Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I Samuel 2:1–11

I Samuel 2:1–11: Hannah’s Prayer

Synopsis

In the last passage, Hannah dedicated Samuel to serve the LORD with the priests. In this passage, we’ll see how she feels about giving up her only son. In fact, she feels pretty good about it! Verse 1 says that this is a prayer, but basically this passage is a psalm of praise that Hannah offers up to the LORD, for what He has done for her in giving her a son.

I know I mention this every time I post about poetry in this blog, but I never know how to do a synopsis of poetry. So I’ll just take it point by point. (And—as I’m sure I’ve also mentioned many times—suck the soul right out of it in doing so. If you’re reading this (and you’re not me), please read the passage first, before reading my words!)

  • Hannah starts by rejoicing in the LORD, because He has delivered her. (That’s a huge paraphrase.) She then revels in the fact that there is no one else who is holy like He is, nor anyone like Him.
  • She then advises the listener—whoever that might be—not to talk proudly or speak arrogantly, because the LORD knows. She also says that deeds are measured by Him—a very interesting point. (Which I’ll mention in the Thoughts section.)
  • Hannah then spends verses 4–7 in saying that the LORD is in charge: people who had once been warriors can be broken, while others can be armed with strength; people who had had lots of food can become hungry, while people who had been hungry can find food; women who had been barren can bear children, while women who’d had many sons can pine away. He brings death and life; He brings poverty and wealth; He humbles and He exalts.
  • Similar to this—although I chose to mention it separately—the LORD also has the ability to raise up the poor, and seat them with princes, giving them a seat of honour (verse 8).
  • She also says that the LORD will guard his saints’ feet, while the wicked will be “silenced in darkness” (verse 9); this is because people don’t prevail based on their own strength. If you try to oppose the LORD you will be “shattered,” and he will thunder against you from heaven (verse 10).

After Hannah finishes her song, Elkanah returns home, but Samuel remains with Eli, ministering before the LORD. (It doesn’t say what happens to Hannah; I assume she returns home with Elkanah.)

Thoughts

I was thinking about the fact that Samuel is ministering before the LORD with the priests, even though he’s not a Levite. And then it suddenly occurred to me: Is that what a Nazirite vow is for? I was wondering, when I wrote the entry about Numbers 6, what the purpose of taking a Nazirite vow was; is this it? If you become a Nazirite, does that enable you to serve the LORD along with the Levites? Just a thought.

In verse 3, Hannah says this:

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.

I find the “by [H]im deeds are weighed” part interesting; how is righteousness measured? Is it by adherence to the law? By comparison with other humans? No, actually; righteousness is measured against God—if you compare yourself to God, and find that you’re lacking, then you’re not good enough. Thanks be to God that Christ came and died for our sins—and that his righteousness has been imparted to me! When God measures my righteousness, I actually will measure up, because I have Christ’s righteousness imparted to me!

There is a small part of me that’s sometimes bothered, when reading Old Testament poetry, because it sometimes claims that the LORD will shield His children, and smite His enemies, and it sometimes sounds a little too pat. We all know that there are instances where the evil seem to prevail, and the LORD’s children suffer. (And, of course, many of the Psalms do talk about that.) But I have to remind myself, too, that this is poetry. It’s not doctrine. It may very well be that you can infer doctrine based on this and other poetry, but Hannah wasn’t trying to teach something, she was trying to express praise to the LORD, and I should read her words in that light.

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