Triumph of a Broken Heart

1 Samuel 1

As we begin our study of 1 Samuel, let’s set the scene.  The books of Samuel are the first of six “two-part” books which were originally undivided and formed three, not six,  large books.  The original three books were Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles.  Interestingly, Samuel and Kings are grouped together with Joshua and Judges in the Hebrew Bible under the banner of “The Former Prophets.”  These four books contain the history of the Hebrew nation from the end of Moses’ tenure as their leader and the crossing of the Jordan down to their Babylonian captivity.  So in these books we have a wealth of information about Israel not found anywhere else.

Nobody knows for sure who wrote the books of Samuel because the book is anonymous.  Most conservative Bible scholars believe Samuel wrote or was responsible for most of the book, even though Samuel’s death is written in great detail.  One of the functions of a prophet was to act as an historian, so it is possible that Samuel wrote a lot of material that was later compiled by the likes of prophets like Gad and Nathan.

While the history contained in “The Former Prophets” has been demonstrated to be a true and accurate record of the Hebrew people, as we study these writings it becomes evident that these books of history are really books of “His story” (Pukiser), the gradual revelation of God’s involvement in human history to accomplish His purposes for His creation.  We learn that God rewards obedience and punishes sin.  We learn that when a person or a nation fails in their relationship with God, they suffer greatly the unintended consequences of that rebellion.  Without a doubt, the history of Israel as seen through eyes of Samuel can be summed up with a proverb—

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.  (Proverbs 14:34)

As we look at the first chapter of 1 Samuel, a cast of characters is given in the first two verses.  The household of Elkanah, whose name means “created of God,” is not all that significant, other than Samuel would be born to one of Elkanah’s wives.  Her name was Hannah.  And we will begin our study of Samuel with a brief study of his mother.

1.  Hannah was broken hearted, verse 15

“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD.”

Why was Hannah so “deeply troubled?”  What moved her to pour her soul out the Lord with such passion that the high priest thought she was drunk?  There were at least three reasons for Hannah’s sorrow:

  • She had no children, verse 2.  He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.  Barrenness during Old Testament times was looked atas  almost a curse from God.  Psalm 127:3 declares that “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.”  She didn’t’ understand why she wasn’t having children.  She hadn’t done anything wrong.  Yet other women were having children and she wasn’t.  Have you ever felt like that?  Have you ever felt barren or fruitless for God? If you have ever wondered why it seemed like you were overlooked or forgotten by God, you will understand how Hannah must have felt.
  • She was being mocked, verse 6, And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.  Hannah’s childless condition made her the target of ridicule.  It must have been particularly difficult for Hannah because her name means “grace,” which was descriptive of her character.  People like that often get hit hard with ridicule; they take it to heart; it humbles them and it hurts them.   It must have seemed incongruous that Peninnah, Elkanah’s godless, mocking wife was giving her husband children, apparently blessed by God, but gracious Hannah, who loved and served the Lord was seemingly forgotten by God.  Is God mean?  Is God ungracious?    How do we reconcile this?  Everything happens for a reason; sometimes the Lord allows the sharp arrows of the enemy to wound us, to convict us of the barrenness of our souls, so that we may, like Hannah, come to the Lord as the Source of our sufficiency.
  • She had a sensitive nature, verse 7.  This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.   As James Smith quipped, “If she had more brass in her heart she would have had fewer tears in her eyes.”   But sometimes it’s good to come before the Lord with tears in our eyes, especially if we are weeping over the fruitlessness of our lives.

2.  Hannah was prayerful

Hannah was barren and she was the object of ridicule.  She could have been miserable, she could have turned inward and avoided everybody, she could have been angry with her husband and jealous of his other wife, and she could have lashed out at God.  But here is what Hannah did:

  • She prayed, verse 10.  In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD.  She did not rail on the Lord over and over again, she went before Him and prayed.  Did you ever stop and think how often problems in your life drive you to prayer?  What if you never had a problem or a trial; how often would you come before God?  Sometimes the Lord in His sovereignty allows the “bad times” to come into our live so that we will actually just talk to Him.  The mistreatment Hannah suffered at the hands of her rival only served to drive her to the place of blessing because Hannah faced them and dealt with them in the right way.
  • She vowed, verse 11.  And she made a vow, saying, “O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” Many times when we are desperate for the Lord to answer a prayer, we make all kinds of vows or promises to Him, don’t we?  But Hannah’s vow was a little different.  She actually made a Biblical vow to God based on her knowledge of the Law.  Her vow was, in fact, the Nazirite vow, which if found in Numbers 6:2.  Her vow to God on behalf of her hoped for son included the following things:  (1)  avoiding grapes in any form; (2) not cutting the hair on one’s head; and (3) avoiding dead bodies.  We don’t read the word “Nazirite” in our text, but she is clearly promising God that her son would serve God as a Nazirite.
  • She believed, verse 18.  Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.  Here is the difference between we who pray and beg God to answer our prayers and make all kinds of rash promises to Him, as if we can bribe Him in some way, and Hannah.  She did three things:

She went away.  Like Joshua before her, Hannah knew when to stop praying and just leave.   She didn’t keep begging and begging and begging.  There came a time stop asking; to get up off her knees; to get on with her life.  Perhaps the Lord spoke to her heart and gave her some kind of assurance.

She had something to eat.   She not only told God her problem, she not only cast her cares upon God, she left her cares with Him and carried on with her life.  She wasn’t so infatuated with her problem that she was unable to function, she went and had lunch.  She was able to eat because she trust in God.

She was no longer downcast.  Do you know what that means?  What is the opposite of “downcast?”  She was joyful and hopeful.   When a person trusts in God, their countenance will show it.

3.  She was joyful, 2:1

“My heart rejoices in the LORD.”

Hannah’s joy was rooted in the fact that God answered her prayer.  But, knowledge that her prayer was answered didn’t stop with joy; Hannah did some other things.

  • She remembered, versed 20.  So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the LORD for him.” Notice two things here.  First, at least nine months later, Hannah remembered what she prayed for.  Do recall what you prayed for even two weeks ago?  How many prayers of ours are answered long after we pray them, yet we are blissfully unaware that God has actually condescended and entered into our space and time to do something we asked Him to?  Hannah remembered.  Secondly, God answered her prayer exactly as she prayed it.  He gave her a son.  She didn’t ask for a daughter and God didn’t give her a daughter.  God gave Hannah exactly what she asked for.
  • She testified, vv. 26, 27.  “As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD.  I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.” She was not afraid to tell someone God answered her prayer.  We will never know how our testimony will affect another person.  Don’t ever be afraid to tell of God’s goodness.
  • She kept her vow, verse 28.  “So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” She kept her word, as hard as it must have been.  Imagine, praying for a son for years, finally getting one, then giving him to someone else.  That’s what Hannah did because that’s what she promised God.  That kind of devotion sort of puts ours to shame.  Ron Youngblood made this powerful observation—

The son Hannah requested God gave, and she gratefully gives her gift back to the Giver.

Hannah has the right perspective.  Her focus was on the Giver, not the gift.  Perhaps if we had Hannah’s perspective, God might be more inclined to give us what we ask for.


Hannah lived in a terrible time.  The people were far from God, the priests were godless men who looked out only for themselves.  Yet, in such a dark world, Hannah’s light shone brightly.  God gave her a son who would grow up to be a prophet and a priest and man of integrity and a man of vision.  No wonder Samuel grew up to be such a man.  Look at his mother.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd


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