The Power of a Whisper Reading Plan
Day 19 Reading: 1 Samuel 1
Pastor Lisa’s Journal
In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.” - 1 Samuel 1:20 (NRSV)
Elkanah has two wives, Peninnah who bore him children and Hannah who has no children. Peninnah is cruel to Hannah, while Elkanah tries to be loving and supportive. (Though he sticks his foot in his mouth in verse 8.) Hannah desperately desires children, so she throws herself before God in fasting, weeping, and prayer. She makes a vow to God that if she bears a son she will offer him to God’s service. She is so distraught, that when Eli the priest observes her prayers he thinks she is drunk. She defends her actions and Eli offers his support and blessing. Later Hannah conceives and fulfills her vow, bringing little Samuel back for Eli to train and raise.
This is a difficult passage for me. Hannah and I share experiences- wife, mother, victim of verbal abuse, desiring to follow God faithfully. Her pain reminds me of those times in my life when I haven’t understood God’s plan. When I have seemed insane because of the desperation.
At first glance, God seems as cruel as Peninnah. Peninnah is obviously cruel with her taunts, yet God seems equally cruel to shut Hannah’s womb. Is God the cause of every barren womb? If we say yes, then it is an easy jump to say God is the cause of every barren and hopeless situation, of every disease and disaster.
I do not believe this. I believe we live in a broken world with several causes of trouble. Some are tied to God’s gift of free will, the consequences of our own choices and/or the consequences of other people’s choices. Some situations are the work of the evil one and some come from the general state of brokenness found in living between Eden and Heaven. It’s consistent with God’s character to bring birth out of barrenness, hope out of hopelessness, but I’m having trouble with the idea of God causing the barrenness to begin with. Was the closing of her womb a special case because God had a special plan? Was it merely a misunderstanding of God’s timing? Did Hannah have to pray in order to nudge God’s memory and resulting action?
This leads to the second difficult question. Why does God answer Hannah’s prayer with a child while so many other prayers for children receive a “no” answer? Is it because she is more faithful? (as seen in her fervent prayers) She doesn’t doubt? (as seen in her attitude change after her encounter with Eli) Is it because of the bargain she makes with God to give the child over to God’s service? In fact the bargain might not be a bargain at all, but rather an illustration of Hannah’s faithfulness since all first born are to be the Lord’s. God does not request anything of her, yet Hannah makes the vow and sees it through. She brings her precious toddler to Eli, a man who has failed miserably in raising his own children.
I know God is not genie awaiting magic words, nor is God’s favor bought with promises or acts of great sacrifice. Yet, I am left with many questions.
There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.
- Barry Lopez
Lord of Hosts, there are so many things we do not understand. Our lack of understanding does not diminish your goodness or your power. Help us to follow you even when the situation is desperate and the way unclear. Build in us a faith that seeks you boldly and honestly, that will persevere in the midst of disrespect and ridicule. Teach us to stand and to defend our faith when others question and misunderstand. You are our only hope and salvation. We need you near. Amen.
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I look forward to reading your comments and to all that Jesus will do in you and through you as you learn to better listen and respond to God’s whispers in your life. – Lisa <><
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