Prayer and Peace
A daily devotion for June 22nd
The Birth of Samuel
1 There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.
3 Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. 4 Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. 6 Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8 Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
9 Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”
12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. 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.”
17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”
18 She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.
19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”
Hannah Dedicates Samuel
21 When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, 22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.”
23 “Do what seems best to you,” her husband Elkanah told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the Lord make good his word.” So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.
24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. 25 When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.
2 Then Hannah prayed and said:
“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
in the Lord my horn 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.”
11 Then Elkanah went home to Ramah, but the boy ministered before the Lord under Eli the priest.
In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying,Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.1 Sam. 1:10-11
At first glance it would appear that this is a kind of bargaining prayer of Hannah's — that she is offering to give the boy back to the Lord only if the Lord will give him to her first so she can enjoy him. It is possible to read this account that way, but, if we look closely at it, we can see what is really happening here, for I am sure this is not the first time that Hannah has prayed at Shiloh for a son. All along she dreamed of having a son of her own, a little boy to love and cuddle, to teach him to walk, to read stories to, to watch him grow to manhood to become a strong, clean, fine young man, the pride of her life. She wanted him for herself, and she prayed often for that, but her prayer was not answered.
On this occasion, however, her prayer was different. Having worked through years of barrenness and having thought deeply about the problems, she realized for the first time something she had never known before. She realized that children are not just for parents — they are for the Lord. They are given to parents, loaned for a while, but the reason they are given is for the Lord to use. Certainly this account indicates that this little boy who was ultimately born (Samuel) was God's man to meet the need of a nation. Undoubtedly God had taught Hannah deeply through these hours of struggle over her barrenness, so in great distress and with intense earnestness she prays that God would have what he wanted, a man for his glory and his purposes, and that he would let her be the instrument of that blessing.
Immediately we read of a remarkable change in Hannah's heart, for the account says,
Eli answered, (1 Samuel 1:17-18)
Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him. She said,
May your servant find favor in your eyes. Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.
Immediately, God's peace had begun to guard her heart and spirit. Now, the birth of the baby did not occur until months later, but when the baby was born she named him Samuel, which means,
Asked of God. God had granted her request, but there was peace in Hannah's heart right from that very moment of her prayer. This is a beautiful commentary on that well known passage in Philippians 4 where Paul says,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). That is what Hannah experienced here. This is the mystery of prayer that is available to us to speak peace into our hearts when we are troubled by the circumstances of our lives.
Thank you, Father, for the peace that you can give me as I yield to you in prayer. Thank you that you know what I need and you know when I need it.
Life Application: Our Father wisely denies petition motivated by self-interest. Rather than sulk, or blame God, shall we ask him to re-focus our hearts toward his will and glory? Have we been circumventing his peace by insisting he do it our way?
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