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 was childless in a culture where having children is what defined you as a successful woman and wife. Barrenness was usually seen as a curse, an indication that you were not right with God. Such a woman was like a field that was poisoned or rocky and unfit for planting. The Bible opposes this assessment, but the popular viewpoint persists even down to our own day.
Hannah was also married to a man who had another wife. The other wife had children (including sons), and she went out of her way to make Hannah miserable. In her brokenness, Hannah went to the Tabernacle and prayed for a child from God. She vowed to give her son to the Lord’s work.
God blessed Hannah with a son, and she kept her vow. She named her son “Samuel” which means, “Heard of God.” Hannah gave up her only child to serve at God’s tabernacle. Soon after, Samuel was called into action by direct revelation- the voice of God. He went on to anoint and guide Saul and David as they delivered the people from foreign oppression and set up the kingdom.
Hannah’s joy in having Samuel was profound. 1 Samuel 2 records her prayer of thanks. The rest of her prayer is as follows:
2 “There is none holy like the Lord;
there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
3 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.
4 The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble bind on strength.
5 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.
6 The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts. (ESV)
The central force of the prayer is that God is able to turn things upside down. The prayer exalts the Lord as the one who reverses things- the full are now hungry; the strong are made weak; the alive are made dead… etc.
Many years later, Mary would take up Hannah’s song when the Lord gave her, a peasant girl, the baby who would deliver mankind. I especially like Hannah’s line in verse 1, “I smile at my enemies.”
The Lord’s Table should provoke this same reaction in us. We come to worship each Sunday with a host of enemies and problems in hot pursuit. We often come quite broken and discouraged, as was Hannah. It often seems in our own lives and in the life of the world that evil wins more than it loses. In Hannah’s world, where Israel was oppressed and dominated by powerful foreign armies, it must have also seemed utterly bleak. But, in the midst of all that, Hannah could see in this child the God who reverses things.
The Table speaks to the same realities. The Table was originally celebrated in a time of dire hopelessness. The original Last Supper was kind of gloomy. Jesus’ ministry had been largely ineffective in converting the Jews. Jesus himself was hours away from execution and the disciples were about to disband under the new pressure.
But oh how Jesus turned the Table into a time of a victory! Now, when we come, we are newly aware of Jesus the Victor. The Table reminds us that death was reversed and that God’s people have a meal of life provided. Those enemies that seem so great now, will surely fall before the Lord of the Table.
So, as you come this week, come and smile at your enemies. You can say, “I know something; my victory is coming.” Come to the Table with the prayer, “Lord, use this grace to raise me up from hunger and barrenness and send my strong enemies away hungry!”
Pastor Matthew Fisher