Part 3 of 3
A Revelation in Disguise
In 2007, I began a year-after-year pounding on heaven’s door. One year into my missionary term in Manila with one child in preschool and one in second grade, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Because David was in elementary school, I lent my help in his classroom whenever I could. Using my piano skills, I accompanied the middle school choirs and substituted in the music department. My most enjoyable ministry occurred right in my home, where I taught a Bible study to 27 missionary women. The ministry I had with Filipinos occurred in the local church, where I conducted musicals and plays twice a year and led a Filipino outreach team called Sonlight. All in all, I was busy using my gifts and enjoying the process, but I had a deep longing in my soul; there was something missing.
As I laid this sense of emptiness at God’s feet, I finally was able to pinpoint the problem: I did not feel like I was doing THE THING that I was created to do. I was serving using both my talents and my spiritual gifts, but I just had a sense that there should be more.
Eric Liddell in the book Chariots of Fire is quoted as saying: “When I run I feel God’s pleasure.” And that word ‘pleasure’ was exempt from my service. I enjoyed what I did and knew I was being obedient; I just wanted something to do that would get me excited to jump out of bed, that would ignite a passion under my energy’s fire, and would be my unique conduit of ministry that would impact others. Most of all, I just wanted to know my niche, the area of my work in the kingdom that would bring both God and me an incredible year-after-year kind of pleasure.
I felt led of the Lord to pray about this desire and I did year after year. My accountability partner joined me in petitioning God to reveal to me that special something He wanted me to do. My answer to this prayer came in a very unexpected way…six years later.
Early in the year 2013 I attended a Beth Moore simulcast held at Union Church in Manila. I remember getting up that morning with a sense of expectation; I just knew God wanted me at that Saturday seminar. All through the day as I sat and listened to Beth Moore give lessons from the story of Elisha and the Shunammite woman, I kept talking with the Lord in my head, “What is it, Lord? What am I missing here? I was sure you had something special for me today?”
Most of the day came and went with no revelation from God and I was a bit discouraged. I thought I would at least approach the woman who had opened the event in prayer because she had mentioned a Bible study I was interested in obtaining. We chatted awhile about Nehemiah, the topic of her Bible study, and then she turned the tables on me and said rather pointedly, “May I pray for you?”
Startled, I agreed and what followed changed my prayer life. We sat down on that front church pew and she began to pray the most powerful prayer I have ever had spoken over my life. She mentioned my gifts and yearnings and though we had never discussed any of these topics, she prayed about my desire to have a niche in ministry. On top of all of that, she prayed for my writing ministry, that God would use it powerfully.
To this day, the hairs still stand up on my arms as they did in those divine moments. I knew God was speaking to me, that He was revealing Himself to me through this sensitive Holy-Spirit filled woman. When she had finished praying, we were both weeping and I looked at her and said, “You have just answered a prayer I have been praying for six years.”
Those prayer-filled moments were God’s revelation in disguise. He did not show up physically on that pew to give me my answer. And yet He did, vicariously through that tender woman who took the time to listen to an inner prompting and spoke the words I needed to hear.
Though there were a number of times, especially in the Old Testament, when Jesus did show up in a physical form – we call this theophany – mostly, revelation came through the Word of God given to prophets. However, His Word is not the only way God reveals Himself to us. His ways of revelation, I’m convinced, are as varied as His personality. He is not confined by time and space nor is He a God who is easily boxed in. He is creative and personal and loves to surprise us.
Personally, God’s revelation mostly comes to me through my study of the Word of God, but God has also used dreams to show me what is going on in the spiritual realm. He has used sermons and conversations with friends to point me to what He is revealing. As I have just illustrated, He used the prayer of a stranger to answer my six-year prayer. And for those of you who may not want to hear this, God also reveals Himself to me through incredible year-after-year suffering.
My point is: revelation is God’s business. You and I are merely to be watching and waiting with expectation, to have our eyes and ears open to what God is doing around us, and to be ready to respond when He speaks. Our primary job is to listen and obey when His revelation comes.
Today, you are going to see God reveal Himself to Hannah but it was through a very unexpected medium. If she was not faithful to go to the house of the Lord, if she was not engaged in prayer, if she was not watching and listening, she might have missed God’s movement on her behalf. On the heels of her resolutions of faithfulness and prayerfulness, God took the time to show her His glory and that glory enabled her to engage in a third resolution, which revolutionized her soul.
I wonder what your year-after-year struggles look like. I would love to hear what God is saying to you about the longings that may be lying dormant in your soul. You, like Hannah, may be in a season of suffering, a season of unanswered prayers. You may be losing hope, but I pray that this devotional series would fan into flame a hope that will begin a wildfire of change in your life.
Our first week together, we looked at the sources of pain in Hannah’s life (1 Sam. 1:1-8) and discovered that year after year, she kept on going to the house of the Lord. This demonstrated her resolution of faithfulness despite the provocation she experienced.
Then last week we saw her make a determined choice to stand up in the middle of her pain, to refuse to take Satan’s ‘last straws’ lying down, and to engage in her spiritual battle. Standing up was a choice that birthed another resolution, the resolve to pray. Through her prayer, we saw her make four petitions and combat her fear like David did in Psalm 56:3-4.
Today we will explore what finally turned her inner turmoil into rest: she received a paradoxical revelation from the Lord. It was subtle and even involved some more pain, but in that encounter, she also saw God and this revelation moved her from the Path of Provocation into the Path of Peace. Two resolutions, one choice, and one revelation led to yet another resolution, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Before we jump into this passage, would you take the time to reread 1 Samuel 1:10-18? This time as you peruse Hannah’s prayer, see if you can discover how God revealed Himself to her. It is subtly disguised, but irrevocably present. Also take notice of the change in her behavior and see if you can pinpoint when the revolution occurred in her soul.
A “Forgotten” Sentence
Since Hannah’s resolution of prayerfulness was our focus last week, we took the time to peruse all of the statements that mentioned her prayer life. I trust that this look into her powerful connection with God was an example to you and that you were able to find some aspects of prayer that needed more focus in your time with the Lord.
This week I want to look carefully at the revelation of God woven all throughout the second half of this chapter. In order to ferret out these obscure references, we will need to go back to verse 9. Remember that when the family had finished eating and drinking, Hannah stood up (v 9a)? We talked a lot about that last week, how this was the turning point in Hannah’s year-to-year pain. The act of standing up from her circumstances opened up a channel straight to heaven.
You may notice that I completely ignored the second half of the verse. My disregard was purposeful, for I wanted to save its truths to kick off our study of God’s revelation to Hannah today. Look at this verse with me, “Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the LORD’s temple” (v 9b).
I cannot tell you how blessed I was by studying the meanings behind each of the words in this short sentence. This verse is chock-full of references to God’s presence, which I believe Hannah later recognized. Let’s jump right in and see what revelations God may have for us as we study His Word together.
Eli, Man of God
I admit to you that I completely ignored this part of verse 9 as I was originally studying through this passage. It just seemed so out of place, like it was an afterthought by the author. Yet that very incongruity drew me back to this verse over and over. As I began to examine the transformation in Hannah’s life later on, I knew there had to be something huge earlier on that triggered a holy fire in her soul. I believe this verse contains the initial spark of her revolution’s flame.
If you will remember, part of Hannah’s soul cries were that she was unloved, unseen, unheard, and unimportant. I believe she felt this way toward her husband and obviously, Peninnah, but more than that, she felt this way toward Yahweh. How else was she going to reconcile the fact that her faithfulness did not seem to matter to God? Year after year of going to the Lord’s house, year after year of being faithful, year after year of worshiping and sacrificing to the LORD Almighty, and still she had only a barren womb to show for her year-after-year loyalty.
The only way Hannah was going to experience a revolution in her soul was through a personal encounter with God. Her head knowledge was not going to take her the distance that her circumstances required. She needed a movement of God deep in her emotions which would connect her head and her heart. Then she would be able to believe God for who He was and what He said He could do. This belief-movement required that she feel loved by God, seen by God, heard by God, and made to feel somewhat important to God. In short, she needed a God-inspired, divinely-authored, graciously-proffered, gently-Fathered revelation.
That revelation transpired in a supremely paradoxical manner. It came about through the misinterpreted actions of an old, fat man. Eli, the priest, became to Hannah the quintessence archetype of God.
His Portrayal Of God
Many of you are well aware that the Hebrew name ‘El’ stands for God, so you can probably deduce that “Eli” has that word ‘God’ somewhere in it. You would be correct as ‘Eli’ means “Yahweh or God (El) is exalted” (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament words). The root word of Eli is ala, meaning “to go up, ascend, climb…meet, visit, follow, to come up before God…” (ESV Strong’s), which is why some dictionaries have “ascension” as a definition for Eli.
Here is a man christened for how God should be portrayed in each of our lives. If every time someone spoke my name, I was reminded of the fact that God should be exalted in everything I think, say, and do, imagine how that would impact my walk with Him. Eli was that man. Grafted into the very core of his identity was the fact that God was His Lord, that God was Someone he could approach to meet with, visit, and follow. Eli had access continually – by way of his name – to come up into the very presence of God, to ascend into intimacy with the Father.
His Partnership With God
Eli is introduced as a priest. At this particular point in events, Eli is actually the high priest. All priests came from the tribe of Levi (Deut. 9, 17, 18). They performed religious duties, pronounced medical diagnoses, policed the unruly, and taught God’s words to the people of Israel. More importantly, a priest was authorized by God to officiate at the altar; he performed sacrifices, rituals and even mediated some between people. A priest, and especially the high priest, worked in partnership with God and is most known for representing the people before God (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary).
As a priest, Eli was God’s associate. He interceded on the people’s behalf: praying for their atonement, making sacrifices to bring them into right standing with God, and making decisions that judged them clean enough to approach God. This thought of representing people before God is a heavy responsibility of integrity and righteousness. Eli was a very good man to have around in time of great need, especially needs arising out of soul cries.
His Post Before God
The author of 1 Samuel mentions that Eli was sitting down. This might not mean such a big deal to us in English, but in the Hebrew, this is a powerful word. It means to “sit down as judge…to dwell, remain, settle, abide, stay” (ESV Strong’s). My Vine’s Dictionary says that this word is also used to describe man’s being in God’s presence.
Look at these verses that use this word yasab:
- “You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance – the place, O LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, O LORD, your hands established.” (EX. 15:17)
- “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Ps. 23:6)
- “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (Ps. 27:4)
Notice how this word ‘dwell’ is utilized. It suggests planting and permanence and eternity. It submits thoughts of worship and intimacy and communion. It indicates inheritance and love and family. This is a beautiful word, a word that draws us into the very presence of God.
Eli was not just sitting down because he was fat or old or tired. He was dwelling in God’s abode, remaining in God’s presence, and settled down in communion with his heavenly Father. I love the picture of intimacy presented by this wise old man who had mediated for his people for so many years. Eli was “on duty” (MSG) and the picture represented here is one of faithful service to his Lord. His post was not one of obligation, but one of reverent love.
His Position Under God
Verse 9 tells us that Eli was sitting on a chair (NIV), but I do not think this translation is completely accurate. The ESV, NASB, and NKJV render “a chair” to be “the seat.” This was not just a random folding chair that Eli plopped his weight down on. It was an important piece of furniture, his “customary place” (NLT).
This word kise means “seat of honor, throne, stool; figuratively royal dignity, authority or power” (ESV Strong’s). Mounce’s Dictionary describes this word as a “seat in a public place or civic setting, a place of authority, seat of honor, of royalty or deity.”
Eli was given great authority by God as a high priest. God had positioned him in a seat of honor, dignity and power. When Eli took his seat at the front of the Tabernacle, it was his customary place, his God-determined posture of jurisdiction under God.
His Proximity To God
Eli was sitting by the doorpost of the LORD’s temple, the NIV reads. We all know that the original tent of meeting did not have doorposts. The entrance was made of curtains so this structure must have been added later. What is important for us to see is that Eli’s seat of authority was at the entrance to the Tabernacle interior.
Everyone who passed through the doors of that Temple would have to proceed by this authoritative, God-honoring man. He, by his very presence, was both close to man and close to God in those moments when a person needed an intermediary. Eli did not withdraw from people in their time of need; he was clearly seated at the entrance. He did not send them to a lesser priest; his was a very real, touchable, present priesthood. He did not keep people from entering. Scripture says he dwelled by the doorpost; accessible but not formidable.
His Probity in God
For one last glimpse of the kind of man Eli really was, we need to move down in the passage three verses. Verse 12 starts with these words, “Eli observed her mouth.” This could be taken simply as the fact that he noticed that her lips were moving, but there is something more at play.
To ‘observe’ (samar) means to “hedge about (as with thorns), i.e. guard; generally, to protect, attend to…to keep…give heed, keep watch and ward, save life…watchman” (ESV Strong’s). This word does not just mean to take a casual look at or toward, but to pay close attention.
Notice how this word is used in a couple of examples:
- “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Gen. 2:15 – NKJV).
- “And David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper and took the provisions and went, as Jesse had commanded him…” (1 Sam. 17:20 – ESV).
- “The LORD will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” (Ps. 121:7-8).
Adam and Eve were not just to tend the garden, but they were also to protect and watch over it. The keeper of the sheep would stand guard over the flock in David’s absence. The Lord has promised to hedge us about as with thorns; He will act as a watchman towards us and protect us from harm, not just for a little while, but forever.
Eli, by observing Hannah’s mouth, was guarding the holy places of the Temple. He acted to protect the sanctity of God’s home, giving heed to drunkenness and keeping watch over impropriety. I used the word ‘probity’ because he was a decent and honest man, working hard to protect the integrity and righteous reputation of the Lord’s house.
God’s Palpable Presence
In order to truly understand the import of this verse, let’s stack all of these words’ meanings on top of one another. The particular man of interest is Eli, a person whose God was exalted in his life. Imbedded into his very name was a special truth about God that He could be approached, met with and followed. Eli, at his very core, was a man who was able to ascend in his soul to God in order to find communion with Him.
As a priest, Eli worked in partnership with God. He carried out God’s instructions about His house, His people’s health, His sacrificial system to the letter. Most of all, as high priest Eli represented the people before God, especially in a time when “words from the LORD were rare” (1 Sam. 3:1).
Our key verse informs us that Eli was sitting. Remember this word means to dwell or remain and it has a lot to do with enjoying God’s presence. By sitting at the entrance to the Temple, by remaining at his post, Eli communed with God and was a visible presence that others could too.
As priest, Eli was given authority by God; he was God’s man in God’s time. The seat that he sat on implied a seat of honor, of dignity, of power. Eli exercised this God-given authority every time he sat down in his customary role as intermediary before God.
Eli sat at the entrance to the Temple proper. Without going into the Temple, this was as close to God’s presence as he could get. His physical body sitting at the entrance to the house of worship was a sign to others coming to be with the God that God was close and could be approached.
Not only did he sit at the entrance to the Temple, but he observed all that went on in the house of God. He observed what kind of people went in and out. He took special note of their needs and their misuse of God’s holiness. By sitting and observing, he was God’s keeper. Like Ezekiel much later in history, God had made him a watchman for the house of Israel to hear God’s words and speak them out over the worshipers (Ezek. 33:7).
If you take all of these truths we have gleaned, you will see that a very special man was about to be used by God. Here was a man who could ascend to God in his heart’s communion, who was able to represent needy people before God, who dwelt, as a rule, in God’s presence, who was given authority by God, who was close in proximity to God and who took his role as watchman over the house of God very seriously.
Verse 9 takes two opposing thoughts and throws them together in a clashing cacophony. On the one hand there is Hannah sitting with her family, so miserable inside that she cannot eat. There is a war going on inside of her and she makes a decision to stand up from her misery. At that very moment, the author throws into that miserably oppressed struggle this incredible phrase about Eli, the man of God for such a time as this (Esther 4:14).
All the palpable presence of God, the weight of His existence, and the power of His glory is juxtaposed with all the palpable presence of misery, the weight of Hannah’s oppression and the power behind the choice it took for her to stand up. Do you see the wonder of this contrast? It nearly takes my breath away.
It was no accident that at the moment Hannah made the choice to stand up, to rise up out of her misery’s pit, that the God-of-Angel-Armies already had a man standing in the gap for Him, for her, and for revelation. Before she made that choice, God had already been moving on her behalf. He had prepared a man for Hannah’s great need: one who regularly ascended into His presence, one who mediated for mankind, one who had authority to act on God’s behalf, one who took his godly duties seriously, and one who was the very portrayal of God for Hannah.
And just like me the first few times around, Hannah missed it. It would take a monumental misunderstanding to awaken her to the palpable presence of God for her in the person of Eli.
A Clash of Views
I mentioned last week that prayer during this time was mostly audible. Yet Hannah prayed in her heart. She did not even see Eli by the entrance and certainly did not care that someone was watching her. She was so anxious, so stressed, so desperate that she did not think about religious norms or worship propriety. She just cast herself into God’s presence and conversed desperately with God in her heart.
However, Eli was watching. He was observing and taking note and guarding the holiness of his temple. And this woman, who burst into the Temple was not conforming to the worship mores. He was convinced that she was drunk because her lips were moving, but her voice could not be heard (v 12).
This quick judgment shows a sad state of affairs, a glaring monument to the times. For Eli to jump to this misconstrued conception of her actions tells us that drunkenness in the house of God after one of these feasts was probably a norm. In this time, the time of the judges, “everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25) so Eli was right to be careful and concerned.
But the way he handled the situation left much to be desired. “You’re drunk! How long do you plan to keep this up? Sober up, woman!” I just had to use the Message for this statement because it is most sarcastic rendition of Eli’s not-so-kid-glove approach.
Hannah was so engrossed in her troubles and in casting them onto God that she did not even know Eli was around. Imagine her consternation, her innate sense of injustice, and the additional pain this harsh misunderstanding would have caused her. It would not have felt only like a bucket of ice-cold water had been thrown on her spiritual fervor, it might have even felt like a knife had been stuck between her ribs.
Here she was praying to God and the man of God could not even perceive her intent. How was she to grab God’s attention if the very priest who was used to mediating for the people to God could not even discern her pain, comprehend her anguish, or understand her motives? How alone and angry and upset Hannah could have been.
But her response shows us that Hannah became aware of something deeper going on.
Is Prayer Worth It?
Last week’s devotional thoughts ended with this question, “Is prayer worth it?” I had a purpose in mind when I postulated this query for your reflection, for as I studied this passage, I noticed the tenses in Hannah’s interactions with Eli. Eli observed her mouth, Hannah was praying, her lips were moving, her voice was not heard, Eli thought she was drunk, I have not been drinking, she was pouring out her soul, I have been praying…
Do you notice all of the tenses in every phrase is written in the past tense, but there is one phrase that is present tense. Look at verse 15b: “I am a woman who is deeply troubled.”
Oh, the absolute pathos of her admission. After all the weeping, Hannah is still just as sad. After all the praying, Hannah is still discouraged. After all the vowing, the speaking in her heart with the Lord, and after the pouring out of her soul, Hannah is still very deeply troubled; her soul is still in deep anguish.
The complete vulnerability in her humble, desperate confession touches me very deeply. I have been where Hannah is currently standing. I have wept often to no avail. I have prayed and still been discouraged, still not had my heart come to grips with what my head is supposed to know. I have spoken to the Lord, poured out my soul like water before Him and left His presence deeply troubled, maybe even more troubled because I did not receive an answer despite my faithful prayerfulness.
This disclosure of Hannah’s is an admission we are often too proud to make. You see, as believers, we are supposed to find rest in God, we are supposed to have great faith, but quite frankly, we often do not. Hannah’s statement of present-tense grief is an acknowledgement of unbelief. Hannah knew she was in trouble. Despite her persevering, powerful, penitent prayer, she was really struggling to believe in God’s mercy and goodness toward her.
Is prayer worth it? If Hannah, a faithful, prayerful woman could not find comfort for her soul through this medium, does prayer even work? What is the good of prayer if we feel worse when we are done, if our faith sinks to an even deeper low? Hannah expended so many tears, so much energy, even a sacrificial vow to gain God’s ear and in the end, she was still deeply troubled, still deeply unseen, still deeply unloved, still deeply alone…or was she?
Judgment or Mercy
If you had been praying with passion like Hannah and someone had come up to you and accused of being drunk, how would you react? I know I would be angry and would probably jump down that person’s throat. I would react out of the turmoil of my emotions and give that person a piece of my mind. I would begin to deny that person’s accusations, telling the story of my grief to authenticate my response. I would probably deny that person’s judgment, decry his insensitivity, defend my reputation and disparage his authority over me.
But Hannah did not.
Her response was gentle. She did not slander Peninnah in Eli’s presence, trying to justify her actions in Eli’s mind. She simply stated that he had misunderstood her situation, that her passion came from a place of deep sorrow, and that her prayers were her last resort before God. And she admitted to being a woman who had done everything she knew to do and was still deeply troubled. This was a costly confession of doubt and little faith.
Why would she give Eli the time of day, especially after his harsh judgment of her behavior? Why would she not rail on her family in his presence? Why would she admit to unbelief to this man, who may have been hardly more than an acquaintance to her?
I submit to you that this jarring altercation woke her up to something that God was doing. In Eli’s responses, she became aware of a spiritual movement of Yahweh toward her. God used a judgmental old priest to show a hard-to-comprehend mercy toward her.
Hannah’s Prayer Requests
To truly understand this, would you return with me to verse 11? Look at the four requests Hannah made to the Lord, “if you will only look upon 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…” Hannah asked God for four movements on His behalf.
First, she begged Him to look on her misery. She needed him to acknowledge her, to realize the depth of her anguish. Her soul cry was to be seen because up to this point, she felt very unseen by her God. She desperately needed someone to look upon her misery and to act on her behalf.
Next she asked God to remember her. That word ‘remember’ (zakar) means “to mark (so as to be recognized), i.e. to remember; by implication, to mention, to recall, call to mind, be thought of, to mention, to record, to make a memorial” (ESV Strong’s). When she asked God to remember her, she was asking Him to do something that would record her request, that would mark her petition. Her soul cry was that she was unheard and so she petitioned God to hear her and act on her behalf.
She also asked God not to forget her as His servant. This word sakah means “to mislay, to be oblivious of, from want of memory or attention, to ignore, to cease to care, to be forgotten” (ESV Strong’s). Her soul cried out to be loved, cared for and nourished. In this phrase, she beseeched God to hear the cries of her lonely soul, that God would see her loneliness and not forget her, not abandon her, but that He would act on her behalf.
The last request revealed the biggest soul cry of her heart. Not having children was a disgrace, it was the root of provocation in her home and life. She asked God to give her a son. This word natan means “to give, put, set, bestow, grant, consecrate” (ESV Strong’s). What Hannah was asking for was no small thing; she was asking for a measure of God’s blessing, His mercy, His movement to act on her behalf.
With all of her requests being made known to God, how is it that Hannah still was so troubled? Doesn’t the Word intimate that God hears our prayers, “O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come” (Ps. 65:1)? Doesn’t Scripture declare that if we ask, our requests will be given to us (Mt. 7:7)? Isn’t the parable of the persistent widow an example to us that if we pray and do not give up, God will not put us off, but will bring quick justice to us (Lk. 18:1-8)?
Yes, my friend, all of these statements are true. But there is a missing ingredient from the verses I just listed and that key is found in Matthew 21:22, “if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
What is the key? I hope you saw that word believe. Unbelief stands in the way of God being able to work in our behalf. When Hannah admitted that she currently was still a woman who was deeply troubled, she was admitting to the unbelief that stood between her and God.
How do you and I overcome unbelief in our hearts and in our desperate prayer lives? Where do we turn if there are known barriers erected by our unbelieving hearts? How do you and I get past this barrier of unbelief in order to see God move on our behalf?
I think the answer can be found in a very well-known passage, a passage we often quote about laying our requests before God in order to find peace. Look at Philippians 4:4-7 with me: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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.”
As I pick through the basic tenets of these four verses, I see the following truths:
- Rejoicing is to be the theme of our lives before God.
- Gentleness is to be the theme of our lives before men.
- The reason for both of these themes is God’s proximity; the Lord is near.
- Because of His proximity, we are not to be anxious.
- Instead, we are to pray with supplication and with thanksgiving.
- Then God’s peace will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.
There is a pivotal phrase in the middle of these verses. What comes before rests on this foundation and what comes after is a result of resting on this same foundation. The foundational truth of this short passage is that the Lord is near (NIV, NASB), the Lord is at hand (ESV, NKJV), the Lord is coming soon (NLT). Again the Message says this so plainly, “Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!”
You can see that there are a number of different translations of this phrase. It is because the words “at hand” can mean a couple of different things. It is an adverb meaning close or near, but it can refer to both place and time. The NIV and NASB Bibles translate this phrase ‘at hand’ to mean that God is near to us in proximity of place. He is right here with us. The application of this facet of ‘near’ should really minister to us.
The other translations take this phrase to mean that He is near in time. They go with the idea that God’s day, the Day of the Lord is at hand. His coming is real soon. This facet of God’s nearness should also be a source of real ministry to each of us.
But which one of these facets of God’s nearness should be understood in the light of prayer? Honestly, I think both facets should play a part in prayer. The CWSB Dictionary says that the usage of this phrase in Philippians 4:5 should be taken metaphorically to mean that He is near, nigh and stands ready to help. He is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18). He is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth (Ps. 145:18).
Hannah struggled with a couple exhortations from this passage. While she was gentle toward those in her sphere of influence, she was not a person characterized by rejoicing. And while she was prayerful, she was still anxious. And in the midst of her petitions, she forgot one important aspect of prayer; she forgot to be thankful. So out of the six truths I find in this passage, Hannah only applied two of them: gentleness toward people and petition. She forgot to rejoice. She forgot to thank. She forgot the Lord’s presence and consequently, she had no peace.
The Lord is near. He stands ready to help. He is close to the brokenhearted, to those who call on Him. This is the foundational plumb-line of this Philippians 4 passage. Everything else hinges on this truth, but my friend, it takes faith to believe that it is true. And faith was something that Hannah knew she was sorely lacking.
She could see only her circumstances. She could feel only her pain. She could understand only what was directly in front of her, which was oppression, sorrow, and trouble. Though she knew God was powerful and that He was a God who helped His people, she could not apply that head-truth to her heart and so, she struggled to believe.
In Mark 4:35-41, the disciples experienced the same kind of rocky faith. One day, Jesus told his disciples that they should go over to the other side of a lake so they followed his advice. Then a great wind-storm came, so much so that the waves were breaking over the bow into the boat, beginning to swamp it.
The disciples were quite frantic. By contrast, Jesus was sleeping with his head on a cushion in the stern of the boat. His faith in the Presence of His Father was so palpable that He could rest undisturbed in the middle of a hurricane, that is, until His disciples awoke Him with this question, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
At that point, He got up, rebuked the wind and told the waves to be quiet and still, which they did, completely. Then He turned to the disciples and said, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They responded with terror to this whole ordeal, realizing that the Person in their midst could command the wind and waves to obey Him.
Remember from our Philippians 4 passage that the key to rejoicing and gentleness is the Presence of Jesus. But on the flip-side, if we are aware of Jesus’ proximity, we should not be anxious, we should be prayerful and thankful, and there should be peace in our hearts. That is why it is so interesting to me that though Jesus was in the midst of His disciples, there was abundant anxiety, no prayer or thanks, and no peace. The Lord was there, but it did not seem to make a dent in their anxiety.
Notice also what the disciples asked when Jesus came full awake: “Don’t you care if we drown?” Do you see that they approached Jesus with a soul cry? Their longing was not to be saved; their longing was to know if He really cared. Jesus’ answer to that soul cry was immediate. He showed them that He did care. He moved on their behalf and in so doing, He revealed Himself to them.
It was only after the seas were calm that He began to deal with their faith. He linked fear to unbelief, just as we did two weeks ago. Then He told them clearly that their fear showed a decided lack of faith.
Why were they afraid even though Jesus was right there with them? We have the answer to that question. They were afraid because of a deep soul cry that God did not care for them, that He did not love them enough to save them. Jesus revealed Himself to them by providing a miracle that calmed the seas and protected them from death. This action married their head-faith and their heart-faith. Without the union of these two components, they were anxious even with God being in their very boat. But Jesus’ actions cemented His true feelings for them in both their minds and their hearts and they understood that God did care for them. And in so doing, they saw Jesus for the Divine Authority that He was.
A Retreat Into Revelation
For the sake of further understanding, let me give an example from my own life. In June of 2016, our family arrived here in Thailand to begin a five-year term learning language and culture in order to prepare for a church planting ministry. We were excited to begin this process, but what I did not know was that God had other plans in store for me. Yes, I engaged in all that God asked me to do, but what God really wanted to get at was a faith crisis that was sitting in my heart just waiting to erupt. And with the excitement of our move and God’s miracle in raising our support behind us, God began pounding on my faith.
It did not take me long to realize that I was in trouble. I felt abandoned by God, left in a dark night of the soul. I kept seeking God with all of my heart, but He seemed out of reach, out of touch, and out of proximity. I felt led of the Lord to begin some counseling and even went to a prayer minister to try and work through the unbelief in my heart, for you see, God had allowed three huge traumas into my life, a year-after-year kind of suffering. And I was struggling to believe that God was good. It seemed like He was out to punish me after I had been faithful and prayerful.
At one point, the Lord compelled me to go to a Jill Ludlow retreat here in Chiang Mai. I knew God had something special for me there and when I first walked into the meeting room, I felt at home. There were candles and the ambience was restful and peaceful. All around the room were centers filled with opportunities to sculpt, write poetry, draw, pray with others or even have your feet washed by a servant leader. In short, my kind of right-brained, creative definition of meeting with God.
When the worship began, I knew I was in for a real treat. It was quality worship with dancers and painters expressing the meanings of the songs. The teaching times were wonderful, but the right-brained, creative fine arts softened my heart to putty.
That evening, there was a worship time for an hour, where I just sat and prayed and sang. One song that came back a couple of times in that hour had these words in it, “Take courage, my heart. Stay steadfast, my soul. He’s in the waiting. He’s in the waiting.” I knew God was speaking to me and as I left the meeting room that night, I began to respond to God in prayer. What came out were lyrics and a melody and I ran for a gazebo so that I could see to write the erupting-out-of-my-soul composition on the back of my teaching notes. Those scribbles became the words to a song entitled In The Waiting, which I managed to finish over the next day. (You may listen to the song below…just click the play button.)
By Sunday morning, my heart was so full of God’s ministry in my life, but He was not done. I went to the Sunday morning worship time with a lighter step and more joy in my heart that I had had for a while. That hour began with a Spoken Word set to music and choreographed with beautiful dancing. It was powerful, but I was most riveted by the words being spoken.
Over and over in this Spoken Word, the author said, “I am good. I am good. I am good for you.” Interspersed with powerful Scripture and poetic lines, this phrase of goodness was God’s revelation to me that He had heard my soul cry and was choosing to respond with love and care. This revelation drained the remaining unbelief from my faith crisis and I knew I had turned a spiritual corner; I had moved from little faith to full-blown belief.
Hannah needed this kind of revelation. Her faith begged for God to engage her soul cries with His Presence. She was desperate to sense that God was close to her; not just to know about His presence or go to His Temple to be near His Shekinah glory housed in the Ark of the Covenant. She needed to feel Him moving deep inside her emotions; she needed a soul-revolution. That revelation came through a paradoxical source, the man of God: Eli.
In all of the crying, weeping, and begging, Hannah did not really take notice of Eli, though he was archetype of God’s palpable presence for her that day. But wonder of wonders, he took great notice of her, and that is the key to this passage.
Let me remind you quickly of Hannah’s four requests and then I hope to prove to you that Eli’s words and responses answered every one of her petitions. The person of Eli showed Hannah the revelation of God.
First, she asked God to look on her misery. Her soul cry was to be seen. All she asked was that God inspect her life, perceive her pain, consider her affliction and observe her year-after-year suffering.
God did see her, but He observed her pain through the unlikely priest. Verse 12 reveals God’s answer to this petition, “As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth.” We talked about this word earlier on as well, but to remind you, it means to attend to, protect, guard, take heed, and watch over. Though Eli was protecting the holiness of the sanctuary, by observing her so carefully, he was living out God’s very answer to this precious woman. He was literally looking upon her misery.
Secondly, she asked God to remember her. To remember is to mark, mention, call to mind or to recognize. My CWSB Dictionary adds these thoughts, “The basic meaning indicates a process of mentioning or recalling either silently, verbally, or by means of a memorial sign or symbol.”
Look at how God answered this prayer. It is so paradoxical that it is humorous. He did remember her and marked her pain well, but to get her to understand that He was moving on her behalf, Eli had to speak harshly to her. “How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine,” Eli said (v 14).
Was Eli marking who she was and how she was behaving? Yes. Was he mentioning his concerns to her? Yes. Did he call to mind how she was to behave and call her on it? Yes. And did he recognize her, although through misunderstanding? Yes. But look back to that dictionary definition, where mentioning or recalling could be done by means of a memorial sign or symbol.
This is what the drunken rebuke was all about. It was a sign to Hannah that something spiritual was going on. It was a symbol to her that she was seen and that she was remembered. Yes, God used a pious old priest who accused her of drunkenness, but Hannah saw what could have been perceived as a deep wound, a horrible misunderstanding by God, with spiritual eyes. She perceived that God was remembering her in the midst of Eli’s exhortation.
The third request of Hannah’s was that God would not forget her. Her soul cry was that somehow she had been mislaid in God’s pile of prayer requests, that He had ceased to care over time.
In the exchange with Eli, after she had gently explained why she was so distraught and Eli heard her confession of unbelief, there is a powerful word mentioned in his response. Verse 17 begins with, “Eli answered…” I know that may not make a huge impression on you but let me show you what that word means in the Hebrew. It is not the normal English word for ‘saying;’ it is the word ana, meaning “to eye or to heed, pay attention, to respond, to begin to speak, to answer, to testify as a witness” (ESV Strong’s).
Hannah had prayed that God would not forget her and so she shared with Eli honestly about her doubt, saying “I am a woman who is deeply troubled.” That word ‘troubled’ means “hard, cruel, severe, obstinate.” What she was saying is that there was a hardness between her and God. Eli heard her pain, the pain of wanting to please God, but knowing there was a ceiling of unbelief separating her from the very God she desired to love and know.
Eli softened immediately toward her because he also heard her soul cry: Will I ever really know God again? Will He ever speak to me, love on me, be intimate with me again? And that old priest, in whose very name was the truth of being able to ascend up before God, did not just speak at her. He revealed God’s response of love to her as he paid attention to her soul cry and chose to respond. He testified to her by His very words that He was a witness of God to her.
Lastly, Hannah had asked for a son and to grasp God’s answer to this request, we need to read verse 17. “Eli answered, ‘Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” That word ‘go’ means to walk or proceed, to go away and how was she to walk? In peace. In safety. In happiness, completeness, soundness and contentment. That word shalom also has the idea behind it of friendship both in human relationships and with God especially in a covenant relationship.
Hannah had made a covenant, a vow, with God. Here we find Eli, the witness of God, encouraging her to take the Pilgrimage of Peace because she was now in right relationship with Him. This is big, but there is still more revelation to come. He blessed her by saying, “May the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”
What do you know about the God of Israel? Israel was the name given to Jacob. If you will recall, the name ‘Jacob’ means “heel-holder” or “supplanter” (ESV Strong’s). He was given that name at birth, of course, but his whole life was spent living out the truth of deceiving, cheating, and grasping for things that were not his by right.
In Genesis 32, God, by way of a theophany, wrestled with Jacob all night on the bank of the Jabbok river. When morning was near, the man touched Jacob’s hip so that it was put out of joint and asked that Jacob let him go. Jacob would not until he promised to bless him. The man asked him, “What is your name?” and he said, “Jacob” (v 27). You see, he had to admit before God that his nature was one of deception. He had to confess his weakness and unbelief before God could reveal Himself to him and revolutionize his life.
After his humble confession, the man changed Jacob’s name to Israel, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome” (v 28). Israel, in case you are wondering, means “God prevails” (ESV Strong’s).
The name “God of Jacob” is used 52 times in the Bible and the name “God of Israel” is used 342 times. I think there is significance in this vastly unbalanced usage. Eli could have said, “May the God of Jacob grant you your desires,” but he did not and the significance was not lost on Hannah. The God of Jacob would have been the God of the Pilgrimage of Provocation, for Jacob lived that path for much of his life until the revelatory presence of God changed his pilgrimage.
Hannah understood a deeper meaning in hearing about the God of Israel. For Israel was the name of the man who walked the Pilgrimage of Peace. Israel had struggled with God, wrestled with Him, all through an hour-after-hour kind of night. God had prevailed over his flesh and fear and doubt. Israel, according to his opponent, had also struggled with man and God had prevailed over that provocation as well through the revelation of His presence and the revolution in Israel’s soul.
Hannah knew her Bible. Her prayer in chapter 2 confirms this truth. So she knew that when Eli blessed her in the name of the God of Israel, he was revealing something deep to her. He was bearing witness to God’s declaration that Hannah had wrestled with God and in her humble confession of unbelief, God had prevailed over her crisis of faith. Additionally, I believe God, through Eli, spoke about Peninnah, that Hannah had wrestled with her in a year-after-year kind of provocation, and that God would also prevail in that arena as well.
If that were not enough, there is one more aspect of God’s revelation that came on the heels of God’s name. Eli blessed her saying, “May the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” That word ‘grant’ is the same word natan that means “give.” She had prayed her petition and asked God to give (natan) her a son and Eli, in his response, marked her exact request with a mirror word.
Revelation after revelation after revelation. God’s disclosure of His love and grace toward Hannah is breathtaking in its magnificent, sweeping panorama of abundance. All of her requests were answered in a prophetic, beforehand kind of way in these bumper crop promises of trust.
God did look at her with careful observation by the old priest. God did remember her, giving her a sign of His memory through the paradoxical rebuke of a watchman. God did not forget her, but answered her through the gentle response of a father. And God hinted that He would give her a son through the three-fold phrases of the man of God: Eli. She would walk the Pilgrimage of Peace. She would understand that God would prevail over her struggle with man and God. And she would receive that son by way of the exact word used in her petition: give a son…may He grant your petition.
Hannah’s unbelief was blown away by the all-encompassing, ever-abundant, inexhaustible, profuse and eternal love of her seeing, caring, hearing and answering Father. And she was led by God into her third resolution: the resolution of belief.
David’s Actions of Belief
Before I delve into Hannah’s third resolution, I must take a quick rabbit trail back to David as he writes Psalm 56. Remember that this psalm was composed in a terribly fearful time after being seized by the Philistines at Gath. His answer to that fear came in four “A” actions, which we gleaned from verse 3 and 4 last week, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal men do to me” (Ps. 56:3-4)?
Today, I want to show you that doubts and fear cannot only be changed to trust in God, but can be moved to all-out belief. The fifth choice David made was to “A” – Abide in God through Trust (v 3b, 4ab). We see the word “in you” and “in God” three different times in these short verses. David not only 1) acknowledged his fear before God, 2) acted deliberately in spite of his emotions, 3) altered his flesh’s natural inclinations and 4) armed himself with the knowledge of God, but he moved into restful abiding. He chose to linger in God’s arms, in his Father’s love, and in divine power.
Next, we see that David “A” – Adored God by Acclaiming His Word (v 4a): “In God, whose word I praise.” Here we see the thanksgiving that the author of Philippians was talking about, the rejoicing that should come as a result of knowing and experiencing that the Lord is near. In the middle of his horrible circumstances, he understood that God inhabits the praises of His people and that peace will only come as a result of rejoicing in the Lord alone.
The seventh “A” is Articulating Trust to Alleviate Fear. Notice he speaks out these resilient words in the heavenly realms, “I will not be afraid.” Imagine what would happen to your faith if instead of giving in to fear, you spoke these five words out loud over your emotions. I think Satan would run cowering. I think angels would applaud. I think the battle would turn in godly favor. Speaking out loud is a monumental resolution to augment weak faith (Read Ps. 116:10 and 2 Cor. 4:13 if you want to learn more about this spiritual discipline).
The last action depicted in these two verses is that “A” – Affirming God’s Power reduces man’s: “What can mortal men do to me?” In the light of God’s revelation, darkness flees, pilgrimages shift, and doubt is transformed to belief. In the glorious presence of God, mortality is vanquished, names are changed, and God prevails. David realized that in the light of all he had learned about God, neither Saul nor the whole Philistine army could defeat him if God was on his side.
Hannah’s Third Resolution
We have seen Hannah wrestle with God and a certain woman on the Pilgrimage of Provocation. She kept putting one foot in front of the other with her first resolution: the resolution to be faithful. Then she made an incredible choice to stand up from her circumstances and stand in God’s power. This choice led to her second resolution, one of powerful prayer. Despite her persevering attitude in prayer, she still struggled with doubt and fear. She needed a revelation by God, who loved on her by revealing Himself through Eli. The process of coming to complete cognizance of how God was working moved Hannah into humility, dependent trust, and complete belief.
Belief began to conquer doubt step-by-step in the ensuing conversation between verses 15 and 20. Some of her actions of faith grew even while struggling to see what God was doing through Eli’s judgmental rebuke. But as the conversation continued, we see belief standing strong and true.
Abide in God Through Trust
How did Hannah begin to show belief? I am pretty confident that her trust in God was growing even while Eli spoke words of judgment. After railing on her harshly, calling her a drunken woman, she made another choice, a beautiful, rare choice.
Her response was one of trust. She did not resist this “evil” rebuke, but turned the other cheek (Mt. 5:39). She let Eli have his say without responding in anger or retaliation. She spoke the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) and not just with words but with actions and in truth (1 Jn. 3:18). Her gentle answer turned away his righteous wrath (Pr. 15:1) and she did not take revenge, but left room for God’s wrath to repay the unjust words toward her (Rom. 12:19). All of a sudden, even under heavy fire, Hannah was a wonder-woman of trust in her God. That is belief, my friends.
After she and Eli had finished their conversation, verse 18 shows us that “she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” I love the rendition in the Message, “Then she ate heartily, her face radiant.” Not only was fear vanquished and belief born, but Hannah was healthy enough inside that it changed her demeanor and her behavior. She went from sadness to radiance; she went from refusing to eat anything to eating heartily. Something inside her belief system had completely shifted. I submit to you that she was abiding in her trust in God.
Adore God by Acclaiming His Word
After she left Eli’s presence and ate something, after she had had a good rest, her whole family, including her, worshiped the Lord (v 19). This word indicates a bowing down in homage to a superior. Of course, Hannah knew the superior One was God, this God who had revealed Himself to her. I find it remarkable that she joined with Elkanah, the husband that misunderstood her a lot; she joined with Peninnah, the wife who was her rival; she joined with all those kids that belonged to her rival. She worshiped the God who had prevailed over all of her provocation, both between her and mankind and between her and God.
Articulate Trust to Alleviate Fear
I think there are two instances when Hannah spoke trusting words. The first is found in verse 18 where Hannah responded to Eli’s last pronouncement: “Let your servant find favor in your eyes” (ESV). Like David’s “I will not be afraid” statement, I believe this phrase revealed the trust in Hannah’s heart.
That word ‘favor’ (hen from the root word hanan) is a weighty word. It means favor, grace, and acceptance, but it mostly means “unmerited favor or regard in God’s sight” (CWSB Dictionary). Hannah, in speaking out this statement was acknowledging God’s unmerited grace toward her, that He would see her, hear her, and respond to her. It was almost too much for her to keep inside; she had to break out in praise for God’s great grace.
But there is one more interesting twist to this statement. If you will recall from two weeks ago, her name ‘Hannah’ (hana from the root word hanan) means grace. She was a gracious person. She acted in grace toward her rival, toward the misunderstanding and selfish words of Elkanah and toward the judgmental chastisement of Eli. She was hana, “full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14). In this belief statement, Hannah is speaking to God through Eli. She is acknowledging to God that she, a woman of grace, would walk in the unmerited grace of God until she received what God had, by grace, promised to her.
After Hannah went home, Elkanah lay with her and Scripture says that the Lord remembered her (v 19). In the course of time, she conceived and gave birth to a son and here is the second articulation of trust: she called her son “Samuel” (v 20). That word ‘called’ or ‘named’ means to “call, recite, read, cry out, or proclaim” (ESV Strong’s). What did she call out? What did she name in the heavenly places? What did she recite to herself and before others? What name did she proclaim? The name of Samuel, “his name is God” (Mounce’s Complete Dictionary). She articulated trust by naming her son after the God who had given him to her.
Another nuance of Samuel’s name comes in the description at the end of verse 20, “She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the LORD for him.” My Mounce’s Dictionary indicates that another meaning of Samuel is “heard of God.” Every time she spoke her child’s name, she rehearsed how God had shown her grace. Every time she introduced that child to another person, she gave glory to God, his name is El. Every time she rebuked him or disciplined him, she spoke out against returning fear. His name was her articulation of trust.
Affirm God’s Power Over Man’s
There is an interesting turn of events in verses 21-23. Elkanah continued going up to Shiloh to offer the yearly sacrifices, even after Samuel was born, but Hannah did not go. She told her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the LORD, and he will live there always” (v 22). Her husband agreed and so she stayed at home and nursed Samuel until she had weaned him. Then she took him to Shiloh, offered a sacrifice, reminded Eli of who she was and gave Samuel over to the Lord for his whole life (v 28). And verse 28 closes with these words, “And he worshiped the LORD there.”
What is going on here? I think there are three items of significance to look into. First, it is important to know that Hebrew children were weaned around the age of three. Hannah gave up three yearly sacrifices with her husband to engage in a year-after-year kind of sacrificial training with her child. I believe she affirmed God’s power over man’s because she did not engage in Elkanah’s annual sacrifice, which appeared to be his vow (v 21). This was her husband’s ritual, a worship ritual observed by a man. Instead, she engaged in a different annual sacrifice, a God-ordained, Yahweh-impassioned ritual, the sacrifice of bringing up her child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4 – KJV). Like Lois and Eunice, Timothy’s grandmother and mother, she entered into a ritual of training him in a sincere faith (2 Tim. 1:5).
Secondly, she kept her word. When he was weaned, she took him to Shiloh and brought Samuel to Eli. She reminded Eli of the time they had interacted and how God had given her a child. “So now,” she said, “I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord” (v 28).
I want to remind you of the fear that could have filled her heart. Eli was a godly man, who zealously guarded the purity of the Temple, except in one area of his life. He was a terrible father. His sons were wicked men and had no regard for the Lord and yet, they were priests at Shiloh. Hannah knew that by giving her child over into Eli’s hands, there was great concern for his spiritual well-being. Eli could father her child the way he fathered his own, which was with a completely hands-off approach. She affirmed God’s power over man’s when she entrusted her three-year-old son to the aged priest. She had trained Samuel diligently in order that he would withstand the evil of hypocrisy flooding the Temple worship, but she did not have any guarantees. She had to trust God to father her child in purity.
And I believe the “he” mentioned at the end of verse 28 is Samuel: “And he worshiped the LORD there.” He, a little three-year-old, worshiped like he had been taught by his mother. It was a good start to a great life and it was all due to Hannah affirming God’s power over man’s.
The third way I see Hannah affirming God’s power is in the prayer she prayed in chapter 2. We will not take the time to study this for it would take me another three weeks to mine its treasures. The one aspect of this prayer that I want to draw out is that this prayer occurs between her announcement to leave her son and the living out of that same announcement. And the curious detail is that nowhere in this entire prayer of dedication is Samuel’s name mentioned. She was about to give her son over to Eli for the rest of his life and all she could do was praise and worship her God. She affirmed God’s power over man’s when she focused so completely on His character that it overshadowed her concerns for the priests’ character.
Hannah had come into full-blown belief.
Hannah’s Soul Revolution
My Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines revolution as “a sudden, radical, or complete change.” I pray that I have been able to demonstrate to you the process by which this change has come about, but I do want to list for you the aspects of transformation that occurred in Hannah’s life, in case you are still in doubt. After her resolutions of faithfulness and prayerfulness, God revealed Himself to her. That led to another soul-shaking choice, the resolution of belief. All of this process led to a soul-shift in her interior; it led to a soul-revolution, a radical and complete change on the inside of her that moved to the outside.
- It changed her path from provocation to peace.
- It changed her eating habits from fasting to heartily feasting.
- It changed her demeanor from sad to radiant.
- It changed her worship from going through the motions to engaging with a passionate heart.
- It changed her relationship to Peninnah who is not mentioned anymore in the Bible. Her provocation may not have ceased, but Hannah’s ability to rest in God had.
- It changed her marriage. Elkanah went from getting on her case each year to supporting her vow completely.
- It changed her relationship to God. She went from asking to receiving, from begging to presenting, and from pleading with God not to forget her to being remembered.
- It changed her day-to-day from blase to a pointed, specific, determined training of a child.
- It changed her desires from wanting the gift of a child to only wanting the Giver of all good gifts (see her prayer in 2:1-10).
- It changed her year-after-year provocation into a year-after-year ministry of peace (2:19), for each year after Hannah left Samuel to minister before the Lord at Shiloh (2:18), she made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband for the yearly sacrifice. Even her year-after-year was revolutionized.
- And lastly, it changed her motherhood, for in the keeping of her vow, God saw fit to reveal more of His goodness to her. He “was gracious to Hannah; she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters” (2:21).
Hannah’s soul-revolution was genuine. It lasted the rest of the script written about her in the Scriptures and through Samuel, the boy who grew up in the presence of the Lord (2:21), her legacy of faithfulness, prayerfulness, standing up for truth, and belief lived on for generations. She did not just impact her son, but through her faithful influence in Samuel’s early years, she impacted a nation and subsequently, you and me. Samuel prayed mighty prayers, he heard the voice of the Lord, he spoke out in prophecy, he led the nation of Israel as their last judge, and he anointed the first two kings. The second king, David, would produce the heirs that would bring about the Son of the Living God as the redemption of all mankind.
Now, that is some soul-revolution!
What About You?
Right about now, you may thinking, That’s all very well and good, but Hannah was a super godly woman. Of course, her prayers were heard. Of course, God revealed Himself to her. Of course, she received what she desired. But I am just a normal kind of gal. God doesn’t act that way toward me. I cannot seem to make change stick in my life. My year-after-year concerns will never change. I think God only works like this for other people.
You need to know that if any of these thoughts resonate in your spirit, you are a candidate for a soul-revolution. God is no respecter of persons. The truths are plain: God does see you and your troubles (Ps. 10:14); God will hear you when you cry (Ps. 55:19); and God will answer your prayers (Ps. 17:6), probably changing your desires as you shift from the Pilgrimage of Provocation to the Pilgrimage of Peace.
All you need to do to move from your fearful path of provocation is to make four resolutions. Resolve to be faithful in seeking the Lord with ALL of your heart. Resolve to be prayerful, especially in regard to God revealing Himself to you. Resolve to stand up from your circumstances, stand up from your emotions, stand up from your inner doubts and fears, and stand in the strength of the Lord. Then, after God has married your heart and your mind with a revelation of His “Lord is there” goodness, resolve to believe what He has revealed to you. Why don’t you then make a fifth resolution to never back down from what God has shown you and from what you have resolved?
Then, my precious Hannahs, you will leave behind a revolutionized legacy growing from a soul that has been radically transformed. Who knows what God can do with a woman who is humbly sold out to a God who has graciously perfected the art of giving?
The possibilities are truly limitless…year after year!