Ephesians 5:18 – Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to reckless indiscretion. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
1 Samuel 1
A man with two wives
Straight out of a teleserye. Elkanah, a Levite (the lineage of priests) had two wives. Peninnah had sons and daughters while Hannah had none. They all lived in one house.
Every year, Elkanah’s family would go to the temple to sacrifice to the Lord. Because Elkanah loved Hannah more, he would give her choice meat, while Peninah was given the normal meat. And year after year, Peninnah would provoke and irritate Hannah about her barrenness, for the Lord had closed her womb (v6). She would irritate her severely to the point that Hannah would weep bitterly and not eat. Elkanah asked her, “Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat? And ⌊why are you heartsick⌋? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”
The ironic thing was that Hannah’s name means “favored”. Yet in a time when it was a disgrace for women to be barren, there she was – childless – subject to the scorn of her rival.
Hannah surrenders to God
Since Peninnah had sons and some daughters (v8), I’d assume that she’s been provoking Hannah for at years! On this particular day though, Hannah stood up (v8). But she didn’t stand up to start a catfight or harass Peninnah. She stood up and poured out her soul to the Lord. 1 Samuel 1:10 says that “In bitterness of soul, Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord.”
While she was praying, Eli the priest thought that she was drunk with wine because her lips were mumbling but no sound was coming out. Now Hannah had been speaking in her heart; her lips were moving, but her voice could not be heard, so Eli considered her to be drunk. (v13)
There have been times in my life when I also cried to the Lord like a drunk person. These were the times when I was extremely broken. Sometimes our hearts cry out and words do not come out. But Psalms 34:18 tells us that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Romans 8:26 reminds us that “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” It’s an amazing truth that even if only the heart speaks, God hears.
While I admire her gentle and quiet spirit, I wonder what took her so long to keep all her bitterness inside and not take it to the Lord.
She ⌊made a vow⌋ and said: “O Yahweh of hosts, if you will look with compassion on the misery of your female servant, and will remember me, and not forget your female servant, and will give to your female servant ⌊a male child⌋ then I will give him to Yahweh all the days of his life, and a razor will never pass over his head. (V11)
I believe this was Hannah’s turning point.
A woman surrendered to God
As I compare Hannah with other women of the Bible, I realize that she was the only wife in the Old Testament who actually went to the temple and surrendered to God. Most women tried to fix things on their own. Sarah took Hagar to Abraham and Ishmael was born. When Rachel was barren, she cried out to Jacob, “Give me children—if not, I will die!” Lot’s daughters got their father drunk in an incest act to secure descendants.
My dear, are you like Sarah, Rachel 0r Lot’s daughters, trying to fix life’s problems on your own? Are you getting ahead of God instead of patiently waiting for his promises to come into fruition? Or are you like Hannah who stood up and surrendered to God?
Hannah’s prayer that leads to peace
After Hannah prayed, something remarkable happened.
She didn’t become pregnant at once. Peninnah didn’t fall to the ground and die. Hannah had peace and contentment and joy. “Then the woman went on her way and ate something, and ⌊her face did not look sad any longer⌋.” (V18)
While Hannah made a vow to God that she would give her son to priesthood, she didn’t know if her request would be granted. God is sovereign and always good – whether that meant a son for Hannah or not. And yet after she prayed like a drunk woman, she had peace.
Isn’t this really the point of prayer? It doesn’t always change our circumstances but it always changes our hearts. It’s also not a means of twisting God’s hand and forcing Him to give us what we want (not that it would work). It’s not a means of “claiming” something and getting what you want. The point of prayer is aligning yourself to the will of God – whether that is barrenness, prosperity, sickness.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Loving the Giver not the gift
Hannah later on bore a son whom she named Samuel, which means, “I requested of the Lord.”
“Once the boy is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear before Yahweh; and he will remain there forever.” (V22). The weaning age was around two to four years old. After waiting for such a long time for a son, and not being subject to Peninnah’s insults, she willingly gave up her son to keep her promise to the Lord even when it hurt her.
This is really amazing because Hannah did not make an idol out of Samuel. She still worshipped the Giver more than the gift. Even Elkanah was willing to give up his firstborn son with his favorite wife to honor the Lord, reminiscent of Abraham’s (almost) sacrifice of Isaac. Elkanah could have made Hannah’s vow void, but he did not (Numbers 30:6-15).
As I place myself in Hannah’s shoes, I wonder what kind of mother I’d be (God-willing). I hope that I can be the same woman like her, gentle and submissive but definitely not weak. Drawing strength from God; my identity hidden in Christ. May I be a mother whose top priority is to honor the Lord and help my children realize their calling from God. I pray that there will be no idols in my life – family, work, children, husband or even myself. May the first person I run to be always Jesus. May I bitterly cry out to him like a drunk woman and may I have peace and joy from Him alone.