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1 Samuel 1:12, 1011, 1718, 2128; 2:12comment (0)

May 7, 2009

By Thomas Fuller

Related Scripture: 1 Samuel 1:12, 1011, 1718, 2128; 2:12

Bible Studies for Life
Director of Ministry Leadership Development, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

1 Samuel 1:1–2, 10–11, 17–18, 21–28; 2:1–2

On this Mother’s Day, we consider a biblical personality who demonstrated godly character as a mother. Hannah’s story resonates with people in different ways. There are elements of her story with which women, mothers in particular, will connect. Men also will learn from Hannah’s example, both as a parent and a person who placed her trust in God. Whatever your gender or situation in life, the principles of healthy family life and faithful devotion to God are relevant. On this Mother’s Day, we celebrate the example of Hannah and seek God’s wisdom revealed in her story.

Hannah’s Sorrow (1:1–2, 10)
The Bible often sets the stage for God to do a new work of grace by describing a problematic situation or need. First Samuel begins by describing a painful situation in Hannah’s life. Hannah was one of two women married to Elkanah. “Peninnah (Elkanah’s other wife) had children, but Hannah had no children.” There was some consolation for Hannah in the love that Elkanah had for her. He showed no favoritism toward Peninnah, but to Hannah, Elkanah showed sensitivity and equity (1 Sam. 1:4–5, 8). His kindness, however, was countered by Peninnah’s cruelty. Hannah certainly cried herself to sleep many a night. “[S]he was in bitterness of soul, … and wept sore.” Her sorrow was a seedbed in which God could plant a seed of new hope. From the depths of Hannah’s sorrow, she “prayed unto the Lord.”

Hannah’s Supplication (1:11, 17–18)
More than Hannah’s prayer testifies to her deep longing to be a mother, it testifies to her desire to honor God with any such blessing He might bestow on her. How else can one explain her willingness to give up a son whom she had waited so long to receive? Hannah made a solemn vow to the Lord to “give him (a son) unto the Lord all the days of his life” and that “no razor (should) come upon his head.” She was devoting a son to the holy life of a Nazirite (Num. 6:1–21; Judg. 13:5–7). Godly parents recognize children are a gift from the Lord and desire nothing more than that their child would find his or her place in His work upon the earth. Hannah endured the misunderstanding of the priest, Eli, who observed her praying unto the Lord. Once her actions were clarified for Eli, he offered his blessing. Hannah left in a much different frame of spirit, not because her outward circumstances had changed but by the power of faith. Parenting, at any stage of life, is an exercise of faith. And while parents’ circumstances may not always be ideal, the promises of God can sustain hope and buoy spirits for the challenges of the day.

Hannah’s Sacrifice (1:21–28)
The Lord heard Hannah’s cry and answered her. She conceived and gave birth to a son, and he was given the name Samuel. What joy Samuel’s birth must have brought to Hannah and Elkanah. The focus of these verses, however, is not on Hannah’s joy but on her faithfulness to fulfill the vow that she made to God. It was Elkanah’s prerogative to nullify the vow Hannah had made if he saw fit to do so (Num. 30:10–15). But he supported Hannah in fulfilling her vow. When Samuel was weaned, she took him to Shiloh, made offerings of thanks unto God and presented her son to Eli. This practice may be foreign to us, but it challenges us to consider how we regard God’s gifts to us. Are His gifts — children or anything else — exclusively for our enjoyment and benefit? Or does He bless us that we, in turn, may use those blessings to minister to and bless others? Hannah, like Abraham before her, trusted God and returned to Him the gift of a son to use for His great purposes.

Hannah’s Song (2:1–2)
Hannah praised God for the wonderful work He had wrought. It was her personal testimony to His amazing grace. Many centuries later, another young woman named Mary would praise God in a similar way for His marvelous work, in which she had been privileged to share (Luke 1:46–55). Both sons, Samuel and Jesus, were servants of the Lord Most High. Christian parents today should also recognize the marvelous work of God in the blessing of children and honor Him.

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