“There is none holy like the Lord:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.”
1 Samuel 2:2
“How long, O Lord?” is a prayer many of us have prayed – sometimes in faith-filled hope and other times in faithless despair. The Christ-life is a marathon not a sprint and often that marathon requires endurance. Romans 5:3-4 says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…” Our sufferings produce endurance and develop our character which eventually gives us a steadfast hope in the God-of-Angel-Armies.
Hannah’s story can be found in 1 Samuel 1-2:21 where we see that she was weak in several aspects. She was barren in a culture whose primary role of a wife was to bear children; therefore, this disgraced her. Yet Elkanah showed he loved her and honored her above his other wife, Peninnah, when he gave her a double portion of the offering (1:5). We see Hannah as a woman in deep pain. Not only is she childless, but her rival takes every opportunity to mock her pain (1:6). Then, she is even misunderstood and accused of being drunk by Eli the priest (1:14).
I can relate to Hannah’s pain of infertility. I had a miscarriage on Christmas Eve 2012 and spent the night in the ER in Chicago into Christmas Day. We were flying from California to Virginia to visit family for the holidays. Not only was the loss incredibly difficult but we were isolated, alone, and in a strange city. This was probably one of the darkest days of my life.
Hannah was so distraught that she didn’t eat or drink and I, also, have felt the depths of that kind of despair. What I love, however, is her unwavering faithfulness to the Lord. She vowed to the Lord that if He gave her a child that she would give him back to the Lord:
“O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life…” (1 Samuel 1:11)
This is reminiscent of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac and the great courage it took him to trust in God’s sovereignty and maintain hope that God would resurrect his son. Hannah had hope that God would resurrect her womb!
Hannah’s everyday faithfulness shows us that, in God’s economy, He uses the weak things of this world to shame the strong – so that no one can boast (1 Cor. 1:27-29). God can use unimpressive weakness to accomplish great things in His kingdom. He does this in Hannah’s life and He can do it in yours, if you will trust in His sovereignty like Hannah did.
Hannah’s prayer in chapter 2, similar to Mary’s “Magnificat” in Luke 1:46-55, sets the theological tone for the two books of Samuel and for her son Samuel’s life. Just like Mary, Hannah rejoices in the Lord’s deliverance, proclaims His holiness, and extols the Lord’s faithful care of those who place their trust in Him. The Lord opposes the proud but gives grace and exalts the humble. She recognized that her strength came from the Lord, not her own abilities.
Hannah “pours out her soul before the Lord” (1:15). This example should point us to Christ when we are in desperate need for rescue. Trials teach hard lessons, as Charles Spurgeon said: “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” Hannah had a childlike faith in a God Who works all things out for our good and His glory.
Our third child, Esther, was born with cystic fibrosis – a mucus disorder that affects the lungs and digestive system and shortens one’s life expectancy. In the midst of that diagnosis the Lord taught me that all of my children belong to Him, even the healthy ones! In those months after wrestling with a hypothetical future loss, I surrendered all of my children to Him, giving back to Him what He gave to me. Children are a sweet gift, but we do not own them. Just like Hannah, we must surrender our children to the Lord.
“For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.”
1 Samuel 1:27:28
The legacy of her life is magnified by Samuel’s prophetic ministry. Samuel was a key leader at a pivotal point in Israel’s history as they shifted from a tribal society to a monarchy. He is present at the anointing of Israel’s first two kings and serves as an advisor for them. Hannah is even marked as a prophetess herself because tucked in her psalm of praise is a picture of Christ, God’s Anointed One. Her great faith leaves a ripple effect that even touches us today. We can learn intimacy and dependency on the Lord by reflecting on her life.
On a side note, one of my favorite details of Hannah’s story is that when she would visit Samuel once a year, she would bring him a little robe that she had made for him (2:19). And the Lord blesses her with 5 more children after Samuel and grants her the desire of her heart (Psalm 37:4).
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