The Lord brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.
1 Samuel 2: 6 from the Song of Hannah
Hannah’s prayer describes the Lord in all His paradox of reversals: the strong are broken and those who stumble strengthened, the satisfied end up working for food and the hungry become filled, the barren woman bears children while the mother of many pines away, the poor and needy are lifted up to sit with princes.
He humbles and exalts–we have read the stories of how the Lord uses such reversals to instruct His people.
Yet nothing Hannah says is as radical and unprecedented as being brought down to the grave and then raised up, the Lord causing death and making alive. This makes no sense. Once in the grave, there is no escape. Death cannot be reversed like the weak becoming strong, the hungry filled, the barren fertile, the poor enriched.
Hannah sings that this will indeed happen, just as the other reversals happened. It would take centuries, but her prayer is fulfilled in the child born to Mary, who lives and dies and lives again in the greatest reversal of all.
There can be no greater mystery than a God who chooses to walk the earth as a man among the poor, the needy, the helpless, the sick, the blind, the lame, the wicked, the barren, the hungry, the weak. There can be no greater reversal than God Himself dying–put away down into the grave– and then rising up, glorious, in the ultimate defeat of darkness and death.
Hannah already knew this as a barren woman made full through the blessing of the Lord, choosing to empty herself by giving her son back to God.
Mary knew this as a virgin overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, choosing to empty herself by bearing, raising and giving her Son back to the Father.
We know this too. We are the weak, the hungry, the poor, the dying filled completely through the love and sacrifice of the Triune God, and so give ourselves up to Him.
From down to up. It can be done. And He has done it.