1 Samuel 1:1-18 God, the Ever-present Parent
1 Samuel 1:1-18
1 Now there was a certain man from Ramathaim- zophim from the hill country of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 He had two wives: the name of one was Hannah and the name of the other Peninnah; and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
3 Now this man would go up from his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests to the Lord there. 4 When the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and her daughters; 5 but to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, but the Lord had closed her womb. 6 Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7 It happened year after year, as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she would provoke her; so she wept and would not eat. 8 Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”
9 Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11 She made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.”
12 Now it came about, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli was watching her mouth. 13 As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk. 14 Then Eli said to her, “How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.” 15 But Hannah replied, “No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman, for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation.” 17 Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him.” 18 She said, “ Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
An introduction to the book of 1 Samuel is a narration of Prophet Samuel’s legacy. These are dark times of Israel where sin is rampant. God is about to chastise Israel and do a deep work of cleansing in order to restore the nation back to glory starting with the priesthood. This book speaks of the difference one man can make to a nation that is rotting at its roots. Hannah, the mother of Samuel, who is a woman in distress, being heartbroken because she was barren. Her enduring faith that God will never forsake her, and that God has a special purpose in her suffering left an indelible impression in young Samuel’s life. Hannah’s spirituality, her maturity, her devotion towards God will be an inspiration to today’s parents. She teaches us that it is not the length of time that a parent uses to teach the child that determines the child’s growth, but the parent’s personal godliness and God’s intimate guidance in the child’s life. Hannah is willing to let go and let God parent his first-born son to become the one of the greatest prophet of Israel.
He (Elkanah) had two wives: the name of one was Hannah and the name of the other Peninnah
Elkanah apparently had Hannah as his first wife (as Hannah was mentioned first) and took a second because she was barren. It is a yearly family custom to go to Shiloh to sacrifice to God. It is likely that the wives are living apart for when it is time to make the yearly trip, Peninnah takes the opportunity to provoke Hannah. We could observe Hannah’s commitment towards God when she decided to put up with Peninnah’s persistent provocation to accompany her husband for the trip. Penninah’s behavior can partly be attributed to Elkanah’s affection for Hannah. We could only imagine Hannah’s pain of having to share her husband with another woman and of being provoked continually for something that she has no control over. Yet, we could see in her no evidence of murmuring or dissatisfaction, but an undying devotion towards God.
But the Lord had closed her womb
It is clear from the text that God has deliberately closed Hannah’s womb and prevented her from conceiving. However, we could safely say that Hannah’s barrenness is not due to sin but a deliberate act from God for His special purposes. Although Hannah wasn’t aware of God’s intentions at that time, it causes her much grief for she had repeatedly prayed to God to open her womb. Despite God’s silence, she continued to worship God at Shiloh and put up with Penninah’s provocations. Hannah’s unwavering commitment to worship and sacrifice to God proved her deep-seated respect and faith towards Him.
Then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head
On one fateful visit to Shiloh, Hannah prayed to God and made a vow: If God would give her a son; she will give him to God and serve Him all his life. “A razor shall never come on his head” refers to the dedication of her son as a Nazirite. A Nazirite is wholly dedicated to God’s use and to abstain from wine, refrain from cutting hair, and not to become ritually impure by touching corpses. Hannah’s decision speaks of her gratitude towards God knowing that she will not be seeing her son for the most parts of his life. It also speaks of great faith and dedication towards God and His work, something that Abraham has also done with his only son Isaac. Perhaps, Hannah’s protracted barrenness has refined in her an enduring faith that left an indelible mark in Samuel.
So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad
Eli despite observing her demeanor at length failed to discern her state of heart and mistook her for being drunk. Eli’s lack of spiritual insight is not surprising given his inability to influence his own sons while allowing them to do evil in the temple. His response towards Hannah’s prayer of distress lacked passion and sincerity. Nevertheless, a spirit of peace and assurance came from above to comfort Hannah: and her face was no longer sad, that God has heard and answered her petition.
True faith is forged by one’s continual devotion and trust towards God through a protracted time of suffering.
Hannah continued to trust that God has a plan behind every bad circumstances and one must not give up believing in God. Because God is love and light, the night has to pass and the day must come. Hannah’s dark night experience gives occasion for true faith to flourish – the faith that impacts the world. Suffering is the crucible through which true faith is forged. Therefore, believers must be enlightened in their mindset towards suffering and to let suffering does its work that produces in them a faith that impacts the world.
Parents can impart their spiritual qualities to their children.
Samuel’s future success as a prophet of Israel is partly attributed to the impartation of faith from Hannah. The Bush family produced two presidents for the United States. The Lee family has fielded two outstanding Prime Ministers for Singapore. A string of great men and women of faith forms the lineage leading to the birth of Jesus. Therefore, believers must see their present suffering as necessary so that they have something precious to impart to their children. Faith is without doubt the single most precious inheritance that a father can leave for his children. Faith is imparted not by spending much time in coaching the child, but about personal example and leadership. Hannah only had three years with Samuel, but that had such tremendous impact in the child’s life. Knowledge can be taught, but life and faith can only be imparted through one who possesses them.
We must wholly sacrifice to God the first fruits of our harvest.
Hannah gives back to God all that she has received from Him. She did not attempt to keep some of Samuel’s time for herself for she dedicated him to the temple once he is weaned. What we have received, if not dedicated back to God becomes useless, stunted and self-fulfilling. Dedicating our children and disciples to God involves letting go and trusting God to parent and disciple them. Parents and Pastors need to trust that in their absence, God is present and is actively working in their hearts. The Holy Spirit indwells our children and disciples and can do much more than a physical parent can. Hannah’s decision brought growth and benefits beyond what she could imagine, both for her and for the nation. Therefore, believers must trust God with their children and dedicate back to God and by putting to good use their spiritual gifts and physical resources for the work of the gospel.
The peace within our heart is the evidence that God has heard our petitions.
Part of the process of prayer is to let go of our anxieties and control over the circumstances and to allow God free hand in the matter. We must submit ourselves to God’s ways and allow Him time and space to work his promises into our life. At the mean time, we need to persevere in faith by rejoicing daily in the assurance of promises fulfilled.
Are you waiting for a breakthrough from God that concerns the health of a loved one, your career or financial situation? Do not give up, but make your requests known to Him. Be filled with peace according to His word, being assured that He has already heard your prayer and has made plans to fulfill them. Paul says,
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Responsible parents contribute to their children’s education, moral development and physical needs. However, the greatest gift a parent could give is his/her attitude of worship and faith towards God. As children learn through observation and emulation, make plans to be regular in church worship and to invest your plans to serve the needy people of the community.
Dear Lord, I recognize that you have a special reason for every unfavorable circumstance. I continue to trust that you will turn my circumstances around in your time and way. Strengthen me as a parent to become an inspiration of godliness and devotion towards God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.