August 23, 2009 - Hannah, mother of Samuel

The account of Hannah found in I Samuel chapter one depicts a woman who was determined to plead with God – and directly with God – for the son that she so desperately desired.   In fact, Hannah’s persistence in approaching God with her plea for a child was very similar to what Jesus described when He spoke to His disciples about prayer, using the example of a friend who would wake a neighbor at midnight to ask for loaves of bread (Luke 11).

Priest Eli wasn’t so sure about Hannah’s behavior.  He noticed that her face was troubled and her lips were moving without producing any sound.  Eli was used to people feasting during their annual trips to Shiloh and assumed that Hannah must be drunk, so he confronted her with that apparent sin. 

After Hannah objected to the accusation and explained herself, Eli blessed her: “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him.”  Interestingly, Hanna responded, “May your servant find favor in your eyes,” and then she left the temple, ate food, and “was no longer downcast.”  Hannah’s reaction to her priest’s words show confidence in the will of God and in his sovereign mercy toward her.  She had not become a bitter woman during years of anguish, but still held out hope that God would grant her request.

The beautiful ending – no, the beautiful middle to the story – is that Hannah’s prayer was answered with the birth of a son whom she named Samuel, “because I asked the Lord for him.”  Hannah followed through with her vow to give this child to the Lord and God blessed him.  Samuel served under Priest Eli, became a Prophet of the Lord, and was Israel’s last Judge.  And it was Samuel whom God directed to anoint both Saul (1 Samuel 9) and David (I Samuel 16) as Kings over Israel.   But while she had one son living 15 miles away from her hometown of Ramathaim, Hannah was blessed with three more sons and two daughters “to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the Lord.”

The song that Hannah prayed on the occasion of handing Solomon over to Priest Eli so that he could “minister to the Lord” is a remarkable testimony to heartfelt appreciation for God’s love and action in her life.  What a wonderful example for us today!

Hannah’s Prayer (I Samuel 2:1-10)   

1 Then Hannah prayed and said:
       "My heart rejoices in the LORD;
       in the LORD my horn is lifted high.
       My mouth boasts over my enemies,
       for I delight in your deliverance.

    2 "There is no one holy like the LORD;
       there is no one besides you;
       there is no Rock like our God.

    3 "Do not keep talking so proudly
       or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
       for the LORD is a God who knows,
       and by him deeds are weighed.

    4 "The bows of the warriors are broken,
       but those who stumbled are armed with strength.

    5 Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
       but those who were hungry hunger no more.
       She who was barren has borne seven children,
       but she who has had many sons pines away.

    6 "The LORD brings death and makes alive;
       he brings down to the grave [c] and raises up.

    7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth;
       he humbles and he exalts.

    8 He raises the poor from the dust
       and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
       he seats them with princes
       and has them inherit a throne of honor.
       "For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's;
       upon them he has set the world.

    9 He will guard the feet of his saints,
       but the wicked will be silenced in darkness.
       "It is not by strength that one prevails;

    10 those who oppose the LORD will be shattered.
       He will thunder against them from heaven;
       the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.
       "He will give strength to his king
       and exalt the horn of his anointed."