Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hannah Prays for a Son

Samuel’s Birth

1 Samuel 1

1There was a man named Elkanah son of Jeroham from Ramathaim in the
mountains of Ephraim. Elkanah was from the family of Zuph. (Jeroham was
Elihu’s son. Elihu was Tohu’s son, and Tohu was the son of Zuph from the
family group of Ephraim.) 2Elkanah had two wives named Hannah and Peninnah.
Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.

3Every year Elkanah left his town of Ramah and went up to Shiloh to worship
the LORD All-Powerful and to offer sacrifices to him. Shiloh was where Hophni
and Phinehas, the sons of Eli, served as priests of the LORD. 4When Elkanah
offered sacrifices; he always gave a share of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to
her sons and daughters. 5But Elkanah always gave a special share of the meat to
Hannah, because he loved Hannah and because the LORD had kept her from
having children. 6Peninnah would tease Hannah and upset her, because the
LORD had made her unable to have children. 7This happened every year when
they went up to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. Peninnah would upset Hannah
until Hannah would cry and not eat anything. 8Her husband Elkanah would say to
her, “Hannah, why are you crying and why won’t you eat? Why are you sad?
Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

9Once, after they had eaten their meal in Shiloh, Hannah got up. Now Eli the
priest was sitting on a chair near the entrance to the LORD’S house. 10Hannah
was so sad that she cried and prayed to the LORD. 11She made a promise, saying,
“LORD All-Powerful, see how sad I am. Remember me and don’t forget me. If
you will give me a son, I will give him back to you all his life, and no one will
ever cut his hair with a razor.”

12While Hannah kept praying, Eli watched her mouth. 13She was praying in
her heart so her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was
drunk 14and said to her, “Stop getting drunk! Throw away your wine!”

15Hannah answered, “No, sir, I have not drunk any wine or beer. I am a
deeply troubled woman, and I was telling the LORD about all my problems.
16Don’t think I am an evil woman. I have been praying because I have many
troubles and am very sad.”

17Eli answered, “Go! I wish you well. May the God of Israel give you what
you asked of him.”

18Hannah said, “May I always please you.” When she left and ate something,
she was not sad anymore.

19Early the next morning Elkanah’s family got up and worshiped the LORD.
Then they went back home to Ramah. Elkanah had sexual relations with his wife
Hannah, and the LORD remembered her. 20So Hannah became pregnant, and in
time she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “His name is
Samuel because I asked the LORD for him.”

Hannah Gives Samuel to God

21Every year Elkanah went with his whole family to Shiloh to offer sacrifices
and to keep the promise he had made to God. 22But one time Hannah did not go
with him. She told him, “When the boy is old enough to eat solid food, I will take
him to Shiloh. Then I will give him to the LORD, and he will always live there.”

23Elkanah, Hannah’s husband, said to her, “Do what you think is best. You
may stay home until the boy is old enough to eat. May the LORD do what you
have said.” So Hannah stayed at home to nurse her son until he was old enough
to eat.

24When Samuel was old enough to eat, Hannah took him to the house of the
LORD at Shiloh, along with a three-year-old bull, one-half bushel of flour, and a
leather bag filled with wine. 25After they had killed the bull for the sacrifice,
Hannah brought Samuel to Eli. 26She said to Eli, “As surely as you live, sir, I am
the same woman who stood near you praying to the LORD. 27I prayed for this
child, and the LORD answered my prayer and gave him to me. 28Now I give him
back to the LORD. He will belong to the LORD all his life.” And he worshiped
the LORD there.

The Holy Bible, New Century Version

When Hannah lived, their more powerful neighbors, the Philistines, oppressed the Israelite tribes. Hannah was far more concerned with her own personal tragedy than with the political oppression. She was childless, and she yearned to give her husband a son. The pressure she felt was even greater because her husband's other wife had borne him children, and she was quick to ridicule the childless Hannah.

The Bible takes up her story one year when the family came to the tabernacle at Shiloh to worship and offer sacrifices. When night fell Hannah crept off to the tabernacle and "in bitterness of soul" prayed to the Lord for a son. As she prayed she vowed to dedicate the son God would give her to serve Him.

Hannah's prayer was answered. She bore a son and named him Samuel. She cared for Samuel for three or four years until he was weaned. Then Hanna Samuel to the tabernacle and le the high priest, Eli, to serve Hannah's son Samuel was soon as a prophet; later he became judge. Near the end of Samuel anointed first Saul, and then become king of Israel.

Hannah was a woman who for a long time could not enjoy her blessings. Her heart was so focused on having a son that nothing else seemed to matter. But life changed for Hannah when she surrendered the thing she wanted most to the Lord in a vow.

Hannah discovered a truth that Christ would teach to His disciples a millennium later. In Matthew 16 Jesus urged his disciples to deny themselves, to take up their cross, and follow Him. What, Jesus asked, can "a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26). The Greek phrase in our New Testament reflects a Hebrew grammatical construction in which the nephesh, "soul," serves as a reflexive pronoun. What Jesus was actually asking is, what can a person give in exchange for his or her self?

The disciples had a choice to make. They could hang on to their old self and its desires. Or they could surrender all to Jesus, and by following Him become the new persons God would enable them to become. In surrender, the disciples would discover not loss, but gain - as Hannah similarly discovered so long ago.

In surrendering to God the son she so desperately wanted, Hannah a fresh appreciation for the Lord, a deep sense of joy, and a truly satisfying life. And she gained the sure knowledge that in surrendering Samuel to the Lord, she had set him on course to become one of the Old Testament's great men of faith.

  • Hannah’s life portrays how setting our hearts on something we do not have can rob us of appreciation for the gifts God has given us. It was only when Hannah surrendered the object of her desire to God that she found release from her anguish and discovered peace.

  • Hannah’s prayer reminds us that when our motivation is right, God is more likely to say yes to our petitions.

  • The joy Hannah found in surrendering to God what was most important to her can be ours when we surrender all to Him.

(From Every Woman in the Bible by Sue and Larry Richards).

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