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Hannah’s Prayer (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
February 8, 2022 3:00 am

Hannah’s Prayer (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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February 8, 2022 3:00 am

Rejoicing is easy and makes sense when times are good and our lives are on track. But why would we rejoice when circumstances are heartbreaking? Where can we find hope? Find out as we study Hannah’s prayer together on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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It's easy for us to understand the joy that Hannah experienced in the Bible when God answered her prayer for a son. But how could she rejoice when she had to leave that small child at the temple as she had vowed?

Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg explains how rejoicing is possible even when our circumstances may be heartbreaking. Our Scripture reading comes in 1 Samuel and in chapter 2, and we'll read the first eleven verses. First Samuel, chapter 2, verses 1–11, here we have what is Hannah's prayer or Hannah's song. And Hannah prayed and said, 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 beside you.

There is no rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly. Let's not arrogance come from your mouth, for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows or 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 shale 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.

Then Elkanah went home to Ramah, and the boy was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli the priest. Thanks be to God for his Word. And as we come to the Bible, we come to God to seek his help. This prayer from the Book of Common Worship. Almighty God, who ordered the apostles with singular gifts of the Holy Spirit so that they proclaimed your Word with power, grant to me, as I prepare to minister and teach in your holy name, the same Spirit of wisdom and love and power, that the truth you gave me to declare may search the conscience, convince the mind, and win the heart of those who hear it, and the glory of the kingdom be advanced through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen. Well, we have already, in chapter 1, considered Hannah's predicament, in that she was childless, and then the Lord's provision in the gift that he gave her of a son, Samuel. And now, as we come into chapter 2, we turn to listen, as it were, to Hannah's prayer or to her praise.

There's a sense in which we could have referred to this as Hannah's song. Now, we know that Hannah did not have access to one of our favorite verses in the New Testament, and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who've been called according to his purpose. She didn't have access to that verse, but it is clear from her prayer that she was absolutely convinced of God's overruling providence in all things. She knew that God was working to the end that he had planned. And she, I think, would have been perfectly content to repeat the verses that are in that little poem that we have referred to in time past—the one that pictures God as a weaver and weaving the various strands into the purposes that he has for us in our lives—and particularly the notion that not all of the pattern is immediately obvious to us, certainly from the backside, and many of the threads that are employed are not vibrant primary colors.

And the verse goes as follows, Not till the loom is silent and the shuttles cease to fly will God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why the dark threads are as needful in the weaver's skillful hand as the threads of gold and silver in the pattern he has planned. Hannah, through the rearview mirror, as it were, is going to see that the rivalry and provocation of Penina, which was such a painful thing, was actually in the providence of God used in her life to draw from her heartfelt prayers. And in chapter 1, the prayers that were marked by vexation have now been replaced in chapter 2 by this prayer, which is marked by exaltation or elation, and the reason being that God has provided, has looked upon his servant, has remembered her affliction.

And as she prays in this way, it becomes very clear that her prayer breaks the bounds of her own particular circumstances. And indeed, this prayer embraces not only God's purpose for Israel, ultimately, but God's purpose for the entire world. And I keep mentioning that in these early studies, because if we lose sight of that, we will very quickly lose our way around the book. Now, to try and help us move through these verses—I've broken it, or I observe three parts that I think are there for us to consider. First of all, in verses 1 and 2, considering what God has done in terms of Hannah's personal circumstances. And then in verses 3 through 8, what God is doing generally in his work throughout history. And then, in verses 9 and 10, what God will do ultimately when all of his plans come to their fruition.

So, first of all, then, what God has done from the personal perspective of Hannah. And she is writing out of the fullness of her heart. You will notice that there are three my's in verse 1.

My, my, my. First of all, my heart, she says, exalts in the Lord. This doesn't mean that she's had an emotional surge. Heart, when it's used in the Bible, speaks to the very epicenter of our existence. So when the Bible thinks in terms of heart, it includes also our minds and our wills and our affections. So when she says, My heart exalts or relates in the Lord, she's saying the very centrality of who and what I am is caught up in him. It's quite a dramatic fact, isn't it? It's quite a stretch for her emotionally to be leaving behind this boy for whom she has longed, thereby making it obvious to us that her rejoicing is not circumstantial.

Any mother worth her salt having to do what she does would find it a painful experience to take the child that you've given birth to, that you've weaned, that you've loved, and now that you've promised to give up. And yet, she says, my heart exalts in the Lord. It's a bit like Philippians 4, isn't it? Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice. It would be strange if we were to try and teach that she was rejoicing, that she was now going to not have to look after Samuel anymore. That would be ridiculous.

No. My heart—and then you will notice my horn. What does this mean? Well, horn in the Bible is a picture of strength. You'll find it again and again—in the Psalms in particular. And the picture is, if you imagine, every so often you see these amazing pictures of deer in the hills of Scotland with their amazing antlers and their expressions of power and of might.

Or if you watch the National Geographic channel, you see a rhinoceros every so often, and you look at it and you say, I'm glad that it is nowhere near me, especially with that big horn that it has as such a picture of its magnificence and power. Well, of course, you realize that it's only a few verses since she was a blubbering mess. It's only a few verses since she was crying all the time. It's only a few verses since she was deeply distressed and vexed in spirit.

So what has happened to her? Well, you see, she's discovered, what were we just saying, that her strength is in the Lord. Her hope is in the Lord. And that is then given expression by her lips.

My heart exults, my strength is exalted in the Lord, my mouth then speaks out of its fullness. Now, notice that she's referring there to enemies in the plural. And that ought to help us and save us from simply saying that this is a kind of vindictive response on the part of Hannah, who now is able to stick it to Penina, who's been such a bad rival to her for so long.

I'm sure there's a sideways glance there. She would be less than human, were that not the case. But what is it that she's referencing here? Because you will notice that the control that will help us to understand the answer to that question is in the closing phrase of the verse—"because I rejoice in your salvation."

In your salvation. The triumph to which she refers is the triumph of the living God over the enemies of the living God, over those who oppose his covenant people. Now, when you think about this for a moment, we might be tempted to say this seems to be a bit of an over-the-top reaction, doesn't it? After all, she's had a baby. A lot of people have had babies. A lot of people have paused to pray after the baby was born. We look at this and we say, We know you're grateful, Hannah, but goodness gracious, this is quite a prayer.

What are you on about? Well, remember how her request had been made back in chapter 1. When she had sought the Lord for help in verse 11, she used phraseology which was related to the people of God, not just to her own personal circumstances. Verse 11. When she vowed her vow to the Lord, she said, O LORD of hosts… In other words, she says, You're the God of heaven's armies.

O God of heaven's armies! … if you will look on the affliction of your servant… Now, the language that she uses there is the language of the people of God in the preceding period of time. They have called out to God in their affliction. So she appeals in her request for God to do what he's done before. Look upon me, she says, in the way that you've looked upon your people in the past. And now she's actually echoing the language of Israel on the occasions of great deliverance.

When the people were delivered by the power of God, then they exulted in their deliverance. And again I say to you, she and we ought to be beginning to understand that there is a connection between what God has done for Hannah individually and what he is doing for his people corporately. You will notice in verse 2 that her song declares the incomparability of God. There is none holy like the Lord. He is in his power and in his perfection and in his wisdom and in his might. He is a rock, he is a refuge, he is a strong tower. There is none like you, we sometimes sing.

No one else could do the things that you do. Now, what she has here as a declaration comes as a question in Isaiah the prophet when, in chapter 40, declaring the might and power of God, he takes this notion and he poses it in the interrogative. Verse 18 of Isaiah 40, you will be familiar with it. And the prophet says, or God through the prophet speaks, To whom then will you liken God?

Or what likeness will you compare with him? An idol? A craftsman casts it, a goldsmith overlays it with gold, casts for it silver's chains. The one who's too impoverished to have an idol like that gets a wooden one, but he seeks out a skillful craftsman, says the prophet, in order that he might set up an idol that won't move. You know, he's gotta have some kind of solid base in it. You're gonna have to make it not of balsa wood—let's put it that way. And you want to make it such that when you open your windows and the wind blows, it doesn't blow off the table.

Because it would be very embarrassing. Oh, excuse me, I gotta pick my idol up and put it back in place. What good is an idol that would be in this way? To whom will you compare God? Don't you know, he says?

Haven't you heard? Don't you know from the beginning who God is, that he sits above the framework of the universe? The inhabitants of the world are like grasshoppers. He brings princes to nothing. He makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

He regards the nations as a drop in the bucket, as the fine dust in the balance. This is the God in whom Hannah exalts. There is none holy like the Lord. There is none beside you.

There is no one. Now, Hannah would have been very happy in this declaration to have employed the help of Miriam and her tambourine ensemble. If you don't know about Miriam and her tambourine ensemble, then you can read about it at your leisure in Genesis chapter 15, which includes the song of Moses for deliverance. And towards the end of that—I should say Exodus 15, because otherwise they would still be on their way—Exodus chapter 15, and towards the end of the chapter it reads, And then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.

It's quite a wonderful picture. So Moses has sung the song, Aaron is there. Miriam says, I'm gonna get my tambourine and do a little dance. And she says to some of her friends, Would you like to do a little dance as well? Let's get our tambourines and dance.

How stodgy so much of our stuff is. We sing about strength and might and power in the name of the Lord, and hardly open our mouths. Goodness gracious, I don't know what would happen to us if Miriam stood up and started banging her tambourine. Not that I'm requesting it. I'll deal with it as it comes.

But it certainly would be quite a wonderful expression with which Hannah could join. You see, we're not dealing here with a higher power. We're not dealing with a philosophical construct. We're not dealing with a concept.

We're not dealing with something that you look in and find in yourself. No, we're dealing with a living God. And so Hannah says, from a personal perspective, I exult in God my heart, my strength, my voice.

I deride the enemies of God, because they are the enemies of God. Secondly, she then goes on, essentially, to give us, if you like, a view of the world which is distinctly biblical. Not only is God holy and powerful, but she wants us to know in verse 3, which is a kind of bridge verse, that the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. Do you remember how Belshazzar discovered this? Back in our studies in Daniel, some of us will recall in chapter 5 how Belshazzar was having this amazing feast with a thousand of his folks, drinking wine, using the materials that had been stolen from the temple of the Lord when they had snatched the people up and taken them into exile in Babylon, and how, as he went about his business, in the middle of all of their carousing, from the presence of the God of knowledge, a hand was sent.

And a hand appears on the wall and writes. And Daniel tells us that Belshazzar was reduced to a shaking mass. Someone says, Well, the best hope you have is in Daniel, who comes, of course, and speaks to him, and tells Belshazzar, Let me tell you exactly what this is. God has written this. And God has written it in order that you might know Belshazzar, that you can carry on like this, that you think you're a big shot, you think that you and your friends can continue just to go on your way and reject the idea of the living God, and I want you to know that it can't happen. And I'm just turning to it so that I can quote exactly what it is he says to him.

He says, Here's the deal. You, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart. He says, You know that God rules over all of heaven and earth, that God rules the kingdoms of mankind, and he sets people in position as he chooses.

And yet, you've not humbled your heart. You've praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, stone, which don't see or hear or know. But the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored. That is the word of declaration. And what is the word that is said to him?

You have been weighed in the balance, and you have been found wanting. This, you see, is at the very core of what the Bible teaches—that God will, in a final day, judge and separate people from one another. And that is why, in his mercy, he sounds out his word. That is why, in his love, he speaks out into our condition. That is why he stops us in our tracks. That is why he arrests us in our foolishness on account of his love—not wanting us to perish but wanting us to know the life that he has planned for us. The hand from his presence was sent. And as you read the end of the chapter, and that very night, Belshazzar died.

Done. In the midst of sometimes confusing circumstances, we may need to just step back far enough from those circumstances to remember who God is. Then we can rejoice in his purposes, and we can rest in his providence. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. If you're enjoying this brand-new study in the book of 1 Samuel, you might be interested in owning all of Alistair's messages from 1 Samuel.

That's 54 messages on a convenient USB for just $5. When you listen, you'll follow the faithful life of Samuel. He was a boy of improbable birth.

As he grew, he became a leader at the dawn of Israel's monarchy. The series is titled Give Us a King. You'll find the USB on the mobile app or online at slash store. And let me take a minute and tell you about a resource we're recommending for your children or your grandchildren, for children you may know. It's a book called Little Pilgrim's Big Journey. This book is a simplified version of John Bunyan's classic, The Pilgrim's Progress.

That's a book that's been published and translated more than nearly any other book in the world except for the Bible. In this book, your children will encounter many of the familiar places and characters from the Bunyan classic. There's even a map included so the whole family can follow Little Pilgrim's journey from the city of destruction to the celestial city. This is a book children will treasure for years. It's a cloth hardcover book with gold foil print, gives it an heirloom feel, and there are captivating illustrations to help keep younger children engaged. What a great way to introduce young kids to both the trials and blessings of the Christian life. Request your copy of Little Pilgrim's Big Journey when you give a donation either through our mobile app or by visiting our website I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for joining us today. Be sure to listen tomorrow when we'll find out how upside down can actually be right side up. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-08 09:15:01 / 2023-06-08 09:23:17 / 8

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