Yesterday, I was reminded of a woman who hoped in GOD during a time when it was not easy to do so. (There were a lot of times like that in the history of the nation of Israel.) Her name was Hannah. Her immediate problem was that she was barren. Yes, unable to get pregnant in a culture that said that pregnancy showed you were blessed by GOD. Each pregnancy was seen as possibly one that would be carrying Messiah who was prophesied to redeem Israel.
Hannah and her husband, Elkanah, had no children. Of course, his other wife was very fertile. Not only that, Peninnah would tease Hannah about her barrenness. Sounds rather cruel doesn’t it? Evidently, Hannah must have been a favorite of Elkanah’s. When he gave out all the sacrifices to be given by the family every year, he gave a double portion to Hannah. I’m not sure what all that meant, but I’m sure it meant he cared for her.
In fact, when she cried to him about how sad she was about not having children or the pain she had when Peninnah laughed at her, he didn’t seem to understand her sadness. His quote was, “Am I not more to you than 10 sons?” It makes me laugh a little when I read it. But I imagine her sadness was compounded when he couldn’t really understand her grief over not having a child.
After years of asking GOD for a child, Hannah continued asking GOD for a child until this particular year mentioned in I Samuel 1.
Eventually, Hannah prayed that GOD would give her a son and promised that if GOD would answer her prayer, she would give him to GOD and never let his hair be cut. (Yes, there were some other women who did something similar.) She was in such grief over this request, that she was at the temple praying fervently for it, moving her lips but with no words coming out of her mouth. When Eli, the priest saw her, he thought she was drunk. He told her to stop drinking and coming to the temple drunk. Once she told him she wasn’t drunk, but was praying, he blessed her and told her to go in peace. Then he promised that GOD would give her, her desires.
Before long, she realized she was pregnant. Her son was named Samuel which meant “I have asked for him from the Lord.” Once he was weaned, she took him to the temple where he lived the rest of his life. He may have been as old as 4.
This was a new time for Hannah to put her hope in GOD. The sons of Eli were evil and corrupt. They did not care about GOD’s law. This was a new opportunity for Hannah to trust GOD for Samuel. She wanted him to love GOD, not be corrupt.
Meanwhile, do you know what life was like at the temple? Eli, the godly priest, was getting very old. His two grown sons were also priests, but they were very wicked. They had no interest in GOD, His people…or His laws! There is more on this in I Samuel 2:12-3:21. It tells what they were like…evil, didn’t care about GOD, and tried to cheat GOD out of what He was due!
Surely, Hannah must have heard stories of how evil Eli’s sons were. Yet she took her young son to Eli to live there at the temple. At some point, she had to trust the GOD who gave her this son to provide the right people to raise him so he would grow to love GOD. As it turned out, GOD used Eli to train him to listen for GOD’s voice and to revere GOD.
Samuel did grow up to love and serve GOD. His wisdom provided guidance to Israel for years…to kings as well as priests. Yes, GOD took away the priestly leadership of Israel from Eli’s family and gave it to Samuel. He served 2 kings and before they had kings, he functioned as a judge to Israel.
This is the prayer Hannah prayed and sang when she brought Samuel to the temple to Eli.
And Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the Lord;
my horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.
“There is none holy like the Lord:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble bind on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord‘s,
and on them he has set the world.
“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
and exalt the horn of his anointed.”
I Samuel 2:1-10 ESV
As you look through this prayer, you see many of the attributes of GOD mentioned as well as many of His actions as well. It is not difficult to learn more of who GOD is from this prayer.