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So Hannah is the wife of someone called Elkanah. Elkanah also had another wife called Peninnah. Polygamous marriages usually took place if the first wife was unable to have children and that is probably what has happened here. Hannah couldn’t have children. And that was quite shameful at the time. Being infertile meant that God’s favour was not on you. Peninnah did have children and poor Hannah not only had to watch Peninnah raise her family she also had to put up with Peninnah’s jeers and snide remarks.
Every year Elkanah would go to the tent of the Tabernacle, which was like the forerunner to the big temple in Jerusalem and worship God and make sacrifices. It could have been for a formal festival or simple a family celebration.
One year while the whole family were worshipping, Hannah was praying on her own and weeping bitterly. She said to God “If you will give me a child, I will give him back to your service. All his life he will be dedicated to you and he will never cut his hair.”
Do you remember yesterday when we talked about Samson? His hair, his physical appearance reflected his spirituality. His long hair was a symbol that he was set apart for God. This is the same thing that Hannah is talking about. Her baby will be set apart for God. He will be holy.
The preist Eli sees Hannah crying and praying with great passion and thought she was drunk. So she tells him her woes.
Eli blesses Hannah and in due course Hannah gives birth to a son.
When Hannah’s son is born she names him Samuel which means ‘heard by God.’
Hannah made a promise to God that if he gave her a child, she would give the child back to God. So when the baby is old enough, she takes him back to the house of God and leaves him in the care of Eli, the Priest, to serve in the Tabernacle.
I am blown away by Hannah’s prayer and her sacrifice. She desperately wanted a child, she prayed with passion, literally crying and sobbing because she was so desperate. She cared about this so much and knew that only God could answer her prayer. How often do you or I pray with such depth of feeling, such passion?
At first glance I wonder how Hannah could make such a promise, that she would dedicate her son to God in this way, seemingly giving him up after just a few months. That doesn’t sound like the prayer of a woman desperate to raise a child.
In an age when life is all about instant gratification, when next-day delivery is not soon enough and when we can’t even wait the 45 seconds between episodes on our streaming service without clicking next, sacrifice isn’t easy to understand.
But God honours sacrifice.
God honours us, he blesses us when we give up time to serve others in His name. God honours us when we give up our money to make life easier for those in need. God honours us, he blesses us when we give up something that is precious to us. When we abandon all that we have for all that he has to give us.
It isn’t easy and it can really hurt.
Hannah recognised that if God answered her prayer, her child would never belong to her. He would have been given by God, and would always belong to God.
And in the same way, the Bible tells us that all that we have is given to us by God, and always belongs to God.
In honour of Hannah’s sacrifice Samuel grew to be more than Hannah could have imagined. She expected that he we should serve in the house of God all of his life. But in years to come Samuel is a great prophet who becomes a Judge, guiding the people of Israel and even anoints 2 kings over the nation.
Tonight, I’m going to think on what it means to sacrifice for God and consider what I might be hanging on to that is standing between me and God’s blessing.
Tomorrow we will look at another of Hannah’s prayers. The prayer she prays when she returns to the tabernacle to leave her son with Eli.