Hannah: A Case Study in Giving Thanks (Part 2)

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A Case Study in Giving Thanks (Part 2)

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Hannah endured years of harsh ridicule over her barrenness before being blessed with a child. Last time, I analyzed her attitude towards God as her rival provoked her during the yearly trips to give offerings at the tabernacle. Though Penninah transformed these joyous occassions into an altogether unpleasant experience for Hannah, she resolved not to let her lack of blessings stop her from being thankful to God during these times. In this blog post, I'll examine her attitude in asking God for a child to put an end to this oppression.

Be sure to check out Part 1 for the background, or at least read the beginning of the story in 1 Samuel 1:1-8 1 Samuel 1:1-8 [1] Now there was a certain man of Ramathaimzophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite: [2] And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. [3] And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there. [4] And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions: [5] But to Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb. [6] And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb. [7] And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat. [8] Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weep you? and why eat you not? and why is your heart grieved? am not I better to you than ten sons?
American King James Version×

One year, after Penninah had once again driven Hannah to the point of "bitterness of soul," Hannah offered up a prayer to God for relief:

And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish. Then she made a vow and said, "O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head." (1 Samuel 1:10-11 1 Samuel 1:10-11 [10] And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD, and wept sore. [11] And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your handmaid, and remember me, and not forget your handmaid, but will give to your handmaid a man child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come on his head.
American King James Version×

What was Hannah's motivation in asking for a child? If it were for selfish reasons - such as wanting to rub it in Penninah's face - then she probably would have asked for more children than Penninah - but she asked for only one son. Furthermore, by vowing to have the child be given "to the LORD all the days of his life," the boy would not even live with the family, but at the tabernacle! Clearly, she was not seeking to compete with Penninah or to engage in the conflict that was foisted on her.

Also, observe that Hannah did not complain to God about how poorly she had been treated, and she never blamed God for withholding children from her. Instead, she merely acknowledged that her situation was difficult and asked for relief. In doing so, she specifically sought help in a way that would also glorify God by vowing to dedicate the boy to God and make him a Nazirite (this is indicated by the comment "no razor shall come upon his head.")

Hannah's attitude of thankfulness to God was not tarnished by her oppression, as one might expect. It is easy to come before God with complaining for what we do not have, but Hannah's story shows a better way to gain God's favor. Hannah did not ask for a blessing to add to her own glory, but to relieve her suffering and to add to the glory of God. By answering this prayer, God revealed that this is the type of attitude that He will reward - "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3 Matthew 5:3Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
American King James Version×
). No matter what our circumstances may be or what we ask God for, we must always stive to come before Him as Hannah did: poor in spirit, without complaint, and humbly seeking God's mercy to His own glory!

In the next installment of this series, I'll cover the birth of Samuel and Hannah's attitude in fulfilling the vow.