Earlier this week, I said I might share a bit about waiting for Little Guy, with the proviso that I might chicken out. No, I haven’t gotten over the “chickening out” part, but it’s been on my mind. I truly believe that if we are real with each other, we can support and encourage each other, even if we aren’t going through the same things. So I’ve reviewed a devotional talk I gave a year ago – and broke it down into 2 parts. The first part talks about Hannah, and if you don’t know the story, you will see how it relates to me, and how it means to me now. Tomorrow I will tell you my story – I promise! It’s not that I have an incredible story or that I’m an extraordinary person – in fact, I’m quite the opposite – but I do serve an extraordinary God and I like to share His stories. Who wouldn’t like to be the heroine in an adventure, and frankly, if you look at it the right way, every day is an adventure.
Hannah struggled with an issue that is sadly not all that uncommon – infertility. In fact, there are a few women in the Bible who struggled with that issue. Each one handled her situation with a deep and abiding love for God, and with a constant, steadfast faith…with grace.
Let me start at the beginning in 1 Samuel. Elkanah had 2 wives – Hannah and Penninah. Penninah had children, but Hannah had none, and it’s likely that Elkanah married Penninah as a result of Hannah’s barrenness. It was vitally important in the Hebrew culture to have children to maintain the family inheritance and the family name. Hannah was in constant disgrace and anguish because of her infertility. To make it worse, Penninah cruelly taunted Hannah, constantly reminding her that God had not granted her children. The burden and stress made life almost unbearable.
Once a year Elkanah journeyed with his family, to Shiloh to serve in the tabernacle (which was part of his tribal lineage). They were a devout family. On the day that came for Elkanah to make an offering to God (a sacrifice in which the offerer roasted the sacrificial animal and ate a feast in God’s honour), Elkanah gave a portion to his family, but to Hannah, he always gave a double portion. This was a public honour that he regularly and deliberately bestowed on her in the presence of others at the feast. Elkanah loved her deeply even though “God had closed her womb”. His actions magnified Penninah’s jealousy and she would torment Hannah until Hannah wept bitterly and could not eat. Hannah longed to be a mother. For her, motherhood was the highest calling God could bestow on any woman.
Hannah was a devout woman with a deep and abiding love for God. Despite her agony, she never complained or grumbled against God or her husband for her childlessness. She understood that “children are an inheritance from the Lord” so she went to the temple and “In bitterness of soul (three words that speak volumes) Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord saying, “O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will remember him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head”. Then she continued to pray in her heart. Her desire for a child was not a mere craving for self-gratification but about self-sacrifice, to give herself to a little one so that she could give him back to God. Hannah remained faithful to God, a constant, steadfast faith, despite the disappointment and heartache.
She remained before God in a persistent and passionate prayer, so much so, that her intensity made her stand out in the temple. It was customary to pray aloud, but Hannah seemed to understand that God sees right into our hearts. The New Testament teaches that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when our prayers are mere groanings. Eli the priest noticed Hannah but didn’t recognize that she was praying and he scolded her for being drunk. Hannah answered with grace and humility, horrified by his suggestion. She explained that she had merely been pouring out her heart in sorrow, but did not explain the sorrow. Eli blessed Hannah and asked God to grant her petition. Hannah left the temple, no longer downcast. She had cast her whole burden on God and was confident that He would answer her in accord to what was best for her. She had no assurance that she would ever have a child, but chose instead to rest in a humble faith that acknowledged God’s sovereignty in her life.
It says in verse 19 “Elkanah lay with Hannah, his wife, and the Lord remembered her”. I used to wonder what that meant – if God knows everything and is always with us, how could He forget Hannah? To remember in the Bible is not merely to recall to mind; it is to express concern for someone, to act with loving care for him/her. When God remembers His people, He does so with favour. He remembers our faithfulness, for we are never forgotten. Hannah gave birth to Samuel, a towering figure in Israel’s history. He was a priest, one of the last judges, and the one who anointed David as King, and we know that Jesus lineage is traced back to King David. When God answered Hannah’s petition, her thankful soul responded with a pure, unbroken stream of praise.