TEXT: 1 Samuel 1:1-16
SUBJECT: Hannah’s prayer and vow before God
First Samuel is a continuation of the story in the book of Judges. The story of 1 Samuel begins late in the tumultuous time of the judges when Eli is judge and priest and Israel is being oppressed by the Philistines. The book opens with a woman’s anguish. Her story highlights the truth that God is bigger than any problem that we may encounter. We must, therefore only trust Him. Don’t give up hope. God is listening. Remember that there is purpose in everything God allows in your life.
The name Hannah means “grace” (or favour). One would expect that with a name like that, Hannah would have been experiencing the blessings of peace, provision and progeny. But it was not so for Hannah. Her life was marked by reproach and misery. Her husband had a second wife named Peninnah, which in the Hebrew means “pearl” or “jewel”. The irony is that Peninnah’s behaviour towards Hannah did not display the beauty of her own name.
Hannah could not bear children for her husband. This would be extremely hard on women in those days for to have your womb closed was taken as an indication that she was cursed by God. For Hannah, she not only had to deal with the reality of not being able to have children but she was provoked constantly by Peninnah to the point where she would not eat.
However, I invite you to look at Hannah’s attitude in the midst of her pain. Like Job, she did not charge God with wrong (Job 1:22). Instead, she recognized His sovereignty – that He was the One who opens and closes the womb – and began praying to Him to open hers. In offering her prayer, Hannah was acknowledging God’s control over all her life’s circumstances. We must recognize that there is absolutely nothing that comes upon us that God does not know about. He sees all. He feels all that we are going through (Hebrews 4:15) and He is working out them all out for our good (Romans 8:28). Yes, our situations may seem desolate and we may not see a way out but God is in control. He has purpose for whatever it is that you are going through and He will not waste your pain (Romans 8:18).
Hannah understood that her only hope was in God and so she looked to Him in prayer and mourning. Yes, you may have to cry sometimes. There is no promise that things will always be easy but there is an assurance that God will deliver you out of the storms and afflictions of your life (Psalm 34:19). He will come through for you so go through it. Don’t give up! Hold on! God is on your side. His promise towards you should remind you that whatever the challenge that has entered your life did not come to break you but to establish you and move you towards your purpose. In Jeremiah 29:11, He says, “ I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Hallelujah! His intentions towards you are good. They are not to harm you in any way. You will not break under the pressure. You will not suffer in vain. You will not live in despair. He will give you hope and a future. Hope sounds like expectation. It sounds like there is a silver lining – a light at the end of the tunnel. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning Psalm 30:5). Are you at the darkest moment in your life? Then rejoice because your morning is nigh.
It was night time for Hannah. Her agony was recognized by those around her. While Peninnah jeered and ridiculed her, her husband was there as a support. You see, despite those who may not understand your situation – the Peninnahs in your life – God will always place someone in your life who will support you. Not only will He send you support but His precious Holy Spirit will be your help in time of weakness (Romans 8:26).
When faced with life’s challenges, many make the decision to walk away from God and throw in the towel. Not Hannah. In the midst of such profound testing, she kept following after God. Year after year she kept going up to the house of the Lord for worship, even though it meant travelling with another woman who was provoking her (verse 7). Hannah’s Prayer is a thoughtful and intense one:
“O Lord Almighty” – She recognized the sovereignty and omnipotence of God. He is God Almighty. If He could not fix her situation, nobody else could. He is mighty to save and strong to deliver (Zeph 3:17).
“Look upon upon your servant’s misery and remember me.” – Part of walking with God is putting your request before Him. Never be afraid to cry out to God and ask Him to intervene in your situation. It is not a sign of weakness but a sign of trust.
“I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life” – Hannah was specific in her request. She wanted a man child – a son – and she will give back that son to the Lord. Hannah’s vow was not meaningless bargaining with God. No! It was a mighty expression of faith. She knows that God can open her womb and if he does, she is willing to respond to His grace (the meaning of her name) by giving back that son to Him.
In pouring out her heart before God, He heard her and He opened up her womb and she conceived and bore her husband a child (1 Samuel 1:19-20). Her morning had come. Her time of rejoicing had arrived and her pain had ended. Hannah was no longer a reproach of object of scorn for being barren. God had turned things around. He had turned her mourning into dancing and had given her beauty for ashes. God raised Hannah’s son, Samuel, to be a prolific prophet and not one of his words fell to the ground (1 Samuel 3:19).
Hannah’s song of Joy in chapter 2 showed us that her joy in God transcended her own desire to keep her son to her side but to release him in God’s hand. It was that kind of surrender that made Samuel great but more importantly that contributed to Hannah being one of the redoubtable women of faith in scripture.
God will make you sing again. He will make you laugh again. Your brokenness was not meant to destroy you. Hannah sings in the end:
My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.
There is none holy like the Lord;
there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.