Oh productive-yet-relaxing-Saturday… How I love you!
My view for the majority of today has been this beautiful one:
For those of you who are well versed in my study-and-research routines, it will be familiar. Corner table at Starbucks. Check. Venti London Fog. Check. A selection of books. Check. Laptop. Check. Sorted!
My current essay is based on the Interpreting Christian Scripture unit I’ve just been studying at uni… And we have the freedom to write a hermeneutics assignment on any passage of the Bible we choose. Which sounds like a cool amount of freedom… Until you actually sit down to decide which piece to focus in on. 5000 words isn’t a lot when you’re going into quite a bit of depth in the research!!
So last weekend I began to give this some serious thought and prayer. What would I really like the time and space to go deep on? Which passage really inspired me in my work with young people and communities? Which story really resonated with my own personal journey of discovering God?
And after a number of potentials (seemingly limitless potentials to be honest!), I decided on the song/prayer of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2 v 1-10. Now, this blog post is entitled ‘beginning’ because that is really where I am. I have a couple of Bible dictionaries, a few hermeneutics books, 17 commentaries on the book of 1 Samuel and a book on the songs of the Old Testament. Today I started reading… And have read and read and read and read (you get the picture…) and prayed! I have lots of my own thoughts jotted down, and I am enjoying discovering what others have thought.
But I’m at the beginning.
So this blog post will offer some of the story, and some initial thoughts… And then over these next weeks, I’ll share some more of what I’m learning.
I love this passage because I love the songs of the Old Testament. I love how they stand out in books of history or narrative story and make us pause and take-in and think. I love how they seem to express something of the nature of God through praise and worship. I just love using them in my own prayer time.
And the song of Hannah really resonates with me. Because Hannah was a women who knew pain, who God allowed to walk through trial and testing, but who sought God in her brokenness, who trusted His promises, who found Him faithful, and who gave back to Him every blessing He poured out on her. It’s a beautifully inspiring story of how God brings beauty from ashes.
Hannah was barren. In a time where polygamy was commonplace (not ever in line with God’s design, but still practiced by His people), and having a son was everything, Hannah was childless, and taunted by a second wife who had bore many children to their husband.
And Hannah was heartbroken. Literally.
Her husband loved her, but her heart was sorrowful, and her reality painful. Day after day, month after month, year after year, the story tells us that God prevented Hannah from having children.
And in this situation, Hannah could have been angry at God, or stopped trusting in God, or walked away from God and run after the false god Baal, who was reputed to grant fertility… But instead, she runs directly to the true God and petitions Him alone.
This is no politely-distant prayer.
She cries out to Yahweh, God of the angel armies and creator of heaven and earth. She cries out to Him in desperation and anguish. Not for a son for herself, or for a son to make her look good… But for a son she can dedicate back to the Lord all the days of His life.
And after a brief run-in with Eli the priest (that’s another story really), she leaves this place of prayer different. She is resting in the shalom peace of God, trusting that His promises for her are true. She has faith that she will have a son.
Not straight away, but in God’s timing, she has a son whom she names ‘Samuel’, who she then dedicates back to the Lord to be His prophet.
It’s such a rich and beautiful story.
And at the end of it, the narrative allows us to share in the prayer or song of Hannah. Her worship to a God who has shown Himself faithful to her, as He is always faithful to His people.
My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.
There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.
Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows and by him deeds are weighed.
The bows of warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry hunger no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has many sons pines away.
The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honour.
For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; upon them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of his saints but the wicked will be silenced in darkness.
It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.
He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.
Wow. There’s so much there! So much. What a song of worship, directly rooted in the very nature of Yahweh, and the power of personal testimony.
But for today, I’ll leave us at the beginning 🙂
The best place to start when we’re praying for God to speak.
P.s. I also saw an amazing t-shirt today. Which I did buy. One of those laugh-out-loud moments 😉