Our Knowledge of God Impacts Our Prayers

1 Samuel #01: an exposition of 1 Samuel 1:1-28
October 16, 2011

It is a book filled with political struggle and intrigue.  The story of major shifts in the religious and political life of the nation.  It contains epoch-making events that will not only shape the nation but impact the world.  Yet it begins by calling our attention to a humble woman living in the backwaters of the hill country of Ephraim, weeping over her dead womb.  Why?  In what possible way does her pathetic tale intersect with this great story?  Her name means, “favored one” but her condition betrays her name.  How can a “favored one” be barren?  Why should we care what happens to this childless nobody?  It matters because this is just the kind of place, and just the kind of circumstance that catches the attention of our God.  We begin our study of the book of 1 Samuel with a look at the story of Hannah.  Our text is found in the first chapter of  1 Samuel.

Text: 1 Samuel 1:1-28

We need to begin with some background.
1st and 2nd Samuel were originally one book.

They along with the book of Kings (now 1st and 2nd Kings) comprised a 2 volume set telling the story of the 500 year period of Israel’s existence under a monarchy.  When the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek, in the 2nd century B.C., the 2 scrolls Samuel and Kings were divided into 4 books.  Writing Greek took twice the space of writing Hebrew.  For convenience the Church has maintained the division.

4 figures dominate – Hannah, Samuel, Saul and David.

The book opens at the end of the Period of the Judges described in Judges 21:25 as a time when – “…there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  You remember the “cycle of the Judges.”  There would be apostasy, followed by a foreign oppressor, the people of God would repent and cry out for a deliverer, God would raise up a deliverer, they would be set free, enjoy a time of peace and then start the whole thing over again.  This was basically a 200 year period of anarchy.

Dale Ralph Davis provides a helpful outline of the book in broad strokes:

  1. A Prophet from God’s Grace (1-7)
  2. A King in God’s Place (8-14)
  3. A Man after God’s Heart (15-31)

This evening I want us to walk carefully through the 1st chapter.  We need to be cautious when dealing with Old Testament narrative.  We must do more than simply retell the story.  In addition, we also must be careful not to just find moral lessons or examples to follow or avoid.  It would be easy to read the first chapter and say, “Hannah is a great example of faith for us to follow; and let’s make sure we’re not like Peninnah or Eli!”  I would agree Peninnah and Eli are poor examples while there is much to commend in both Elkanah and Hannah but they are not the point!  The story is not primarily about Hannah – but about Hannah’s God.

Here is what I want us to see in this opening chapter…

Thesis: Our understanding of God directly impacts our praying and informs our worldview.

If we really believe there is a God and we believe He has revealed himself to us through the Scriptures, that belief will impact everything in our lives.  It will impact the way we think and direct the way we act.  It will shape our view of the world around us and how we interpret world events.  Genuine belief in God is not relegated to discussions on Sunday morning in Sunday School.  He dominates our thinking daily.  We see His hand everywhere.

There are three things I want us to see in this text.

  1. In times of trouble and great distress the righteous have nowhere to turn but to the Sovereign Ruler of all things.  (1:1-10)
  2. Our God’s sovereign and gracious rule inspires honest, transparent and confident prayer.  (1:11-17)
  3. The Righteous respond to God’s good grace in quiet confidence and steadfast obedience.  (1:18-28)

Here is where we must be careful.  Are we to assume that Hannah was particularly righteous thus God heard her prayer?  Are we to believe that she was extraordinarily fervent in her prayer so God granted her request?

It’s not about Hannah.
I’m sure there were other barren women whose prayers were every bit as fervent.
I’m confident that good and godly women wept daily with no answer, no relief.
Why Hannah?
Because God sovereignly, graciously chose to do something great.

His kindness was not just to Hannah but to the nation and ultimately the world!

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