The God who Makes a New Beginning Some Reflections on Hannah’s Song (1 Samuel 2:1-10)
I’m sure most of us will know people whose lives are just a mess. Often, they started out O.K. A good upbringing in a solid Christian home. A good education in a reliable Christian school. A good marriage to a loving wife or a caring husband. A good job with perspective for the future. A good church where the members were a hand and a foot to each other.
But then, things slowly but surely began to go wrong. Their membership of the church began to wane and slip. Their performance at work began to do the same. Their lives together as husband and wife began to become unloving and uncaring.
And so, the slide continued. From bad to worse. One couple ended up with a divorce. The other with a drinking problem. The third lost his job. And the fourth broke with their church.
If only they could make a new beginning! If only they could start their lives all over! If only they could enjoy the peace and contentment they once had savoured and enjoyed!
Our meditation also speaks about life being a mess. Yet, it also speaks about a new beginning. More precisely, it speaks about the God who makes this new beginning.
A New Beginning in Hannah’s Life
Our meditation contains Hannah’s song. Hannah’s song which at the same time is Hannah’s prayer. In this prayerful song, Hannah speaks about someone talking proudly, someone whose mouth speaks forth arrogance. She speaks about those who are strong and full and about one who has many sons.
This refers, of course, in the first place to Peninnah. She was the one who had many sons. She was the one who was strong and full of life. She was the one whose mouth spoke with arrogance and who had talked so very proudly to Hannah.
This was a miserable situation in Hannah’s life. Yet, this was a situation the LORD had put an end to! He had made a new beginning in Hannah’s life. A new beginning in which He had put an end to Peninnah’s arrogant talk. The LORD did not take the side of the strong and self-sufficient. He did not support the proud and arrogant. The LORD did not sustain the do-it-yourselfers. But He had humbled them. He had brought them low. He had broken the bows of the warriors. He had those armed with strength stumble. He had those who were full go hungry. And He had the one who had many sons pine away.
While the hungry hunger no more. While she who was barren had born seven children. The LORD raises up and makes alive. He sends wealth and exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap. He seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honour.
This is the type of God Hannah has! A God who breaks through all the thoughts and schemes of human planning and self-sufficiency. A God who humbles the proud and opposes the arrogant. A God who breaks the strong and has them stumble, because He does not want His people to live by their own strength. He does not want them to glory in their own might. He does not want them to live their lives in self-vindication, self-justification, and self-glorification. But He wants them to be humble. He wants them to trust. He wants them to know themselves to be small before Him, the LORD God Almighty.
That is what Hannah sings about. The God who had made a new beginning by humbling the proud and exalting the humble. And that applies, in the first place, to her own personal situation in the family of Elkanah. A situation where she was provoked and irritated and where life was being made a sheer hell for her by a fellow-sister of the church. Why, even by a fellow member of her own family by marriage.
A New Beginning in the History of the Church
Yet, this is not the only thing Hannah sings about. Hannah’s song, Hannah’s prayer is not just a hymn of praise and adoration to the God who had made a new beginning in her life. It is also a hymn of praise and adoration to the God who had done this before in the history of His people. You see, Hannah is no individualist, but knows herself to be part of the communion of saints. She knows herself to be a member of the church of all ages which has a history that goes back to the very beginning of the origin of mankind.
How often had God not made a new beginning in the history of His church by humbling the proud and exalting the humble! Think of the proud and arrogant in the Garden of Eden. Think of how God had humbled Adam and Eve after their arrogant defiance of His holy will. Yet, think also of how God had exalted them by continuing His covenant with them and promising them a Saviour who would one day bruise the head of that arrogant devil. Think of how God had humbled the proud and arrogant with the waters of the flood, but had exalted the humble by saving Noah and his family through the waters of the flood. Think of how God had humbled the proud and arrogant Pharaoh and all his host in the waters of the Red Sea, but had exalted His people Israel by leading them through these waters of the Red Sea.
Each of these times, we see the LORD God Almighty making a new beginning. A new beginning by humbling the proud and self-sufficient and exalting the humble and dependent. He did the same when He led His people into the land of Canaan. He humbled the Canaanites, but exalted His own people Israel.
Yet, what had happened to the Canaanites would also happen to His own people if they followed in the footsteps of the Canaanites. If they started to serve their gods and reject God’s holy covenant. Then they, too, would be humbled and rejected. Then, they too, would be destroyed and brought low.
The Song of Moses
Prophetically, Moses already saw that this would happen. And so, inspired by the Spirit of the living God, he composed a song that would be used to instruct the people of God about this (Deuteronomy 32:1-43).
First, he sings about how the LORD led His people safely into the land of Canaan (vv. 1-14).
Then he sings about how Israel grew fat and kicked. How she, filled with food, became heavy and sleek and abandoned the God who made her and rejected the Rock who was her Saviour (vv. 15-18).
Then Moses sings about how the LORD would come with His punishment upon all this covenant apostacy and covenant unfaithfulness (vv. 19-25).
Finally, he sings about a return to the LORD and the new beginning given by the LORD (vv. 26-43).
This is the situation at the end of the time of the judges. This is the situation surrounding the birth of Samuel. Hannah knows this. She knows how the people of God had grown fat and kicked, how they had abandoned the God who had made them. She knows how the LORD had come with His covenant wrath, with His threats and curses. Enemies had arisen against them. People who were not people and nations who had no understanding. The land and the harvest had been devoured and the LORD’s arrows were spent against them. Hannah is very acutely aware of all of this. And she knows that it is a fulfilment of what Moses had already prophetically sung about.
Yet, Hannah also knows more. She also knows about the promised deliverance. She also knows about the new beginning the LORD is able to make. Not only for herself, but also for her people. For the church of the living God.
That is what she is also singing about. For her song is clearly patterned after the song of Moses. A new beginning God had made for her, yes. But also a new beginning God would make for His people. The arrogant mouths would be stopped. The bows of the warriors would be broken. Those armed with strength would stumble. Those who oppose the LORD would be shattered. He would thunder against them from heaven. The enemies of God’s people would be defeated. The adversaries of the church would be brought low. Also, those Philistines who were oppressing the people of God from the outside as well as Hophni and Phinehas who were destroying the church from the inside out.
Hannah sees even more! She also prophetically looks ahead and sees a king.
He will give strength to His king and exalt the horn of His anointed.1 Samuel 2:10.
Not only her horn would be exalted. Not only did she receive strength. Also, God’s king would receive strength. Also, His horn would be exalted.
Here we see Hannah prophetically anticipating the promised king. Jacob had already prophesied about a king. Balaam had done the same. While Moses had already laid down the law concerning a king in the book of Deuteronomy. Now Hannah, inspired by the Holy Spirit, also prophecies about a king.
This prophecy about a king was, of course, first fulfilled in king Saul. But even more in King David. The true theocratic king. The king after God’s heart. The king who would judge the people in righteousness, the afflicted with justice. The king who would defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy. The king who would give room to those who were hemmed in and oppressed from all sides. Room to those who cannot help themselves and give them room to live and breathe again, (Psalm 72).
This theocratic King David, too, sings a song. As a matter of fact, this King David sings many songs. But he also sings a song that is much like the one Hannah sang. You will find it in 2 Samuel 22. You will also find most of it in Psalm 18. This song summarizes much of what the LORD had done in between the time of Hannah’s song and David’s own song as an accomplishment of what Hannah had sung about. David, too, sings about the LORD being his Rock and Deliverer. He, too, sings about the horn of his salvation, the lordship of God over all of creation, His saving of the poor and oppressed, His strengthening of the faithful and the establishment of His anointed king.
You see, David, too, knew about the God who makes a new beginning! He, too, knew about the style of God’s new beginning: the humbling of the proud and the exalting of the humble. How the proud Goliath had been brought low! How the arrogant Philistines had been brought low as well! How the proud Saul had been humbled! How his boastful daughter Michal had been humbled as well! And how the vain and triumphant Absalom had been destroyed and brought to nought! Yet, how through all of this the LORD had given strength to His king! How the LORD had exalted the horn of His anointed! This is and remains the style of God’s new beginning. The proud are humbled and the humble are exalted.
That is why it should not surprise us that we see this same style of God’s new beginning with the mother of David’s great Son, the Virgin Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. Also she sings her song. Also she sings her magnificat,
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant ... He has performed mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.Luke 1:46-56
How the virgin Mary understood, just like Hannah understood, the style of God’s new beginning! For we clearly see that she patterns her song after that of Hannah’s song. The God Moses had sung about, the God Hannah had sung about, the God David had sung about, the God Mary sings about is the same God. The God who makes a new beginning. The God who reverses the roles of human expectations. The God who stands up and comes to the rescue of His people when they are stuck in the mud of their own sinful disobedience.
My, how God’s people were stuck in the mud of their own sinful disobedience at the time of the Saviour’s birth! How their lives were one big mess! Totally depraved. Totally helpless. Totally unable to save themselves. In total need of a total Saviour.
How the God who makes a new beginning understood this! How the God who makes a new beginning stood up and came to the rescue! How the God who makes a new beginning made a new beginning! A holy conception and birth through the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary!
A New Beginning with the Lord Jesus Christ
How this Saviour who was sinlessly conceived and born, how this Saviour who grew up and became a man also made a new beginning! He lived the life we had to live. And He died the death we had to die. He humbled the proud and arrogant devil. And, in doing so, He reconciled us to the Father again.
A new beginning had been made! Satisfaction had been achieved once and for all. Righteousness had been obtained. Holiness had been accomplished. Something none of His predecessors had ever accomplished.
There is now a new beginning for all of God’s chosen people. A new beginning that has to be accepted in a true and childlike faith.
This is the answer for all those whose lives are one big mess. One big deplorable mess because of their own sinful disobedience. If only you could start over! If only you could make a new beginning!
Well, the good news is, you can make a new beginning! You can start all over again! All you have to do is go to the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of all your sins. You do not have to be self-sufficient. You do not have to be self-reliant. You do not have to be a do-it-yourselfer. The Lord Jesus Christ has done it all for you. He has made the new beginning. All you have to do is accept this new beginning in true faith.
And this counts not only for those whose lives are one big mess. This also counts for all of God’s people. Also you and me. For every day, we transgress God’s good and perfect commandments. Every day, we fall short of the mark of perfection. Every day, we all need to make a new beginning. A new beginning with our Lord Jesus Christ who made a new beginning for all of His people once and for all.
The Day of Judgment
Let us then do this. For there is so much at stake. Not only for our lives today. But also for our lives tomorrow. And for our lives in the life to come. For as our Lord Jesus Christ came into this world to make a new beginning for all of His people, so He will one day come again to make another new beginning for all of His people. And as the style of His first new beginning was one that reversed the orders and expectations of this world, so the style of His second new beginning will also reverse the style and order of this world.
Also then, the proud will be humbled and the humble will be exalted. The proud and arrogant devil will be thrown into the lake of burning sulphur. The proud and arrogant beast and his false prophet will also be thrown into this lake. While outside the city of the new Jerusalem will be the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral and the like. All those who were proudly and arrogantly a law unto themselves and did not humbly want to submit to the good and wholesome law of God. Yet inside the city, inside the new Jerusalem, will be the humble and the meek. Inside the new Jerusalem will be all those who did not trust in their own strength and sufficiency, but in the strength and sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ.