In obedience to the law Elkanah journeyed with his family to the tabernacle in Shiloh for annual sacrifice and worship. It was during the post-sacrificial meal that the relationship of the two rivals (1:6) reached a level of sheer misery. Elkanah provided food for Peninnah and her children, but to Hannah he gave a “double portion.” Peninnah had his children; Hannah had his heart. Envious of the favor Hannah received, Peninnah retaliated and undoubtedly flaunted her own fruitfulness in front of Hannah. Her unbecoming behavior struck angry discord in what should have been a worshipful, joyful occasion. Year after year, it was so unbearable that Hannah could only weep, unable even to eat. Elkanah attempted to comfort her, his words revealing the depth of relationship between them.
“There are many reasons why God brings trials into the lives of his people, often to stimulate our faith, but in the case of the mother of so important a figure as Samuel, the point has to do not with Hannah but with Israel. The Lord closed Hannah’s womb to remind Israel that he had also caused the people to be spiritually barren because of their idolatry and unbelief.” (1)
Hannah stayed at home with Samuel until he was weaned, about three years old. Then keeping her vow (which was confirmed by Elkanah), she and Samuel went with Elkanah to Shiloh, bringing their sacrificial offerings with them. When the sacrifice was complete, they brought Samuel to Eli the priest.
God’s purposes are far greater than our own. Some women long for a child but remain barren their whole lives. Some give birth, but their child dies or is disabled. Some long for marriage, but a proposal never comes. Unfaithfulness, disease—suffering comes in endless ways. What does the story of Hannah say to us in those instances?
In the moment of our despair, we must keep at the forefront of our minds that all of God’s works have always been about the salvation of his people. We can be certain that whatever our circumstance, it’s necessary for what he’s doing in our life and/or someone else’s life. When through the Scriptures and prayer we are increasingly made aware of the magnitude of our sin and how dependent we are on God to deliver us, the more gladly we bow our longings to his will. When we learn to embrace God’s sovereign works we can at that point rejoice in our suffering. If we rejoice only in getting what we want, we miss the point of what God is doing in his greater plan of salvation history and our own part in it.
“Hannah came and poured out her soul before God, and he quieted her mind, and took away her sadness. This seems to have been from refreshing discoveries which God made of himself to her, to enable her quietly to submit to his will, and trust in his mercy. Do not conclude that the particular thing for which you prayed will certainly be given in answer to your prayers. Yet, God may and doubtless does testify of his acceptance of our prayers, and this we may confidently rest in his providence and in his merciful ordering and disposing with respect to the thing we have asked for. God manifests his acceptance of our prayers by dong for us that which is agreeable to our needs and our supplications.” (2)
About the Author: Rosemary lives in Cedarburg, WI and has been wife and ministry partner to Harry for forty-four years. They have two adult sons and a daughter who awaits them in heaven. A homebody at heart, Rosemary enjoys nothing better than good conversation, a good book, and a good cup of coffee.