Old Testament reading:
[1Sa 1:1-20 ESV] 1 There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. 2 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 Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the LORD. 4 On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb. 6 And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. 7 So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. 8 And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” 9 After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. 11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” 12 As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” 17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. 19 They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. 20 And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the LORD.”
New Testament reading:
[Heb 5:1-10 ESV] 1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. 4 And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. 5 So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; 6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” 7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.
[Luk 11:1-13 ESV] 1 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread, 4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” 5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Our last series in the Old Testament was a short one the book of Ruth. Today we start a new series on the Books of 1st and 2nd Samuel. (A rather long one perhaps) And so we go from the chaos of the time of the Judges to the strong leaders of the book(s) of Samuel.
These books of Samuel are indeed about about Samuel, but also about Saul and especially about David. These then are the three men most prominent in the story.
I’ve been saying books plural. We must recognize first that in the original, 1 Samuel was not a separate from 2 Samuel. They were one book, only divided later by the Greek copyists to better fit on scrolls. And so in 2 Samuel the story of David is continued.
So the combined books focus on those three men: Samuel, Saul, and David.
But it is a woman who we focus on on in chapter 1.
While indeed the story begins with Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, etc., it quickly moves to his second wife, Hannah. SHE is the focus on this chapter. And shall be the focus of today’s sermon. Hannah and her prayers, taking it to the Lord in prayer. She provides the example for all of us.
I. Biblical Opposition to Polygamy
But there is that 600 lb gorilla in the room. She is the second wife of Elkanah. And we, like Christians of all times do not support polygamy. Yet we find polygamy in the Bible. What gives? Well, the mere mention of polygamy is not support for it. In fact, logically, the mention of it is neither to its favor nor to its opposition. It is merely mentioned in our text. Elkanah had two wives.
The mention of polygamy WITHOUT argument against it may seem like support of it. But, note in this chapter how there is a “rivalry” between the wives. A bad thing comes from this arrangement. But the Christian (and Jewish) opposition to polygamy is not merely because of the difficulties of such an arrangement, though there are difficulties a-plenty.
The Fundamentalist Mormons support polygamy because their charlatan-prophet Joseph Smith supported it to the desire of his own benefit. And the Muslims are often found to support polygamy as well. And, well, if the Mormons and Muslims TOGETHER support ANYTHING, that should raise a red flag. Religions of the devil are unified only in their opposition to God, to Jesus Christ, and to truth.
So polygamy has many troubles. In the Middle Eastern world of course this is usually thought of as one man with two or more wives. And there the rivalries come about. But also there would be much trouble in dealing with inheritances. Then the question would always be on the mind of each wife, “does he love me as much as he loves her?” And, as for the man, in his troubles he might run out of corners on his roof. HUH? Are you familiar with this verse?
Proverbs 21:9 – It is better to live in the corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
So the man with multiple wives may run out of places to hide.
Now, ff the arrangement were the other way around – a single woman with multiple husbands, this is even less likely to succeed. Who would be the head of the household?
Well, as I said, the opposition to polygamy is not merely because of the existence of such difficulties, but because the Word of God teaches against it. The Bible teaches monogamy, one man and one woman, in what has been summarized as “LEAVE AND CLEAVE.” The Genesis account says that “A MAN” should leave his parents and cleave unto “HIS WIFE.” Not plural “wives’ but singular “wife.” This is then a normative statement, a statement of how things OUGHT to be. Even though we see many Old Testament figures with multiple wives, the only direction God gives on marriage is that it is to be ONE man and ONE woman.
We actually had to just change our Constitution in the Bible Presbyterian Church to say that we believe that marriage is to be between one BIOLOGICAL man and one BIOLOGICAL woman. Funny how the world and its evil is opposed to this simple statement is almost every possibly way.
They argue for marriage to be between a man and another man.
They argue for marriage to be between a woman and another woman.
They argue for marriage to be between a person born a man (but calling himself a woman) and a women, and similar such moral errors.
But lest you think “well, society (outside of cultish groups) doesn’t advocate for polygamy” know that indeed THEY DO. They’ve now got another evil twist on it. Polygamy isn’t favored by society at large, but “POLYAMORY” is becoming acceptable. This is the supposed love of many. Three men could marry seven women, or whatever combination so desired. And we can only hope that the absurdity is finally realized, and that people repent and turn to the Lord.
II. The Character of Hannah
And we have exactly that with Hannah. Turning to the Lord. Not so much in repentance — we don’t find her being noted for sin — but she is turning to the Lord in her time of trouble.
So we see the character of Hannah. In her troubles, she prays to God.
She does not grumble. She does not despair. She does not depart from the Lord.
And her trouble is great.
She does not, and seemingly can not, have children. And perhaps she is tempted to wonder “what good am I?” How do I contribute to this world? How will my husband love me if I have no children? Does the Lord love me? Oh, the grief must be deep. And adding to it all, Elkanah’s other wife, Peninah does have children and she would provoke Hannah because of her barrenness. This other wife was no friend, but a rival. There was no peace between them but competition.
And Elkanah says to Hannah, “why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” This can do little good. I’ve come to learn that quiet men have it figured out. Elkanah’s words do not help. What words could? It is said that he loved Hannah, but even so Hannah was in great agony over her lot in life.
There are ways which we can each relate. Some of us perhaps with the exact same question and issue. The lack of children. Others, if we not burdened by the unfulfilled desire of children perhaps are burdened by something else unfulfilled. Our work, our health, our success.
And what we to do? What indeed are we do to?
Hannah shows us.
III. Take it to the Lord in Prayer
Her answer mirrors the words of the song “What a Friend we Have in Jesus.”
Those lyrics include the lines:
We should never be discouraged.
TAKE IT TO THE LORD IN PRAYER [REPEAT]
Who will all our sorrow share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
What a great example Hannah is. Taking it to the Lord in prayer. A recognition of her own weakness. Those who believe they are strong are not found in prayer, but only the humble.
The Lord does bless indeed answer Hannah’s prayer. She has a child. Samuel he is called. His name means “God has placed” for indeed God has placed Samuel into the world. And as Hannah desired a child, God desired a prophet for his people. So he places Samuel in that role.
But THAT Hannah’s prayer is answered is not central to the main point of her actions. She went to the Lord in prayer. And she did — and we should do — knowing that His will shall be done.
Yes, the Lord answers prayer. This is true. Our Gospel text says “ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” But surely this doesn’t mean that we get everything WE want. One commentator explains “personal petitions are not contemplated here, except as far as they are for the glory of God.” We are to seek to the will of the Father, just as Jesus did. And God will give to us graciously … in His time and according to His will.
As we come to the boy Samuel, we find that like so many of the great men of God he has a praying mother. Monica, the mother of Augustine, was a woman of prayer. Hannah, the mother of Samuel, was a woman of prayer. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a woman of prayer. There is little, if anything, that is a greater habit of character in a mother than that of prayer.
As we look to Hannah we see that in all of her pain and distress, she knew God.
We can do no better, for that is a great focus to have. Knowing God.
Knowing God means your first thought in trouble is to take it to Him in prayer, for you know His character, that He hears you, that He listens, that He cares.
You are to take it to the Lord in prayer because He alone has the power to effect and control all things. He has the power to answer prayer.
So, Are you stuck on something? Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are you holding something back? Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do you not know where to turn? Take it to the Lord in prayer.
This is our calling today: Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Now finally, before we close, I want to HYPE up the books of Samuel. We’ll be, Lord willing, looking at these books for some weeks, for some months, maybe even some years. (With breaks, of course). And if you think that these are dull Old Testament histories, let me convince you otherwise.
In seminary we learned of a website called bestcommentaries.com and so I went there a purchased the top rated of all of the commentaries on 1st and 2nd Samuel, written by a man named Robert D. Bergen. And I received it in the mail the other day and immediately started reading.
And he says this of the these books:
“they are masterful examples of ancient Hebrew narrative art. They possess all the characteristics of a timeless literary classic: a magnificent central plot involving kings, international wars, ambition, murder, deception, and sexual intrigue, complex character portrayals, skillful use of varied settings ranging from mountains to deserts; and masterful use of wordplays and allusions.”
And of David the King, the central character in these books, Bergen says:
“David is consecutively a youthful giant killer, Israel’s most famous military commander, son-in-law of the king, the most feared outlaw in Israel, a marauding solider under the protection of a hostile nation, a rival Israelite king, king of all Israel, an adulterer, a murderer, a refugee living in exile, and leader of an armed military force that killed his primary heir. So complex and varied is the story of David that it is difficult to imagine the successful presentation of the material in any single drams or film today.”
So we have quite a journey ahead of us.
But while the book features Samuel, Saul, David, and even Hannah, we must always remember above all that it is the Word of God. It is inspired of the Holy Spirit, giving as Holy Scripture to the people of God, it is about God, and it comes with instruction from God.
This is a Divine book. We might be moved by the drama, but we should be moved even more by the startling idea that this is FROM GOD.
So the communication is two ways. We are called to “take it to the Lord in prayer.” We pray TO HIM. And FROM HIM we hear His truths in His Word.
And we are blessed. Blessed by prayer to God, and blessed by the reading of God’s word.
Let us take it to the Lord in prayer. Let us pray.