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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.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The prayer of Hannah (2:1-11)

In her prayer Hannah begins with her own personal experience, moves on in verses 4–8 to describe the ways in which the Lord works in the world, and in verses 9 and 10 she describes God’s complete deliverance of his people.  

In her state of joy Hannah in being thankful about the gift did not forget the Giver. This is always a danger when God answers one of our prayers. We remember the story of the ten lepers whom Christ healed, of whom only one returned to thank him. 

In her prayer she first focuses on the perfections of God, then on the providence of God, and finally on the purpose of God. As she looks at God’s perfections or his attributes, she mentions his holiness, his security, his knowledge and his justice. Holiness, when applied to God, means his distinctiveness or uniqueness. It is an all-embracive term that covers everything else about him. God is elevated infinitely above any of his creatures. This is the essence of worship. 

Then she concentrates on the attributes of God most pertinent to her situation – his security, his knowledge and his justice. He had been a refuge for her during her years of distress and many a time had she sought protection there from the taunts of her Peninnah. During those long years she had been comforted by the fact that the Lord knew the way that she went, not only in the sense of being aware of her circumstances, but also in being her unseen Companion and Support. And all that time the Lord had assessed her motives and his searching revealed that she had his glory at heart.  

It is a wonderful source of assurance to apply God’s attributes to our circumstances. Of course, wisdom is needed regarding concerning which attributes we should focus. It would have been possible for Hannah to have assumed from her circumstances that God was against her, but she did not. Instead she thought of him as the God of grace, even when her situation could have suggested he had forgotten her. And that is how a wise Christian should think of God. 

Hannah also reflected on the way the Lord through his providence reverses situations that seem impossible to change. She uses several illustrations – the strong become weak and the weak become strong; the full become empty and the hungry become full; the beggar becomes a prince, and so on. It is a useful spiritual exercise to consider providence. In doing so, we are enabled to take the long view of any matter. We are not to be quick in expressing our assessment of any situation because the Lord’s providence in our lives can take many stages before he brings to completion our deliverance. But we should remind ourselves that the Lord is continually at work on our behalf when we present our case to him. He is a God who weighs everything in his balances. 

In verses 9 and 10 Hannah prayed about the final deliverance of the Lord’s people. It is not clear whether she realised it at the time but her words go far beyond any of the kings of the earthly Israel to the future deliverance by the Messiah.  

When we read the song of Mary in Luke 1:46-55, when she spoke in response to the angel’s pronouncement that she would be the mother of the Messiah, we see several parallels between the thoughts of Hannah and Mary. This suggests that Mary was very familiar with Hannah’s prayer, but it may also point to Mary receiving insight into the coming of the Saviour through what Hannah had said. 

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