As I mentioned in our Intro to 1 Samuel, the nation of Israel was living in a time of darkness as we begin reading this book of the Bible. The book of Judges shares how they were torn apart by a lack of leadership and a nation forgetting their identity in Christ, Judges 21:25 tells us, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” God appointed judges to lead His people but their freedom generally only lasted as long as the judge was alive. And the judges themselves are flawed humans, too. They didn’t always lead well. Think of Samson, for example.
So as we enter into 1 Samuel, we are introduced to Hannah, the mother of the prophet who will eventually anoint Israel’s chosen king. Remember that…Israel’s chosen king. Not God’s.
God didn’t want a king for the Israelites. HE was their King…but they didn’t want Him.
AS WE LOOK AT THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS OF 1 SAMUEL, WE’LL UNCOVER 4 TRAITS OF A WOMAN OF PURPOSE.
** You may want to read one trait per day, as we're covering a lot here!**
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1. Women of Purpose are Authentic
(1 Samuel 1:1-8)
We sometimes skim over stories in the Bible because they seem unrelatable. The individuals are from such a different culture and place in history than we live in today that it’s so easy to gloss over them as simply characters in a book, rather than soaking in their experiences with understanding.
But these individuals in the Bible aren’t simply stories. They were living, breathing people with fears and passions, struggles and joys.
They may have lived thousands of years before us, but they really aren’t all that different from us at their very core. Heartache. Anger. Hopelessness. Overwhelming joy and gratefulness. There’s so much to learn from them and their experiences.
Hannah was a woman with major heartache and she was authentic and honest about her sorrow. She didn’t use the word “fine” when friends asked how she was.
Hannah’s husband Elkanah was also married to a woman named Peninah. Historians and theologians share that Hannah was most likely the first wife because (1:2) shares Hannah’s name first. It’s probable that when Hannah’s infertility became too obvious to ignore, Elkanah took on a second wife to continue his family line.
Hannah’s name means grace, but I’m sure she didn’t feel full of it all the time because her snooty co-wife. Is that even a term? Co-wife? I can’t even imagine how horrible it would be to know my husband felt he had to take a second wife because I “failed” at what society considered to be a woman’s most important role at that time. And of course she was both dreadfully unpleasant and crazy-fertile (1:7). Ugh. Double punch to the gut.
Unfavorable marital decisions aside, Elkahah is portrayed as a sincere man who strove to live and worship God well, and to teach his family to do the same (1:3).
Poor Elkahah is like so many men, though. He wanted to fix things. If he couldn't fix Hannah’s infertility, he at least wants to fix her hurt and sadness. Giving her a double portion of meat after traveling every year to sacrifice at Shiloh, he was trying to love on her and help her understand that he loved her even in her barrenness.
“Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” (1:8)
Do you have a boyfriend or husband who doesn’t fully understand a loss you’ve gone through or are going through right now? Or maybe even a father, brother, or guy friend.
Perhaps you have an unfulfilled dream, something you’ve been praying for for years, that just hasn’t come to pass. Something deep down in your soul that has yet to happen and it’s crushing you so fully that like Hannah, there are times you can’t even eat. Your heart is so heavy you can hardly even handle life sometimes.
If you've been there, then girl...you totally get Hannah. That’s the season she’s lived in for longer than she wants to admit and it’s tearing her apart.
2. Women of Purpose Trust + Pray Fervently
(1 Samuel 9-18)
What do we do in these situations? We learned in the section above that we are to be authentic about it and not pretend we’re fine when we’re not.
But that certainly doesn’t mean we just grumble and become a morose and pessimistic person for the rest of our days. We read that Peninnah provoked Hannah until she wept, but we don’t read that Hannah threw pots and pans at the woman. Or screamed at her. Hannah didn’t spew venom into the hearts of Peninnah’s children about how horrible their mother was. We don’t even know if she complained to Elkanah about the woman’s attitude toward Hannah.
What did she do? She prayed.
God uses our problems to get our attention and grow our character through it.
Hannah learned an important truth through her season of struggle: our children do not belong to us. God has entrusted these little ones to us for a little while and it’s our job love and shepherd them. To teach our children how to live well and love the Lord.
Similarly, our jobs, our homes, our talents, or that beautifully amazing passion or calling that rests upon our hearts also don’t belong to us. They belong to God and we need to use them in a way that brings Him glory.
The endgame is to use everything to celebrate the Creator of the Universe and to bring others into relationship with Him, right?
It’s significant that verse 12 shares that “she continued praying before the Lord.” This wasn’t a quick little prayer she shot up while doing the dishes or while sitting in traffic. This was a repeated request bathed in hot tears. There was probably ugly crying going on much of the time she prayed about it. Year after year she laid her request at His feet.
Have you heard of the parable of the widow Jesus teaches about in Luke 18? She wanted justice for something and beseeched the judge over and over (and over) that he grant her request.
The story goes on to express,
Like Matthew 6:25-34 tells us to “ look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
Matthew 6 may be referencing anxiety and worry, but the heart of it is the same: Christ cares for us. We are of value to Him. His timetable may look different than we think it should, but as my husband and I joke, “God’s always late…yet He’s right on time.”
WE NEED NOT GIVE UP PRAYING. PRAY IT.
OVER AND OVER AND OVER. DO NOT GIVE UP.
It’s like praying at Mile Marker One and lifting up our request at each mile, not realizing at Mile Marker 103, He’s going to fulfill our request. We’re ready. Our heart and character is ready. The circumstance of it all is in alignment with His will.
But what if we give up at Mile Marker 102? What then? Will we think God is not good because He didn’t give us what our heart was exploding over? Never give up praying.
BUT IF NOT, HE IS STILL GOOD.
Daniel 3 tells us about Daniel’s friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendnego. The king was throwing them into a firey furnace because they would not worship the way they were commanded to. They told the king that their King, the One True God was going to save them from the flames:
In other words... But if not, He is still good.
When Hannah prayed, she went off on her own, not wanting to draw attention to herself. We don’t always need to pray out loud. Sometimes we’re so overwhelmed or grieving so greatly that we literally can’t put together the words, and that’s ok.
If we’ve invited God into our lives and hearts, then the Holy Spirit which resides within us, intercedes for us. That means He translates our wordless prayers and prays them for us. He brings them before the throne of the Father for us. Even our thoughts are words to God.
We know Eli, the Priest of the temple, had poor eyesight in his old age (4:15). Sitting by the doorpost of the temple, he mistook Hannah’s deep prayers for being drunk and reprimanded her (1:12-19) demanding she get rid of her wine. This tells us a lot of the culture of the time, there were probably drunken people around the temple and Eli thought she was one of them.
I love The Voice translation for this passage:
Hannah: My lord, I am not drunk on wine or any strong drink; I am just a woman with a wounded spirit. I have been pouring out the pain in my soul before the Eternal One. 16 Please don’t consider your servant some worthless woman just because I have been speaking for so long out of worry and exasperation.
Eli: 17 Go, don’t worry about this anymore, and may the True God of Israel fulfill the petition you have made to Him.
Hannah: 18 May your servant be favored in your sight.
Then Hannah rose and went back to where she was staying. The sadness lifted from her, so she was able to eat.
19 The next morning, they rose early to worship the Eternal One. Then they went back to their home at Ramah, and Elkanah slept with Hannah his wife. The Eternal remembered her petition; 20 and in the new year, Hannah became pregnant. When her son was born, she named him Samuel, which means “His name is El (God),” because she said,
Hannah: I asked the Eternal One for him.
3. Women of Purpose Honor their Promises
1 Samuel 1:21-28
After Samuel was born, Elkanah went once again to Shiloh every year in order to worship. Hannah decided to not go until Samuel was weaned, which would have been around three-years-old.
This part of the story just makes my heart ache. I’m so proud of our girl, Hannah. Can you imagine giving back the thing you wanted more than anything in the world? This is not like slipping your favorite pair of shoes off your feet and giving them to someone else. This is her tiny little three-year-old baby boy whom she cuddled and adored more than life itself.
But like we talked about earlier, she knew Samuel didn’t belong to her. He belonged to The Lord and she was an honorable woman who kept up her end of the promise.
While she gave Samuel to her Savior, she never stopped caring for him. She never discontinued her responsibility as a mother. Look at 2:19:
I have a friend who started the most beautiful conference ever. It’s like Pinterest and Etsy had a baby and wanted to share Jesus’ love by using it.
She really felt God was asking her to give it back to Him and close it up. With deep pain in her heart, she obeyed. She knew this conference was His and she needed to obey. The exciting thing is that God is doing BIG things with both her and the conference itself now that the doors are closed. God is growing it and using her little dream for even bigger…massively bigger things to be done in His Name.
The doors aren’t actually closed, they’re just redirected because of her willingness to hold them with open hands. Just like Hannah did with Samuel. God had bigger and more impactful things for Samuel than simply being Hannah’s son (I can’t wait to get to that later on in our study).
4. Women of Purpose are Ablaze with Praise + Adoration
1 Samuel 2:1-11
As you read through this passage, notice that there is no element of sadness here at all. Hannah has just taken Samuel to the temple and journeyed home without his little hand in hers. And rather than sob harder every mile further away from him, she instead breaks out into praise.
She was captivated by God’s love and goodness and was honored to be able to parent a prophet!
The Message version shares her elation in a way that just bubbling with joy:
No matter what little gift or slice of goodness God gives us throughout the day, we should remember Hannah’s prayer.
Her words continue as she lifts up her Savior in deep love and appreciation.
Do we do that? I mean, perhaps if we went through infertility for years and our prayers were answered in the gift of a baby. Sure. We’d be ecstatic.
BUT DO WE THROW JOY AROUND WITH THE LITTLE THINGS?
What about when we’re running late and get all green lights? What about when the last cookie is just sitting there on the plate when you got home and were sure they’d be long gone? How about a sunny day for the picnic you had planned, or those flowers growing so beautifully in the pots by your front door?
What of the waterfall you see while hiking, or a friend dropping off some Starbucks on a rough day?
Hot water on sore muscles, the scent of a burning candle from Anthropologie…I mean, the list goes on and on.
THERE IS OFTEN THANKFULNESS AND ADORATION OF GOD THAT GOES FAR BEYOND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE EVENT ITSELF.
If we were honest, we’d admit that often a smile spreads across our face or joy pounds upon our hearts for a moment or two surrounding the “thing” ...but then we move on seconds later, without actually pausing to reflect; neither on the actual goodness of it, nor the events surrounding it. Wouldn’t you say that’s true?
But what if we paused for praise the way that Hannah does here, on a daily basis?
Life isn't as she’d imagined when Hannah first married Elkanah. And though she may have a child now, she doesn’t get to actually raise him. Yet she’s basically bubbling over with praise.
Ladies, you are of great and mighty worth in God’s sight. Lift up your head, throw back your shoulders and walk confidently in the realization that our Heavenly Father loves you for who you are, not for what you do.
He understands your sorrow and your pain and He will meet you right where you are.
As we continue reading through the book of 1 Samuel, we’ll learn that Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas were corrupt and vile men. It’s interesting to me that their mother is never mentioned anywhere in the Bible. Maybe she had died, or perhaps she was simply not an active part of her sons lives.
We know literally nothing about her.
What we do know though, is that Samuel was greatly impacted by his mother and grew up to become one of the most significant individuals in God’s redemptive history.
We need to remember that if we want to teach others about God and to love Him from the very depths of their souls, it’s first got to be real and authentic in our own lives. Our children, our friends, and roommates, or husbands, neighbors…whoever…they watch us. They watch how we act and react to situations and life itself.
Want to learn more about how to pray in praise and adoration like Hannah?
Head here for a free (printable or e-book version) 10-Day study on Adoration: learning to pray with a vocabulary of praise!
Don't forget to download this week's study guide from The Library so you can spend time in 1 Samuel during your daily Quiet Time!
Can't wait to study more with you next week!