1 Samuel 1:1-2:26
Hannah was not able to have children, unlike her husband’s other wife, Peninnah, who had children and was horrible to Hannah about this fact. Hannah was often in tears and would not eat due to Peninnah provoking her. This shows that polygamy is not a healthy situation, which is why it was banned by the time of the New Testament. God’s law is that one wife and one husband should be lovingly tied together with a supernatural spiritual soul-tie until death.
Hannah was often reduced to tears during her family’s annual visit to the house of the Lord in Shiloh. At the Lord’s temple, she wept and prayed, with her lips moving but her voice not being heard. She vowed to dedicate her first son to God, if he were to bless her with one, and she would never use a razor on his head. He would be a long-haired Nazirite like John the Baptist or Samson.
At first, Eli the priest thought she was drunk but when Hannah reassured him that she wasn’t and had been ‘pouring out my soul to the Lord’ (v.16) in great anguish and grief, Eli blessed her: ‘Go in peace and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him’ (v.17).
Hannah had faith that her prayers would be answered. She went away and ‘ate something, and her face was no longer downcast’ (v.18).
God heard their prayers and Hannah gave birth to a boy named Samuel, meaning ‘God heard’.
When Samuel had been weaned, Hannah took him to Eli the priest to give him to the Lord. According to non-canonical writings, this is what happened to the Virgin Mary. She was left at the temple by her parents, so she would be a vocational virgin all her life. However, she had to be taken out of the temple before puberty, as the temple could not be defiled by human blood, and it was arranged for the elderly widower, Joseph, to be her ‘husband’ / guardian.
Hannah prayed to the Lord. This is similar to the ‘Magnificat’ that Mary sings (Luke 1:46-55). Mary would have been exceedingly well educated on the scriptures, having been brought up in the temple, and probably knew Hannah’s prayer by heart. Hannah’s prayer starts: ‘My heart rejoices in the Lord’ (2:1). Mary’s song starts: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour’ (Luke 1:47). Hannah didn’t start her prayer delighting in her son that the Lord had given her. Her prayer didn’t focus on her own blessings. She delighted in God’s faithful provision, justice and mercy for the poor and the needy on a global scale.
They are both magnificent prayers. Hannah ‘boasts over my enemies’ (2:1) but Mary, who never sinned, remained humble: ‘he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant’ (Luke 1:48). Mary knew that all generations would call her blessed but not due to her own deeds but because ‘the Mighty one has done great things for me’ (Luke 1:49). Hannah rejoiced that the Lord strengthens the weak, the poor, the needy and the hungry. He gives children to the barren.
Hannah prophesised that God would raise Jesus from the dead: ‘The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up’ (2:6). People who oppose the Lord will be shattered and He will judge the ends of the earth (v.10). Israel had no king yet but Hannah prophesied that one would be appointed: ‘He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed’ (v.10).
Hannah’s infant son, Samuel, stayed in Shiloh and ministered to the Lord under the care and instruction of Eli. Hannah continued to be blessed by the Lord and had three sons and two daughters (v.21).
The two sons of Eli, the priest, were wicked men. They would plunder the meat brought for the sacrifices before the allotted time and slept with the women who ‘served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting’ (v.22). It is extremely important for Christians, particularly religious leaders, to keep themselves pure as people will be watching their every move – looking for every opportunity to criticise them and their religion. Sexual scandals within the church have done terrible damage to everyone involved and also to onlookers. It is one of the most basic tricks of the devil to persuade people that the church has no merit, by revealing the sins of church leaders. Church leaders are under a much higher level of attack / temptation than others as it is so advantageous to the demonic realm if they fall. However, a higher degree of temptation is no excuse as God will always give us sufficient grace to resist any temptation.
Eli should have denounced his sons and removed them from their priestly role. He rebuked them and they ignored his complaints because ‘it was the Lord’s will to put them to death’ (v.25). This shows that people carrying out professional religious duties are in no way safe from God’s righteous anger and judgment. God knows our hearts and will be fully aware if we are working for our own pride and to gain immoral benefits or if we are working out of love for him and our fellow humans.
The boy Samuel grew up in a similar positive way as the child Jesus (Luke 2:52). The boy Samuel grew ‘in stature and in favour with the Lord and with men (v.26)’. Jesus grew ‘in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man’ (Luke 2:52). Jesus was always wise because he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, the fount of wisdom, and was completely filled with the Holy Spirit from the minute of his conception.
Through our baptism and belief in Jesus, we become ‘his sheep’, listen to his voice and follow him (v.27). He gives us eternal life and we will never perish. No matter what is thrown at us, Jesus reassures us that ‘no-one can snatch them (us) out of my hand’ (v.28). If Jesus holds us in his hand, we are also in God the Father’s hand because Jesus said: ‘I and the Father are one’ (v.30). We cannot earn our salvation through our own good deeds – it is a free gift from God on account of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. It is an eternal gift – no-one can snatch us from Jesus’ hand – but we can prise ourselves out of Jesus’ hands and go wandering off again to commit grave sin. God will respect our free will even though he will desperately long for us to return.
Even if the Pharisees didn’t believe Jesus’ words, they should have believed him through the miracles that he did. Similarly, non-Christians today might not believe us when we tell them the gospel but if we demonstrate the presence of the living God through healing, delivering them and giving them supernatural words of knowledge and prophecies they should believe. Only the most stubborn and hard-hearted will reject Jesus when his healing power has directly touched their lives. To demonstrate supernatural power, we have to be moving in the gifts of the Spirit having fully invited Jesus and the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts to save and empower us.
Jesus returned to where John had baptised in the early days. John was a prophet not a miracle worker. John never performed a miraculous sign (v.41) even though he was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was born (Luke 1:15). Sometimes we have to go back to our origins for people to witness how much progress we have made. When they now saw Jesus at the peak of his public ministry, many recognised that John the Baptist had been truthfully foretelling the immediate future. John’s prophetic words had come true in their own lifetime and they could now see the miracle-working Messiah with their own eyes: ‘and in that place many believed in Jesus’ (v.42).
Our souls thirst for God and we will never be satisfied until we abide in him.
We can battle through life in a dry and weary land with no water as a type of living hell (the actual eternal hell has no water at all) or we can choose to come to Jesus – the fountain of living water. If we drink the water he gives us, we will never go thirsty again.
When we can’t sleep at night – let us remember and meditate on God. Pray the perfect prayer to him by praying in tongues – hand over your voice to the Holy Spirit for him to pray through you and for you.
We should cling to God, lift up our hands to praise him and shelter in the shadow of his wings because he is our help and his right hand upholds us.
Image: Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons