Wonder Women - Hannah
by Pastor Mike Fortune
September 4, 2010
YouTube: End It Now
- End the hate [1 Samuel 1:1-7; Isaiah 59:15-16]
- Love their mate [1 Samuel 1:8; Ephesians 5:21]
- Gracefully give and receive [1 Samuel 1:9-20; 1 Peter 3:9; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10]
Christians affirm the dignity and worth of each human being and decry all forms of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Enditnow is a global campaign launched in October 2009 in partnership between the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and the Department of Women's Ministries of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to raise awareness and advocate for the end of violence against women and girls inside and outside the church around the world. This campaign aims to highlight abuse against women because the majority of victims of gender-based violence are indisputably women. The initial phase of enditnow aims to collect 1 million signatures from people across the world. These signatures will then be presented to the United Nations to raise additional awareness about the issue and advocate for the creation of effective new policies that protect women and girls. We will have more information about Enditnow in the lobby today and Pastors Rachel and Anna can answer your questions after church.
I think the Wonder Woman we’re studying today, Hannah, would have signed this petition. Because our Scripture passage today says she was actually was one of the victims of oppression for years and years. Not from her husband. But from her husband’s other wife! Yes, her husband had two wives! Mercy! But Hannah dealt with the hate. Loved her mate. And gracefully gave and received from the God she loved and worshiped and trusted with her most serious doubts and trials. And that, according to 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 is something we too can do through God’s resurrection power and grace.
Please open your Bibles to 1 Samuel 1. 1 Samuel 1:1-20, “1There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. 3Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the LORD Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the LORD. 4Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb. 6And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.”
“8Elkanah her husband would say to her, "Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don't you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?"
9Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the LORD's temple. 10In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. 11And she made a vow, saying, "O LORD Almighty, 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 for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head." 12As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14and said to her, "How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine." 15"Not so, my lord," Hannah replied, "I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. 16Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief." 17Eli answered, "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him." 18She said, "May your servant find favor in your eyes." Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. 19Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the LORD and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. 20So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, "Because I asked the LORD for him."
Verse one says that Hannah’s husband was a Levite who lived with the tribe of Ephraim in the remote hill country northeast of Jerusalem. Perhaps you recall that when Israel entered Canaan, Numbers 35:2 says the Lord had commanded them to assign cities to the Levites throughout the various tribes. This was done so all the people would have someone to teach them and to preach to them about God. But like much of God’s advice, the children of Israel decided not to obey it. And consequently, within a few years, Judges 17-18 describes how even Levites like Moses’ own grandson Jonathan had difficulty getting and keeping a job. Judges 17:6 aptly describes the spiritual environment of Hannah’s day this way: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” Judges 18:30-31 adds that even the various tribes lucky enough to have a priest didn’t listen exclusively to them. Numerous other idols were made and worshiped. God’s advice was routinely ignored almost everywhere.
But not in Hannah’s house. Our passage says in verse three that “Year after year Hannah’s husband Elkanah went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the LORD Almighty at Shiloh.” Yes, verse 2 also says this holy man had two wives, but at this time in the world’s history, polygamy was still considered ethical and God permitted it. In New Testament times, polygamy would render a man unfit for any religious leadership according to 1 Timothy 3:2 and 12.
But around 1100 BC, even though good priests didn’t have jobs, and the closest priests to their home in Ephraim were evil [according to 1 Samuel 2:13-16, Hophni and Pinehas would forcibly steal the best offerings for themselves and 1 Samuel 2:22 says they would use their positions as priests to seduce young women], in spite of all that, Elkanah kept going to worship God there. Perhaps worship really is about God not the pastor! 1 Chronicles 6:22-27 adds that Elkanah descended from Levi by way of Kohath—the same family as Moses and Aaron—and just verses later in Chronicles, Scripture says it was his clan from the tribe of Levi that devoted themselves to leading music, prayer, and praise in the tabernacle. Yes, they had praise teams in the Old Testament. Perhaps worship really is about God and not the music! And I haven’t even got to point number one yet! If you haven’t read the book Joyful Noise by Ed Christian yet, see me afterward and I’ll give you a copy. Sadly, the Review isn’t printing them anymore. But we bought a bunch before they quit because it’s one of the best resources that takes a sensible look at music in the Bible. Read it.
If you do, you may be surprised to see that according to 1 Chronicles 6:31-33, one of the most well known contemporary musicians of Hannah’s day, the guy who would have been on KLOVE all the time had it existed back then, was actually related to her husband. He was known as “Heman” [not the cartoon] “The Musician or Singer.” Cool huh!
So in addition to going to church regardless of the music and incompetence of its leaders, Hannah’s husband faithfully worshiped God. Shouldn’t every husband and father do that too? And even though Hannah couldn’t have children, he still sung her praises too. Verse 5 says he gave a double portion of sacrificial meat to her. Why? Because he loved her! But the other wife, Peninnah, didn’t like the favoritism. And even though she apparently had some beauuuutiful hair [her name means “one with rich hair”] she definitely didn’t like Hannah [even though her name means “graciousness.”] Verse 7 says whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. And this taunting and condemning went on year after year after year.
Which leads us to point number one: Wonder women end the hate. They do what they can to affirm the dignity and worth of each human. And they decry all forms of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. In Hannah’s case, that meant simply not responding to her rival’s condemnation and taunting ways. Which had to be extremely difficult to do! But it is possible because the Bible says the power that resurrected Christ from the tomb is the same power available to us to live like crazy. We’re going to be talking about “Living the Resurrection” this fall when we conclude our study of the book of John with chapter 21 this fall. So stay tuned for that.
But Hannah didn’t retaliate. Or insist on having the last word. Instead, she did what she could to end the hate by not responding and by taking her her suffering to God and asking Him to do something about her trials. Verse 10 says, “In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD.” And that is something we can do too. But when we do, don’t be surprised if the answer to our prayer depends as much on what we’re willing to give as it does on what God miraculously provides. Perhaps God is waiting for Christians today to see the suffering of women and children in this world and surrender whatever we so love so we can save the world too.
Periodically, I receive emails from friends and family upset with America for this or that. The names of the president change, but not the content of the letters. They usually say something like our retired seniors living on a 'fixed income' receive no aid or get any breaks while our government and religious organizations pour hundreds of millions of dollars into foreign countries! I used to reply to these forwards, but have since given up. Maybe I should take my own advice and not give up and continue to do what I can to end suffering now.
Because religious organizations also pour lots of money into America. For example, we recently raised as much money for the victims of tornadoes that destroyed NW Ohio in June as we did for the Haiti benefit we held in July just a few weeks later. If churches like ours suddenly stopped doing what we're doing now, it would be even worse for seniors, vets, homeless, and orphans.
Unfortunately, many American Christians only identify themselves as Christians. They don't actually do what the Bible says Christians should do. And one of the things God asks us to do is give away 10% of whatever we make because God gives us the strength to earn it in the first place according to Deuteronomy 8:17-18. In both the Old and New Testaments, Malachi 3:10 and Luke 11:42 for example, Scripture affirms tithing as a way to provide not only for the Levites today but also for the widows and orphans. It was always God’s plan for us to take care of the least of these. And while we’re having a better year here in Toledo in this regard, across Ohio giving is down 4%.
Imagine the good we could do if giving instead was up 4% everywhere! Imagine the evil we could end if every Christian in America actually lived on less. If we did, churches could do much, much more. For example, some people have said that American Christians alone could adopt all the babies without homes in the world and if we just spent less this Christmas, we could solve the entire planet's water shortage! Whatever the email whatever the issue, we have no one to blame but ourselves. When we pray, sometimes I think God is waiting for us to do something about it first. Maybe God is waiting for us to give up our only begotten love for his sake. When we do, that’s God’s way of ending it now. Whatever “it” is.
Isaiah 59:15-16 says it this way: “The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. 16He was appalled that there was no one to intervene.” Wonder Women do what they can to end the hate. This is point number one. And point number two: They love their mate. Elkanah gave Hannah a double portion of meat as if she had a child even though she didn’t [Patriarchs and Prophets, p.569]. He probably meant well. But probably didn’t realize how embarassing it was for Hannah to receive it. But she loved him anyway. Guys, in many ways, we are clueless in how to love well. Do me a favor will you? Go to www.5lovelanguages.com and take the test. You can’t fail it. It’s not that kind of test. But you can learn to understand how your spouse feels loved. Words of Affirmation. Quality Time. Receiving Gifts. Acts of Service. Physical Touch. These are the five love languages from Christian author Gary Chapman.
But the order is different for everybody. Dramatically different between men and women. I took the test and discovered that Words of Affirmation and Receiving Gifts are two of my fave love languages. You have no idea how meaningful commendations and way to go’s and I was blessed in church today mean to this pastor. Not in a selfish I’m so great way. But in a encouraging it’s so worth the effort doing this way. At the same time, I doubt people realize how devastating hate mail especially the anonymous kind can be sometimes. And I get my fair share of that too sometimes. Not from any of you I’m sure! And I’ve learned to live with that since the Gospel in the book of Acts always starts a riot or a revival.
I share this with you only because sometimes we fail to recognize that the people closest to us, many of whom we have loved dearly for many years, do not respond and feel loved the same way we do. For others to be loved, it’s not Words of Affirmation or Receiving of Gifts, it’s Quality Time, Physical Touch, or Acts of Service that really help them know they are loved like crazy. I learned that Jackie’s fave love language is Acts of Service. If I want a new phone or computer, I know she’s not gonna even think about it until all the dishes are done and the laundry is folded. Anyone else care to testify? Amen? But I try to make time to do these things, even if I don’t want a new phone or computer, because I love my mate! And I want her to know that in ways that make the most sense to her! And Hannah did too. So she put up with this other wife. And the sincere but mistaken attempts from her clueless husband to show her love. Ephesians 5:21 says this about point number two: “21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Husbands, learn your wife’s love language out of reverence for Christ. Wives, same advice. Wonder women do what they can do to end hate, love their mate, and out of reverence for Christ, they gracefully give and receive. This is point number three. Look what happens to Hannah.
She pours out her heart to God. She promises to give God the one thing she wants to keep the most—her only begotten Son. Which is a request our Heavenly Father cannot refuse. Because He knows what it’s like to lose His Son when he SO loved the world. And so caught up in this request is Hannah that verse 13 says she’s praying to the Lord in her heart so that her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. By man anyway. Psalm 139:4 says “4Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.” But Eli didn’t. He was so used to seeing the drunkenness and lewd behavior of his own sons and the immoral women they slept with at the entrance to the tent of meeting [cf. 1 Samuel 2:22], that when he actually saw someone praying, he mistakenly thought she was with his sons! His accusation against Hannah was the same accusation we noticed a couple weeks ago that the unbelieving mob made against the disciples after they started using their spiritual gifts on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:13! It’s 9am people and you’re drunk?!
She was used to be taunted and condemned at home. But now, even in church? Could that happen still today? If it does, this wonder woman shows us again how to respond to false accusations, taunting, and condemnation. Her name means “graciousness” and just as she refused to retaliate to her rival, she turns with characteristic grace and humility to the high priest in verse 16 and says, “Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
Point number three: Wonder Women gracefully give and receive. They don’t fake it. Deny reality. Or pretend it doesn’t hurt. They speak truth in love. And when necessary, agree to disagree. They are willing to look bad. Even though they aren’t bad. Because they know some of Jesus is better than all of anything else. They live grace. Not to appear graceful. But because they are grace-full! Full of grace! That’s the only way 1 Peter 3:9 can be done. Which says, “9Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” Colossians 3:23-24 says it this way: “23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
And because Hannah lived up to the meaning of her name, and because Hannah kept her vow to the Lord, giving up her only begotten son, the Lord rewarded her faith and was gracious to Hannah giving her according to 1 Samuel 2:21 three more sons and two daughters! And because this stay at home mom loved and worshiped God, her son Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord and through his leadership changed Israel’s world. Small things done with great love still change the world. We need more wonder women like Hannah willing to:
- End the hate [1 Samuel 1:1-7; Isaiah 59:15-16]
- Love their mate [1 Samuel 1:8; Ephesians 5:21]
- Gracefully give and receive [1 Samuel 1:9-20; 1 Peter 3:9]
We need more amazing men like this too. And maybe in a couple summers, we should study some courageous kids who made similar choices to serve God no matter what. One of those courageous kids we could study could be Samuel who, after he was dropped off at boarding school, told God “Speak Lord, for your servant heareth.” At least that’s the way Uncle Arthur said it happened!
But for now, let’s conclude with our Scripture from 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Please read out loud with me: “"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Amen. For more info, please see John MacArthur’s book Twelve Extraordinary Women pp. 87-105.