Summary: No one is free from difficulties in life. God shows us how to handle them and find blessings even as we face hardships.
Facing Problems through Prayer
The final verse of Judges echoes a statement made 3 times earlier. In those days Israel had no king, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes. What the author of Judges is telling us is that Israel has already rejected God as their king. Samuel was born as a great prophet and judge in Israel. He served as the final judge before a monarchy is established. In fact, he anoints the first two kings. Many see the book of Judges as a demonstration of the terrible condition of Israel without a monarchy. This provides proof of the need of a central governmental leadership. Some have said that God never wanted Israel to have a king except himself. Possibly. But God provided laws through Moses for the kings of Israel even before the period of the Judges. (Deut. 17:14-20). It is perhaps better to interpret this differently. God was not opposed to Israel establishing a king, but never as a rejection of his rule over them. They rejected his rule as their King long before there was an earthly king in Israel.
Hannah’s Problem and Prayer
God’s word records the birth of Samuel as an answer to a barren woman’s cry for help.
Hannah (whose name means “grace”), is one of two wives of Elkanah. The trouble with polygamy in the Old Testament shows up many times. The wife’s chief role in those days included supplying children for the family. Hannah’s barren womb was considered a curse. Elkanah’s other wife was fruitful. She was also spiteful. Elkanah’s favor of Hannah over her rival is obvious at the feasts where he gives her a double portion of food. His efforts are futile in comforting Hannah and only increase the spiteful treatment that her rival, Peninnah, pours out on her. Everyone is miserable in this story. Hannah goes to God for help. As she prays she is at first mistakenly rebuked by the priest, then immediately blessed by him. She leaves comforted. Her prayer consists of a vow to God. “Give me a son, and I will give him back to you all the days of his life.” God answered, “Yes.” Hannah was true to her word, and Israel was blessed with Samuel.
Questions for Reflection:
What makes you sad?
How would you describe the home life of Elkanah? Can you picture his family on the way to worship? Does it look anything like what happens at your house and in your car?
Why do people of faith in God act like Peninnah sometimes? Know any Peninnahs in your life? How have you handled these relationships so far?
Is Hannah right our wrong to be so upset? What advice would you offer to help her?
How does she demonstrate faith in God? Did God remove all of her problems? How can our problems help us in our relationship with God?
From Parenting with Prayer
In 1 Samuel 1 we see a great picture of connecting prayer and parenting in the Bible. Most of us who are parents pray. Even if we didn’t pray much before becoming parents, we generally find the motivation to pray afterward. Kids have a way of putting us on our knees. But not having kids can put you on your knees as well. Hannah shows us a case of this. She wanted to be a mother in the worst sort of way. Several motivating factors made Hannah want to have children.
1. Social security in those days was all wrapped up in how many children you had to take care of you in your old age.
2. Men looked for wives who could supply this needed security.
3. In Hannah’s case she has a rival who has already supplied her husband with children where she has failed.
4. Her rival, Peninnah makes life miserable for Hannah capitalizing on her barrenness, prodding her with it until she cries.
5. Her husband, with the best of intentions, puts pressure on Hannah to be happy with him and loads her down with guilt on top of guilt. Hey, I’m happy the way it is, why aren’t you?
6. Hannah feels guilty, alone, misunderstood, emotionally crushed… and on and on.
What is the answer to this mounting struggle? If you ask Elkanah, he would tell you that Hannah just needs to accept it and be happy with him. If you asked Peninnah, she’d tell you she had her own problems, and Hannah was one of them. If you asked Hannah, she would say, “I need to have a baby!”
All of us face various struggles in life. In 1 Samuel 1:1-28 everyone has a problem, don’t they? Even though our attention is drawn to Hannah’s problem, she is not alone in the problem department of life. Elkanah has two wives to handle. Talk about problems. You’ve probably heard that one wife is monogamy, two wives is bigamy, and three wives is trigonometry. Elkanah has marital math problems. One wife is multiplying and the other is unable to add.