A Woman: National Game Changer

A Woman: National Game Changer

Hannah the Prophetess

Like a physician, Hannah put her finger on the pulse of a nation and foretold its future health. The nation’s heartbeat was barely discernible, one foot already in the grave. Its dying relationship with God was due to the suffocating influence of proud leader-celebrities. Hannah understood God’s adversarial actions towards proud celebrities, and her theologically astute prayer in response brought the diseased nation back to life.

Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel 2:1-10) is the key that opens the locked door to 1 Samuel. Her prayer is the main theme of the book and explains why every major character that follows suffers a downfall.[1] So, her prayer is prophetic, pivotal, and perceptive.

God Reverses Fortunes

The theme of Hannah’s prayer[2] is that Israel’s God reverses the fortunes of both the proud and the humble. God elevates humble people. But He busts the proud down to beggar status. God demotes the arrogant but elevates the humble.

Examine her prayer and observe the marks of people God will depose: the boastful (2:3), the arrogant (2:3), the mighty (2:3), the full (2:4), the rich (2:5), the wicked (2:9), and people who contend with God (2:10). God reverses the fortunes of these men and women. God will deplume them, despite their efforts at staged self-glorification and their desire for applause.

But also observe the marks of men and women who will be exalted. The God of Israel will lift up the feeble (2:4), the hungry (2:5), the poor (2:7), the low (2:7), the needy (2:8), and the godly (2:9). Despite their low stations, God reverses their fortunes.

Hannah Illustrates Her Prayer

Hannah herself is an example of such an about-face. This is why her account of barrenness and grief begins the book of 1 Samuel. Hannah is humble and lowly. She is a woman, childless, taunted, dismissed, and burdened with grief.

“Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none … And because the LORD has closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year…her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.”1 Samuel 1:2-7.

Lowly Hannah is Exalted

Hannah’s biography illustrates the theme of her own song.[3] Peninnah, her cruel, arrogant rival, was brought low. But Hannah, the lowly and humble woman, prayed directly to God without priestly mediation.[4] God heard the prayer of this humble woman. Hannah gave birth to Samuel[5] and prayed that he would introduce kingship into Israel (2:10b). He did.

Barren Hannah also gave birth to six children after being taunted for childlessness. Not only did Hannah bear six children, her eldest son (Samuel) became God’s prophet to Israel for a generation and the sole anointer of kings. Hannah was elevated by God. And her prayer turned Israel around, fueling Israel’s rise to its glory under King David.

The prayer of a barren woman, disregarded by the religious leadership, saved Israel and programmed its future history. God transfigured Hannah’s misfortune into fortune.

Hannah Illustrates the Theme of 1 Samuel

Hannah began in an undesirable position. She is the most unlikely person in Israel to make a difference—a female, childless, harassed, dismissed by the religious authority in her life, and tormented. But don’t write her off just yet. Hannah is also depicted as humble, hungry,[6] and godly.[7] Such qualities portend exaltation in God’s world.

Her rival and enemy within her own household was arrogant,[8] full,[9] and full of herself. Nevertheless, Peninnah was outdone by the very one she taunted. God reversed the fortunes of the proud and the lowly. He exalts the lowly and debases the proud. He still does.

The remainder of the book of 1 Samuel illustrates Hannah’s theme through the downgrading of its main characters, all proud celebrities.

God Brings Down Two Arrogant Men

The two sons of Eli were arrogant, sexually abusive to women, and full (2:11,17,18, 26). Their early death, therefore, is a predictable event (4:11). God brought down the arrogant, celebrity sons of Eli. God inverted their fortunes. And Samuel, Hannah’s firstborn son, a humble youth, was elevated by God and rose to influence (3:19-21). God reversed his fortune.

God Brings Down a False God

The theme of Hannah’s prayer is also illustrated with Dagon. When the Philistines stole the ark of God and assumed their success was due to their god Dagon, God reversed the fortunes of Dagon. He brought down Dagon literally. Dagon collapsed on his face before the ark of God (5:3).[10] The next evening, Dagon lost his head and hands (5:4).[11]

But when they got up early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen with his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. This time, both Dagon’s head and the palms of his hands were broken off and lying on the threshold. Only Dagon’s torso remained. 1 Samuel 5:4

God brought down the proud. He degraded the fortunes of Dagon. Hannah’s prophecy was programmatic, even for foreign celebrity gods.  

God Brings Down a Selfie King

King Saul also illustrates Hannah’s theme. Saul begins with good health. He appears to be humble (9:21). He even declares that his tribe of Benjamin was the least and that his family was the least within Benjamin (10:21). Other details of his beginning experiences reflect healthy humility. But Saul’s humility morphs into selfieism, a self-focused pride, when he begins to think too much of himself—puffed up with the gas of self-importance.[12] Saul was a self-absorbed celebrity, looking for applause on a concert stage. Undoubtedly, his selfie would be conspicuous on his musical DVD cover.

Saul’s arrogance seeps out of his pores when he tries to offer sacrifices, a role reserved exclusively for Samuel the prophet (10:8).

Saul’s Coup de Grace

God immediately began to bring about his collapse. The very next chapter shows Saul’s son Jonathan winning a military victory without his father, expressing faith in the LORD and not in numbers of soldiers (14:6). This is precisely what Saul failed to do, fearing that his fans would desert him (13:8). Saul was looking for the applause of people rather than from God.

Saul’s hubris is displayed when God no longer answered him—so he crossed into forbidden territory showing more interest in magic, apparitions, and witches[13]—than in God’s explicit commandments (28:1-25).

Saul’s Death on a Mountain

Arrogantly, Saul crossed over into no-man’s land, thus forfeiting God’s protection. His interest in the demonic power of witches was the coup de grace. God put him to death the very next day on a mountain by an Amalekite,[14] ironically a member of the very people Saul had spared in defiance of God’s command (15:1-35).[15] Saul’s family was reduced to one crippled man (2 Samuel 3:1; 9:3). As Hannah predicted, God reversed proud Saul’s fortunes.[16]

“The LORD detests[17] all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: they will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 16:5

“Before a man’s downfall a man’s heart is proud.” Proverbs 18:12

Saul’s Bio: A Downward Spiral

Hannah the prophetess was spot on. God debased the proud and the arrogant. Celebrity Saul is a notorious example.

Observe the downward spiral his bio takes as God reverses his fortunes: Saul began as spirit-filled, humble, forgiving—then—due to pride—becomes impatient, faithless, foolish, inconsistent, rebellious, angry, enraged, envious, murderous, liar, butcher of human lives, paranoid, interested in the occult, and finally, suicide. From filled with God’s Spirit downward to involvement with Satan’s spirits. Then decapitation. A tragic reversal.

Pride: Guarantee to Lose Your Head

Dagon the god lost his status, his hands, and head. Saul the celebrity king also lost his son, his crown, and his head. Goliath the celebrity giant lost his head. Ironically, the tallest people in 1 Samuel all lose their heads.[18] Three celebrity characters lose their heads in 1 Samuel when things go to their head (arrogance). God beheads[19] proud people.

David’s Rise and Fall

Hannah’s prayer also predicts the up-and-down program that David’s life would take. He started out humble as the youngest son taking care of the sheep, overlooked by his father when it came time to look for God’s choice of a king.[20] But Samuel the prophet recognized his value, despite David’s youth. Yet David himself succumbed eventually to celebrity pride. As a result, God brought him low, though, thankfully, we see evidence of humility and restoration reappear at the end of his life.

National Game Changer

Hannah’s prayer was programmatic. She prophesied that God debases the proud and elevates the lowly. God debased the sons of Eli, Dagon, Saul, and David. But he exalted a woman, Hannah. Hannah the humble woman was a national game changer. She changed the course of Israel’s history.

The humble women in your home and congregation can do the same. Humble women, women who speak for God as prophetesses, can turn your ship around. Hannah is a model for all of us. But her insensitive husband, Eli the proud priest, Eli’s sons, Dagon the idol, and Saul the king are mirrors of 21st century celebrity pride.

As a prophetess, she was God’s mouthpiece to Israel. Hannah put her finger on the pulse of the nation, accurately perceived God’s mind and methods, and amazingly predicted the future health of the religious celebrities of her day. Three dead celebrity witnesses, Eli’s two sons, Dagon, and Saul, make her case airtight. 

Who are the Hannahs Among You?

Who are the Hannah’s among your faith community? Who are the women gifted as prophetesses? Like Hannah, are they ignored? Are they scolded by the religious leaders?

It pays to not ignore the prophetesses Jesus has sent among us.[21] Hear them rather than dismiss them as did Eli the priest. Pay attention to them rather than scold them. Take them seriously. Take their prayers and words to heart. Arrogantly refuse to pay them attention and Hannah’s reversal of fortune prophecy might come true of us. But humbly listen to their words from God, their prayers to God, and you can watch your ship turn around.

Are You Hannah’s Sister or Brother?

Hannah has many sisters and brothers in Jesus’ church. Perhaps you are related to her by way of a humble attitude or disadvantaged position. Perhaps you too are ignored, dismissed, or even targeted by a rival or spouse or scolded by the religious leadership of your community. Take hope from Hannah’s example. God still reverses the fortunes of the lowly.

Hannah’s sisters and brothers are humble, self-effacing people. They are not looking for a self-promoting, glitzy stage on which to draw attention to themselves or to seek the applause from Christian groupies. They serve diligently, praying faithfully, sacrificing their time and energy for the welfare of others.

Take hope. If you’re one of Hannah’s brothers or sisters, God sees you just as he did Hannah. God will reverse your fortunes one day too, either in time or in eternity. 

Ironically, Hannah’s prayer[22] prophesied the down and up pattern of Jesus whose crown of thorns was replaced by a crown of glory. [23]

5 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,

6 who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be used for His own advantage.
7 Instead He emptied Himself
by assuming the form of a slave,
taking on the likeness of humans.
And when He had come as a human being
in His external form,
8 He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—
even to death on a cross.
9 This is why God highly exalted Him
and gave Him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow—
of those who are in heaven and on earth
and under the earth—
11 and every tongue will confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

NOTES:

[1] The Sons of Eli, Dagon, Saul, and David

[2] And of Mary’s Song in Luke 1:46-55.

[3] Hannah’s vow to the Lord is parallel to Israel in Exodus 3:7. Just as Samuel her son will be the answer to her affliction, so also Moses was the answer to Israel’s affliction in Egypt. Samuel will be another Moses. There are at least nine major parallels between Samuel’s life and Moses’ life.

[4] Both Elkanah her husband, and Eli the priest, were insensitive to her burden.

[5] “Asked of God.”

[6] 1 Samuel 1:6

[7] 1 Samuel 1:10

[8] 1 Samuel 1:6

[9] 1 Samuel 1:2; she had children in contrast with Hannah.

[10] Pride goes before a fall.

[11] Two other characters lose their head in 1 Samuel: Goliath (17:51; arrogant) and Saul (31:8 arrogant).

[12] Credit to Charles H. Spurgeon.

[13] “Do not turn to mediums or seek out familiar spirits, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 19:32

[14] Was the Amalekite lying when he claimed to kill Saul? 2 Samuel 1:10. His words appear to contradict the battle account in 1 Samuel 31 where Saul commits suicide by falling on his own sword. 1 Samuel 31:4

[15] “The person who turns to the spirits of the dead and familiar spirits to commit prostitution by going after them, I will set my face against that person and cut him off from the midst of his people.” Leviticus 20:6

[16] It is not a coincidence that Israel’s first king was put to death on a mountain by the seed of the serpent. Saul was definitely not the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) who would bring humanity back into God’s presence. Readers must wait for another king on another mountain.

[17] תֹּועֲבַ֣ת, to detest, abhor; an abomination. This verb is quite common in Proverbs. The same verb is to describe God’s attitude toward the varied practices of witchcraft. See Deuteronomy 18:9-13; Revelation 20:15.  

[18] Saul, ironically was “head and shoulders” taller than anyone else in Israel. Yet, due to pride, God separated his head from his shoulders. He should have used a different kind of shampoo.

[19] “he will crush your head…” Genesis 3:15

[20] 1 Samuel 16:11

[21] Luke 2:36; 1 Cor 11:5; Acts 21:9; 1 Thess. 5:20

[22] Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 appears thematically, programmatically, and chronologically matched to Mary’s prayer in Luke 1:46-55. Did Luke use Hannah’s prayer as a template for Mary’s prayer? Does Mary’s prayer announce the theme of Luke-Acts?

[23] Philippians 2:5-11.