah referred to the Most High and presents herself as a powerful example to us of Isaiah 57:15, “For this is what the high and lofty One says – He who lives forever, whose name is holy; I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Hannah extolls the Most High, and she indeed is the lowly one whose spirit is revived in God’s presence.

MESSIAH. In verse 10, Hannah prayed more than she knew. God opened her eyes to a truth of the future. She stated that God will “increase the strength of His anointed one.” Biblical scholars often point to the first time of a word or idea as being important. This is the first time in the Hebrew Bible that there is a direct mention of the messiah, the anointed one. Hannah surely is prophesying in anticipation of king David, who will be anointed much later by her son Samuel. But she also anticipated the Son of David, the heavenly Messiah, the true Anointed One. Hannah could not have known the profound truth and reality of what she prayed. And to top it all off, this prophecy was wonderfully conveyed in the context of faithful joy and praise.

THE MAGNIFICAT. Mary’s famous and powerful song in Luke 1:46-55 is so similar to Hannah’ song, that it looks like Mary referred to Hannah’s as a prototype, a first draft perhaps. Both songs offer the highest praise and exult in God’s saving power and His salvation. It’s clear, too, that both songs are not merely referring to the spiritually poor or the spiritually hungry in the abstract. Both women have a heart for the least and left out, because they each have been marginalized, shamed, stigmatized. Mary and Hannah both know what it means to be treated poorly, to be humiliated… Mary for being pregnant, and Hannah for being barren. They know what it feels like to be powerless, so they logically claim that God has set Himself against the abuse of power. Both authors are revealed as champions for the humble, the poor, the oppressed. They both advocate for the weak against the powerful, the humble against the haughty. Both songs also focus on God’s holiness and His mercy, His faithfulness and His greatness. Mary knew her Scripture intimately, and she undoubtedly used Hannah as a reference in her beautiful song of praise.

AFTERWARD. Hannah faithfully returned to Shiloh every year for the required sacrifices, and each time she dutifully brought a priest-like linen garment for Samuel to wear as he kept growing in size and stature. Eli continued to intercede for Hannah each year as well, asking God to bless her with more children to replace the son she dedicated to the service of the Lord. God honored Eli’s prayers, and Hannah gave birth to five more children, three sons and two daughters. And Samuel grew into the last great judge of Israel, and he became the first mighty prophet during that era. While Samuel received his training under Eli, “the Lord was with Samuel. Everything Samuel said proved to be reliable. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh and gave messages to Samuel… And Samuel’s words went out to all the people of Israel.” (I Samuel 3:19-4:1). Young Samuel grew into the great man of God who would anoint the future kings of Israel.

FINAL THOUGHT. Hannah is included in the rabbinic Hall of Fame, one of seven women considered to be prophetesses in the Hebrew Bible: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, and Esther. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 31:29, “Many daughters have done virtuously, nobly and well, with the strength of character that is steadfast in goodness, but you excel them all.” (Amplified Bible). There is no doubt that he was thinking of these noble women when he wrote that, when he wrote that “many daughters have done well.” Rabbinic tradition holds these seven prophetesses high when it comes to virtue and valor. And it is amazing that Solomon considers an unheralded woman in private life to be on a higher plane still than these seven heroines. And what makes this Proverbs 31 woman “far more precious than jewels, and her value far above rubies or pearls“? It’s not her multi-gifted abilities or her many impressive accomplishments. No, this renowned woman is glorified for reverently and worshipfully fearing the Lord. This woman is honored above all for her spiritual devotion to God in all the practicalities of daily life. It’s so interesting that even though Hannah and these seven heroes in biblical history are highly regarded, Solomon nonetheless puts this pious Proverbs 31 woman at a higher level still.