Thursday

11 December 2014

“My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God.” (v. 1)

Psalm: Psalm 103


Background

Hannah's prayer is really a song of praise and would no doubt have been sung. In fact we might describe it as a psalm. She begins by pronouncing her sense of exaltation in God (verse 2). There is a sense of great vindication for Hannah especially over her rival Peninnah who she probably has in mind when she speaks of those who are proud and speak arrogantly (verse 3).

But the song also describes the ways of God which are not just about Hannah's individual situation. Instead she sees a world in which God reverses the fortunes of those who are rich and poor, and those who are strong and weak (verses 4-5). There is a sense of justice here, but also an understanding that God lifts people up and brings people down. As it says in verse 6: "The Lord kills and brings to life".

Throughout this song there is a great sense of the strength and justice of God who can be depended upon. Hannah finds her strength in God who is described as a rock in verse 2. The pillars of the earth described in verse 8 belong to God, and it is God who will judge the earth in verse 10. This God also guards those who are faithful and shatters his enemies and ultimately gives strength to the anointed king. This king was of course yet to come.

1 and 2 Samuel were originally one book. Given this, just as this book begins with a song of praise it also ends with one in 2 Samuel 22, when David sings his own prayer of thanksgiving. And if we return again to the birth narrative in Luke's Gospel and read the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), we can also see some common themes and a very similar genre. Mary magnifies the Lord because of what God is doing in her life and she also speaks about humility and the same reversal of fortunes found in Hannah's song. There are also some similarities with the Benedictus sung by Zechariah at the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:68-79).


To Ponder

  • For Hannah and Mary, justice is lifting up the humble, poor and lowly, and bringing down the proud, rich and strong. Is this justice? Why?
  • Hannah's world has been expanded from a concern about not having a child to something far bigger. What are your immediate concerns and what might be their wider perspective?

 
Bible notes author:  The Revd Jonathan Mead 

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