Friday, April 23, 2010

Bold, strong women of the Bible

Hannah's Story
Our pastor has started a study on Wednesday nights in First Samuel. The story of Samuel's mother, Hannah, is such a tender and amazing story, and so pertinent today. I wish our pastor would linger in the first few chapters, but I think he wants to finish the whole book this century.
Hannah is among five special ladies mentioned in the Bible who had problems getting pregnant. Sarah, Abraham's wife, Rebekah, Isaac's wife, even Rachel was barren for a time, (Jacob's wife) and Elizabeth in the New Testament. Sampson's mother, also experienced barrenness but her prayer was answered in a mighty way. Both Sampson's mother and Elizabeth (John the Baptisers mother) would receive specific instructions about what to feed their sons, as they were to be Nazarenes.
We read in First Samuel chapter one, that Hannah is married to Elkanah--an Ephraimite from the same area thousands of years later would come Joseph of Aramathea. Elkanah had two wives. Big problem right there. We are not told why, but God only ordained one wife for one man at a time. And maybe because of what happened here---the second wife, Peninnah "would provoke her bitterly to irritate her" year after year to the point where Hannah would weep and not eat.
Wow---way to go Peninnah---your sin is recorded for all to see. forever. No wonder my mom would admonish me to be nice to my sister and brothers when I was little. On the one hand, we feel sorry for Peninnah, because the Bible records that Elk loved Hannah. Maybe he only used Peninnah. And his not-very-helpful whine: "Hannah, why do you weep and why do not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?"
Maybe Elk liked being spoiled. But, his question indicates he knows Hannah's plight. The men in the other stories are recorded as praying for their wives---Abraham, Isaac, Jacob--John's father, Zachariah, all prayed. But, in Hannah's story---she is the one who goes to the Tabernacle and prays and makes a vow. Eli the priest watches her and thinks she is drunk. And without gossiping, Hannah tells him that she has been praying, pouring out her heart to the Lord, "out of my great concern and provocation."
Hannah is encouraged by Eli's blessing, and the Bible says, she "went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
That is trust. When we have body slammed our problems and concerns on the Lord in prayer, we can get up and face the day.
God answers Hannah's prayer for a son, and Hannah keeps her vow. I cannot imagine leaving my three or four year old son with the pastor's family, let alone some priest who we know had trouble with his own sons. But, Hannah trusted God, and she did not just drop him off. She brought food and clothing for him every year. The Bible says she made a little linen ephod (tunic) for him to wear. And Eli the priest noticed her faithfulness, and Eli prayed for Hannah to have more children. Hannah would go on to have three more sons and two daughters. But, for a few years, I suspect her arms were empty.
Just like Elizabeth, Hannah proclaims wonders through the power of the Holy Spirit and chapter 2 records "Hannah's song". In the New Testament, it reminds me of Mary's song.
I want to copy it here. Some of the words may seem strange to come out of the mouth of a hard working woman who may have been illiterate. She obviously has been listening when God's Word is read at the tabernacle, and she knows God, and serves Him, and loves Him.
Way to go, Hannah. Your name is sweet to us, and we give it to girls to this day. Hannah was strong, and bold, and not afraid to declare what is right even to her own husband. I have to think that she looked forward to seeing Samuel each year. I hope she got to spend a little time with him and explain the miracle of his birth, and her vow, and hear how God was working in his life. Yes, she gave him back to the Lord, dedicating him to the Lord, but kept busy supporting him. And I am sure she prayed for him. Hannah trusted God with her son. Her son would live to anoint kings, teach and preach and even come back from the dead to speak to Saul. His would be an amazing life. Truly used by God to demonstrate and picture the fact that this world belongs to Jesus. But, like king David, there was a period of years where David was anointed but not yet on the throne.

Hannah's Song of Thanksgiving
1Then Hannah prayed and said,
"My heart exults in the LORD;
My horn is exalted in the LORD,
My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.
2"There is no one holy like the LORD,
Indeed, there is no one besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.
3"Boast no more so very proudly,
Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth;
For the LORD is a God of knowledge,
And with Him actions are weighed.
4"The bows of the mighty are shattered,
But the feeble gird on strength.
5"Those who were full hire themselves out for bread,
But those who were hungry cease to hunger.
Even the barren gives birth to seven,
But she who has many children languishes.
6"The LORD kills and makes alive;
He brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7"The LORD makes poor and rich;
He brings low, He also exalts.
8"He raises the poor from the dust,
He lifts the needy from the ash heap
To make them sit with nobles,
And inherit a seat of honor;
For the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S,
And He set the world on them.
9"He keeps the feet of His godly ones,
But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness;
For not by might shall a man prevail.
10"Those who contend with the LORD will be shattered;
Against them He will thunder in the heavens,
The LORD will judge the ends of the earth;
And He will give strength to His king,
And will exalt the horn of His anointed."

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