Hannah (Mother’s Day)
(05/11/97 and 05/14/06)
Please turn in the pew Bibles to I Samuel chapter 1 and follow along with me as I read v10. “She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD, and wept bitterly.” Amen. The Word of God. Thanks be to God.
Mother’s Day 2006. I have been remembering some things my mama told me. My mama said, “Don’t run with scissors,” and I never did. It was not that I listened to her; I just never had an occasion when I had scissors in my hand and wanted to run.
My mama always said, “Take your Christmas decorations down before New Year's Day, and eat black-eyed peas and collards on News Years Day for good luck.” We always did that, but I don’t know if it improved our luck.
Mama said, “Always wear clean underwear. You never know you might get in an accident and wind up in the hospital.” But I always figured that if I was going to the hospital, I had more important things to worry about than underwear. Bill Cosby has a comedy routine he does on clean underwear and going to the hospital.
Mama said, “Don’t crack your knuckles, it causes arthritis.” I do not know if that is true, and I did it anyway.
Mama said, “Don’t go barefoot outside, you will get hookworm.” I ignored her on that too and often went barefooted outside. She was right though. Walking barefooted in contaminated soil can lead to problems with hookworm.
Then there were the arguments I had with mama trying to get my way. She had responses that tended to end arguments. She would say, “You are not going to do that because I said so.” That is mama logic—“because I said so.” Then sometimes I would try the argument—“Everyone else is doing it.” “I want to do it because everyone else is doing it.” To which she would reply, “If everybody else jumped off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff too?”
Then, another thing, at meals she would say, “Eat everything on your plate; children in China are starving.” I never could figure that out. What did eating everything on my plate have to do with some kid in China?
But I don’t really want to talk about my mother today. On this mother’s day, I want to talk to you about a biblical mother named Hannah. She is not a mother when we meet her in Chapter one of I Samuel. She is a woman in an intolerable situation. The lesson Hannah teaches us is how to handle tough problems.
Elkanah was a man from the hill country of Ephraim. He had two wives, Peninnah and Hannah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none, and Peninnah would often tease her and ridicule her because she was barren. This bothered Hannah a lot. Apparently though, it did not bother Elkanah, for when they went to Shiloh to sacrifice at the tabernacle, Elkanah gave Hannah a double portion of the sacrifice. This was a mark of his love and favor.
But this really annoyed Peninnah, and so Peninnah went out of her way to provoke Hannah. And Hannah was provoked. She was frustrated, irritated, angry. She stopped eating. She spent a lot of time crying.
We might criticize Hannah. She needed to grow up emotionally and develop a thick skill and ignore her tormentor. But apparently she was not very successful at doing that. This situation went on for years, with Hannah spending a lot of time in tears, and Peninnah growing ever more viscous in her comments.
Elkanah tried to help. In verse 8, he says, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”
These questions show us that Elkanah really loves Hannah, and he does not care whether she has children or not. This is not an issue with him. Maybe there is even a little jealousy here. Elkanah seems to think that Hannah ought to be paying him more attention. She has such a fixation on children that it bothers him. He says, “Look, I am your husband. You ought to be thinking more about me.” Husbands usually think that wives ought to think more about their husbands, but wives do not usually agree with them.
In any case, verse 9 indicates that after supper Hannah went again to the tabernacle at Shiloh. Elkanah’s words had one good effect. She realized that the way she had been fretting and worrying was no way to live, and she decided to do something about it. A lot of people need to come to that realization. A lot of people spend much of their lives worrying and fretting and crying and being unhappy. They need to break that cycle and take a step toward a new and better way of living. The step to take is the same today as it was more than three thousand years ago for Hannah. She decided that instead of being worn down by this mental and emotional burden that she would take it to the Lord. That is exactly what we need to do with our mental and emotional burdens.
Hannah was in the right place to do what she needed to do. In those days, before Solomon built the temple, the worship of Israel was centered on the tabernacle at Shiloh. The tabernacle was a portable shrine that housed the ark of the covenant. Thus, it was a place where the glory of God resided and where the people could meet God in prayer. Of course, the Israelites knew that they could pray to God anywhere, but they believed that the tabernacle was a special place for prayer.
Earlier that day, Elkanah and his family had made their offering to obtain the favor of God. Probably, this offering caused Hannah to believe that she could offer her prayer to God. She thought that since God had accepted their sacrifice, God would accept their prayers, and she was right.
The Old Testament sacrifice was a shadow of the sacrifice Christ would make on the cross. Jesus accepted Hannah’s prayers through the shadow sacrifice of that time. Now we live in a time when there are no more shadows. Jesus Christ, the redeemer of God’s elect, has offered for us a full and perfect sacrifice, and we need no other. Yet the new covenant of Christ crucified did not change things all that much. We are still like Hannah in that our prayers are acceptable to God only through sacrifice. Now we are acceptable to God only through the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for our sins.
As we examine Hannah’s prayer, we are impressed by the intensity of it. V10 “She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD, and wept bitterly.” This was no formal, unemotional prayer. This was a personal prayer mingled with tears. Her heart was breaking with anguish and despair. She says in v15, “I am a woman deeply troubled.” Again, in verse 16, she speaks of her “great anxiety and vexation.” She is miserable, and she brings her misery to the Lord. Even so, when we have miseries, which seem too much for us to bear, we should bring them to the Lord.
In her anguish, Hannah did not waste time on any kind of formality. She went straight to the point. She asked, no, she begged, for a child, for a manchild who would serve the Lord in the tabernacle. Hannah and Elkanah were of the priestly tribe of Levi, whose duty and privilege was to serve the tabernacle. So when Hannah says in v11 that she will give this child to the lord, she is saying she will raise the child to be a good Levite. She will bring him up to work for God. That is still good advice for all mothers. They should bring up their children in the way of Christ. They should teach their children to work for the Kingdom of God.
But Let us return to Hannah’s prayer. Verse 13 says that her lips moved, but “her voice was not heard.” She knew that God knows our heart and our trouble. That is a comfort. We don’t have to drag out our private misery before other people. We can take it directly to God and leave it with God. Now Jesus had some things to say about private prayer versus public prayer. Jesus condemned public prayers that are for the purpose of being seen and heard by other people.
Prayer is between us and God. This applies to both public prayers, and private prayers. It does not matter whether the prayers impress other people. It does not help you if I prayed a very ornate, impressive pastoral prayer today. In fact, it does not help me either. Effective prayer is like the prayer of Hannah—from the heart straight to God.
Certainly, Hannah did not impress people with her prayer. Eli, the priest of the tabernacle, thought that she was drunk and reproached her for such unseemly behavior in a holy place. She was not drunk. On the contrary, she had not been eating or drinking anything, but she was so intense in her prayer that it was reflected in her physical appearance. As she poured out her misery from the depths of her being, her eyes were closed, her body was rocking from side to side, and her lips were moving without sound. No wonder Eli thought she was drunk.
Hannah was so intensely focused on God in prayer that she did think about what other people might think. She had gone beyond even being aware of Eli, or Peninnah, or anyone else. It was just her and God in prayer, and that is the way it ought to be.
I have had the experience a number of times, sometimes in prayer and sometimes in more trivial pursuits, of being so concentrated on something that I was unaware of everything else. I remember one morning, just a couple a months ago, I was sitting at my desk back in my office. I had been reading a verse of scripture, and thinking about what the verse said about God, and I had gotten really focused on that. Then something registered out of the corner of my eye, and I looked up, and there was a person who had come into the study and was standing almost next to the desk. I promise you something like that makes your heart go KaThump.
You have probably had a similar experience. The point is we can concentrate on God—if we choose to, if we want to. Hannah concentrated on God with total intensity because she desperately needed a solution for her problems. We need Hannah’s desperation in our prayers.
Let us conclude then. What was the result of Hannah’s desperate prayer? We read in v18, “Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.” She stopped her crying and grieving. Why? Because she had trusted God with her problem. The furrowed brow, the worried eye, the set chin, were now all smoothed away, and she was pleasant and cheerful because she had committed her case to God and left it with God, and now she is not worried about it any more. She had prayed, and she was satisfied with that. She left her need in God’s hands. This does not mean that she believed that God was going to give her the child she prayed for. It means that whatever God does, she is willing to accept God’s answer, knowing that it is the best answer.
Now we know that God granted Hannah’s petition, and she became the mother of Samuel, the last judge of Israel. But Hannah when she prayed at the tabernacle did not know that. Nevertheless, she is happy anyway, because she turned to the lord and trusted the lord with her burden. That is what we must do. We belong to the family of God. God is our great parent. Trust God. God will take away our burdens and wipe away our tears and, like Hannah, we will be “sad no longer.” Amen.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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