1 Samuel 1:1-20 (TNIV)
1There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphitea 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. 2He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. 3Year 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. 4Whenever 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. 5But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb. 6Because the LORD had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7This 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. 8Her 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?” 9Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the LORD’s house. 10In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly. 11And 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.” 12As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.” 15“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. 16Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
17Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” 18She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.
19Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the LORD and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the LORD remembered her. 20So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, by saying, “Because I asked the LORD for him.”
This story might look like it is about a family feud: two wives, one with children and the other with none. The story ends well where the barren woman is vindicated in receiving a son. As we read on, it is not so much a family story as it is God’s story.
Hannah does not just take Penninah’s torments nor does she find comfort in Elkanah’s claim of worth. She recognizes it is God who closed her womb. And so she goes to God’s house, pouring out her heart to Him. She vows that if only God would remember her and give her a son, she would give him back to the Lord. Why would she pray so specifically for a son and not a daughter if she really only wanted to have children? Why would Hannah pray to give her son back to the Lord, if her aim is to have a son? Hannah, though in great anguish and grief, in prayer latched directly onto something that God desired to take place. This is not just about Hannah’s story and her shame, but about how God is continuing His story to redeem His people, and how He uses Hannah’s prayers and her son to advance His kingdom purposes. In prayer she receives from God what she is asking for even though she is not pregnant yet. With this certainty even her face changes.
Responding to the Transmission:
God caught Hannah’s attention and likewise God will catch ours. God wants to reveal who He is and what He is doing and the way we can find out is through earnest prayer. Let’s pray that we would recognize when it is God, and that we would pour out our hearts with clear direction and trust. May we persist in earnest prayer until we receive a response. May even our faces and lives reflect the certainty of God’s faithfulness and answer received in prayer.