The story of David is all about Israel’s search for identity, security, and happiness—a search that we share as well. Which is why David’s story opening with Hannah’s story might seem a bit disconnected. But it’s not.
Hannah’s is a story of a woman who is down on her luck, and every theme in David’s life is introduced through her story. We can break her story down into four categories: Hannah’s hurt, Hannah’s hope, Hannah’s praise, and Hannah’s promise.
1. Hannah’s Hurt
In 1 Samuel 1, we read that Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. (Side bar: God never intended for men to have multiple wives. Even though it happens a lot in the Old Testament, God never condones it.)
Peninnah had children. Hannah did not, and Peninnah used Hannah’s barrenness against her, shaming her for it. Verse 7 tells us that Hannah’s hurt was so deep that she wept and couldn’t even eat. By all cultural standards, she was severely insufficient, without value. Her heart was a tormented hurricane of unhappiness, frustration, and insecurity.
We might resonate with Hannah’s specific experience of infertility, or we might not. But we all experience this hurt; we all search for identity, security, and happiness.
2. Hannah’s Hope
If you’re casually reading the text, you might skip over the turning point in verse 9, “Hannah rose.” In Hebrew, this phrase indicates decisive action. Hannah stood up, resolved, and having made this choice,
… she vowed a vow and said, ‘O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.’ (v. 11 ESV)
This is called a “Nazarite vow,” meaning she pledged to give up her child to the Temple. In doing so, Hannah renounced everything she would have wanted a son for in the first place. This child would not grow up in her house: She wouldn’t get the emotional joy of having him around; he wouldn’t provide for her in her old age. She had given up the idea of having kids as a means of identity, security, and happiness.
When she was done praying, verse 18 says, “Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” This is fascinating: Hannah’s face was no longer sad. But what had happened? Externally, nothing at all. Hannah was still barren. But internally, something dramatic had happened: The hold that bearing children had on Hannah’s heart was broken. Her hope had been, “I will get pregnant.” But now Hannah had found a new hope; a new source of identity, security, and happiness.
The question is, where did she get that hope?
3. Hannah’s Praise
Hannah’s new hope was no longer in having children, but in God. In 1 Samuel 2:1–2, we read that Hannah prayed, saying, “My heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. There is none holy like the LORD: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.”
Here we find one of the most beautiful declarations of God’s sufficiency in the entire Bible: “There is no rock like our God.” Other “gods” might promise to be a bedrock of identity, security, or happiness. But they are only shifting sand (cf. Matthew 7:24–27). God alone is strong enough for us to build our lives upon.
Had Hannah gotten everything her heart desired, she might never have leaned the weight of her soul on God alone. But here, in her praise, we see her acknowledging that God is the better source for her identity, security, and happiness.
4. Hannah’s Promise
Hannah’s story has three parallels: Israel’s story, Jesus’ story, and our story. Just as Hannah looked to a son to give her identity, security, and happiness, Israel sought those in a king. (It didn’t end well.) Like Hannah, Mary had to give up all of the significance of having a child—since the birth of Jesus brought with it suspicion and shame. And every one of us is searching for identity, security, and happiness in something.
What is it for you? What rock are you building your life on?
Friend, Jesus is all you need for identity, security, and happiness. Your identity is found in being his child, doing his will, and hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant” one day. Your security is knowing that he holds you in his hand and that nothing and no one can ever remove you. And your happiness is found in doing his will and being assured he will never leave you or forsake you.