22 Nov HANNAH : A HEART OF THANKFULNESS
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2
Hannah exemplifies a true heart of thanksgiving. She devoted herself to prayer, was watchful to see how God would respond, and she was thankful for His blessings. Hannah’s story, like so many of our own, starts with brokenness and sin. She is battling infertility, depression, anger, and an eating disorder. And just like us, Hannah longed for significance. She wanted desperately to play a part in God’s story, and in her day, playing any sort of significant societal role for a woman meant bearing children, something she was unable to do. But little did she know that through her barrenness, God was giving her an even greater role in His story. One that would ripple into the hearts of the Israelites and changing generations.
It is the ultimate Ebenezer Collective Story.
Her story even results in the setting of THE Ebenezer stone. Let’s just all do her a favor and and flip to 1 Samuel 2 and add the hashtag #thisismyebenezer at the conclusion of Hannah’s Song. The irony in this makes my heart gaze at the beauty of how God works His hand ever so perfectly for those who are faithful to Him. We will see this theme in Hannah’s Song, because it is the story of redemption, restoration, and reversals. It is the story of the Gospel. It is the story of Israel. And it is each one of our stories! Brokenness leading to restoration.
Hannah was one of the two wives of Elkanah. Elkanah’s other wife, Peninah, had many children, but Hannah was barren. Because Elkanah favored Hannah outwardly and she had no children, Peninah taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children. Can you imagine the conversations and tension at the dinner table in this household? It had reduced Hannah to tears, built up bitterness in her heart, and stripped away her appetite.
Once a year, Elkanah and his wives would travel to the temple to offer annual sacrifices to God. On one such visit, he confronted Hannah in her sadness and loss of appetite. Hannah then slipped away quietly to the sanctuary and “crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—inconsolably. Then she made a vow:
If you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain,
If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me
By giving me a son,
I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you. I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.”
1 Samuel 1:10-11- The MSG
She grieved so much that day that Eli, the priest, assumed she was drunk. Hannah responded, “Oh no, sir—please! I’m a woman hard used. I haven’t been drinking. The only thing I’ve been pouring out is my heart, pouring it out to God. It’s because I’m so desperately unhappy and in such pain that I’ve stayed here so long. Eli answered her, ‘Go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you have asked of him.’ ‘Think well of me—and pray for me!’ she said, and went her way. Then she ate heartily, her face radiant.” (1 Samuel 1:15-18- The MSG).
God heard her honest prayer, saw the purity in her heart, considered her bold vow, and gave her a son whom she named Samuel meaning, “I asked God for Him.”
The next year, when it was time to travel to Shiloh to the temple, Hannah did not go with Elkanah. She stayed home until her son was weaned and then traveled to the temple to dedicate Samuel to God. “After the child is weaned, I’ll bring him myself and present him before God—and that’s where he’ll stay, for good.” (1 Samuel 1:22- The MSG).
This was not a dedication we see at church these days, where Hannah and Samuel are prayed for on stage, then go celebrate at Chili’s. Hannah was not just dedicating Samuel, she was GIVING Him to God. Because God was faithful to give her her heart’s deepest desire, she was faithful in her vow by giving Samuel “completely, unreservedly” to God. This shows Hannah’s beautiful heart and pure intentions. She did not want a child for selfish reasons or to prove to Peninah she could have children. She simply wanted to play a significant role in God’s story through her lineage.
As Hannah offers her son to the Lord, she prays:
“My heart exults in the Lord;
my horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.
“There is none holy like the Lord:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble bind on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
and on them he has set the world.
“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
for not by might shall a man prevail.
The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces;
against them he will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.”
Hannah’s Song, 1 Samuel 2:1-10
Hannah’s unapologetically bold words declare God’s ultimate sovereignty. It points to what God plans to do with our brokenness and sin. It is saturated with the theme of reversals and restoration. This is the story of the Gospel. It is the story of Israel. It is each of our stories, and it is God’s greater story He calls us to be a part of.
I wish I had the time or space here to go into all the faithful work that Samuel did for God. He literally changed generations of God’s people. The goodness that came from Hannah’s dedication to God is unending. Go read 1 Samuel and be encouraged by what God can do through one faithful person.
Hannah’s story shows us that God cares about your desires. He wants to use your desires and longing for HIS GREATER STORY.
It begins with infertility, depression, anger, and an eating disorder, but ends with abundance, celebration, joy, and thankfulness. How can we follow Hannah’s example to celebrate and THANK God for how He has helped us through our sin and brokenness?
Maybe you aren’t on the other side of infertility or grief or depression or (fill in the blank). But, Child, God has not forgotten you. Give Him thanks through the brokenness. It’s the process that leads to restoration and beauty. He loves YOU enough to pick YOU out, put you in the fire, to refine you into an even more precious gem who will play an even greater role in His story. How do you see him refining you today?