Rejoicing Women - Fourth in a Series
There are mysteries hard to fathom in the story of Hannah, whose prayer of rejoicing is viewed as prophecy by Rabbis and Christian commentators alike, both who see the Messiah in view in 1 Samuel 2:10.
Why does God delay childbirth when he has a significant plan in store? Why did he honor Hannah's vow, not within earshot of her husband who could have overruled it — a vow that resulted in separating a child from his parents at too early an age? Would God ever accept a child as a barter?
These questions are mostly apart from our topic of Rejoicing Women except as they relate to her vow. If her words of rejoicing were prophetic, what of her words in prayer as she cried silently to God for a man child? She promised he would be a Nazarite, devoted to the Lord.
Yes, her agonized prayer was prophetic, for only God could achieve such a steady heart as Samuel had. No amount of upbringing, prayer or desire could ever create a Samuel; God authored Hannah's vow.
As her story opens in 1 Samuel 1, we find that her husband, Elkanah, a Levite by ancestry, had two wives, Peninnah, with many children, and barren Hannah. Annually they traveled to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the Lord, where the ark was. It is early noted that Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, the priest, were there (1 Sam 1:3). Their behavior made it necessary to raise Samuel to serve in their place, for they were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord. (1 Sam 2:12)
Elkanah gave a double portion of meat for sacrifice to Hannah, so she could better entreat God for forgiveness and help. It angered Peninnah who would provoke her to tears. (1 Sam 1:7)
One year, Hannah was distressed beyond endurance, and made her prophetic vow, 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 Sam 1:11)
Her strenuous posture in prayer caused Eli to exhort her to stop drinking wine. She then explained, Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief. Eli then said, Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him. (1 Sam 1:16, 17)
God had closed Hannah's womb until his priest could be involved in benediction on her behalf, and not long after, she gave birth to Samuel. After weaning him she returned to fulfill her vow, stating to Eli, As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD. (1 Sam 1:26-28)
Eli worshipped in response, and Hannah rejoiced in prayer, My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. (1 Sam 1:2)
Hannah's song, which we will consider in the next post, celebrates the Lord as a deliverer.
Are you in need of a deliverance? Is there a problem in your life that has existed a long time, and you cannot find a way to resolve it? Have you given up on praying? Are you confused in your heart with your lack of certainty in matters that do require assurance?
In Hannah's song, may you gain new strength to seek once more for the help you need.
to be continued