Friday, April 13, 2018

A Prayer and a Song

Hannah prayed a powerful prayer in 1 Samuel 1, a prayer so earnest and so raw that the priest, Eli, thought she was drunk. And this is a beautiful portrait of what a heart of prayer looks like. But Hannah also prays a beautiful prayer in 1 Samuel 2, and this one...this one is interesting.

This prayer is not a prayer of an aching heart, but of a longing fulfilled. It is not a prayer of wanting, but of worshiping. It is not a prayer of sadness, but of celebration. It takes an entirely different tone than the first prayer that we see Hannah praying. And it sets up an incredibly beautiful parallel in the Scriptures. 

For Hannah's second prayer sounds very much like Mary's song.

For this, we need look no further than the opening words: My heart finds joy in the Lord. My head is lifted to the Lord. Fast forward, then, to Luke 1: My soul praises the Lord's greatness. My spirit finds its joy in God, my Savior.

The words are only slightly different, and the structure is essentially the very same. Each woman begins with an inner wellspring of joy and exultation, notes the Lord's intervention in her own life, recalls His power and the way He historically has smitten His enemies and defended His own name, and ends with praise and glory. 

Once you see the connection between the two, you cannot un-see it. Once you read the opening lines of Hannah's prayer and hear Mary's heart leap in song, you cannot deny it. Once you hear Mary sing and remember Hannah's praise, you cannot turn back. These are two women whose stories are intimately connected.

As they should be. Just look at the number of similarities between their lives, between what God is doing through each of them. 

Hannah is a barren woman who has given birth to a child that she has set apart for the Lord; Mary is a virgin pregnant with a child who will be set apart for the Lord. Both of these women have become vessels for God's glory, and they know it.

Hannah's son, Samuel, breaks the precedent in Israel that only Levites may be priests. He is set apart and sanctified, given to Eli for service in the Temple, even though he is from the tribe of Ephraim. And he becomes not just a priest, but the priest after Eli's sons commit sin before the Lord and prove themselves not only unfaithful, but unworthy. 

Jesus, too, breaks the precedent for priesthood and becomes not just the priest, but the high priest for all of us. Neither is He a Levite, nor even a man from Ephraim; Jesus is from Judah, which has historically been the tribe of kingship (David was from Judah, which means David's line was from Judah). 

Hannah's son, Samuel, is committed to the tabernacle service and set apart as a Nazirite. Jesus was a man from Nazarene. 

Hannah was shown special favor by her husband, Elkanah. Joseph did a special favor indeed to Mary by not quietly divorcing her, as he had planned. 

Both women were visited by an angel, foretelling the birth of each of their sons and giving instructions for his upbringing and care.

The more you dig into it, the more you find in their stories that parallel. And this is not an accident. It's the kind of thing that God does all the time. 

What's interesting here is that He does it through women, which is not where we often look for it. We are used to seeing these kinds of things in the stories of men. John the Baptist and Elijah, for example. Or Jesus and David. Or Jesus and Isaiah. Or Jesus and Adam. Or David and Solomon. Or whoever. But it's not very often that we look for it in the stories of biblical women. 

After all, they're just "bit characters," right? Nothing important happening here.... 

Something incredibly beautiful happening here.

My heart finds joy in the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God, my Savior. 

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