Oh, Hannah... we have so much to learn from you.
"Then Elkanah her husband said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you then ten sons?"
So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the Lord. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish. Then she made a VOW and said,
"O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your maidservant and remember me, and not forget your maidservant, but will give your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head." 1 Sam. 1:8-11
Infertility. Something thousands, if not millions, of women battle every day. I can count on my two hands (and feet) close, personal friends who are "dealing" with this. Friends, family, ladies at church, neighbors. Infertility is an all too common issue in todays world. In the book of 1 Samuel we are let in on a little "situation" of Hannah, the favored wife of Elkanah, being tormented and teased (basically) because of her infertility. Vs. 6 uses these words, "And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb." Wow. Infertility is a fairly personal matter - can you even imagine the pain of having someone tease you about it? All the while popping out babies of their own on a regular basis?! In this day in age you don't (at least I don't) hear a lot of people (or any) making fun of infertility. All this to say - imagine being Hannah at this point in time. Not only is your womb closed and you are struggling for joy on a daily basis, but now your husbands other wife is making you miserable and teasing you to the point of no escape. What do you do?!
Hannah's answer astounds me every time I read it.... She vowed her baby to God. Yup. In a time when probably every female hormonal, emotion based decision was pulling her heart strings - she (probably) got down on her knees and promised the Lord that should He bless her with a male child....she would give him back, willingly. Willingly. Give him back?! Willingly?! Now, I'm not you - but, let's be honest for a minute. If you battled with the fact that you were unable to have children for years and years, all the while every other lady around you was having kids of their own - would your heart be tender enough to say, "sure, give me a baby and I'll hand it right back over?" Mine...would not. At least, I don't think so. Keep in mind that my miscarriage now factors into everything I am. So, especially after losing one baby... I cannot fathom being selfless enough to give up another to a temple...far, far, away. But, I WANT to be that kind of faithful woman of God. And, maybe that's why Hannah intrigues me so much. I want to be like her. I want to have her sure faith and trust in the great, "Lord of Hosts", which by the way refers to the characteristic of God as being the commander of Heaven's army (my words). The freedictionary.com defines the title as: (Christianity / Ecclesiastical Terms) Jehovah or God when regarded as having the angelic forces at his command. WOW - she sure knew who her God was, no sissy, for sure.
1 Samuel goes on to tell the happy story of how Hannah did indeed concieve and bear a son, Samuel. She followed up on her vow and took him to the temple to serve the Lord - and serve he did. Samuel grew to be an awesome prophet (seer: NKJV), leader and Godly man. He was sensitive the the voice of God and in turn was key in finding King Saul....
We don't read in later chapters how Hannah became bitter or depressed from giving away her first born son. There's no big chapter about the "show down" at the drop off that day - gnashing of teeth, tears flowing, her grasping at Samuel as they took him into the temple... nope, she just obeyed and went on with life. And the best part - God continued to bless her obedience by giving her more children. I'm sure it was not her easiest day. Wondering if there would be anymore children... feeling her heart rip in half as she watched her toddler take Eli's hand and go into the temple. How would YOU feel after years of barren life, watching the only part of you walk away forever? Yea, that's how I felt too.... (choke). But, obedience is satisfying. Maybe not immediately, but ultimately.
Some take aways that I found from this TRUE story:
-Hannah's vow was used by God to grow Samuel. A great prophet and leader who was well known and respected.
-"talk about submission!" Am I trusting God with my baby?!
-If Hannah had gone back on her vow - my, how Israel could have been different. Idolatry, fear and forgetting of the TRUE God was already happening... how much worse it could have been. Samuel was key in OT prophecy, recapturing the Ark of God and judging over Israel for many years. On top of that he ridded Israel of idolatry (Ashtoreth and Baal) and restored cities previously taken by the Philistines.
I'm not asked, today, to give Ava to a temple in down town Des Moines. But, I am responsible to raise her as a servant. What kind of leader am I raising? What kind of leaders are you raising? God had big plans for Hannah and Samuel and used their obedience to further His kingdom. Same goes for us - we may not be in line to choose the next "king", but we do raise leaders in this country, in our schools and churches. Just something that was on my heart today as I read through this great book of 1 Sam. :)