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When King Charles was crowned the [..] hour service had elements collected from over 500 years.


Each aspect was to tell the world something about the: 

  • role of this king, 
  • the character of this king, 
  • what you expect from this king 
  • and how you ought to be a subject of this king.

Genesis introduced the idea that we need a saviour, someone who would undo the curse of sin.

And like the different sides of a single diamond, fleshing out to us what this rescuer will be like:

Exodus introduced that we need a leader.

Leviticus introduced that we need a high priest.

Judges introduced that we need a hero.

1 Samuel introduces that we need a king. 

And it will teach us about the role of this king, the character of this king, what you expect from this king and how you ought to be a subject of this king.

And so the book is broadly structured into two parts. 

  • Part 1 - A king who is vain, anxious, and unfaithful - who uses power to serve himself.
  • Part 2 - Introduces a second king, who is humble, courageous, and faithful - who uses power to serve his people.

So like all excellently crafted stories, or the opening credits of a Bond movie, the first chapter of the book of 1 Samuel, introduces the key themes power that will be elaborated over the book. 

But as 1 Samuel focuses its attention on the theme of longing for a good king to protect us in a time of chaos.  It will also (and this is key) zoom in on various individual people and snapshots from the life of ancient Israel to help us understand, imagine, grasp what it would be like in the details of real lives, what it would be like to follow God’s king.

Which is why, we begin in chapter 1 with family from from the hill country of Ephraim, which is short-hand for near Bethlehem, so it gives our passage a slight Christmas flavour, all the more so, because just like Mary’s cousin Elizabeth who longed for a child, we meet a  woman called Hannah. Her name means favoured by the Lord, but we meet her during a moment when she feels anything but. And Hannah will be our first guide in this ancient book to teach us what it looks like to trust your most vulnerable longings to God’s true king.

1. Hannah’s Sorrow (vs 1-16)

The heart-breaking family problem is outlined in [2], Hannah struggles with infertility. Let me pause here momentarily, because this is an issue that 1 in 7 couples struggle with here in the UK, and I know a number of you here have faced this challenge, and number of you in the future will face this challenge.

You can imagine Hannah receiving the familiar news from the doctor in a sterile office, after another agonising wait, “I’m sorry Hannah, not this time, it hasn’t worked.”

There is something uniquely powerless about infertility. The thoughts that run through your head, is it someone’s fault, is there something we’re not doing, the emotional bleed out of energy to keep trying, only to be told it wasn’t enough, what you so easily hear is “You’re not enough.” The dance on broken glass, of wanting to be happy for friends that have children, and yet each news of someone else's pregnancy feeling like a dagger in your own heart.

[7] unsurprisingly, describes how she wept and would not eat. In the Hebrew, this phrase means that wailed out-loud. Not only was her grief breaking from the private to the public it was impacting her own health.

Now, in the midst of this tragic situation Hannah is surrounded by three voices of power, and they introduce theme of power that will run through the whole book.

The first voice is that of her ‘husband’.  He represents the power of family, relationships, even romance. We’re told that [5] that he loved her, giving her a double portion. Note that in her sadness his advice [8] is ‘Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?’. This is a wonderfully ham-fisted approach by a bloke to fix the problem, rather than listen and grieve with her, his response is: “Why are you sad, you’ve got me!”. 

Bonus application fellas - this is D- when it comes to marital sensitivity.

Elkanah’s power represents relational pressure, and family pressure. These are the two roles he has. So if you’ve experienced someone say that you must suppress your deepest pain because you’re in a relationship; or you’ve ever been told to bury your pain, becuase your family are uncomfortable with it - watch Hannah say, no.

The second voice, is that of her ‘rival’ a woman called Penninah who is the ‘Good House Keeping’ pin-up woman of the moment. Firstly she’s married ‘Mr Money-bags’ Elkanah who judging by his annual vacation to Jerusalem and [24] the size of the sacrifices he can afford, note that some scholars translate the one bull as three -  is doing very nicely for himself.

Not only has she bagged the eligible husband, but she has [2] children. As woman at the time children were a better status symbol than Tesla with a personalised number plate. For children represented not only were you blessed by God, but you were contributing to the economic safety of the community and indeed the very future security of yourself and your neighborhood.

‘A thousand girls would kill to be Penninah’, ‘Why couldn’t you be more like Penninah’, she represents the approving voice of the culture - like a social media influencer on motherhood and community values. 

And like all influences they boost their power by flaunting their brand - and [6] Hannah is the butt of the jokes.

So if you’ve ever experienced the overwhelming pressure from cultural norms to despair that you’ll never fit in, never truly belong - watch Hannah say no. She won’t give up so she goes to the temple.

The third voice of power she meets is Eli the high priest [9]. He respresents the voice of religion and national institutions. The fact we’re told that [8] she stands (proactive, intentional), and immediately we have the contrast that he is ‘sitting’, suggests he is decrpid, unfit for the duty. This is conformed when Isreal’s great and wise spiritual guide - mistakes a woman in faithful prayer with someone who is as drunk as the 10am crowd outside  Weatherspoons. 

So if you’ve ever been dismissed by a spiritual leader, ever had your sorrows minimised or misunderstood by an institutional representative - watch Hannah, refuse to be disillusioned - as will not  tie her faith in God to the imperfections of religious or public authorities. 

Hannah’s refusal to allow her grief to be shrunken or dismissed or suppressed by family, culture or institutions, demonstrates her spiritual maturity. 

Only a person who knows sin has broken every part of world from our environment, to morality, to even our bodies can grieve that this is not as it ought to be, and refuse to be silenced by voices that say she should fake a smile. 

CS Lewis

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

And Hannah grieves because she knows this world is but a shadow of the one her good creator has made, and will make again.

Christian sorrow has a unique quality to it… 

So what does she do? She goes to the Lord and it’s the first time we hear her speak.

2: Hannah’s Satisfaction

The heart of this passage is prayer, but it’s intriguing. 

We tend to think that the natural order of prayer life should be:

Sorrow - prayer - response - peace

But look how it roles out in [10-28]

Sorrow - prayer - peace - response

Do you see that?  Hannah [18] Prays and then receives peace, only months afterwards does God answer her. 

Many of us don’t pray because the gap between prayer - response - peace is simply too long. And when God does respond in his kindness in the way we’ve prayer we’ve largely forgotten to give thanks and so lose the benefit of peace.

But if we could pray and have peace - wouldn’t that be something? Would that draw your heart to want to make time to pray?

So what are the ingredients to Hannah’s prayer time that is a total game changer?

Let’s look closely at [10-11]:

10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

Look at what she asks for - a son, why a son, because she can commit to him an ancient and sacred order of the Nazarites. This was a group who never cut their hair, never drank alcohol and were utterly devoted to serving the Lord. We learn in [24] that he was 3 or 4 years old when he was removed from his parents and given over to the guidianship of the temple.

That would be like committing [.....] or [......] to be permanent church interns from this September. 

Think of the magnitude of this promise:

  • She wouldn’t have a son to show off to in the market’s babies and toddlers group.
  • She would remain the woman without the children.
  • She would remain vulnerable to bullying of Penninah
  • She would remain vulnerable in her old age for without a son she had no security.

Why would she promise this? Because what it reveals is amongst all her desires to be a mother [...] what she was able to achieve in her prayer time, was the answer to this question:

If God was to answer my prayer how might this lead to his glory?

You see, if you were to ask God for a child, and have that question in mind, the most obvious, the most direct answer would be:

‘Give him back to God as a nazarite intern.’

That’s the secret to Hannah’s peace. 

Tim Keller once said, the limit to your happiness is the vulnerability of whatever it is you desire.

In other words, if you want to be happy without limit, or have peace in the midst of great sorrow - 

  1. Come before the Lord
  2. Talk honestly about your sorrows and longings
  3. Ask him to do what is best for his Glory

That’s why Hannah can walk out with a sense a peace whether God chose to give her a child in the next year, next ten years, or never.

There is no peace if you make your prayer life about your own glory.

[Giving Reu to the Lord]. 

Is there a sorrow from an unmet longing in your own heart, that you need to give to the Lord?

Point 3: Hannah’s Saviour

Here’s a provocative question: How do we pursue the glory of God above all else, when it’s difficult to trust God amidst sorrow?

Afterall, [..] tells us that it was God himself who closed her womb. 

[2:1-10] what makes listening into her conversation with God so dramatic, so powerful is Imagine finally receiving the one thing you’ve longed all your life for, and now imagine giving it all away - how does she process that before the Lord?

Song is in three parts:

[1-3] - Thanksgiving for her situation 

[4-8] - The pattern of how God cares in general 

[9-10] - The anticipation of a future king

In Part 1, her delight that the Lord answered her prayer out weighs the sadness of seeing her son leave. Why, because just as she declared in [..] for Hannah answered prayer is evidence that God has not forgotten her. And to be known by her creator, and assured she’s not just floating through live at the mercy of survival of the fittest, means she can endure pressure from family, relationships, and culture. 

Part 2, Hannah reveals her secret to revelling in the goodness of God: 

God works in the opposite way to the world. He specialises in:

No wonder Hannah can have the spiritual confidence to refuse to have grief shrunken by the voices around her and [..] pour out her heart towards the Lord in all tears and sorrow.

For the God she believes specialises in helping the hopeless.

With this God, if you get him, you don’t have to dress up your grief ot make your anguish polite before you can come to him; for it is the voice of the broken hearted he is particularly attuned to listen out for. 

But there is something else that Hannah knows that enables her to open her hand and release the one thing she’d longed all her life to have. 

It’s there in Part 3 [..]



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