Friday, May 12, 2017

EmmDev 2017-05-10 [Lessons from Samuel] Longing


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. 2 He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.
3 Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the LORD Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the LORD. 4 Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb. 6 And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8 Elkanah her husband would say to her, "Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don't you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?"      (1Samuel1:1-8)
Before we can start the story of Samuel, we have to tell the story of Hannah, his mother.

We could say a lot about Hannah, but, at the start of the story, there is one fact alone that stands out: she was barren and childless. In a culture that measured wealth, security and success by family, Hannah, by society's standards, had no raison d'etre - no ultimate reason for being. Her husband, Elkanah, loves her, but his other wife, Peninnah, took advantage of her situation. And the fact that Peninnah had children placed the "blame" on Hannah.

It seems that this heartache grew hardest at the annual feasts of worship. Somehow, as Hannah came to worship it made the grief feel even harder to bear. Today it is still the same... When we have been through loss, when we have dreams that have crashed, when we've been hurt and betrayed then it is in coming to worship that the sense of loss and sadness intensifies. This is understandable: everyone else is celebrating God's goodness and love, and we believe this is true, but our own circumstances deny it and like a laughing bully our situations try to taunt us into believing that God doesn't care about us or that we don't deserve His love.

There stands Hannah, year after year, with her double sized meat offering given to her by a well-meaning hubby, feeling like a double-sized failure. And the pain is real real real.

It's tempting to end the devotion by pointing out that Hannah took her pain to God and then had many children, but I will leave that happy ending to Tuesday.

I want to end our devotion today by drawing our attention to this beautiful and gentle explanation of Hannah's heartache. It is, if you think of the patriarchal society it was written in, an incredibly sensitive and insightful explanation of her situation. It is an loving and caring explanation of the deep pain Hannah had.

When our lives are filled with sadness, longing and heartache this passage tells us - God knows and He "gets" it.

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