Wednesday, September 27, 2006

hannah faith

I love the story of Hannah. One’s heart can’t help but go out to this woman, the barren but most loved of two wives, whose rival rubs it in especially when they make their yearly trip to Shiloh. Then, when husband Elkanah gives Hannah a double offering, as if she had a son, Peninnah – the other wife – in her jealousy teases her, provokes her, doesn’t let her forget that she’s barren - BARREN!!

Oh the bitterness of it – to regularly see Peninnah’s belly swell with yet another child while hers stays flat. To live in this home squirming with young life, but none of it hers. And then to endure the cruel taunts of this woman – this apparently blessed woman, while she the kind one, the devout one, the loved one has nothing to show for it but empty arms.

This year she is desperate. While they’re in Shiloh, Peninnah’s pestering gets so bad she can’t eat. Even Elkanah’s chide, “Am I not better to you than ten sons?” grates.

She slips away to the tabernacle to pray and silently pour out her bitterness – even vowing that if God will give her a son, she’ll give him back to Him for his whole his life.

Cynical old Eli sits at the temple door watching her. With an imagination tainted by the debauchery all around him, he sees only drunkenness in her emotional outpouring. Finally he can’t stand it any more. “How long will you be drunk.” he says, interrupting her prayer. “Put your wine away from you.”

Aghast, Hannah replies, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit,” and she explains how she’s been in desperate prayer.

Eli, quick to see his mistake and sense this broken woman’s heart doesn’t even ask her what she’s praying for. In an about-face he says, “Go in peace and the God of Israel grant you your petition which you have asked of Him.”

And so Hannah goes, back to their campsite, smiling, perhaps even laughing.

“What’s with you?” a suspicious Peninnah asks, as she watches the woman who formerly had no appetite sit down and finish a whole meal.

I love how Hannah believed. She didn’t question the words of Eli with doubts about the messenger – does God really talk to him? After all, his sons are rumored to be real rapscallions. She didn’t go about cutting down this shining hope inside her with memories of the past and how it had always been before. No. She acted as if the thing were already accomplished and she already had that baby close to her heart.

I want to have a faith like Hannah’s. A faith that notices the answer to my need in a verse that just happens to be in the day’s Bible reading, or the words of a song, or the sermon of a pastor, or the reading in a devotional book, or someone’s blog post, or ... and then accepts that answer as from Him in simple uncomplicated trust – like a child, like Hannah.

And, as is typical of God, Hannah’s intense burden for a child perfectly meshed with a burden in His own heart. As Jane Hansen writes (“Women in God’s Design” sidebar - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible)

“Barrenness was not only Hannah’s condition, but Israel’s condition as well. It was a season of spiritual need and with little prophetic activity, and God sought a voice to speak on His behalf to His people. Hannah could not know that her intense intercession for a child was moving in concert with God – bringing her a son, but also bringing forth the will and blessing of God for a whole nation. As she entrusts the longings of her heart to God, He moves on her behalf, but also advances His larger plan through her at the same time."

Isn’t that an exciting thought – that the intense longings of my heart may be the birth channel of fulfillment for God’s larger purposes? Isn’t God amazing in the way He works!

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