Third Friday in Advent

Third Friday in Advent  MAGNIFICAT & HANNAH’S SONG 20

Scripture: 1 Samuel 1:24-2:11

24 When the child was weaned, Hannah took him to the Tabernacle in Shiloh. They brought along a three-year-old bull for the sacrifice and a basket of flour and some wine. 25 After sacrificing the bull, they brought the boy to Eli. 26 “Sir, do you remember me?” Hannah asked. “I am the very woman who stood here several years ago praying to the Lord. 27 I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request. 28 Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life.” And they worshiped the Lord there.

Then Hannah prayed:

“My heart rejoices in the Lord!
    The Lord has made me strong.
Now I have an answer for my enemies;
    I rejoice because you rescued me.
No one is holy like the Lord!
    There is no one besides you;
    there is no Rock like our God.

“Stop acting so proud and haughty!
    Don’t speak with such arrogance!
For the Lord is a God who knows what you have done;
    he will judge your actions.
The bow of the mighty is now broken,
    and those who stumbled are now strong.
Those who were well fed are now starving,
    and those who were starving are now full.
The childless woman now has seven children,
    and the woman with many children wastes away.
The Lord gives both death and life;
    he brings some down to the grave but raises others up.
The Lord makes some poor and others rich;
    he brings some down and lifts others up.
He lifts the poor from the dust
    and the needy from the garbage dump.
He sets them among princes,
    placing them in seats of honor.
For all the earth is the Lord’s,
    and he has set the world in order.

“He will protect his faithful ones,
    but the wicked will disappear in darkness.
No one will succeed by strength alone.
10     Those who fight against the Lord will be shattered.
He thunders against them from heaven;
    the Lord judges throughout the earth.
He gives power to his king;
    he increases the strength of his anointed one.”

11 Then Elkanah returned home to Ramah without Samuel. And the boy served the Lord by assisting Eli the priest.

Some thoughts:

     We have often commented that the First Testament contains shadows of the Latter Testament. Such is the case with the passage for today. In this historical account, a barren woman, Hannah, has prayed to God for a child which she vowed to give to the Lord should he answer her prayer. As you recall, God answered her prayer and gave God her a son whom she named Samuel. He lived and served in the Tabernacle of the Lord as a young boy alongside an old priest named Eli. Samuel was Israel’s last judge and first prophet who functioned additionally as a priest. He also anointed Israel’s first two kings, Saul and David.

     There are a number of similarities between Samuel and John the Baptist and Jesus. As she gave her Samuel to ministry at the Tabernacle, Hannah’s song reminds us of Mary upon learning she would bear the Messiah. Since Mary would have been familiar with the Old Testament in her day, it is quite possible she was well acquainted with the song of Hannah which may have served as a model for her own song of joy. Both women believed what they were told, and both sang songs of rejoicing as a result. Additionally, there are likenesses in Mary and Joseph taking the infant Jesus to the Temple to redeem the first born with sacrifices and Hannah and Elkanah taking Samuel to the Tabernacle and offering sacrifices in dedicating him to the service in full-time ministry at the place of worship.   

     Hannah’s song of praise has great similarities to Mary’s song in the first chapter of Luke’s gospel (the Magnificat). Compare their songs of praise:

“My heart rejoices in the Lord! The Lord has made me strong.” (Hannah)

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” (Mary). 

“No one is holy like the Lord! There is no Rock like our God.” (Hannah)

“For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.” (Mary).

“Stop acting so proud and haughty! Don’t speak with such arrogance.” (Hannah)

“He has scattered the proud and haughty ones! He has brought down princes.” (Mary)

“Those who were well fed are now starving, and those who were starving are now full.” (Hannah)

“He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.” (Mary)

“The Lord makes some poor and others rich; he brings some down and lifts others up.” (Hannah)

“He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble.” (Mary)

“He will protect his faithful ones, but the wicked will disappear in darkness.” (Hannah)

“He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful.”  (Mary)

     Both songs point to exalting the poor and bringing down the rich and powerful. In Hannah’s day, the rich and powerful were Eli and King Saul; the poor were Samuel and David. Eli and Saul were brought to humbling, humiliating deaths and Samuel and David rose to positions of great power and influence in the nation of Israel. In Mary’s day, King Herod died a painful infamous death while Jesus rose to an exalted eternal position as King of kings. Samuel, a special child of a previously barren woman, anointed David as king. John the Baptist, a special child of a previously barren woman, and the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus, the Messiah. 

     Samuel, a prophet and descendant from the priestly tribe of Levi, was born at the perfect time in God’s larger plan. He would anoint Israel’s greatest king, but more importantly God would then make an everlasting covenant with David, of the tribe of Judah, that one of his descendants would reign as an eternal king, the Messiah, the ultimate fulfillment of Prophet, Priest, and King. Hannah and Mary are two most significant women in Scripture, each faithfully fulfilling the role God had given them.

     So, we see in this pericope another instance of a close connection between the two Testaments and the one grand story of God unfolding throughout the Scripture. Was Hannah aware at the time of the significance of what she was a part of? All we know is that she acted in faith and God rewarded her. I wonder how many of our answered prayers have a much larger impact than we realize or ever hear about? The important thing is faithfulness to whatever lies before us. God is the one working out his plan. We can be his agents. Like in the songs of these two women, you’ll notice Jesus is most often attracted to the poor and needy . . . that would be us!

Music: “Angels We Have Heard on High”   Libera


O Savior of sinners, thy name is excellent, thy glory high, thy compassions unfailing, thy condescension wonderful, thy mercy tender. I bless thee for the discoveries, invitations, promises of the gospel, for in them is pardon for rebels, liberty for captives, health of the sick, salvation for the lost. I come to thee in thy beloved name of Jesus; re-impress thy image upon my soul; raise me above the smiles and frowns of the world, regarding it as a light thing to be judged by men. May thy approbation be my only aim, thy Word my one rule. This I pray in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.   

                                                                   ―from The Valley of Vision, p.58   

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