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Hannah’s Misfortune

January 18th, 2011

1 Samuel 1:1-7

  • This is a story of pain and agony – Hannah is barren, which is a traumatic thing anyway, but in the culture of her day it carried social stigma and shame. It was seen as a sign of disfavour and failure to not be able to have children.
  • Furthermore, living under the same roof as Hannah is her husband Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, who continuously mocks and taunts her and adds to her sense of inferiority.
  • We look at the 2 people closest to Hannah and how they responded to her suffering:

1. Elkanah

  • Although he wasn’t very sympathetic with his words, he did do something well: he dealt compassionately with Hannah.
  • He gave her a double portion ‘because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb’. He offered kindness and affirmation despite knowing that God has closed her womb.
  • He recognises that God has the power to open Hannah’s womb but hasn’t – he recognises God’s sovereignty over the situation, that nothing happens without God’s allowing it. He doesn’t try and excuse God.
  • The example of Job – people blamed his suffering on something wrong he had done, like modern-day karma. Whereas it was nothing to do with that.
  • The example of the blind man that Jesus healed in the gospels – the disciples queried whether it was his sin or his parents’ sin that made him blind; Jesus said neither, but so that the glory of God might be shown.
  • Our response should not be spectacle about why certain suffering happened, but compassion and love for that person and trust in God and His wisdom.
  • We often have no idea why God’s doing what He’s doing in our life and in the lives of others – but we do know that God works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). He has a plan and a purpose.
  • Elkanah believed God was good even before the greatest act of God’s goodness and love took place – His Son coming to earth to be misunderstood and rejected and to suffer for us.
  • Psalm 73:16-17 – we need to keep the big picture in mind – eternity.

2. Peninnah

  • The same phrase is used about God closing Hannah’s womb in relation to how Peninnah responded. The same 2 people can have the same theology and understanding, but one can be compassionate and the other can be cruel.
  • We look at Peninnah and question how someone can be so cruel – but we should be careful because we are only a few steps away from acting the same.
  • She is probably jealous of Hannah – Elkanah gives Hannah a double portion and shows special love for her. Peninnah therefore cannot enjoy her own life and is robbed of joy.
  • Jealously is incredibly harmful and destructive – it is so easy for us to be jealous of people are are seen as more special than us, e.g. Joseph and his brothers (Gen. 37:4).
  • Peninnah probably is satisfied with her lot of children – she wants what Hannah has that she doesn’t have, so she taunts Hannah about she has and Hannah doesn’t.
  • We secretly love it when the people we envy fall.
  • Envy rots your bones – Prov. 14:30.
  • Envy thrives on pride because we want to feel more special than others and for people to acknowledge it – in other words, we want to be worshipped.
  • We can only deal with pride through the gospel and understanding it. We see that we are desperately wicked and needy and deserve nothing, and that Jesus had to die a horrific death because of the evil of our sin and pride.
  • We can be freed to be truly happy for others and to offer kindness to others because God shows us such mercy.
  • Get to know Jesus and you’ll find you become more like Him.