Check out the opening post in this series, The Gospel and Old Testament, here.
The first chapters of I Samuel open with the story of a character, Hannah, whose role in the Old Testament quickly flames out. If you read the Old Testament as separate stories with various moral lessons, there’s not a lot to draw out of these seven chapters (unless you are infertile). But I submit that the value of these chapters, while encouraging to me when I struggled to get pregnant, goes way beyond such a simplistic application. Hannah’s infertility is important not just to other infertile women, but to all women because of its crucial role in setting up the true kingship of Jesus.
If you work backwards from Jesus, you can see this. Jesus’ earthly kingship flowed from His place in the line of King David. The New Testament is clear about this with the detailed genealogies of Jesus given in Matthew and Luke. Jesus was the Son of David. But before you get to KING David, the greatest earthly king in Jewish history, you have boy David, the lowly youngest son, a mere shepherd. How do we get from lowly shepherd David with no claim to the throne to King David through whose loins flow the Seed of Israel?
Samuel is the conduit of God’s authority over David. Samuel was the spokesman for God, the vessel by which David moved from lowly shepherd to king under God’s authority.
1 SAMUEL 16:1 The LORD said to Samuel, “ How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”
Why did Samuel have this kind of authority? Before we get to this moment in I Samuel 16, we have the story in I Samuel 1-7 of how Samuel came to be the prophet of God, the one through whom God said, “David is king.” Jewish readers of their day recognized the importance of the first few chapters of I Samuel for this very purpose.
A barren woman cries tears of grief and supplication. God hears her and brings her a son which she in turn promises to return to service to the Lord. She does return him to the Lord as promised, and he grows up in the house of the Lord, in service to the priest Eli, becoming a prophet recognized by the children of Israel.
I Samuel 3:19-20 And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord.
While there is the particular good news to Hannah of a God who sees and hears the cries of a lowly, sorrowful woman marginalized in her culture to give her the child for which she longs, there is also the global good news that He uses her and her child for His eternal purposes for the salvation of many. Hannah’s story speaks to a God who sees us in small, private moments. It also speaks of a God who was careful to record the line of the Messiah for His children, so that, like Simeon and Anna in Luke 2, we might recognize Jesus as the one long foretold and worship Him accordingly.