“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 1:11).
These words were spoken by Hannah, the wife of Elkanah (1 Samuel 1:1-2). She lived during the period of the Judges when men were not following God’s laws but “doing what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Her husband Elkanah had another wife, Peninnah, who had children with him and she would torment Hannah because Hannah had no children (1 Samuel 1:6). Hannah’s heart was greatly grieved because she had no children and she was experiencing “bitterness of soul” (1 Samuel 1:7-10).
To Elkanah’s credit, even during this dark period of Israel’s history, he still led his family to Shiloh (i.e. where the tabernacle of God was) to worship God and offer sacrifices to Him (1 Samuel 1:3). It is while she is here that Hannah makes the vow mentioned in the opening verse above (1 Samuel 1:11). Eli the priest confirms that God will fulfill this vow Hannah makes (1 Samuel 1:12-18). She bears a son, Samuel (1 Samuel 1:19-20).
Hannah keeps the child at home until he is weaned and then she brings him to the tabernacle to fulfill her vow to dedicate him to God’s service (1 Samuel 1:21-28). She sings a song rejoicing that God had given her a son (1 Samuel 2:1-10) and then leaves her son in the care of Eli the priest as she dedicates Samuel to the service of God (1 Samuel 2:11, 18). Each year when she comes to the tabernacle to worship, she brings Samuel a new robe which she has made for him (1 Samuel 2:19). God blesses her with 3 more sons and 2 daughters (1 Samuel 2:20-21). Samuel is called by God and becomes a great prophet in Israel (1 Samuel 3:1-21).
What a great woman of faith Hannah was! As she experienced “bitterness of soul” (1 Samuel 1:10), she did not allow this to make her become a “bitter woman”. Instead, she cast this pain upon the Lord because she knew God cared for her (1 Peter 5:7). She made an incredibly challenging vow to God that if God gave her a child, she would dedicate that child to God’s service all the days of his life (1 Samuel 1:11). More importantly, she kept this vow. She must have experienced some pain at having to watch Samuel grow up away from her. It must have been tempting for her to want to take him home with her each year she went up to the tabernacle to worship. But she didn’t. She showed her tender love for this child by making him a new robe each year. Samuel knew his mother loved him, but he also knew that his mother was fulfilling the vow she had made to God.
As I think about Hannah and us today, I can’t help but think how many of us have “relationship issues” that we face. Some of us are single and long for a spouse. Others are married and strongly desire to have children, but have been unable to have children thus far. There are still others of us are married with children and have struggles with our relationships within our families such as communication problems with our spouses or rebellion amongst our children.
This can lead us to feel “bitterness of soul” as did Hannah (1 Samuel 1:10). To her credit she gave this “bitterness” over to God and will eventually say, “My heart rejoices in the Lord; My horn is exalted in the Lord…” (1 Samuel 2:1). Are you struggling with feeling “bitterness of soul” because you desire a relationship with someone (e.g. having a spouse or a child) or you are having challenges within a relationship that already exists? Follow the example of Hannah and give this “bitterness” over to God. Today, I will rejoice that God is willing to bear my “bitterness of soul”!
“Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; On You I WAIT all the day” (Psalm 25:4-5).