Every story can be broken down into a few parts. The setting, where the story takes place and why it might be important. The characters and their emotions and thoughts invested in the story. A tension that needs resolved. A resolution that brings us through the tension, and a through line (aka main idea) that carries the story through from beginning to end.
The Setting Hannah is barren, provoked by others because of her barrenness, misunderstood and she cries out to God in her anguish.
- Hannah, who is wrestling not only with her own barrenness, but by others who provoke her because of her barrenness. Verse 10 says she is in aguish and weeps bitterly. She is wrestling with an unsettled ache, a war within. Hannah lives in a world where barrenness is considered a curse, but God is about to reverse all of this. But Hannah handles her situation differently than most. Instead of lashing out and retaliation towards those who mistreat her, she leans on God who she believe will hear her and answer her prayers. Of importance, Hannah’s song isn’t a song of praise for the birth of a child, but a song of revolution.
- Elkanah, Hannah’s husband who tries, but cannot, bring comfort to Hannah, something only God can truly do. In fact, Elkanah’s words were likely harmful when he says, “Am I not worth more to you than 10 sons?”
- Eli the priest who accuses Hannah of drunkenness because in her prayer she is not voicing her prayers out loud. Eli believes she has been drinking the communion wine and her tears makes him think something is amiss because this is not the way someone would carry themselves in prayer socially during this time period.
- Samuel, Hannah’s son, whose name means God hears, or name of God.
The Tension Hannah is aching from the inside out because of her barrenness. And not only is she dealing with her own internal struggle, she faces scorn from those around her because of societal expectations.
The Resolution Instead of retaliation and lashing out, Hannah turns to fierce prayer before the Lord, promising that if blessed with a child, she’ll dedicate him as a Nazarite to God.
The Through Line God is the God who can reverse people’s situations. Hannah recognizes that God is a God of revolution. A God who upends everything. A God who raises up the lowly and tears down those who abuse their power on high.
Why has this story endured? This is a story of a woman that proclaims revolution. It could have easily been a story that ended in bitterness and malice. But Hannah chose prayer and resilience, and not because it pointed to her strength, but because it pointed to her belief that God could hear and answer prayer. The birth of Samuel was a turning point in the story of God that points towards the Messiah. Samuel would become Israel’s last judge and the one to anoint Israel’s first two kings, Saul and David. And it would be the line of David that Jesus the King of Kings would arise from.
What is true for them then that is still true for us today? Suffering. Suffering will always be around until God makes all things new again. God met Hannah in her suffering but he didn’t spare her from suffering. Sometimes we get so preoccupied in escaping our suffering that we forget that God is a God who meets us in our suffering.
How does this story help us love God? This story is a reminder that God meets us in our suffering. And whether our prayers are answered or not, God meeting us in our suffering can bring us peace. Hannah seems to have peace that comes with Eli’s blessing.
How does this story help us love others? We need to be mindful of people’s suffering and not write it off for societal reasons. The addict, the homeless, and those living with the consequence of sin comes to mind.