Call to Worship March 14, 2021
Expository Thoughts on 1 Samuel 1:1-18
1 Samuel opens with an introduction of a man with a fair amount of financial means and a lineage from the line of Levi. Elkanah was a devoted man to the Lord in sacrifice and worship, including leading his family to take part in the yearly sacrifice at Shiloh. Yet, his family life is far from perfect. Although he has two wives only one of them has been able to bare children. Peninnah bore him several children, but devoted some of her time to the harsh harassment of her fellow wife Hannah. Hannah had not given birth to a child for Elkanah and was sorely depressed. Peninnah was no help in the matter and Hannah’s distress only grew stronger over time.
Hannah’s worry of barrenness was not a new concern in the world and certainly not to the God of all creation. The scripture is replete with examples of God using a woman of older age to give birth to a person of God’s good purpose. His mercy was great to Sarah (Gen. 21:1-2), Rachel (Gen. 25), Samson’s mother (Judges 13), and Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist. (Davis, pg. 16) So Hannah will call upon the only being who has aided women in their distress throughout all time. The God of the Bible has a planned purpose in His creation, power over it, and the plan of His providence to govern such matters for His glory. When Hannah calls upon God, He is able to appropriately deal with her distress. Even if she had never been able to have a child, only God could comfort her soul.
Hannah will find solace in the Lord, but not without further difficulty. Year after year seemed to be no different (vs. 7). She would go up to Shiloh and worship and pray, but each year there was no pregnancy. Finally, one year in Shiloh, she arose after a meal and went to pray before the Lord. Her prayers were so bitter it was primarily tears and garbled speech. So much so that “Old Eli” thought she was drunk. “Sometimes tears themselves apparently constitute prayer,” according to Dale Ralph Davis, “for the Lord hears ‘the sound of [our] weeping’” (Psa. 6:8) (Davis, pg. 18). Yet, her prayer was a genuine vow to the Lord. Her child would be “given” to Him alone “all the days of his life” (vs.11). Once Eli heard her thoughtfulness and understood her dire distress he gave a blessing that the Lord grant her petition. Soon she would give birth to a son and name him Samuel.
It is not only amazing that God answered her prayer and gave Hannah a son, it is amazing that He answers prayer at all. We must remember that God may not answer prayer in our timing or according to our plans or preference, but He does answer prayer. In Hannah’s life the particular trial was barrenness. God gave her a child, but she did not get to keep Samuel at her home for 20 or so years. Yet she was thankful for God’s providence of having a child at all. We must remember that His plan is not dependent on our plan, but He will aid, strengthen and comfort His people through all the various trials of life. Prayer is a means that helps us to properly recognize, submit to, and adore His sovereignty and purpose for all of life. Also prayer helps our dependence upon God’s goodness through providence, even when it is difficult. He will bring about good to those who are called according to His purpose and love Him. Ultimately God will bring Himself glory through His providence and the prayers of His people. Soli Deo Gloria!
“God’s tendency is to make our total inability his starting point. Our hopelessness and our helplessness are no barriers to his work. Indeed our utter incapacity is often the prop that he delights to use for his next act. This matter goes beyond the particular situations of biblical barren women. We are facing one of the principles of Yahweh’s modus operandi [mode of operation]. When his people are without strength, without resources, without hope, without human gimmicks-then he loves to stretch forth his hand from heaven. Once we see where God often begins we will understand how we may be encouraged.” (Dale Ralph Davis, I Samuel: Looking on the Heart, [Christian Focus Pub., 2014], pg. 16)