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 besides you; there is no rock like our God. 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. The 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 Sheol 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.” (1 Samuel 2:1-10 ESV)
In ancient Israel, there was no greater shame and pain a woman could experience than being barren. In a day when ladies did not pursue careers outside the home, and when their identities were found exclusively in their families, to no have a child was a great disgrace. If a couple remained childless, and specifically had no male heir to carry on the family name and inherit the family fortune, it was as if they had never lived themselves. Their name, their heritage, must carry on. In addition, the greatest hope of every Jewish mother was that she would give birth to the promised Messiah, the Great King that God would send to set up His Kingdom in this world.
In chapter one, Hannah was childless, without hope and full of shame. Others preached that having children was a blessing and that barrenness was a curse. Did her neighbors whisper behind her back, wondering what great sin she committed to deserve such a punishment? While loved by her husband, her heart was still as empty as her womb. To make matters worse, her husband had a second wife who had children, making their home an impossible competition Hannah could not win. So, in utter desperation Hannah went to the house of God to sacrifice and to pray. And God heard her prayer. Her son Samuel was born. Not just any son, Samuel grew up to be a mighty prophet of God!
No wonder she now prays again, this time with lips filled with praise to a God who takes care of His people. It is the Lord who makes low and raises up. Our lives don’t always respond up to our attempts to control them, but God always remains in control. He is to be praised!
Hannah’s song reminds me of another song (Luke 1:46-56) from the lips of another mother named Mary, a young girl who unexpectedly and miraculously gave birth to a Son, Jesus. Her song also was a song of praise and a reminder of God’s power, mercy, and sovereignty. Mary, of course, was that one Jewish mother who experienced the blessing to be the mother of the Messiah. And because He was born, God’s Kingdom can be experienced by all desperate people who cry out to Him in prayer.