THE FULFILLMENT OF HANNAH’S VOW

 

The books of Samuel were penned over a thousand years before Jesus Christ was born in a manger near Bethlehem. The first chapter of First Samuel is occupied with Hannah, a woman of Israel from the tribe of Ephraim. Among her illustrious forebears were Joseph, a strong type of Jesus, and Joshua, who replaced Moses as leader of the Israelites and who took them across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. It will soon be the time of David the King.

Hannah’s vow is relevant to the Christmas story because it foretold of another song quite similar to hers that would be spoken in thanksgiving by another woman about to give birth to a child who also would be wholly dedicated to God. This version of the two songs and their connection is excerpted from my novel Buddy.

“’Now there was a certain man of . . . Ephraim, and he had two wives. The name of one was Hannah, and the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord, were there. And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave portions to Peninnah, his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters. But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion, for he loved Hannah: but the Lord had shut up her womb. . .And as he did so year after year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so the other wife provoked her, which made her cry, and she did not eat. Then Elkanah said to her, Hannah, why do you cry, and refuse to eat? And why do you grieve? Am I not better to you than ten sons? So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli, the priest, sat by a post at the temple of the Lord. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord, of hosts, if you will look on the affliction of your handmaid, and remember me, and not forget me, but will give to your handmaid a male child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life. And as she prayed, the priest Eli looked at her closely. Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but she was silent. Therefore Eli thought that she was drunk. And he said to her, How long will you be drunk? Put away the wine from you. And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord. I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul to the Lord. And Eli said, Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant you your request. And Hanna’s . . .countenance was no longer sad.

“And the Lord remembered Hannah. And she bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying Because I have asked him of the Lord. And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her along with sacrifices to the Lord. And they brought the child to the priest Eli. And Hannah said, O my lord, as your soul lives, I am the woman who stood by you here earlier, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed; and the Lord has answered my prayer which I asked of Him. Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lies he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshiped the Lord there.

“And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoices in the Lord, my horn is exalted in the Lord; my mouth is enlarged over my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. There is none holy like the Lord; for there is none beside you, neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. They who were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they who were hungry no longer hungered; so that the barren has born seven; and she who has many children has become feeble. The Lord kills and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and brings up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and lifts up. He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory; for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he has set the world upon them. He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven He shall thunder upon them. The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and He shall give strength to his king, and exalt the horn of His anointed.

“And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child did minister to the Lord before Eli , the priest.’

Earl looked at the people. Despite the length of the Scriptural passage, they remained attentive. “Here was this poor woman who desperately wanted a baby to love and fulfill her womanhood, but she couldn’t get pregnant. The Bible says that she went up to the priest over many years and still didn’t have a baby. Finally she made a deal with God. In her prayer request, she promised God that if He would give her a baby, she would turn him back over to God, to be raised up as a prophet.

“’Now I’ll give you a question. Think hard before you answer. Did God answer her prayer because He liked the deal that she made?’ He paused and looked over the assembly. Nobody came forward with an answer, not even Joyce or Mary.

“’Nobody answered the question,’ he said in mock sadness. ‘Not one.’ He looked at each of their faces, then grinned. ‘I’m glad. Nobody should have answered, because it was the wrong question.’ A ripple of laughter passed through the assembly. ‘The real question is this: why did God prevent her from getting pregnant in the first place? It’s a question that you all should be asking. Why were you born with difficulties?’ He went over to Buddy and looked fondly at him. ‘Why, Buddy?’ He turned back to his place at the front. ‘The answer to that question is that God had a mission for Hannah, and He was preparing her heart to receive it. When her heart was ready, He acted on her prayer. It wasn’t up to her. It was up to Him.’ He pointed back to Buddy. ‘God’s not done with you, Buddy. He has something He wants you to do. I’ll be willing to bet that it’s a very important one.’ He pointed to others. ‘The same goes for you. And you. And you. To all of you.

“’Here’s the rest of the story. Hannah gave birth to the boy Samuel. She gave him back to God as she promised. Samuel was raised among the priests, where he learned much about God. Then God used him in a mighty way. He became a great prophet, one of the greatest in Israel.

“’Listen to the words that Hannah spoke in thanksgiving to God for His gift of Samuel: ‘The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.’ God humbles the proud and lifts up the humble. Hannah was a prophet herself. She foretold another woman’s prayer, far into the future. Listen to Mary’s ‘Magnificat’ in Chapter 1 of Luke’s Gospel, which she spoke after learning that she was to give birth to our Lord Jesus Christ:

“’And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden, for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shown strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath helped his servant, Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.’

“’We can learn something from this. God is our maker, and He loves each of us with a very great passion. He made us how He wanted to make us. Perhaps we should think less about how God should make us as perfect as possible and more about how we can be used by God and for His purpose the best that we can with what He has given to us to use. Should I ask for my arm back? Not if its loss glorifies God. Should my wife ask for her legs back?’ Joyce proudly displayed her prosthetics. ‘Not if God wants to use her just as she is. It is a lesson of hope, for our purpose in life is to serve God, and in doing that we will be filled with joy.’”

Merry Christmas to all.

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