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 (1 Samuel 1:11, NLT).
Elkanah had two wives.
Well, that was the first problem.
The second problem was one of his wives, Hannah, was unable to have children. Can you imagine having everything you need to conceive (reproductive organs) only to be unable to produce or to give life? The scriptures never mentioned that she was in this condition because of something she or her parents did or that the devil did this, but it was God who had shut up her womb (1 Samuel 1:5-6).
This woman was unable to do the one thing she should have been able to do for her husband – give him children. Some women don’t know what it’s like to become pregnant while others know what it feels like to carry something inside of them that was once alive only for it to later die. Either way, it can be very disappointing for a woman who desires to be a mother.
Maybe your physical womb isn’t shut up, but maybe there are words or promises that God gave you that seem to be ‘shut up’. Usually when someone uses the term, ‘shut up’, they want you to stop speaking and maybe right now it feels like that vision, dream or promise will never speak (Habakkuk 2:3).
Peninnah isn’t just described as Elkanah’s other wife, but she was also described as one of the names to describe the devil – adversary (1 Samuel 1:6; 1 Peter 5:8). I don’t know how many years this went on, but year after year, her adversary made fun of her. She made her feel bad about not being able to have children and she would provoke her trying to get a reaction. I’m sure Peninnah said things such as:
Elkanah doesn’t really love you.
You will never be a mother.
You will never have children.
Hannah never talked back to her adversary like Jesus did when he was tempted of the devil in the wilderness and soon the words of her adversary made her fret (to be worried, anxious, easily annoyed or irritated). She stopped eating and cried all the time. She was sad and depressed and there was nothing Elkanah could do or say to make her feel better. When Elkanah gave a sacrifice to the Lord, he gave portions of his sacrifice to Peninnah and her children, but because Hannah didn’t have any children, he gave her a worthy or double portion. He loved Hannah more than he loved Peninnah, but that didn’t comfort Hannah either. (That could be one of the reasons why Peninnah hated her so much. Hannah had something (love) that she could never earn despite having many sons and daughters for Elkanah).
You can be married to a wonderful person, but sometimes your spouse doesn’t know what to say or do. Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons? Elkanah meant well, but he just didn’t understand. He was talking to her about something he had never experienced. He already had children. He knew the joy of having children. Hannah didn’t.
But one of the things I love about Hannah was her persistence. When it was time to go to Shiloh every year, she got up, got dressed and went with her husband. She did this faithfully for years. She could have decided to stay home because of her adversary. In fact, that’s exactly what Peninnah wanted her to do, but Hannah didn’t give up.
The next thing that I love about Hannah is she stopped feeling sorry for herself. When she had enough, she got up (vs 9) and did something about her situation. She was bitter, she was angry and she was hurting, but in spite of how she felt, she went to the temple and prayed to the Lord. Only babies cry when they want something because they aren’t able to form words yet, but Hannah wasn’t a baby and it was time for her to grow up. It was time for her to stop crying (about what she didn’t have) and to start talking.
There was nothing wrong with Hannah wanting a child, but why did she want a child? To shut Peninnah up? To say to her, How ya like me now? One of the reasons why our prayers may go unanswered isn’t because God didn’t hear us, but we may have prayed amiss (James 4:3). In other words, we asked for things that would only please us instead of asking for things that would please God.
If, in fact, she did have selfish desires, her desires soon changed. Hannah no longer wanted this child for herself and she promised God that if He gave her a male child that she would give him back to Him. She asked God to give her something that HE could use for Himself and for His glory.
To some people, it may seem harsh that God would shut a woman’s womb, but there was purpose in what He did. God knew exactly what He was doing. If her womb hadn’t been shut up, Hannah would have never sought God the way she did. Sometimes asking isn’t enough. You have to also seek and knock (Matthew 7:7-8). And yes, it was a fight. Do you think she always felt like walking to Shiloh with Peninnah alongside her? You don’t think she thought about giving up? It had now been a long time of waiting, but she kept pressing. She kept getting up. She didn’t run from the fight and she didn’t quit when it seemed hard. Instead, she learned how to fight. Lord, teach our hands to war and our fingers to fight (Psalm 144:1).
I told you earlier that Hannah’s husband couldn’t comfort her, but the word did. While Hannah was in the temple, Eli saw her lips moving, but he couldn’t hear what she was saying. Eli assumed that Hannah must have been drinking because of the way she was carrying on in the temple, but the only thing she was pouring out was her heart to God, not wine. After Hannah explained to Eli that she wasn’t drunk, he gave her a word. Go in peace and the God of Israel grant you your petition that you have asked of Him (1 Samuel 1:17). She heard and she believed him. It’s not that the things you are hoping for is impossible. It may be that you got weary and stopped believing along the way. If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believe (Mark 9:23). Hannah had lost hope, but after she received the word, Hannah ate and she was no longer sad. The next morning, they got up early, worshipped the Lord, returned home and she put her faith to work (vs 19).
Elkanah went to the temple every year to sacrifice to the Lord, but I believe Hannah gave a better sacrifice. Before Hannah gave God her son, she gave something better – herself. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. You see, God had a plan, but He needed a willing and obedient vessel to get His plan here on earth. For years, Hannah was just going to the temple, but now she was becoming HIS temple – a place where God could live and do what He wanted to do. Because of the sins of Eli and his sons, God was raising up someone who would do what HE wanted him to do. Samuel was going to be ordained as the prophet of the Lord.
To give something back to someone means you must return it to its owner. So just in case you didn’t know, ‘it’ all belongs to God. I think sometimes we look at giving (and not just money) as a loss – that once we give it away, it’s gone and we’ll probably never get it back again, but that’s not true. If you don’t give what you have, that’s all you will ever have. Look at Hannah. All she prayed for was to have one male child, but the moment she gave him to the Lord, she received more than what she asked for. Hannah gave her ‘first’ and only child to the Lord and He gave her five children (1 Samuel 2:21).
So many times, we want God to give us something, but what are we willing to give to HIM for all that He has given to us? You may want a new car because you’re tired of the old one, but God may want you to use it to transport others. You may want a home because you want your own place and you want some privacy, but God may want you to use that home to start a bible study. You may want more money so you can buy more things for yourself, but God may want you to use that money to care for the needs of others. Some of us think that material things are the blessing, but no – you are the blessing!
Now think about the thing you’ve been constantly praying for. Why do you want it? Remember, God doesn’t want to give us anything that we will honor more than Him. He wants to only give us those things that causes us to remember Him, not to forget Him.
And if God gives it to you, will you give it back to Him?
For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:27-28).