There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.
Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
~1 Samuel 1:1-8
Hannah’s story thrums my heart-strings. We all know women who have longed for a child. Is it you? Sometimes God fulfills that longing, but for others, and for reasons only God knows, the ending is not a happy one. Maybe it hasn’t been a child…maybe it’s been a husband, a home, a job, an answer. Longing for anything inherently good could never be bad, could it? Have you ever asked God in anguish, “Why is this taking so long?” If you ever have, or if you are right now, then you can empathize with Hannah.
Let’s pause for a minute to talk about the teeth clenching bit: two women, one man, extreme jealousy. Yes, it would be easy to talk for a very long time about the mean girl in this story, Peninnah. We read that, “Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. (1 Samuel 1:6-7) And how about Hannah’s aggravatingly clueless husband, Elkanah? What was Elkanah doing? Giving Hannah double the food (as if she could eat her feelings) and then asking her why she looked so sad.
God often works in ways that seem upside down and backwards to us. His ways sometimes seem entirely cruel. Can you step back a minute to see how God used Pinninah’s scorn to isolate Hannah and get her undivided attention? I love what Shauna Niequist says, “…there are some seasons in which the only way through is alone, a solitary path of listening and learning.” Because of Pinninah’s treatment of Hannah, exacerbated by her husband’s obliviousness, Hannah felt misunderstood and lonely…year after year! God moved Hannah to a point in her life where there was only one place for Hannah to look for comfort: up.
This week, as you delve more into Hannah’s story you will find:
In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” (1 Samuel 1:10-11)
And then God made a way…
Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”
(1 Samuel 1:19-20)
Here’s the amazing turn in the story: God gave Hannah Samuel. But Hannah has made a promise to God and she intends to keep it.
After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.
(1 Samuel 1:24-28)
I love that we are given access to Hannah’s prayer of praise. She pours out her heart after she gives her child over to God. After all that had happened…Then Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high.” (2 Samuel 2:1)
What does a woman of faith do in the face of overwhelming circumstances? What can I do?
- I can look up. In her prayer, Hannah says, “He will guard the feet of his faithful servants.” Hannah knew no person could help her. Often when we are caught in a seemingly hopeless circumstance we talk to our significant other, our trusted friend, our pastor or counselor when what we really need to do is to talk directly to God. Could God really make me feel lonely and misunderstood because he wants my full attention? He’s got me by the chin and he is turning my face to his. 1 Peter 5:7 says this: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (NIV) Your God will never leave you or forsake you. (Joshua 1:5 NIV)
- I can remember that God is my rock. Hannah says, “There is no one besides you; There is no Rock like our God.” Sisters, God is utterly dependable. Oswald Chambers wrote, “It is not our trust that keeps us, but the God in whom we trust who keeps us. We are always in danger of trusting in our trust, believing our belief, having faith in our faith. All these things can be shaken; we have to base our faith on those things which cannot be shaken.”
- I must rely on the fact that God is righteous. Hannah prays, “The Most High will thunder from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.” Hannah had faith and was the fully committed servant of a righteous God. Max Lucado says it so well in his book Traveling Light:
God is never wrong. He has never rendered a wrong decision, experienced the wrong attitude, taken the wrong path, said the wrong thing, or acted the wrong way. He is never too late or too early, too loud or too soft, too fast or two slow. He has always been and always will be right. He is righteous.
- I can remember that my worth to God is not based on what I accomplish. In the eyes of the world, Hannah’s worth was diminished because she could not produce a child. But remember, God does NOT count our value by what men esteem. Over and over and over again, God chose people. He created us in his image, mourned over his creation’s heinous mistakes, and redeemed us all through the death of his only son, Jesus. He did this not because of what we could do, but out of his great love for us. He is our Abba Daddy. “I’m absolutely convinced that nothing – nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable – absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” (Romans 8:39 MSG)
 Niequist, Shauna, Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic For a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living, p105
Like Hannah, you may be facing a seemingly hopeless situation. Today, breathe out your anxiety and remember who God is. God is always good, right and perfect. His way is the right way because he is always righteous. He is always on time and is never late, even when our emotions scream out to us otherwise. He loves you and has you by your right hand. He is clinging like gangbusters to you. Nothing can separate you from his love. Nothing.
God, thank you for who you are. Thank you for sending your son to make me right before you. I’m so grateful for what you have done, are doing, and will do in my life. Show me how to walk in Hannah’s footsteps. Show me how to relinquish control of whatever circumstances I am facing today. Yahweh, you will never leave me. You are the good shepherd who guides me, protects me, and always loves me. I can’t wait for the day when I can lay all this down and spend eternity praising you. I am so blessed to call myself your beloved daughter. Amen.
Read Hebrews chapters 11 and 12. They never fail to encourage me and I pray that they will do the same for you. Also, I highly recommend both of the books I quoted in this devotional: Shauna’s Present Over Perfect and Max Lucado’s Traveling Light: Releasing the Burdens You Were Never Intended to Bear. Keep reading. Keep praying. God will find a way.
Today’s post was written by Cindy Koopmans.
Cindy is married to her college sweetheart, Brian, for going on 38 years. She has three grown boys, two sweet daughters-in-law and a gorgeous little grand-man named Oliver Brian. Cindy teaches fifth grade at Sorrento Elementary and serves at the Mount Dora campus as their Worship Coordinator. Cindy’s passion is music, so her happy place is at the keyboard. She also enjoys reading (so many books, so little time), thrifting, and hanging out with Kramer the wonder Bichon. You can find her on Sunday mornings worshiping at our Real Life Mount Dora campus.
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