Lessons from Hannah

The story of Hannah and the birth of Samuel is an amazing story of faith and answered prayer amd a perfect example for Mother's Day.

Hannah was married to Elkanah, but because of her barrenness, Elkanah likely took a second wife, Peninnah, to bear him an heir, which was the custom in that time. To be barren in those times would indicate to be out of the Lord’s favor, and thus Hannah’s self-esteem would be already likely be low. Then having to endure watching another woman give her husband children would be even more distressful. Yet, we see her trust and faith in God never waiver.

Hannah was the fourth woman in biblical history to suffer through infertility: Before her were Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel. When we compare their responses to Hannah’s, we see Hannah’s faith shine bright above the other three. After all, Sarah laughed at the thought she could get pregnant at her old age (Genesis 18:2); Rebekah questioned why this was happening to her (Genesis 25:22); and Rachel blamed her husband for her barrenness (Genesis 30:1). Hannah petitioned the Lord in earnest prayer (1 Samuel 1:9-11).

In 1 Samuel 1:6 we how Peninnah would use this time to torment Hannah about her inability to provide Elkanah a child. It is worthy to note that Elkanah’s love for Hannah still seemed more that his love for Peninnah, as we see in 1 Samuel 1:4-5 of him giving Hannah double portions of the sacrifice. Still, Hannah had to feel unworthy.

In her heartfelt prayer, Hannah makes a vow to the Lord—the only woman recorded in the OT to make such a vow—that she would dedicate her yet-to-be conceived son to His service. While Elkanah could have voided the vow, he did not, as vows made to God were expected to be fulfilled (see Deuteronomy 23:21).

In chapter 2, the Lord’s sovereignty is fully realized when the situation of Hannah and Peninnah is reversed. Hannah gives birth to Samuel, while Peninnah pretty much disappears from Israelite history.

So what can we learn from Hannah?

God looks upon those afflicted and gives grace to the humble. Hannah and Peninnah represent the weak and the strong in this world and through this story we see God exalting the humble while bringing low the haughty (Luke 14:11).

It is in Hannah’s story that we gain insight into God’s heart. He does not chastise Hannah for having a yearning desire for a child, and through her desire, His sovereignty is displayed. God uses the weak and contrite to accomplish great things. Hannah’s child, Samuel, becomes a great man of God—the final judge and the prophet who anointed both Saul and David.

Recognize that in this story, God answers prayers. Hannah prayed out of desire, but her heart was aligned perfectly with God’s plans and thus her prayer was answered. When we have nothing separating us from God—unconfessed sin, for example—we can experience similar blessing in our own lives.

Hannah is an amazing story of unwavering faith in the midst of a life full of tremendous angst and one we can turn to when life is beating us down.