Last night at CSF we took some time to read and discuss the story of Hannah from the 1 Samuel. Hannah was one of two wives of Elkanah, a Levite (his being a Levite ought to have us on edge after last week’s lesson, but he’s a good guy). Elkanah appears to be wealthy, able to sacrifice three bulls, and it is possible he married the second wife because Hannah was not having children. This is a common theme in the Bible, we’ve read of women before who were unable to conceive (Sarah and Rachel being two).
Hannah prays and promises that if God gives her a son she will never cut his hair and that she will give him to the Lord. To make a long story short, she soon becomes pregnant and gives birth to Samuel. Samuel grows up in the temple (not the temple in Jerusalem, that is not yet built) and becomes the last judge. He is a pretty pivotal guy as his name is on the book that tells not just his own story but that of the first kings, Saul and David.
Reflecting on the story, we drew out five points:
1. Everything you have is a gift from God Hannah realized this, which is why she was able to give Samuel back to God. May we realize it too, from the time we are poor college students to when we are making the big bucks later on!
2. There may be something you desperately want, so ask God for it! I think the way Hannah prays is a model for how we ought to pray. We do not need to be shy or fearful, we can pour out the depths of our heart to God. Of course, there may be some things we desperately want that we do not need, or even if we ever got them we would realize we do not really want them. What Hannah wanted though was a beautiful thing and there is no shame in asking God for good things.
3. Hannah’s prayer is answered, but this does not mean ours will be. Prayer does not work like that. It is not as simple as just asking for something and getting it. Lots of women then and now desperately want to get pregnant and cannot. I have friends who want to get married and have not yet, perhaps they never will. How prayer works remains a mystery.
4. When you do get that thing you pray for, it still belongs to God. Again, Hannah knew this which is why she was able to give Samuel back. It is easy, or easier, to rely on God when we need or want something. After we get it, when life is comfortable, we may forget that previous reliance. The point here is to remind us that at all times, its all a gift.
5. Hannah’s story points us to Mary and thus to Jesus. Hannah knew everything was from God and belonged to God. She was thus able to give Samuel back even as she praised God (1 Samuel 2). This praise echoes that of another unexpected mother, Mary, in Luke 1:46-55. Mary’s miraculous birth gave the world Jesus Christ. And just as Hannah’s son served God, so too did Mary’s, going to the very farthest extent of love for the world.
The point of Hannah’s story is not to pray like or have faith like Hannah, even though she is a good example. Her story, like all stories, points us forward to the coming of Jesus. Jesus is the gift to the hungry and needy world, Jesus is Lord and Savior.