June 2, 2008

Monday Morning Message - Hannah

If you are unfamiliar with this wonderful woman's story then, by all means, take a moment and familiarize yourself with it. You will find Hannah, Elkanah (her husband), and Peninnah (the other wife) and Eli (the priest of YHWH) in 1 Samuel chapter 1.

A few facts followed by a few observations will suffice for this post. I'll leave the conclusions to you.

First the facts.

Hannah lived in a day and time that the social security system was birthing children. Like it or not, fair or not, the cultural context of the ancient world (and much of the modern world for that matter) was not necessarily "woman friendly." Should her husband die there was no pension or inheritance and therefore, unless she had children to take care of her in her old age she was hopeless. In fact, many considered a childless woman cursed by God a fact attested to in this passage as it states, "the LORD had closed her womb." (v. 6)

Hannah was mercilessly tormented by the "other wife" because of her childless state. So much so that she could not eat and tears were a common sight on her face.

Hannah was deeply loved by her husband but this did not solve her inner struggle with the fact that she had not borne any children.

Hannah turned to the only place she could to find an answer to her dilemma, the one who had "closed her womb" was the only one who could answer her deepest need.

A few observations.

Hannah was a desperate woman. Desperate people pray. I like the bumper sticker that says, "As long as there are tests there will be prayer in school." Sure it's tongue in cheek but it's right on. Take your Bible and flip to almost any page in Psalms and you'll notice a song and prayer that comes out of desperate situations.

Could it be the reason we struggle with a prayer life is we are not really desperate? Jesus instructed his followers to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." How many of you are truly concerned about where your next meal is coming from? Not many. Most of us have this weeks bread in the pantry and if we don't we'll just hop down to the corner store and get some. Daily bread is a desperate thing.

Hannah was a decisive woman. There came a time when she had to do something. The status quo just was not going to cut it any longer. There are two words which speak volumes in this passage. In verse 9 it says, "Hannah rose."

Hannah was willing to discuss this issue. She goes and prays literally pouring out her soul before the LORD. I'm pretty sure this was not one of those polite conversations that you are likely to overhear in the church. I've got an idea (because I've got a wife) that when Hannah started speaking her mind God got an earful. All the hurt, all the anger, all the disappointment, all the confusion, all the questions came pouring out and they were directed at one target - God.

Now I often get the "Oh, we're not supposed to question God!" statement thrown at me. To which I reply, "Since when?!" I often remind people that they are in good biblical company when they pour out there honesty to God. I love what Walter Wink has to say about prayer. "The fawning etiquette of unctous prayer is utterly foreign to the Bible. Biblical prayer is impertinent, persistent, shameless, indecorous. It is more like haggling in an oriental bazaar than the polite monologues of the churches."

In the midst of this prayer something happens, something changes in Hannah. I find this intensely interesting because externally NOTHING has changed. She is still childless. She is still tormented by Peninnah. She is still loved by Elkanah. But she is different. Verse 18 ends with these telling words, "and her face was no longer sad." What had she found? What had she discovered? What changed?

The simple truth is she found that the very one who had closed her womb was the one to open her heart. Though she railed against God she discovered that indeed it was God she truly needed. God told Jeremiah, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jer. 29:13). Sometimes it takes a desperate season to cause us to seek God with all our heart. Are you desperate?

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