Barrenness, Covenants, Prayer and Joy | Part 2

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This post concludes a study in 1 Samuel 1. Read the first post here.

Yaweh as the One who Remembers

Additionally, 1 Samuel 1 develops the idea of an adversary who taunts, who provokes, who discourages while the faithful feel forgotten and alone, confused at the plan of God. Hannah battles through the feelings of aloneness; ‘God, do you see me? Do you see your people under the curse? Do you see the need for a seed?’ (1:11). Like Hagar, Hannah must come to one conclusion: Yahweh is the God who sees. He remembers. He does not forget. Perhaps Hannah thinks here of the barren matriarch: “Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb” (Gen. 30:22). This passage reminds us of a theme that is seen throughout redemptive history: those who put their trust in him will not be ashamed. When the faithful put their hope in what God has promised, they will go away having received favour and grace.

A humble, faithful and caring husband. A meek and submissive maidservant. A waring between the curse and the seed. The anticipation of a miraculous birth. The passage is bursting with connections and shadows of the miraculous conception of the true seed, Christ (Gal. 3:16). Hannah has the great desire for a son, literally, a seed. God is the one who promised a perfect seed, the ‘Desire of Nations’ (see Hag. 2:7). Hannah later on goes to vow that her son will be a Nazarite. Though we know that Christ was not a Nazarite, the whole point of a Nazarite, literally ‘one who is separated’, was that of a life symbolically devoted to God, untainted, separated, holy (see Num. 6:1 -21). Christ embodied that devotion and that holiness, that set-apartness. Like Mary, Hannah knew that her son would not be her own. She may not have known what the future would bring to Samuel, but like Jesus, he would be the catalyst for the setting up of a kingdom of God. ‘Samuel’ means ‘heard of God,’ or ‘sons of God.’ Just as God heard Hannah’s prayers and gave Samuel to the nation; so God heard the cries of his people and gave Jesus, his Son, to the world.


This passage reminds us of a theme that is seen throughout redemptive history: those who put their trust in him will not be ashamed.


Yaweh as the Intercessor

In 1 Samuel 1 we also see a foretaste of Christ’s interceding work. Hannah’s pleading before a holy God is confirmed and mediated by the high priest, Eli (1:15–18). Eli observes Hannah’s prayers and is initially indignant; he only sees the outside of Hannah’s petitions. Yet Christ, our High Priest is moved to compassion by his peoples prayers (Hebrews 4:14-16). Christ is an omniscient high priest; he is a perfect high priest. We know this because his sacrifice was accepted once, unlike the times in the Old Testament where the high priest went in yearly. Jesus was accepted because of who he was, unlike Eli who would have to put on robes to be acceptable. Christ isn’t quick to judge but is slow to anger, and is a mediator who feels the pain and prayers of his people. Eli later on realises the heart attitude of Hannah and sends her away with reassurance that her prayers have been heard. Likewise, Christ presents the prayers of his people to God, and because of his perfect atonement for their sins and brokenness, his intercession is sure to be heard. Christ sends his people off with peace, for he himself is our peace (Eph. 2:14).


Just as God heard Hannah’s prayers and gave Samuel to the nation; so God heard the cries of his people and gave Jesus, his Son, to the world.


Like Hannah, believers today can find hope and peace from pouring out their soul before the Lord. We can be more confident because we have the knowledge that our prayers are presented by a perfect High Priest, one who won’t be turned away and one who has all power in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18). We have desires and hopes which are good and which we are told to bring before the LORD. Believers know that their greatest desire and need has been met in the good news of our salvation through Christ. Thus, we must take tremendous strength in the fact that our eternal good is secure. However God also gives good physical gifts, and he gives us good desires for all the good things he has made. And so we must be at peace as we ask God to supply our needs according to the riches of Christ. Hannah went away no longer despairing after being reminded that the God who covenanted with Israel may grant her petition. God had promised physical blessings and eternal blessings. Believers must not be ashamed to bring their pleas from their heart’s desires before God. Hannah’s name itself (meaning ‘favour, grace’) is a reminder to us that we are to realize that all we receive is a gift of grace.


Christ presents the prayers of his people to God, and because of his perfect atonement for their sins and brokenness, his intercession is sure to be heard.


Yaweh as the Answer

But, you might be thinking, what happens when desires are unmet? First Samuel teaches us that believers can find encouragement in the Bridegrooms love for them even in those moments of lack. As a human, Elkanah could not give Hannah her desires. To Hannah, her earthly husband was not enough. He was able to encourage her, yet he fell short of being able to provide her heart’s desire. Christ, on the otherhand, is an all-powerful Bridegroom. Because he has provided for our greatest need, we can also rise up knowing that he is enough, he is better than our wants, yet he also has the power to provide for us.


We can find joy in that we are taken care of in Christ, he who is accepted by an unchanging God, all of which has nothing to do with our circumstances.


Believers should not withdraw from their relationship with God through Christ when they are distressed. Rather, they should press on repeatedly. Hannah’s sorrow and taunting from Peninnah does not impact her worship, since she is found in Shiloh where her husband is sacrificing. Her prayers do not falter but rather increase and abound. As Christians our sorrows have been borne by Christ. We can find joy in that we are taken care of in Christ, he who is accepted by an unchanging God, all of which has nothing to do with our circumstances.

Christ has secured the reversal of the curses of barrenness that we see in this text. A day is coming in which the Seed will deliver his people from their state of brokenness. As we long for the day in which we can see the New Covenant in all its glory, believers are assured that that perfect Prophet has already come. We have the knowledge that we have found favour and grace in His sight, and we can go away no longer downcast.

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