Editor’s Note: The first paragraph of this lesson was incorrectly edited when it first appeared. The following version is now correct.
By Al R. Hodges
Retired IMB Missionary
Focal Passage: 1 Samuel 1:10-18, 26-28
Elkanah had two wives. Hannah had no children, while Peninnah had several (vs. 1-2). Every year Elkanah and his wives would travel from their home town to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the Lord. Interestingly, vs. 3 says “Also the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord, were there.”
Hannah’s experience in praying for a son provides inspiration for us even today. “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” Hannah was desperate to have a son. The nation Israel had also fallen on desperate times.
With each passing year the pain in Hannah’s heart grew. Although Elkanah sought to comfort and reassure her, Peninnah’s taunts and verbal barbs only made the situation worse (I Samuel 1:5-8). Finally, one day the bitterness was such that Hannah excused herself from the meal, and ran to the door of the tabernacle. She was not allowed to enter, but she got as close as possible to the presence of the Lord. She began to pray. Eli, the elderly high priest was sitting there watching as her lips moved, as tears streamed down her cheeks, but no words came out of her mouth. From the depths of a broken heart, she made a vow to God. If only He would grant her a son, she would dedicate him to the Lord.
When we dedicate ourselves to prayer, we are sometimes caught off guard by spiritual opposition from unexpected quarters. Eli added insult to her injury when he misunderstood and misinterpreted her actions as she prayed. He accused her of being intoxicated (vv. 13-14). When she explained to him her plight and her passionate petition to God, he then understood and blessed her. He reassured her that God would answer her prayer (vv. 15-17).
God answered her prayer! Hannah conceived and had a son she named Samuel. She dedicated him to the Lord, and when he was old enough, she took him to the tabernacle and placed him in Eli’s care. Samuel was to always be in the Lord’s presence, to be His dedicated servant (I Samuel 1:22). Soon, Hannah was blessed with other children (2:21).
When desperation leads us to desperate prayer, we normally see only part of His plan. The whole nation of Israel was in a bad way at this time. The mention of Hophni and Phinehas early in verse 3 introduces what I Samuel 2:22-36 details of the gross sin and of God’s judgment on Eli’s house. The nation was at a critical juncture. The era of the judges was coming to an end. Samuel would be God’s man to serve as Israel’s last judge, as well as prophet and priest. He would also anoint Israel’s first two kings, Saul and David.
When I was a baby, my parents dedicated me to the Lord. Likely they never imagined I would be a missionary in Africa. When God answers our prayers, He does so in ways beyond our imagining!