Friday, March 27, 2009

"Barren" Women of the Bible Part 4 - Hannah

Although all of the barren women stories are inspiring on some level Hannah's story truly sparked a chord in my soul. I actually modeled my prayers after Hannah's tortured and passionate pleas unto God.

Her story is told in 1 Samuel 1.

We know that Hannah is married to Elkanah. His second wife (and Hannah's arch enemy) Peninnah had a cart full of sons and daughters, but Hannah had no children. In Peninnah's free time she would provoke and torment Hannah because (1) Hannah didn't have kids (vs. 5), but (2) Hannah still somehow managed to be Elkanah's favorite wife (just my 2 cents!).

Hannah was so highly favored that when the family would take the annual trek to the temple to make sacrifices to God, Elkanah would give Hannah double the portion he gave to his other wife, Peninnah. So anyway, before heading to the temple Peninnah teased Hannah. She probably said something like, "HA! All these years you've been taking double portions to the temple and you still can't have a child!!" (vs. 7).

Let's stop here for a sec. I know I can relate to this one. I had been praying and pleading for YEARS while watching other friends and acquaintences who have turned their backs on God seemingly pop out babies like a cork out of a bottle! Let's keep going, we're soon to find out that we cannot measure God's faithfulness or attentiveness by the blessings others are receiving.

So, Hannah in her misery and torment refused to eat and just cried. Elkanah tried to be supportive but couldn't understand why his love - his favor - was not better than 10 sons. He was okay with her not bearing a child. Well, Hannah could not let it rest. She went to the temple while crying bitterly and in deep distress she vows to God:

"O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head." (vs. 11)

Hannah cried and prayed with all her heart, she moved her lips, but no sound came out. She was in such a state that the high priest thought she was drunk! When the priest confronts Hannah, she says that she isn't drunk but sorrowful ... she poured out her soul to God. She said her grievance was so great and her grief so intense and she poured all of it out to the Lord. Eli simply tells her to go in peace and may God grant her request.

Guess what she did next? She put away her tears and her sorrow, stopped starving herself and the next morning she woke up early and worshipped God. When Elkanah and Hannah went back to their home, they made love and the scriptures say, "And the Lord remembered her" (vs. 19). That simple statement puts a knot in my throat everytime because ladies ... God hasn't forgotten us either!!

Needless to say, Hannah goes on to give birth to Samuel, whose name means "I have asked him of the Lord." The story doesn't end here. Hannah also remembers what she promised God and she gave Samuel to the Lord. She actually took him back to the temple and gave him to the priest there. She said:

"For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there." (vs. 27-28)

She went on to have 5 more children (1 Sam. 2:21)! And Samuel went on to become the greatest priest in the Bible.

So many nuggets can be taken from this amazing story.

1) A humble, passionate prayer from the depths of one's soul COMBINED with fasting is more effective than years of passionate prayer. Some things are so serious that they cannot be resolved without fasting AND praying (check out Matt. 17:21 for another example).

2) God does not forget what has been promised to you.

3) After we send up our passionate prayer we need to (a) put away our sadness (b) go in peace and (c) worship God

4) Our relationship with God is not a one-way relationship. We cannot expect to receive blessings and answered prayers without keeping the promises we make to God. We have to do our part ... we've learned He WILL do His'! It is better to not promise than to make a promise and break it.

5) We have to grow to a spiritual place where we love God so much that we would give up everything - even our child - the very person we longed for with all every fiber. I'm amazed at Hannah's love for God. She is an inspiration in so many ways.


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