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HANNAH - I will never be the same again

1 Samuel 1:1-28
Chapters 1 and 2  

This is a story of victory - it's a story about breakthrough - it's a story of new life - it's a story of deliverance - it's a story about a changed life - it's about intercession, it's about obedience, it's about the privilege of being used by God in his plans and purposes. It's about how God intervened in an ordinary woman's life. It's exciting!

God did something new in Hannah - something remarkable. She was a remarkable woman but she wasn't always remarkable. She was depressed, despondent, downcast. But God intervened in her life - he did something new in her and she was never the same again.

Let's take a closer look at her.

From our passage we read that Elkanah had two wives: Peninnah who had children and Hannah who had none. It's probable that Elkanah married Hannah first, but because she had no children he married Peninnah who gave him many children.

In these times we're reading about, to be childless was considered a kind of disgrace, it was reason to feel ashamed, was there something wrong that God had closed her womb? People believed that - when we were in India women told us that if they had no children they were pointed out in the street, laughed at and talked about - it's still very much a stigma there. Hannah would have suffered this in her day - she would have felt a failure as a woman, as a wife, particularly as Peninnah, had many children. Hannah was miserable.

But although she had no children, Elkanah loved her more than Peninnah. It wasn't enough for Hannah - Elkanah even gave her a double portion of meat, to show her how much he loved her and because she had no children. But it wasn't enough. Hannah was miserable.

On top of all that, because Peninnah was so jealous that Elkanah loved Hannah more than her, she provoked Hannah, and taunted her, so that Hannah would weep and would not eat. It's likely that the problems in their relationship were heightened at this time of annual sacrifice, perhaps because they were together more than usual or because it was when Elkanah showed his affection more to Hannah. It was the more disappointing because they were there to worship God -Shiloh was the place God had commanded his people to worship - they were forbidden to worship elsewhere. It was not the time or place for quarrelling or rivalry. It's a sad thing when Christian brothers and sisters quarrel at church on a Sunday at a time when we've come together to worship the Lord.

Back to our passage, which says that this difficulty between Hannah and Peninnah went on year after year. I wonder how many years it was - maybe five, maybe 15 - long enough for Hannah to become depressed - her face was downcast - she was weeping - it affected her relationship with her husband - v8. "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?

How long have you been in despair - how long have you been depressed? How long has that difficult situation been going on?

This isn't just about overcoming depression or despair. It's about being desperate - we can be desperate about many things - maybe you've been yearning for the Lord to do something new in you, yearning for something more in your Christian life - maybe you feel stale, stuck in a rut, you want to feel the excitement you once knew. Maybe it's been going on for years - you're fed up going through the motions. Maybe you're longing for him to show you visions, to prophesy, to move in words of knowledge. Maybe you want him to give you a new ministry, to shake you up, to do something dynamic in your life. Maybe you've got such a desire in you to get closer to him, to be more intimate with him, to go deeper in worship. Maybe you don't know what you want - maybe you're simply hungry and thirsty.

I wonder, has the cry of your heart been, "How much longer Lord?"

In verse 9 of our passage we read a very significant phrase - only 3 words - it says "Hannah stood up". Three little words, but they say such a lot. It says that eventually Hannah couldn't take any more - she made a decision to do something about her situation. She said, enough is enough. This was a breakthrough for Hannah -- she stood up - she rose up above her circumstances - she took a step. Only she could do it. Maybe you need to experience a breakthrough today - only you can do it.

Instead of staying in her despair, in her circumstances, she stood up and decided to pray to the Lord and with that came release from all the pent-up bitterness. With many tears she poured her heart out, v15 "I was pouring out my soul to the Lord."

Hannah's prayer was true pleading to the Lord, with many tears, out of a desperate heart. The Holy Spirit hadn't been given in those days - we read about a few occasions when the Holy Spirit came upon people at particular times - but because of Jesus each one of us can personally know the Holy Spirit and his power in our lives. Romans 8:26 says, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." Groans, tears, anguish, sorrow - the Holy Spirit helps us - intercedes for us at those times when we have no words.

Hannah poured out her heart to him - she says she was deeply troubled, in great anguish and grief. So distraught was she that Eli thought she was drunk and rebuked her. We need to feel things deeply as we pray - we need to weep sometimes, for ourselves and on behalf of others - it touches God's heart as he sees the depth of our desire, our burden. Eli misunderstood her - it's likely that there were drunken women at the door of the tabernacle, In chapter 2 it says that Eli's sons slept with some of them.

But Eli was at fault here because he accused Hannah unjustly. If he'd taken a bit more time in his observation of her he may have realised that someone who is drunk is more likely to be loud and causing a scene than to be silent and composed as Hannah was. Sometimes we feel misunderstood and that we're being accused wrongly. We would do well to follow Hannah's example here - she didn't react badly and counter-accuse Eli because of his sons' behaviour - no she respectfully and quietly explained herself. She needed to be understood - she explained her anguish to Eli and he spoke peace to her. We need to press through in prayer until we reach a place of peace. We also sometimes need to explain to others if we feel misunderstood.

Hannah spoke up - she was quite bold - Eli was a priest who spent his whole life ministering before the Lord. It would have been quite unusual for a woman to correct a man, particularly a man of his status - she addressed him "my Lord". Realising he'd judged her wrongly, he then said to her, "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him." Hannah then went on her way and ate something and her face was no longer downcast.

That's interesting - having spent time in prayer and unburdening herself to the Lord, receiving peace and a blessing from Eli, she felt much better and was then able to eat. She looked different - her face was no longer downcast. Have you ever witnessed that kind of dramatic change in someone? Ever had the privilege of praying for people over the years and seeing the change in a person's face when God has done something special - when peace has come to a troubled soul full of anxiety or despair. People look lighter, the whole countenance changes, the eyes sparkle - it's wonderful. Praise the Lord!

Hannah came to the end of herself and realised that only God could give her her heart's desire. She made a vow that if God gave her a son then she would give him to the Lord for the rest of his life. This was not a vow taken lightly - it would cost her dearly - let's be serious when we make a vow or promise to the Lord, to see it through.

God granted Hannah a son. She named him Samuel, saying, "Because I asked the Lord for him". Samuel sounds like the Hebrew for "heard of God". In her prayer in chapter 2 Hannah says, "for the Lord is a God who knows".

Hannah was quick to praise and glorify God for this answer to her prayer. In verse 1 of chapter 2 she says "My heart rejoices in the Lord" - it reminded me of Mary's prayer after she'd been told that she would give birth to the Saviour, Jesus. She said "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour". Let's be quick to praise and glorify God for all that he does in our lives.

V21-28: Hannah kept her son until he was weaned, probably about 3 years old - it was usual for women to breastfeed their children until they were 3 in those days, when it was felt they could be entrusted to others. I believe she held on to him as long as she could and didn't go to the yearly sacrifice at Shiloh because she knew once she took her son there, she could not bring him back. v23 Elkanah bore with her knowing how hard it would be to let Samuel go, but said, "only may the lord make good his word." After he was weaned she took him with her to Shiloh because she'd made a vow before God. She had to let him go. She took Samuel to Eli - how hard it must have been for her to leave him, such a small child, but she'd made a vow and had to be obedient. There is a cost to obedience. The result of Hannah's obedience - her heart rejoiced, she praised God even though she'd left Samuel, not knowing at that time whether she would have any more children.

Every year Hannah would go to the annual sacrifice at Shiloh and take Samuel a little robe. Eli blessed Elkanah and Hannah and prayed she would have more children, "the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters."

What happened to Samuel? He stayed and ministered before the Lord under Eli - God called him and he became a prophet to all Israel.

God's purposes were worked out through Hannah. She could have continued in despair as she had for many years. But she stood up - she rose above her circumstances and made a decision to seek the Lord - to pour it all out to him - to ask him for the impossible. How long had she been childless? How long have you been in your circumstances that cause you despair?

You need to seek the lord, surrender to him, allow your desperation to show . Eli thought Hannah was drunk. Pour it out to him. Receive his peace. Trust him for the solution. v18 "Her face was no longer downcast".

If you've received something from the Lord, it shows in your face - you look different - people will remark on it. You've changed because you've been in his presence and he has given you your heart's desire.

Are you willing to stand up like Hannah did and pour out your heart to him and ask him for what you need? Do you need a breakthrough? Do you need deliverance? Do you want God to intervene in your life? How desperate are you? Who knows what he can do with your life? He does - because he, "the Lord is a God who knows".

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