Empowered through Love
Blessing from Hannah-Elkanah Interactions
Elkanah’s interactions with childless wife Hannah empowered her with belief in herself, husband’s love and care, and understanding she could represent the family as led from the heart. Her husband’s love despite apparent barrenness may have contributed to motivating her to seek a child from God. She sought as led from the heart without reservation, found Prophet Samuel as her first child, and enough more children to confirm she was never barren. Her husband supported and stood by her as they fulfilled her vow and received abundant blessing for themselves and humanity.
Hannah and Elkanah interactions leading to the birth and dedication of Samuel provide a message on spousal empowerment through love. Elkanah assigned each of his two wives responsibility to manage the affairs of her sub-family under his care and supervision. When the weight of her apparent barrenness appeared overwhelming for Hannah, Elkanah tried to comfort her by promising to love and care for her enough to make up for childlessness. His show of love in these circumstances may have contributed to motivating her to seek a child from God. Bitter from childlessness, she prayed boldly, without reservation, and vowed to dedicate the child, if God should grant her prayer, to a lifetime of selfless service in the House of God.
Elkanah could have taken advantage of the prevailing law of the land, the Law of Moses, to overturn the vow if he so wished. Instead, he stood by his wife as they fulfilled the vow exactly as she made it.
Their child from the vow was highly favored by God and people: “And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the Lord and men” [1 Samuel 2:26]. He became a prophet at an early age, led Israel spiritually and politically through several decades, thus establishing a link to later generations starting with David that led to fulfillment of the Messiah promise. Furthermore, the couple had more children through Hannah despite her early temporary barrenness. Her husband’s love empowered Hannah with belief in herself, husband’s support, and understanding she could represent the family as led from the heart.
The first step in coping with adversity is to commit personally and wholeheartedly to worship and serve God. Resign to his resolution of the adversity, and commit to living in his image, representing him in every human interaction, such that your actions and words radiate Godliness and elicit positive response from others. Furthermore, resigning to the will of God may include applying human effort to accomplish what you can while seeking his intervention. God will intervene to guide us out of adversity but expects us to apply human effort as part of finding the solution. Because the nature and timing of his intervention are generally not known a priori, we have to actively seek solutions at the human level in order to position ourselves to receive and utilize his intervention.
We continue our study series on Samuel with a study focused on understanding how his mother Hannah coped with the adversity of childlessness. Hannah’s experience leading to the birth of Samuel was dominated initially by her bitterness due to not having a child after several years of marriage. Her husband’s other wife sought to take advantage of her condition. In contrast, her husband was kind and sympathetic and sought to comfort her into accepting barrenness. Hannah, therefore, was alone in seeking a solution to her problem. She dealt with the problem initially by nursing self-directed bitterness that she showed by weeping and often refusing food. However, one day during her family’s annual trip to worship at the tabernacle in Shiloh, she decided she could not continue to bear the problem in her heart. She took the problem to God in prayer and appeared to have left it with him because her demeanor changed completely after the prayer.
We examine her experience in this bible study to understand how she transitioned from wilting under the weight of childlessness to a feeling of being completely relieved of the problem even when there had been no humanly observable change in her situation. Also, we use the opportunity to revisit a previous bible study on David coping with adversity brought on him by virtue of a rebellion led by his son, Absalom. We see that lessons from Hannah’s experience and the lessons from David complement each other and provide useful insight into what a Christian can do to cope with adversity.
From both, we learn about wholehearted commitment to worship and serve God and total resignation to God’s resolution of the adversity in his way and at his time. From Hannah, we learn about living in the image of God as a manifestation of the commitment. And from David, we learn about diligence in human effort while resigned to seeking God’s solution through his intervention.
Hannah’s prayer aligned with God’s purpose and resulted in the birth of Samuel to lead the beginning of a new phase in the life of Israelites. She did not “know” God’s purpose to align with it by any deliberate human choice. Instead, the misery she felt from childlessness and her resignation to God as the only source of relief caused her to lift her spirit toward God, close enough to be guided to a spiritual understanding of her need that was consistent with God’s purpose. Based on her interactions with people and with God regarding the birth of Samuel, we learn about petitioning directly to God, respect for priestly authority, humility, and interacting with a fellow human being facing adversity.
Interactions regarding the birth of Samuel provide opportunities to learn about petitioning directly to God, respect for priestly authority, humility, and interacting with a fellow human being facing adversity. Hannah was grieved of childlessness and a feeling of loneliness due to people around her either seeking advantage from her adversity or asking her to accept the condition as a sentence to barrenness.
However, she did not succumb. Instead, she sought relief from God. In a moment of intensely focused prayer, she petitioned God directly and asked for a son that will be dedicated to serving God full time through all his life. Her prayer aligned with God’s purpose for a spiritual leader to unify Israelites through the next phase of their development. Though she petitioned God directly in the presence of Chief Priest Eli, when Eli scolded her for what he thought was drunkenness, she responded with humility and promise of obedience that moved Eli to join her prayer without knowing her prayer points. God granted her request in the form of the man we know today as Samuel.