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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Hannah – fully committed to prayer (1 Samuel 1)

The name ‘Hannah’ means ‘grace’ or ‘gracious’ and her behaviour in this story indicates that she understood what divine grace involved.  

First, Hannah realised the importance of worshipping God; although her life had many difficulties and problems, she did not let them prevent her attending worship. Her worship was not just external or ritualistic; it came from her heart. Hannah’s example is that whenever we are suffering, confused, lonely or anxious, we should worship our Lord.  

Second, Hannah realised that the problem she faced could not be remedied by any human source, even by her loving husband. There was only One who could help her, and that was her Lord. Here she reveals her strong faith: although she was experiencing dark providences, her faith enabled her to see beyond her troubles and bring her distress and disappointment to God in prayer. 

There are several important lessons we can learn from her response in prayer. 

First, she did not use the providence of God as an argument against the character of God. She would not have approved of the deduction used by Job’s friends when they deduced from his circumstances that God was against him. Hannah’s providence indicated that she could not have children, yet she knew that the Lord could have mercy on her and give her a child. She referred to God’s character in order to deal with problems with his providence. It is important to note that to question providence is not a sign of rebellion. Ultimately there may have to be an acceptance, as Paul discovered with his thorn in the flesh. 

Second, she turned her potential rebellious spirit into a means of intercessory prayer. Hannah was in bitterness of soul, a very graphic description. Though a devout follower of God, her life at one level was difficult. But instead of using her intense emotion to complain against God she used it to express her petition before God. It would have been easy for Hannah to become bitter, but she did not and became a better believer as a result. 

Third, Hannah’s case shows the effectiveness of tears in moving the heart of God. Psalm 6:8 informs us that the Lord hears the sound of our weeping. Admire the graciousness of our God who allows us to pour out our hearts in his presence. The story is told of Monica, the mother of Augustine. She was a Christian but she began to despair of his conversion and she went to see Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, who comforted her by telling her that the child of many tears can never perish. The psalmist reminds us that God collects our tears in his bottle.

Fourth, Hannah in her distress prayed for a son who would become a devoted servant of God from his childhood. Because Elkanah was a Levite, Samuel would have served the Lord at the tabernacle when he was thirty years old. What is remarkable about Hannah’s prayer is her vision that her child could be God’s servant from his tender years. Her language indicates that she wanted her child to be a Nazarite from the womb, one totally devoted to God. Her prayer did not only focus on her need as a barren woman, it also was concerned with the barrenness of true spiritual leaders in the church, and she wanted a child primarily for the latter reason. 

Fifth, Hannah was a humble person. There is evidence that Elkanah was a person of some significance in society; this is seen in his genealogy being kept in such detail, and in his ability to go regularly to worship at Shiloh. Nevertheless Hannah regarded herself as a servant, both towards God and towards Eli. She responded gently to Eli’s cruel assessment of her situation and did not argue or get annoyed. 

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