In honor of Mother’s Day which is coming up this weekend I want to focus on a Biblical woman who is remembered for the circumstances of her motherhood. There are many examples of Biblical motherhood, but Hannah might be one of the least known as well as one of the most compelling. Hannah’s story can be found in 1 Samuel chapters 1 and 2. Hannah had been childless for many years, but God fulfilled her greatest hopes when he blessed her with Samuel. Samuel later became one of the great prophets of the Old Testament. He anointed David as king and guided him during his reign. But, despite this beautiful ending, Hannah’s story begins with sadness.
Hannah was the first wife of a man named Elkanah. Elkanah loved her deeply, but because she was unable to have children he married another woman named Peninnah. Peninnah gave Elkanah a bunch of children, this made her feel that she was better than Hannah and therefore was horrible to her. In this time period it was a shameful thing when a woman couldn’t have children, so Hannah probably had to endure scorn not only from Peninnah, but also the community in which she lived.
“Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.” -1 Samuel 1:6
So it came time for Elkanah to take his family to worship and sacrifice in the temple. While there Hannah went to the temple and prayed and wept. She made a promise to the Lord that if He would grant her request for a son she would give him to the service of God for his whole life.
“O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.” -1 Samuel 1:11
While Hannah was praying she was so visibly distressed that the high priest, Eli, came up to her and told her to leave and stop drinking wine. She was so distraught he assumed she was drunk! But she explains to him what her real problem is, that she had been praying to God for a son. Her actual words are awesome, “I have poured out my soul before the Lord…” Her prayer was fervent and sincere. Eli’s answer to this is a blessing, that God would grant her petition.
After this Hannah goes home and within a short time she becomes pregnant with Samuel. She fulfills her promise to God by giving Samuel to His service only after he was weaned. This means she probably gave Samuel to the care to those in the temple when he was only two or three years old!
“For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of Him. So I have also dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.” -1 Samuel 1:27-28
Hannah’s faith amazes me for two reasons; first she has faith that God will grant her request for a son, second she fulfills her promise by giving her son Samuel to God’s service for the rest of his life. It must have been no easy task for Hannah to give Samuel up at such a young age, and after she had waited so long for a son in the first place! She must have known that what the Lord had in store for Samuel would be much bigger and more eternally significant than her own desires and what she could give him.
This is also the reason why I find Hannah’s story to be really convicting. Hannah gives to God her most prized possession, the thing she has been waiting and hoping for, her son. It makes me think about how we tend to horde our possessions all for ourselves. Really, it doesn’t have to be possessions that we keep to ourselves; it could be time or talents. Now, don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying we should all go out and give all our money and possessions to the church or the poor; or that we should quit our jobs or school and spend all our time praying and fasting or something. But it seems to me, that God gives us things partly so that we can share them with Him and with others; so we can use them to glorify Him and bring others to knowledge of His Son and His wonderful work on the cross. Hannah’s story makes me want to share the best of what I have and not keep it for myself.
“Honor the Lord from your wealth
And from the first of all your produce;
So your barns will be filled with plenty
And your vats will overflow with new wine.” –Proverbs 3:9