An Encouraging Word

1 Samuel 1:17–18 (ESV)
"Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad."

The story of Hannah is one of struggle, endurance, perseverance in times of persecution, and of ultimate triumph from a faith fully developed in the Lord.

Hannah was married to Elkanah, but because of her barrenness, Elkanah likely took his second wife, Peninnah, to bear him an heir. To be barren in those times would indicate to be out of the Lord’s favor, and thus Hannah’s self-esteem would be low to begin with. Then having to endure watching another woman give her husband children would be even more distressful.

Hannah would have been further decimated when Elkanah’s family would go to Shiloh for annual worship. We see in 1 Samuel 1:6 how Peninnah would use this time to further 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 felt distraught over the matter.

Yet, God’s sovereignty was working in this story.

In our study verse, there are two things worthy to note that have application for us. First, see how Hannah went to the Lord in humble and reverent prayer. Recognizing God as all-powerful by her use of the words “Jehovah tsevaot”, or Lord of Hosts, referencing the hosts of the angelic armies at the Lord’s disposal. Hannah fully understood that God had the power to open her womb. She also made a vow to the Lord, and it is important to understand when one makes a vow to the Lord, it is expected to be honored (c.f. Deuteronomy 23:21). While a vow is never a requisite for prayer, we can learn from Hannah that even in times of extreme sorrow and troubles, we should seek the Lord through earnest prayer.

Secondly are the words of Eli. While at first Eli believed Hannah was drunk, he recognized his error. And what did he do? He offered words of encouragement. We should all be like that. When we have those in our own lives who are struggling with the various trials that befall us, we should speak words of comfort and encouragement to one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Ephesians 4:29; Hebrews 10:25).

And, as we see, Hannah leaves the temple in a much better state of mind. She finds much comfort in taking time for a solemn moment with God and the words of encouragement given by Eli. In chapter 2, the Lord’s sovereignty is fully realized when the situation of Hannah and Peninnah is reversed. Hannah gives birth to Samuel and eventually six more children, the number seven signifying completeness, while Peninnah pretty much disappears from Israelite history.

This is a great story that serves as a lesson for all of us: recognize God’s Will for our lives and submit humbly in prayer. And be an encourager, a Barnabas, for those around us when trouble comes into their lives.