1st Samuel. Chapter one. Looking at Advent through Old Testament mothers and their birth and narratives. Leah was waiting to be loved, ruth was waiting to be included, and Hannah was waiting to be remembered. Through the birth of a son, the Lord brought his hope to each one of these mothers as we look through the reading of God’s word.
If you would join me in prayer.
Living God, we ask you to help us to hear your holy word, that we may truly understand, that in understanding we may believe, and believing we may follow in all faithfulness and obedience, seeking your honor and glory in all that we do. And this we ask do Christ our Lord. Amen. Looking at chapter one, an abridgement beginning in verse one, there was a certain man of Ephraim whose name was Okana and he had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah and the name of the other was Pinnah.
And Pinana had children, but Hannah had no children. Now, this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship the sacrifice to the Lord of Host at Shiloh. On the day when Ocana sacrificed, he would give portions to Pinana, his wife, and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion. Because he loved her.
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 she went up to the house of Lord, she used to provoke her. Though Hannah wept and would not eat, she was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow, said, oh, Lord Host, 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’ll give him to the Lord all the days of his life and no razor shall touch his head.
They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord. Then they went back to their house at Rama, and Alcanna knew Hannah, his wife, and the Lord remembered her. And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She called the name Samuel, for she said, I have asked for him from the Lord, the word of the Lord. You please be seated.
There is in Scripture a melody line from Genesis to Revelation, the melody of redemption. At the fall of Adam and Eve, a promise was given. A child would come to ultimately crush the head of Satan. Genesis 315 and the child would come through ordinary means, through the corridors of human history. Stories like Hannah are all in harmony to this melody line.
They are a part of the complete and full musical score. Her son Samuel is not in the genealogy of Jesus, but he plays a similar role to King David as john the Baptist does to King Jesus Hannah. Her personal plight of infertility is connected to the larger covenantal story that the Lord has written through centuries. From death and barrenness, the Lord brings life fruitfulness to his people. This Godly woman, she endures societal shame, a great inner loss, all the while wondering why the Lord had forgotten her.
Why does the Lord not hear her cries and rescue her from this agony? Why doesn’t the Lord remember her? She feels so small and insignificant. And what we do see in Hannah is that the Lord likes to use seemingly little packages of nothing to display his great glory. And because the Lord alone can remove our shame and fill our longing hearts, we must learn to wait upon Him with expectation and joy.
Last week with the Book of Ruth, the time period was in the Book of Judges, that time period of the Judges. And here Samuel will be the last of the Judges, the same time frame taking place. And in this we enter into the plight of one barren woman. At first it seems like any other quaint story that we see in scripture. We can go, oh, isn’t that nice, god coming through for the little guy.
Yet all the while this is happening to Hannah. The Lord is doing something for Israel on a much greater scale. The Book of Samuel gives us the shaping of Israel’s history into a kingdom. It’s closely tied. It says the Book of Judges, where judges showed what a mess Israel was in moral chaos, cycles of sin that just kept getting worse and worse.
Either incapable or unwilling, Israel cannot solve her problems. And the Book of Judges ends with this final indictment. In those days there was no king. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. So one Samuel picks up this theme and it leads to God selecting a king to rule his people.
But this theme is also bigger than just Israel as a nation. The entire drama of human redemption is moving towards its ultimate consummation in King Jesus. Through a barren woman comes Samuel, the great prophet priest, who announces King David. And a thousand years later, through another barren woman, Elizabeth, john the Baptist, the great prophet priest who announces Jesus from David to Jesus. The larger story, the melody line is playing in the background as the Lord conducts this great symphony of salvation.
And if we fail to see this, we’ll misunderstand. The role of Hannah we see here at the start is really an end to her shame that she had not been forgotten. The chapter begins, there is a certain man, Okana? Then it gives a list of names, Okana? The son of Jerome, the son of Elijah, the son of Tohu, the son of Zoof.
And iforite all of these names tell us that this was a man with a pedigree, it goes on to say that he had two wives, hannah and pennant. Pennant had children, but Hannah had no children. So Elkana had a proud past, but no future. With Hannah. He has two wives, following the ancient custom of having a second wife to bring children to the home.
If the first was infertile, as I mentioned before, polygamy was a concession in the ancient world. But everywhere we see it in Scripture, it’s filled with turmoil. God’s design from the beginning for marriage, was for one man and for one woman. And in the ancient world, your children were your Social Security, your retirement account. The structure of tribal inheritance was based on progeny.
Children were everything for a husband and a wife. A childless home brought with it a deep sense of social shame and loss. Hannah saw her whole identity and her significance as a woman was all on the line. She’s bearing the weight of this alone. Her husband certainly loves her, care for her deeply, but he has children through the other wife.
Her burden of barrenness, of infertility, it rests on her shoulders. And there’s very much is this cry of the heart that says, God has forgotten me. Verse three tells us that this man used to go year by year from his city to worship, to sacrifice at Shiloh. Shiloh was where the tabernacle was being kept at the time. And they’re a very devout family, a devout family going to worship year by year at the tabernacle.
And verse six tells us that her rival used to provoke her, grievously, to irritate her because the Lord had closed her room. Anna 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, would not eat. Sounds a lot like hagar with what she did to Sarah back in Genesis 16.
One translation says her tormentor. In verse seven, we see that Penana intentionally provoked her. She rubbed her face in her infertility. Now, think about that for a moment. What kind of a person does that?
Kind of person makes fun of a cripple? The kind of person who likes and picking on a person when they’re down. Now, as a side note, this is a problem any age. Anybody can do this. But particularly for you students, this type of sin is very common in school, isn’t it?
Finding a person’s weak point, using your words like a knife to cut them deep. May that never be by God’s. People don’t rub someone’s nose in their pain as a means of trying to elevate yourself at their expense. Because God sees god takes notes. That should never be something that we do to another human being.
Their pain, their misery is not a tool of our maliciousness going forward. Verse eight, her husband tries to comfort her, but he can’t. Why? Because it’s a god issue. So what does she do?
She takes her grief, her barrenness to God, to God’s house, and she pours out her heart to the Lord. Verse ten, it says she was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed to vow and said, o Lord of Host, 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. A razor part. It speaks to the Nazarete vow.
Numbers, chapter six. It means that he’s to be dedicated to the Lord in a special way like we see with Samson. And as she’s praying, the high priest Eli is sitting nearby and he sees her lips moving but he doesn’t hear any sound. And he accuses her of being drunk. He finds out that that’s not the case at all.
She just deeply moved in her heart and maybe, in a sense an apologetic way, he just says, Go in peace and the God of Israel, grant your petition that you’ve made to him. And Hannah said, let your servant find favor in your eyes. A little bit of a pun there. The word favor is hen and her name is Favor Grace. Hannah, she says the woman went away, ate and her face was no longer sad.
Why the change? What happened now? It could be there was an internal prompting by the Holy Spirit where she just knew that this was answered. But she had poured out her heart to the Lord. She had laid her grief at his feet.
How God chose to answer was beyond her. She knew that the Lord Almighty, the Lord of hosts had heard her and that’s what she had to bank on. How he would answer that was not hers to control. But she was hurt. And in verse 19 it says the Lord remembered her and she has a son, Samuel.
And after three to four years she brings him to the temple and she sees Eli and she says to him, oh, my Lord, as you live, my Lord, I am the woman who is standing here in your presence praying to the Lord for this child. I prayed and the Lord has granted my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives. He is Lent to the Lord, says, and he worshiped the Lord there.
Now Lent in the sense of entrusted or dedicated. Not like a Lent lease program. She’s getting him back. She dedicated him to the Lord. There is a cultural distance here for us.
It’s inconceivable for us to think about giving up a child like this. The Lord does give her five more children after this. But this is a cultural moment that’s really hard for us to understand in our moment. Hannah kept her vow to the Lord. Samuel serving the Lord at the tabernacle was a great honor for her family.
It was a part of the removal of her shame. Hannah’s personal plea, her private petition, was answered by the Lord. But if we just stop there, we say something. Well, you know what? You just need to pray and have faith.
We’ve missed it. Pray hard or try more. No, as one Old Testament scholar reminds us. He says the story of Hannah invites us with Israel to reflect on this question. How is a new future possible amid the barrenness that renders us bitter, hopeless and fruitless?
That’s what we’re called into.
How is a future possible in the midst of barrenness of all kinds? Remember, Hannah is connected to a greater story, a harmony to a greater melody. In answering her prayer, her private prayer, god is providing for the public good of his people. He will remember his covenant with Israel. Make no mistake, god is at the very heart in the center of all these events.
Back in verses five and six, the Lord closed Hannah’s womb. Verse 17 it was the Lord’s priest who blessed her. Verse 19 said they worshiped the Lord. The Lord remembered her. Verse 27, the Lord granted her request.
God is the one who has entered into human history. That’s good news. And he uses, as we’ve seen repeatedly in Scripture, he uses the downcast, the lowly, the marginalized to bring about his good for his people. Hannah did nothing other than approach God to pour out her heart to Him. God likes to use little packages of seemingly nothing to display his glory.
Her personal pain and anguish fit into a larger public pain and anguish of God’s people. As one commentator said, he says Israel’s life emerges out of barrenness by the power of God. That power is inexplicable, but it also is irresistible. Everything that Israel would need to bring about her future transformation to bring from fruitlessness and barrenness is brought about by the power of God alone. The great epic figures in First Samuel of Samuel, Saul and David are preempted by Hannah, a childless woman.
Her very name means favor and grace. God’s grace upon his people personified. In this woman’s plight, god remembered Hannah just like he remembers his people and now. So here is where you and I are invited into the life of Israel through a desperate woman. We wait.
We wait with her in the middle of her anguish, to see God bring about resolution.
Having come to God with nothing, she now returns to Shiloh to give back that which means everything to her.
God has delivered, and now she gives it all back in worship. She returns to God what he has given by willingly laying her Son on the altar. She will only get to see Him when they come back to Shiloh as a family, year by year, when they come back to worship. Her integrity is great.
Chapter two leads into this beautiful song of Hannah. It’s likely a hymn of worship of Israel that Hannah takes up for the occasion. And what is surprising in the song is it’s not so much a thanksgiving of a son, it’s a celebration of Almighty God who reverses human fortunes, has many similarities to Psalm 113. But what should immediately strike us is how similar it is to another mother’s song at the birth of Jesus. Luke, chapter one, what we refer to as the Magnificent.
They’re these words, these themes, they parallel one another. And here Hannah prays out and says, my heart exalts in the Lord, my strength is exalted in the Lord, my mouth derives my enemies because I rejoice in your salvation. There is none wholly like the Lord. There is none beside you. There’s no rock like our God.
Verse five to seven. The baron has born seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The Lord kills and brings to life. He brings down to shell and he raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich.
He brings low and he exalts. She’s highlighting the power of God. Her great gods protect his people versa. He raises up the poor from the dust. He lifts up the needy from the ash sheep to make them sit with princes and inherit a feat of honor.
He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by Mike shall a man prevail.
There’s a melody of scripture. Not by Mike shall a man prevail. No, it’s not at all. And you and I, then, are invited into the song with the rest of God’s people. Our private stories harmonize into God’s corporate, public melody of redemption.
We can place ourselves in the shoes of Hannah because of something greater taking place, because of Jesus. Because in Hannah we see, as we see in several characters in scripture, another picture of the truly desolate one, the barren one, who said, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. That’s Jesus talking of himself, the barren one who’s going to die and bear much fruit. You see, Hannah’s story is a part of the story.
God’s grace running through human history, running through a family, through a tribe to culminate in the history fulfillment from a nation to the person of Jesus. And the story now races through time, backwards and forwards from the cross which now embraces Hannah. We hear the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 54. He says, sing, o barren one.
Sing o Bear. And one who do not bear, break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor. For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married, says the Lord. How can Isaiah speak of this? Why?
Why can he speak of this fruitfulness coming out of barrenness? Because the chapter before is chapter 53, speaking again of the barren colonel who would die. He was despised and rejected by men. The man of sorrows acquainted with grief. Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows, yet we astreamed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted.
Hannah’s story is a harmony in the great melody of redemption that we find in Jesus.
We hear them resonate through the corridors of human history and blend into that full song of salvation. And you and I have been included in that.
We’re a part of that song.
Look at verse ten in chapter two. It says the adversaries of the Lord shall be broken into 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 power of his anointed.
The word Anointed in Hebrew is Messiah. It’s the first time in scripture that that word is used speaking of a king. Now, it certainly looks to King David, it was coming up shortly, but it looks well beyond him. The melody line of God’s redemption is playing loudly. What seems barren in you right now?
What seems infertile fruitless to you? What hope have you given up on where you feel forgotten by the Lord in faith? I invite you to bring these pleas, these petitions to God. Pour out your heart to Him, lay them at his feet, and as you rise, rise to worship the Lord of hosts, the Lord of glory.
Because we remember that these seasons of barreness in what feels to us as fruitless. These are seasons given by God.
He is the one who has brought those to us. As Paul says, I’ve learned, whether in much or in little, to give thanks to God, to be content, because there’s God who brings them. God brings a feast, god brings a famine. And if God thinks that we need those things, they are for our good. God will bring seasons of walking through the desert so that you and I will thirst for Him.
I don’t know what it is, but we have a hard time thirsting for God in abundance. We just do like, thank you, God, for these wonderful things. We just roll with it. But when things don’t go well, that pushes on a part of our heart that makes us so dependent upon him that we can bring that agony to him. He’s not offended by it.
He’s not put off by it. We don’t have to fake it. Hannah wept bitterly before God, and he answered her prayer in a particular way. The hard part, the hard heart part is God answers this prayer in the way that he deems best for us, not the way that we want him to answer. Sometimes we don’t get the Samuel, sometimes we do.
But he’s still on the throne. He hasn’t forgotten us. He’s hurt us. How do I know? Because the barren one, the stricken one, he is raised from the dead.
He did not abandon his Son to the grave. He’s alive because of that, we have life in Him. And we now are enmeshed in the song of Christ. With Isaiah, then we can sing obarin one who did not bear, break forth into singing. Cry aloud you who have not been in labor.
Because God will bring his fruit. He will cause it to bloom and the blossom because of who he is. Don’t be afraid to bring your little nothing so that God would display his great glory through Jesus. Pray with me.
Father Almighty, we come before you recognizing how hard it is to suffer seasons of affliction fruitlessness. And, Lord, as we come before you, we ask that you would open our eyes to see beyond what’s in front of us, Lord, that you would help us to hear, Lord, your melody of redemption just sounding forth in the background, the foreground everywhere. Father, help us to hear. Help us to see. And, Lord, in the midst of this, as we draw near to you, Father, we pray that the glory of Jesus would shine.
For in the way that you have ordained, that you would continue to direct our steps, that you would continue to bring forth the harvest of righteousness because of the righteousness of Christ given to us by faith alone. And this we pray and ask in his mighty name.
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