When we left Hannah in chapter 1 we saw her advance through three stages with God. We began by seeing her suffer as a broken and barren woman, move to a pleading woman pouring her soul out before the Lord, and finally progress to a different woman, a woman who was no longer barren by God’s grace but more importantly a woman who is content in and grateful to God. It is this content and grateful woman we meet as we enter 1 Samuel 2. In fact, our passage today is the result of the long and hard journey God has brought Hannah on in the longing for and birth of her son Samuel. In these verses Hannah prays, and we’ll see that Hannah’s prayer here is very similar to many of the Psalms, in fact, many people think Hannah took an already existing prayer that was used in the temple and applied it to herself as she poured out her soul to God. Her prayer here in v1-11 stands in direct contrast to her prayer for help in 1:11. 1:11 is a broken cry for deliverance, 2:1-11 is a exuberant rejoicing in the Lord. Let’s see why that is. I have four points today: a) private joy to public praise and proclamation, b) beginnings and ends, c) full and final redemption, and lastly d) the bitter bud of the sweet flower.
a) Private Joy to Public Praise and Proclamation (2:1-3)
Hannah, in v1-3, sets the tone of the entire prayer, ‘My heart exults, my heart rejoices, in the Lord.’ She uses the words ‘my’ and ‘I’ in v1 to communicate that she is personally delighted over God’s relief He gave in her distress. The effect of God’s intervention is that she is exulting (glorying/rejoicing) in the Lord, who has exalted her horn. ‘Horn’ in the Hebrew culture was a symbol of one’s strength or power, so for Hannah to say that God has exalted her horn is to say that she was once weak but is now strong because God has strengthened her. As a result Hannah, who used to be mocked and ridiculed, now is (in the end of v1) mocking her enemies while she rejoices in God’s salvation. Hannah has suffered much in her life, barrenness and mocking that brought her to despair, but though she has suffered much, Hannah has learned much.
In v2 Hannah’s joy over God’s redemption in her own life causes her to explode into more praise where she ascribes a unique and matchless holiness to God. She is stating supreme truth – that God alone is worthy, that God alone is incomparable, that God alone is God. No one is holy like the Lord, there is no rock like our God, there is no God but God. You see what’s happened? Hannah’s private joy has turned into public praise. This seems to be the pattern for Hannah and really isn’t this the pattern for us too? When we experience God drawing near to us and experience Him rescue/save us whether it be for the first time or four-hundredth time we are filled with joy because He has met us in a time of deep need. That inner joy from seeing God rescue us won’t remain inside of us for very long though. It was Hannah’s experience here, it’s been my experience, and I’m sure it’s been your experience too that the inner joy in God for His work in us often turns into praise toward God for who He is in Himself.
We get stuck in sin, we get stuck in despair, we get stuck in in deep distress. God then in His grace comes to lift us out of the pit and we rejoice, thanking Him for such work. This is why God brings trials and suffering into our lives, that we would glorify Him for saving us in them. Last week we read Psalm 50:15 but we can now see it more fully, ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.’ See it? When God delivers us, we shall glorify Him. Hannah was putting this into practice, leaving an example for all who read these pages to follow.
The overflow of her rescued heart is soaring in the rich delight of God her Rescuer. This leads her to boast in v3 saying, ‘let the proud forsake their pride and no more speak arrogantly.’ Why does she do this? She is aware that God knows all, that He judges the actions of all men, and that no man sits as judge over Him. Hannah’s private joy turned into public praise, then her public praise led Hannah to publically proclaim the glories of this God to all those who ignore such a God. Now, v3 here could be directed specifically at Peninnah for her arrogant mocking, but rather I think it’s directed to all those who seem to be self-sufficient loudmouths (which surely describes a group of people Peninnah belongs to).
b) Beginnings and Ends (2:4-8)
As we move into the second section, v4-8, we find Hannah cataloging the characteristics of God’s redemption.
In v4-8 we find 6 different contrasts: mighty and weak (v4), full and hungry (v5), barren and fertile (v5), dead and alive (v6), poor and rich (v7), and humbled and exalted (v8). Each of these contrasts on their own and also collectively display for us the beginnings and ends of God’s redemptive activity among men. What does it look like when God redeems His people from suffering? What does it look like when God saves? It looks like v4-8. This is what Hannah is saying happened to her; that she was weak but God made her strong, that she was empty but God made her full, that she was barren but God made her fertile, that she was dead but God made her alive, that she was poor but God made her rich, that she was humbled low in the dust but God exalted her to the heavens. Again, is this not our story too? Before God shows up to intervene in our lives we, in our sin, are weak, hungry, barren, dead, poor, and humble. After God shows up to lift us up out of the pit we become mighty, full, fertile, alive, rich, and exalted. Our beginning is in weakness and from the redeeming love of God we are changed and made strong. This is God’s redemptive work.
Think of young Joseph, he sat empty in an Egyptian prison but God brought him out full making him the right hand of Pharaoh. Think of Israel, empty in the wilderness but in spite of their grumbling and complaining God brought them out to a full promise land. Think of Naomi and Ruth, empty widows all alone but God made them full through the provision of Boaz. These contrasts Hannah lists out in v4-8 mark every single one of God’s redemptive acts throughout history. And it doesn’t stop there. We could catalogue our own narrative of God’s redeeming activity in our behalf, when we were in the pit and God showed up to rescue. Isn’t it precisely at this point that we see the gospel, the center of our message and the wonderful contrasts that save our soul? Jesus, though mighty became weak so we could become mighty. Jesus, though full became hungry so we could be filled. Jesus, though alive allowed Himself to expire so we could live. Jesus, though rich became poor so we could become rich. Jesus, though exalted He humbled Himself so we could be exalted. We could add even more wonderful gospel contrasts here: Jesus was cast out that we might be brought in, treated as an enemy that we might be welcomed as friends, suffered hell’s worst to give us heaven’s best, stripped that we might be clothed, wounded that we might be healed, groaned that we would have endless song, bowed His head that He might lift ours.
Where are you? Do these lowly beginnings describe you today? If so, today is the day of salvation, and through turning away from sin and turning in faith to Jesus God can lift you out of the pit. What rich contrasts we have in the Christian life! What a rich Savior we enjoy in Jesus! What a wonderful God we know who would plan such glorious things for our good and the glory of His name!
c) Full and Final Redemption (2:9-10)
In v1-3 we began with Hannah’s own experience of God lifting her up out of the pit of despair. In v4-8 Hannah took us through a catalogue of characteristics concerning God’s redemption. Now in v9-10 Hannah tells us how it will one day be when God’s redemption becomes full and final. It is here that we see the end of the faithful and the wicked. v9 mentions the feet of the faithful will be guarded by God but the wicked will be cut off and reminded that they can never prevail by their own strength or might. v10 then mentions the wicked will be broken to pieces and that God will thunder against them from the heavens. It is God who will judge the earth.
Each one of you here should ingest this point into your heart as deeply as you can. Every time God lifts you out of the pit and sets your feet on the Rock (which is Himself) you experience a sample…you experience a preview…you experience a foretaste of God’s final redemption when He’ll usher in His Kingdom in full measure. What He’s done with us personally throughout our entire lives as we’ve stumbled, followed, stumbled, followed, stumbled, followed, we’ll one day see God do with His universal Church as He brings His Church and the entire created order out of Genesis 3. This will be the moment when the play is over and the curtain is lifted and we all behold the Author of the play begin the Reckoning.
In v10 Hannah speaks of a King, she speaks of this King as the Lord’s anointed. Though there wasn’t a king in Israel yet, she knew her people’s history. Moses in Deuteronomy told all Israel that one day a King will come and God will lead Him, and He in turn would lead God’s people. Hannah remembers this and proclaims that God will give strength to this King and exalt His power before the world. Some of you know this prayer of Hannah is quoted again in the New Testament, in Luke 1 where we find Mary’s prayer, her Magnificat. In fact, Mary’s Magnificat is so similar to Hannah’s prayer we can conclude that Mary used Hannah’s prayer here 2:1-11 as a model of her own, and saw in Hannah an example of how to give your own son back to God. Of course it is in Mary’s prayer that we find out who this King Hannah mentions in v10, is. It is Jesus Christ, the King of Kings born into the world to set His people free. He is One who will bring about the Great Reckoning, sifting out the sheep and the goats, the wheat and the tares, ushering in His Kingdom, where He will reign forever and ever on the throne of David.
We can only wonder at Hannah here, that through her own suffering and joy comes to see (to a small degree) what God’s grand plan of redemption is. Though there was still no King in Israel, Hannah saw a King coming, and rejoiced.
d) The Bitter Bud of the Sweet Flower
If you have been wondering what the title of this sermon is about, I am now in a position to explain. I have titled this sermon ‘The Bitter Bud of the Sweet Flower’ after William Cowper’s poem ‘God Moves in a Mysterious Way.’ It goes like this:
God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform. He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.
Ye fearful saints fresh courage take, the clouds ye so much dread; are big with mercy and shall break, in blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by a feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace, behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.
His purpose will ripen fast, unfolding every hour. The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.
Think about Hannah and Peninnah again. Does Hannah owe her deep and great joy in God to Peninnah? Without her mocking, without her ridicule, without her malice Hannah never would have been driven to pour out her broken soul to the Lord. To Hannah this was a very painful and personal suffering, but in it God drove her to prayer, and from that prayer gave Hannah a boy who would do much for the salvation of God’s people. Without Peninnah this may not have been the case. Do we owe this all to Peninnah? No way. We owe it all to God who is sovereign, and in His sovereign rule He takes our sin and the sin of those around us and uses them to plant deep joy into the hearts of His people.
Remember the last line of that poem? ‘God’s purpose will ripen fast, unfolding every hour. The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.’ Hannah in every sense of the word tasted the bitterness of her suffering, but now in every sense of the word she is tasting (and will taste forever) the sweetness of the flower. Jesus could have probably said the same thing in His life. As Peninnah was to Hannah, Judas was to Jesus. Judas didn’t mock Jesus through His entire life, but through Judas Jesus was betrayed and driven to the cross. He knew the taste of the bitter bud and the sweet flower it brought. And as you look back over your life, the bitter bud Christ tasted brings sweetness into our trials and suffering. What has God done with you? What is God doing now? Whether you’re suffering or riding on the clouds of praise know God is up to more than you can see, weaving a wonderful tapestry that only He could weave, preparing you to see His smiling face.
‘Judge not the Lord by a feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace, behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.’