Forty women: 26. Hannah

She’d wept. She’d sobbed uncontrollably from a bone-deep anguish that would not be silenced.

And out of that anguish, she’d prayed. She’d pleaded. She’d begged for a child. Just one. Not to wipe the smirk off Peninnah’s face. Not to prove that she could be just as good a wife. Not because she didn’t know her husband loved her.

Hannah’s anguish and misery sit far deeper than any of that. The reason she didn’t have a child was because the Lord had closed her womb.

It was God who had chosen not to give her a child. God who is sovereign over the heavens and the earth was sovereign over Hannah’s fertility too. And she knew it. She knew it as she wept and as she prayed, and so ‘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 Samuel 1:11).

Hannah’s misery is because the Lord has forgotten her. He has turned from her. He has taken his favour away from her. The child, when he comes – if he comes – will be a delight, not only for himself, but because he will be a sign of the Lord’s blessing.

For Hannah, knowing that she has been remembered by God, that she has enjoyed his favour and received his blessing, will be enough. That is what is most precious to her. For that, she will even be willing to relinquish the child himself.

She prays. The priest asks for God to show her his favour. She and the rest of the family worship the Lord. And then God answers. The next time she has sex with her husband, the Lord remembers her.

Hannah gets pregnant and gives birth to a son. The first year, when he can have been no more than 3 months old, she stays home while the rest of the family make their annual pilgrimage to Shiloh. But the following year she must fulfil her vow. She finds the priest and she hands him her son, Samuel, saying, “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:27).

And then she sings. And the wonder is that it is not a song of lament. It is not a song of bitterness at being parted from her small son. It is not a song of anger at God for taking her child away.

It is a song of joy.

It is a song of praise.

Hannah’s opening line makes that clear: “My heart rejoices in the Lord.”

Hannah delighted in her son, no doubt. But she delighted even more in knowing that the Lord’s favour was on her.

Hannah loved her child, no doubt. But Hannah loved the Lord her God more by far.

Hannah was glad to receive an answer to her prayer, no doubt. But Hannah rejoiced at being able to offer back to God the most precious thing she had.

There’s no question about who came first in Hannah’s life. Not her husband. Not her son. But the one of whom she said, “there is no one besides you;    there is no Rock like our God.” (1 Samuel 2:2).