Hannah: Noticed by God
On the Lord’s Day before thanksgiving this past November we spent some time considering Jacob’s unwitting wife Leah. In may ways, Hannah and Leah are exact opposites. Leah was unloved, Hannah was loved very much. Leah was able to bear almost continually while Hannah was unable to bear. In the earlier situation, Leah is the antagonizer, constantly provoking her rival Rachael. The account from 1 Samuel presents us with the antagonized Hannah being constantly berated by her husband’s other wife Peninnah.
And yet, with all of their differences, there is one striking similarity: both are in deep despair thinking that some otherwise legitimate gift of God would satisfy them. Different circumstances, but the same response!
1 Samuel 2:1-10
1 And Hannah prayed, and said,
My heart rejoiceth in the LORD,
Mine horn is exalted in the LORD:
My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies;
Because I rejoice in thy salvation.
2 There is none holy as the LORD:
For there is none beside thee:
Neither is there any rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so exceeding proudly;
Let not arrogancy come out of your mouth:
For the LORD is a God of knowledge,
And by him actions are weighed.
4 The bows of the mighty men are broken,
And they that stumbled are girded with strength.
5 They that were full have hired out themselves for bread;
And they that were hungry ceased:
So that the barren hath born seven;
And she that hath many children is waxed feeble.
6 The LORD killeth, and maketh alive:
He bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.
7 The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich:
He bringeth low, and lifteth up.
8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust,
And lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill,
To set them among princes,
And to make them inherit the throne of glory:
For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s,
And he hath set the world upon them.
9 He will keep the feet of his saints,
And the wicked shall be silent in darkness;
For by strength shall no man prevail.
10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces;
Out of heaven shall he thunder upon them:
The LORD shall judge the ends of the earth;
And he shall give strength unto his king,
And exalt the horn of his anointed.
There are actually two prayers of Hannah’s recorded in the narrative. In chapter 1 verses 10 & 11 she makes what sounds like a bargain: “Give me what I want so badly and then I’ll serve you…” I hesitate to be too critical since she is coming humbly and reacts with great faith when Eli the priest, who has been watching her emotion-filled wordless prayer, promises that the Lord will answer in the affirmative.
Sure enough, “the Lord remembers her” (1:19) and gives her the child for whom this book of the Old Testament is named. Much of chapter 2, then, is the second prayer that Hannah prays to the Lord. She’s, of course, exuberant. Ironically, however, it isn’t because she has finally got what she wanted that is the cause of her triumphal praise! I believe that when it dawned on Hannah that God actually listened with concern for her that she realized that all the significance, meaning and value that she hoped to gain from being a mother was already hers simply because the Lord noticed her, listened to her, and cared about her!
For proof, consider a few observations from the text:
· The name Samuel was chosen specifically because it sounds like the Hebrew phrase “the Lord heard” (1:19)
· In Hannah’s second prayer (2:1-10),
She exalts in the Lord, not in her child.
She praises God for lifting up her “horn” which was a common Hebrew symbol for power, authority and significance. Joined so closely with the previous phrase, it seems she is recognizing that the Lord himself is the one who gives her value.
“My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies,” she says, indicating that she finally has an answer for Peninnah who finds her place of significance exclusively in her ability to bear children.
Turning to ourselves, it is easy to think of things that we have hoped for and thought “if only…. then things would be better/different.” Hannah’s second prayer is helpful in that it paints pictures of when we ourselves have been able to witness God’s faithfulness to work on our behalf. Thinking through your past will likely bring to remembrance parallel situations which serve as a confirming reminder that God cares for you too.
V.4- When God worked for you in the face of impossible odds
V.5a- When your circumstances changed unexpectedly and rapidly for the better
V.5b- When an over-abundance of blessings came to you.
Even if you have not had an exact parallel in your life, you can still trust, as Hannah learned to, that God is in control of life and death (v.6a), sickness and health (v.6b), wealth and poverty (v.7a), honor and disgrace (v.7b). You can be sure of such things because the God of which we speak is the very architect and builder of the universe (v.8b) who will continue to rule it through his king forever (v.10). That last phrase of Hannah’s prayer, though she never saw the Messiah herself, should be reminder to us of the humbling value that the Lord places on his children. The king of which she speaks is none other than the Lord Jesus who earned the right to be exalted by perfectly obeying the Father right up to an including the death of the cross for you and I. If God be for us like that, then who can be against us!