Scripture: 1 Samuel 2:1-10 Key Proposition: God changes things Title: Hannah’s Prayer Structure: Introduction Hannah’s joy in sadness God’s strength in our weakness Israel’s hope in despair Conclusion
Introduction: [Display slide 1] Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states that… “Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it.” Or in other words, nothing changes if nothing changes - This is basically a definition for inertia - If you want movement (or variation in movement) then some force or power needs to be introduced - Otherwise nothing changes - And if things are not right and need to change - Then the inertia, the lack of change - Empties people of their joy, their strength and their hope - But, when people can see that change is possible - Then joy, strength and hope return - Even before the change has taken effect [Stop displaying slide 1] Today we continue our sermon series on prayer, focusing on Hannah’s prayer of praise in 1st Samuel 2:1-10 - The guts of Hannah’s prayer is that God changes things - God has the power to overcome inertia - God has the ability to get things moving - To change the status quo, to make things better
Hannah knows from her own experience that God can change things - Not just for her but others like her and for all Israel - This awareness that God changes things inspires joy in the midst of sadness - Strength in our weakness - And hope in a climate of despair - Let’s read 1st Samuel chapter 2, verses 1-10 together now… [Display slide 2] 1 Then Hannah prayed and said: "My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth smiles over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. [Display slide 3] 2 "There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. [Display slide 4] 3 "Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. [Display slide 5] 4 "The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. 5 Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry hunger no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away. [Display slide 6] 6 "The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.
7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. [Display slide 7] 8 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. [Display slide 8] "For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's; upon them he has set the world. 9 He will guard the feet of his saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness. [Display slide 9] "It is not by strength that one prevails; 10 those who oppose the LORD will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth. "He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed." [Stop displaying slide 9] May the Spirit of God illuminate this Scripture for us Hannah’s Joy in sadness: There’s an old Vietnamese proverb which says… [Display slide 10] “When eating fruit, consider the one who planted the tree” - The point is, not to take the good things we enjoy for granted - But rather to remember, with an attitude of thankfulness, the people who made it possible for us to enjoy these good things - Cultivating an attitude of gratitude in this way is good for our soul - It reminds us that life is a gift, it is not earned - And it inspires us to plant our own fruit trees for others to enjoy in the future
[Stop displaying slide 10] In her prayer, Hannah does not ask God for anything - She has already done that and received the fruit of that prayer - So now she remembers, with an attitude of gratitude, the one who planted the tree – she praises God with joy Hannah had been through the mill - She was married to Elkanah but shared her husband with a second wife – Peninnah - Hannah was not able to have children while Peninnah had plenty - And Peninnah wouldn’t let Hannah forget it - In the ancient near east getting married and having children was the main way that women found meaning and gained social value - So to be a wife without motherhood was regarded not only as a matter of personal grief - But also a matter of public disgrace and humiliation Hannah lived with this deep personal grief and painful public humiliation all her married life until she could take it no more and called out for God to intervene - In her desperation she made a vow that if God would give her a son, then she would give the child over to the Lord’s service all the days of his life - God heard Hannah’s cry for mercy and he answered her prayer so that she gave birth to Samuel - Then, after Hannah had weaned Samuel, they returned to the temple and Hannah made good on her promise - She dedicated her only son to the Lord and handed him over to serve with the priest Eli in the temple at Shiloh - And it’s at this point, the point of giving up her much loved son, that Hannah says, My heart rejoices in the Lord Why is Hannah joyful at this moment of loosing her son? - The very one she had longed for and waited for and suffered for all those years I expect Hannah felt a real pain and sadness at having to leave Samuel in the temple - As any mother would when their child leaves home - But, she wasn’t rejoicing in loosing Samuel - She was rejoicing in the Lord
Hannah made a choice, in her sadness, not to focus too much on her loss - But instead to focus on God and on what God had done for her Before she conceived Samuel, Hannah had no reason for rejoicing - None at all - But now, even though she was giving up her son, she did have reason to rejoice - And she states her reasons for joy in the second part of verse 1 when she says… [Display slide 11] “…in the Lord my horn is lifted high. My mouth smiles over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. To lift someone’s horn in Jewish poetry means to visibly elevate a person’s social worth, - To raise their dignity, - To empower them with strength, - To give them prestige and enhance their well-being. Before Hannah was with child she had zero social worth, - Next to no dignity (in the eyes of others) - No power, no strength, no prestige - And her personal well-being suffered for it - But, by giving her a son, God reversed all of that - He lifted her horn, visibly, - Like a boxer at the end of a fight God raised her hand in victory - He publicly vindicated her so that everyone could see And now, because of the Lord’s deliverance she is able to smile over her enemies - That means, that people like Peninnah who used to taunt her and wound her with their words, no longer have any power over her - They don’t bother her because God has given her victory However, I expect that Hannah’s enemies were not just people like Peninnah - I expect her enemies were also the demons of self doubt, despair, perhaps depression, low self esteem, loneliness and bitterness
- These are the deeper enemies within that many of us battle with at some stage or another - And finding freedom from these enemies was the real fruit that Hannah ate from the tree God planted [Display slide 12] In verse 2, Hannah continues to reveal the source of her joy… There is no one holy like the Lord, there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” Even more than the new found strength and dignity she has been given, Hannah rejoices in the character of God - God is holy - This means that God is set apart, - He is unique in power, in mercy and morality - There is no one that compares with God our Rock To describe God as a Rock like no other is to say that he is stronger than any rival - It also reminds us of the time when God caused water to flow out of a rock in the wilderness for the Israelites - That was certainly a rock like no other - Just as God surprised his people with life giving possibility in the barrenness of the desert - So too he had surprised Hannah with life giving possibility in her barrenness The fact that Hannah can give over her son to God and still find cause for joy in God, shows us that she loved the giver even more than she loved the gift [Display slide 13] The Catholic priest, Henri Nouwen, once wrote… “…Joy is based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and our safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us…”
I think Hannah could rejoice in the Lord, even though she was loosing Samuel, because she now knew from personal experience - That she belonged to God, was loved by God - And had found in God refuge and safety [Stop displaying slide 13] By giving Samuel over to the Lord’s service, Hannah wasn’t just fulfilling her vow - She was planting a seed that would one day grow into a tree that would bear fruit for others - Hannah was paying it forward, with joy - She was making an investment for the future of Israel - And her investment paid high dividends - Samuel became a great prophet in Israel and did much good in helping the nation through some difficult times Hannah’s prayer begins with an expression of joy in the context of her personal sadness - But then it quickly expands out from herself to talk about others who experience God’s strength in their weakness God’s strength in weakness: Sometimes our biggest weakness is actually our biggest strength. The story is told of a 10-year-old boy who decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a car accident. - He began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. - The boy was doing well, so he couldn't understand why, after three months of training the master had taught him only one move. "Sensei," the boy finally said, "Shouldn't I be learning more moves?" The sensei replied… - "This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you'll ever need to know" Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training. Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. - Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches.
- The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; - The boy deftly used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals. - This time, however, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. - For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. - Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a timeout, but the sensei intervened, saying… - "No, let him continue." Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. - Instantly, the boy used his one move to pin him. - The boy had won the match and the tournament. - He was the champion. On the way home, the boy and the sensei reviewed every move in each match. - Then the boy summoned the courage to ask… - "Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?" The sensei answered, "You won for two reasons. - Firstly, you've almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. - And secondly, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm." The boy's biggest weakness, his missing left arm, had become his biggest strength. Most of the rest of Hannah’s prayer, from verse 3 onwards is a testimony of God’s ability to turn weakness into strength - God has the knowledge, the power and the desire to change things that are not right - To turn the world upside down for the sake of justice - From verse 3 we read… [Display slide 14] 3 "Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. Hannah is speaking to those who are on top & self-confident - Those who think they were always fated to be successful - Those who think things will never change Hannah is saying to these people… - Don’t forget the one who planted the tree from which you eat the fruit - Don’t forget that what you enjoy now is a gift from the Lord who knows all things and who weighs your deeds with accuracy From verse 4, Hannah gives some examples of what happens to those who are weighed by the Lord and found wanting… [Display slide 15] 4 "The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. 5 Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry hunger no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away. God changes things - God brings joy out of sadness - God transforms weakness into strength - God turns the tables so that those who were on top, trade places with those who were on the bottom What was it that Jesus said? - The first shall be last and the last shall be first Hannah develops this thought of God’s just control in reversing circumstances, from verse 6… [Display slide 16] 6 "The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. 7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.
8 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. Notice in these verses how God finishes on a high - Even when it appears to defy human logic - For example, we are inclined to think that death follows life - But not so in God’s way of doing things - Because God reverses the order - With God, death is not the end - With God, resurrection life follows death - This was certainly how it worked for Jesus - His death on the cross came before his resurrection This principle of suffering first with reward later is repeated in these verses - Poverty comes before wealth - Humiliation before exaltation - Veges before pudding - Childlessness before family - Conflict before intimacy - Truth before forgiveness - Sowing before reaping - Justice before peace - Hunger before satisfaction - Friday before Sunday - Prayer before change It’s like Hannah is saying that with God, the best is yet to come - With God our weaknesses are ugly ducklings soon to become beautiful swans - With God our weaknesses are mould soon to become penicillin - With God our weaknesses are missing arms soon to make us judo champions - With God our weaknesses are blessings What was it Jesus said? - Blessed are the poor… - Blessed are those who mourn… - Blessed are those who hunger and thirst… [Stop displaying slide 16]
Hannah’s prayer celebrates her joy in the midst of sadness - It celebrates God’s strength in the face our weakness - And it celebrates Israel’s hope in a climate of despair Israel’s hope in a climate of despair: There were these two boys who lived with their Grandma. - They were about to go to bed but before they slept they prayed. - The older brother prayed first. - He prayed about the day he had and about everything he had done. - Then the younger brother started to pray - He prayed much louder than his elder brother though, - Almost shouting he prayed for bikes and toys, and when he’d finished the older brother asked him… - "Why are you praying so loud? God is not deaf" - To which the younger brother replied, " Yea but Grandma is" The younger brother seemed to understand that God was most likely to use his Grandma to answer his prayer - Because that’s often how prayer works - God doesn’t usually make things happen by magic - He normally answers prayer through human beings For me, one of the really cool things about Hannah’s prayer is that it isn’t just about her - Her story of being lifted up from the ash heap - Is actually a story of hope for the whole nation of Israel - It’s a parable of what God was going to do for Israel - And Hannah seems to understand this - From the second part of verse 8, she says… [Display slide 17] "For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's; upon them he has set the world. 9 He will guard the feet of his saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness. [Display slide 18] "It is not by strength that one prevails; 10 those who oppose the LORD will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven;
the LORD will judge the ends of the earth. "He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed." Notice how these verses have switched to the future tense - They are all about what God will do in the future - They are about Israel’s hope As a nation Israel is relatively weak - Israel is oppressed by the Philistines and other enemies - Kind of like Hannah had been oppressed by Peninnah - But, it is not by strength that one prevails - It is by right relationship with God that one prevails - For those who oppose the Lord will be shattered - It is Israel’s hope that those who make themselves God’s enemies - (like the Philistines) will be silenced in darkness - It is Israel’s hope that God will turn the world upside down - So that they are no longer at the bottom and their enemies are no longer on top Hannah’s prayer began with her saying the Lord has lifted my horn - Now it ends with her saying… - He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed - In other words, God will make his chosen king strong and give him victory What makes this interesting is that Israel had no king in the time of Hannah - So it appears that Hannah is giving voice to Israel’s hope for a king to deliver them from their enemies - Like the boy who prayed loudly for toys so that his grandma could hear, - Hannah realizes that God normally answers prayers through human beings As it turned out, her own son Samuel was eventually sent by God to anoint Israel’s first two kings – Saul and David - Two blokes at the bottom of the heap. - Two blokes of no social standing, had their horn lifted by God - And led lowly weak Israel to victory over their enemies - The realisation of Israel’s hopes dawned with the birth of Samuel - (And with God & Hannah’s gift of Samuel)
[Stop displaying slide 18] Conclusion: God changes things - And believing this inspires joy in our sadness - Strength in our weakness - And hope in our despair