The Magnificat of the Old Testament

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Some Bible teachers have called Hannah’s song of praise in 1 Samuel 2 “The Magnificat of the Old Testament” because of its parallels to the Magnificat of the New Testament (Mary’s song in Luke 1:46-55). If you recall, God had closed Hannah’s womb (1 Samuel 1:5) until the time was right, and then she gave birth to baby Samuel.

She broke into beautiful singing, and I want to point out a few God-revelations we can find in her hymn of gramercy, her song of thanksgiving.

Abba God delivers us from our enemies.

“My heart,” sang Hannah, “rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in Your deliverance” (1 Samuel 2:1). I like how The Message translation puts it—just listen this joy! “I’m bursting with God-news! I’m walking on air. I’m laughing at my rivals. I’m dancing my salvation.”

God the Kind finds gratification, immense joy, in rescuing us when we are in trouble! Isn’t that incredible? He doesn’t save us begrudgingly or step in due to obligation. He’s not crossing His arms, rolling His eyes, or sighing exasperatedly. Oh, contraire mon frère! God is enthusiastic about saving us from our enemies! Hallelujah!

You may interject, “But I don’t have any enemies.”

The invisible world is more heavily populated than you think. And remember, our struggle is not against people but against demonic forces (Ephesians 6:12)! Our crafty adversary has forged weapons against humanity called Anxiety, Greed, Depression, Poverty, Cancer, Fear, Divorce, Unforgiveness, Sexual Confusion—he has studied you your whole life long and knows exactly which weapon to use for your destruction.

I’m not sure that when she sang her song, Hannah had many enemies to speak of or had extensive knowledge of spiritual warfare, but regardless, she hit the nail on the head. We will triumph over every attack the enemy throws at us! There’s no strategy Satan has devised that will succeed over us (Isaiah 54:17)! We are able to join with Hannah, confidently opening our mouths to declare, “I’m laughing at my rivals! I’m dancing my salvation!”

Abba God knows us thoroughly.

Hannah continued, “Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak with arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows, and by Him deeds are weighed” (verse 3).

This stanza lends itself to so many truths, but recently when I read it, “for the Lord is a God who knows” nearly jumped off the page into my heart.

Have you been wronged? Have you felt disoriented? Have you been cheated? Has your heart been broken? Have you been misunderstood? Have you been betrayed? Have you suffered loss? Friends, I pray that you draw deep comfort—like I have—from this reality: God knows. Yes, God knows. He sees clear into your heart. Where you may have had difficulty articulating, or even acknowledging, the ocean of your pain or grief, God understands.

It’s an immeasurable repose for my soul to know that when I bring my heart in prayer before the One I love, I don’t need to explain myself or defend myself. The same is true for you, too. We can let our defenses down in front of Him, our warmhearted Friend, and allow Him to know us.

Abba God shows favoritism to the poor in spirit.

“The Lord 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 honor,” sang Hannah (verse 8).

This sort of action is something I’ve only ever seen in the Kingdom! It’s just not done to invite a homeless man to a private, black tie Christmas banquet, or to fly an orphaned child from a third-world nation in a private jet to meet a prince—except in God’s Kingdom.

Friend, you and I don’t deserve the favoritism He cascades on us. Perhaps it feels even embarrassingly extravagant and lush, but that’s the way our generous Father loves to operate. When He sees a heart that is genuinely humble, He is quick to open doors of breathtaking opportunity. When He sees an attitude that is authentically others-oriented, He rushes to seat that person around tables far beyond her qualification. 

Now, as much as I’d like to think this goes without saying, I’ve learned over the years that it often does not. God exalts the humble. We all love and look forward to those moments when God blesses us with wonderful relationships, positions, things, and experiences, but the cost is true humility. For His own reasons, God is less interested in favoring a self-made man or kissing the head of a self-sufficient woman. It’s the poor God lifts up. It’s those who are submitted to authority, those who give gentle answers to angry questions, those who defer to the preferences of others. If you want God to “seat you at a table with princes” and if you want to “inherit a throne of honor,” then you must become poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3) and humble of heart.

Abba God protects His children.

Hannah’s song continues, “The Lord will guard the feet of His saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness. It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be shattered. He will thunder against them from Heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to His king and exalt the horn of His anointed” (verses 9-10).

Did you catch that? What a fearsome reality it must be for the person, or demonic enemy, who picks a fight with one of God’s beloved! Not only does God pay careful attention to the everyday goings-on of you and me, but—if we will let Him—He guards us from spiritual assaults, shields us from flaming arrows of accusation, patrols against demonic curses, and protects our bodies and minds. And He takes it a step further still: He aggressively hunts down and wipes out the one who would dare lift a finger against us, His treasures!

Yes, the tender mercies of God endlessly flood toward His creation with all the raging force of Niagara Falls—but what a dreadful thing to oppose God by speaking out against one of His adored. Like Hannah’s song tells us, “those who oppose the Lord will be shattered.” Shattered! The Message translation puts it this way: “God’s enemies will be blasted out of the sky, crashed in a heap and burned!”

Friends, when opposition comes, when the doctor delivers an unfortunate report, when you are making a major decision, and in all other spheres of your life, God protects you. He finds your value important enough to His joy that He commands angels to keep guard all around you night and day (Psalm 91:11) and watch over your coming and going throughout eternity (Psalm 121:8).

Also, on an unrelated but intriguing note, Hannah is the first person in the whole of Scripture who explicitly makes a reference to God’s “Anointed” (verse 10), which ultimately points to Jesus Christ. As you know, the Greek rendering of this Hebrew term is Christos, from which we derive the English word “Christ.” And the fact that Hannah would prophetically ask God to bless the “king” when no monarchy would be established among the Jewish people for years to come is beyond fascinating. The notes in my NIV 1984 Study Bible say, “Hannah’s prophetic anticipation of a king at the time of the dedication of her son Samuel, who was to be God’s agent for establishing kingship in Israel, is entirely appropriate.” Just a quick fun fact for your reading pleasure!

Yes, there is much to be learned about the nature of God and His kind-hearted nature toward us, the love of His life, from “The Magnificat of the Old Testament.” I pray that His Word draws you deeper still to His affection, and that you live from the revelation of who He is.

As Hannah’s first stanza rings out, “My heart rejoices in the Lord!”

Amen! Rejoice in the Lord today, because He is exceedingly marvelous!