With the death of Moses and Joshua seemed to come a “death” of references to God’s Word. Throughout the books of Judges and Ruth there is nary a word concerning the priesthood or anyone living according to God’s Word. The repeated phrase provided is that “everyone did what was right in his own eyes”. Not even the priests nor the Levites seem to be living according to God’s Word. This is the most prominent feature of 1 Samuel in the sudden flood of references to who is and isn’t being obedient to God’s Word (also symbolized by the Ark of the Covenant) and
Read verses 1-3
Q: What does the geographical and genealogical information here provided boil down to? What is it intended to communicate?
A: Samuel’s father, Elkanah, was a Levite (specifically descended from the family of Korah) living in Ephraim. This is why Samuel will be so readily accepted to grow up in and live at the tabernacle and later serve as a priest, because of his Levitical heritage.
Q: Is there something peculiar about Elkanah?
A: On the one hand he seems to be very observant concerning some laws in his yearly commitment, but contrary to the Law for Levites he has taken more than one wife. It’s an example that opens the book of 1 Samuel in the manner the book of Judges was closed, with most people being only partially obedient to God.
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
— Judges 21:25
Read verses 4-7
Q: What is implied in the facts that as a Levite Elkanah wasn’t supposed to take more than one wife—but did anyway—and that Hannah’s inability to bear children was due to the will of God?
A: It implies that the familial discord and unhappiness experienced on everyone’s part is the result of spiritual weakness and sin. They are experiencing the consequences of their actions.
Q: Why did the author go out of his way to point out that “year after year...she wept and would not eat”? What does it mean?
A: The sacrifices were not 100% complete by biblical standards until these portions had been consumed. Hannah’s personal unhappiness was tied to her spiritual unhappiness with God and revealed by the author in her refusal to eat. It’s another example of not wholly and completely following God’s Word.
Read verses 8-18
Q: What is the one thing Hannah does differently THIS year from years past? How might this indicate a change in her spiritual condition?
A: She completes the terms of the sacrifice by eating it. It’s an indication of a heart moving from disobedience to obedience.
Point: Obedience to God in the big things is only possible if first achieved with the little things.
Q: Given the discussion to this point of people that are only partially obedient in their lifestyle, why is Hannah’s vow to bear a Nazirite (v.11) a startling turn of events?
A: To be a Nazirite is to adhere even more strictly to the Law than normally required. It’s an indication that Hannah’s heart is changing, no longer seeking to satisfy herself but God.
Q: What is the play on words in Hannah’s response to Eli’s accusation concerning being drunk? How does it further indicate that Hannah was not a righteous woman to begin with but undergoing spiritual renewal?
A: She is not consumed with the false spirits of this world, but being renewed by the Spirit of God in pouring out her soul so that it can be filled with nothing but God’s Spirit.
Point: There is a difference between sinners coming to know Christ for the first time—that is, being evangelized by the Word of God—and Believers returning to a right relationship with God, otherwise known as “revival”. They are not one and the same thing. For the world in general we pray for and should be engaged in evangelization by sharing the Gospel so the “lost” may be “found”. “Revival” is something that is only necessary to recall backslidden Believers into a right relationship with Him. In this sense, “revival” is something we shouldn’t constantly desire because the church should be naturally obedient and never in need of it. But when it does, it begins NOT by displays of signs and wonders but a recommitment to God’s Word. This is an historic, common denominator in all revivals.
Read verses 19-20
Q: “Samuel” means “heard by God”. What did it take for Hannah to be heard by God?
A: She had to change her disobedience into obedience.
Q: How does this fit with the observation here that “the Lord remembered her”?
A: It’s a very poetic and literary mechanism to convey the fact that God never actually “forgot” anything, but that it was a human that “forgot” to follow Him faithfully according to His Word. God “remembered” in parallel with Hannah remembering the whole of God’s Word.
Point: Obedience in our walk produces obedience in our prayer-life which aligns the results with the will of God.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
— Romans 12:1-2
Read verses 21-28
Q: Why is Elkanah’s admonition “only may the Lord confirm His word” important? What does it indicate on a spiritual level?
A: People can use the name of the Lord, even claim something as accomplished by Him, without it actually being of or sanctioned by Him. Elkanah’s encouragement is to seek God’s affirmation rather than man’s.
Point: Even something that begins by the inspiration of God can be misapplied by man. “Look what He did through ME” can come to take the rightful place of God.
Q: What is the stark contrasting difference between Samuel and his father Elkanah as discussed at the beginning of this lesson?
A: Although both are Levites and supposed to be dedicated 100% to the full-time service of God, Elkanah never appeared to so be dedicated as is Samuel. There is a spiritual picture here of service that is divided in its loyalties versus wholly committed to God.
Q: In today’s world and according to our way of thinking, how might we consider Hannah as NOT having her prayer answered in the ideal fashion?
A: Originally her distress was at not having any children. Bearing a child and giving it up might appear to our modern way of thinking as not getting what she really needed or deserved in a son to have and hold exclusively for herself. What we might miss in the joy of her willingness to fulfill this vow is the corresponding joy that came from being reconciled to a right relationship with God. The process of having the child resolved the much bigger spiritual issues in her life expressed by the one earthly issue.
Application: Is it possible that some of your cares and desires prevent your achievement of greater spiritual accomplishments? Is your list of prayer requests oriented more towards pleasing yourself or seeking to please God?
Q: What is the overall theme of Hannah’s prayer? What does it indicate about Hannah’s spiritual transformation?
A: The sovereignty of God. It recognizes her finally attaining a right and restored relationship with God as King and Ruler. She experienced success when she no longer tried to take the place of God in her own life.
Q: What does Hanna term this in v.1?
A: “Your salvation”. Not just a one-time event, it’s something worked out in the course of a life-time of obedience.
Q: What in v.3 indicates the greater work and need for obedience to God’s Word?
A: “For the Lord is a God of knowledge, and with Him actions are weighed.” It’s not enough to know God’s Word but to put it into action.
Q: There are several contrasts of God’s working in v.6-8 such as “He brings low, He exalts”. What is being communicated?
A: Those who remove the spiritual roadblocks by forsaking earthly wealth, status, etc. for their spiritual opposite are elevated by God; otherwise they are brought into a condition whereby they are confronted with the same. Humans are never ultimately in control of anything.
Q: What is intimated in v.9 with the statement, “He keeps the feet of the godly ones”?
A: Steady feet upon a stable path is a recurring biblical teaching of walking according to God’s Word and ways exclusively. It’s a confirmation of the work of obedience.
Q: How is v.10 a personal testimony concerning Hannah’s own experience?
A: “Those who contend with the lord will be shattered” is what happened to her at the end of all those years she was deficient in complete obedience. When she was finally broken to the point of compliance to His Word and proper submission to Him, her old life was shattered “for the good” so to speak to make way for renewal.
Q: What is theologically important about v.10?
A: It’s the first biblical reference to the “Messiah”, often translated as “His anointed” (“Christ” in the Greek). Hannah’s spiritual renewal has inspired a glimpse of its working not just in her own present time but for all generations to come.
Application: How quick are we to praise God for His person and the working of His will as opposed to answering a prayer for a personal need? Shouldn’t we be hungering for God to be doing greater things through us than just meeting the needs of our existence?