1 Samuel Chapter 1 [From The NLT – New Living Transalation]
1 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. 2 Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not.
3 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.
We start with the faithfulness of Elkanah. Note how it does not say, “some years” or “once in a while” It says “every year” faithfully he travels to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice.
Every year, without exception, sacrifices for himself and TWO WIVES.
Someone somewhat seriously, somewhat jokingly told me that after Christ came polygamy was out, because how could you be married to two women when Jesus taught you cannot “serve two masters”.
Elkanah’s primary task was to serve God, as was the case with all Jewish men. And to serve God was to honor and love his wives.
4 On the days Elkanah presented his sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to Peninnah and each of her children. 5 And though he loved Hannah, he would give her only one choice portion* because the Lord had given her no children. 6 So Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because the Lord had kept her from having children. 7 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.
8 “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?”
Again, faithfully, year after year, they go to the tabernacle to make the sacrifice. All three of them go, because Elkanah loved both of his wives.
But there were two responses to Hannah’s pain. Both of which might be “divorce” material in today’s society.
First, Penninah makes fun of Hannah. “Nah, Nah, Nah I have babies, and you don’t”.
Hard enough being a second wife and all that. Makes you wonder why Hannah doesn’t just slap her in the head. The reason she doesn’t? She loves God, and she loves her husband.
But the husband is pushing it too. Here you are childless, seriously depressed and weeping and here comes hubby with this gem, “You have me-isn’t that better than having ten sons?”
Another smack in the head! NO – IT ISN”T! Especially when you can make such insensitive remarks at a time like this.
This is not about you, Elkanah! You at least might have said, “Hannah, YOU are worth more than 10 sons to me.”
She doesn’t smack her husband in the head either, as much as she may feel like it, because she is faithful, and dedicated to her God, and her husband.
With all that going on though, doesn’t it seem like the time to hit the road. Surely God has forsaken me. Stuck with another wife that is a schoolyard bully, and a husband that thinks he’s some kind of Greek Adonis. “I’m out of here!” Nope. What does Hannah do?
Several remarkable things:
9 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.* 10 Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord.
First, in deep anguish, and showing her absolute true emotion to God, she prays.
She prays to a God, who knows, who understands, who cares.
She clearly can’t lay all this on her mocking co-wife, and insensitive husband, but she KNOWS that God is there for her. Always. Eli, the priest was there, and she trusted him. But mostly she trusted God.
But then came an even bigger step. A step, I’m afraid many would have a tough time making. She made a vow to God.
11 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.”
Now making the vow is not such an unusual event. Many of us have faced times when we have said or prayed something like this. “God, if you’ll only help me now, I’ll do “such and such” from now on. I promise. I’ll be faithful…IF.
Hannah was faithful, IN SPITE OF, her pain, and things not going as she wanted them to.
And in this faithfulness, she made a vow. She promised to dedicate her son, and as any mother knows, in a very real sense, herself to the Lord for the rest of her life. This was a big deal!
Once, even into recent times, a child dedicated to the work of the Lord was a source of great joy, but not so much anymore.
J. Robertson McQuilkin, former President of Columbia Bible College and Seminary, made this observation:
Christian parents no longer hold Christian ministry as an ambition for their children. Instead, they want them to have a piece of this secure, materialistic, prestigious world. Yet, what more secure future could we want for our children than to give them to God! Only He can guide and keep them.
But Samuel would be going off to “bible school” if you will at age 3, and not coming back! And that was quite a big vow!
Although vows were not unusual in Israel, this one was remarkable. The term is not used, but it appears that Hannah wished to dedicate her son as a Nazirite. Nazirite vows were very strict: to abstain from the use of wine and strong drink, refrain from shaving the head and beard, and avoid contact with corpses. Normally, the Nazirite vows were self-imposed, made by adults, and lasted for a short time; they were made in order to accomplish a particular task. Hannah, however, was offering her son, as a Nazirite, in a lifelong special dedication to the Lord.
“God, if you’ll only help me now, and give me a son, I’ll give him back.
Like I said, the making of a vow is not all that unusual. But the faithfulness comes in keeping the vow. Did God consider it a binding promise? Would he have understood if in her weak human condition she changed her mind? I believe that God would understand. But how Hannah responded to her vow, reflects her true dedication to the Lord. But before we get to far ahead of ourselves, how about this ….
12 As she was praying to the Lord, Eli watched her. 13 Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. 14 “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!”
15 “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. 16 Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.”
17 “In that case,” Eli said, “go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of him.”
18 “Oh, thank you, sir!” she exclaimed. Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad.
Here I am, Hannah, completely broken down from years of disappointment and taunting, I am on my knees weeping to the Lord, making the strongest vow of faithfulness I know, and in comes the priest with … “Must you come here drunk?”
It’s insult added to injury. But I’m sure Eli meant no harm by this, but she’s pouring out her heart and even the priest thinks she’s making a drunken spectacle of herself.
Eli was likely trying to just clear the place of those who came to the festivals to drink too much and pass out in the temple, apparently a pretty common event in those days.
Maybe he was just trying re-establish some order in the church. What’s with all the crying out in church, anyway? Don’t you know you’re supposed to sit quietly in church?
Did you know that 150 years ago in many, of not most, churches in America weeping was not uncommon during services? Weeping in sorrow. Weeping for Joy!
Did you know that 150 years ago, in many of our churches when the minister said something good and faithful in the sermon, people would cry out “AMEN”! This joyfulness was eventually discouraged as being disorderly and unrespectable. The people’s joy was silenced, just as their sorrow was also.
The Lord encourages us to worship in an orderly and respectful manner, but think of Hannah here.
Hasn’t she already dealt with enough? If church is not a place you can come and bear your heart to God without people thinking you are drunk, on drugs, or belong in a mental hospital, where can you?
We pay counselors and psychiatrists $50, $100 and more per hour to listen to us lie on a couch in an office and weep and shout and bear our souls, and that’s OK! But not at church, you’re being disruptive Hannah! Quiet Down!
Tossing her hands in the air. That’s it! Can’t take anymore! I know you’re a priest and all, Eli….but SMACK!
No she responds with: FAITHFULNESS, DEDICATION, LOVE.
Faith in Eli?
Besides his insensitive jumping to the conclusion that Hannah was drunk, we know from the following chapter in 1 Samuel that Eli was not particularly skilled in child raising. Chapter 2 even says that his two sons even grow up to be “worthless men”.
Hannah is not vowing to leave her child in the arms of Eli, but in the loving arms of God!
Believing in God, she ate, and was no longer sad.
Once you and I ask God for something, do we believe he will do it? To we get up out of our chairs, wipe away the tears, and get back to living knowing it is God’s hands?
Hannah was faithful. God was faithful.
19 The entire family got up early the next morning and went to worship the Lord once more. Then they returned home to Ramah. When Elkanah slept with Hannah, the Lord remembered her plea, 20 and in due time she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I asked the Lord for him.”
21 The next year Elkanah and his family went on their annual trip to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. 22 But Hannah did not go. She told her husband, “Wait until the boy is weaned. Then I will take him to the Tabernacle and leave him there with the Lord permanently.*”
23 “Whatever you think is best,” Elkanah agreed. “Stay here for now, and may the Lord help you keep your promise.” So she stayed home and nursed the boy until he was weaned.
Regardless of whatever shortcomings he may have, Elkanah was supportive of Hannah. He did love her, it appears, very much. Elkanah could have insisted, “No, Sorry, we’ve waited all these years, the boy is my first born with you, and we’re keeping him”
Instead, he says “23 “Whatever you think is best,” “may the Lord help you keep your promise.”
“may the Lord help you keep your promise.” INDEED. Can you imagine how tough those three years must have been in some very significant ways? These nursing years are intense bonding and attachment times for both the mother and the baby. And knowing when he is weaned, he will go to the temple and be raised by someone else.
Sure, we’ve made vows to God to be faithful. Are we this faithful? Yes, you gave me what I wanted and what I needed, now I give you what I promised. My very heart and soul.
Isn’t that exactly what God is asking us in loving Jesus Christ?
You asked for a messiah? You needed a savior? I did my part. I gave you one.
You wept and gnashed your teeth in sorrow. I sent you my very own son to suffer and die for you.
What did you promise in return?
To be faithful! To believe! To love me with your very heart and soul! To be fully committed, dedicated, today and from now on.
God did his part, now we choose. Do we do respond in faithfulness, or not?
Hannah responded in faithfulness.
24 When the child was weaned, Hannah took him to the Tabernacle in Shiloh. They brought along a three-year-old bull* for the sacrifice and a basket* of flour and some wine. 25 After sacrificing the bull, they brought the boy to Eli. 26 “Sir, do you remember me?” Hannah asked. “I am the woman who stood here several years ago praying to the Lord. 27 I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request. 28 Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life.” And they worshiped the Lord there.
God calls us to be faithful.
God is looking for people who will be faithful in big things and little things. A missionary named J. Hudson Taylor once said: A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in a little thing is a great thing.
Jesus stated this principle in Luke 16:10, saying: 10 “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And He promised these words to those who were faithful in little things in Matthew 25: “‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!'”
Are we not to be God’s faithful servants? Whether we are made fun of, or teased, or given a hard time by our friends, relatives or spouses, when God calls there can be only one answer.
The boy Samuel says five times in a later chapter: “Here I am… Here I am… Here I am… Here I am… Here I am.”
Faith Marsallis of Klamath Falls Friends wrote “Last Monday I was on my way to the frame shop to pick up a picture that I was having framed as a gift. I was, once again behind a car with a provocative bumper sticker, which said, “I have no idea where I am going.” It struck me as such a humble and honest statement. The humorous thing was that as I was pondering this thought I made a wrong turn. This happened to give me some added time to see the other bumper sticker on this (same) car, that read, “Not all who wander are lost.” I just cracked up. … I eventually turned around and made my way back to the frame shop.
What a great metaphor for our lives. God will eventually get us where we need to go even if we aren’t quite sure it is where we are going, and even if we make a few wrong turns along the way. We just need to keep our eyes on our Guide and we will end up where we need to be.
Faith went on to write “I drove Lydia back to Willamette University last Saturday. We had to leave before the crack of dawn to get her to a leadership retreat that began at noon that day. Wouldn’t you know it, just as we pulled onto Highway 97, it started to snow, I mean really snow, blowing snow, so much so, that I could barely see the road in front of me. I crept along, slowly, trusting we would make our way to our destination if I just moved forward inch by inch, slow mile by slow mile. Weather began to clear by the time we made it over the Willamette pass and we finally made it to Salem.
You know, sometimes we can’t see exactly where we are headed, but we just need to keep moving forward. If we stay close to God, our Guide, he will get us where we need to go.
We need to remember what Isaiah said in chapter 6 of his prophecy: No matter where we are right now. “Here I am. Send me.”
It is to be dedicated to the Lord. Here I am, heard over and over again.
Not, make me better, or give me a nice comfy position, or let’s negotiate….Here I am, As I am.
Brainard, an early American missionary to the Indians: Here am I, send me; send me to the ends of the earth; send me to the rough … wilderness; send me from all that is called comfort on earth; send me even to death itself, if it be but in Thy service and to promote Thy kingdom.
Jonathan Goforth, perhaps the most effective Western evangelist ever to labor in China wrote: I heard the voice of the Lord saying: “Who will go for us and whom shall we send?” and I answered: “Here am I, send me.”
Mabel Willey, an early pioneer missionary wrote about God’s calling her to a committed Christian life: One Sunday I attended a service with a visiting evangelist. “Is there anyone in this audience who feels your life is empty? You want to do something, but there isn’t the power, the strength of the Holy Spirit?” As the choir sang, I slipped quietly to the altar. “Lord, here I am. I can offer nothing but myself. That’s all I have, but I want this power to serve you.”
This is what the apostle Paul says Christ calls us to be in Romans Chapter 12:
I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice-the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
If we want to live a life of significance, we’ve got to realize that God wants to use us, and that all there is of God is available to the person who will say, “Lord, here I am.”
Say it with me “Lord, Here I Am.”
To say, “Lord, Here I am” is to be dedicated to the Lord. We go to Burger King so we can “Have It Our Way”. We go to McDonald’s because we “deserve a break today.”
Guess what? Our God is not a fast food restaurant with a drive-up window.
Yes, He’s always open and available, and yes we can tell him what we’d like.
But it’s “Have It His Way”, and truth be told we not only do not deserve a break today, we don’t “deserve” anything short of eternal punishment.
“His Way” was to send his Son, and through his grace and mercy and this wonderful gift, we get what we don’t deserve, “a room prepared for us” in eternal salvation. If only we believe on Him.
The Lord has given us more than we can have ever hoped to ask for.
But it’s very much like the story of Hannah and Samuel.
Hannah said, Lord, If you give me what I want, I will give it all back to you!
In Christ, we are given everything!
What can we possibly offer in return? Is there anything that could come close to being enough?
There is nothing we can offer that comes close?
The best we can offer is EVERYTHING!
Lord, here I am. I can offer nothing but myself. That’s all I have! Lord, Here I am!
©2008 Timothy Henry