For the rest of the month of June we are going to be reading thirteen chapters from the books of Samuel. In those chapters we will encounter great men like Samuel, Nathan, and David — some true heroes of the faith. But the first chapter of First Samuel tells of a amazing woman named Hannah and her heroic faith.
The first thing we learn about Hannah is that she was involved in a polygamous marriage. It should be noted that while polygamy was never a part of God’s ideal for marriage, it is not condemned as adultery here and is merely presented as a fact. As God continued to reveal Himself and as Scripture continued to be written down, polygamy disappeared from among God’s people (and is never mentioned among New Testament believers). For Hannah it was a reality, and a source of pain in her life.
Hannah was childless and barren. In her culture, a wife who could not produce children was regarded as defective, cursed — even worthless (v.16). While her husband, Elkanah, favored and adored her, Peninnah, the other wife, was brutal. The annual family trip to Shiloh was painful for Hannah; it highlighted the hurt. Peninnah’s cruelty drove Hannah to despair. She wept, starved herself, and kept it inside. Verse 7 says that when Hannah went to the house of God “year by year”, she isolated herself and cried. Not even Elkanah understood the depth of her pain (v.8).
One year during the family worship time Hannah slipped away from the supper table and went to the Tabernacle. Her pain had become unbearable and her desperation had reached a tipping point. For the first time that we know of, Hannah did the very best thing she could have done: she prayed. It was an emotional, fervent, earnest prayer. Notice how her prayer is described: in “deep distress” she “prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly” (v.10); “she continued praying” (v.12); she was “troubled in spirit” so she “poured out her soul before the Lord” (v.15); she prayed out of “great anxiety and vexation” (v.16). So passionate was her prayer that Eli the priest thought she must have been intoxicated!
God honors that kind of faith and desperation, and through Eli God promised Hannah a son. “In due time” she gave birth to a baby boy and called him Samuel, a name that sounds like the Hebrew word for “God heard me”. The God who heard Hannah listens to you, too. Be honest with Him. Give Him your hurts. He can replace your hurt with hope!
True to her vow, Hannah brought little Samuel to the Tabernacle as soon as he was weaned. In an extreme act of faith and gratitude, she entered her very young son into the ministry, giving him over to Eli to raise as a servant of God and Israel. In her beautiful statement of dedication in verses 26-28, Hannah “loaned” Samuel to the Lord. She was releasing her child into the care of his Creator. Little did she know that he would become one of the greatest, godliest leaders in the history of her nation. Children are a gift from the Lord, but they are the greatest blessing when we make them a gift to the Lord.