The Faith That Changed the Nation
1 Samuel 1:1-2:10
Our world is fraught with problems. Some problems are bigger than others. For example, I occasionally enjoy video games. Years ago, my son and I used to play a game called Frogger. I got to a level called “Bow Wow Falls” that I could not beat. That became a problem for a number of days, until I beat it. That problem is minor. Other problems can be quite large. One trip I made to junior camp in Louisiana was quite eventful. The bus broke down 1 ½ hours from church, we changed vehicles after a significant delay, then within ½ hour after getting back on the road, I came down with the symptoms of food poisoning. After taking more that an hour to drive around Little Rock, I decided to check into a hotel room and catch up with the rest of the group on another day. That was a bigger problem.
However, there are problems that from a human standpoint are insurmountable. These problems are enormous in size. When you find yourself in this kind of situation, you don’t see a way through the problem, there is no remedy for the situation, and all seems impossible. This is where we find Hannah.
I. Hannah Had Problems That Were Beyond Her Control
A. Her womb was barren (2)
Children were regarded as the mark of divine favor and highly prized in Israelite culture. Male children were especially prized. If there were no sons born to a household, that family or branch became lost. The custom of levirite marriage, rested on the principle that if a man died childless his brother should marry his widow, the children of such union being considered as belonging to the brother, whose name and line were then preserved from extinction. "If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her." (Deuteronomy 25:5, KJV)
She was barren, which from a human perspective meant that God did not bestow favor upon her. There was nothing that she could do. She was infertile and God was in control of one’s fertility. This was her first insurmountable problem.
B. Her family life was difficult
More than anything else, family problems can weigh people down. A husband who is neglectful or abusive or a wayward child can create difficulty beyond our imagination. Hannah had some vexing family problems.
Verse two indicates that her husband, Elkanah, married her then another woman named Peninnah. Possibly because she was infertile, her husband married a second wife in order to have children. This was not an uncommon situation in the Old Testament. You see this with Abraham and with Jacob. Elkanah is another example of a man whose wife was unable to bear children and perhaps lacking faith, married a second wife. Far from being yet another decadent Israelite in the period of the Judges, Elkanah is consistently portrayed as one who is devoted to the Lord. He yearly went up to sacrifice and worship God at the tabernacle. He followed the OT Law and had strong leadership in the home.
Because marriage to two women was not God’s ideal a domestic rivalry ensued between the women. Peninnah tormented Hannah (6-7) about her being able to have children, and Hannah’s inability. This may be due to the fact that Elkanah showed favoritism to Hannah by giving her a double portion (5).
Then there is her good-natured but insensitive husband, who tries to console her (10) and asked her if he is not better than ten sons. What kind of question is that? Men we never understand women. They are a mystery. In fact, I saw a book one time entitled, “What Men Understand About Women” the inside of the book was blank.
Hannah had problems that neither she nor any other person could fix. What do you do when life overwhelms you? Your overwhelming problems could be your children, your marriage, extended family, personal circumstances. Each of us has the potential to run against overwhelming problems. Although Hannah had overwhelming problems, she had a distinct advantage that many mothers could develop even today.
II. Hannah Knew God Personally
God is a person. He has personality, He communicates, He has desires, therefore it should stand to reason that we can know Him personally.
Hannah's strength is that she had a close personal relationship with God. She went to God with her problems. She called Him "Lord of Hosts" which is a term that admitted God had unmatched dominion in the world. Her pain had made her a theologian. She understood: 1) God alone was the giver of life; 2) her position as a believer is absolute subjection;
Hannah was godly before she was a mother. In fact, before she was a wife, she worshipped God. He was first in her life. Family responsibilities did not detract from her godliness. She prioritized and as a result, God’s will remained central for her.
Godliness begins and ends with putting God first in our lives. Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” “These things” don’t just refer to material needs but to success as a wife, mother, dad, and husband, whatever. Who’s first in your life? If anyone or anything comes before God, we are guilty of a form of idolatry.
Hannah knew God personally and look what her personal relationship resulted in:
A. Because she knew God, she came to God with her problems (10-11)
Here is Hannah in dire straights emotionally. The Bible calls it bitterness of soul. The word is “Mara.” This is only used to describe someone who is in great psychological pain. Naomi called herself that in Ruth 1:20 after the deaths of the men in her family. Job calls himself better of soul in Job 3:20 during his tremendous physical and emotional torment. Relief from this sort of pain is never pictured in the Bible as coming from a human being; in each case divine intervention was the only remedy. Wisely she went to the Lord for her help.
Hannah believed in prayer--open, honest communication with God. Look at verse 10: “In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord.” Her prayer was earnest and sincere, and she linked herself to God by a difficult vow (vs11). Even when she was openly criticized and falsely accused by the priest on duty who mistook her deeply felt prayer for drunkenness, she didn’t become defensive. She was polite and vulnerable, but persuasive.
B. Because she knew God, she achieved spiritual victory: resulting in peace and hope (18)
Eli the priest falsely accused her of being drunk. She told the priest she was in dire straights. He being somewhat sensitive to spiritual things blessed her. She came away no longer sad.
C. Because she knew God, she had high ideals for her son (11, 22)
I don’t believe that she was bargaining with God here. She honestly wanted a son who would serve before God his whole life. This was not a selfish request. This was the heartfelt request of one who wanted to honor God. Hannah was not content for her son to be just a good citizen. Her desire was for her son to see God. "Appear before the Lord" is a phrase found only in the Pentateuch and refers to annual sacrifice pilgrimage or solemn assembly meetings. She was really saying, “When he goes on his pilgrimage, he will never come back and always be in your presence Lord.”
To desire your children to be good citizens is not enough. To want them to have a good life is not pleasing to God. Any goal other than the glory of God is an improper goal. Your honest heart’s desire should be for your children to glorify God with their life.
While the main human character in this story is Hannah. In reality this story is all about God. God wants us to know several truths from the faith of Hannah.
III. God Wants You to Know
A. God engineers difficult circumstances to glorify Himself through us
God is the God of the impossible. His biography of events and human change is astounding. God took a pampered self-confident man named Moses into the desert for 40 years and then when he was 80 and humble, used him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. It was God who opened the Red Sea when their back was to the wall. God took the woman at the well, the modern day “woman at the bar” who had five husbands and countless lovers and dramatically changed her. God took a well-educated, very powerful, very ruthless religious zealot and turned him into one of the greatest preachers of the Gospel the world has ever known. (B.B. Warfield)
God wants to be glorified. God’s purpose is to bring glory to Himself. That’s why the universe was created (Psalm 19:1). Isaiah 43:7 tells us that is why He created people. God wants to display His glory and His splendor through your life.
B. God sometimes uses the most insignificant people to impact the world
Here is Hannah, who is not only a woman, but a barren woman, a virtual nobody in Jewish society, and God used her to impact her world. She prayed for a son, and little did she know what God was planning to do through her. In chapter 3 God came to Samuel. The Bible said that visions were rare in that day, and God came to him as a boy in a vision. He had a message for Eli. The chapter ends by saying, “All Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord.” When he came to the end of his reign as the prophet of Israel, the whole nation confirmed his Godly rule. You should read for yourself the impact this boy of a barren woman had on his nation.
All this came about because a barren woman prayed a prayer of faith and wanted God’s glory. God always seems to raised up one. Most of the time they are not from prominent houses, but from the common. Our country needs the one. The man who will stand in the gap so to speak. Where will he come from?
C. God uses trials to draw us closer to Him
Remember that God was the one who made her womb barren and it was God who opened her womb and blessed her.
D. We come to know God better when we act in faith to Him
After the birth of Samuel Hannah prayed a prayer that was a public testimony of what God had done in her life. You will never really get to know God as well as you could, if you don’t act in faith to God.
Do you remember when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son on the mountain? After God provided a lamb for Abraham, the great Patriarch said now I know “Jehovah Jireh” meaning “God will provide.” Remember when Joshua and the Israelites were fighting the Amalekites? Moses was overseeing the battle from a nearby mountain. God defeated the Amalekites and Moses built an alter and called it “The Lord is My Banner.” As I said at the beginning, God is relational, and He desires that you get to know Him through trusting obedience to Him. There are many other names by which we can know God. Which ones do you know him by? God is my Hope (Ps. 71.5), God is my friend (Job 16:20), Faithful and True (Rev. 19:11), My support (2 Sam 22:19).
Conclusion: Moms, dads and grandparents do you know your God? When life hands us a batch of difficulties, take them to the Lord.