This past Sunday, we began our sermon series in the book of 1 Samuel. For the next number of months, we have the privilege of working through this rich story with complex characters, intense action and profound teaching that will repeatedly point us back to Jesus. But at the outset, what we see is a nation that is languishing in sin, devoid of leadership, and desperate for God’s intervention. We see that God responds to His people’s plight by giving them a son to lead them.
1. The Plight of Barrenness: v.1-8
The book begins quite innocuously. We’re introduced to a man named Elkanah, who comes from humble beginnings and he has two wives. One is fruitful, and the other, Hannah, is barren. We see in Hannah the social struggle and spiritual privilege. It’s important for us to remember that rarely are we afforded the luxury of spiritual privilege that is also accompanied with social acclaim. Further, in this we see God’s sovereignty in our struggle. Hannah is barren because God has caused this. She is barren because God is going to accomplish His purposes in and through the struggles and trials of her life. We can know that God’s purposes in our afflictions are good, noble and true. We must choose to see affliction as sovereignly ordained and not as a mistake or failure on God’s part.
2. The Prayer of a Desperate Woman: v.9-18
In response to her plight, Hannah responds the way we all should in situations of struggle and trial, and that is to pray! We must be people, who in times of struggle are driven to the Lord not from the Lord. Hannah didn’t let her barrenness lead her to bitterness, cynicism or alienation from God; it drove her to Him! This must be true for us as well! In her prayer (verse 11), we see elements of faithful and fervent prayer. First, we need a right understanding of God. Second, a right understanding of ourselves. Third, we must know what we are asking for. Finally, we ask in submission to God’s will.
3. God’s Provision of a Son: v.19-20
In the climax of this account, we see God’s favorable response in granting a son to Hannah. But you could argue that this son fulfilled a greater need for Israel than it did this barren mother when we realize all that Samuel will go on to do. I have wondered many times if part of God’s sovereign plan in closing Hannah’s womb was to move her to a place where she would willingly give up her son from the beginning of his life, which she may not have been willing to do if she had gotten pregnant immediately.
But beyond this, the phrase of “the Lord remembered” is profound. That phrase is used in the Bible to speak to God’s covenant promises to His people. This provision of a son is desperately needed, but this won’t be the last son or the best son that God gives. The greater Son will eventually come in Jesus. Yet a millennium before Christ will come, God is giving his people a category by which to understand His provision of a Son.
4. Our Offering to the Lord: v.21-28
Finally, the family brings the son and presents him at the temple. Hannah honors her vow to the Lord and does so by coming with a generous offering. The first chapter closes in a beautifully rich manner with Samuel worshipping the Lord in the temple. It has already come full circle. The barren mother who poured out her heart and soul has brought her son, who will function as the son of the nation, into the temple where he will lead God’s people to the Lord. The stage is set for the man of God to lead the people of God to the person of God, and in response, for the people to worship their God. God help us, that we too would be led to worship our great God.