Originally published on May 12, 2013 on Middleplaces.com.
I have a special place in my heart for the Prophet Samuel’s mother, Hannah.
I have always considered her as a prayer role model because she poured out her anguish to GOD, with such raw honesty.
A friend knows of my affinity for Hannah and mentioned her surprise to find Hannah identifying the “LORD of Armies” in her address recorded in the first chapter of 1 Samuel. Some translations use the term “host” which is often associated with militaristic organization. My friend expected such language from Joshua or David but was perplexed by Hannah’s choice.
Hannah would not know until eternity that her prayer to the “LORD of Armies” would create an important link between two of the LORD’s greatest warriors; Joshua and David. I think it is interesting to note that Hannah was actually the first person recorded addressing the LORD with that particular name.
Joshua, before his victory at Jericho, was confronted by ONE who called Himself, “the CAPTAIN of the ARMIES of the LORD.” (Joshua 5:14) After subduing the land; the “house of the LORD” was set up by Joshua at Shiloh (Joshua 18:1).
The people paid tribute, at Shiloh, to the LORD of Armies who brought them out of Egypt and allowed them to conquer the Promised Land. As time passed the people of Israel became complacent. The Bible recounts a series of “Judges” who would rise up and lead the people back to the LORD but time after time they would turn their back again and the last verse of the book of Judges recounts, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
The story of Hannah proves that not everyone had forgotten who brought Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. I Samuel 1:3 relates that Elkanah, Hannah’s husband, took his family up to Shiloh for the sacrifice to the “LORD of Armies” every year. The people of Israel no longer controlled the land. It had been a very long time since they had been victorious.
They needed the LORD of Armies. Hannah needed the LORD of Armies and she sought HIM persistently. This is a warrior’s quality.
Verses 5 and 6 state and repeat, “the LORD had closed her womb.” This is a hard passage which supports a difficult truth about the LORD. HE is sovereign over our circumstances.
Mother’s Day is tough for many who have lost their mother, lost a child or have not had children of their own.
Hannah was no different.
She struggled to reconcile her pain with faith in a GOD who had not granted the desire of her heart.
She struggled but did not give up.
Verse 7 reminds us that the taunts of her rival continued “year after year”. We are not told how many years she sought HIS respite from her condition but this year was different. Eli, the priest, is there and rebukes her for drunkenness. We witness the boldness of a woman with nothing to lose. Rather than being embarrassed or running away she stands up to the priest and admits not only her fears but her anger and frustration.
This is what real prayer is about… being honest with the LORD, yourself and even others who challenge your faithfulness.
She states clearly that she is not a “worthless woman”. In the next chapter we will find that Eli’s own sons are described as “worthless men.” Perhaps Eli recognized the difference as he answered her with respect rather than dismissal.
Hannah finds herself expecting and gives birth to a son, Samuel. The LORD remembered her and she remembered her promise. After Samuel was weaned she took him back to the temple and presented him to Eli saying, “as long as he lives, he is lent to the LORD.” According to Hebrew tradition Samuel would be at least three or four years old by this time. How she must have loved that little boy, a gift from YHWH.
How difficult the trip back to Shiloh must have been for Hannah…
Scripture records Hannah’s beautiful prayer which would later be echoed in the words of Mary, the mother of Christ. She presented Samuel as a living sacrifice even as Abraham presented Isaac, yet another foreshadowing of CHRIST, but Samuel did not go home with her.
How many of us cry out to the LORD with the desires of our hearts. We make promises of obedience, change, and repentance only to receive our request and then go about our own business without fulfilling our vows, without looking back.
She honored her vow with a grateful heart. Hannah was blessed with other sons and daughters but Samuel emerged from the cry of her heart and opened her womb. Each year she would bring Samuel a new robe which must have been crafted with great love as she marveled at his growth and ministry before the LORD. How hard she must have prayed for his well being up in Shiloh.
She remained faithful to the LORD of Armies who appeared to Joshua. The LORD used her prayer to redeem the priesthood defiled by “worthless men” and prepare the way for the anointing of David, another true representative of the LORD of Armies.
She was in the middle…
In the middle of a nation in chaos, a difficult living situation and a personal anguish, but she was also in the middle of becoming a prayer warrior.
No one becomes a prayer warrior without facing a difficult and uncertain circumstances.
She had no idea how far reaching her prayer would be…
On this Mother’s Day we are here in the middle…
Our world appears very much like the closing of Judges with everyone doing what was right in their own eyes.
What difference can one woman make?
The Apostle Paul uses battle analogies in Ephesians 6. He called us to “be strong in the LORD, and in HIS mighty power…put on the whole armor of GOD…against spiritual forces of evil…”
In the example of Hannah “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) to the LORD of Armies for the victory!
One woman made a difference and so can you!