Reader: “May the God of Israel grant the request . . .”
Response: “you have asked of him.”
Scripture: I Samuel 1:1-18
There was a man named Elkanah who lived in Ramah in the region of Zuph in the hill country of Ephraim. He was the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, of Ephraim. Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not.
Each year Elkanah would travel to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies at the Tabernacle. The priests of the Lord at that time were the two sons of Eli—Hophni and Phinehas. On the days Elkanah presented his sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to Peninnah and each of her children. And though he loved Hannah, he would give her only one choice portion because the Lord had given her no children. So Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because the Lord had kept her from having children. Year after year it was the same—Peninnah would taunt Hannah as they went to the Tabernacle. Each time, Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat.
“Why are you crying, Hannah?” Elkanah would ask. “Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?”
Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle. Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.”
As she was praying to the Lord, Eli watched her. Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!”
“Oh no, sir!” she replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.”
“In that case,” Eli said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.”
“Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
This is a story that is all too familiar in the First Testament, the story of a woman dealing with infertility (Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, wife of Manoah, Hannah). In those days, being childless carried a heavy stigma of shame in the Hebrew culture. It is borne out in this story. Having dealt with infertility for years before our boys were born, we know the pain of going to bed at night weeping, wondering if God will ever answer our prayers for children. He doesn’t always, but in our case, he gave us two wonderful boys. So when I read this account, I can identify with Hannah’s sadness. I couldn’t help but smile at Elkanah’s typical man’s response to Hannah’s sorrow trying to make his wife feel better―it never works! “Why be downhearted just because you have no children?” You have me―isn’t that better than having ten sons?” (A word of advice, Elkanah, “Spend your time listening to her and empathizing with her, not solving her problem!)
They had traveled annually to Shiloh, the location of the Tabernacle to offer a sacrifice. Hannah always went, but it was a tough time for her. Not having children only magnified the situation. So again this year she went and poured out her heart to the Lord again and made a desperate vow to the Lord. If God gave her a son, she would give him back to the Lord. Eli, an undisciplined priest, heard her praying and thought she was drunk. Israel was in a spiritual wasteland at this point and Eli, frankly, did not even recognize spiritual fervor when he saw it. She explained to him her situation and he blessed her with “may God grant your request.” Hannah’s countenance changed and her sadness left. She believed God would answer her prayer.
We’ve often said there are shadows of the New Testament in the Old. Here is another case. This is somewhat similar to the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. In a way, Eli was similar to the angel speaking to Zechariah. What is also interesting in each of the women I mentioned above who dealt with infertility, all had promised boys, boys that became very significant in the unfolding of God’s plan: Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Samson, Samuel, John the Baptist. All turned into major characters in the Bible.
What are some lessons here? 1) Don’t try to explain away the pain when someone is having a tough time (Elkanah). Listen and empathize. 2) Continue to pray, making your requests known and leave it in God’s hands. 3) Two wives are more trouble than one! 4) Keep your ears open for people around you today who may need a word of encouragement. 5) Continue to worship no matter what. 6) You are part of God’s larger plan whether you realize it or not. 7) You never know what God has in mind. (As we’ll see tomorrow with Hannah’s pregnancy.) Pray and be at peace.
Music: “Silent Night”
Sissel Kyrkjebϴ This Norwegian lady has one of the most beautiful soprano voices you will ever hear. Effortless!
Bonus: “Silent Night” Libera -Exquisite Boy Choir The Brits know how to do Christmas!!! Don’t miss this either!
Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things were made, all stars, creatures on land and in the sea, all human beings, all things seen and unseen, and all powers and dominions, we humbly bow before you in reverence and awe. As creator of the universe you are, nevertheless, aware of each little detail of life, everyone’s life. What a magnificent God you are! You answer prayer and you answer it perfectly in your time. Grant that we would be persistent in the prayer burdens you give us. Like Hannah, may we pour out our hearts with fervor. Unlike Eli, may we be so tuned to your Spirit that we would recognize our part in the work of your kingdom. As we approach Christmas Day and gatherings of family and friends, tune our spirits to those around us that we may be a voice of hope and encouragement to those with whom we share time. Our Savior entered a hostile world and brought truth and tenderness. Help us to do the same. In Jesus’ name, Amen ―Daniel Sharp