Hannah voices a prayer of victory. It is a prayer for any who have been oppressed and found relief from the Lord. Her prayers were answered in HIS time.
I have been writing Hannah’s story for a bit now and in it I have her remove the bitterness that came with the years of suffering. I have her and Peninnah repair their relationship and remain as a family group. I don’t know for certain if this is what happened. From her prayer in today’s reading I question that resolution.
I can still hear the hurt in Hannah’s words at what she suffered from Peninnah. I also see references to her adversaries being broken. “Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn” (verse 5). This sounds like Peninnah is now ‘forlorn’ and removed from where she once received her ‘bread.’
I have no doubt that the dynamics in the home changed with Hannah’s answered prayer. We have a direct example of a ‘wife’ being cast out with her child because the ‘true wife’ finally conceived in the story of Sarah and Hagar. But we are not told that Peninnah occupied the same place as Hagar. It is not impossible but I DON’T see how Hannah would have allowed her ‘maid’ to torment her so cruelly for so long. Unless she wanted to keep the children so desperately that she would put up with anything to do so. Is it possible that Elkanah refused to drive her away until he and Hannah finally had children?
We are not told that Hannah offered Peninnah to Elkanah for the purpose of bearing children. Honestly, we don’t know how this third person entered into their family. We are told that they were both his “wives” in the very beginning of their story. I’m pretty confident that Hannah came first as he wouldn’t have had a need to seek a second wife if Peninnah were first. Also he obviously loved Hannah more than Peninnah.
So what truly became of Peninnah and her children? We don’t have a clear answer to that. I’m putting it on ‘the list’ with SO MANY OTHERS! If you have spent any time with me you know what list I’m talking about. My “bench questions” I want to ask Jesus as we sit in a quiet spot in Heaven someday. But for today I want to take time to feel Hannah’s prayer.
Hannah is giving her only child back to the Lord. He hasn’t promised her any more children to take his place. She hasn’t even asked Him for any, that we know of. Yet her heart is not heavy as she completes the vow she made to the Lord. Instead her heart soars!
“My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation” (verse 1).
As I was transcribing this verse I ran into a spelling error on the third word; exults. I double checked to see that it was the right word because I had put an ‘a’ before the ‘u’. I did this because I read it as exalts instead of exults. I looked up synonyms when I realized it was a different word than I expected. Synonyms for exults are: revels, gloats, glories, triumphs, wallows, rejoices, takes pride, laments. Synonyms for exalts are: promotes, elevates, raises, intensifies, boosts, lifts, praises, lauds. There is a totally different feeling to these two words. The first thoughts that came to my mind when comparing these two words is that one steps on and the other steps beside. One steps on a platform and raises themselves up in triumph while the other steps to the side and raises another up to receive glory for what has been done.
Hannah certainly was deserving of praise. Not for conceiving a child as that was an act of God but for her willingness to release him back to God and fulfill her vow. She was desperate when she poured her heart out to God. Many people make ‘pie crust promises’ when they are desperate but not Hannah. Her promise was a steel band that bound both God’s work and her response together securely.
I’m wondering if her prayer also has a future hope in it. We are not told that this is ‘praise’ but a ‘prayer.’ A prayer if usually forward looking whereas praise is backwards focused. God DID give her the child she prayed for but could she still be feeling the sting of her ‘adversary’? When she prays “Talk no more so very proudly. Let not arrogance come from your mouth” (verse 3a) is she calling for this to happen in her home with Peninnah?
In verses 4 & 5 we see present and past tenses. “The bows of the mighty ARE broken”, “Those who WERE full”, “The barren HAS borne” and “She who had many children IS forlorn”. These statements point to past acts or those occurring at the moment.
I’m leaning towards a mixture in this prayer Hannah offers. She has seen God’s deliverance from her barrenness but there is still work to be done in her home and in her heart. The bondage her enemy had over her has been removed. But it was ONLY removed through the grace of God. She did not free herself; the Lord did.
Hannah acknowledges His hand in SEVERAL places. She also acknowledges that He is continuing to do this right through to the end of time. “The Lord will judge the ends of the earth” (verse 10b). I wonder how He will judge Hannah’s prayer. Will he focus on the portion where she gloats: “My mouth derides my enemies” (verse 1b) or where she extols His hand in her life: “Because I rejoice in Your salvation” (verse 1c) or somewhere in between?
I’ve had times in my life when I have fought long and hard for a victory and want to do the victory dance and stuff it in my adversaries face. Sometimes that victory came through prayer and other times it came through tenacity. But as I’ve grown over the years that ‘stuff it in their faces’ attitude has changed. I have learned that even my adversary is acting out of pain. I feel sympathy for them instead, or maybe it is pity. I CERTAINLY want to rub it in Satan’s face but not the tool he used for his cruelty. Even the woman my husband coined “Broom Hilda” elicits a degree of pity from me. At times I was even tempted to reach out in kindness towards her but then she would do something that made me pull my hand back in protection instead.
So where am I going with all this? I don’t really know because I’m simply following where I believe the Spirit is leading. One thing that came to me when asking this ‘wrap-up’ question is from Matthew 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” I am to love the person who is my adversary but I am not to give them the precious parts of myself so they can turn them against me.
Hannah didn’t have to justify her actions of giving Samuel back to the Lord to Peninnah. Peninnah probably didn’t even understand it. “You waited ALL this time for a child and when you finally have one you give him away! Why did you ask for one in the first place then?” Hannah’s heart probably hurt leaving her son but it was also filled with joy because she KNEW she was honoring God. THAT was what she could boast in. She also knew she could rely on Him to fill up all the empty places that were left over.
I think one of the pearls God has given me over the years is the ability to recognize the hurt in others. The ability to see their attack on me is not always motivated by something I have done to wrong them but out of their own pain. That pain can come from anywhere and yet still be vented on me as a convenient target. Holding my ‘victory dance’ when they fall is often the kindest thing I can do, for them and myself. I pray Hannah was holding hers and that Peninnah was repentant for her part. I KNOW God was faithful in His part. If Peninnah wasn’t repentant and continued on her attacks, I pray Elkanah had enough love for both women to separate them somehow. But God had taken the weapon Peninnah used from her hands no matter what Elkanah decided to do.
Be mindful of what you parts of yourself you lay bare. Do not give the special parts of your heart to those who would trample it. Hannah was trapped in a home where her victimizer had easy access to her heart. She couldn’t ‘ignore her’ and trust that she would quit because it ‘didn’t get a rise out of her.’ She had to give her heart to the Lord instead and trust Him to protect in. He mended it and protected it from further harm. And He will do the same for any one of us who asks of Him.
I will continue to seek understanding of those who act in anger but I will not lay my heart bare before them to trample the beauty the Lord put there.
Thank You Father God that You protect my heart. I was going to say thank You that my prayers are not written down where others have an opportunity to dissect them but here they are. I pray the words I offer to You are NOT couched in fear of what others may see in them but come straight from my heart. I want to honor You as I study Your word. I trust You are leading me where You want ME to go. I pray that journey is helpful for others too and that You minister to them through my fingers.
Thank You also Father God for letting me see beneath the ‘meanness’ to the pain. I can’t cure it but I can temper my response in cases of attack. Help me show Your love in my responses. I have a heart that craves healing. Don’t let me lay it bare in the wrong places.
Help me see beneath the surface in the issue I’m struggling with now. It isn’t one of meanness but of disrespect and deceit. Help me know how to deal with the issues, even if the answer You want me to employ is “WAIT.” IF it comes from You, I will do it. IF NOT, show me what to do instead. I want YOUR will in this situation.