Summary: God brings distress to us and us through distress that we might know his strength and salvation.
The second grade teacher showed a magnet to her class and illustrated its uses. The next day she gave a quiz with this question: “My full name has six letters. The first one is M. I pick up things. What am I?” Half of the students wrote, “Magnet.” The other half answered: “Mother.”
Speaking of a mother’s work, a 1920’s book, The Children’s Story Garden, tells of “a boy named Bradley…who, when he was about eight years old he had the bad habit of thinking of everything as worth so much money…. One morning when Bradley came down to breakfast, he put on his mother’s plate a little piece of paper, neatly folded. His mother opened it, and could hardly believe what Bradley had written: ‘Mother owes Bradley: for running errands, 25 cents; for being good, 10 cents; for taking music lessons, 15 cents; for extras, 5 cents. Total, 55 cents.’” Bradley had billed his mother!
“Mom smiled but made no comment. At lunch Bradley found the 55 cent payment, along with a bill of his own. Opening it he read—‘Bradley owes Mother: for nursing him through scarlet fever, nothing; for being good to him, nothing; for clothes, shoes and playthings, nothing; for his playroom, nothing; for his meals, nothing. Total: nothing.’”
On this Mother’s Day we pause and thank God for pressing mothers to sacrifice so much without pay. And many pastors use Hannah’s life as a Mother’s Day text. The idea is simple: Hannah is a model mother; therefore, “Be a Hannah.” In fact, several pastors suggest this outline:
1) Women of Faith Endure Real Problems (1Samuel 1.1-8)
2) Women of Faith Extend Vibrant Prayers (1Samuel 1.9-18)
3) Women of Faith Experience God’s Provisions (1Samuel 1.19-20)
4) Women of Faith Excel at Keeping Promises (1Samuel 1.21-28)
5) Women of Faith Express Their Praise (1Samuel 2.1-10)
I see two problems with that approach. First, it leaves out some of the things which happened to Hannah: 6) Women of Faith Pray and Get a Baby (but do they always?); 7) Women of Faith Give Their Firstborn Sons to the Priest to Raise (really?); 8) Women of Faith Enjoy Polygamist Families (I don’t think so). The text tells us too much simply to “Be a Hannah.”
Another difficulty with making “Women of Faith” the subject of this text is that the Bible is not primarily about Hannah. Yes, it tells of real people, as their small lives pass through the orbit of the galaxy of God’s glorious purpose. But God is the center, and a proper reading of Hannah’s story fixes our eyes on the glory and greatness of God. [Read 1Samuel 1-2.10. Pray.]
Samuel tells of God’s people beginning where the book of Judges leaves off. In our Bibles, the book of Ruth intervenes, the story of a great love and devotion that occurred in the midst of the Judges. The history timeline actually moves from Judges directly to Samuel. And if you look back to the last sentence in Judges, we find a sad and desperate situation.
ESV Judges 21.25: In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Judges is the time with no king. Rather than delight in the reign and rule of God, Israel throws off the shackles of religion. But rebellion brings misery and the people plead for a redeemer. Samuel, then, tells how God graciously places his king over his people to govern and bless them. And the first step is Hannah, a mother who experienced great trials and tribulations. What were her troubles?
First, she was married to a desperate man. The union of Elkanah and Hannah produced no child. But rather than trust God, he does what we all find so tempting — he submits to the wisdom of the age and grabs an extra wife. And good news — she is fertile, and his problems sprout like weeds! There is a saying: “Men are often beaten with rods of their own making.” Elkanah’s desperation teased him into bringing the sin and misery of polygamy into his home and Hannah suffered because of her husband’s failures.
Second, Hannah lived in the days of a deplorable church. God includes (in verse 3) the names of Eli’s two sons to remind us of the terrible condition of the church. Hophni and Phinehas stole from the people’s offerings; they rebelled against their father; they were known womanizers. So evil were they that God struck them both dead on the same day. In addition to all that, when Hannah goes to the church to pray, Eli jumps to the conclusion that she must be drunk. One does not make such assumptions unless he has seen similar behavior.
Third, Hannah lived in a divided family. ESV 1 Samuel 1.6 “And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb.” Can’t you hear the self-serving speech of Peninnah around the supper table?