1 Samuel 2:1-10

Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory. There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.

The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.

He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail. The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered; the Most High will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed.” 1 Samuel 2:1-10

As this 2nd chapter opens, Hannah is praising God for hearing her prayers and blessing her with the birth of her son, Samuel. Now she has shown up to fulfill her promise. She will leave Samuel in the care of the priest, Eli. This is a profound moment and painful for our modern ears to hear.

After years of wanting a child, years of feeling “less than” her husband’s other wife, Hannah had prayed fervently for a child. Eventually her prayers took her to the place that we sometimes take ours – striking a deal with God. “Lord, if you give me a child, then I promise that I will offer him to your service.”

These are dangerous prayers. They turn God into Santa Claus as we bring our wish lists and promises to be good little boys and girls. The danger comes when we either get what was ask and then take back our promise or when we don’t get what we want and we come away resentful. Expectations are seeds for future resentment. Resentments damage relationships.

But Hannah bore no resentment. She is keeping her promise, handing her little boy over to the priest. Who could do that?

The truth is that people do that far more often than we realize. Birth parents hand newborns over to the care and keeping of adoptive parents. It is an act of the deepest self-giving love, as is the act of receiving an adoptive child.

This fall we sent Kelley’s daughter off to college. It is part of the letting go and moving on process of parenting. It isn’t easy. It is scary. And it is right. It is the way of things. It is what children and parents do. We’re sent off in God’s care and keeping, to fulfill the callings that God lays on our lives.

One of the dominant themes that runs throughout the entire Bible is how God turns everything we expect upside down. You can see that in the songs of Moses and Miriam after the children of Israel cross the Red Sea (Exodus 15), repeatedly in the Psalms and wisdom literature, in the song of Mary (Luke 1), the poetry of Revelations, and here today in the song of Hannah. These are all songs full of trust that God is in, with, and under all aspects of our lives. That God will provide, will bring about justice, and that no one will ultimately be left behind.

Even if that means upsetting the apple carts of our expectations of what that might all look like.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, we marvel at the faith of Hannah, how you sustained her throughout the painful years of her life, and how you blessed her with the birth of Samuel. She trusted you, opened her heart to you, and relied on you. Gift us with such faith, that we might see you at work, and that we might be about your work where you have planted us in the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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