Our heroine is Hannah, the wife of Elkanah, along with his other wife Peninnah. Now within the first few verses we see that Hannah is set apart. Hannah was barren which meant she could not bear children.
Today it is still a big deal, but much less so than it was back then.
They lived in an age where a woman’s definition was grounded in her family and their success. There were no careers outside the home. And even the term blessing was linked with the idea of bearing children.
But her barrenness came with a purpose. (1 Samuel 1:5) The LORD had closed her womb.
It was divinely ordained that she would not have children.
A number of things may be taken out of this scenario.
First of all, conflict is a necessary part of life. But aside from producing character, in some cases God uses our extreme conflicts to introduce so much more than we imagined. In time we will see that this barren woman not only gave birth to one of the most famous Israelite prophets and kingmakers, but herself also became a prophetess.
We’ve all heard that God’s plan is better and bigger than ours; but most of the time, if we submit, his plans are bigger than our dreams.
Secondly, the hand of God was upon Hannah. The focus often tends to rest upon Samuel and his physical call from the LORD; but he would have never been in the position to receive that call if it had not been for his mother who was faithful. Her life was directed by God, and I believe she represents much more clearly what the call of God truly is – not what we can do, but what we can give.
Her call was to bear a son and then to give him away for the service of the LORD. The familiarity of this story is not by accident. The scent of foreshadow hangs thick upon the writings of Samuel.
Thirdly, perhaps she was only meant to be barren for a time. And eventually she would have bore children. But that is not what the Bible says. It says (1:10) in bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. It may have been heartache and bitterness which brought her to her knees, but it was faith in God which brought the prayer. It was her faith in the Almighty which asked for a son. She knew the power of the One she was praying to and submitted herself accordingly.
An incident interrupts her prayer. Here another theme is introduced: appearances.
In this case, Hannah was the one misunderstood. Here she is, stricken with grief and bitterness and outwardly appears to be drunk. Eli confronts her. Listen to the wording (1:12) As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth, Hannah was praying in her heart.
To Eli, she was no more than a drunk barren woman. She was weak, she was insignificant, forgettable. But to God she was a cherished servant, a believer, a daughter. And she would be remembered and she would certainly be of incredible value to the entire nation of Israel.
Outward appearance means little in the eyes of God.
(1 Samuel 16:7) The Lord does not look at things people look at.