Pay attention to the tension in your body. Let go of it and any expectations to do anything other than God’s will today. Prepare yourself to hear God’s word.
1 Samuel 1:4-20 (NRSV)
On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb. Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”
After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the LORD. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD, and wept bitterly. She made this vow: “O LORD of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.”
As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.” Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.
They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the LORD remembered her. In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the LORD.”
The New Interpreter’s Study Bible titles the first chapter of 1 Samuel “Samuel’s Birth and Dedication.” The heading of the first chapter should not be surprising to me since it is in the book of Samuel. However, I invariably see this as “Hannah’s Story.”
We learn that Samuel’s mother, Hannah, was unable to conceive because “the LORD had closed her womb” (v. 5). Verses 4-16 not only focus on Hannah’s barrenness, but also the negative societal views of a woman who could not bear children. The shame of her inability to conceive followed her everywhere, especially in her own home.
As I read and reread 1 Samuel 1:4-20, I realized that this is a story of yearning, and Hannah is not the only one who yearns for something she doesn’t have. Peninah, Hannah’s rival – who is also married to Elkanah, Hannah’s husband – “used to provoke [Hannah] severely, to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb” (v. 5). Hannah may not have had sons and daughters like Peninah, but she did have Peninah wanted – Elkanah’s love.
Isn’t that what we all want? To know love, to feel love, to get back the love we give? In verse 8, Elkanah asks Hannah, “Am I not more to you than ten sons?” God often asks us that question. If we listen we can hear God asking, “Am I not more to you than.…?”
How does God become enough? Especially when we are painfully longing for something we may never get: children, love, a job or promotion that we’ve worked so hard for, or whatever it is we think will fill a void or make our lives complete.
There will always be something just out of our reach, but not God. I have to remind myself of that more often than I’d like to admit. When I start wanting something that I don’t have, or can’t have, or that someone else has, I have to stop and remind myself that God is enough. And when the question that Elkanah asked Hannah, “Am I not more than.…” rings in my ears, I need to be able to say without hesitation, “Yes!”
Lord, it’s not always easy to look past our own wants and desires and realize that you are indeed enough. You offer us a love that transcends all understanding. That love is ours for the taking. Help us to accept your love as being more than anything we could ever want or imagine wanting. Through Christ Jesus, Amen.
Go with God!