(1 Samuel 1:1-2:1-11, 18-22)
According to Paul the Apostle, only God can supply all the needs of His children (Phil. 4:19— “19 And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus”). He went further to state that God can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20— “20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”). To have God do what is immeasurably more than what we ask or imagine is to experience God’s unusual blessings. This morning, we want to learn from the example of Hannah in the Bible how we can experience God’s unusual blessings.
But who was Hannah? The first mention of Hannah is in 1 Samuel 1:2, where she is described as the first wife of Elkanah, a priest with no apparent religious function (1 Sam. 1:1). We know that Elkanah was a priest from the genealogy of Samuel (1 Chronicles 6:25-27, 31-36). They both lived at a time when the Israelite society had become a cesspool, a pit of depravity and corruption. It was a time when people had slipped into an immoral, lawless, abusive, violent, compromising, and permissive lifestyle. But Elkanah’s family was devout and deeply religious, and year after year they made an annual trip to Shiloh to worship the Lord (1 Samuel 1:3). However, despite its religious devotion, the family was deeply divided (1 Samuel 1:4-8). The basic cause of the division was the bigamist relationship created by Elkanah. In ancient days, it was important for a man to have a son to perpetuate his name and to inherit his property.
Since Hannah could not bear a son for her husband, Elkanah decided to marry a second wife named Peninnah. When Peninnah gave birth to children, she began to taunt, provoke, antagonize, and belittle Hannah. Apparently, the taunting and provoking of Hannah usually reached its peak at the annual festival attended by the family. Year after year, Hannah experienced a deep, grieving sorrow, anguish, and agony. In fact, she described herself as “a woman of a sorrowful spirit” (1 Sam. 1:15).She was gripped by a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, because of her inability to bear a child and the taunting of her rival. So many people are suffering hurt and pain, gripped by a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. A sorrowful spirit can result from grieving over our inability to bear a child or to provide for your family, on the one hand, and the insult and ridicule we are subjected to because of these factors, on the other hand. Just as Hannah suffered deep sorrow and a broken heart, so many people today, including some of us here this morning, are suffering the pain and agony of trials and the helplessness and hopelessness of circumstances.
Next, what did Hannah do to deal with her difficult circumstances? Before we consider what Hannah did, we want to consider what she could have done but didn’t do. First, she could have threatened to leave the marriage if her husband failed to caution Peninnah or send Peninnah and her children packing, but she didn’t. Second, she could have avenged the wrongs done to her by attacking Peninnah and/or her children, but she didn’t. Third, she could have hurt herself through excessive sorrow and wallowing in self-pity, but she didn’t. Fourth, she could have taken out her frustration on God by not going with her family to Shiloh for the annual feasts, but she didn’t. Five, she could have sought for a child from the gods of the surrounding nations, but she didn’t.
Rather than do any of these things, Hannah prayed and put her trust in God (1 Sam. 1:9-18). In deep anguish and bitterness of soul, Hannah wept and cried out to the Lord. We can readily assume that Hannah prayed before this great sorrow struck her, but she prayed with more intensity than before when she heard her rival talk so exceedingly proudly, and saw herself to be utterly despised. Dear brothers and sisters, if you have a secret grief, know where to carry it, and make haste to take it there. Learn from Hannah. Her appeal was to the Lord. She did not pour out the secret of her soul into any mortal ear, but spread her grief before God in his own house, and in his own appointed way. Many are in bitterness of soul, but they do not pray, and therefore the bitter taste remains. Prayer is the answer to distressful circumstances. No matter the trouble or problem, situation or circumstance, trial or tribulation—prayer is the answer. But Hannah did more than pray; she also made a vow to God. In her prayer she made a special vow to the Lord, addressing him as the “Lord of hosts,” the Almighty Lord who controlled all the events of human life (1 Samuel 1:11). She first requested that the Lord give her a son, and then she made an astounding promise: to give the son back to the Lord. She promised to dedicate the son to God that the son could serve the Lord all the days of his life. This vow is known as the Nazarite vow, a very special vow of separation to the Lord (Numbers 6:3-12).
This vow reveals something very unusual about her—her self-denying spirit. Although she desired a son so that her reproach might be removed; yet she was ready to give up her son to be the Lord’s as long as he lived. This is very peculiar and unusual! Why? Mothers normally wish to keep their children about them. It is natural that they should wish to see them often. But when Hannah asked God for a son, she did not seek him for herself, but for her God. She had it on her heart that, as soon as she has weaned him, she will take him up to the house of God and leave him there, as a dedicated child whom she can only see at certain festivals. Let’s look again at her very words in1 Samuel 1:11— “O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” Her heart did not long not to see her boy at home, his father’s daily pride, and her own hourly solace, but to see him serving as a Levite in the house of the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, this is one of our hardest lessons: to learn to give up what we cherish most at the command of God, and to do so cheerfully. This is real self-denial, when we are the ones making the proposition, and offering the sacrifice freely, as Hannah did. To desire a blessing that we may have the opportunity of parting with it, this is self-conquest: have we reached it? After her prayer, and the vow she made, Hannah had faith that God would give her what she asked for. She experienced a deep-seated assurance and confidence after Eli’s pronouncement of blessing. Real peace gripped her heart. She went her way and ate, and her countenance was no longer sad or downcast (1 Samuel 1:18). Although she had not yet obtained the blessing, she was persuaded of the promise, and embraced it.
Finally, what are the unusual blessings that God bestowed on Hannah?
First, God answered Hannah’s prayer by giving her a son (1 Samuel 1:19-20). He remembered Hannah’s prayer and empowered her body to conceive. Hannah bore a son and named him Samuel, which means God heard. Through hre experience, Hannah had learned a wonderful truth: God answers prayer. After Samuel was weaned, Hannah and her husband dedicated him to the Lord’s service during his whole life. This was done in fulfillment of the vow that she made to God. God indeed answers prayer! God has always answered the prayers and met the needs of His dear people. And he will meet our needs when we are gripped by sorrow or a broken heart. No matter what trials or temptations you may be facing, God will answer your prayers and meet your needs in Jesus’ name, if you will follow the example of Hannah.
Second, God blessed Hannah with the power to magnify Him, and this came through all that He taught her about Himself (2:1-11). Her difficult circumstances caused her to draw closer to God and, in those seasons of sacred nearness to the Lord, she made many heavenly discoveries of His name and nature, as is evident in her song. First, she now knew that the heart’s truest joy is not in children, nor even in mercies given in answer to prayer, for she began to sing, “My heart rejoices in the LORD.” It was not “in Samuel,” but in Yahweh that her chief delight was found. She also sang, “In the LORD my horn (strength) is lifted high”— not in the little one that she had so gladly brought up to the temple. She says in the first verse, “I rejoice in your deliverance.” God was her exceeding joy, and His salvation or deliverance was her delight. Next, she had also discovered the Lord’s glorious holiness, for she sang, “There is no one holy like the Lord.” The wholeness of God’s perfect character deeply impressed her, and she sang of Him as being far above all others in His goodness. She had come to realize His all-sufficiency; and had seen that He is all in all, for she sang, “There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” She had also found out God’s method in providence, for sweetly she sang, “The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength.” She knew that this was always God’s way— to overturn those who are strong in self, and to set up those who are weak. It is God’s way to smite the strong with weakness, and to bless the weak with strength.
As her great successor (Mary, the mother of Jesus) sang, thousands of years later, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:52-53). This is God’s peculiar way— the full He empties, and the empty He fills. Those who boast of their power to live He slays; and those who faint before Him as dead, He makes alive. Brothers and sisters, do you know anything of this? This is a secret which the saints of God know by personal experience. She had also been taught the way and method of His grace as well as of His providence, for she sang, “He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honour.” This, too, is another of the ways of the Lord which are only understood by His people. She had also seen the Lord’ s faithfulness to His people, for she sang, “He will guard the feet of his saints;” and, beloved, so He will, or none of them will ever stand. Some Christians do not believe in the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, but she did.She had foreseen also somewhat of his kingdom, and of the glory of it. Her prophetic eye enabled her to look into the future, and her joyful heart made her sing, “He will give strength to his King, and exalt the horn of his anointed.”
Third, God gave Hannah three more sons and two daughters, thus giving her five children for the one she had dedicated to Him. This was a great amount of interest for the loan of her son to God: fire hundred per cent. Parting with Samuel was the necessary requirement for the reception of other children. God cannot bless some of us till first of all He has tried us. We are not fit to receive a great blessing till we have gone through the fire. Half the men that have been ruined by popularity have been so ruined because they did not undergo a preparatory course of dishonour and shame. Half the men who perish by riches do so because they had not toiled to earn them, but made a lucky hit, and became wealthy in an hour. Passing through the fire strengthens the weapon which afterwards is to be used in the conflict; and Hannah gained grace to be greatly favoured by being greatly troubled.
Also, this great blessing of five more children is not unconnected with Hannah’s diligence in taking care of Samuel before he was weaned; the continued support given to him after he was dedicated to the LORD’s service; and her faithfulness to God. When she made a promise to God, she kept her promise. She did exactly what she said she would do. Her word was her bond. She was faithful to the Lord, and her faithfulness should be a challenge to us. Often during a crisis, we will make some vow to God, a promise to give up something; to change our lives; to make some gift to the church; to repent and return to the Lord; to receive Christ as our Saviour; and to serve the Lord in the ministry. When we make a promise to God, we must fulfil our promise. We must keep our word and do exactly what we say we would do.
Your eternal salvation and spiritual well-being are our concerns. If you wish to receive Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour, you can pray the following prayer to God: “Dear God, I thank you for sending Jesus into the world to die for my sins. I repent of my sins right now and invite Him into my life to be my Lord and Saviour. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
If you offered this prayer to God, please write to let us know through the address below. You are also invited to join us in worshipping the Lord every Sunday in Yoruba language at 7.20 a.m. and in English language at 9.00 a.m.
Good News Baptist Church,
47/49, Olufemi Road, Off Ogunlana Drive,
P. O. Box 3781, Surulere, Lagos.