Hannah was married to a man named Elkanah, who had another wife called Peninnah. Peninnah had children but Hannah had none. We all know about Hannah’s sorrow, how she desperately longed to have a child but was barren. We know her for her faithfulness, how she never gave up hope that God would answer her prayers. For years Peninnah would torment Hannah, mocking her for her infertility which was a disgrace at that time. Hannah wept with a heart full of sorrow.
Hannah would pour out her heart before the LORD in prayer, and as she prayed, Eli the priest observed her mouth. Hannah prayed in her heart and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli was not able to decipher the difference between a rambling drunk and a troubled woman who was seeking the LORD.
‘And it happened as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli watched her mouth. Now Hannah spoke in her heart and only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore, Eli thought she was a drunk. So Eli said to her, “how long will you be a drunk? Put your wine away from you!” But Hannah answered and said “No my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now”. Then Eli answered and said “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked him’ (1st Samuel 1:12-17).
There are a few lessons we can learn from Hannah. She knew how to respond with kindness and in love or not respond at all. Hannah showed wise restraint with her words as she not only knew the right things to say, but also when to say nothing at all. For years Peninnah, Elkanah’s other wife, ridiculed Hannah and looked down at her for her infertility. Yet instead of responding to her tormentor, she remained silent.
Then her character was tested again when Eli the priest accused her of being drunk! And once again Hannah demonstrated grace and humility through her words. She says to Eli “Do not regard your ‘maidservant’ a wicked woman”. By describing herself as Eli’s servant, she acknowledged his position of authority when she could’ve easily fought back. She chose to display proper respect and then Eli’s response was understanding and tender.
We also know Hannah for her sacrifice – when God blessed her with Samuel, she dedicated him to the LORD and left him at the temple to serve God all the days of his life. When Hannah was praying for a son, she made a vow with God that if He was to answer her prayer, she would offer her son to serve the LORD all the days of his life. She was ready to give back to God what He would give to her. This reminds us that all that we have is a gift from God! It teaches us to give back to God what already belongs to Him. God knew her intentions and saw what was in her heart. Then when you read on – you will see that because of her heart, God blessed Hannah with 5 more children.
Perhaps you are being afflicted by those around you. Perhaps you are going through trials and you feel like no one understands. Exodus 14:14 tells us that ‘The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace’. When all that was within her was hurting, Hannah trusted that her God would provide. She turned to God instead of shooting back at those who caused her pain, demonstrating her faith in her loving father. Hannah was prepared to give back to God the blessing that He was about to pour over her life.
Often times we may ask God for something out of selfish ambition – whether it be a house, a job, a spouse, an education – you name it. But are we asking in accordance with God’s will? Are we prepared to use these blessings for His glory? May we embrace the humility, patience, gentleness and sacrifice of Hannah. The LORD has searched our hearts and He knows our thoughts (1st Samuel 2:3). May we lay down all our desires at His feet so we can say with Hannah ‘My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high’ (1st Samuel 2:1).