Character Studies through 1 Samuel

Hannah Part 1

Mar 25, 2021

Not a worthless woman.

Her empty arms ached from weightlessness, with nothing to fill them except the gaping exposure that reflected a life void of purpose and need.

Hannah was childless.

Her womanhood incomplete by society’s standards.

Her purpose thwarted.

Her own expectations unfulfilled.

Her husband had brought in another woman to do a job she couldn’t do. Who wouldn’t feel slighted at that? To top it off, this other woman performed that job brilliantly- she had birthed both sons and daughters. Peninnah was the over-achiever, the high flyer. Hannah was the woman left in the dust.

Competition between women is nothing new. It was just as ripe back in the times of the Bible as it is today. Rivalry over appearance, achievements, possessions, status- we women can find endless things to be envious over, and endless occasions to show our authority.  By tormenting Hannah over her childlessness, Peninnah certainly found the perfect opportunity to bring Hannah down, and, in the process, exalting herself.

It lends us to ask the question: why do women rejoice over another woman’s lack? As though her misfortunes can add to our gain? The Lord tells us to bear one another burdens, not add to them.

And yet Peninnah, not content in her privilege of having children, found joy in making another woman miserable.

We’ve all found ourselves feeling inferior, enduring ridicule for our inabilities, and being constantly reminded of our failures and weaknesses. And if there’s not a physical woman telling us we’re not good enough, there’s our own voice inside our head. I know I for one can speak words of despair to myself when I don’t live up to my own standards. When I’m first to notice what’s lacking in me, my own voice echoes the loudest.

Troubled, bitter, distressed, Hannah brought herself to the one place she would find hope, the Temple, to pray to the Lord of Hosts. Hannah’s prayer was honest and heartfelt, and reflective of every woman’s desire- not necessarily for children, but for something else. For worth.

“Look on the affliction of your servant, and remember me.”  1 Samuel 1:11 ESV

To have the Lord look upon us and to notice our pain is one of our deepest desires. We want to be remembered, not forgotten. It’s in that feeling of being forgotten that hopelessness breeds. We’ve all felt times when God seems to not see or hear, as though He does not care. As though He’s listening to everyone else but we’ve been put on hold. There we sit. Waiting. Waiting for an answer. Waiting for some response. But all we get is silence.

In Hannah’s anguish she prayed.

And she was noticed.

However, I’m certain it wasn’t the kind of attention she was expecting.

Eli, the Priest, mistook this hurting, godly woman for a drunkard. In a place where you would expect acceptance, Hannah received further judgement.

Her response shows the true cry of her heart. “Do not regard me as a worthless woman.” 1 Sam. 1:16.

Society regarded her as worthless. Her rival treated her as worthless. Now a Priest was condemning her as worthless. We battle with these same feelings every day. We hardly need the help of others to remind us, nor do we need false accusations heaped upon us, as was the case with Hannah.

Hannah was not drunk. She had not been filling herself with intoxicating drink. She had instead been pouring out her grief to the Lord. She has been getting rid of all those poisonous thoughts that had consumed her and controlled her, that had caused her to plummet into depression.

Negative and hurtful thoughts can be just as damaging to our minds and health as a barrage of alcohol. They become depressants and change our outlook and behaviour. The only thing we can do with these negative thoughts is to go to the altar and lay them at the foot of the cross. To release them. To cleanse ourselves, our minds and our souls from the things that the enemy would use to destroy us.

Hannah’s gentle response to Eli proved her noble character, her sobriety and her devotion to the Lord. Her time with God had filled her with grace, and her holiness was evident for Eli to see.

With one word from Eli, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” (1 Samuel 1 :17 ESV). Hannah walked away in freedom. No longer sad, no longer controlled by what others thought. Hannah had a promise from God.

God had seen. God had heard. God had answered.

God had called her worthy, and that was enough.

Hannah had not yet received the physical promise. Her tormentor was still by her side. Her arms were still empty, and yet she had the freedom to worship because she held onto the promise of God.

She worshipped because she was worthy in God’s eyes. The God who had placed the earth on its axis, who hung the stars in the universe, who walks on the wings of the wind had noticed one grieving woman and had spoken into her heart.

The same God that saw Hannah sees you. He sees you and knows that you are not worthless, for nothing He makes is worthless. Where you see failures, God sees opportunities to show His power. Where you see brokenness and emptiness, God sees a worthy vessel to pour in His life, His freedoms and His promises.

When those tempting thoughts and feelings come in like a flood and overflow in our souls, may we pour them out on His altar and allow His word to cleanse us and refresh us. May we walk in the freedom Hannah had, holding onto the promise in faith.

“And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:11-12 ESV)

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