Going to God with Our Deep Longings—The Story of Hannah
Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Elkanah loved Hannah, but she could not produce children, for “the Lord had closed her womb” (1 Samuel 1:5). Peninnah, on the other hand, bore many sons and daughters for Elkanah, and she mocked Hannah because she had no children. This went on year after year. Peninnah provoked her with the express purpose of irritating her, and she succeeded. On one particular occasion in Shiloh, Hannah wept and would not eat. Although Elkanah tried to reassure her of his love and comfort her, she would not be comforted.
Have you ever been guilty of promising God something, saying, “God if you’ll just do so-and-so, then I’ll do such-and-such”? Then, when you receive an answer, you forget your vow?
One day, Hannah went to the temple or tabernacle to pour her heart out before God. She wept and she prayed, vowing to the Lord that if he would only give her a son, she would give him back to serve the Lord all the days of his life. In her vow she promised God, “No razor will ever be used on his head” (1 Samuel 1:11). This implied a Nazirite vow. According to Numbers 6:1-12, a Nazirite was a person set apart, or consecrated, to the Lord. Usually this was a voluntary vow and for a limited amount of time. Hannah, however, promised that her son would be a Nazirite for his entire life.
Have you ever been guilty of promising God something, saying, “God if you’ll just do so-and-so, then I’ll do such-and-such”? Then, when you receive an answer, you forget your vow? Ecclesiastes 5:5-6 says, “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, ‘My vow was a mistake.’ Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands?”
God didn’t need Hannah’s vow in order to give her a child. Think back to Sarah (see Genesis 17:17-19), Rebecca (see Genesis 25:21), and Rachel (see Genesis 30:22). When it was God’s time for them to conceive and bear a son, they did. Nor did God need Hannah’s vow for her son to be dedicated to Him. Each Israelite first-born son already belonged to the Lord (see Exodus 13:11-15; 22:29). And think about Samson’s parents: God told Manoah’s wife, who had been barren, exactly how her son Samson was to be raised (see Judges 13:3-5).
It appears that God was working something in Hannah’s heart. How often we hold on to something—a person, a possession, a dream—until God brings us to a place where we are willing to let it go and say, “Thy will, not my will. Nothing and no one is more important than my relationship with you.”
About Nancy J. Collins
Nancy J. Collins is the director of Joy of Living Bible Studies. She has been a speaker and Bible teacher for over 30 years, ministering to both children and adults, and is the presenter of the Joy of Living training video, Planning & Leading a Bible Study.
Nancy holds a B. A. in Biblical Studies, and is the author of three complete Joy of Living courses; the commentary portion of five Joy of Living courses; the study questions for over ten Joy of Living courses; and three Joy of Living pre-school studies. She, also, co-authored the Leadership Training Guide, and has edited many of the Joy of Living courses.
She and her husband, Chuck, live in Southern California. They have 7 adult children.