"Eli answered, 'Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him." - 1 Samuel 17
Our theme for the month is God's faithfulness. In this week's lesson we are reminded there are many types of grief. Hannah experienced grief because she could not have children. A situation made worse by her home life. Elkanah loved Hannah very much but didn't understand the extent of her grief. In a beautiful demonstration of faithfulness, Hannah petitioned the Lord for a child. If blessed with a child, she vowed to dedicate him to the Lord.
The Man, His Wives
The narrative opens on a note of anguish. Hannah (grace) had no children. Barrenness deprived a woman of far more than the joy of having a child. It robbed her sense of worth at a time when women were expected to bear children for their husbands. Elkanah, her husband, also had a second wife named Peninnah (pearl). Hannah's situation was even more demeaning because Peninnah had borne children to her husband.
Our narrative belongs to a time before the provision of a permanent center of worship. The Ark was housed at Shiloh. There, once a year, Elkanah took his family to offer sacrifices. Peninnah, surrounded by sons and daughters, rubbed it in on Hannah. Apparently, the trips were the most painful event of the year for Hannah. The tension must have mounted each year as the drama built toward this climax. Elkanah's frustration is of a man who had done all in his power to help, only to be faced with an "unreasonable" response. He did not understand the depth of Hannah's grief.
The Prayer, The Promise
In the grief from her barrenness, Hannah felt her only hope was in God. Even if she had felt angry with God. We may be sure she prayed often, but on this occasion, she poured out her heart to the Lord in the sanctuary at Shiloh. Eli the priest accused Hannah of being drunk. The scripture says her lips moved, but she was not speaking out loud. The woman had not followed the normal practice of praying out loud, perhaps unwilling for others to know these exceedingly personal matters. The priest accordingly made a hasty judgment causing Hannah to protest. She did not choose to reveal the burden of her prayer to Eli. She did obtain his blessing and went away with a contented mind.
The Lord's Intervention, The Mother's Commitment
"In due time" Hannah became pregnant. Clearly, this was the result of God's action - the Lord remembered and did as she requested. His action was in and through the human birth process. Samuel was born. The name came from the Hebrew word "to ask." Hannah did not return with the family for the next yearly festival and probably not for the next two years. Elkanah went "to pay his vow. Hannah delayed time was to wean the child. When Hannah took Samuel, she also took a significant offering, a three-year old bull, flour, and wine. These were not meant to substitute for the child but to complete the vow with thanksgiving. Hannah fulfilled her vow. It demanded a great sacrifice. She dedicated Samuel to the Lord. Samuel became the last and greatest of the Judges in Israel. Samuel anointed the first two kinds of Israel, Saul and David.
PRAYER: Father, we see that "deep anguish" abounds every night in the news. It abounds everywhere. Empower each of us to bring your grace, peace, and hope to people around us who need comfort from Heaven amidst their brokenness. We pray in Jesus' Name. Amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: God listens to our prayers because He loves us.
Grace and Peace,
Kirk Greenfield is the pastor of Wallonia Baptist Church. He also works for the KY Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He, his wife, and three daughters reside in Princeton. He may be reached at email@example.com.