Once upon a time… long, long ago… in a faraway land… in a culture much different than our own… lived a lady named Hannah.
Hannah! Her name meant “grace.” I suspect that when her neighbors passed her in the market, they each smiled, bowed sightly or nodded, thinking about Hannah’s inner beauty… her grace. Hannah lived up to her name.
Hannah was a princess, or at least that’s how her husband treated her. He loved her, adored her, and was exceptionally good to her.
But Hannah had a grievous problem. Hannah was barren. Childless. Inability to conceive was devastating to a young wife. She was broken-hearted. When she looked into the mirror, she saw a failure. She was a dishonor… a disgrace! It was shameful! She was useless!
Hannah’s husband, Elkanah, was probably well-to-do. He apparently had enough resources and sufficient income to fix Hannah’s problem. So he did.
What did he do? Elkanah did what his ancient ancestors, Abraham and Sarah, had done. When Sarah couldn’t conceive, Abraham fixed the problem. They didn’t seek the Lord’s approval or His direction. Abraham took Hagar and produced a child through a surrogate… a mistress.
When Hannah couldn’t give her husband an heir, Elkanah took another wife. He had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. “Peninnah had children, but Hannah was childless” (1 Samuel 1:2).
Note: I’m not certain that I’ve got all those details correct, but the order of events make sense to me. Read First Samuel’s first chapter and see if you agree.
We can be certain of this. Elkanah was a Levite (1 Chronicles 6:34). He was a good man. He and his family would make an annual pilgrimage, travelling “every year to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of Armies at Shiloh” (1 Samuel 1:3).
On one occasion, “Hannah prayed to the Lord and wept with many tears” (1 Samuel 1:10), “praying from the depth of her anguish” (1 Samuel 1:16). She ached to become a mother, to carry a child in her womb, to hold her offspring in her arms, to give her husband an heir. Bowing before the Lord, pleading, persistently begging and beseeching, she vowed, “Lord of Armies, if you will take notice of your servant’s affliction, remember and not forget me, and give your servant a son, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 1:11).
The God of Creation heard Hannah’s prayer! God’s message, the answer she’d been waiting for, was crystal clear. “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant the request you’ve made of him.” Months later, “Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel” (Samuel 1:20).
Samuel, meaning “God heard my prayers,” was a gift of grace…
And remember… God’s still listening! He’s still able! He’s still the God of grace!