Our nineteenth study for Advent will focus on two women. In our Scriptures for today, both of them offer prayers concerning the gift of a son. One begins in silent prayer which leads to a song of praise. The other begins with a significant proclamation which leads to a song of praise. As you read these two beautiful passages, consider the deep faith of both women. Notice how their trust in the Lord led them to do remarkable things. Also, take note of the sons born to these women. Both accomplish immeasurable good for the sake of God‚Äôs Kingdom.
The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow.22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, ‚ÄúAs soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the Lord and dwell there forever.‚Äù 23 Elkanah her husband said to her, ‚ÄúDo what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him; only, may the Lord establish his word.‚Äù So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him. 24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bulla, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, ‚ÄúOh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. 27 For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.‚Äù
And Hannah prayed and said, ‚ÄúMy heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. 2 ‚ÄúThere is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. 3 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. 4 The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength. 5 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. 6 The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. 7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. 8 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. 9 ‚ÄúHe 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. 10 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.‚Äù 11 Then Elkanah went home to Ramah. And the boywas ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli the priest.
First, we turn to 1 Samuel 1 where we meet a most honorable and God honoring woman. Hanna, which means ‚Äúgrace‚Äù or ‚Äúgraciousness‚Äù, was married to Elkanah. He belonged to a particular branch of the Levites called the Kohathites (remember Uzzah from previous readings). Elkanah loved Hanna dearly, but the lord had ‚Äúclosed up her womb‚Äù (vs. 6). This is probably the reason that Elkanah took a second wife, Peninah. While she was able to deliver him sons and daughters, Elkanah continued to favor Hanna causing great strife within the family. For instance, whenever Elkanah would go to Shiloh to offer sacrifice, he would offer meat for Peninah‚Äôs sons and daughters, but he gave a double portion for Hanna, ‚Äúbecause he loved her and the Lord had closed up her womb‚Äù (vs. 5).
Peninah was extremely jealous of Hanna and often ridiculed her for her barren state. Year after year the taunting continued. Even at the house of the Lord, Peninah drove Hanna to tears and fasting. This constant berating by Peninah was never met with a harsh reply by Hanna. She stayed true to her name, offering graciousness in return for the irrepressible grief given to her by Peninah. Rather than lash out, Hanna reached out to the Lord. While at the Lord‚Äôs House, in the presence of the priest Eli, Hanna offered a silent prayer to the Lord. She requested that the Lord might give her a son. If God would honor her request, Hanna vowed to dedicate this child to the Lord, and that his hair would never be touched by a razor. This is a requirement of the Nazarite vow (Num. 6:1‚Äì21).
Eli, the priest, saw Hanna praying. She did not utter her prayer aloud, but prayed silently moving her lips as she communed with God. Eli saw this and accused her of being drunk with wine. Hannah responded to this accusation. ‚ÄúI am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief‚Äù (vs. 15). So, Eli recognized her faithfulness and fervency in prayer. He said to her, ‚ÄúGo in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.‚Äù
God blessed the union of Elkanah and Hannah. She bore him a son, named Samuel (which means, ‚Äúheard by God‚Äù). After Samuel was weaned, Hannah fulfilled her vow. At just the right time, Hannah took Samuel to the House of the Lord. After appropriate sacrifices had been made, Hannah brought the boy to Eli and said, ‚ÄúPardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord‚Äù (vs. 26-28). Samuel stayed in the house of the Lord with Eli, and he worshiped God.
Samuel would be called by God as a judge, prophet, and anointer of Kings. His faithfulness to God was well known to the people. ‚ÄúThe LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel's words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD. The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word‚Äù (1 Samuel 3:19-21). Samuel was also used by God to anoint Saul and then David as King of Israel.
With her silent prayer answered, Hannah offers a profound song of praise! She begins by rejoicing in the Lord‚Äôs deliverance. ‚ÄúMy heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high.‚Äù She then condemns the proud in their boasting. Next she declares that God can transform lives. This is shown through a series of reversals. Warriors will lose their bows, but the weak will be made strong. The ‚Äúfull‚Äù will become servants, while the hungry will be served. The barren woman will have seven sons, while the mother of many sons will be full of sorrow. God brings death and life, poverty and wealth, humility and exaltation. He raises the needy to a place of position with princes and makes them heirs to ‚Äúa throne of honor.‚Äù How can God do all of this? It is because God placed the earth on its foundations, and they belong to Him! Then Hannah offers strong covenantal statements of blessing and cursing. God will bless the faithful by ‚Äúguarding their feet,‚Äù but cause the, ‚Äúwicked to be silent in the place of darkness.‚Äù She then sings that God will not be overpowered! Anyone in opposition to the Lord will be defeated. God‚Äôs power will be known as He thunders from heaven and judges the earth. Finally, Hannah offers a prophetic insight that connects us to the second prayer in our readings today. She proclaims, ‚ÄúHe will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.‚Äù The Davidic King is clearly in view here. However, it was the Messiah, in the line of David, who would be the ultimate fulfillment of Hannah‚Äôs final refrain.
Now we‚Äôll move to Luke 1:46-56. Mary has just received a significant proclamation from Gabriel, leading to her song of praise. This beautiful hymn is known as the ‚ÄúMagnificat‚Äù. As you read it, you will notice that it is patterned after Hannah‚Äôs song of praise.
And Mary said, ‚ÄúMy soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.‚Äù 56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.
Both songs open with rejoicing in the Lord‚Äôs deliverance, and the similarities are striking. Mary says, ‚ÄúMy soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. Hannah says, "My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high‚Äù (1 Samuel 2:1; Luke 1:46‚Äì48). Both speak of the Lord‚Äôs unmatched holiness (1 Samuel 2:2; Luke 1:49-50), they both denounce arrogant boasting (1 Samuel 2:3; Luke 1:51), both songs point to transformation and reversals of the human condition as the result God‚Äôs interventions (1 Samuel 2:4‚Äì8; Luke 1:52-53), and address the Lord‚Äôs covenantal protection for the faithful (1 Samuel 2:9; Luke 1:54-55). Hannah‚Äôs song concludes by stating that the Lord Himself will give strength to His king, His anointed (1 Samuel 1: 9‚Äì10). As Hannah praises God for her son, she also prays for another Son, the son of Mary who will be the King of kings, and God‚Äôs anointed. Revelation 19:16 declares, ‚ÄúOn his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.‚Äù
Let‚Äôs conclude with a few thoughts about these two women and their sons. Hannah was barren and prayed to God for a son. Hannah lived a life of holiness before God. She embodied God‚Äôs graciousness even in a family that was highly dysfunctional. Her prayer was answered by God. Miraculously, she conceived and gave birth to a son. Hannah‚Äôs vow to return Samuel to the Lord was also honored. Samuel became an important part of God‚Äôs unfolding plan. With God‚Äôs guidance, Samuel discerned that David was the son of Jesse who should be anointed King. God‚Äôs covenant with David, that an heir would always inhabit his throne, was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus, the King of all kings.
Mary was a virgin girl who did not seek her place in God‚Äôs providential plan. Unlike Hannah who prayed for a son, Mary was instructed by the messenger of God that she would conceive by a miracle of the Holy Spirit, and give birth to a Son. Mary‚Äôs ‚Äúyes‚Äù to God meant that she would be the mother of the King ‚Äì the fulfillment of Hannah‚Äôs prayer. And as Hannah gave Samuel back to God, so too, Mary was only a steward of this precious Child. One day, Mary would stand at a cross and see Jesus, ‚Äútake upon Himself the sins of the world‚Äù (John 1:29). It would be through Jesus and His Passion that all of the reversals mentioned in both prayers would be accomplished. Jesus would transform darkness to light and death to life! He would exalt the humble and cast down the proud! He would protect those in a covenant relationship with Him.
God answered the prayer of Hannah and she participated in God‚Äôs plan. God called on Mary, and her willingness to be used by God allowed her to participate profoundly in God‚Äôs plan.
What about us? For what are you praying? Are you praying out of a ‚Äúgracious‚Äù heart? And what happens if God calls you to do something astounding? Will you trust Him? Will you say, ‚Äúyes‚Äù? Hannah and Mary demonstrate how the Lord God works ‚Äì He works most especially through the gracious, the humble and the willing.
May you consider these things as you continue day 19 of your Advent preparations.