All Hannah wanted was a son, but God wanted a prophet for His people and a friend for Himself.
There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah...He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none (1 Samuel 1:1-2). And because the Lord had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her (1 Samuel 1:6).
The story of these two women is not an uncommon one. God often uses irritating people to draw us closer to Him and to push us toward our destiny. God will put people in our lives that have what we want (and are willing to torture us with it) in order that we might seek Him for the fulfillment of the promise He has made to us.
Peninnah became increasingly smug over the fact that she had been given children and Hannah had not. And she used her children as a weapon to grieve Hannah. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat (1 Samuel 1:7).
Moved to Desperation
God desired to do something great for Hannah, but first He would need to prepare her for it. God used Peninnah's deplorable behavior to provoke Hannah and irritate her. That is right, it is true that God needed to irritate Hannah. He needed to bring Hannah to the point of desperation, so much so that she would be willing to give Samuel to Him (see 1 Samuel 1:11).
Hannah's pain and disgrace must have been great or she never would have prayed such a prayer. Her desire for a child must have been agonizing, and now she had promised to give that child away? She had no guarantee of ever having more than one child at this point, but her mind was made up. The child would be given to the Lord.
To be without children during that time in history was a great humiliation for a woman. Women of this region were considered children, until they had children. Only as a mother would she be given the respect and authority due an adult. As Hannah got older her disgrace became greater, and she could not escape Peninnah's irritating remarks. This went on for years, until Hannah was so desperate to remove her disgrace that she made a promise to God: if He gave her a son, she would give the boy back to Him.
In bitterness of soul, Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord. And she made a vow, saying, "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."—1 Samuel 1:10-11
A Promise is Born
Hannah, at the very lowest point of her life, prayed her most desperate prayer. She pleaded with God to take away her barrenness and bless her with a son. "Don't forget me!" she cried. She saw everyone around her receiving blessings from God and getting the desires of their hearts, yet she remained barren. She reached the greatest point of misery she had ever known, and laid out her heart before God. Hannah vowed to make the greatest sacrifice any woman could be asked to make. Her sorrow was so great it turned her soul bitter. Out of this bitter sorrow, a promise was born.
Hannah's heart was open before God and her tears were never more sincere. Into this precious scene blundered Eli, but he did not see Hannah for what she truly was. She was a woman after God, but Eli mistook the most sincere and heart wrenching moment of her life for that of drunkenness.
Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, "How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine."—1 Samuel 11:13-14
Perhaps, at times, you have had similar experiences to Hannah's. Your heart was outstretched and open before God, but people around you didn't recognize it as anything out of the ordinary or special. To some you may even seem sinful, but they have judged you incorrectly. The very people we think should recognize our potential are the ones that accuse us of being unspiritual or lacking what it takes to fulfill our potential. Not only did Eli miss the importance of what Hannah was going through, but he also completely misinterpreted her actions toward God.
The Avenue of Offense
At this moment Hannah could have walked away offended, but her need was much too great. She was desperate and wanted what only God could give her, no matter what she had to endure to get it. Some of our greatest blessings come to us through the avenue of offense. Hannah could have walked away, humiliated and discouraged, but she did not. She explained herself to Eli. When he realized how greatly he had misjudged her, he felt so badly that he blessed her instead.
"Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him."—1 Samuel 1:17
She received a blessing from Eli that she may not have had he not offended her. She received his blessing as being from God and she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast (verse 18). She was confident that God had blessed her through Eli even though he had misjudged her. She may never have received what she needed from God, except that her longsuffering brought her the answer to her heart's cry. Hannah was not only a godly woman, but her son would eventually take Eli's place in the temple and restore to Israel everything that Eli's sons had lost.
A Growing Promise
Hannah had already conceived Samuel in her heart before she ever conceived him physically. The dream of him had already been growing inside her. She was pregnant in the Spirit with the promise of God. No one, not even Eli, could see the transformation taking place in her heart. It was between her and God alone. She had a secret, a hope, and a dream. When she was referred to as "barren" by others seeking to injure her, she clung to the hope of God's enduring faithfulness.
Similarly, when a woman is first pregnant, no one knows she is pregnant except her. No one else can see what is happening inside her. It is her secret. We, too, carry the promises of God secretly inside us. Others can't see anything special in us because God has hidden it from them. They may even misinterpret our desire for God to be something that is sinful or worldly. No matter how spiritual people are, they cannot see what God has hidden from them.
Just like a baby hidden in the womb, so are the promises God has given to us. He speaks to us of our future as if to impregnate us with His will and purpose for our lives.
We want to tell the whole world what God has spoken to us. But the promises that the Lord has given to us should be treasured in our hearts and not shared with others who may not be able to see that which God has hidden from them.
God desires to do great things for us as well. But, like with Hannah, He must drive us to desperation so great that we are willing to give to Him the very thing we are asking Him for.
God uses people like Peninnah, to irritate us (see 1 Samuel 1:6) and provoke us until we are willing to do whatever it takes to receive our destiny in Him. The closer we are to the fulfillment of our destiny, the greater the irritation becomes, until we give up our claims to our destiny. We give up our dreams in exchange for His will; our ambitions for His plan.
In return, we not only receive what we were hoping for, but more than we have even dreamt of. Hannah not only got the son she desired, but her family line was established, through Samuel, as priests to the Lord forever. In addition to Samuel, she was also blessed with five other children.
God desires to do much more through us than we think is possible, but it must be done His way. Through His mercy, He keeps us from accepting less than all He has for us. All Hannah wanted was a son, but God wanted a prophet for His people and a friend for Himself.
Promise Through the Pain
In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord—1 Samuel 1:10
I have heard people say that God would not do anything to them that would cause them to suffer. They say, "God wants to bless me!" and I say, Yes, God does want to bless us, but some of our greatest blessings come out of our greatest pain. If we do not experience the pain, it is more difficult for us to appreciate the blessings we are given. It did not please God to cause Hannah such misery, but He could see the future and He needed Samuel. The only way He could get the promise to her was through the pain.
God does see your struggle and your pain; He hurts with you and weeps with you. He is begging you not to give up, because He can see your future and it is great! "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11).
The Lord's presence remained with all of Israel through Samuel, because Hannah chose not to give up on the dream she had in her heart. She chose to believe that God loved her and saw her as special even when others did not.
If the Lord has given you a dream or a promise of something so wonderful that others cannot receive it, keep it hidden in your heart as a secret treasure, until the moment of its birth. Some things should be kept between you and the Lord. He is jealous for your heart and wants you to Himself. Do not look for acceptance from anyone but Him; hold onto the God who loves you. His will will be done!
Pray this with me: Dear Father, Keep alive in me all that You have promised me. Cause all the circumstances that I must walk through to turn me toward You, not away from You. Help me to seek You and Your approval, and not the approval of others.
Speaking Life Ministries