Week of April 7

Words that Last

Read: 1 Samuel 1-2; Psalm 66; 2 Corinthians 7

“There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.”
1 Samuel 2:2, ESV


“I’m going, but I’m going in the name of the Lord,” were some of the last words of a 1920s famous Blues singer. What would you write, if you were called upon to pen a statement that would be your last written words? Hannah was not an author but the last words we ever hear/read from her lips are recorded in 1 Samuel 2, and they speak to this very day! Her thoughts are world-changing in style and content. “Hannah’s song” is 112 words in the Hebrew language, and, by comparison, Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address is 272 words. Hers is an “emancipation proclamation” of a soul set free from its overwhelming burden, and it speaks to our hearts in ways that words alone can never do—the Spirit makes it come alive. Let’s ask the Lord to awaken our souls to His message through Hannah’s voice this day.

The Meaning of the Text

Poetry of a people longing for justice
The monologue by Hanna is often described as a prayer that has been cast as a “poetic hymn” or a Psalm of Thanksgiving, and it is believed by scholars to be “among the earliest examples of Israelite poetry” (NAC). The song affirms core elements of Israelite faith: 1) Yahweh is the great judge who “oversees human destinies” and “rewards those who earnestly seek him”; 2) God is the source of “empowerment and victory for those who fear him”; and 3) He is also the “overpowering authority who dispenses fearful judgment” (NAC).
What does your trial produce?
Trusting God in our trials. Hannah’s life circumstances proved to be the furnace in which her heart-felt response to God was forged. Hannah had been childless and the object of constant ridicule by her rival Peninnah (1:2; 6). This woman was described as Hannah’s rival, or “troubler” (1:6). Elkanah, Hannah’s husband, loved her, but his other wife vexed and provoked Hannah to anger (TWOT). This was bad enough, but we discover that it was the Lord who had closed her womb. Twice we read that it was God who prevented Hannah from giving birth to a child (1:5-6). We need to consider God’s nature before we judge Him to be cruel.
Understanding God’s ways. This is the same God who had issued the creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28; 9:1; 35:11). It is safe to say that His ways are not understood by us in our human finitude and frailty. Even so, Hannah presents to us a model of transparent, soaring faith in the midst of extraordinary sadness (1:10). She alone, among women in the Old Testament, is described as going up to the house of the Lord (NAC). This should tell us that we may learn much from her!
Steps to overcome our trials
First, use sour experiences to produce sweet praise. Her example teaches us how to praise because her prayer contains the most “recorded utterances” of God’s name by a woman (eighteen of them). The four first-person references in verses 1-2 express her unbridled enjoyment with the Lord.

Secondly, express delight in the Giver and not just the gift. Hannah’s rival taunts her but she now boasts in the Lord (2:1; “my mouth is enlarged”). Every woman who has wept tears of sorrow over childlessness will immediately understand Hannah’s sheer joy when she discovered that she was pregnant. Yes, it was about the baby, but it was also about so much more. She offers God praise for His deliverance (“salvation”).

Thirdly, praise God for His holiness (2:2a; Leviticus 10:3; 11:44; 19:2; 20:26; cf. Matthew 6:9), His uniqueness (2:2b, cf. Exodus 15:11), and for being a “Rock” (2:2c; “bedrock”; cf. Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31; NAC).
The point
We hear and read much about justice in our day, but this song speaks about a depth of fairness and rectitude that can only emanate from the very nature and actions of a God like ours (2:9-10; cf. Exodus 34:6-8). God truly elevates those who fear Him, even when others may devalue Him (2:6-9). Talk about the impact of Hannah’s words! There are close parallels with Hannah’s prayer and Mary’s song (Luke 1:46-55), and first-century Christians considered the entirety of this passage to be prophetic references to Jesus Christ and His ministry (NAC). If ever you’ve reached out in desperate need of a deliverer, while feeling rejected by all others around you, then make this prayerful song your praise hymn! God has already reached down into our desperation to provide His rescue, so turn to Him (cf. John 3:16; Romans 5:8).

The Message for Your Heart

We had a few bitterly cold days in January of this year, and the frigid, single-digit temperatures took a toll on the plants and shrubs in our front flower beds. One fledgling tree was given up for dead, but upon closer inspection, we discovered that it was alive! I stepped out front last evening and saw that it is budding, and I paused to praise God for His goodness. However, I imagine that if that tree could speak, it would offer endless praise to God who sustains all His creation. Here is a thought for our spiritual growth. Hannah’s trials had filled her pen with praise for the God who sustains all those who are oppressed. Her words describe the coming day of the Lord when all that is wrong with the world will be reversed. Peninnah was the least of Hannah’s worries by this point in her life. She had a world to pray over and the one true God, who was big enough to answer the prayer! We are growing in relationship to our God when we begin to pray in this way.

For Thought and Action

1. Call to mind several of your recent prayers. Who is in the spotlight? Is it you or God? Who do you wish to please more than anything else in your prayers? Write a prayer of praise when looking through your present hardships. Offer it to God with a sincere heart.
2. For Families: The wonderful praise-poem by Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 can speak to our homes and children in meaningful ways. Help your children, when they are bitterly disappointed, or hurt by friends, to turn to this victorious song to God.

Help your children to mark this Psalm in their Bibles. Then, memorize the first two verses as a family, and choose an evening each week when you say this together as your supper prayer:
“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
    in the Lord my strength is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
    for I delight in your deliverance.
There is no one holy like the Lord;
    there is no one besides you;
    there is no Rock like our God.”
(1 Samuel 2:1-2)
May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock