(1 Sam. 2:1-10)
"And Hannah prayed;" so begins our chapter. She prayed; but it was not the prayer of petition now, but of praise, of thanksgiving - a celebration of the divine perfections and glorious attributes of Jehovah the God of Israel. The petition had been, in the mercy of God, granted, and now it is worship welling up in her happy heart. She has, for the time being, nothing more to desire: to see her child installed in the Tabernacle, started in his life - time service to the Lord, was the very culmination of joy to her, and the fulfillment of her fondest aspirations. Again she pours out her soul before the Lord, not as a suppliant now, but fully satisfied, her desire fully met.
"In that day ye shall ask Me nothing," Christ said on one occasion to His disciples. When with Him, our blessed and glorious Redeemer above, we shall be fully and forever satisfied, and have need of nothing. We shall have no need, as now to "watch and pray," nor ask for anything; neither shall we cry as now, "Come, Lord Jesus." Faith shall give place to sight. Hope's desire will then be fulfilled. Love alone shall abide, calling forth our adoring praises, world without end! Amen. That which is in part shall be done away when that which is perfect is Come. The 72nd psalm ends with this (to some) singular expression, "The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended." He had been celebrating in song the glories of Messiah's millennial reign upon earth and its blessedness. He has sung of the might, the majesty and riches of Him whom "Solomon in all his glory" was the type; and when the paean is ended, with his harp's last note he exclaims, "The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended" -his hopes are fully realized, and the happy Israelite asks no more. But the Christian's anticipations are higher, and beyond anything of earth he has the "better hope" of Hebrews 7:19; and only in "that day" of heavenly bliss and immediate association with Christ will his desires be fully realized and his prayers forever ended.
But we return to Hannah and her song. When she poured out her petition in sorrow, " only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard." She prayed" in secret "to Him who" heareth in secret," and He had rewarded her "openly;" but this prayer becomes a song of joyful praise, for she has indeed glorious things to tell of Him who is "fearful in praises." Her song begins with the Celebration of the glorious perfections of Jehovah. Only a brief word, by way of introduction, does she speak of herself at all. "My heart rejoiceth in the Lord," she says. Out of her heart's abundance of gratitude to God her mouth speaks His praise." Out of the heart are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23). "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight," prayed the Psalmist when celebrating the power and perfections of God as displayed in Creation and in His Word (Ps. 19:14). He did not merely wish that his words might be acceptable in his Redeemer's sight, but that the thoughts of his heart might be pleasing to Him as well. And if our heart be not right, surely all else is wrong. It is the source once flows either bitter or sweet water, bearing blessing or a curse in the world.
"My heart rejoiceth in the Lord," she sings. Her joy was not so much in the gift (Samuel) as in God the Giver. Her's was not a merely natural joy, but the joy of the Lord, a joy of the Spirit. How often we are more occupied with the thing given than with Him who graciously gave it. Not so with Hannah here; much as she might and did rejoice over the child of her vows and prayers, she rises above the level of nature to Jehovah Himself. All else is, for the time being, forgotten, and like the disciples on the holy mount, when "they saw no man save Jesus only," she speaks only of Him, not once mentioning the child whose birth gave occasion to it all. Jehovah filled her enraptured soul.
"My horn is exalted in the Lord," is her second word. In 1 Chron. 25:5 we read, "All these were the sons of Heman the king's seer in the words of God, to lift up the horn." They were, together with the sons of Asaph and Jeduthun, the temple-court musicians; and the part of the sons of Heman was to lift up the horn, to sound aloud the praises of the God of Israel. So here Hannah declares her horn exalted in the Lord; she sounds not the trumpet to her own praise, as did the Pharisees of a more favoured day, but lifts it in Celebration of the infinite perfections of Him who alone is worthy.
And then she says, "My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies." It is Israel's and God's enemies she has in view, not Peninnah. Speaking for all Israel, she looks on in faith to the time when the enemies of her people, the Philistines in particular, probably, would be subdued and become subject, as under the rule of David. Filled with the spirit of prophecy, she sees beyond "the long, dark night" of Israel's departure from God and consequent humiliation, even to the day of "great David's greater Son," as the Close of her song makes manifest. This deliverance of Israel from her enemies was yet for many days to come, but faith sees it as done already, and Hannah fore-rejoices in its accomplishment. She speaks something after the manner of Paul in Romans 8: 30, "Whom He justified, them He also glorified." So sure of accomplishment is the purpose of God that he can speak of the believer as already glorified. Yet some would have it that the believer may still fall away and be lost. But those whom God justifies (by faith) them He "also glorifies!"
Having spoken of her joy and triumph, her song proper now begins. She makes no more mention of herself; it is all Jehovah, in His Character and wondrous ways. She speaks His name nine times in her song of ten verses. She seems wholly lost in Him, and scarcely alludes to herself or circumstances, or that particular mercy (the gift of Samuel) that had prompted her anthem of praise. In their praises and thanksgivings to God, believers may be too much occupied with what concerns themselves - their necessities and circumstances. This is not the highest form of worship; it is not what occupies Hannah here; she rises above her own blessings; she is absorbed in the varied and majestic attributes of the Divine Being. She alludes to His holiness, His omniscience, His sovereignty, His omnipotence, His faithfulness, and His justice.
His holiness is first: "There is none holy as the Lord," she says. Holiness has first place in this cluster of glories. It is, we may say, one of the essential attributes of Deity; and without it, who could adore or even reverence Him? Yet it is the very trait of His nature to which men are most averse, and which they are most likely to overlook. He has therefore reminded us over and over again in His Word that He is holy. In this attribute of His being He is incomparable. The seraphim veil themselves as they cry one to another, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts" (Isa. 6:3). "There is none beside Thee; neither is there any rock like our God," she sings. - Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like Thee, glorious in holiness?" sang Moses at the Red Sea (Ex. 15:11). "Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness," said the "sweet psalmist of Israel" (Ps. 30:4). Yes, this very unpopular doctrine of the perfect holiness of God is the very truth that the Spirit of Christ in David calls upon His saints to give thanks for. Thirty times in the Old Testament is Jehovah called "the Holy One of Israel."
Hannah next alludes to God's omniscience; "Talk no more exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth; for Jehovah is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed." Being omniscient He is unerring in His estimate of men; and not merely does He take knowledge of their doings, but weighs their thoughts in the balances of the sanctuary. He reads the heart and weighs motives, rather than outward acts." Judge not according to appearance," says our Lord, the appointed judge of all (Jon 7:24). And in 1 Cor. 4:5, His servant Paul forcibly reminds us that He will in" that day," the day of the revelation of the thoughts of many hearts, make manifest motives - He will weigh purposes as well as actions. O reader, let this solemnize our hearts and make us less careful of what men may think or judge, and cause us to be anxious only to please but One. There is no more beautiful description anywhere of God's omniscience (and His omnipresence, too) than that given by David in the 139th Psalm. It is little wonder that he, a man like unto ourselves, should in deepest humility say, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me."
Hannah dilates on God's sovereignty, and then she enumerates the sudden changes, the felicities and vicissitudes of life: the seemingly invincible mighty suffer defeat, and those that stumble in weakness as if about to fall, rise suddenly to strength and victory." The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength." The men of the world, in their self - sufficiency, say with Napoleon, that "God is on the side of the heaviest battalions;" but no; when it is agreeable to His purpose, "the lame take the prey" (Isa. 33:23). In men's circumstances of life also the sovereignty of God is seen; "They that were full have hired themselves out for bread; and they that were hungry ceased [to be so]" - not always because they are improvident or wasteful; nor do others, once hungry, cease to lack merely because of their superior industry or frugality. These are often but secondary causes, and behind all is the purpose of the supreme Ruler of the universe, without whom not one insignificant sparrow falls dead to the ground. It is not "luck," or "fortune," good or ill, nor are these mutations in the circumstances of men to be ascribed solely to themselves, their wisdom or their folly, or chance or opportunity. "I went out full and the Lord hath brought me home empty," said the sorrowful Naomi. She acknowledged the sovereignty of God in her altered circumstances; and Scripture abounds with illustrations of this bed-rock truth. God is sovereign, controlling the ups and downs of life.
This is further enlarged upon in what immediately follows: "So that the barren hath borne seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble." Once flourishing and influential families become minished, even to extinction sometimes, while others increase to a multitude. It is He, the Lord, that "maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children" (Ps. 113:9). This will be demonstrated in Israel in the coming day of her promised increase. (See Isa. 54:1-6). "Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward " (Ps. 127:3). Would that this word were pondered more in this age of increasingly small families.
This thought is closely connected with the question of life and death: "The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: He bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up." Not only is our coming into the world completely under God's control, but when born, our life is in His hand -, death, too, is amenable to His will. This is the sobering declaration of the prophet Daniel before the impious king Belshazzar: "The God in whose hand thy breath is." He is "the sovereign Lord of life and death." He killeth; death is His black-winged messenger. It is He who "turneth man to destruction, and says, Return, ye Children of men" (Ps. 90:3), and who in "the last day" will cause His voice to be heard by all that sleep in the grave. He "maketh alive," and "bringeth up" from the grave. Resurrection is the sovereign act of His power.
Riches, too, and poverty, are alike at His disposal: "The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich; He bringeth low, and lifteth up." He gives the one or the other as suits His purpose. The knowledge of this should keep the rich humble, and make the poor content. Beloved fellow-believer, let us, as Scripture admonishes us, "be content with such things as we have," for our God, who has revealed Himself to us in grace, has said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Heb. 13:5).
He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill," again says Hannah, "to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory." We have illustrations of this in Scripture all the way from Joseph to Lazarus. The former was raised up from the condition of a slave to rule over Egypt; and the latter, a beggar on earth, was taken to "Abraham's bosom" in paradise.
Hannah next ascribes to God almighty power "For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and He hath set the world upon them." This is a poetic figure of speech, though none the less forceful for that. Who but He whose "strength is infinite" could suspend and sustain this globe in its circuits as if it had no more weight than "the small dust of the balance?" as it is beautifully expressed in Job 26; 27, "He hangeth the earth upon nothing." In His wisdom, grace, and power; He is able to keep us without falling: "He will keep the feet of His saints," she confidently says 'O Child of God, weak, failing, and needing much mercy, rejoice in this which our Saviour has said': "They shall never perish, neither shall any one pluck them out of my hand " (Jon. 10:28). And may the certainty of this make you, not more careless in your walk, but the more careful not to grieve such love; for if He keep the feet of His saints, His eye is upon them to see every mis-step they make, and observes when they wander into forbidden paths.
His justice is the next attribute noticed: "The wicked shall be silent in darkness, for by strength shall no man prevail." The judgment of the sinner is sure, though God bear long with him in his rebellion and unbelief. "Where is the God of judgment?" men ask today, as they unbelievingly asked of old (Mal. 2:17). We answer, He is bearing long with man's impenitence, but His Word declares He "will by no means clear the guilty!" His righteousness is one of His many glories; even the gospel of His grace declares it (Rom. 1:17). "It is," as another has aptly expressed it, "the rectitude of His nature His infinite agreement with Himself, and the equity of His government and judgment in the administration of both." Puny man would thwart the execution of His judgments; but though they join hands to resist the purposes of God, though they bind themselves with an oath, as it were, to keep the earth for themselves in their pride, at the exclusion of God's Christ, its rightful Heir, "by strength shall no man prevail." "Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished" (Prov. 11:21). "The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces; out of heaven shall He thunder upon them."
This is the grand finale of Hannah's oratorio: "The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and He shall give strength unto His King, and exalt the horn of His anointed." This is not Saul, nor even David, but He whom David in Spirit called "LORD." This " King" to whom Jehovah gives "strength" is He who "was crucified through weakness." Now, all power on earth and in heaven is in His hand, and in the Coming day of His kingdom and power, the horn of His royalty will be exalted above the kings of the earth, as it is written in the 2nd Psalm.
So the song closes with that one only Name, which strikes an answering chord in every loyal heart, both Jewish and Christian - "His Anointed!" It is Hannah's, as it is God's last word to man. "What think ye of Christ?" This is the test. Reader; what is He to you ?
It is remarkable that both the expressions, "The Lord of hosts," and the "Anointed" (Christ's title) frequently found further on in Scripture, are used first by Hannah, the once barren and sorrowful woman (see chaps. 1:11; 2:10). Such are God's ways. He uses the things that are weak; and the things that are despised, to proclaim His praise, that no flesh may glory in His presence.
Hannah's song, though a true magnificent, and perfectly suited to the age and circumstances in which it was uttered, does not rise to the height of Mary's. Hannah begins: "My heart rejoiceth in the Lord," Mary says; "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." The heart is connected more with earth and the body; the soul and spirit have closer links with heaven and eternity. But this makes the song of Hannah none the less perfect or profitable to us; this very difference proves to our minds how very perfect it is, and wholly in keeping with its time and place.
We shall now pass on from poetry to history, none the less profitable for being more prosaic.