Sometimes you hear a story that penetrates all your defenses and strikes straight at your heart. The story of Hannah is such a story for me. It is not a comprehensive story but it is enough. More than enough, actually, because a lot of life is packed into a few short paragraphs of 1 Samuel. And what we read about Hannah makes up for everything we don’t know.
Her husband’s name was Elkanah, and as was common in those times, he had two wives. Hannah’s rival, Peninnah, had many children and Hannah had none. In that culture, women who were childless were looked down on. Peninnah taunted Hannah with this, as if the grief of being barren wasn’t bad enough. But Elkanah didn’t care whether or not Hannah bore him a son; he loved Hannah and was happy to just have her.
Every year, as was custom, Elkanah took his family to the Tabernacle to present offerings to the Lord. And every year Hannah would be in anguish. From the most desperate places of her heart, she cried out to God, promising to give her son to God’s service if He would only bless her with one.
One year, the high priest, Eli, mistook Hannah’s groaning and mutterings to mean that she was drunk and he confronted her. In sincerity, Hannah corrected Eli and told him of her discouragement and her plea to God for a son. Eli blessed Hannah, and Hannah took that blessing to heart, because when she returned to her family she was no longer sad.
The Bible tells us that God heard Hannah’s prayer and remembered her. Hannah soon became pregnant and bore a son. His name was Samuel. The next year, Hannah chose to stay behind as the rest of her family travelled to the Tabernacle. She invested herself into her son until he was weaned, and then, as she promised, she took him to the Tabernacle and left him there to serve the Lord by assisting Eli. Every year Hannah returned with a new coat for Samuel and Eli would bless the family. In the end, Hannah had three more sons and two daughters.
Why is this story so remarkable? I was drawn to Hannah as if to a sister during my years of infertility. I echoed her prayer and found solace in her story. But being broken hearted over having no children isn’t what makes her so special. Her devotion to God is. Hannah was faithful in all things.
In grief, Hannah prayed. In faith, she believed that God would honor Eli’s blessing. In honor, she left her son at the Tabernacle to serve God all his life. In devotion, she brought her child clothing every year. In all things, she sought God and honored Him first.
And what became of Hannah? We know she was blessed with more children but her story ends there. Her legacy is carried on in the person of her son Samuel. Samuel was born during the time that Israel was led by judges. Just like his mother, he loved God and was faithful to Him all his life. He served God as both judge and prophet. It was Samuel that God chose to anoint the first kings of Israel; first Saul and then David. In anointing David, Samuel played a role in setting up the dynasty through which God would send His own son.
So I thank Hannah for her story. I thank her for being faithful. I thank her for having the strength and integrity to follow through on her promise to give her son back to God. God wove her story into His story, His plan of redemption for not only Israel but the whole world. Like Hannah, God gave His son. And to that son, King Jesus, we owe everything.
“Your greatest contribution to the Kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.”Andy Stanley
Abundantly More – Knowing God and Making God Known.
And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.”.1 Samuel 1:11 NLT