Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hannah's Song Of Praise

    I think we all know the story of Hannah, the mother of Samuel. Just as a refresher I will give you the nutshell version: a man named Elkanah was married to two women Hannah and Peneniah. His first wife, Hannah didn’t have any children so he married Peneniah and she had several children for her husband. Peneniah rubbed it in Hannah’s face every day. She tormented her. Hannah felt miserable and being in a society where a woman’s worth was based on her ability to have children, she felt like a failure. But her husband still loved her best. He didn’t understand her desire to have a child because she hadn’t diminished in his eyes. He loved her dearly.

     Now you have the background story. Today I want to look at the woman Hannah was and how she was a woman who knew how to praise. The first quality that a woman of praise has to have is to have a personal relationship with God. We don't just need to know who He is or to know about Him, we have to know Him. We have to be on intimate terms with Him. Otherwise we can’t truly praise Him.

     We read in 1 Samuel 1 that Hannah went to the temple. Verse 10 tells us that she was in bitterness of soul. She prayed to the Lord and wept. She poured out her heart to the One person who could understand what she was going through. She already knew the Lord and knew He would hear her prayer.  Hannah made a vow to the Lord in verse 11. This is what she said: 1Sa 1:11 "O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life.”

     After she made her request and her vow, she continued praying, in her heart. While she was praying Eli the priest of the temple saw her standing in the temple with her mouth moving and no sound coming out. He thought she was drunk. And in verse 14 he asked her how long she was going to continue being drunk. I imagine this came out of left field for this godly woman. Here she was in the temple of the Lord, having what she thought was a private moment with her Lord, and some priest accuses her of being drunk and in church at that!
       But Hannah showed her character. She didn’t lash out, she calmly answered him. Verses 15 and 16 say:
 1Sa 1:15  And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.
 Eli answered her with a blessing:
1Sa 1:17  Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him.

     So Hannah left the temple and ate again and verse 18 tells us that her face wasn’t sad anymore. Hannah had her faith. Hannah knew the Lord would answer her prayer. Hannah trusted in the Lord. Before Elkanah and Hannah left the area to head home they worshipped the Lord again, early in the morning. They were in the habit of worshipping and praising God in the mornings. They had family devotion time. No wonder their love was so strong for each other, they loved the Lord and gave Him priority in their lives. Giving God priority in our lives is the second characteristic of a woman who praises.

     Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to Samuel. After he was weaned, probably between 2 and 3 years old she made good on her vow to the Lord. She took him to the temple and presented him to Eli the priest. Samuel, her little boy, would live the rest of his life in the temple serving the Lord.

     1Sa 1:24-28  And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the LORD in Shiloh: and the child was young. And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli. And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD. For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.

     Just the act of Hannah being true to her word and leaving her child with Eli the temple priest, shows her faith that God would take care of Samuel. She was placing her greatest desire in the Lord’s hands. She was a woman of her word. She took her promises seriously and honoured them. A woman of praise is a woman who is honest and honourable. She is a woman of her word.

     The exciting part that I want to speak of today is found in 1 Samuel chapter 2 and it is Hannah’s song of praise. Bear in mind that this woman has just left her son, her baby son, knowing that at best she would see him once a year after that. Yet she chooses to praise the Lord. Her song of praise is not a song that could be titled me, me, me. No, her song is a song about the Lord and His goodness to her. Let’s read her song of praise:

1Samuel 2:1-10  “And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.
They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble. The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and he hath set the world upon them. He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

     Wow, those are pretty strong words for a woman who when we first met her was so beaten down that she didn’t even pray out loud in the temple. Here she is excited. Here her words are those of a victor! She holds nothing back in her praise of the Lord. She begins by praising Him for her salvation. She goes on to say “There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.”Hannah knew that the Lord alone is her rock, the One on whom she could depend.

     Only the Lord knows our heart of hearts. That secret place where no one else has been before. He knows all our secrets, all our dreams, all our longings, our desires, our hopes and our fears. When we fully understand that there is nothing God doesn’t know about us, nothing we can hide from Him, and yet He still loves us, still calls us His own, then we can truly worship Him and praise Him.

      We sing the song When He sees me, He sees the blood of the Lamb, He sees me as worthy and not as I am. God doesn’t see your past, He has chosen to forget your confessed past. He doesn’t hold your shortcomings against you because He knows you are a work in progress. The song goes on to say He views me in garments as white as the snow for the Lamb of God is worthy and He loves me this I know.

     It is only because He is worthy that we can be counted as worthy too. Isa 64:6  But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; When we finally realize who we are and who God is then we can praise Him. We can sing a song of praise like Hannah did. Hannah knew her Lord. She had an ongoing relationship with Him. It was her regular habit to wake in the morning and worship God. She was a woman who honoured God with her actions and her speech. She could be counted on to fulfill her promises. She was a woman who loved her Lord.

     Hannah didn’t care who saw her when she praised because it was never about her. It was always about giving honour and praise to God. She had an intimate relationship with the Lord that we all can have. Hannah and Elkanah were blessed with five more children after Samuel and every year they visited Samuel and went to worship the Lord in the temple. Because of her faithfulness, Hannah not only was blessed with a loving husband, a strong marriage and a large family but as a godly mother she was blessed to know that her son would serve the Lord all of his days. She saw her son, Samuel grow in the Lord and eventually become the priest whom kings confided in and trusted. Samuel was blessed with a long life and much influence and was blessed by the Lord in all ways.

     To see your children serving the Lord is one of our greatest blessings and worthy to praise the Lord for, but praising God is about more than just praising Him for our blessings. If you will look again at Hannah’s song of praise you will see that she praised God for who He is.

     Hannah praises God because He is holy, He is our Rock. He is the God of all knowledge. He has the power over life and death, over wealth and poverty. He is our Protector and He is the judge of all the earth. These are just some of the attributes of the God whom Hannah praised, who we praise! It is not about how many blessings we receive. It’s not about how much money we have in our bank account or how big our house is or how great our job. It’s about Him. It is only about Him.

     If God never did another thing for me, I would still praise Him. He is my Rock, He is my redeemer, He is my friend, He is my refuge in times of trouble. He is the Creator of all things. He hung the sun, the stars and the moon. He is worthy of all praise!

     And the Word is clear that if we don’t praise Him that He will cause the rocks to cry out their praise to Him. Luke 19:40  “And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” I don’t know about you but I would be pretty ashamed of myself, after all that the Lord has done for me, to have a rock praise Him instead of me. It is time to take our eyes off ourselves and praise Him. It is time to stop worrying about what people will think of me and praise Him. It is time for all of His daughters to give Him their praise. Let His daughters cry out! Let us not be ashamed of hearing our voices lifted in praise to Him. He alone is worthy of our praise. 

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