IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




Pouring Out Our Soul to the Lord

Date: Sep. 12, 2010

Author: Bob Henkins

1 Samuel 1:1-2:11

Key Verse: 1 Samuel 1:15

“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD.”

As we begin our study of 1 Samuel you may be asking yourself why are studying this book? Or why study anything from the Old Testament for that matter? Some think that we only need the New Testament because that is where we find Jesus our Savior and thus the Old Testament is dead. That is simply not true. All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2Tim3:16) The Old Testament is rich in history and for that fact alone it’s worth going through. But more than that, Jesus said that the Old Testament testifies about Him. (Lk 24:27, 44; Jn 5:39) It’s all about Jesus. And secondly, we can se practical applications of God wants us to live. (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11) There are many lessons for us to learn with some examples that we should follow and some we shouldn’t. So it’s my prayer that as we study the book of 1 Samuel we will find Jesus, as well as, examples for us how to live.

1. Introduction

Let’s begin our study with some background info. According to 1 Chron 29:29, the book of Samuel may have been written by Samuel, Nathan, and Gad. The general consensus is that 1&2 Samuel, and 1&2 Kings were originally one book that was written by different men at different times but all inspired by God and then collected and assembled together. Then later they were divided again into what we have today. Yet no one knows for sure. Also the date that this book takes place around is about 1100 BC, for that’s when Samuel was born. And it continues to the death of Saul, Israel’s first king, covering about 90 years. The book of Samuel records Israel's transition from loosely associated tribes led by local judges to a unified nation led by kings.

Samuel is an interesting character and one of the most important people in the history of God. Even though he dies before the first book is finished, still both books bear his name. Samuel is the final judge and the first prophet. And although he wasn’t a priest, he carried out the duties of a priest in certain areas. Samuel stands as a bridge between an older time of the judges and the newer times of the kings. He is a key element during this period of transition in the history of Israel. Samuel led a spiritual revival in Israel and almost single handedly fought off the Philistines. He is an amazing, powerful and spiritual man.

By the year 1400 BC, Joshua had conquered most of the Promised Land; Canaan, and the next 400 years or so are called the theocracy, where God ruled over his people directly when there wasn’t a king. The 12 tribes of Israel weren’t united as one nation. They were like 12 independent states that would come together at times when they needed to, as for war. During these 400 years, God raised up judges to save His people from the hands of their enemies. (Ju 2:16) However the title “judges” doesn’t mean what we think it does because they weren’t lawyers who served in court but rather military leaders or someone God could use.

The time of Judges, was a dark time. In those days the word of the LORD was rare and there weren’t many visions. (1 Sam 3:1b) Judges 2:17-19 tells us what things were like, “Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD's commands. 18 Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.” So the Israelites fell into idol worship and served the false god Baal. And the book of Judges ends on an ominous note, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” (ju 21:15) All the people in the 12 tribes did whatever they wanted, not even considering what God wanted but did what they thought was best.

2. Hannah pours out her soul to the Lord (1:1-16)

Now let’s pick up where our story begins in verses 1-2. Let’s read them. “There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.” 1 Samuel opens with a family, a dysfunctional family, but a family none the less. And we meet Elkanah who also did as he saw fit and had two wives.

Hannah was one of the wives and Peninnah was the other. She had children but Hannah had none. In their time, children were more than important: they were symbols of joy and fulfillment and God’s love and blessing. In Hannah's case her childlessness was a double strike because not only did she have to bear the burden of no children, she had a rival who used that fact to irritate her. Imagine, three times a year you get together with your extended family and friends for the holidays like Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving, and there is your husband’s other wife, the one with all the children, telling everyone how much God loves her, because she has been blessed with so many children, and how much God doesn’t love you because He closed your womb. And this goes on year after year after and every time Hannah breaks down in tears and is so upset that she can’t eat. And what made this worse is the fact that one of those holidays was the Feast of Tabernacles which celebrated the harvest and commemorated God’s love and care for his people but Hannah couldn’t celebrate because of her own barrenness. Hannah probably hated the holidays.

Hannah's childlessness had a tragic effect. It warped her view of life. The Bible says that she was bitter, wept often, and wouldn’t eat. She was “downhearted.” And in her prayer to God, Hannah spoke of her condition as “in anguish, misery and grief.” In the Bible, “anguish” is used to describe times of great distress; Job when he lost all his children, cattle, servants, everything. And Isaiah & Jeremiah used it to describe when Israel was dragged off into captivity. This was her state of mind.

How tragic it is when we are so burdened by the things of life that we're unable to experience the simple joys that can enrich our lives. Hannah's depression was so great that she couldn’t even recognize the grace of God. While Hannah didn’t have a child she did have a husband who loved her. Maybe Elkanah wasn’t the brightest man when he tried to console his wife’s childless problem with food, but we can sense his love and concern for her in his words, “Don't I mean more to you than 10 sons?”(v8) So often when we feel bitter and downcast we, like Hannah, miss all the things that God has blessed us with that are the evidence of His love and grace. Hannah was so consumed by her situation that she let it rule her life and it drove out God’s joy and peace.

But she didn’t stay in that situation. Finally, in her bitterness and agony, Hannah took two vital steps. Let’s read verses 9-10. “Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the LORD's temple. 10 In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD.” Hannah’s first vital step was to take her bitterness to God. She didn’t try to get revenge upon wife #2 and go psycho like Glen Close did in the movie Fatal Attraction. Also she didn’t try to have a child through another woman like Sarah did in Genesis. Instead she brought her prayers and petitions to her heavenly father. And we learned in last week’s passage of 1 Peter 5, that we can cast all our anxieties upon him because he cares for us. (1 Pe 5:7) And that’s exactly what Hannah did.

Hannah's prayer was a desperate one. Yet it was so heartfelt that her lips moved, even though she was praying in her heart. (v13) And the high priest at the time, Eli, thought she was drunk and rebuked her. Maybe this is another sign of the times. How could Eli, the priest, mistake prayer for being drunk? He probably didn’t see earnest prayer like hers very much. Hannah responds in verses 15-16, let’s read them. “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, "I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. 16Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” Hannah was pouring out her soul to the Lord in prayer. I don’t know why, but this gives me the image of a small child who gives every ounce of their energy when they cry. Hannah laid everything on the line and offered it up to God. What does it mean to pour out our soul? Jesus did this is the garden of Gethsemane when he was struggling with his decision to go to the cross or not. He battled in prayer until his sweat was like drops of blood. Until finally he could give it up to God and accept whatever his decision was. This is what Hannah did. She prayed to God about everything that was on her heart and then left it up to God. This is the beauty of Hannah.

Hannah’s second vital step was to reorder her priorities. She did this in her prayer. What was her prayer? Let’s read it in v11. “And she made a vow, saying, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” What is the point of praying for a son, only to give him up? It doesn’t make sense. It is in Hannah’s prayer we find what her real problem is. It’s not the fact that she doesn’t have children, although that is part of it but it is a deeper issue. Hannah wanted God to remember her. She wanted the comfort knowing that God loves her. She wondered, did God abandon her? Peninnah attacked her again and again with doubt saying that God doesn’t love her that’s why He closed her womb. And this was like a dagger in her heart. She longed for God’s love.

When God closed her womb, it was a test of faith. Who did she love more; God or God’s blessing of children? And in her prayer she confirms that she loves God in the first place of her heart. And she realizes that by giving her children, God would confirm his love for her and that would be all she needs. So Hannah made a commitment to dedicate the son she prayed for all her life to the Lord. She no longer wanted a child just for herself. She began to look beyond her own needs, and to envision what the good that meeting her need might do for others. When she said, “no razor will ever be used on his head,” this was the vow of the Nazirite. (Ju 13, Nu 6) It was her way of saying that she was dedicating her son to God. Hannah put her faith in God. And God wanted to display her faith to those around her. Sometimes God trains us through our situations, molding us to be new, to go places that we never imagined that we could go.

3. The Lord remembers Hannah (1:17-28)

Further evidence of the moral and spiritual deterioration can be seen in the fact that Eli, the priest, really didn’t seem to care for Hannah very well. Here she was pouring out her soul in anguish and misery and he kind of blows her off and basically tells her to move on. And yet somehow Hannah went away with a strange assurance. Look at v17-18, “Eli answered, "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him." 18 She said, "May your servant find favor in your eyes." Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” I believe that Hannah accepted Eli’s response in v17 as God’s answer to her prayer that’s why she could eat and wasn’t sad anymore. From this point on, Hannah is no longer downcast and she got up early the next morning to worship God.

Let’s read verse 20. “So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, "Because I asked the LORD for him.” God answered Hannah's prayer: she conceived and bore a child whom she named Samuel. The name Samuel means heard of God. There were not many people praying so maybe her voice really stuck out. In v21 we see how Elkanah was a good influence to Hannah, he was faithful to God and kept his vow to go up every year to worship. Usually in the time of Judges, everyone that God delivered eventually turned to their own way, but Hannah was different she kept her promise. Let’s read v22. “Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, "After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the LORD, and he will live there always.” And when the time came after the boy was weaned, he was about three years old, Hannah took him to Eli and said, “I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD." And he worshiped the LORD there.” (v27-28) How hard it must have been for Hannah to leave her cute three year old son with an old man. But Hannah kept her vow to God.

Usually when people are desperate we make vows in the hope that God will save us. But how many people keep their vows to God? Hannah was an extraordinary woman because she kept her promise to God. She deeply respected God and honored him in the highest place of her heart. And from her prayer in chapter 2, we find that her ultimate source of joy came not from the birth of her child, but in God who answered her prayer. She says, “My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. 2 "There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” (2:1-2)

When she kept her vow, God opened her spiritual eyes and she could see that “The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. 7The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.” (v6-7) And "It is not by strength that one prevails. (v9) She was even prophetic in v10 saying “He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed,” looking forward to when her son Samuel will anoint Israel’s first king but ultimately to Jesus who is our Savior King.

1 Samuel is a book about the heart of people, our hearts. In it we see the broken heart of Hannah, they pure heart of Samuel, the corrupt heart of Saul and God’s heart in David. Through today’s passage we see Hannah pour out her heart to the Lord and how faithful the Lord is to those who cry out to him. When was the last time that you poured out your soul to God? And laid before Him the longing of your heart? Or wept in anguish of your disappointment and then in childlike trust, left it all with Him? If there’s one thing to learn it’s that God desires a sincere relationship with us. Not a fake one because we need something from him, but a true personal relationship with the one who made us. When we do so, God meets the desires of our heart and we can be truly joyful like Hannah. May God bless you as you pour out your soul to the Lord.

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