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Desperation Point: In Barrenness and Bitterness of Soul
I Samuel 1:1-10
Last year God began a working in my heart like no other before. It began in such a way that was completely undeniable. I found myself submerged in the Bible story of Hannah; not quite two chapters and yet I was arrested in this passage of Scripture. And so, I began to study and prepare.
For six weeks this past summer, I held a ladies’ Bible study in my home on Thursday nights and this material I am posting is the material we covered. Not in its entirety by any means, but I still have a very distinct Holy Spirit urging that although the summer has ended, this study is not over.
I highly encourage you to read the passage listed above before you read any further in this note. Blueletterbible.org is an amazing resource that I love; so if your Bible is not handy, go for it. Also, I love Olive Tree software for the ipod touch; their library includes several translations of the Bible, as well as other wonderful resources.
Most Christians who have grown up in church can tell you Hannah’s story in a nutshell: “Yeah, she prayed for a child and God gave her one. Then she gave him back to God because she promised she would.” End of story. But really that’s the beginning! Hannah’s story is completely a lesson on the power of prayer.
So for starters, we find Hannah in a state to which many of us can relate. She was not doing the normal thing for a woman her age in her culture. How many of us feel as though we are not doing the normal thing for the typical person our age, our gender, our race or our culture? We can identify with her feelings of desperation and despair. She was barren. Webster’s dictionary defines “barren” as “not reproductive” or “not reproducing.” We don’t know the exact reason that Hannah was unable to bear children. We do know that it was not under her control. Another frustration many Christians have today; we don’t know the reasons for the situations in which we live. We hate being out of control. What do we do about that?
Enter Elkanah, Hannah’s husband. Wow! What a guy. Right out of the gate, the Bible tells us that Elkanah loved Hannah in spite of her barrenness. What do we know about him from this passage? Well, for starters, he was faithful to God in both worship and sacrifice. Definitely an example for us today: as modern followers of Christ it seems to be much more popular to worship than to sacrifice, does it not? Then, he gave his second wife and all her children more than enough to sustain them. He also gave Hannah “a worthy portion.” Why? He loved her so much. The translation of this word “love” has to do with breathing. You could look at this factor two ways: 1.She took his breath away. Or 2.He couldn’t imagine even breathing without her. Either way, what a love! The Bible is so much more descriptive than romance novels or soap operas; got to love it! So why am I spending so much time on Elkanah? Who loved us so much that He was the Most Faithful in both worship and sacrifice? And He gives us MORE than enough to sustain us (Especially if we’ll stay close to Him through prayer and His Word.) And He couldn’t imagine not paying the price for our sins because He loved us so much. He was willing to give up His sacred breath. Elkanah is a wonderful picture of Christ.
Enter Penninah, the OTHER wife. I can only begin to imagine the issues of the relationships between Hannah and Penninah. In the KJV, verse 6 calls her the “adversary.” Last time I checked that does not mean they got along peaceably. Come on, they hated each other’s guts! Penninah provoked Hannah “sore”, meaning TO THE MAX. She couldn’t get any worse! Verse 7 tells us that Penninah did this year after year. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would have had the patience to deal with her for more than a few minutes, much less year after year! This provocation by Penninah made Hannah “fret.” The literal Hebrew meaning of fret is “raam” which means “tremble.” We are talking about Hannah being in such a state of mind over this issue that she was trembling. Then the Bible gives us a little detail to explain further about how bad this tormenting had gotten: Hannah could not eat.
At this point, I want you to ask yourself. What issue is so prevalent on my mind that at times, I feel weak or trembling? Or have you ever gotten to the point of either forgetting to eat or having no desire for food? There are so many circumstances that come to mind that cause this type of behavior, but I want you to personalize this question. What causes this state of mind for you?
Now, when the Bible repeats a word or phrase, it is screaming from the pages, “Hey, pay attention!” God does not waste words. In this passage, we are identifying the phrase in verses 5 and 6. “But the Lord had shut up her womb.” “Because the Lord had shut up her womb.” God is the One who held the authority over Hannah’s mind and body. This statement has a depth that I hope you are getting as you read. Think now: who is in control of that situation that is sending you over the edge? Who knows every hair on your head and every fiber of your being? When we allow any physical or mental issues to bring us to the point of complete and utter depression, fear or worry, then we essentially are saying, “Sorry, God. You are not in control.” Isaiah 41:10 “Fear thou not; for I [am] with thee: be not dismayed; for I [am] thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” I am reminded of some favorite words of an old song, “God is bigger than any mountain that I can or cannot see.” We may not be able to visualize a solution to our problem. But Our God is bigger than that!
Psalm 55 is one of my favorites. Read it. Meditate on verse 22: “Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee.”