It always makes me think of my own daughter whose deepest longing was to have a child, and yet she had three miscarriages before she was able to give birth to Maeryn. So many tears in those days.
I'm sure your DEEPEST longing right NOW isn't to have a baby, but you surely have a yearning for something that goes deeper than a new pair of boots or a text from Mr. Hottie. Keep that purpose that wells up in you in mind as you read this context for next week's EMBERS. Happy sipping.
Hannah was one of two women married to a man named Elkanah. There's your trouble right there. Two wives? And, even worse, the other wife, Peninnah, was able to have children but Hannah apparently was not.
And she wanted nothing more. When we studied Rachel we talked about what a curse being "barren" was for a woman. Not only is there a deep maternal urge in many women, but their society thought if you didn't have children, you were less than a woman and you obviously did something wicked at some point to tick God off.
But it gets worse for Hannah. Okay, yes, Elkanah loves her way more than he loves Peninnah and when they go to Shiloh to worship he gives a double portion in sacrifice to the Lord on her behalf. That's a big deal, But (a) Peninnah provokes Hannah constantly just to irritate her because she's childless and (probably) because she's outright jealous that Elkanah prefers Hannah to her. And (b) Elkanah doesn't get why she's so depressed. She won't eat and she cries all the time and he says things like, "Am I not more to you than ten sons?"
This particular year at Shiloh, after everyone has finished partying, Hannah slips away to the temple to pray to the Lord. Eli, the priest, is sitting on a seat beside the doorpost and sees her weeping. Bitterly. She's praying softly so he can't hear what she's saying, but we can: "If only you will look on my misery and give me a male child, I will set him apart for You." She even promises that her son won't drink . . . or shave.
As I said, Eli can't hear her. He only sees her mouth moving. So what does he think: "She must be drunk." What? Like I said -- Men. So he lays into her, asking her how long she's going to make a drunken spectacle of herself. I've always hoped that when she told him she wasn't drunk but merely pouring her soul out to the Lord, he felt really bad. She convinces him that she's not a "worthless woman" and that she's speaking out of "great anxiety and vexation."
Eli tells her to go in peace, that God will grant whatever she has asked of him. Yeah, he BETTER say that. Hannah trusts that and goes to her husband and joins the party. "Her countenance was sad no longer."
After Elkanah and Hannah worship the next morning they go home and sure enough, the Lord makes sure that Hannah conceives a son. When he's born, she names him Samuel, because she asked him of the Lord.
When it comes time for the yearly sacrifice again, Hanah doesnt go. She says she wants to wait until Samuel stops breastfeeding and she'll go there and present him to the Lord, just as she promised God she'd do. He'll be raised in the temple and probably stay there forever as a priest.
When Samuel is weaned -- so we're probably talking two years old -- Hannah takes him -- and a three-year-old bull, a bushel of flour, and a skin of wine -- to the temple at Shiloh. The bull is offered as a sacrifice and in a way, Samuel is too. She brings him to Eli and explains that she promised her son to the Lord. Remember, Eli couldn't hear what Hannah was saying that day. He has no idea what she vowed to God -- until now. She could have conveniently "forgotten" that promise and no other human being would have known.
Hannah doesn't. She leaves the son she so longed for there for the Lord. As a mother I can't even imagine it.
But when we read the words to the song Hannah sings at that point, we understand it. Her longing went far deeper than motherhood. She wanted to fulfill the purpose for which she was placed in the world. Now that she has, her heart "exults in the Lord." She pours out ten verses in which she :
* rejoices in her victory over her enemy; that would probably be Peninnah; yeah, that's what she gets for provoking, right?
* tells everyone how amazing God is
* warns them not to be thinking any of their blessings and successes are because of themselves
* predicts that the rich and arrogant people aren't going to be happy like the poor and meek who respect God -- not when it comes to the important things
It's so much like the Magnificat which Mary sings when she realizes she really is going to give birth to the son of God. As a good Jewish girl, Mary would know Hannah's song and was influenced by it as she sang hers. The songs of New Women have rung out through the centuries. I hope you'll be singing your own before the week is over.
Blessings on that week -