Thursday, March 22, 2007

Hannah Had None

Immediately after setting up this blog, I started to be pricked with guilt. I talked with a couple of friends who are going through difficult financial times. Want to talk about serious waiting! Several of my friends have lost jobs over the past two or three years due to economic downturns, and they're still trying to get their lives back on track. Trying to find a job. Trying to sell their homes to make ends meet. So who am I to talk about waiting?

In my usual dramatic way, those thoughts led to others. What about folks like Joni Eareckson Tada? She's been paralyzed the major part of her life, and I've heard her talk with such spirit and cheer about the day she'll reach Heaven and her body will be set free to run and swim. That's waiting!

But then I remembered the story of Hannah in the Bible--1 Samuel 1, to be exact. A man named Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Penninah. The Bible tells us that Penninah had children, while "Hannah had none" (verse 2, NIV).

It sounds as though, in all other ways, Hannah had it made. Her husband adored her. The family seems to have been well off financially. When Elkanah passed out allowances to his wives, he gave Hannah a double portion. Yes, Penninah was pretty vile to her, so that Hannah wept and longed for children. But we could read this story with a high and moral tone and say, "Hannah should have been grateful for all the blessings she had, instead of wanting more." Elkanah said as much himself. "Why are you downhearted? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?" (v. 8) We could say that Hannah only wanted children to shut up her rival, Penninah.

But God didn't see it that way. Hannah prayed and sacrificed. In fact, she prayed so hard that Eli, the priest, thought she was drunk! Unlike Abraham's wife before her, she didn't grow tired of waiting on the Lord and try to take matters into her own hands. She longed for a child to dedicate to God's service.

When she explained to Eli why she was praying so desperately, he told her to go in peace, and "may the God of Israel grant what you ask of Him" (v. 17). The Scriptures tell us that, not long after, God "remembered her" and gave her a child. He wasn't displeased that she wanted more. He fulfilled her dream.

Hannah, in turn, remembered God. She dedicated her child to the Lord's service, and in fact turned him over to Eli the priest to raise. And who was this child? The great prophet, Samuel.

I can't help but think that, even though God caused Hannah to wait for His timing, her dream--her future child--was a part of His plan all along. That's why Hannah just couldn't let the dream go.