It has been said our lives are like a tapestry. Lots of colors. Dark and light. Some dark threads seem very dark and very long and connected in our memories with times when we despaired of hope and spent extended times in longing and confusion and sorrow. My plan over the next several weeks is to unwind stories about women who despaired and, though their journeys seemed senseless we can see a great Hand was in the weaving of each tale.
Our first story is about Hannah. She lived in the Middle East. She was one of two wives to Elkanah or Elk for short. The other wife, Peninnah, Peni for our purposes, was a major pain in the butt. They were rivals for Elk’s affections and Peni had the edge because she had children, “sons and daughters”, and everyone knew God had “closed Hannah’s womb,” so Peni taunted. Having children in those days and in that culture was like building the family’s war chest. Each child was another bullet to take down the enemy and Hannah was coming up empty. She was no match for her rival and no quick remedy. Finally the pain was more than she could bear. Hannah stopped eating and Elk’s words of consolation: Why are you always crying? and why aren’t you eating? and aren’t I better than 10 sons? didn’t help.
Every year Elkanah took the family to worship and sacrifice to Jehovah of hosts in Shiloh. Elk always gave each one a portion for their sacrifice but this year, with all that was going on with Hannah he gave Hannah a double portion for her to sacrifice to God. In the temple, alone with her deep longings, Hannah went before God on her face in weeping and agonizing prayer pouring out her heart in despair. This is when the foxhole bargaining with God erupted: God, if you will give me a son I will give him back to you to serve you his whole life in the temple. All of this drama was unfolding with silent moving of Hannah’s lips that Eli the priest mistook for drunken stupor.
(1 Samuel chapter 1, New International Version) Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
At this explanation Eli said may God grant you the desires of your heart and she returned home with her husband, became pregnant, gave birth to a son, named him Samuel saying “because I asked the Lord for him.”
When Hanna had weaned Samuel she made good on her bargain with God and presented him to the temple of Jehovah God for His service and this was her prayer to her Great God as she dedicated Samuel in the temple:
1 Samuel 2New International Version (NIV)Hannah’s Prayer
2 Then Hannah prayed and said:
“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
in the Lord my horn[a] is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.
2 “There is no one holy like the Lord;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
3 “Do not keep talking so proudly
or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the Lord is a God who knows,
and by him deeds are weighed.
4 “The bows of the warriors are broken,
but those who stumbled are armed with strength.
5 Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
but those who were hungry are hungry no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
but she who has had many sons pines away.
6 “The Lord brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.
7 The Lord sends poverty and wealth;
he humbles and he exalts.
8 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.
“For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s;
on them he has set the world.
9 He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.
“It is not by strength that one prevails;
10 those who oppose the Lord will be broken.
The Most High will thunder from heaven;
the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.
“He will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.”
This is the prayer of a warrior who has wrestled and come out victorious over her enemy! God, I dare to say, withheld from Hannah her greatest longing so she was desperate enough to wrestle with God and vow to release back into His hands His greatest gift. God had huge plans for turning out the corrupt priesthood of Eli and his two sons and restoring and healing the heart of the nation that involved Samuel as the catalyst for change. If you are curious about what happened to Eli, read the first several chapters of 1 Samuel.
So, following the bread crumbs of evidence, I propose that the drama in our lives, the dark threads causing anguish, grief and confusion are designed by our great God and Master Weaver to press us in to Him for a greater blessing than we can ever hope for or dream of. Perhaps this is why 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us it is God’s will that we give thanks to Him in everything.