HANNA, THE MOTHER WHO KEPT HER PROMISE
Let's start with a prayer: Father, Mother, God; we pray in gratitude for our mothers and for all women who have joined with You in the wonder of bringing forth new life. You who became human through a woman, grant to all mothers the courage they need to face the uncertain future that life with children always brings.
Give them the strength to live and to be loved in return, not perfectly, but humanly.
Give them the faithful support of husband, family and friends as they care for the physical and spiritual growth of their children.
Give them joy and delight in their children to sustain them through the trials of motherhood. Most of all, give them the wisdom to turn to You for help when they need it most. Amen.
During this month of Magnificent Mothers I would like to talk about Hannah, the Mother who kept her promise. Metaphysically, Hannah means "The soul, because of its high aspirations, its consecration to God, and much earnest prayer, is established in divine grace and favor. It receives that which it desires, the ability to hear the inner voice of Spirit, to perceive Truth."a
The high points of this story are
1) Hannah is mocked for being barren by a jealous first wife who had children.
2) Hannah turns to the Lord in prayer.
3) Hannah gives birth to Samuel, the earliest of the great Hebrew prophets after Moses and the last of the judges.
4) Hannah has many more children.
HANNAH IS MOCKED
It was a much-anticipated occasion when the family members went to the Tabernacle in Shiloh. Though she was her husband's favorite wife, these journeys to Shiloh, were trying ones for Hannah who was barren. As she saw parents and children coming together, probably she grieved all the more because she had no part in the upcoming generation.
The Israelite women who couldn't bear children were considered sub female, unable to fulfill their divine purpose on earth. When a woman was unable to fulfill this "duty" her emotional pain was tremendous. And more than likely barren women also felt they were denied the possibility of being the one chosen to bear the Messiah.
Peninnah, jealous because Hannah was a favorite wife, teased Hannah unmercifully about her infertility "Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her."b Each year it became a hard experience emotionally for Hannah to make the journey to Shiloh. It says in 1 Samuel 1:8 "Her husband Elkanah said to her, 'Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?'"c
Think about the disappointments or failures you've had in your life. How are you impacted by the reactions and judgements of those around you?
Because we need to remember that those judgements are not about us, but are based on their ideas of themselves. Often, people don't understand our situation well enough to console us, even when they mean well. And there are those who are just spiteful. Peninnah was jealous of Hannah and was operating from that standpoint. Peninnah had many children and thought that should qualify her for the most favorite, but she was a petty and vindictive person.
HANNAH TURNS TO PRAYER
Hannah's environment was not conducive to prayer for the people of Israel had lapsed from the high standards of morality and spirituality set up by Moses. But this didn't deter Hannah. She would arise and go into the Tabernacle to pour out her anguish of soul. It says in 1 Samuel 1:11 - "She made this vow: 'O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a Nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head."d So Samuel was dedicated as a Nazirite just as Samson had been.
A Nazirite is defined in the Bible in Numbers 6:1-8: When either men or women make a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate themselves to the Lord, they shall separate themselves from wine and strong drink; they shall drink no wine vinegar or other vinegar, and shall not drink any grape juice or eat grapes, fresh or dried. All their days as Nazirites they shall eat nothing that is produced by the grape-vine, not even the seeds or the skins.
All the days of their Nazirite vow no razor shall come upon the head; until the time is completed for which they separate themselves to the Lord, they shall be holy; they shall let the locks of the head grow long.
.... All their days as Nazirites they are holy to the Lord."e
Eli, the priest was used to people coming to Shiloh to celebrate the feast, eating, and drinking more than they should. Watching Hannah from his chair by the doorpost of the temple, he wondered why her shoulders were shaking, her lips moving without a sound. She must be drunk he concluded. So he interrupted her silent prayer with a rebuke, "How long will you keep on getting drunk, get rid of your wine."
But Hannah asserted, "No my Lord I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink but have poured out my soul before the Lord."
Satisfied by her explanation, Eli blessed her, saying, "May the Lord grant your request." And she said, 'Let your servant find favour in your sight.' Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.
Hannah stood in this very public place and poured out her pain to the Lord. You can see what Eli's reaction was. Do you think she was unaware of the reaction others might have or do you think she just didn't care at this point.
When God met Hannah at the temple in Shiloh, he not only answered her prayer for a child, he answered her prayer for comfort in her misery. He gave her consolation in her disappointment and strength to face her situation.
God is more than willing to meet us just as he met Hannah. Whatever our distress, whatever hard situations we face, he is eager to meet our needs and give us his grace and comfort.
One way to build your confidence in God is to form a habit of Remembrance. It's so easy to forget everything he's already done by being preoccupied with what you want him to do right here and right now. By being grateful to God for what he's done, you build a habit of gratitude, which will also deepen your trust in God.
Find a blank notebook or a lovely scrapbook that can become your Remembrance Book. In it, write down ways in which God has answered your prayers. Keep letters, photos of loved ones, or newspaper clippings anything that reminds you of answered prayers. Let your Remembrance Book be a tangible way to keep God's faithfulness in the forefront of your heart.
THE BIRTH OF SAMUEL
From 1 Samuel 1:19-20: "They rose early in the morning and worshipped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, 'I have asked him of the Lord.''f"
From 1 Samuel 1:21-22: "The man Elkanah and all his household went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and to pay his vow. But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, 'As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, that he may appear in the presence of the Lord, and remain there forever; I will offer him as a Nazirite for all time."
Metaphysically, "the boy Samuel represents the inner voice, through whose expression we come into a larger realization of ourselves."g
1 Samuel 1:24-28: "When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine. She brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was young. Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. And she said, 'Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.'"h
Hannah's song of triumph in 1 Samuel 2 could have inspired Mary's Magnificat because there's certainly a similarity between these two songs of exaltation.
In 1 Samuel 2:2-10 she sings:
"'There is no Holy One like the Lord,
no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble gird on strength.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low, he also exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honour.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's,
and on them he has set the world.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king,
and exalt the power of his anointed.'"i
When Samuel was weaned, Hannah dressed him for his first trip to the Tabernacle, where she was to leave him. She placed him in the hands of God, and she believed strongly in her heart that God would answer the petition she had made before his birth. Loving him as she did it was a sacrifice for her to return to Rama without him.
Have you ever made a deal with God, "If you give me this, I will do that"?
There was a man who was late for a court hearing. He was frantically circling the block looking for a parking place. He knew he would be thrown into jail if he didn't make it to this hearing.
So he prayed to God, "Please God open up a parking place for me and I swear. I will be in church every Sunday after this." On his next circle around the block a car pulled out right in front of the courthouse. Looking up he said, "Never mind God, I found a place"
Well, Hannah was a bit more mindful of her vow.
HANNAH BLESSED WITH MORE CHILDREN
Each year as Samuel outgrew one coat she would make him another and take it with her when the family went to Shiloh for the yearly sacrifices. We can be sure Hannah put love into every stitch of the coat.
The priest, Eli, witnessing the unselfishness of Hannah, asks that God visit her, and she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. Hannah like Mary gave her child to God.
The Bible records Hannah's fulfillment to her vow. What do you think made Hannah's vow difficult? What would have made it necessary?
Hannah only asked God for one male child. But when we take one step toward God, the Universe comes rushing toward us to fulfill our desires at levels even more than we could imagine.
So Hannah was one who prayed and was able to hear that inner voice of spirit, she was able to perceive the truth. She wasn't perfect she did have her problems and inner anguish. But she took them to God in prayer.
And God answered her with comfort in her misery even before he answered her prayer for a child. How often have you seen people give up trying to get pregnant and adopt child only to get pregnant.
So, as painful as it might have been, Hannah honored her vow to give her child up in service to God, to dedicate him as a Nazirite.
Let's pray: Father, Mother, God; thank you for all the prayers you've answered during my lifetime. You've answered small prayers and big prayers, evening prayers and morning prayers, soft prayers and loud prayers, anxious prayers and peaceful prayers. May my own prayers be shaped according to your faithfulness, becoming less selfish and frantic and more calm and trusting with each day that passes. Amen
aMetaphysical Bible dictionary
b1 Samuel 1:6
c1 Samuel 1:8
d1 Samuel 1 11
f1 Samuel 1:19-20
gMetaphysical Bible dictionary
h1 Samuel 1:24-28
i1 Samuel 2:2-10