Born in a time when women had no inheritance or birthright, Hannah is the proverbial underdog. Marriage assured and insured a woman’s future through male offspring. In spite of Hannah’s being the first wife (v. 2) and Elkanah’s favorite, her barrenness brings her to a point of desperation. Peninnah, the fertile second wife, makes Hannah’s life miserable by irritating her about her inability to bear a child.
Like Hannah’s, our lives don’t always go as we’d expected. Perhaps people test our patience. We may be at the end of our rope because of circumstances beyond our control. Today’s scripture tells us not to despair. God hears the cries of the oppressed and marginalized.
Hannah does not retaliate in anger against Peninnah; that isn’t Hannah’s way. She cannot change her circumstances or the way people treat her. But one thing she knows: “The Lord had closed her womb.” So it is to the Lord that Hannah turns. It is the Lord to whom she looks for hope and for answers. Hannah pours out her soul before the Lord, and the Lord grants Hannah’s request for a son.
Whatever barrenness we may be experiencing or however many Peninnahs we encounter in life, Hannah’s story affirms God’s honoring of prayer and sacrifice. Even Eli grasps the significance of the moment and offers his blessing: “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made.”
Teach me to relinquish control of my life to you, O God; may I trust in you especially when I don’t understand your will. When everything seems to be falling apart, may I cling to your everlasting love. Amen.
The inability to have a child brings pain to many today, and this was equally true in ancient times. In that context it was sometimes even worse, for Peninnah openly ridicules Hannah for being unable to conceive. But as a result of her desperate, heartfelt prayer, God blesses Hannah with a son, Samuel, who will become a powerful prophet. Hannah then rejoices in a God who exalts the poor and needy. Hannah provides an example of the boldness with which we also can approach God now because of Christ’s sacrifice. The destruction of Jerusalem is the focus of the passage in Mark. Jesus here predicts the demolition of the Temple and the city, which the Romans executed in 70 ce.
• Read 1 Samuel 1:4-20. When have you felt trapped by circumstances not of your own making? How did the situation resolve itself?
• Read 1 Samuel 2:1-10. When has a situation in your life changed because you persisted in prayer? What did that experience teach you?
• Read Hebrews 10:11-25. Do you perceive God’s remembering your sin no more as encouragement or license? Why?
• Read Mark 13:1-8. What signs make you anxious about the world’s future? What helps you rest easier?
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