The books of Samuel and the Kings tell the story of the Israelite Monarchy. They are full of sweeping battles, conquests, and catastrophes. Larger than life characters and deeds fill their pages.
Yet the story of the kings begins with the story of a woman whom all but a few had written off.
She had no children. Her husband had taken another wife (who seemed to be a kid factory) in order to make sure his line continued on. Yes, he loved her, but what would happen when he was gone? Who would look after her?
And what’s more, why had God closed her womb?
I suspect the story of the kings begins this way as a stark reminder to Israel: You were not always this way. Political and military power are not the greatest forces in the world.
Sometimes, a broken woman’s desperate plea is enough to change the world.
A Dark Place
Listen to these words used to describe Hannah. What do you notice?
- would not eat
- heart was sad
- deeply distressed
- wept bitterly
- deeply troubled
- great anxiety
Now throw in a few of these.
- Her rival used to provoke her severely
- irritate her
- as often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her
Hannah is not in a good place. When we first meet her, she is bullied and barren. For a woman in that culture, she is almost as hopeless as she can get. Luckily, her husband is a kind man who loves her. But even he cannot fill the hole in her life that a child would.
What does it say about a priest that their first thought when someone comes to pray is that they are drunk?
Why did Eli think this?
Hannah wasn’t praying right. She was mouthing the words without really saying them. She was pouring out her soul but perhaps the words were just to dangerous or risky to say out loud.
And Eli interprets this as a drunken spectacle.
I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but come on people. Just because someone isn’t “doing it right” doesn’t mean they are crazy. There is always more to the story. Let’s asks questions before coming to conclusions, okay?
Giving Away the Gift
Hannah makes one of those “if-then” prayers that, to be honest, makes me a little uncomfortable.
O LORD of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death.
But to her credit, when God answered her prayer, she kept her end of the deal. She gave her son away for God’s special use.
What was that like?
She wanted a child so bad and then when God gave it to her, she gave it back. Her child was on lease.
This is how the story of the kings begins: With a desperate prayer and an unimaginable sacrifice.
Do you connect with any part of Hannah’s story? Which part? Why?