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By: Larry Shaffer
I hope to publish a book later this year. The next few days I’m going to post the first three lessons in the book. This is a draft and it hasn’t been edited yet for printing. The title I’m considering is:
Things I have learned from
in the Bible
Pain and Triumph
Now there was a certain man…and his name was Elkanah…He had two wives; the name of one was Hannah and the name of the other Penninnah; and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
…When the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and her daughters; but to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, but the Lord had closed her womb.
…She (Hannah), greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. She made a vow and said, ‘O Lord of Hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life’…
Now it came about, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli (the priest) was watching her mouth. As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving…Then Eli said to her, ‘how long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.’ But Hannah replied, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord.’ I Samuel 1:1-15
A monumental story of promise and fulfillment
Who really keeps promises now-a-days? I mean, really? Who do you trust to do what they say they will do over the long-term? When it’s not convenient? When the situation changes and obligations falter? Hopefully, you have a few of these people in your life. They are precious and few!
Who keeps their word when no one else is watching or no one else will know? In the book of I Samuel, God makes promises to both Saul and David. He keeps them, and He keeps them forever. Through all the drama of intrigue, deception, defiance and selfishness that we find in this book, God keeps his promises to both Saul and David. For Saul, the promises are not so fun. For David, they are blessings beyond the wildest dreams of the wildest dreamer.
But before God’s word takes us through the lives of Saul and David, the opening chapter of I Samuel introduces us to a most amazing woman, Hannah. Hannah is a faithful servant of God who keeps her promises.
I really love is the story of Hannah. When it comes to character, integrity, grit and passion, Hannah blows away the other main “characters” of I Samuel. She is simply awesome!
The key characters involved in the story of Hannah are:
Chapter 1 provides the backdrop of Samuel’s birth. His mother, Hannah, was greatly loved by her husband, Elkanah. You would love her too. She is a treasure. But God closed her womb, so Elkanah married another woman named Peninnah. Seems like a boneheaded decision to me. Yes, in an agrarian society, men needed children to thrive and sometimes, just to survive. Nevertheless, this was a faithless and stupid decision.
The second wife was not nice. She becomes bitter, insecure and jealous of Hannah. The fact that Elkanah only married her for her body (to have baby sons) didn’t endear him to Peninnah. She had many children and that pleased her husband, but Peninnah could tell that Elkanah was utterly head over heels for Hannah. He loved Hannah greatly.
So, wife #2 would ridicule Hannah for being barren. Not exactly the Cleaver household (Leave it to Beaver-check it out on Netflix if you’re too young to remember!). This was terribly painful to Hannah but the text states clearly that God had closed Hannah’s womb. God was behind it all and He had a plan.
As is often the case today, God’s plan involves causing certain pain and distress while He teaches and develops His servant. The intended outcome is a stronger yet humbler follower of God. Some say that God only brings about “good things” and Satan and/or natural circumstances cause pain and distress. We will see in study of Amazing Women that God is clearly the architect of all that happens, and He uses both pain and joy to accomplish His purposes and develop the character of His servants.
Some people don’t like that last sentence and they have told me so. They feel that God only does good and everything bad that happens to us is from Satan. God uses and even causes pain to accomplish His good purposes in our lives. There is purpose in pain. If you’re hurting, I hope you believe that.
Hannah is a shining star
In that light, we can learn much from Hannah about prayer and petition. She went into the temple, wept and poured her heart out before the Lord with a request for a son. In her prayers, she committed to dedicating her son to the Lord. She was so demonstrative in her prayer that the priest, Eli, thought she was drunk. She assured Eli she wasn’t drunk and told him of her plight and her petition to God. Eli blessed her and prayed for her.
Shortly thereafter, Hannah become pregnant with Samuel, meaning “heard by God.” Samuel was born under God’s sovereign circumstances whereby Hannah’s faith was fortified through her pain. Hannah was now prepared to give her son fully back to God. This may be what many mothers aspire to (dedicate their children to God) but it is not at all easy. Nevertheless, Hannah kept her promise.
This level of dedication on Hannah’s part would not have happened if she had easily conceived early in her marriage. To Hannah, when she was barren, it seemed that God was far from her. The reality was that the opposite was true. God was near, and God was working out his plan. God was forging Hannah’s character and preparing her for a blessing of great magnitude. There is purpose in pain.
How then should I live?
If only we would believe that God is doing the same in our lives when it seems that He has abandoned us. Jesus said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. There’s much to learn from Hannah about trust and faith in a sovereign God, even when He seems far away.
There’s also much we can learn from Hannah and her passionate prayer. Yes, God may allow us to go through pain. But that doesn’t mean we just take it lying down. Hannah went to God and prayed for His physical blessings upon her and she wouldn’t let go. God cares about our spiritual state, yes, but He cares about every other aspect of our lives as well. Let’s learn from Hannah regarding her passionate and relenting prayers to God to make things good and right in her life.
Teach me Lord! Amen