Have you ever stopped to consider the things that make you truly happy?
Family? Friendships? Work? Holidays? Your team winning? The other team losing?
When we get down to our heart motives when we think about those things that make us happy, we realise we are looking for something that captures our attention and fills us with a sense of satisfaction.
That satisfaction is too often found in temporary things, but in worship of God, we find our worship is not only meaningful and purposeful, but that it also can bring true joy, despite our circumstances.
We met Hannah when she was at her lowest. Married to a polygamist, barren, attacked by her rival, and crying out to God. We know that God answered her prayer for a son that she would then dedicate back to God for all his life.
Hannah’s whole story is grounded in worship. (1:3,7,9,15,19,21,24, 2:1-11, 18-21). It wasn’t something she was given to do once or twice a year. It was her lifestyle. It wasn’t something she only did when she needed something from God. Her worship of God defined who she was.
We can learn from Hannah how to develop a worshipful life, even in the midst of hurt and doubt.
1 – Establishing God’s Word ( 1:20-28)
Yearly traditions may vary for family to family. It might be a specific holiday location you return to every year, a favourite meal you all like to eat together, or certain events you never miss. Traditions can be great blessings.
The tradition that Elkanah and his family had was a good one. Every year they went to Shiloh to worship. For Elkanah’s faults, he had this it seems, he lead his family to worship the one true God. His worship was compromised, but no more than our’s is most times we gather together.
We need to wary of not doing something purely out of tradition ( no matter how good it is) and ignoring God’s Word and Will for our lives, as Elkanah seemed to do. Traditions can be a blessing, but they can also lead to us being bling about things we’re getting wrong. I’ve been an Elkanah many times.
The year on from Hannah’s promise to God, God has remembered her and given her the son she asked for – Samuel, ‘heard of God/ the one asked for by God’ .
She could not take him up to the temple at that young age to serve, so she stayed behind until he was weaned, which could’ve well been several years.
Elkanah’s desire that God’s word would be established (1:23) seems like an odd thing at first to say.God has done His bit!
It’s reminding us that God is faithful and true to His Word, He can be trusted.
For Hannah and Elkanah, He had proven Himself, now it was up to them to prove their word, which they had every intention of.
In the midst of culture of perversion and secularity, Hannah was going to give her son the best she could in the time she had with him, she was going to establish God’s Word in her own life, so that it would flow into her child’s.
When it does come time to take Samuel to the temple,she takes very costly sacrifices along as well. You could excuse them from having to take anything as they are bringing their son, but they still bring what is required in the law for a firstborn son ( Exodus 13:11-13), but they bring so much more also.
Hannah’s approach to Eli shows that although it was Eli that spoke the promise to her, she acknowledges God had done it all, and she was there to fulfil her vow and to do so willingly.
When God’s Word is established in our hearts, we will want to not only please God by obeying what He has commanded, but our whole lives will be defined by worship and sacrifice.
What have you given up for God?
Has His Word gone down deep into your heart and mind?
2 – Praising The God of Reversals ( 2:1-11)
Mary’s ‘Magnificat’ echoes Hannah’s song ( Luke 1:46-55) and the most telling similarities are praise of God as humble servants, but also the parallels and reversals that they point out so vividly.
mighty are broken, feeble gain strength (v.4)
the full are hungry, the staved are no longer hungry (v.5a)
the barren is fruitful, the fruitful are barren (v5b)
the poor made rich (v.7ff)
the lowly are exalted (v7ff)
Hannah shows us that in God’s economy and kingdom, the things and people we value by our standards mean nothing when God gets involved.
God turns things upside down and inside out.
He reverses destinies by His grace and mercy. He brings life where there is none.
Usually the announcement of a birth or impending birth isn’t quite done like this. We see the ultrasound image on Facebook and then it’s official. We sent out invites to a baby shower. We put a notice in the local newspaper. We call our family and friends and fawn over the little baby, or act politely if it’s ugly.
Hannah isn’t here to fawn over Samuel and boast about him. She isn’t here to gloat about her accomplishment. She’s here to praise the God Who not only made it all happen, but Who was with her before, during and after her trial of barrenness.
He has taken her from the bottom to the top, and He has done for her what He does for all His people Who trust in Him and take Him at His Word, He has saved her (2:1b).
Her emphasis is on His power, His strength, His sovereignty.
What causes you to boast?
What causes you to break out in worship? Your works, or God’s?
3 – Getting More Than We Can Ask or Imagine ( 2:18-21)
We skip ahead slightly and see that Hannah gets far above and beyond what she asked of God.
She asked for one son whom she could give back to Him. A son she couldn’t even keep, but had to give up. She is a faithful woman of God, a solid theologian, and could live out what she proclaimed. An excellent example to follow.
She faithfully went back to Shiloh every year with her family to visit her son, and bring him a new outfit every year.
We can picture that scene.
The anticipation, not only of worshipping the God she trusted in, but of seeing His answered prayer right before her eyes, every time she entered His house to worship Him? The weeks and days ahead of that year’s pilgrimage, busily sewing and threading a new garment, just a little larger than the one from last year. It’s heartwarming, although also a little heartbreaking. She would have to say goodbye every year as well.
God’s blessing to Hannah doesn’t end with Samuel though.
He ‘visited her’ (2:21a) and she had five more children after Samuel. She had a full home and life because she had received God’s Word and obeyed Him in it.
It’s a challenge to us as we go to worship – what are observing about what God has already done and is doing for us that above and beyond what we could have possibly asked for?
4 – There is No Rock Like Our God ( 2:2,11)
These are familiar phrases to us that Hannah shares about God being her rock and salvation.
We see them all through the Psalms. David often refers to God as the ‘horn/strength being in the Lord’ and his ‘rock and refuge, his salvation’.
At the end of 2 Samuel (22:1-23:7) David’s closing words are very similar to Hannah’s.
David learnt much from Hannah. As did Mary. As can we.
Here is a woman, by all accounts a nothing, a nobody. Unnoticed by all. An outsider. Mistreated. She asks God for a son, and received one, whom she gives back to God.She doesn’t resign herself to defeat and ridicule though. She turns to God.
We today face what Hannah and many others have faced around the world through various ages and cultures. We face apathy. We face compromise in the family and the church. We live in a secular society. We are part of a church that seems destined for fruitfulness as so many have abandoned God’s Word ‘to do what is right in their own eyes’ or others have just given up completely.
What are we to do?
What did Hannah do when faced with all this corruption and her own barrenness?
She turned to God.
She certainly was not a defeatist.She believed in the God Who could reverse the worst of situations.
“The church’s weakness should turn us to the Lord in desperate prayer, not away from him in resigned defeat.” – Tim Chester
She had an extraordinarily hard life, but yet she can say ‘There is no rock like our God’.
What a faith! That is a prayer we could pray for one another, as a church. As families. As friends.
If we as a church could call upon God, not only would we be fruitful,we would be so much more of the church we are meant to be.
If we do not think that prayer changes anything, then we will not pray and nothing will change. If we believe, as Hannah did, that pray can change things, then why do we not pray?
Hannah can say this before she’s received the extra blessing of five more children. She can say that as she surrenders the one thing in life she had most desperately wanted back to the One Who gave him to her. She can say that because she knows her Holy God is enough. He’s all she had before Samuel, and He’s all she’ll need after she gives him up.
We never see the end of all our troubles in this life, but can we with Hannah trust that our God is a Rock on which we can rest and that He is enough?
Hannah also points forward, in her closing words of her song, to One Who would be anointed ( Messiah). We would think that she’s referring to the kings we meet in the rest of 1 and 2 Samuel, but there has been no talk of kings yet.
She is prophesying about the ultimate King Who would initiate the ultimate of reversals. He would take the opposite direction to Hannah’s story. He would ‘turn the world upside down’( Tim Chester).
Hannah reminds us so clearly of Jesus.
She was low and then exalted.
This King, even though she proclaims His strength and power, will come down instead of ascending.
She was ridiculed then praised.
He was praised for all eternity, and came to face ridicule.
She was wrongly judged and then proven innocent.
He was the only innocent one, wrongly accused and condemned.
She had nothing but was blessed with abundance the end.
He had everything and gave it all up.
She made a new robe for her son to wear.
He put aside robes of glory to put on our filthy rags.
She gave up her son and gained more children.
He was the only begotten Son, given up at great cost.
Hannah was looking for a King.
We know Who He is.
Is He your Rock and salvation?