We’re continuing in our series in the first three chapters of 1 Samuel. If you’re just joining us, it’s probably best to begin with the first post in the series, last Wednesday.
God the great rescuer
As we saw last Thursday, Hannah’s song connects her story with God’s story: the story of God the great rescuer, and the great reverser. We’re going to look at these two themes now.
Firstly, God has rescued her from suffering and humiliation. And so she sings about the God who’s in the business of rescuing; rescuing on a much grander scale. She starts like this, about her own story with God:
1 Samuel 2:1 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.
But pretty quickly she moves to God’s bigger story, so by the end she sings this:
1 Samuel 2:10 Those who oppose the Lord will be broken. The Most High will thunder 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.
Her story connects with God’s big story. But it’s not just her song that makes the connection. If you read the first three chapters of 1 Samuel in one sitting, you’ll see that Hannah’s story has been skillfully set within the context of Israel’s story.
Everyone needs rescuing
For a start, it’s not just Hannah that needed rescuing. It’s all Israel. In the Hebrew Bible, Samuel comes immediately after Judges. And the very last verse in the book of Judges reads like this:
Judges 21:25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.
The book of Samuel, in fact, was written as the answer to that verse, as we’ll see in a minute. But before Samuel provides the answer, it also lets us know how bad the situation was. And we find that it wasn’t just the average person who did as they saw fit. The priests were doing it too! Intertwined with Hannah’s story and the birth of Samuel is the story of the high priest Eli and his corrupt sons. Although Eli was a nice enough bloke, he just couldn’t control them. Abuse of power, intimidation, exploitation – the narrator sums it up like this:
1 Samuel 2:12 Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord.
God rescues individuals, who rescue his people
And this is where Hannah’s story connects with the bigger picture. You see, God wasn’t content just to give Hannah what she wanted. He also wanted to give his people what they so desperately needed – a rescuer. So God’s gift to Hannah went on to become God’s gift to Israel. Samuel grew up to be a priest. And not just any priest. Certainly not the sort of corrupt priest that Eli’s sons had become.
In fact, God announces judgement on Eli’s sons – they would both die on the same day. And in their place, God says:
1 Samuel 2:35 I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always.
This faithful priest is Samuel. He rescues God’s people from corrupt leadership, bringing them back to God’s laws. And as we see throughout the rest of 1 Samuel, he anoints Israel’s next two kings – both Saul, the kind of king Israel said they wanted, and then David, the kind of king God knew they needed.
In rescuing Hannah, then God also rescues his whole people. Hannah’s little story is a part – in this case, a key part – of the bigger story.
The ultimate rescue
But it doesn’t stop there. The story of Samuel, of David, and of Israel culminates in the even greater story of God’s rescue of the world. Samuel (the prophet and priest ‘who will do according to what is in my heart and mind’) and David (the king who is ‘a man after God’s own heart) point forward to Jesus, the ultimate prophet, priest, and king. He’s the successor to Samuel who would become the ‘great high priest who has gone through the heavens’ (Heb 4:14).
Luke’s gospel even draws out the parallels between the birth stories of Samuel and John the Baptist: a mother who is unable to have children; a desperate prayer at temple; a child who is both a gracious gift to his parents and the one who will anoint the coming king. Even the song John’s father sings at his birth sounds a lot like Hannah’s:
Luke 1:68-71 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. 69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David 70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us
The story of Samuel, then, also connects with God’s big story of salvation through Jesus. Rescued in order to join God’s rescue plan. That shows us another way our story connects to the bigger story.
You were rescued to take part in the rescue of others.
God saves us as individuals so that we might have an impact on the world. It’s how he’s worked since he promised Abraham that he would be blessed to be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth. It’s how he wants to work through you.
Are there ways in which God can ‘do a Samuel’ in your life? You’ve been saved; is your story going to go on to connect with the story of the spread of the gospel throughout the world?
Think about how God can work through your story to impact the story of others. It probably won’t be an entire nation. But it could be your family. Your workplace. Your sporting team. I know entire families in my church who are there because of what God did first of all in the life of one. How are you connecting your story to the story of what God is doing in the people around you?