by Rose Murdock
"…O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your handmaid and earnestly remember, and not forget Your handmaid but will give me a son, I will give him to the Lord all his life;…" 1 Samuel 1:11 The Amplified Bible
Hannah was barren. And if that wasn’t bad enough her husband’s other wife, Peninnah had children. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Peninnah teased Hannah every year, when they went to worship and sacrifice to the Lord, about not having any children. Hannah was upset over this. Elkanah, Hannah’s husband, was very compassionate towards Hannah and tried to comfort her but she was grieved over Peninnah’s constant ridicule.
It’s interesting that Peninnah’s name comes from a word meaning ‘pearl’ and is translated ‘ruby’ and Hannah’s name means ‘favored’. Hannah was favored by her husband Elkanah and received a double portion at the yearly sacrifice. Something can be valuable but not favored. You can have valuable jewelry like a pearl or a ruby and yet not favor that jewelry. You might have a cheap piece of jewelry that you like a lot better. In the same way, Peninnah produced children for Elkanah so in that sense she was valuable to him, but yet he favored Hannah. God doesn’t love us because of what we produce for Him, especially if what we produce for Him is a point of arrogance. God would rather have us be humble in spirit like Hannah, than productive but yet without compassion like Peninnah.
One year Hannah cried out the Lord and was praying, making a vow to the Lord that if He would give her a son then she would give the son to Him. Eli, the priest, saw Hannah praying and at first thought she was drunk because he saw her mouth moving but heard no words. Then Hannah told him that she was praying and pouring her heart out to the Lord. So Eli gold her to go in peace and "may the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him." (1 Samuel 1:17).
Well, the Lord answered her prayer and by the next year Hannah had a son—Samuel. And after Samuel was weaned, Hannah kept her vow to the Lord and brought him to Eli the priest to serve the Lord. As we read about the life of Samuel we see that he became a great prophet of the Lord.
There are a few things we can learn from Hannah’s vow and from her integrity in keeping her word. First, I think it’s interesting that Samuel became a prophet of the Lord and it says in 1 Samuel 3:19 that "Samuel grew; the Lord was with him, and let none of his words fall to the ground." None of Samuel’s words fell to the ground! The Lord Himself watched over the words of Samuel. Samuel was birthed from the vow of a desperate woman. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she kept her vow and then her son had this sort of favor with the Lord concerning his words. Hannah’s vow was a seed from which was birthed, in Samuel, an integrity that even the Lord honored. The Lord doesn’t forget the promises we make to Him when we’re crying out to Him in desperation for a certain thing. Do we? If we remember them, we just may give birth to something very powerful from the Lord.
Hannah felt that she was not fulfilling her purpose because she didn’t have a son. If her motive would have been just to have a son around the house then she wouldn’t have kept her vow in giving him to the Lord. She wasn’t able to enjoy her son in her life because she had given him to the Lord so what this tells us is that she simply wanted to fulfill her purpose in having a son. Do you know that we can’t even fulfill our God-ordained purpose in life without God? When God calls us to a thing He doesn’t expect us to do it in our own strength or ability. Only He can equip us to do what is our purpose to do.
When we are in the barren place, unable to birth what is our purpose to birth, we need to cry out to Him. And then we need to give our purpose to Him. We’ll need to care for it and nurture it, but also wean it so it’s not dependent on us. Hannah loved and nurtured the child and then weaned him and gave him to the Lord. Whatever God has called us to do, we need to love and embrace that purpose but then we need to wean it, we need to give our purpose to the Lord, for His use.
Giving our purpose to the Lord doesn’t mean we forget it. Hannah brought Samuel a coat every year and we also need to ‘clothe’ our purpose in prayer, keeping it covered with the results of our love and our work. Giving our purpose to the Lord means that we keep it prepared and available for His use, not for our own use. But it doesn’t mean that we say, "O.K. God, if you want it to work, make it work" and then we sit back and don’t do anything.
It’s encouraging to know that when we give to the Lord He also gives back to us. God blessed Hannah for keeping her vow and gave her and Elkanah three more sons and two daughters. God doesn’t expect us to give everything to Him and be left with nothing ourselves. He is a great giver Himself and will give to us as well.
But how many of us are as desperate as Hannah was to pursue our purpose in life? When we realize we’re not even able to fulfill our call, but are barren and unfruitful in His work, do we cry out to Him? Who would have faulted Hannah for saying, "Oh well, I guess I just can’t have kids. At least it saves me a lot of work?" How many of us are that desperate to find out and pursue the purpose to which we are called? Do we really want to do with our lives what God wants or do we think that if we never find out then we’ll be saving ourselves a lot of work? Do we think we won't have to answer to Him for not pursuing our purpose?
And then, what do we do when God answers our prayers and equips us for our purpose? Do we thank and praise Him for answering our prayers? Hannah did. In 1 Samuel 2, she worshipped Him and glorified Him for what He had done. Even though she was preparing to give Samuel to Eli, she was glorifying the Lord for answering her prayer and allowing her to do what she was created to do. Are we willing to release our ministry to the Lord and allow Him to get all the glory and praise for what we have done? Even though we may have put a lot of hard work, prayer and sacrifice into our ministry, God still needs to get the glory for nothing could have ever been accomplished if it wasn’t for Him making it happen.
When we are able to embrace, and yet not control; release, and yet not neglect, that which God entrusts to us then we will have the greatest joy in life, knowing that we are fulfilling what God created us to do. In Samuel’s life, the Word of God was brought to the people. At a time when the word of the Lord was ‘rare and precious’ Samuel became a prophet to whom God spoke the truth. During those desperate times in our lives, when we cry out to God for His purpose to be accomplished, He doesn’t forget, He hears our cries, answers us and blesses us for the sacrifices we make for Him. He keeps His Word to us, let’s remember to keep our promises to Him.
a crossword puzzle for this teaching