Hannah, the mother of Samuel, makes an excellent biographical study. She exemplifies a person of great character, someone who exhibits great faith and trusts in God in the midst of sufferings. Despite living in a time of religious instability (1 Sam 2:2 2) and limited prophetic guidance (1 Sam 3:1), she remained steadfast in her faith, and resolute in her reliance on God. In times of need, she realized that He alone was her refuge. And most moving of all, once she had received the answer she sought, she did not fail to show her gratitude. Indeed, the events surrounding the birth of Samuel, one of the greatest Old Testament figures since Moses, clearly exhibits the virtues of Hannah.
The story of Hannah, documented in 1 Samuel chapters one and two, took place around 1100 BC, during the time of the Judges. She was married to Elkanah, a devout Levite residing at the hill country of Ephraim. Hannah's barrenness probably led to Elkanah taking another wife, Peninnah. This bigamous matrimony created jealousy and strife within the family with Peninnah constantly provoking Hannah and mocking at her inability to have a child.
One year, during the family's annual pilgrimage to Shiloh, the religious center at that time, the mockings again occurred. Yet unlike many who remain submerged in their sorrow, Hannah did not let her emotions hinder her from taking positive action. At the tabernacle, she quietly poured out her heart to God. The essence of her prayer was her petition, "Remember me" (1 Sam 1:11). In her prayer, she vowed that should God grant her a son, the child would be dedicated to life-long Levitical service (Num 4:3; 8:24-26) and become a Nazarite (Num 6:3-6).
Hannah's vow was probably tied in her concern for the declining faith of the nation. During that time, Israel was spiritually weak. Even the priesthood was corrupt (1 Sam 2:12-17). Hannah and her family represented a remnant within Israel that still faithfully worshipped and sacrificed to God at Shiloh, where the Ark of Covenant was housed. It was indeed a noble gesture that, despite her personal sorrow, Hannah could still remember the spiritual welfare of her people. Her willingness to dedicate her child showed that her concern for their faith was not subordinate to her own yearning for a child. She realized Israel's need for effective leadership to revive the nation's faith, and to return them to God.
At this point, it is pertinent to ask whether we too can show the same degree of concern for the spiritual well-being of our fellow humans. We live in a decadent world. It is generally the case that Christian moral values no longer play a part in people's lives. Satan now rules their hearts and minds. The Lord has commissioned us to set them free from the bondage of the evil one, to bring to them the gospel of salvation, and to take care of those who are already in the fold (Mk 16:15; Jn 21:15-17). The success of our task depends greatly on our willingness to sacrifice our own interest for those of God's, and to take up the cross to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Hannah could place the needs of the nation before her own. Can we?
1 Samuel 1:18 tells us that having bared her heart before God, Hannah experienced peace. Now her burden rested with God. She left the tabernacle, ate some food and regained her composure. Her actions showed that she had a heart of trust towards the Lord; do we possess this same faith in Him? When troubled, perhaps we, like Hannah, may turn to our Father in Heaven. We recall His promise of peace (Jn 14:27), and the invitation to unload our cares to Him (Mt 11 :28).Yet, unlike Hannah, we are often reluctant to let go of our anxieties. We pray but we fail to entrust. Consequently, our petitions cannot bring us the peace that Hannah received.
God remembered Hannah, and according to her request, she conceived and gave birth to a son whom she named Samuel (1 Sam 1:19). His name means "asked of the Lord", a testimony to the faithfulness of God. Following Samuel's birth, yet another of Hannah's virtues was revealed. She recognized the importance of keeping her vow. She was determined to fulfil her commitment to the Lord willingly and unselfishly. Once Samuel had been weaned, she brought him to Shiloh where Eli the priest was ministering. After making the appropriate offering, she presented him to the Lord.
Hannah has shown us the importance of repaying God's grace. She turned to Him when she needed help, and He graciously answered her. Having received His grace, Hannah remembered to keep her earlier vow. As we journey through life, we will realize that our days comprise a succession of cares and hardships. As Christians, we acknowledge that only Jesus can grant us peace. In our desire to receive this blessed assurance in Christ, we may make promises before God when, like Hannah, we pour out our hearts to Him. Unfortunately, after He has bestowed His grace upon us, we may ignore our vows. We forget our earlier commitment towards the Lord, and fail to live up to Jesus' instructions that freely we have received from Him, therefore, freely we should give (Mt 10:8).
Having paid her vow to God, Hannah returned to the tabernacle, the place where she had first made her petition to God. This time, her circumstance was in marked contrast to the last visit. Now she rejoiced and praised God (1 Sam 2:1-2). Her song of thanksgiving reflected her great confidence in His sovereignty. Hannah acknowledged Yahweh as her "horn" which signified invincible strength (Dan 7:21;Zech 1:18-21). She also praised Him as her rock, where she had found refuge amidst the adversities of life. Through her personal experience, she had gained a deeper insight of her God. She could now testify of His wisdom, of His intervention in her life (1 Sam 2:3-8). He is the One who sends poverty and installs wealth, lowers the arrogant and exalts the humble, preserves the righteous and punishes the wicked. He is the One who determines the very life span of a person. Hannah therefore had complete trust in her Creator, confident that He would grant providential care to those who love Him (1 Sam 2:9-1 1). Where do we stand, when compared to Hannah? Do we truly recognize the greatness of the God whom we worship and are we able to sing songs of praise with such conviction?
The biography of Hannah has filled Christians everywhere with admiration. She remained steadfast in devotion to God while others around her were falling away. Moreover, in her request for a child she exhibited a pure faith in God. When her prayer was answered, she repaid her vow and presented her son Samuel, to God, praising the Almighty who provided. Indeed, Hannah has a lot to offer to Christians of the end time.