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Hannah's Prayer Of Praise: Part 1
© 06.09.19 D. Eric Williams

The day finally comes in the story of Hannah when she returns to the tabernacle in order to dedicate her son Samuel to the Lord. Upon that occasion, she pronounced a prayer of praise to God (1 Samuel 2:1-10).

Yahweh is Sovereign (2:1)
The first thing we see in Hannah's song is the acknowledgment that Yahweh is sovereign. She rejoiced in the Lord - not just because of Samuel's birth but because of God's holy sovereignty. No doubt, she is very glad to have a son; she is more glad to be a daughter of Yahweh. Thus, Hannah recognizes that it is God who is the giver of all good things. So, her joy is primarily in the wonder and majesty of Yahweh. Her joy is primarily over the sovereignty of God.

It is God who has lifted her up. She was once low, ridiculed and shamed in her own home and community. But because of God she is made strong. Her horn is lifted up. She has been recognized as one with strength and as one blessed by God. Again, it is because of Yahweh that she triumphed.

Moreover, her enemies are swallowed up. In the Hebrews it says "my mouth is enlarged over my enemies." This is variously translated as "I smile at my enemies" or "I have an answer for my enemies" or something of that sort. But what Hannah wants to say here is that by God's power and glory she, Hannah, has swallowed up her enemies. She has triumphed over those who previously shamed her and ridiculed her. In short, she has emerged as the victor and her opponents are left with egg on their face. In all of this it is God who is glorified. This may seem like gloating to us. It may seem inappropriate for Hannah to rejoice that Peninnah and others who looked down on her have been put in their place. Yet, again, Hannah is concerned with the glory of God. Hannah's victory is God's doing.

And this victory is termed as salvation. Not the saving of Hannah's soul from hell, but the realization of God's blessings in this life. Certainly, one aspect of God's salvific benefit is eternal reward, but according to Hannah it also includes temporal blessings such as the provision of children and victory over enemies. In other words, God's salvation is comprehensive.

Hannah Affirms That God Is the Unique, One True God (2:2)
In her song, Hannah acknowledges that God has no rivals. All other so-called gods are false gods. Moreover, human pride is false. Human pride suggests that God is not sovereign or that he is distant and doesn't really care about what happens on earth. Human pride suggests the achievements of a person are his or her own doing. It is human pride that looks upon another who is lacking in achievements and ridicules them, as if their circumstances were somehow beyond the control of Yahweh. Nevertheless, God reigns over all things and Hannah affirms this in her song.

Because Yahweh is the only true God he is the only legitimate object of adoration. As the true orchestrator of all events, Yahweh deserves all praise. Indeed, to look elsewhere is foolish. Again, to look to the false gods of the pagans or to look to one's own strength is foolishness.

This is true because Yahweh is the rock. He is the solid, immovable, unchanging ruler of the universe. This truth was affirmed in the song of Moses, is given messianic overtones by the prophets and is embraced by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Throughout Scripture this truth that Hannah proclaims n the day of Samuel's dedication is affirmed; Yahweh is the only lasting foundation of stability.

God's Ways Are Eternally Considered (2:3)
Once again Hannah reminds us that human vanity is pure foolishness. Hannah affirms that mere humans control nothing. All things are under the domain of God. In addition, to disrespect Yahweh's servants is to scoff at God himself. It is to suggest that God is unable to order the lives of his people. Therefore, humility before Yahweh and honor of his broken servants is the only acceptable posture.

According to Hannah, the heart of the arrogant is revealed in their speech and actions. Because of this, it is important for each person to examine their own words and judge accordingly. To speak arrogantly reveals a heart that is exalted above God. It is to suggest the individual person has more power than Yahweh himself. This arrogance is the opposite of submission and it is often revealed in an attack upon God's people.

The final clause of 1 Samuel 2:3 is often misunderstood as a declaration that God knows what each person is thinking and will judge them accordingly. While this is true, it is not what Hannah has in mind in this portion of her song. Instead, she says nothing is hidden from God's sight, past present or future and therefore God's perfect will is carefully considered in eternity. In human terms we would say that Yahweh has carefully thought through all things and therefore all that takes place are a reflection of his sovereign will. In other words everything that happened in Hannah's story took place as part of God's sovereign design. Hannah was barren by God's design. She was ridiculed and shamed by God's design. She was brought to the point of despair by God's design and she vowed to give her firstborn child to God, by Yahweh's design. The baby was born and dedicated to the Lord to live in Shiloh by God's design. Everything in the story took place so that God would be glorified and his perfect will accomplished. God's glory was brought into sharp focus and enhanced through Hannah's shame, vindication and victory over her enemies.

The Prayer of Hannah and Our Christian Walk
Very few Christians live as if God is sovereign. He is, but most 21st-century followers of Christ do not acknowledge that truth in their life. Therefore, the first thing we can learn from Hannah's prayer is the need to acknowledge the sovereignty of God and to live accordingly. To live in recognition of the sovereignty of God means we do not complain about our circumstances. That does not mean we do nothing about our situation; it means we rejoice in the Lord even while we pray and work to better our lot.

Modern believers also need to affirm that God is the unique one true God. Again, every professing Christian gives lip service to this truth but often believes and lives something much different. There are a shocking number of self professing Christians who say that Jesus Christ is not the only way to salvation. This is a denial of the uniqueness and sovereignty of God. It is a denial of his uniqueness by saying he is just one among many options. It is a denial of his sovereignty by saying he is not the only agent of salvation and therefore does not actually control access to the rewards of eternity.

A key aspect of a belief in the sovereignty of God is the understanding that his eternal decrees are well thought out. His eternal plan is not a slap-dash affair. Moreover, Bible believing Christians should consider ludicrous the suggestion that God does not know or control the future. To think of God as desperately trying to keep everything together as he juggles the innumerable events of this life is blasphemous. God is never taken by surprise. God never resorts to Plan B (there is no Plan B). God never simply allows an event; everything happens according to his perfect will. Now, the discussion of how humanity's free will fits into this picture is for another time; it will suffice to say that even (true) human free will is part of the eternal plan and purpose of God and is ultimately under his control (for a start see, here and here and here).

Conclusion
The opening lines of Hannah's prayer of thanksgiving and praise deal with basic Bible doctrines. Nevertheless, Hannah has much to teach to 21st century followers of Christ. We must affirm the sovereignty and uniqueness of God in our Lord Jesus Christ and the righteousness of his eternal decree. The failure of the modern church to avow these truths weakens her witness and service to the world. Instead of the Body of Christ, she becomes just another fraternal order or social action organization.


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