Summary: God cares about your unique situation, and he will answer your prayer, but not until you’re ready to receive it.
BEING READY FOR GOD’S ANSWER
1 There was a man named Elkanah who lived…in the hill country of Ephraim…2 Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not.
Now, already, you can see where there might be some, let’s say, issues to deal with in this story. First of all, this guy has two wives, which is never a good thing. In fact, God never planned for men to have more than one wife. Men just kind of decided to do that on their own. Because, on the exterior, it seems like it would be great. But in reality, it always caused problems. Always. And this case is no different. Let’s read on.
3 Each year Elkanah would travel to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the Lord…at the Tabernacle.
Now, this is before Jerusalem was known as the religious capital of Israel. This was before there was a Temple was built. And so, at this time, God’s people would go to a building called a Tabernacle to offer their sacrifices to the Lord. Today, we might call it a church building. But the thing that made this building important was that the Presence of God was there. You see, located inside the Tabernacle was the Ark of the Covenant. And the Ark of the Covenant was a golden box that the Spirit of God would, from time to time, come down and rest on. And so, the Tabernacle was seen as the place where God lived. Or, the place where God would come down and meet with His people.
And at this time, the Tabernacle was located in a place called Shiloh. And so, Shiloh was the spiritual epicenter of Israel at that time. It was the place where God’s presence was.
And so, here comes Elkanah to the Tabernacle, or as we might say, "to church," to fulfill His obligation to God as a member of God’s people.
4 On the days Elkanah presented his sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to Peninnah and each of her children. 5 And though he loved Hannah, he would give her only one choice portion because the Lord had given her no children. 6 So Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because the Lord had kept her from having children. 7 Year after year it was the same-Peninnah would taunt Hannah as they went to the Tabernacle. Each time, Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat.
Now, as one who has many children, I know how terrible it can be when one child is being taunted by another. And hearing, over and over again, "Shut Up! Stop talking to me! Stop making fun of me!"
But can you imagine what Elkanah must have went through. Year after year after year. He had to listen to his wives bicker, and argue, and complain, and fight. Year after year after year. He had to have dreaded this trip. Because he knew it was going to happen. And there wasn’t anything he could do to stop it.
Look at verse 8.
8 "Why are you crying, Hannah?" Elkanah would ask. "Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me-isn’t that better than having ten sons?"
At which point, I’m sure, he got that look. That look that says, "You don’t have any idea what you’re talking about, so you should probably just quit talking right about now.
Have any of you ever gotten any of those looks? The rest of you are just afraid to admit it. And wise to be that way, too.
9 Once, after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle. 10 Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. 11 And she made this vow: "O Lord... if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut."
She was desperate. And she was willing to do anything, anything, to have God answer her prayer. Do any of you have those kinds of prayers? Desperate prayers. Those, "if something doesn’t change, it’s going to kill me" kind of prayers?
12 As she was praying to the Lord, Eli [the priest] watched her. 13 Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking.
Just like a religious person. Always assuming the worst about everybody.
Isn’t it interesting that when we see someone crying at church, we automatically think their repenting of some hideous deed they’ve done. And we just can’t wait to find out what it is so we can tell somebody else about it. No, we don’t do that. Do we?