Hannah is childless. Her husband’s other wife, Peninnah, has several children — and Peninnah heartlessly throws that fact in Hannah’s face. On one of the family’s trips to the tabernacle for an annual festival, Hannah seeks God in his sanctuary and with desperate abandon pours out her heart to him. She pleads for a son, promising that she will dedicate the child to him. God hears her — and answers. Soon, Hannah gives birth to Samuel. His name means “God hears.”
Once Samuel is weaned, Hannah brings her God-miracle to the tabernacle, joyfully giving him back to God. Young Samuel stays with the high priest Eli at the tabernacle and grows up serving the Lord.
Eli’s two sons are immoral priests, stealing sacrificial meats and using God’s tabernacle as a site for sexual trysts. God informs Eli through a prophet that his sons are going to die.
Then the Lord calls to Samuel from inside the tabernacle. He tells Samuel that he is going to do something that will shock all of Israel. God will not tolerate evil in his holy home.
It is painfully difficult to watch the ones you love scorn you. For generations. That must have made Hannah’s prayer that much sweeter to the Lord. If he would give her a son, she would make sure that he would serve God and God alone, a God-pursuing life. And God could see Hannah’s heart. He knew she meant every word she prayed. From the heart of one of God’s daughters came a prayer directly after his.
He must have been elated the day Hannah dedicated Samuel to him. Lesser women would have attempted to use him simply to get their prayers answered, to get a son. But not Hannah. The sheer joy that spills out in her prayer of praise — as she is leaving her miracle son behind for good — reveals her sweet motives. God heard her prayers and answered her. And she is overjoyed to give Samuel back to him.
The Lord didn’t just give Hannah the gift of Samuel. He gave her three more sons and two daughters. The woman whose heart was overwhelmed with love for God was again overwhelmed with his goodness to her.
And God didn’t just make Samuel any old servant of his. He made him a prophet and Israel’s last judge — a great man who changed the course of the nation.
Hannah’s prayer of praise is very similar to Mary’s prayer of praise after Gabriel told her she was going to give birth to Jesus (see Luke 1:46 – 55). The gracious God had been lavishly good to both Hannah and Mary, and they couldn’t help but praise him.