Sunday, September 01, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "Hannah's Prayers"

“Hannah’s Prayers”
A Heart for God’s Heart: 
The Message of 1 Samuel
September 1, 2013 :: 1 Samuel 1:1-2:10

I’ve been eager to get into 1 Samuel with you because it is the next installment in our long series on the Big Story of the Bible.  We started our series (believe it or not) 10 years ago. A decade ago in 2003 when we went through the Book of Genesis together. Then in 2005 we did Exodus. 2007 we did Numbers. 2009 we did Joshua, then we took a 2 year break to make it through both Luke and Acts and then in 2012 we did Judges and Ruth.

And here we are now in 1 Samuel together.

I told Heather that this week, I would just remind everyone where we’ve been for the last 10 years.  Catch everybody up on the last decade. But I think we’ll actually get into the book instead.

This book takes place at the end of the period of the Judges.

What was that time like?  A really exciting happy time in Israel’s history?

Not really. Last year, we called it the Downward Spiral of Israel.  And 1 Samuel pretty much picks up where that spiral left off.

But there are glimmers of hope, as well.

1 Samuel is an amazing story of action and adventure. Of intrigue and war. Of folly and wisdom. We will encounter weird stuff and battles and miracles and prophets, and priests, and kings.

In these pages, we will be introduced to some pretty major characters.

Samuel himself.
Saul, the first king of Israel.
And, very importantly, a shepherd boy who will one day become king himself.

What’s his name?


But we’ll meet a lot of other characters, too.

Today’s, Samuel’s parents and the not-so-good-high-priest named Eli.

And his good-for-nothings sons.

But also Jonathan. And a bunch of others.  Even a witch!

Now, having said that, I want to ask you a question.

Who do you think is the main character of the book of 1 Samuel?

Is it Samuel, Saul, or David or someone else?

Ahh. Can’t trick you.  The LORD is the main character of the book of 1 Samuel.

1 Samuel is not just a book of history. It is a theological history. It is a book that reveals God and His ways.

And in many ways it reveals the heart of God.

I’m going to title this sermon series, “A Heart for the Heart of God.”

Because in this book, God is looking for a man after His own heart.

And He can tell whether or not a man is for His own heart because God does not just look on the outward appearances–God looks on the inside, God looks on the heart.

And He’s looking on our hearts today.

The first character in this book that has a heart for the heart of God is a poor, distressed, backwoods woman named Hannah.

Hannah hailed from a rural part of Israel, she was really a nobody.

And she had a major problem. She was barren. And in that culture being childless was not just a sad thing but a REALLY bad thing. It sent a signal that you were incomplete and basically cursed.

She was distressed and suffering.

But she had heart for the heart of God and that heart expressed itself in her prayers.

Today’s message is called “Hannah’s Prayers.”

And I think that we can learn a lot from them for our prayers today.

Hannah, this little known distressed lady was perhaps the most godly woman in the whole Old Testament.  Let’s read her story. V.1

“There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.”

1 Samuel starts with the story of a man named Elkanah who did a very, very, very foolish thing. He got married twice, to two different women, at the same time!

I think the Bible clearly teaches that having a wife is a terrific blessing, but having two wives is a terrible headache and big mistake.  But that’s what Elkanah did.

He came from a long line of Israelites and he appears to be pious and godly and loving to his wives.

But there was trouble in the home. V.3

“Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the LORD Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the LORD. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb.

And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Elkanah her husband would say to her, ‘Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don't you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?’”

I think that Elkanah truly loved Hannah. But I don’t think he gets it, if you know what I mean. There is a bitter rivalry going on here between the two wives.  Peninnah is not gracious in the least, and Hannah desperately wants children.  This cycle of sacrifice, feasting, provoking, and desperate weeping went on for years and years.

But Hannah was a godly woman with a heart for the heart of God and, one year, things went differently.  V.9.

“Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the LORD's temple.”

Eli was the high priest during this time. He was very and very fat, and there he sat. v.10

“In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD.”

This Wednesday night at Prayer Meeting, we sang together, “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer.”

Hannah prayed!

He poured out her soul to the LORD.

Notice how she cries to the Lord.

Notice how she doesn’t hold anything back.

I think that sometimes we believe that we have to get ourselves all cleaned up and buttoned up to talk to God.

God doesn’t want us to come to Him all put together. He wants us to come all falling apart if we are. And He’ll put us back together!

He is where we should go with all of those hurtful feelings that we can be experiencing.

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

“In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD.”  V.11

“And she made a vow, saying, ‘O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon 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.’”

What does that remind you of?

Sounds a lot like Samson, doesn’t it?  A Nazirite from birth. We don’t tend to think of Samuel has hairy because he doesn’t get it cut off like Samson does. But he was a hairy man, too, set apart for the Lord.

This whole problem should remind us of other barren women, shouldn’t it?

Samson’s mom.

And later in our Bible, Elizabeth and even Mary.

God loves to do surprising things.

He loves to show His strength when our situations seem helpless. V.12

“As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, ‘How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine.’”

This shows that Eli couldn’t recognize passionate prayer when he saw it. Eli is relatively spiritually deaf.

But Hannah had a heart for the heart of God. V.15

“‘Not so, my lord,’ Hannah replied, ‘I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD.   Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.’”

Notice that Hannah was not afraid to pray to the LORD. She knew that He was holy and that she could not enter the tabernacle herself.

But she was not afraid to pour out her soul to the LORD.

Have you poured out your soul to the LORD recently?

God wants your heart.

If you don’t hear anything else from me today, hear this. Give your heart to the Lord. Pour out your soul to the LORD.

Even if it hurts. Especially if it hurts!

God wants your heart.

Hannah knew that the LORD hears prayer. And so, apparently, did Eli. V.17

“Eli answered, ‘Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.’ She said, ‘May your servant find favor in your eyes.’ Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.”

Something changed there. She poured out her soul to the Lord and left the burden with Him.

As much as she wanted a child, she left it in the Lord’s hands.

I think that so often we take the burden to the Lord (I know I do) and then we take it back with us.

But Hannah left it with the Lord.

And the LORD, this time, said, “Yes!”  V.19

“Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the LORD and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, ‘Because I asked the LORD for him.’”

Samuel, “Heard of God!”

Answered prayer!

But as wonderful as a new little baby boy was, there as now also a difficult vow to fulfill. V.21

“When the man Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the LORD and to fulfill his vow, Hannah did not go. [For the first time.] She said to her husband, ‘After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the LORD, and he will live there always.’”

Hannah remembered her promise. She not return on Elkanah’s regular visits for the next 3 years until Samuel is weaned. And then she will do the toughest thing for any mom to do.  She will give her child over to God. V.23

“‘Do what seems best to you,’ Elkanah her husband told her. ‘Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the LORD make good his word.’ So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.

After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. When they had slaughtered the bull, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, ‘As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD.

I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.’ And he worshiped the LORD there.”

Hannah’s prayers were answered, and she also kept her promises.

How many mothers have taken 1 Samuel 1:27 as their prayer of dedication?

“I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD.”

Of course, Hannah’s situation was unique. We aren’t all called to send our three year olds to serve in the temple for a lifetime. We aren’t even all called to give our children to full-time career ministry or missionary work.

But we are all called, if we have children, to give them over to God. To entrust them to Him.

It’s important thing to remember that God gives us children so that we can give them back.

How could Hannah do that?

How could Hannah hand over her child?

It was going to be hard for her.  She wasn't leaving him in the most safe place!  V.3 said that Hophni and Phinehas were priests of the Lord during this time.

Next week, we’re going to find out what that means. It was a big UH OH.

Those two guys where were not good role-models for a 3 year old.  They were not what priests of the Lord were supposed to be like.  And Samuel had to go live with them!  Hannah had to trust her child with...them!

And she did.  V.27, “I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.  So now I give him to the LORD.”

So, how was she able to do this?

And how can we do the hard things we have to do in this life?

And I know that a lot of you are going through some very hard things right now.

How can you pray and then trust the Lord with answer?

How did Hannah do that?

The answer to that question is very simple–Hannah knew God.

She was a theologian of the best kind.

Hannah knew God.

She had a heart for the heart of God.

Hannah had a big enough God that she could trust Samuel to Him. Hannah could see that God was not only sufficient to meet her needs–He was sufficient to do what was right for Samuel, too.

Hannah knew God. She knew who God was.  And she knew that God could be trusted with little Samuel's life.

Hannah had a heart for the heart of God.

Now, how do I know this? Because of Hannah’s second prayer.

Her first prayer was a prayer for a child.

And now that He has come, her second prayer is a prayer of faith, trusting God with her child.  That’s the point of Hannah’s Prayer in chapter 2 verses 1-10.

It's a beautiful praise song to the Lord.  Let's read v.1.

“Then Hannah prayed and said: ‘My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.”

Hannah basically prayed a psalm of rejoicing.

And think about this. She has just given her child over to the tabernacle. She has just said goodbye to her little Sammy. “Bu bye!”

And what was her feeling? What was going on inside of her?

I’m sure she felt pain, but she also rejoiced.

Hannah rejoiced in an all sufficient God.

Her soul was full of praise for this God who was big enough to trust with her most-loved, most-prayed-for son.  Hannah rejoiced in an all-sufficient God.  She knew God.

She knew God’s heart.

Let’s see what Hannah knew.


“There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.”

Hannah knew that God was holy.  That means that God was good in a way that no one else was good.  Perfectly righteous. Perfectly spotless in purity.  A pure flame of pure holiness–that’s God.

And that holiness in v.2 leads her to trust Him!  She calls him a “Rock.”  That’s something to hold onto. God’s holiness makes Him hold-able to Hannah.

I think that’s because she knew that He would do no wrong.  He won’t sin. He won’t be evil to Samuel.  He is holy.  He is good.  And therefore, He is trustworthy.


“Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed.”

This holy God also is a hearing.  And a remembering God.  He is keeping track of what happens.  It says, “by Him deeds are weighed.”

Sometimes it seems like God is not paying attention. But that is not true.  God is knowing.  “The LORD is a God who knows.”

Peninnah was not getting away with her incessant taunting. God was simply waiting for His own purposes. God knows. And God will settle all the scores.  His holiness demands justice. And His knowledge is faultless and endless.

I that is a reason to trust Him with our prayers (and with our kids).

When people hurt our kids–and isn’t that about our worst fear that a parent has?–when people hurt our kids, it does not go unnoticed.  And God’s holiness and perfect knowledge will make sure that justice is done–whether at the Cross or in Hell.

So we can trust God with our kids.

And with our prayers.

When they are out of our sight, they are not out of God’s!  God knows.

How many of here had a difficult time putting a kid on the bus this week?

God knows.

And Hannah knew that. She knew God’s heart.


“The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength.  Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry hunger no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away.”

Notice that Hannah has that God does the opposite of what you might think.

He opposes the proud but gives strength to the humble.

This part of the song, especially, is, I think the basis of Mary’s Song (what is often called the Magnificat) in the New Testament.

Hannah celebrates the power of God to turn around impossible situations.

He breaks the bows of warriors.  Re-write that to, “He diffuses the power of nuclear warheads.”  But those who stumbled (if God is with them) are now armed with strength (from God Himself!).

Those who were full (in their own empowerment) have to hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry (but now trust in God) have full tummies (because of the power of God).

She who had no children has borne seven children–when God is at work–but she who has had many sons pines away.

God has power.  What He says He will do He can do!  As the song says, “He is able, more than able to accomplish what concerns you today.”

God is powerful.  He can turn any situation around.

And that’s what He is doing for the whole nation!

This is the time of the Judges, but God has a plan to turn things around.

What are you asking Him to do in your prayers?

He’s powerful. Ask Him for stuff.

The next one grows right out of that.


“‘The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.  The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. ‘For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's; upon them he has set the world.”

God is in charge.  He rules.  He reigns.  He decides.

Dying, living, poverty, wealth, humiliation, exaltation.  God is in charge!

So who else would you pray to?

Who else is worth asking for things?

When you pray to the LORD, you are asking the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe to do something.

And if He says so, it gets done.

God is in charge. “The foundations of the earth are the Lord’s.”

If He can handle that, he can handle whatever we are taking to the Lord in prayer today. Amen?

Hannah saved the best for last. V.9


“He will guard the feet of his saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness. ‘It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the LORD will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth. ‘He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

Hannah knew that God was protective of His people.

If you belong to God, you are “safe and secure from all alarms.”

If God is for us, who can be against us?

If you are on God’s side, you’ve got protection. V.9 again.

“He will guard the feet of his saints.”

If we trust in God, we have God’s protection. No matter the strength of our opponents. God will thunder from heaven against them.

Maybe not on our time table, but on His perfect time table.

And that should help us to entrust our kids to God like Hannah had to do with Samuel.

But it’s true of all of our prayer requests.

We can entrust everything we care about to Him knowing that He is holy, and knowing, and powerful, and sovereign, and protective.

And so, on the day that she said farewell to her little three year old, Hannah sang a song of joy. Because God was big enough to take care of Israel, and her, and even little Samuel.

And He is big enough to take care of our concerns today, as well.

Are we giving them over to Him in prayer?

That’s the question today.

If Hannah prayed like that, why don’t we?

Because we know so much more about God today on this side of the Cross.

Hannah had a heart for the heart of God, and so should we.

Let’s take it to the Lord in prayer.

The last phrase in 1 Samuel 2:10 foreshadows the coming of King David–God’s kingly shepherd for Israel.  At this point, there was no king in Israel.  V.10

“He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

Hannah was being prophetic here.

Through her God was saying that He was going to give His people a protector in King David. And He was going to give this king strength.  That’s what the horn symbolizes.  Like we saw two weeks ago in Psalm 148.

And we know that David was a shadow of the greatest king to come–the Lord Jesus.  Great David’s Greatest Son.  In fact, that word “anointed” at the end of v.10 is the word from which we get “Messiah.”  Jesus is hiding in this verse–ready to be revealed in the fullness of time.

Jesus is the fullest revelation of God’s holiness, knowledge, power, sovereignty, and protectiveness.

Right now, we celebrate Jesus around His table.  God’s anointed came into the world to save sinners.  And if we trust in Him and His sacrificial death at Calvary, we will live with Him and enjoy Him forever.

“He will exalt the strength of his king and exalt the horn of His anointed!”