The Bible contains numerous threads that link the books and testaments of God’s Word together to form one unified story. Christians must understand that Scripture is not simply a compilation of disparate stories, loosely connected with corresponding Sunday School illustrations. We often disassociate the characters of the Bible from the overarching narrative of God’s Word and view their exploits in isolation, gleaning the values and characteristics we can emulate in our own individual lives. This misses the true grandeur of God’s revelation to us. God has not provided us a narrative of isolated epic tales of heroism and adventure. Our creator has provided for us a sustained story of His redemptive plan for humanity. There remains unifying threads and themes in Scripture that tie each chronicle together. Often, these theological themes are woven into prayers that comment on what has just occurred in the historical record. The story of Hannah and her son Samuel provide a great example of this.
1 Samuel begins with the account of Hannah’s struggle with barrenness. She was not the only wife of her husband Elkanah, sharing that distinction with Peninnah, who did not experience Hannah’s affliction. Peninnah would harass and provoke Hannah about her inability to have children. In desperation, Hannah prayed to the Lord for a son. She promised God that if He gave her a son, she would dedicate him to the service of the Lord. The Lord remembered Hannah and eventually she gave birth to a son, and she named him Samuel, “for she said, ‘I have asked for him from the LORD.’” (1 Sam. 1:20) The name Samuel means, “heard” or “remembered by God.”
In response to the Lord’s gracious gift of a son, Hannah recorded a prayer in the following chapter. In this prayer Hannah outlines one of the most important truths in all of Scripture. Hannah declares, “There is none holy like the LORD…there is no rock like our God…The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger…He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world.” (1 Sam. 2:2, 4-5, 8) Hannah illustrates that lasting strength comes not from the might of human endeavor and striving. No, true power is given by God as a gift to those who come humbly before Him. Hannah’s strength, she says, is “exalted in the LORD.” (v. 1) In other words, we are only really strong when we receive the strength from the Lord our God. Eventually, all human strength fails. But the one who depends upon the Lord has a power that is unquenchable. Jesus put it this way in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:2)
Hannah’s prayer echoes forth into the New Testament to another woman of great faith who exulted in the Lord’s movement of grace in her life. Mary, the mother of Jesus, when told by the angel Gabriel that she would bear God’s Son, the one who would save Israel from their sins, penned one of the most beautiful psalms in all the Bible; a song that has become known as the Magnificat. Listen to the similarity between Hannah’s prayer and Mary’s song. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant…for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; H has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate.” (Luke 1:46-52)
These two great women of faith demonstrate through their prayer and psalm the great truth of Scripture that God’s lasting strength and power is given not to those who help themselves, but to those who humbly and desperately turn to Him in faith for deliverance and mercy. The Bible is clear that true strength is found in the humble. True might is provided by God as a gift and indwells believers through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a theme that connects the unified narrative of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. God’s Word rings forth the one great story: God exalts the humble in spirit, and He lays low the proud of heart.
-Published in the 10/19/2021 edition of the Weakley County Press
-image courtesy of Unsplash.com