Summary: God is always speaking...are we listening?
Learning to Listen to God
Rev. Brian Bill
Worship Through Sermon (Part 1)
We’re going to break the sermon up into two parts today. After this first section several parents will be dedicating their children to the Lord. That reminds me of what happened when a family was driving away from a church after the dedication of their baby. The older brother cried all the way home in the back seat. His mother asked him what was wrong and he replied, “The pastor said he wanted us to be brought up in a Christian home…but I want to stay with you guys!”
As we saw last week, even when things are difficult, the Book of Ruth reminds us that God weaves His ways for His glory and for our good. He does this through our weeping, our working and our waiting. In the opening chapters of 1 Samuel, we’ll see that…
1. God’s people exhibit real problems (1:1-8). It’s common to think that the heroes in the Bible were perfect people. Actually, the Bible is filled with real people with real problems, who face them with real faith. Verse 2 tells us that Elkanah “…had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Penninah. Penninah had children, but Hannah had none.” A barren womb in those days was considered a curse and Hannah would have been looked down upon. She was spiritually disturbed, socially disgraced, and emotionally depressed.
Verse 3 tells us that Elkanah and his two wives made a yearly visit to Shiloh, about a twenty-mile journey, to worship the Lord. Shiloh was where the Ark of the Covenant was located at that time. When the whole culture was headed south spiritually, Elkanah swam against the tide of apathy, and took his family to worship. It’s just part of what he does. He doesn’t get up and wonder if they should go; that question has already been answered. What about you? Have you determined ahead of time that you and your family will be in church every Sunday?
Verses 4-5 show that he gave portions of the sacrificial meat to Penninah and her children, “But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her…” This sacrifice was a thank offering, which allowed the worshipers to eat the part that was not offered to God. This “double” portion literally means, “To show the face.” He showed his face to her, indicating that she was worthy and that he cared deeply for her.
He was devout in his walk with God and devoted to Hannah, but he had a divided family because he had two wives, which was not God’s original intent for marriage. Though the Bible records the polygamous relationships of some of the patriarchs, it never endorses it. God’s Word teaches the “one wife for life” rule.
Even though these two wives were at war, the most difficult thing that Hannah faced is the phrase that is repeated twice, once at the end of verse 5 and again at the beginning of verse 6: “And the Lord had closed her womb.” We’d rather blame it all on Satan, or on someone else but it is God who allows good things and bad things to come into our lives. Job put it in a question in Job 2:10: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
Verse 6 describes the questionable character and personality of prolific Penninah: “…her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.” She couldn’t just be thankful that she had children but felt the need to needle and harass Hannah. The word “provoke” literally means, “To cause her thunder.” She’s trying to get Hannah to blow her top! The word “irritate” refers to being stirred up inwardly. Verse 7 reveals that Penninah did this every year when they went to Shiloh. It bothered Hannah so much that she would weep and not be able to eat. This word means that she mourned deeply with so much grief that she lost her appetite. Some of you are in the middle of that kind of anguish right now.
In verse 8, Elkanah tries his best to comfort his wife: “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” While it’s significant that a husband would even notice a wife’s sadness and want to find out why she’s crying, I wonder if his attempt at empathy was appreciated. Maybe his Valentine’s Day card said something like this: “You’ve got me, babe…what else do you need?” I’m not sure he really understood how deeply she wanted to have a child. After all, it’s possible to love one’s husband and still want to have children. Some of you have been hit with some insensitive comments, either by a spouse, or someone else. Words alone can’t heal this wound but God understands your pain.