Proverbs 31 has been used to death on Mother’s Day! I’m sorry, but I’ve heard the woman in that chapter described as the woman that women love to ‘hate.’ She’s so perfect. She’s so accomplished. She’s so intelligent. As the King of Siam famously says “…etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.”
So I won’t be using Proverbs 31 when I preach this morning in a GTA church. I’m highlighting I Samuel 1 and preaching from I Samuel 2:1-10. No, you don’t need to pack a lunch if you’re coming…but in order to understand the prayer of Hannah in chapter 2, you must know the context.
#1) Elkanah, a man from the hill country of Ephraim is living during the time of Judges. Remember? ‘Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.’
#2) Elkanah had two wives. Full stop. What? Genesis 2:23-25 describes God’s standard – one man, one woman, one covenant involving leaving, cleaving and becoming. So who gave Elkanah a pass on God’s standard? Who gives anyone a pass on God’s standard?
#3) Elkanah had a favourite wife. Surprised? Bigamy or polygamy generates problems. You may watch TLC (The Learning Channel) as it depicts this violation of God’s standard, and see how ‘wonderful’ the relationships are. Get behind the scenes. Read the first hand accounts in biographies or dig carefully through the Scriptures and you will find envy, jealousy, conflict in these so called ‘wonderful’ relationships. Hannah certainly didn’t feel that the relationship was wonderful.
#4) Hannah’s emotional distress was long-term. The text indicates ‘year after year,’ and her ‘loss of appetite’ is linked to her great sorrow. Her husband tries to help by asking questions. Men, take note, asking a lot of questions of your wife as if you are a lawyer doesn’t rank as a top communication skill to acquire!
#5) Hannah’s emotional distress deepened her spiritual commitment. Where are we in the Bible? I Samuel. Didn’t we just read the book of Ruth? In it you meet Naomi, a woman whose name means ‘pleasant,’ but who becomes ‘bitter,’ through her struggle with God’s providence. She has suffered the death of her husband and both sons while miles away from home. I don’t think anyone of us can fully relate, and typically we don’t process grief very well. Naomi becomes ‘bitter.’ I would suggest Hannah becomes ‘better.’ She heads off to the house of the LORD to pray and as she prays she pleads for God’s mercy, and vows to totally surrender her son to the LORD.
#6) Hannah encounters a foolish, out-of-touch religious leader, whose own sons are spiritually ‘off the rails.’ As she is praying in her heart, moving her lips in silence, this top religious priest accuses her of drunkenness. This is not the wisest thing Eli ever said. This is not a quote you would repeat at his retirement party or ‘Priest Appreciation’ luncheon. – “How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine.”
Hannah gives a full explanation of her heavy heart, filled with anguish and grief. Without apology for his error in urgent, Eli pronounces a blessing of peace and an assurance of God’s answer to her prayers. In this, he was correct!
#7) Hannah returns home at peace. She has hope. She holds on to the promise and after returning to their home in Ramah, she conceives a child. At his birth, she names him, “Samuel,” meaning – “heard of God.”
I’ll have to fill in the details in my next post…
I’ve attached a picture of my mother (and father), who like all parents, experienced her share of distress. Mom was a private person but a strong woman of prayer. I dare say, a good quantity of tears stained her bible and her pillow through the years. I honour her today as a woman of grace, a woman of gratitude, a woman who feared the LORD. Though August 2005 separated us as the LORD took her to heaven, her legacy continues from the life she led and in the family she so seriously prayed for and served all the days of her life! Happy Mother’s Day!