How Far Can Hannah Go?
And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. (Psalm 39:7 ESV)
Year after year Hannah traveled to Shiloh with her family to praise and worship God for all His blessings. No doubt Peninnah’s torment began during the first mile of their trip. Hannah did not let her sister-wife’s mean spirited words keep her from public worship. It is probable Hannah arrived at their destination exhausted and emotionally spent. It seems this year Hannah hit a wall and could not keep up the public façade of family unity:
Now this man (Elkanah) used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh where the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas were priests of the Lord. On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. 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. 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?” 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. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. (1 Samuel 1:3-10)
The purpose of the pilgrimage to Shiloh was to rejoice before the Lord your God in all that you undertake (Deuteronomy 12:18). No doubt Elkanah included thanks for his growing family along with gratitude for the many other blessings of the year. Imagine Peninnah’s sly looks at Hannah and whispered taunts, “Maybe next year God will give you a child, Hannah, but you are getting old.” We don’t know what words she used, but by the time the family gathered to share the meat of the sacrifice, emotions boiled over. In keeping with tradition, Elkanah gave Peninnah and her children a portion of the sacrifice and as everyone watched he gave Hannah a double portion. Hosts offered double portions to honored guests. What honor did this double portion signify? He gave Hannah a double portion because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. This statement is packed with insights into Hannah’s relationship to her husband and gives us a clue as to why Peninnah resented Hannah so much. I imagine a look of love passed from Elkanah to Hannah, a look not missed by Peninnah or anyone else at the table. Perhaps his purpose was to remind her that her empty womb did not minimize his love for her. He simply loved her for who she was, not because she gave him children. Peninnah’s jealousy of Hannah reaches a boiling point and something about her constant torment breaks through Hannah’s shield:
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. 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?” (1 Samuel 1:7-8 ESV)
Though her husband publicly honored Hannah, she cannot eat and tears fall down her cheeks. Elkanah notices. He seems clueless as to why she is crying – isn’t his love enough? Was his love for a childless wife so unusual that he thought Hannah needed nothing else? Maybe his words settled her spirit enough to get through the meal, but as soon as she could, Hannah leaves her family and goes by herself to the empty temple. All the pent up tears and sorrow rushes out as Hannah laments before her God.
Don’t miss this pilgrimage teaching moment of Hannah’s journey. Hannah’s habit was to worship, corporately and personally. Even when God refused to give her the desires of her heart (a child), her default mode was to corporately worship. In this scene, we see Hannah’s corporate worship flow over into Hannah seeking an intimate time with her God. We will dig into Hannah’s private moments tomorrow, but for today, I encourage you to take a page from Hannah’s life if you have hit a wall in your own pilgrimage. Make corporate worship your habit and daily run to Jesus with your broken places. Lament and cry out for Him to hear you, to fill you with His mercy and open your eyes to His presence. Take great hope from our Today’s Treasure:
And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.
Psalm 39:7 ESV
Oh, Lord, there are people reading this devotional who desperately need Your touch, Your strength, Your wisdom. May Hannah’s story encourage each one to run to You, to lament and cry out for help and hope, and then to whisper, “O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.”
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