Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up… in bitterness of soul, Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord (1 Sam. 1:9-10)
When I study the life of Hannah, I see how God did something new in her life, moved her from depressed, despondent and downcast to remarkable and from least likely to be a mum to a most mighty mum. She was the mother of one of Israel’s most remarkable prophets. It’s a story about breakthrough, new life, deliverance. It’s about intercession, obedience, 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. I consider it to be very exciting!
We all know the story of Hannah, 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. Imagine the time of Israel, it appears as though being childless was considered a kind of disgrace, people mocked at barren women, surely, 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. Elkanah even gave her a double portion of meat, to show her how much he loved her and to comfort her because she had no children. To make matters worse, 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.
This difficulty between Hannah and Peninnah went on year after year, long enough for Hannah to become depressed ( 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 like Hannah, there’s something missing and you’ve been asking God to do something new in you, perhaps like a friend said to me yesterday, you feel stale, stuck in a rut, you want to feel the excitement you once knew in your walk with God. Maybe you’re fed up going through the motions. Perhaps you want to be married, perhaps you just want more in your walk with God, you want to see visions, you want to operate in higher spiritual gifts, to prophesy, to operate in words of knowledge. Perhaps you want God to give you a new ministry, to shake you up, to do something dynamic in your life. Perhaps you want to live a life of impact or just walk in purpose. Or perhaps you are not sure what it is but the lack of it is leaving you downcast like Hannah
Pause! 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 are so profound. What it tells me is that eventually Hannah couldn’t take any more – she made a decision to rise up above her circumstances – she took a step. That step defined her breakthrough, instead of staying in her despair and 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.”
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?
I wonder what it is that is plaguing you and perhaps everyone is taunting you about it. It has become what in pidgin parlance is called an ‘oya’, so it is no longer a secret affliction. What are you doing about it? Do you have a collection of pity party invitees over from time to time to trade notes and discuss how nasty the Peninnah’s are? Are you sitting there, plotting how to get back at your mockers? Or are you simply going about murmuring about it? Hannah could have accepted it. Hmm, maybe that is my lot in this life, life is unfair. So my husband loves me, maybe the price to pay is to be childless. No she didn’t. One day, she decided she had had enough.
Now, that’s what we have to do, like Hannah, you need to seek the Lord, and in surrender, allow your desperation show. Israel was in captivity for 430 years even if God had promised Abraham that they would be in captivity for 400 years. They complained and murmured, but God did not come down until they cried.
And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. (Ex. 3:7-8)
Eli thought Hannah was drunk because of her desperation but that got God’s attention. She didn’t sit there murmuring and complaining like she probably had been previously. She cried to God and made a sacrificial vow. And surely God came through and things were different. If you trust Him and speak from your heart to him like Hannah did, He will come through and things will be different. . v18 “Her face was no longer downcast”. If you’ve received something from the Lord, it shows in your face – you look different – You’ve changed because you’ve been in His presence and He has given you your heart’s desire. Seek God until something changes…your name, your countenance, something has to change when you encounter God so much that it’s evident to everyone.
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?
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