I recently read the story of Hannah in the Bible. 1 Samuel 1:1-28.
It really is a beautiful story and I have been thinking about what it would be like to have a heart like Hannah’s.
In 1 Samuel we read about Elkanah who has 2 wives. One, Peninnah, “who had given him sons and daughters” and Hannah who was childless.
Can you imagine Hannah’s hurt? It would be difficult enough “sharing” a husband, but then being unable to get pregnant while the other wife seems to be an endless supplier of children.
I have shared before that we had struggles with infertility and there were times that we were trying month after month with no “result”. I had some women in my life at that time that got pregnant either by accident or literally on their “first try”. It was something I shouldn’t have taken personally, but honestly at the time I felt like they got pregnant “at” me. (I never said I didn’t have issues!) 🙂
So I can empathize with how Hannah must have felt here and understand that her feelings were probably magnified even more seeing the success that wife #2 was having.
Elkanah was a faithful man and every year he would go and offer sacrifices at Shiloh. And he loved Hannah offering her a double portion of the sacrificial meat over his other wife. (May I just say that I love that about this man….how he loves Hannah so much,even in spite of her inability to bear him a child)
Maybe Peninnah is jealous about this….we don’t really know, but what we do know is that she tormented Hannah. Verse 6 says “Peninnah used to infuriate Hannah until Hannah trembled with irritation because the Eternal had not given Hannah children.”
Talk about adding salt to the wound. Hannah doesn’t need anyone to point out the obvious here and yet Peninnah pushes that button, year after year. So much so that Hannah won’t eat.
One day Hannah goes and “presented herself before the Lord”. In Verse 11 we hear Hannah’s prayer. “Eternal One, Commander of heavenly armies, if only You will look down at the misery of Your servant and remember me—oh, don’t forget me!—and give Your servant a son, then I promise I will devote the boy to Your service as a Nazirite all the days of his life. [He will never touch wine or other strong drink,][a] and no razor will ever cut his hair.”
Haven’t we all been there? Desperate and crying out to God, maybe even making promises in return for what we are asking??
The priest Eli hears Hannah and thinks she is drunk because he sees her lips moving but doesn’t hear anything. (Does this strike you just the tiniest bit funny too??) and he goes to her and tells her to basically stop making a fool of herself!
But Hannah has such a humble response…. Verse 15: “My lord, I am not drunk on wine or any strong drink; I am just a woman with a wounded spirit. I have been pouring out the pain in my soul before the Eternal One. 16 Please don’t consider your servant some worthless woman just because I have been speaking for so long out of worry and exasperation.”
A woman with a wounded spirit, pouring out her soul and pain to the Eternal One.
Have you ever found yourself here friend? I have.
Eli tells her to stop worrying and may God fulfill her request and Hannah’s spirits are lifted.
Here’s where the story gets even better!!
Verse 19: “The next morning, they rose early to worship the Eternal One. Then they went back to their home at Ramah, and Elkanah slept with Hannah his wife. The Eternal remembered her petition; and in the new year, Hannah became pregnant. When her son was born, she named him Samuel, which means “His name is El (God),” because she said, I asked the Eternal One for him.”
God heard her request and she is pregnant. I can imagine the joy in her heart!! So my first thought when I had gotten this far in the story was did she follow through with her promise?
The year goes by and it is time to go again to Shiloh to offer sacrifices but Hannah stays behind with Samuel. She tells her husband “When the child can eat solid food, I will bring him so that he can appear in the presence of the Eternal One and remain there continually.”
Did you catch that? Remain there continually!! Here is a woman tormented because she was unable to bear children and for years remained barren. God answers her prayers and she is faithful…but her faith will cost her something won’t it?
Can you imagine giving up your finally, firstborn son to a priest to be raised in the presence of God? An honor yes…but her mother’s heart must have hurt a little having to let him go.
And it says that once Samuel was weaned she brought him to the priest Eli and says “My lord, I swear I am the woman who was praying to the Eternal One in front of you. 27 It was this child I prayed for, and the Eternal has indeed granted me the petition I made.28 So, as I vowed, I will lend him back to the Eternal. For as long as he lives, let him serve our Eternal One. And she left Samuel there with Eli to serve the Eternal One.”
And she left Samuel there….
I am just amazed at Hannah’s faith and her choice to honor God, because He honored her request. Even if it hurt her to let her son go…she made the choice to “give back” the gift that was God’s in the first place.
Oh how I want to have a heart like Hannah’s. To have faith in spite of many difficult seasons. To believe that God can and will honor a faithful request and then to continue to honor Him by letting go of what is most important for a bigger purpose.
Without getting into all of it, here is a foreshadowing of Samuel’s future….1 Samuel 4:1 “And all of Israel was influenced by Samuel’s words.” Oh and Hannah?? God continued to be faithful to her as well and she gave birth to 3 sons and 2 daughters!
Imagine how things might have been different for Hannah, for the nation of Israel had Hannah not been faithful? These passages are encouragement to me to stay the course and to faithfully follow what God is asking of me….even if it is hard, because there may be a greater purpose or plan that isn’t revealed to me yet.
I don’t know what “season” you find yourself in tonight – but my prayer is that you too will seek to have Hannah’s servant heart, to continue to bring your requests to God and to be willing to stay the course. I am praying this for each of you!!