This is a story of overcoming – a story of prayer – a story of perseverance – a story of obedience – a story of being a servant of God. Hannah’s story shows how God intervened on an ordinary woman’s behalf. Hannah’s story is significant in the Bible because God used her for his purpose.
The story begins in 1 Samuel 1:1. The chapter begins telling about a man, Elkanah, with two wives: Peninnah who had children and Hannah who had none. In Biblical times, and even in some countries still today, it is considered a disgrace if a woman is unable to bear children. The woman is looked down upon, ridiculed by others, and even ashamed of herself. For what good is she if she is unable to bear sons for her husband? Hannah felt as if she was a failure. Each year Elkanah, with his entire family, went to Shiloh to worship and make sacrifice to the Lord as the custom decreed. Elkanah would give a portion to his wives but by the custom Peninnah always received a portion for herself and each of her children. However, Elkanah always gave Hannah, the Bible says, a worthy portion because he loved her.
In verse 6, the Bible tells us that Peninnah provoked Hannah for to make her fret because the Lord had shut up her womb. I’m sure Peninnah was jealous because Elkanah loved Hannah so much. This happened year after year until Hannah was so miserable that she wouldn’t even eat. Elkanah didn’t understand why Hannah wept, and even asked her in the 8th verse “Am not I better to thee than ten sons?” The Bible doesn’t specify how many years this went on but it does say “year after year”.
In this story Hannah longs for a child, but maybe you are longing for God to move for you too. Have you been longing for something in your Christian walk? Have you had a trial that has seemed to last for years? How long have you been down-heartened? How long have you felt hopeless? Do you have an illness that only God can heal? Maybe you feel as if God isn’t hearing your prayers. Maybe you are longing for him to move in a big way or send you a direct message. Maybe your desire is to have a closer walk with the Lord, to feel more of his spirit. Maybe you don’t know what you really want – you just know that you feel an empty space in your heart that only God can fill.
Put yourself in Hannah’s shoes as she knelt at the altar and prayed fervently. In verse 11 Hannah made a vow unto the Lord “…O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but will give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.” The Bible continues on to through verse 13 to say that Hannah continued to weep and pray and the words she spoke only in heart because her lips moved but no sound came out. In verse 14 the Bible says that the Priest, Eli, watched her and thought she was drunk. Hannah explained her plight to the Priest and Eli answered her in verse 17 “…Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou has asked of him.” Hannah received her answer. She immediately went out and ate. She was no longer sad because God had sent her the answer. She believed!
The promise came to pass and Hannah bore a son. She called him Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord. Remember, Hannah made a vow. Elkanah continued to go to Shiloh to offer the yearly sacrifice but Hannah didn’t go with him. She knew that when she took Samuel she would have to leave him there because she had promised the Lord. She did not take her vow lightly. Elkanah told her in verse 23 to stay with the child until she weaned him.
Hannah kept Samuel with her until he was weaned, probably about 3 years old, and then she took him to Shiloh for the yearly sacrifice. She remembered her vow and she had to let him go. Can you imagine how hard it must have been for her? However, she knew she must be obedient. When she came to Eli, she told him in verse 26 “Oh my Lord, as thy soul liveth, my Lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord.” In verse 27-28 Hannah said “For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshipped the Lord there.”
Naturally you would think that Hannah would have felt great anguish at leaving her child. However the Bible says in 1 Samuel 2:1 that Hannah rejoiced. She praised God for answering her prayers. At that time she never knew if she would have more children.
The Bible goes on to say that Elkanah and Hannah visited Samuel every year at the time of sacrifice. Each year Hannah would take him a little robe that she had made. Eli blessed Elkanah and Hannah because of the child they lent to the Lord asking the Lord to give them more children. Elkanah and Hannah went on to have 5 more children; 3 sons and 2 daughters.
God’s purpose was fulfilled through Hannah. Samuel went on to be a great prophet to all of Israel. She poured out her heart to God, surrendering it all to him, and made a vow. When God answered her she paid her vow with the sacrifice of her child. Have you surrendered it all to the Lord? Do you need freedom from your trial? Do you want God to intervene in your life? Give it all to him; all your worries, all your pain, all your struggles, everything. Believe he can make a difference and when he does be obedient to his Word. Praise Him in all things. You will receive peace as Hannah did and blessings for your obedience.