Recently, our InterVarsity chapter at Winona State has been going through 1st Samuel, studying the rise and fall of the judges over Israel, the induction of a monarchy, and periods of transition for God’s people. I’ve never been someone who got much into the Old Testament outside of Ecclesiastes (which is actually my favorite book of the Bible). I guess it’s because I saw the New Testament as having the meat and potatoes for application. The Old Testament just felt like history textbook (even though that’s partly true). Weeks of study through characters like Hannah, Eli, Samuel, and Saul have given me a very different perspective on the practicality of the Old Testament. Learning through the tribulations and pitfalls of these figures has not only been encouraging, but the storyline feels like much more of a natural setup for what Christ does in Earth. Before 1st Samuel, Israel, the chosen nation of God has been through the grinder. After Moses and Aaron lead them out of captivity, the nation begins to dive off the deep end in indulgences and depravity. It’s a drawn out process, but are eventually given judges who act on behalf of God (the ultimate authority) to keep them in line. Unfortunately, the book of Judges is marked by rulers and earthly authority figures who have just as much of disregard for God’s purposes as the people do. It’s basically a vicious circle. Hannah. One of the wives of Elkanah, Hannah is unable to have children, because God “closed her womb.” Biblical historians account that Peninah (or as our staff leader called her – Penny) was more likely the second wife to Elkanah so that way sons could continue their lineage. Frustrated by the fact that Penny looks down on her for being barren, Hannah begs for God to give her a child. So much, that she offers him to God – to dedicate him in surrendered service. That means Hannah will only raise him for a short amount of time until he is handed over to Judge Eli. Hearing Hannah’s plea and responding to her devotion, God gives Hannah a son, Samuel (#foreshadowing). After Hannah weans Samuel she goes to the mountain and gives Samuel to Eli who raises him. Though Eli is one of the few good judges over Israel, he has two renegade sons who are disobedient priests who used prostitutes. I remember this being a passage that was harder for the guys to get into, because we don’t know anything about being barren. We couldn’t understand Hannah, her struggle, or a mother’s dilemma for that matter. With that said, the grand scheme of Hannah’s cry to God is something very relatable. She’s under pressure (cue Queen and David Bowie) to have sons who will carry on the family line. In that day, having descendants and continuing the house or tribe was a BIG DEAL. She felt like a failure and Penny throws it back in her face. The catch is how Hannah approaches God. She is willing to give up the son she always wanted and dedicate his life in service to God. She’ll never get to watch him grow up or really be part of the family. That’s everything for a mother to give up, especially when they have been so close to that child for the time in utero and postpartum. It speaks volumes about the risk that Hannah is willing to take. It’s a leap that many would call, “radical.” David Platt wrote a book of the same title. Though I have not read it, many of my friends have and have all said that it re frames this idea of radical through Christ. It’s an unwavering willingness to do something that is totally out there, but in obedience. People might call it odd, but it makes total sense to you. It’s all underpinned by following the call from God. Hannah had to be willing to alter her plan, throw expectations out the window, and go bold. Through that, God’s provision came through. In the end, this glorified Him, because Samuel ended up being, the voice of sanity for Israel. Now that I say that, this whole story makes me think of the in spider’s web known as God’s plan. It takes a lot of twists, turns, involves a lot of unexpected people and circumstances. I’m not saying that you have to give up your kid to follow God’s plan to be obedient. What I’m getting across is that this involves getting outside of your comfort zone. Being in prayer and listening to what God had to say through time and circumstance ultimately gave direction to me. I still have to do that. It’s a continuous ritual. At times it was/is scary…. As I’m sure it was for Hannah. It doesn’t really get easier to digest, but over time it begins to make more sense and you really feel the dedication.
What can you learn from Hannah’s ultimate submission? What kind of steps can you take to understand God’s plan for you better? What’s outside of your comfort zone?