DAUGHTERS OF EVE
LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM WOMEN IN THE BIBLE
PART 5: HANNAH – “BARREN, BULLIED, BROKEN, BRANDED… AND BLESSED”
The story of Hannah is told to us in 1 Samuel chapter 1 – let us read it in full:
There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.
3 Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. 4 Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. 6 Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8 Her husband Elkanah would say to her, ‘Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?’
9 Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, ‘Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.’
12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, ‘How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.’
15 ‘Not so, my lord,’ Hannah replied, ‘I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.’
17 Eli answered, ‘Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.’
18 She said, ‘May your servant find favour in your eyes.’ Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.
19 Early the next morning they arose and worshipped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, ‘Because I asked the Lord for him.’
21 When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfil his vow, 22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, ‘After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.’
23 ‘Do what seems best to you,’ her husband Elkanah told her. ‘Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the Lord make good hisword.’ So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.
24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. 25 When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 and she said to him, ‘Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he shall be given over to the Lord.’ And he worshipped the Lord there.
What a wonderful woman of faith! Let’s have a look at some of the lessons that we can learn from Hannah:
DON’T BE DEFINED BY BEING BULLIED AND BROKEN
Do you relate to Hannah’s experience?
She was bullied by the “other woman” – Peninnah, because “Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none” (1 Sam 1: 2). And the form that this bullying took? Mocking, and put-downs, and accusations. Have you ever suffered this? Being told over-and-over again that you are no good, a failure, inadequate, incapable or stupid, ugly, horrible, disliked, unloved.
Oh! Facebook and other forms of social media were the bane of my life when I was in education! Young people bullying other young people by the posts they posted. Horrible! Yet, how much worse when the bullying comes from within your own household, your own family. Hannah understands and you can understand Hannah.
And the result? She was broken – broken-hearted. We are told of Hannah that “her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat” (1 Sam 1: 7). In modern parlance she was depressed. This is what happens when you are day-after-day and year-after-year put down. If this is you – then Hannah understands.
Her depression was so great that when she prayed silently and wept before God, Eli, the High Priest, thought that she was drunk (verse 13). Not only bullied, not only broken but also branded as a drunkard – someone who had “lost the plot” with life. Someone who had turned to drink, drugs, loose living, crime, to deal with life. Do you relate to this? To people seeing you all wrong?
But the lesson we must learn from Hannah here is to NOT BE DEFINED by this. Oh, her husband loved her to pieces. He tried to cheer her up, gave her extra portions and tried to make up for what she lacked. But Hannah was determined to get to the root cause of the problem – and she took it to God…and He blessed her for her faith.
BRING YOUR DEEPEST NEEDS TO GOD
Hannah was bullied, broken and branded; her husband was not able to help her; she felt isolated and alone…as do so many of you. But she did not give up. Rather she turned to God for help. She was bold in her need. She came into the presence of God raw and vulnerable, willing to express the emotions in her heart, begging Him with tears to help. He saw the sincerity, He had compassion on her. He gave her the desires of her heart. He gave her a son.
Whether you need a child, or need health, or need comfort, or need money, or need love, learn from Hannah. Be bold. Be real in your raw emotions. Bring it to the LORD in prayer. You don’t have to ask others to pray on your behalf (though this is a really good idea) – Hannah’s private prayer to God was effective. And yours can be too. Don’t feel inadequate in prayer. Don’t feel that God could not possibly listen to your faltering words. God looks at the heart. God looks at your soul. God will hear. God will answer – even if it is not in the way that you are hoping that He will.
EVERY CHILD IS SPECIAL
In Hannah’s case, she was a woman bullied and broken – and blessed by God. How was she blessed? She was given a son…Samuel – “God hears”. And Hannah was so grateful for God hearing her. So grateful that she committed her boy to God’s service for the rest of his life. And what a boy he was! He was the one called to by God in the middle of the night. He became the man who was the last Judge of Israel. He was the one who was to anoint Saul and then David to be the first kings of Israel.
The next lesson from Hannah is that every child is special…so YOUR child is special.
Now – you say “no! This story is about one child – Samuel – you can’t apply this to my child!” But, yes I can! Jesus said this to His disciples and so to us:
‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. (Matthew 19: 14-15)
EVERY child IS special, and loved, by Jesus. And, don’t forget, this means that YOU are special because YOU are a child – whether you are 8 or 80, we are all children born to parents.
YOU (as well as your child) are a gift from God. Psalm 127 verse 3 says this:
children are a heritage and gift from the Lord, The fruit of the womb a reward (Amp version)
This is why we believe so passionately in the sanctity of the life of the unborn child. Just as God opened Hannah’s womb, so God opens the womb of womankind everywhere.
BRING OUR CHILDREN TO JESUS
Hannah promised to commit her child to God. In 1 Samuel 1: 11 –
she made a vow, saying, ‘Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life’
Like Hannah, you are called to commit your child to the LORD – this is why we have child “dedication” services – this is the best way you can thank God for His glorious gift to you.
And what does this commitment look like? For Hannah it was to literally take her child to the Tabernacle to serve God there day and night. For us, it is likely to look very different (but the principle is the same):
- Bring your children to Jesus in thanks.
- No matter what you yourselves believe, bring your children to church so that they can learn about God for themselves. Maybe this will have a positive effect on you as well. I know of one lovely family where the mother, an unbeliever, felt that she should bring her two young boys to the local church (which was my church) so that they would have a chance to decide for themselves as to what they believed. Well, those 2 young boys quickly became believers. But wonderfully, marvellously, their mum became a believer too…followed closely by their dad.
- Bring them up in the way of the LORD – may your home be flavoured by the Christian life.
- Read the Bible to them. Pray with them. Talk to them about Jesus.
We must not hinder them coming to Jesus but must facilitate them being able to do so. In this way we can say “thank you” for the wonderful gift of our child.
THE CONCLUSION – “THANK YOU”
The story of Hannah does not end with God hearing her plea and giving her a son.
The story ends with “Hannah’s Prayer”. In the next chapter – 1 Samuel chapter 2 – Hannah says “thank you” to God for His kindness and compassion towards her.
Let us never forget to thank God for all His answers to our prayers – and He answers every prayer.
Let us never forget to thank God for all His answers to our prayers even when those answers are not what we want to hear.
Let us never forget to thank God for all His answers to our prayers because He knows what is best for us, His purposes for our lives are to “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29: 11), His will is perfect.
Let us thank the LORD.