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2008-01-27_A Seat of Honor-The Story of Hannah_1 Samuel 1_SL

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A Seat of Honor: The Story of Hannah

1 Samuel 1   |   Shaun LePage   |   January 27, 2008

A Seat of Honor: The Story of Hannah

1 Samuel 1   |   Shaun LePage   |   January 27, 2008

I.       Introduction

A.    Names should mean something (e.g., WWII Pearl, Douglas, Dwight); tribal societies child’s name is a statement: circumstances around child’s birth, (e.g., Glad we moved to Kansas, a girl at last! or Dances with Wolves). But, I also admit that ultimately we choose names we like. We wanted biblical names for our daughters, but did not pick Ephrathah (mother of OT hero Caleb) Elisheba, Jechariah or Aholibamah—though admirable women; did not pick Jehoshaphat, Melchizadek or Zerubbabel for our son.

B.    When pregnant with first child, soon decided girl name would be Hannah. Among top ten most used—maybe overused. But, deserves much use; Hebrew for “gracious” or “God is gracious”. Based on meaning alone, good name for “childless” couple; Biblical story of Hannah—Samuel’s mother—made “Hannah” particularly appropriate; she too thought she might never conceive, could identify with her pain and confusion—then joy when God “remembered” her and blessed her with a child; later discovered Hannah is a great example to all of us and her story is testimony of the greatness of the gracious God.

II.     Body—1 Samuel 1:1-2:11

A.    Hannah’s Situation: She knew pain (1:1-7)

1.     Her husband—Elkanah the polygamist—caused Hannah pain.

a)     8 men in OT named Elkanah, most relatives; 1 Chr 6:33-38 Elkanah descendant of Levi, so Levite—a priest; pretty good guy—church once/year (v.3), (most guys) genuinely loved Hannah, treated her with kindness (v.5); But, polygamist (bigamist—not only caused Hannah pain, but labels him as faithless. Like father Abraham decided problem too big for God, engineered a solution. Problem? Needed children. Solution—rather than praying/waiting on/trusting God—was 2nd wife. Common solution, but the God to whom he made annual sacrifices was no common God. Elkanah didn’t trust God to take care of him.

b)     Please note: not saying infertility treatments are “engineering a solution” without God; some feel that way, matter of personal conviction. Scripture doesn’t tell us that taking advantage of medical technology is sinful (fatal mistake of JW’s and other cults who let children die for lack of simple medical procedures). But, polygamy (a.k.a., adultery) is sinful and choosing a sinful solution to our problems is what I mean by “engineering”. And, this is what Elkanah chose to do.

c)     But, Hannah was different; hopeless situation; nowhere else to turn—could not engineer a solution to her problem. All she could do was throw herself at the mercy of the Creator God. No indication God blessed Elkanah with a son like Samuel due to his righteousness. Blessing directed to Hannah—what God did for her and in her and through her. Story not really about Elkanah. Like all outwardly religious, but inwardly faithless men—Elkanah is a mere footnote in history.

2.     Her rival—Peninnah the provoker—caused Hannah pain.

a)     Peninnah did not understand what Hannah knew—what all infertile women and couples know: “Children are a gift of the Lord” (Ps 127:3).

b)     Great pride in being fertile as a rabbit; proud enough to provoke a woman who couldn’t conceive; jealous reaction—Elkanah loved Hannah (v.5), but using Peninnah to make babies. So, Peninnah’s behavior is understandable; to Hannah’s credit, no indication she reciprocated the “irritation” she received from Peninnah.

c)     1 Sam 1 good example why polygamy is bad idea (21st Century, Bible church, US?) multiple wives/husbands no problem? Any time we stray from God’s standards—one man, one woman for life—we and our children will suffer for it.

3.     Her barrenness caused Hannah pain.

a)     Deut 7:13 Moses promises the Israelites, “[God] will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb…”

b)     Hannah knew the Scriptures (Ch2)—this promise would have jumped off the page at her; a horrible sinner not obedient/good enough to receive God’s blessing?

c)     But blessing conditional, Israel not keeping bargain. God would bless if  obeyed His commands and decrees. But in Hannah’s day, Israel was a mess. 1 Sam comes on heels of Judges “every man did what was right in his own eyes” (noone)

d)     Did you notice? “The Lord had closed her womb”!!! (v.5). First thing in 1 Sam God did: closed a woman’s womb→purpose in her pain!

e)     Robert D. Bergen: “Human tragedy can be properly evaluated and appreciated only when viewed with a consideration of the end results and ultimate purposes brought about by God.” Got to learn before tragedy—God is in control! When He allows suffering→purpose in it! Closes a womb→greater good than thru open one; Story of Hannah/Samuel/Bible: God is in control! Our response? trust!

B.    Hannah’s Surrender: She chose prayer (1:8-18)

1.     Her husband’s words seem to wake her up (8). Something he said? Started thinking about: What she did have rather than what she didn’t? How God had blessed her, rather than how He had not blessed her? Who was on her side, rather than who was against her? Right thinking is crucial!

2.     Regardless: Hannah decided to do the only good thing she could: surrender it to Lord!

3.     Her pain was poured out to the Lord (9,10).

a)     Until v10, no indication Hannah had prayed! Wept / wouldn’t eat, but that’s all! She was trying—all by herself—to carry the weight of her circumstances.

b)     Ben Patterson: “We all know pain is part of life. But what if one of the reasons God introduces pain and severity to us is to increase the intensity of our prayers?”[1]

c)     Hannah finally got it! No use in crying to sleep / starving to death. Nothing good from feeling sorry for herself and making everyone around her miserable. She did what God wanted her to do: surrender. Surrendered circumstances to Lord’s will. Gave son to Lord before Lord gave her a son! She surrendered her greatest desire to the Lord by making the Lord her greatest desire. “Even if You grant my greatest desire—to have a child—I will give him back to You—to serve You and glorify You!

4.     Her vow was the will of the Lord (11).

a)     Num 6:1-8 Nazirite vow—apparently type Hannah made. But, went beyond the temporary nature of the Nazirite vow; very radical to give child to lifelong vow.

b)     But, this is was the will of the Lord! God had plans for Samuel! Hannah (HS? Maturity? Hopelessness?) aligned herself with God’s will! Her vow was not a bargain, but expression of surrender—refusal to try and handle her circumstances any longer without God, submission to God’s will in most important area of her life: her infertility. She learned: The prayer of surrender to God leads to a song of praise.

c)     Writer Adam Holz said it well: “When someone surrenders, he or she agrees to accept the terms offered by the conquering commander. In our relationship with God, this means we let go of our own terms and agree to God’s. Surrender is not about us; it’s about God. Some Christians argue that if we surrender to God, God will give us the desires of our heart. But that’s manipulation, and God will not be manipulated. It is better to say that if we surrender to God, God will give us the desires of His heart.”[2]

d)     Hannah aligned herself with God’s will and prayed that God would bless her with a child that would serve God, not her own selfish interests. God was about to change a nation, and by aligning herself with God’s will, she went from “the ash heap … to a seat of honor” in the history of her nation. She got her eyes off her own relatively petty problems and said, “Thy will be done!” Whether God gave her what she most wanted or not, she made it clear that what He wanted was more important. By the way, five more children (2:21). The desire of her heart—as it turned out—was the desire of God’s heart as well.

5.     Her countenance changed. (12-18)

a)     Her prayer was mistaken as drunkenness (12-17). Encounter with Eli—high priest—hint of spiritual condition of Israel. Later, Eli demonstrates just as inept at being a mediator between God and His people as discerning true nature of Hannah’s heart.

b)     Her face was no longer sad (18). Depression gone; weight of anxiety lifted—before her prayer was answered. Why? Because she had surrendered! However God chose to answer her—yes, no or wait—she was free! May have taken some delight in her encounter with Eli (probably didn’t know what kind of man he was, and rare for a woman to receive such a blessing), but Hannah’s countenance changed because she had turned circumstances over to Lord. Free of the burden she had been carrying.

C.    Hannah’s Sacrifice: She kept her promise (1:19-28)

1.     “The Lord remembered her.”

a)     God “remembered” Noah, Abraham, Rachel, His covenants, His people Israel, His lovingkindness, His Word, etc. What does that mean? Not “forgot.” “I almost forgot! Hannah asked for a baby. Michael, let’s get right on that!” No, God is omniscient and never “remembers” in that sense.

b)     Hebrew scholars tells us that when God “remembers” it is usually associated with action—He delivers, He forgives, He judges or He supernaturally causes conception.

c)     But I think there’s more here. I think it speaks of God’s faithfulness. To grant Hannah’s request and open her womb and bless her with a child is to keep His covenant promise to those who walk in His ways. Remember Deut 7:13? “[God] will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb…” This was a promise made by God to those who keep His commandments. A few verses earlier in Deut 7:9, Moses had said, “Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments!” Several times in Deut—before the Israelites went into the land—God promised them prosperity which almost always included promise of fertile wombs (28:4,11, etc.) if they would be faithful to walk in His ways. God “remembered” this promise—was faithful to this promise—and prospered one, insignificant, helpless woman who turned to the Lord.

2.     The significance of Samuel

a)     Samuel: “asked of God” (v.20; meaningful!); constant reminder that “children are a gift of the Lord.”

b)     The writer of 1 Sam wants us to know this great man, Samuel, was a miracle baby—from womb of simple, godly woman. Samuel was God’s man for the hour, and Hannah’s desperation/dependence upon God made her mother of the hour.

c)     Robert Bergen: “Hannah’s effect on Israelite society came through the gentle forces of faith and motherhood. Hannah’s faith turned the tide of the period of Judges by producing the transitional figure of Samuel.”[3]

3.     The true sacrifice was not the bull

a)     Hannah took Samuel to the temple and gave him to Eli—like dropping your child off at the Pastor’s house and saying, “He is to serve the Lord as long as he lives.” Please, please don’t do that. You could probably get away with it so many already but please don’t do that. Samuel between 2 & 4—weaned much later then.[4]

b)     Hannah’s sincerity demonstrated—followed through on vow. How difficult? Look at 2:18, 19. “Little wardrobe”—she loved / thought of him, but saw him only briefly once a year. Proof Hannah had truly surrendered to the Lord. Nothing more important to her than Lord—not even her only son. Matt 10:37—worthy!

c)     (28) “Dedicated”—a great example to parents (why I wanted to preach this today). Not “lent” (bad translation) but given over completely; Hannah’s sacrifice was Israel’s gain—entire nation blessed by her child. Baby/Child Dedication is about saying publicly: “He/she is dedicated to the Lord”—when we give them back to Him for His glory, we just don’t know how the world might be changed.

D.    Hannah’s Song: She sang God’s praises (2:1-11)

1.     Elkanah’s redemption. Look first at the end—verse 11. Could have annulled Hannah’s vow (provision in law). But he let Hannah fulfill the vow; couldn’t have been easy for Elkanah! First-born son of woman he loved. Surely Elkanah loved Samuel. To his credit—in the end he chose to align himself with God’s will also.

2.     Hannah’s song. Deserves more attention than I’m going to give it here. But, notice that Hannah’s experiences served as a tutor in theology proper and anthropology:

a)     Her experience gave her an exalted view of God (theology proper): He is holy, He is unique, He is wise, He is Judge, He brings low those who oppose Him, He exalts those who walk in His ways. He is the sovereign Lord of all.

b)     Her experience gave her a healthy view of man (anthropology): Nothing to brag about: weak when opposing God’s strength, depends on God for daily provision, poor without God, rich with Him, silenced when speaking against God, shattered when contending with God, strengthened / exalted when trusting God.

c)     Her song is a great way to start this book. Like a cathedral bell throughout 1 & 2 Sam. Those who ignored Hannah’s song ended up on the “ash heap” of history. Those who heeded Hannah’s song “inherit(ed) a seat of honor”.

d)     Her song is true for us today.

(1)  If we have exalted view of God: faithful/trustworthy/sovereign—like Hannah and Samuel—strengthened and exalted by God and “inherit a seat of honor.”

(2)  If we try to engineer God-less solutions—like Elkanah, take pride in our own strength—like Peninnah, forget holiness and sovereignty and righteousness of God—like Eli and his sons, then we too will find ourselves on the ash heap.

III.   Closing:

A.    If my Hannah ever cares what her Daddy had to say about her namesake, this is the sentence I want her to get: A prayer of surrender leads to a song of praise.

B.    The Hannah of 1 Samuel 1 stands as a great example to all of us—regardless of the pain we might have to endure in this life: infertility, divorce, unemployment, rejection, cancer. She reminds us—through the meaning of her name and through this brief biography—that “God is gracious” and if we will surrender ourselves (and our children) to Him we will—in the end—sing His praises!


[1] Deepening Your Conversation With God, Bethany House, 2001.

[2] Total Surrender, Pray! Magazine, Nov/Dec 2001, p.11.

[3] Robert D. Bergen, New American Commentary, 1 & 2 Samuel, p. 62.

[4] “For two years she would keep him at home for this was the usual time, and is still the case in the East, cf. Koran, 2233.” (Henry P. Smith, The International Critical Commentary, Samuel, p.12). “Mothers usually weaned children at the age of three…” (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Successful, 1 Samuel, p.17).“Hannah wants to wait until she has weaned Samuel (v.22), which in the Near East could easily take three years…” (Dale Ralph Davis, 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart, p.16).

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