People from ancient times have struggled to discover the underlying reality or substance which holds everything together whether dealing with atoms, the axioms of geometry, or moral issues. The Bible lists several groups of sins which plague humans. Christian theologians provided a list of seven Cardinal sins, those which, left unchecked, destroy the person. One such grouping calls them pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth. On the other hand, Plato and others pointed to four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, courage, and temperance. Christian writers could accept their validity, but added three Christian virtues: faith, hope and love. For our purpose today, we can picture faith as turning attention to God, love focuses on others, whereas hope looks to the future.
Building a legacy of hope launches us into the realm of what is yet to occur. Do we have any guarantees?
Let’s begin with an important element, persistence (1:1-5). Life sometimes seems to be unfair. Hannah found herself in the midst of a dysfunctional—by our standards—family. Elkanah, her husband, was a member of the priestly tribe, according to 1 Chronicles 6:22-25, so Hannah had married a man of influence. One’s position, however, does not assure sound judgment. First, he had entered into a polygamous relationship. Although the Bible never prohibits multiple wives, the practice violates the original model of one man and one woman (Gen. 1:27-28). God let men have multiple wives until Solomon, a wise man in some areas, but an abominable failure as a parent when he would up with 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3).
The practice continued off and on until it succumbed to the Christian teaching of the equality of both men and women in God’s sight. Hannah had few recourses to thwart the bullying by her sister-wife, Penninah.
Elkanah showed his poor judgment in his choice of wives. The simple statement “he loved Hannah” casts doubts on his motives as well as his judgment. Did he take Penninah as a second wife when Hannah bore no children? Penninah proved to be prolific, bearing sons and daughters (v. 4).
Hannah’s only relief was to hold on to her prayer life during the endless heartache of family discord (vv. 6-8). Penninah’s contempt for Hannah’s barrenness earned her the title of “the adversary” (v. 6). She intended to cause Hannah to “fret” based on her inability to produce children, a condition Penninnah attributed to God’s disapproval of Hannah. Years went by with no relief for Hannah.
Elkanah was not helpful at all. Her weeping and inability to keep down her food elicited from him a monumental counseling blunder. He dismissed her agony with the egotistical assertion that he was better for her than ten sons (v. 8). As we would say, she could only grin and bear it.
Her next challenge came from Eli who misjudged her (vv. 9-16). Year after year she attended the rituals at Shiloh as a part of Elkanah’s priestly obligation; but she was still in bitterness of soul. During the ceremonies, she was praying silently with her lips moving. Thinking she was drunk, Eli chided her at which time she revealed the depth of her bitterness.
Finally her perseverance gave way to a season to hope (vv. 17-20). He assured her of God’s providence, that she would conceive and bear a son. After she conceived, gave birth to a son, and weaned him, she presented him to Eli for Samuel to serve perpetually before the Lord.
Hope then issued into praise for God’s deliverance (vv. 27-2:1). She acknowledged her vow to give Samuel into perpetual service. She praised God for His salvation, that is freeing her from the bondage of bitterness.
We close with Samuel’s testimony to King Saul in continuing to support him in prayer (12:23-24). Hope thereby became nationalized, encompassing God’s providence for the nation.
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