Hannah’s Prayer of Thanksgiving

Sermon on 1 Sam. 2:1-11, preached on 1 July 2018.
Give thanks to God
Bible Readings: (OT) 1 Samuel 2:1-11 / (NT) Ephesians 5:1-21
Main Points:
I. Give thanks to God, the Giver
II. Give thanks to God for His faithfulness
III. Give thanks to God for His promise

Today, we’ve reached the half mark of this year of 2018. Yet, speaking in terms of finance, we’ve passed the end of a financial year last week and today is the beginning of a new one. I believe that it’s timely for us to think about God’s blessings over the past six months and over the past financial year and give thanks to the Lord who is the Giver of all heavenly blessings. We do thank Him throughout the year and counting His blessings together and give praises to our Lord is always joyful.

So I’d like have a look at the words of Hannah’s prayer. This prayer is our guide for giving thanks to the Lord as it presents to us three bases of believer’s thanks to God. Namely, we give thanks to God, firstly, knowing that He is ‘the Giver’; then, we thank Him ‘for His faithfulness,’ and, lastly, thank Him ‘for His promise.’ I pray that the Holy Spirit may guide us to see these foundations of our thanks to Him and deepen our appreciation for His grace.

Firstly, we give thanks to God because He is the Giver; He gives us all things and all things come from Him alone. Hannah’s prayer remind us of a truly important point we often miss and forget when we thank the Lord. That is, we should give thanks to God because He is ‘the Giver’ of all things; we give thanks to Him because He is the one and true source of all blessings both heavenly and earthly.

Let me explain this with Hannah’s case. If you remember, this woman, Hannah, had no child; she was barren. She prayed to God for this matter over many years. One year, her troubled heart couldn’t bear it any longer, so she prostrated before the Lord and prayed. Then, the Lord answered to her prayer and she received a son who was Samuel, the last judge of Israel and a prophet of the Lord.

Now, having presented her son to the Lord as she had promised earlier, she gives thanks to the Lord, pointing out that He is the Giver. She looks at the Giver, not at her son, the gift she received. She gazes at the gracious hand of the Giver, not at her grieving prayers and petitions. So, she doesn’t say, ‘I thank You, God, for listening to my prayer!’; instead she says, “my horn [or ‘my strength’] is exalted in the LORD” as in v. 1 of our text passage.

Let me put it this way; she doesn’t say, ‘Oh, thank You, God. You heard my prayer, didn’t You? Yes, my petition has reached Your ears who is in heaven and this son of mine is the result of my prayer! So, I thank You, God!’ No, that is not what she says. Rather, she says to this effect: ‘I’m truly amazed by Your grace, God! How could You be so gracious to me in this way? My heart races with a great excitement because what You’ve done to me is unthinkable! Thank You, God, for Your amazing and abundant grace!’ Do you see her point? Please read again her words in v. 1 and see for yourself what she means: “My heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.” And she goes on, saying in v. 2, “There is none holy like the LORD: for there is none besides You; there is no rock like our God.” Her eyes are on God who gives all things abundantly!

This should be the foundation of our thanks to God, knowing Him as the Giver of all and every blessing, all and every favour, all and every care and comfort of our life. We don’t regard what we receive from the Lord because we deserve it. So, if anyone says, ‘I received this and that from God because I prayed to Him so desperately!’, his appreciation is not to God, but to himself because he sees his act of fervent prayer as the source of what he receives. That’s not true; we don’t deserve anything from God; God owes nothing to us. Instead, we owe our life to God because He made us and gave us life. Moreover, we rebelled against Him and, in sin, rejected Him as our Creator. So, we deserve His due and righteous punishment. Yet, He gives us His grace! How amazingly gracious He is! So, no matter how long and desperately and consistently we pray and ask anything, He is perfectly righteous with ignoring or refusing us together with our requests. No one can ever be grumble at, nor complain about it at all. But He gives us all things!

So, when we give thanks to our God, we must remember that He is the Giver, that all we have are from Him! Gaze at His gracious hand and say, ‘Oh, God, how gracious Giver You are!’

Once we focus on the Lord’s gracious giving hand, then, we’re led to see and realise God’s faithfulness and to thank Him based on His unchanging grace. Simply put, God has always been faithful to us in His grace. He has always been the gracious Giver, and realising this truth makes our appreciation richer and deeper. Consider that someone is gracious yet inconsistent, his ‘grace’ is rather an ‘arbitrary caprice’ than a ‘favour’ bestowed freely on others. But God is not like that; He’s the same always; He’s consistent, thus, reliable, and because of this, we should render to Him our deeper thanks.

Hannah grasped this and let us listen to her words in this prayer. She says in v. 4 and following something like this (if I may paraphrase her words): ‘God embarrasses the arrogant, but strengthens all who come to Him for help; while someone who is content with the things of this world has no comfort from above, all who seek God receive the Lord’s joy; and so on.’ Her heart rests on this truth and that adorns her thankful heart toward God.

In the flow of Hannah’s prayer, we could see a better picture of this. In the beginning, we sense a surprise and surge of emotion in her heart due to God’s grace bestowed on her. Then, her excitement becomes stable and is turned to an intellectual insight of God’s faithfulness. Then, such intellectual insight becomes an unmoveable and unalterable foundation on which her understanding of life and death stands. What I’m saying is that she talks about ‘broken bows of the mighty’ in v. 4 and ‘those ceased to hunger’ in v. 5. Then, she moves on to bigger things like life and death, Sheol and heaven in v. 6. In v. 8, it expands even further, and her subject is now inheritance of honour and God’s setting the pillars of the earth.

The point I want you to grasp is that our thanks to God cannot be occasional, corresponding to some good moments in our life. Rather, our thanks to Him must be ceaseless, one continuous flow of appreciation. When we realise that God is the gracious Giver, then, we must also know that He has always been the same gracious Giver throughout our life. So, we cannot thank Him, then, the next moment, complain. Rather, we must thank Him always, no matter what. For good things and bad things, we must give our thanks from our hearts to the Lord. Let me remind you of the word we read earlier today from Eph. 5; v. 20 says this: “[give] thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Why should we thank Him always? Rom. 8:32 answers: “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” Moreover, hear Eph. 1:3 and following and see what sort of preparation God did make for us: “God … who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as [the Father] chose us in [the Son Jesus] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love [God] predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

Can you measure the grace and blessing of God that is assigned to us, to you and to me, who believe and follow Jesus Christ? I cannot. Because this is too much for my human mind to grasp and comprehend. So is David as shown in his words in Ps. 23 where he says, “my cup overflows” because God’s blessing and grace and love are immeasurably great! The unknown author of Ps. 71, therefore, says, “O God, who is like You?” David agrees and says in Ps. 8:1, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!” The Apostle Paul of the NT is no different from these of the OT, saying in Rom. 11, this: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! … To Him be glory forever. Amen.”

So, our thanks to God must be ceaseless, continuing, never-ending, based on our understanding of the Lord’s faithfulness. He is the Giver who is gracious and faithful.

Once you understand these two important bases for your giving thanks to God, then, the last point is easy to grasp. We give thanks to God for His promise.

Coming back to the words of Hannah, we hear her praying in vs. 9-10, talking about God’s will for His beloved. God will ‘guard the feet of His faithful ones’ and ‘judge the ends of the earth, giving strength to His King and exalt the horn [or strength] of His Anointed.’ This concludes her prayer of thanks to the Lord God.

This ending is a truly amazing thing because Hannah represents all who are insignificant in this world, yet, great in the world to come. And she concludes her prayer of thanks with these words that depict the universal truth so clearly. Let me elaborate on this.

Firstly, Hannah was nobody under the OT Jewish culture and society. But the words she says here are absolutely amazing. In addition to its theological significance, she talks about the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. When she says, “[God] will give strength to His King and exalt the horn of His Anointed” in v. 10, this ‘Anointed’ is in Hebrew, ‘Messiah,’ and this is the first appearance of this word in the whole OT, therefore, the whole Bible. She was not a prophet, nor a teacher. But her heart is connected to God’s truly amazing plan for saving the sinners!

I say this not to exalt Hannah; I don’t mean she’s an extraordinary person with an extraordinary mind and understanding. No, not at all. My point is that Hannah – alongside all other faithful people of the Bible – represents us, the believers. By representing, she testifies that all believers who give thanks to God based on the previous two points will be blessed by the Lord and know His will, no matter whether we’re educated or not, no matter whether we’re clever or not. The Spirit of God will teach us all things of the Lord and His Son, our Messiah!

Knowing the Lord’s will, you and I could stand strong and firm in our hope, in our faith, in our joy, and nothing will be able to separate us from the love of our Lord Jesus! How could this be? Because we know the faithful God’s care for us in the past and in the present which will continue till the end of this age and further on to the eternity!

So, what is our conclusion? We must know, first, that God is the Giver of all grace; then, see that He has always been the same in His grace toward us. This will, at last, enable us to give thanks always to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Then, comes the very last verse of our text passage, v. 11 of 1 Sam. 2, which tells us that Hannah and her husband went back home and the boy Samuel remained in the presence of God. This is our joyful assignment; we need to thank the Lord, doing what God has assigned to each of us at home, at work, at school, in our society and the world! We live for the Lord every moment of our life, never ceasing to give thanks to God in Jesus’ name. Let us ask God to help us and enable us to thank Him always, till we see our Lord face to face! ***

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