Hannah’s Heart for God
1 Samuel 1:1-28
April 17-18, 2021
I mentioned last week that the book of Ruth is where it is in the Bible for a reason, the same issue with 1st and 2nd Samuel. They are aware they are for a reason. Mostly because, the book of 1 Samuel, for example, takes place during the time of the judges, which is why they are there in the Bible. The theme of Judges as we were studying through it is every man did what is right in his own eyes. Israel, they fell away from the Lord, they went after the gods of the world and all the worldliness thereof. Their results were predictable, trouble upon trouble. In their great distress, then they would cry out to God, which is the right thing to do.
God would send a deliverer and then when that deliverer passed, they would fall away again and go after the worldly things. It is that backdrop that we see the book of 1 Samuel taking place. What's interesting is that there was even, in those days, corruption in the priesthood. Eli was high priest, but his two sons were corrupt. The degree of the corruption was just unfathomable. Eli, he knew about it, but did nothing. He should have fired them, did nothing to stop them. That's the backdrop to the story.
One of the great lessons that we saw in the book of Ruth when we studied Ruth and Boaz and their life, one of the great lessons is that you don't have to follow after what everyone else is following after. You can choose to follow the Lord. Even though everyone else falls away, you can choose the way of the Lord in your life. I say that because today we are living in times very much like the days of judges, where every man does what is right in his own eyes. Many people are following after worldly things and turning their back on the Lord. Here's the great lesson of the story. God always has a few, God always has a remnant. there will always be some that follow after the Lord though everyone else turned back.
I'll tell you what, I want to be in that remnant, I want to be in that number. Like Joshua said, "As for me in my house, we will serve the Lord." Amen. That's the backdrop to the story. In fact, Jesus said it this way, "Enter through the narrow gate for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction and many enter through it. The gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life and few are those who find it". Character matters, faith matters, heart matters and we'll see it in this story.
In this first chapter, we meet a man from the hill country of Ephraim. His name is Elkanah. Right away we sense he's one of the few, he's one of the remnant. He loves God. He's a good man. He goes up to Shiloh, that's where the tabernacle was in those days. Every year he would go up, bring an offering and sacrifice. He honored the Lord. It tells us that the man had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Whenever you read in the scriptures the man had two wives, you can predict that trouble would surely follow. That's exactly what we read in the scriptures. Peninnah had children, Hannah did not.
The assumption here is that Elkanah married Hannah first. We see in the story he loved her. He very, very much loved Hannah but she had no children. He married Peninnah to raise up children, to raise up an inheritor to the land which they and his family, which was very, very important in those days. In that time in culture, if a woman had no children, it was thought that God had withheld children from her for some reason. It was a reason that was her fault and she would be severely looked down upon. The backdrop to the story is Elkanah loved Hannah, which very much made Peninnah jealous and thus the drama unfolds because Peninnah had children and so she would provoke on purpose Hannah.
She would on purpose irritate her creating conflict and drama in her life on purpose because the Lord had closed her womb. That's the backdrop to the story, let's read it. 1 Samuel 1:1. There was a certain man from Ramathaim-Zophim from the hill country of Ephraim and his name is Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph an Ephraimite. The man had two wives, the name of one was Hannah, the name of the other was Peninnah. Peninnah had children, Hannah had no children. This man would go up from his city every year to worship, to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh.
Now that tells us about the priesthood. The two sons of Eli. Eli was the high priest. Hophni and Phinehas were priests to the Lord there. We'll read in the next chapter just how corrupt these two sons were. They were probably in their 40s and 50s so we can't call them boys, but they were corrupt. Now when the day came that Elkanah would go up to Shiloh and sacrifice, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and daughters. This was a very typical part of the offering of sacrifice. He would give a portion to the Lord and then a portion would remain with you. It's like sharing it with the Lord. You would share it with your family. It was a beautiful, beautiful thing.
It says that he would give portions to Peninnah, but to Hannah, verse five, he would give a double portion because he loved her but the Lord had closed her womb. Interesting way to see it. The Lord had closed her womb. Her rival Peninnah, however, would provoke her bitterly on purpose to irritate her because the Lord had closed her womb. This happened year after year after year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, Peninnah would provoke her. Then Hannah would weep. It just bothered her and she would not even eat. It says then Elkanah her husband said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than 10 sons?"
Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Eli, the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorposts of the temple of the Lord. She, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and was weeping bitterly. We know her prayer. It tells us, verse 11, in her prayer, she made a vow and she said this, "Oh Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your maidservant, and remember me and not forget, don't forget your maidservant, but will give your maidservant a son, I will give that son to the Lord all the days of his life and a razor shall not ever come upon his head," which is to say he will be a Nazaror, a Nazarite dedicated to the Lord all the days of his life.
You might know John the Baptist was a Naziror, a Nazarite dedicated to the Lord. Verse 12, it came about, as she continued praying before the Lord that Eli was watching her mouth, and he saw something strange. As for Hannah, she was speaking only in her heart. Only her lips were moving, but nothing could be heard. Her voice was not heard. Eli, this was strange to him so Eli thought she was drunk. Eli confronts her. "How long will you make yourself drunk, woman? Put away your wine.
Hannah answered and said, "No, my Lord." Like, "No, sir, you have it wrong. No, sir. No. I am a woman oppressed in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before Jehovah. Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman." Literally in the Hebrew, a daughter of Belial. Do not think of me this way. I'm not a worthless woman. I have spoken now out of my great concern and provocation. Eli, he immediately sees this is a sincere woman, she's a genuine woman. He said then, "Go in peace, daughter. May the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of him". She said, "Let your maidservant find favor in your sight."
The woman went away and her face was no longer sad, which is to say her countenance was lifted up. Verse 19, then they arose early in the morning, they worshipped before the Lord and then they returned again to their house at Ramah. Elkanah had relations with Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. It came about in due time I would say nine months, after Hannah had conceived that she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel. Here now we made Samuel, one of the greatest figures of the Old Testament. One of the greatest prophets. Second perhaps only to Moses in significance in the scriptures. Here now we see his story.
She named him Samuel saying, "Because I have asked him of the Lord." Then the man Elkanah went up with his household, sometime later. He went up again to Shiloh to offer to the Lord his yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow. Hannah did not go up. She said to her husband, "I will not go up until the child is weaned. Then I will bring him that he may have people for the Lord and stay there at Shiloh and serve the Lord forever." Elkanah her husband said to her, "Do what seems best to you, remain until you have weaned him. Only may the Lord confirm his word.
The woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned them, at that time probably until the boy was five or six years old. When she had weaned him, she took him up then with her with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, a jug of wine and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh although the boy was young. They slaughtered the bull, brought the boy to Eli.
Then she said-- Listen, as she gives this speech to Eli, can you just imagine the excitement in her voice when she says to Eli, "Oh my Lord, oh, sir. As your soul lives, my Lord, I am that woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. It was for this boy right here. It was for this boy I prayed. The Lord has given my petition to me that I asked of him so I have dedicated him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is dedicated to Jehovah," and he worshiped the Lord there.
I. Don’t Let Anyone Cut in on You
What a great story. There is so much of this story to apply to our lives, that we see in Hannah. What an example of a woman of character, of faith, of heart, but what do you do when you are troubled by an agitator? A confronter, a person who deliberately on purpose irritates provoking on purpose. Just because a person is a person of faith and character and heart does not mean they don't have trouble. They got troubles, they got conflicts, they have people, they got difficulties. They got difficult people in their lives. What do you do? There's a principle, great part of the story is a life lesson. Don't let anyone cut it on you. There are troubles, there are conflicts but don't let it disturb your faith.
She's greatly troubled to the point that she is crying and weeping yet her faith remains strong. She's an example of not letting anyone cut in on you. Your soul may be troubled, but remain strong in faith. You've got to have a foundation to encounter the troubles. This is what Paul wrote. That phrase comes out of what Paul wrote to the church at Galatia in Galatians 5:7. He said to them, "Look, you were running well. Who cut it on you? What happened? You were doing so well, who hindered you from obeying the truth?" Hannah is an example of a person steadfast in the midst of the troubles and the conflicts. Someone is deliberately provoking her.
I don't know if you've ever had a person in your life that was difficult or deliberately creating conflict on purpose. Let's not do a show of hands, but I have a feeling there would be a lot of hands raised because this is a thing. What do you do? Those with faith and heart and character know that part of that faith and that heart and character is this, don't retaliate. It's part of faith. It's part of character. It's a life lesson because today, many find themselves in conflict or an unjust situation, or someone's being very difficult on purpose even. How do you respond to that? Many respond by retaliating. We even have a phrase for it, getting even, settling the score, it's only fair.
There is something that raises up that just craves to get even. I certainly understand, but that thing that's rising up, that desires to get even, to settle a score, what is that? That's the flesh. We all understand that we've all experienced, that we all understand that temptation to want to get even reminds me of a funny story I read. There was an article that came out in Christianity Today about an elderly woman in a Cadillac. She's driving around the parking lot of this mall and she can't find a parking space. She struggles around for like 10 minutes, still can't find a space. Then she sees the minivan near the front pulling out.
She puts on her turn signal, which is a universal message, "I have been waiting for a long time, that's my spot." The minivan pulls out and you can predict what comes next. Vroom, in comes a sports car with a couple of young guys in, vroom, they take the spot right away. The elderly woman, when the guys get out of their car, she pulls up, rolls down her window, "Excuse me, boys. I was waiting a long time for that space, that spot." The boys, Kevoh, "That's what happens when you're young and fast." Then they make a hand gesture, which young men are never to make.
Then off they run towards the entrance and just as they're getting to the entrance of the door of the mall, smash, they hear a sound and turn around just to see her putting her car in reverse smoking her tires as she smashes into their car again. Oh, no, she's not done yet. She pulls out and does it a third time. They're running back to the car, "Why did you do this?" She rolls down the window, gives them a card, and says, "That's the number for my attorney. That's what happens when you're old and rich."
A. Don’t retaliate
We love the story. One of the reasons we love the story is yes, she got even. She settled the score. That's why we liked the story. I suggest to you that it's not a principle of the Lord. It's a principle of the world. We're in the kingdom of God now. This is a whole different set of principles that apply. This is a principle of the world, settling the score, getting even, it's only fair. In the kingdom of God, character, faith, heart, does not retaliate. Let me give you a great verse. Matthew 5:7, blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God. They will be like their father. This is a God thing. It's a character thing of God. Blessed are the peacemakers, they're like God.
Romans 12:19, never take your own revenge. I love it. Do not do this. Leave room for that wrath of God for it is written "Vengeance is mine, I will repay," says the Lord, which is to say God is the one who settles all accounts. Faith trusts. God, I entrust this to you. What does Hannah do? She does not retaliate. This goes on for year after year. She could have. Did she not have an advantage after all? Elkanah clearly loved her the more, but she doesn't use this, doesn't retaliate. What does she do? She prays. One of the great lessons to the story is that she persists in there. The last lesson, to learn to persist.
B. Persist in prayer
We need to learn how to pray more. In part of our relationship to the Lord, we need to learn how to pray. The disciples, they saw Jesus and they saw his relationship to his father and they saw his prayers. They saw the way he prayed. They saw how much he prayed and they recognized that this is connected. They actually came to him and said, "Teach us that." Clearly, this is important how you relate to your father. I see you, teach us this. Jesus did teach about the importance of prayers. Would you notice that when Hannah prays that even the substance of her prayer when she prays, she prays for help? She does not pray for retribution.
Prayers could also be used in a wrongful way. "Oh, God our Lord." I'm praying, see. "God, our Lord, get even. You see all the mean things that she's done and said, get her for it." No. She prays by laying her burdens down. You can almost imagine, she's going to Shiloh. She packs all of her burden in a pack, puts them on her shoulders, she carries them all the way to Shiloh. When she gets to Shiloh, she starts laying them down. "Lord, here they are. Here are my burdens." It's a beautiful picture.
I think a lot of people understand that laying burdens down before the Lord. Unfortunately what a lot of people do, after laying them down before the Lord, they put them right back in the pack and carry them right back home with them complaining to anyone who will listen. They're still carrying the burden, they didn't leave it there at the altar. They're still carrying it. She would go every year. No doubt it would seem that God delayed the answer. Indeed he did, but there was a reason, there was a purpose. God was doing something through all of this every year. It's a lesson in persistence.
So many times people, if God doesn't answer today or maybe two days, if they're really praying a long time, three, "Oh, God didn't answer and it's three days." Then they go, "I guess God doesn't listen." Every year she persisted. It's a tremendous example of faith and heart and character. Jesus taught of the persistence and the importance of prayer. One of our great verses about it is Luke 11:9 where Jesus said, "So I say to you, ask." It's like God wants you to ask. You have not because you ask not, the scripture says. Ask. Doesn't it just compel you?
I say to you, ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives, to him who seeks he finds and to him who knocks, it will be opened. We love that verse. The thing is it's a verse that isn't a context. I want you to see the verses that immediately precede it because when you see the verses immediately proceeding it, it takes on a different dimension. Notice Luke 11:5-8. Jesus said to them, suppose one of you has a friend and he goes to him at midnight and he says to him, "Friend, lend me three loaves for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey and I have nothing to set before him."
From inside, he answers, the friend answers and he says, "Don't bother me, the door has been shut. My children and I are in bed, I cannot get up and give you anything." Jesus continues. I tell you, even though he will not get up and give them anything because he is a friend. Because of his persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
I say to you ask. That's the context to Jesus saying ask and keep asking. There's persistence.
In other words, he won't get up because he's a friend, but if you just keep on knocking and you say, "No, friend, listen, I really, really need those loaves. I need you to get up. Please get up." You just keep knocking, he's going to finally say, "Okay, fine." He'll get up and give you what you need. That's the story. That's the backdrop to Jesus saying ask. Ask by persisting, keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. There's another example in the book of Matthew where a Gentile woman. She's not a Jew, a Gentile. She comes to Jesus approaching him to ask for help for her hurting child. At first, Jesus gives a gentle no saying to her, "It is not good to give the children's bread to the family pet." What an expression?
The woman will not give up. The woman will not quit and God sees something there. There's a lesson in the persistence. She then, with humility and persistence, this is Matthew 15:27-28, but she responded to him, but she said, "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat or feed on the crumbs which fall from their master's table." Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith is great. It shall be done for you as you wish," and her daughter was healed at once. It's a really great story. Great lessons have come out of Hannah's example but here's another lesson that comes out of the story.
C. There is a place in the soul only God can fill
There is a place in the soul only God can fill. When Hannah's husband, Elkanah, she sees the distress, she's crying, she's weeping, he sees this unfolding year after year, he tries to comfort her in a way that only a husband can by telling her that she's got no reason to be crying. "Where are you weeping, woman?" You may look at that and think, "That guy is oblivious. He doesn't get it." No doubt this is due to the fall of Adam but he's trying and God blesses a man who tries. Then he pulls out the line, "Am I not better to you than 10 sons?" In other words, why are you weeping, you have me? Why are you weeping? Why are you crying? Do you not have me? Am I not better to you than 10 sons?
It's true they had a very good relationship, we can see that in the story. He loved her very much. She was a woman of faith, woman of character. He is a man of faith, a man of character. They're connected that you can almost see they're soulmates. It's not about that because there is a place in the heart, there's a place in the soul only God can fill. It's not about her husband, it's about God and her desire that God would reveal himself by answering this prayer. By not having children, it made it seem like God was against her, but she loved the Lord. She honored the Lord. She worshiped him. I don't understand God.
She wanted his son and so she said, "I don't even want the boy for me, I want to give him to you. Let him serve you all the days of his life." She prays. In this prayer and the manner of her prayer gives us another interesting insight. Eli, he sees her praying, but what he sees is that her lips are moving and he hears nothing. This is very unusual to him. This is not normal. He sees this woman, her lips are moving, he hears nothing, and so he concludes she's drunk. Even confronts her, "Put away your wine, woman." What we gain is an understanding. Hannah knew, she believed that God would hear her heart. No words are needed because God would hear her heart.
II. Know for Certain that God Hears Your Heart
This is important today. Today I think we have that deeper understanding. We have the scriptures to reveal it to us, but this was a new thought, but it is a such a deep understanding that we need to know for certain that God hears the heart. It's a very important aspect to prayer. It's a beautiful thing when God sees the heart, it's beautiful to the Lord. He sees her lips moving, but she's praying in her heart. It's beautiful.
I've mentioned a couple of Wednesdays ago, this whole scene reminds me of a time many years ago when camping, we had a cabin that someone loaned us. We were packing up to leave. In those days, we had this van with a lot of windows in the back that were all dark. I was in the van packing getting ready to leave and I could see through the window that my middle daughter, she was eight or nine at the time, she was behind the cabin and distressed. She had lost something. Clearly, she had lost something that she didn't want to leave behind.
You can see the distress and the anguish in her face, she's all concerned. Then I'm watching this scene and then she starts to pray. You can see her. Her lips are moving and she's praying. I'm watching this whole scene as a dad, I'm thinking, "Oh, is that beautiful or what? What a beautiful girl? What a beautiful heart?" As a dad, it's so beautiful. Don't you think that when God saw Hannah, he said, "Oh, that's beautiful. That is beautiful."? Don't you think that when God sees you and there's that sincerity, that depth, that prayer, "Oh, that's beautiful. That is beautiful." We need to learn to pray and we need to see as God would see us, beautiful.
A. Pour out your soul before the Lord
Then it gives us this deep example from her life. She says, "No, sir, don't think of me as a worthless woman. I have poured out my soul out of a deep concern, out of my deep provocation." There's an example, pour out your soul before the Lord. A great example. "No, sir, I poured out my soul." We even know how she poured that, she pours out this vow in her affliction. "Remember me, give me a boy, give me a son that I might give-- I don't even want him for myself, Lord. I want to give him to you." It's a beautiful thing. Her response was beautiful, powerful.
It's an example of how we ought to pray. Many pray with their intellect. It's fine to pray with your mind but to pray with the heart or pray with the soul poured out, there's a different aspect, a better dimension. In Jeremiah 29:13, you will seek me and you will find me when you search for me with all your heart. Sam 62:8, trust in him at all times all people, pour out your heart before Him. God is a refuge. It means in times of trouble, in times of difficulty, the name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and are saved. What do you do there? You pour out your soul, your anguish, your trouble there.
2 Chronicles 16:9, I love this. One of my favoritist verses in the Bible. The eyes of the Lord search to and fro throughout the whole earth to show himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are completely his. She's moving her lips, there is no sound. She prays with her heart. She knows, she's convinced God knows my heart. It's like this in Psalm 139:4 where he writes, even before there's a word on my tongue, behold, oh, Lord, you know it all. I remember sometime, I was a junior high at the time. There was some anguish, I don't know what it was. There's lots of anguish when you're a junior.
There was something really troubling me, I don't know what it was. At the time, we lived way, way, way out the country and I remember I just felt compelled to pray. I just wanted to give this to the Lord and I went way out of the woods where no one would hear me and I literally started yelling. Not yelling at God, but yelling to God, "Oh, God, hear my prayer." I had never done that before in my life, but I just felt something. I just felt compelled to go out there and just yell it out to the Lord. I tell you, God did something that day. God did something, God stirred something. It's so right to be open, just you and God.
In fact, he even understands the groanings of the heart when there are no words to capture what the heart wants to say. I love this verse out of Romans chapter eight, where it tells us the spirit helps us and even intercedes with groanings too deep for words. This is so beautiful a note is Romans 8:26. In the same way the spirit helps our weakness, we do not know how to pray as we should. We ought, he says. We don't know how to pray as we should, but the spirit himself helps us, intercedes for us with groanings to deep for words. It's a beautiful picture.
B. Faith will lift your countenance
Lastly, notice this, then when Eli sees that she's a sincere, genuine woman of character and faith and that she's poured out her soul, he says, "May God grant your petition." Immediately her soul is lifted up, her face is lifted up, her counting is lifted up. This is an important thing. Faith has arisen, faith will lift your countenance. "Go in peace, my daughter." Faith is arising as we see the change in her heart and life. It's a life lesson because many times anguish, conflict, fear, troubles will put people low. It will discourage them, it will knock them down. When faith is strengthened, fear and anguish give way to hope.
Hope, when you have hope, it lifts the countenance, it lifts the heart. We need hope, we need something. That's what God gives. That's faith. Faith brings hope. It's like 2 Timothy 1:7, for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind, which is to say I know in whom I have believed. I know I have hope. I know my God. I know my Lord. I believe when you have hope to hold on to, it lifts the countenance. Prayer changed Hannah and through this woman of character and faith and heart, God brought forth this boy. Dedicated to the Lord all the days of his life, Samuel will change the nation. A prophet of tremendous significance and power, he will change this nation.
God used this woman. Here's what I mean. When she brought Samuel to Eli, he's maybe five, six years old, but during those years, she poured into that boy her character, her heart, her faith so that when she gave them to Eli, the boy had a foundation. He knew something of character and faith because right there in Shiloh, the sons of Eli were corrupt. You want to talk about influences of ungodliness, but there is Samuel. Hannah has spoken to him, given to him a heart, faith, and character. Hannah changed the nation because Samuel changed the nation.
You want to make a difference in this world? Pour into someone else. You want meaning and purpose to your life? Pour into someone else. Those who live for themselves will come to the end of their lives and have nothing to show. Those who pour into others, your legacy lives on. You have laid up for yourselves treasures in heaven, you've made a difference in this world. That's a beautiful life. God wants you to have a beautiful life. Seek the deeper things. Seek the greater things. Seek the beautiful things that come from the hand of the Lord.
Father, thank you so much for this wonderful story. A woman of character and heart and faith and by it, you inspire us to desire to seek after the deeper things, the greater things, the beautiful things. God, we want that. Church today, how many would say to the Lord, "God, you've stirred me up by your Holy Spirit, I want to say to you God today I want the deeper things. I want the greater things. I want the beautiful things that come from the hand of God. I'm asking God, I want to make a difference. I want my life to matter, I want to make a difference. Use me, God, use me. For Your glory, use me. I seek the deeper things, I seek the greater things, the beautiful things."?
Church, how many would say that? If that's your desire if that's what you would ask of God, would you just say that to him by lifting up your hand to him? By saying that, you're saying, "God, I'm asking for the deeper things, the greater things, the beautiful things. I want my life to count." Just raise your hand to the Lord. He sees, he knows. It's beautiful. It's beautiful to the Lord. Father, thank you for stirring, for encouraging, for strengthening, for showing us the beautiful things. That's what we want and desire. We thank you for it all in Jesus' powerful name. Everyone say it.