And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.” – 1 Samuel 2:1-2 ESV
1 Samuel 2:1-10
Hannah’s in one of the more fascinating, yet little known, stories in the Bible. She was a wife who had the unlikely lot of having to share her husband with another woman. To make matters worse, she was barren and unable to have kids, but her husband’s other wife had been prolific. And the cause of her infertility? According to the Scriptures, it was God, because we read, “the Lord had closed her womb” (1 Samuel 1:5 ESV). And as if that was not enough, her trouble was compounded by the ridicule she received from wife number two. “And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb” (1 Samuel 1:6 ESV). As a result of all this, Hannah was distressed and disturbed, and while visiting Shiloh one year to worship and offer sacrifices to God at the tabernacle, Hannah took her problem to God. “And she vowed a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head’” (1 Samuel 1:11 ESV). In due time, and in answer to her prayer, Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son, whom she named Samuel. And when Samuel reached the age of about three years old, Hannah kept her vow to God and brought him to the tabernacle. “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:27-28 ESV).
You would think that this would have been a very sad day in Hannah’s life. After all, she had waited so many years and suffered so much ridicule, and now that she had been blessed by God, she was having to give the most precious thing in her life to God. She was having to leave her small child in the hands of others and simply walk away. And while there was no doubt a high degree of sadness in Hannah’s heart that day, what she expressed to God reveals no regret, remorse and unhappiness. Instead, she said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:1 ESV). Having just placed her young son in the hands of the priest to raise, she rejoiced. She expressed joy in the Lord, thanking Him for what He had done. Not only had He given her a son, God had exalted her horn. That is a unique expression that doesn’t mean a whole lot to us in a modern context. But in an agrarian culture, the horn of an animal was a symbol of strength. An animal lifting up its horn became synonymous with strength and virility. Hannah’s strength had been renewed by God. She was confident and content with her lot in life because God had blessed her. She had once been childless, but now she could rejoice in the fact that God had showed her favor. And she was more than willing to keep her vow to God. He had saved her from her humiliation and allowed her to experience the joy of giving birth to a son.
In all of this, Hannah’s main takeaway was the uniqueness of her God. He was incomparable. Her God was not distant or disinterested in her problems. He cared for her greatly and took a personal interest in her life. He had taken her barrenness and turned it into blessing. He had replaced her humiliation with hope. Yes, she had just given her son to God, but she did so because God had given her son to her. It was the least she could do. She viewed the Giver as greater than the gift. And she could do all this because she recognized the greatness of God. She knew Him to be holy, set apart, and without peer or comparison. Her God was her rock. The Hebrew word she uses is tsuwr and it refers to a rocky cliff where one can find shelter. For Hannah, God was a refuge and protector from her enemies. No more would she have to suffer ridicule and endure the shame of her barrenness. God had done the impossible for her. And again, while she had handed over her son to Eli, the priest, Hannah didn’t wallow in regret and sadness, she rejoiced. She praised God. She was more than willing to give back to the one who had given to her. God hadn’t just given her a son, He had given her hope, joy, strength, and a new capacity to face the future with confidence. Her God was with her. He heard her. And He answered her when she called. As far as Hannah was concerned, her life and her son were both in good hands, because they were in God’s hands.