This is a weekly guest devotion written by my mother, Estelene. Each week she shares with us scripture and a short devotion.
We are taking a detour this week from the life of Noah and examining, if you will, the life of a woman who I believe stands out as a woman of faith and whose character we should desire. Not only was she a woman of great faith and courage, but she proved to be a promise keeper.
Today we are celebrating Mother’s Day. I don’t know how strong of a relationship you have with your mother, but she gave you life. God commands that we honor our mother. Maybe she has failed miserably at being a loving and affectionate mother, but have a positive outlook by learning from her mistakes.
I dedicate this devotion and this day to my mother who passed away on September 26, 2006. She could not give us, her six children, everything we wanted, but she gave us everything we needed including her love.
There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham,…….He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.
Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. And because the Lord had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Elkanah her husband would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s temple. In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord. And she made a vow, saying, “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.”
As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine.”
“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”
She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.
Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.” 1 Samuel 1:1-20
After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. When they had slaughtered the bull, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, “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.” And he worshiped the Lord there. 1 Samuel 1:24-28
Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the Lord.” Then they would go home. And the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord. 1 Samuel 2:19-21
Here’s another fine example in the Bible of the problems that arise in a household where polygamy is practiced. Peninnah found much enjoyment in reminding Hannah that she had not given birth to a child which grieved Hannah to the point where she could not eat.
Did you notice how Elkanah responded to her misery? First of all, a man cannot understand the sorrow a woman feels when she is unable to have a child. Secondly, in biblical days, women who could not bear children were looked down upon. It is part of womanhood that is naturally desired. Therefore, Elkanah probably did not mean to be disrespectful when he told Hannah that she should be happy because he hoped he was worth more to her than ten sons. But I do have to say, “Seriously, Elkanah, aren’t you thinking a little too highly of yourself?” Ten husbands cannot fill the void that a woman feels when she is unable to conceive.
But who did Hannah turn to? She turned to God. In her hour of agony she promised the Lord that if he would give her a son, she would dedicate his life to the Lord and give him back to God so he could serve in the house of the Lord.
Words are only words unless we put action behind them. We promise God that we will do something if he will do something for us. Then when God answers our prayer, we tend to forget what we had promised we would do for him. That is a serious and dangerous situation in which to find ourselves. We must not promise God something, and then not follow through with it. He is not in the “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” business. He is Holy God. He does not makes deals with us.
Eli, the priest, thought Hannah was drunk, so he rebuked her. But after talking to her, he realized her sincerity. So, he gave her words of comfort and a blessing. At that time he was unaware of what she had asked of God.
We all know what happened. Hannah conceived and had a son whom they named Samuel. Hannah kept her promise to God. When he was weaned—probably around three years of age—she took him to the house of the Lord and gave him to serve alongside Eli. When she arrived at the tabernacle with her sacrifices and her three year old son, she reminded Eli of the day when she stood beside him and prayed to the Lord. Then she told him what she had prayed for and her promise to God.
Could you have given up your only child to the service of the Lord? How hard it must have been for Hannah to do such a thing, but she had made a promise to God and she kept it. As far as she knew, Samuel would be her only child. Her words were not only words. Are your words merely words?
Every year when she and Elkanah went to the tabernacle, Eli would bless her for what she had done. Because of her faithfulness, God blessed her with five more children. And every year she would make a robe for Samuel to wear and present it to him when she went to Shiloh.
We don’t know what happened to Peninnah, but I’m sure she wasn’t belittling Hannah anymore. Hopefully she realized that it was best for her to keep her mouth closed.
When Hannah took Samuel to the tabernacle, she praised God in prayer. I did not include her prayer, but it is obvious that she was referring to her deliverance from the torment Peninnah had caused and how God would judge her words of arrogance. If you have a Bible, you may read Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.
Samuel was raised a Nazirite which means that he was not to drink any alcoholic beverage, he was not to touch a dead body, or cut his hair.
Hannah, like other women mentioned in the Bible such as Sarah and Elizabeth, was blessed with children even though she was no longer young. This gives us assurance that God does care and that he hears our prayers. But his timing is not on our timetable.
If you are waiting for God to answer your prayers, don’t give up. In his time, he makes all things beautiful. He may not answer your prayer in the fashion you want, but he knows what is best for you and for all who are involved.