Hannah: Portrait of a Godly Mother | 1 Samuel 1:1-20: 2:1-10
Brian Hedges | May 12, 2019
Well, turn in your Bibles this morning to the book of 1 Samuel. So that’s in the Old Testament; Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, if you’re trying to find your way around. If you’re using one of the pew Bibles, the Bibles there in the chairs in front of you, it’s going to be on page 225.
This morning, since it is Mother’s Day, I want to talk about one of the great mothers of the Bible. The Scriptures elevate for us motherhood over and over again. The very first woman, Eve, was the mother of all living, and then there are some of these great stories in Scripture about mothers that God used in a crucial way in redemptive history. We might think of Sarah, who was the mother of Isaac and bore Isaac in old age; he was the son of promise. We think about Rebekah, who was the mother of Jacob, who became Israel and the father of God’s people, the nation of Israel. We may think of Mary, the virgin, who became the mother of our Lord Jesus himself.
This morning I want to look at another one of the great mothers of the Bible, and this is Hannah, a woman named Hannah, who is introduced to us in 1 Samuel 1 and 2, and she was the mother of Samuel, who was a prophet and was a kingmaker. Samuel was the one who made and anointed Saul to be the first king of Israel and then King David, who was a great type of the Lord Jesus Christ in Scriptures. I want this morning to look at Hannah, who in many ways, I think, is a portrait of a godly mother.
Now, I know that on Mother’s Day we have all kinds of feelings and emotions. Some of us feel great gratitude and celebration as we think about our own mothers and the legacy that they left. Some of us, perhaps, didn’t know our birth mom, our maybe we had bad experiences growing up, we didn’t have a great relationship with a mom, so maybe Mother’s Day is kind of colored with some kind of disappointment or pain or suffering.
The same could be true for many of the women in this room. So if you are a mom, you may feel great gratitude and joy for the children that the Lord has given you, but I’m sure that there are women here this morning who would like to be married and are single and have not had the privilege of having children, or some who have lost children, so you can’t face a Mother’s Day without feelings some kind of grief at that loss.
Some of you have experienced the pain of miscarriage, which is often a very silent pain, and wondering about the fate of this unborn child, this child that died before birth. I just want to encourage you that I believe with all of my heart, I think there’s good reason in the Scriptures to believe that that child is in heaven, if you have lost children through miscarriage.
It may be that you’re struggling with infertility this morning, so there’s the pain of not having children even though there’s that longing.
Then certainly for all of us this morning, whether you’re a man or a woman, whether you’re a mother or not, for all of us this morning there are certain burdens that we carry, there are certain disappointments that we feel, there are certain sufferings that we bear in our lives, and we can’t really come into the presence of God without honestly dealing with that pain and that disappointment. I think the story of Hannah will help us with that, because here’s a woman who struggled with infertility and yet brought that struggle to the Lord in prayer and saw God do some amazing things.
So I want us to look at 1 Samuel 1, and by the end of the message we’re going to be in chapter 2 as well, but for our reading I just want to read 1 Samuel 1:1-20; again, it’s page 225 if you’re following along in one of the Bibles provided there for you.
“There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord. On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, ‘Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?’ After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.’ As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, ‘How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.’ But Hannah answered, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.’ Then Eli answered, ‘Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.’ And she said, ‘Let your servant find favor in your eyes.’ Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked for him from the Lord.’”
This is God’s word.
So this morning I want us to see how Hannah plants a seed of prayer in the soil of her suffering, and that seed bears fruit, the fruit of hope, hope in the kingdom of God. So three points to the sermon:
I. The Soil of Suffering
II. The Seed of Prayer
III. The Fruit of Hope
I. The Soil of Suffering
First of all, the soil of suffering. We get the setting, and really the cast of characters, in verses 1 and 2. You have these three characters: Elkanah, who’s a man with a good pedigree. Verses 1 and 2 give us four generations’ worth of his ancestors. And then his wife Hannah, who is barren, has no child (this is the source of her suffering); and then Elkanah has a second wife, Peninnah, and all of her sons and daughters.
Of course, it’s Hannah’s barrenness, her infertility, that is the source of her suffering. This is the source of her pain. You see it all over the text; it’s emphasized again and again and again and again. “Her heart was sad,” verse 8; she’s “deeply distressed,” verse 10; she weeps bitterly, verse 10. She describes her situations as affliction in verse 11, when she’s speaking to Eli. In verse 15 she says that she is “troubled in spirit,” and then in verse 16 her life is characterized by “great anxiety and vexation.” This is the situation. She’s suffering. She’s suffering the deep disappointment of barrenness, of infertility.
Her suffering is something of a symbol, actually, for, I think, the suffering of the entire nation of Israel. I think when you read the book of 1 Samuel in its context, in the flow of thought in the Old Testament, you have to remember that this book begins during the time of the judges, and it was the time when there was no king in Israel, so people did what was right in their own eyes.
There’s no hope, and Hannah’s hopelessness is almost a symbol for the hopelessness of the nation; and what happens through her life as she prays, as she takes that suffering to the Lord, as she plants this seed of prayer, what happens in her life and through her life is actually going to lead to hope for the whole nation of Israel, as eventually her son, Samuel, the kingmaker, will anoint King David, who will be, of course, the great ancestor to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of David. So Hannah plays a very crucial role, a role that she could not have known that she was playing in this moment. She’s feeling the angst and the bitterness and the affliction and the suffering of this disappointing condition in life, her barrenness.
Now, that suffering is aggravated by three factors, and I think when we notice these in the text we’ll see just how deep the suffering was.
(1) First of all, there was a cultural factor. There was cultural pressure for Hannah to bear children. I think that’s implicit when, again, you read how this passage begins with Elkanah and his pedigree, his ancestors. You remember that in the ancient near East, for a woman, having children was one of the most crucial things that she could do. There was tremendous cultural pressure to have children.
One of the commentators says that “barrenness in ancient times was the ultimate tragedy for a married woman, since her husband’s hopes and dreams depended on her providing him with a son to perpetuate his name and inherit his estate.” So, there was kind of a status thing connected to this. If a woman didn’t have children, she was scorned, she was looked down on.
But there was also an economic pressure, because this was a time in history in which a person’s livelihood was largely connected with a family, and the more children you had the greater workforce you had to tend your fields or to produce your goods and to distribute to the community. The children were working as part of the home, part of the family, so not having children was an economic hardship, because it meant there was one less worker in the family.
There were all kinds of reasons why there was pressure on women to have children, and Hannah felt that pressure, and perhaps it had become such a great pressure, such a great source of disappointment, that it had taken away all of her happiness in life.
Now, before we’re too quick to judge this ancient culture for putting so much pressure on women, we should just pause to realize that our culture today puts all kinds of pressure on both men and women. It may not be the pressure of having children, it’s other kinds of pressure, but every culture of the world has this tendency, doesn’t it, to put pressure on certain aspects of life, to put so much weight on those certain aspects of life that it essentially says, “If you have this or if you do this or if you accomplish this you’ll be a success, and if you don’t you’re not a success.”
So our culture has idols, and we tend to adopt those idols, then when those things aren’t happening in our lives we feel disappointed. We may be attached more to beauty or to status or to wealth or to success, to education; those kinds of things. In this culture, they attached it to children, so there was a cultural pressure for Hannah.
(2) There was also the pressure of personal relationships, a relational pressure. We see this especially with her rival, as she’s described in verse 6. That word carries the idea of a tormenter. Here’s a tormenter. Who is this tormenter? It’s Penninah. It’s the other wife.
Now, just a little side note here, if you’re read your Old Testament you know that polygamy is a pretty standard feature in the Old Testament. You find this again and again and again, where people in the Old Testament, even people who loved God, were a part of this cultural, social institution of polygamy. The interesting thing about the Bible is that every time you read about polygamy, when you read the details, it’s always bringing misery into the lives of those who are involved. The Bible implicitly disapproves of polygamy at every turn. It always brings hardship, and it certainly brought hardship for Hannah.
Probably, the reason that Elkanah married Penninah was because Hannah had not children, so he marries Penninah. He loves Hannah, but he loves Penninah in order to have children. Then Penninah becomes this rival, this tormenter.
As one commentator described her, she is an “overly fertile, mouthy, thorn in the flesh!" She’s constantly tormenting. She’s taunting Hannah. Notice this: this is happening over and over again. She’s irritating her, verse 6 says (“she used to provoke her grievously to irritate her”), and then in verse 7 it says it went on year by year. So this is a chronic thing! This isn’t just one year of Hannah’s life. We don’t know how long this was, but it’s long enough for the text to say it was “year by year.” This is a continual hardship for Hannah.
(3) Then get this: it gets even further aggravated by a theological factor. The theological factor is God’s providence. Notice the text does not shrink away from this; at the end of verse 6, the reason why Penninah is tormenting Hannah is because the Lord had closed her womb. God did that. The Lord closed her womb.
Hannah, no doubt, knew this. She knew what anyone who believes in a real God will believe, that God is the one who can give life and take life, that God is the one who can give conception or can withhold it.
We know that God can answer prayer, and sometimes he doesn’t. We know that God could have given us a different set of circumstances, a different set of gifts. God could have opened a door that he didn’t open, he could have provided a job that he didn’t provide, he could have given a spouse, but he didn’t give it. He could have protected my child, and he didn’t protect it. We know that, and it throws us right into the heart of the problem of suffering in the world. “Why, God?” That’s part of Hannah’s problem as well.
This gets exacerbated every year as they go to the place of worship, the central corporate place of worship, called the temple here, the place in Shiloh where Eli the high priest is; they go there year by year to offer their sacrifices, and when they go, that’s especially when Penninah is tormenting and taunting Hannah. It just shows that sometimes religion brings out not the best, but the worst in people, and that was certainly the case with Penninah.
So this is her suffering. This is the soil that Hannah has to work with. This is the little plot of ground that she’s been given, and it’s a plot characterized by pain. The question is, what will she do with it?
II. The Seed of Prayer
Here’s what I want you to see: she plants a seed. She plants a seed, a seed of faithful, believing, surrendered prayer. You see that in verses 9-20. Just read verses 9 and 10. “After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.”
This prayer becomes the turning point for Hannah. When you look through the rest of this next paragraph you see prayer all over the place. She makes a vow in verse 11. It’s interesting; she’s the first person in all of Scripture to address God, directly address God in prayer as “the Lord of hosts,” the God of the armies. She’s recognizing God’s power and God’s sovereignty.
Eli, the priest, is kind of an interesting contrast to Hannah. Eli thinks that she’s drunk because she’s praying silently. She says, “No, I haven’t been drinking; I’ve poured out. I’m not taking in, I’ve poured out my soul to the Lord.” She’s a contrast to Eli, who is this lazy, lethargic, obese high priest who has no rule over his own family, as we will learn later on in 1 Samuel. Hannah stands as a contrast.
And Hannah prays. She says, “I’ve been pouring out my soul to the Lord,” and the Lord will then hear that prayer and grant her a son. Even the name Samuel essentially carries the idea of, “I’ve asked for him from the Lord,” kind of a pun on a Hebrew word for prayer or for asking. In verse 27 she says, “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him.” So this is the seed; it’s the seed of prayer.
I think there are some things for us to learn, specifically from Hannah’s prayer. We tend to think of prayer in one of two different ways, and I think both of these are the errors, two errors of the many errors that we make about prayer.
Sometimes we think about prayer as, essentially, giving God our shopping list, right? I have a list of wants and needs, and if I will just give God that list then God is kind of like a genie in the bottle; you rub the lamp and you get your three wishes or whatever.
Now, none of us would be so crass as to put it that way, but sometimes we treat prayer that way, so that prayer loses its relational component and we’re not so much going to God in prayer because we want to go to God; we’re going to God because we want God to do something for us, and we are ignoring the blesser because we’re so concerned about the blessing. That’s one error. It’s kind of a consumer mentality about prayer. It’s prayer that essentially views God as a vending machine. “He exists to meet my needs.”
On the other hand, there are a lot of people who think that prayer is psychologically helpful, that if you pray it’ll make you feel better, but it’s not really effective. You don’t really expect prayers to get answered. You pray just because of what it does for you, but “miracles don’t really happen anymore, and we can’t really expect for there to be concrete, tangible answered prayers.” Again, we wouldn’t say that, but a lot of times we treat prayer that way. We don’t actually bring our needs before the Lord. We do not have because we do not ask, James tells us in the New Testament.
Those are two wrong ways to think about prayer, and in contrast to that, Hannah’s prayer is characterized by deep confidence in the Lord and deep surrender of her desires to the Lord.
(1) There’s confidence that here is a God who actually does hear and answer prayer. She comes to God, who is the Lord of hosts, he’s the Lord of the armies, he’s this great and mighty God! Here in a few moments we’re going to read her song of praise in 1 Samuel 2, and when you read that song it’s just amazing how theological it is, it’s amazing how great God is. She sees the sovereignty of God, she sees the greatness and the grandeur and the glory and the holiness of God! There’s great confidence in God for this barren woman.
Not only is there confidence in God because of his character, but Hannah has the confidence that God will listen to her! That’s exactly the heart we should have when we come to prayer. We should have great confidence in God. When we don’t have confidence that God is able and willing to answer our prayers, we insult God. We do him an injustice.
There’s a great story about Alexander the Great, that great emperor who conquered so much of the world, and there’s a story that there was a great philosopher in his court who was a man of great skill and Alexander loved him. He told him, “If you ever have a need, just ask the imperial treasury and the imperial treasury will meet that need.”
One day the philosopher comes with incredible need, and he brings it to the treasurer, and it’s such a great sum of money that the treasurer goes to Alexander. Surely Alexander’s not going to make this payment. This is what Alexander said. He said, “Pay the money at once. The philosopher has done me a singular honor. By the largeness of his request he shows that he has understood both my wealth and my generosity.”
Wasn’t it John Newton who said,
“Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring,
For his grace and power are such
None could ever ask too much”?
God is able to do far above all that we ask or think. So certainly we should pray with confidence, we should bring our needs and our desires and our problems to the Lord with confidence. He is a sovereign God, he is a good God, he is our Father, and he is able to answer!
(2) And yet, he’s not merely an indulging grandfather. He’s not an indulging grandfather, he’s a wise Father. He’s not a genie in a bottle, he’s not a vending machine, so when we come before him we must also recognize that he is the Lord, he is the King, he is the sovereign, and so, like Hannah, we should have not only confidence but surrender.
You see the surrender in her prayer as well. Look at verse 11. “She vowed a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.’”
She’s not bargaining with the Lord here. This isn’t a bargain. She is making a vow, and her vow is essentially to make her son a Nazarite, so that he will join the temple community and will be devoted to ministry for his entire life.
Now, this son, if she received a son, this son would represent all of the things that she lacks: the companionship of children, the economic benefit of children, a child to carry the name of her husband. She’s willing to give all of that up, all of the cultural significance of motherhood; she’s willing to give all of that up, devote him to the Lord, and indeed she does. She has a child. As soon as the child as weaned - can you imagine this? - as soon as the child is weaned she takes him to the temple, and he is devoted there to the Lord. She surrenders the very thing that she wants most. She gives it to the Lord. She surrenders the very thing that she longs for with all of her heart. The very thing that her culture and her family and everyone around her is saying, “If you only had this, you’d be happy.”
There comes a point in all of our lives where we have to surrender our deepest desires to the Lord. Here’s the thing about surrender: sometimes when we surrender things to the Lord, he gives us the desire of our hearts because it’s no longer first and second, further on down the list. And sometimes he doesn’t, but the surrender means that we have said to God, “Your will be done, and whatever you do is best.” That is what happened with Hannah. She’s a wonderful example of prayer.
I wonder, how’s your prayer life this week? Are there burdens in your life right now that you have not brought to the Lord in prayer? Are there situations and circumstances that you’re dealing with, suffering and pain and so on, where you need to plant the seed of faithful prayer in that soil? It may be a child that you have a deep concern for, physically or spiritually, and you need to bring that to the Lord. It may be a family member that you need to bring to the Lord. It may be a relationship, maybe your marriage relationship, that you need to bring to the Lord, and you need to bring it with both confidence and with surrender, handing it over to God.
It may be simply the struggle that you’re dealing with. Maybe you’re a single parent, or maybe it’s the struggle of infertility, or maybe as a single person it’s the struggle of loneliness. Or maybe you’re married and you have children, and externally you have everything you think you should want, but you’re still not happy, because family and children have brought a lot more burdens than you anticipated. Maybe it’s an illness or even a terminal illness - I mean, I could go on and on and on creating this list, couldn’t I, and not cover every need that may be represented here this morning; but we all have these situations. The only way for us to rightly deal with our suffering is to take it to the Lord, and in that suffering plant a seed of prayer.
Last week I mentioned to you that I’m reading a book on the revival on the Isle of Lewis, 1949 to 1952, ’53. This is an island off of the coast of Scotland, and one of the figures who was greatly used in that revival was a man named Duncan Campbell. Some of you have heard me tell this story before, but it’s been awhile. It’s one of, I think, the most incredible stories I’ve ever heard about how God worked in revival and how he worked specifically through prayer.
There was a woman that Duncan Campbell knew, an old woman who walked closely with the Lord, and he would sometimes consult with her. Sometimes she would just contact him and tell him what she felt like the Lord - how the Lord was leading. She did this one day, and she said, “I want you to go to this particular village. The Lord has impressed me you’re to go.”
He actually went. He didn’t really know why. As he’s driving to this village, he noticed that there was a young girl, a teenage girl on the side of the road, who’s weeping and sobbing. So he stopped his car, and he thought he would just see how she’s doing, what’s going on.
He asks her, “How can I help me? What can I do for you?”
She says, “You cannot help me; only God can help me.”
He thought, “Oh, she’s under conviction of sin! Maybe I can lead her to faith in Christ. Maybe I can share the gospel with her.” So he again says, “I can help you. Let me point you to the Lord.”
She says, “You cannot help me; only God can help me!”
He said, “What’s wrong? Tell me what’s bothering you?”
She said, “There’s a man named Duncan Campbell, and God has told me that he’s to come to my village to preach because my brother and my uncle are lost and they need to be saved, and I don’t know where to find him.” She had no idea she was talking to him.
He said, “How do you know this? How do you know this?”
She says, “I’ve been praying. I spent all night in prayer.”
“You spent all night in prayer?”
“Yes, I spent all night in prayer!” She’s weeping through all this. She says, “You don’t understand! My brother and my uncle are lost. They must hear the gospel! Duncan Campbell was the man that was to come preach.”
He just shook her gently by the shoulders and said, “Look at me. I am Duncan Campbell,” and she threw her arms around him and started weeping, and she said over and over again, “You are covenant-keeping God. You are a covenant-keeping God.” [Note: Both the brother and uncle were converted that night.]
God still keeps his promises. He still keeps his covenant. He still answers prayer. That was in the 1950s. It wasn’t just in Bible times that God did these things. If you are wrestling with some situation, circumstances, and especially with someone in your life (maybe a child or another family member) who does not know the Lord, I would encourage you, keep pressing that seed of prayer deep into the soil, because God can cause it to bear fruit.
III. The Fruit of Hope
We see the fruit in Hannah’s story in chapter 2:1-10. She devotes him to the Lord at the end of chapter 1, and then we have a song, the first ten verses of chapter 2. I want to read it to you and just point out a couple of things about it. Chapter 2:1-10:
“And 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.
There is none holy like the Lord:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble bind on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's,
and on them he has set the world.
He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
for not by might shall a man prevail.
The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces;
against them he will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.’”
(1) Now there’s a lot in that song to unpack, more than we can uncover this morning, but the first thing I want you to notice here is just the language that she uses. It’s just heavily weighted with these terms that speak of God’s sovereignty, of God’s power, of God’s kingship, of God’s authority. “There is none holy like the Lord.” The Lord is this great God, the Lord who brings low and exalts, right? She finds in this great God her own personal deliverance, her personal salvation. There’s hope in salvation in verses 1-3. Verse 3 ends with, “I rejoice in your salvation.”
Now, in its context, she’s not talking about being justified by faith or being born again. The salvation here is deliverance in her circumstances, right? God heard her prayer and granted her a son, and then other children after that. He took a barren woman and he gave her children. That’s the answered prayer. That’s the deliverance, that’s the salvation.
But here’s what I think we have to understand about every time you see a deliverance in Scripture and indeed in our own lives. Every single time God delivers and answers prayer, what we are experiencing in that moment is a deliverance that is a little microcosm of the greater salvation that God has given in Jesus Christ. We are seeing here an indication of God’s faithfulness in our lives, faithfulness that is ultimately shown to us through the death and resurrection of Christ and the salvation that we have in him.
Dale Ralph Davis is a great Old Testament commentator on the books of kings and so on, and he says in his commentary, “Every time God lifts you out of the miry bog and sets your feet upon a rock is a sample of the coming of the kingdom of God, a down payment on the full deliverance, the macro salvation that will be yours and mine.” She rejoices in God’s deliverance, in God’s salvation.
(2) But not only that, it’s not only there’s deliverance, but there’s transformation. There’s transformation. In her own life there’s a reversal of fortune. She was barren, now she has children. Now that’s not even the focus of the song. She mentions it, doesn’t she, in verse 5 (“The barren has borne seven…”), but the focus is on this greater reversal of fortunes that happens through the kingdom of God. In fact, what’s interesting here is that this song is something of a prototype that gets used again. Do you know who it gets used by? It gets used by another young woman who is facing something difficult; Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus, in Luke 1. So the famous song of Mary, the Magnificat, is largely based on Hannah’s prayer, using some of the same themes. There’s a transformation, this reversal of fortunes.
I don’t have time to look at these in detail, but if you read through verses 4-7 you’ll see there’s a series of contrasts. There are seven different contrasts: contrast between the strong and weak (verse 4), between the full and hungry and barren and fertile (verse 5), between the dead and the living in verse 6, between the sick and the well (also in verse 6), and then between the poor and the rich and the humble and the exalted in verse 7.
It just reminds us how God, when he begins to work, he’s always upsetting the norms. He’s always reversing things. He’s working in ways that are unexpected! He is exalting the humble, exalting the lowly. He is bringing life out of death. Isn’t that what the whole metaphor of a seed teaches us, that when a seed is planted in the soil the seed dies, and because it dies new life begins. Well, God’s doing that in Hannah’s life, and he does that in ours as well.
(3) Here’s the third thing to notice here: it’s not only hope in her personal deliverance for salvation and hope in the transformation that God’s kingdom brings, its hope specifically in the king, in God’s anointed. The last word of this prayer is the word “anointed,” and it’s the Hebrew word from which we get our word Messiah.
She is expressing hope in the kingdom of God, the kingship of God, but it is a kingdom that gets tangibly expressed in a human king. That king in the Old Testament is King David. Remember, her son Samuel will be the kingmaker who will anoint Saul and then tell Saul that the kingdom has been torn from him and, in 1 Samuel 16, will anoint David to be the king, David who will become the great-grandfather (great-great-great-grandfather) of King Jesus.
In short, what we see here is the kingdom of God in miniature. We see that as Hannah planted the seed of prayer in the soil of her suffering, the fruit that was born was the fruit of hope, hope in God’s kingdom, salvation, and reign.
I was reminded in preparing this of a verse in John 12 - you know this verse well - John 12:24. Jesus here is approaching the last week of his life, he’s approaching the cross, and you remember what Jesus said? He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit.” That principle holds true for the disciples of Jesus, he applies it immediately to them, and that principle is especially true of Jesus himself, because Jesus was the seed who was planted in the soil of human suffering in his crucifixion, and the fruit that was borne, the fruit of resurrection and of salvation and of a new creation and of the kingdom of God, that’s right at the heart of the gospel.
The call for each one of us this morning, the challenge for each one of us this morning, is in our lives, whatever the particular circumstances are, it’s for us to embrace this same principle of life out of death. It’s the gospel principle. Resurrection follows the cross, life follows death; we embrace that same principle in our lives by trusting God in our suffering, by looking to him in confidence and in surrender, by giving ourselves and our hearts and our desires to the Lord, and trusting him to make good on his promises.
Let me end with these words. This is C.S. Lewis. “Give up yourself and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end - submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay; but look for Christ, and you will find him, and with him everything else thrown in.”
Gracious and merciful God, this morning we look to you in your sovereign goodness and your fatherly providence, we look to you in this mysterious plan of your kingdom that brings life out of death, and we bring our own disappointments, we bring our own suffering, our affliction, our concerns, our trials; we bring those to you. Lord, we cannot see all ends, we cannot see the end from the beginning, we don’t fully understand the mystery of your providence; but we believe the gospel. We believe that Jesus, who was crucified, also rose again on the third day, and we believe in this principle of the gospel, that when we suffer with you we will also reign with you and that out of death there comes life.
So as we deny ourselves, as we die to ourselves, as we surrender our all to you, as we take up our crosses to follow you, we believe, we trust your promise this morning, that you will do us good and not evil, that you will be faithful, that you will establish your purposes, that you will use our suffering to do good. Indeed, all things work together for good for those who love you and are called according to your purpose. Help us to trust that this morning.
We pray especially for any moms really bearing the weight and burdens this morning. Would you give them hope right now?
Father, as we come to the Lord’s table this morning I pray that in coming to the table, as we take this bread, as we take this juice, we would do so with our hearts set on Jesus Christ, who has died for us and is risen again, and that that gospel hope would infuse us with new hope, with new strength and endurance, and even with joy as we trust in you, our God. We pray this in Jesus’ name and for his sake, Amen.