Copyright, Grantley Morris, 1992. All rights reserved.
it seems the last time you blessed someone was when you left early?
cleaning your teeth is the most exciting part of your day?
God seems to be using everyone
She was ashamed. She was tormented. She was barren. Her husband tried to console her. 'You're already blessed,' he virtually told her. Yes, Hannah was a beloved wife. Hundreds of lonely, rejected women would be content with that, but not Hannah. She could know no peace until she had borne a child. (1 Samuel 1:1-8)
This yearning for a baby arose from within, was fuelled by her society's attitude and further intensified by her rival - her husband's second wife. Ultimately, however, I believe the pressure was from God.
'And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore. And she vowed . . . , "O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt . . . give unto thy handmaid a man child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life . . . " ' (1 Samuel 1:10-11)
It seems the Lord had long been waiting for this degree of commitment. Perhaps reaching this point sooner would have shaved years off her wait. Nonetheless, to her vow of consecration she added faith. Before any tangible sign of answered prayer 'her countenance was no more sad.' (1 Samuel 1:18) Years of anguish fostered prayer, devotion, and now, faith. A miracle was hurtling toward this planet. (1 Samuel 1:20)
That's how God moves. Isaac, Israel, Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist were all born to women who had been barren. (Genesis 18:11; 25:21-26; Judges 13:3; 1 Samuel 1:20; Luke 1:7, 13) Barrenness forced these women to exceptional fervour in praying for conception. Little wonder that they conceived exceptional children. They were barren, but barren for a purpose.
Hannah nurtured the babe until he was weaned (probably, by Hebrew custom, about three years). She then plunged a knife into her heart, severing herself from her flesh and blood. Custody battles involving surrogate mothers expose the faintest echo of her agony. If the bond at birth can be strong, it was three years harder for Hannah. And this was her only child.
But the beautiful story continues. The Lord, having inspired her heart-wrenching vow, flooded her with blessings. Her reward went beyond giving birth to a son. It went beyond proudly viewing the development of one of the greatest men of God earth has seen. And it went beyond her acclaim ringing around the globe, generation after generation extolling her devotion. There were further treasures, but the path was steep.
As she surrendered to the priest the fruit of her womb, Hannah jubilantly sang, 'The barren hath borne seven.' (1 Samuel 2:5) Oh Hannah! Whatever do you mean? You have no abundance - only one, and even he has been torn from you.
Year by year she made a little robe for the child who was no longer hers. Every stitch was impregnated with love and thanksgiving, but many were dampened with tears for the child she longed to hold, but could not. Once a year she would journey to the house of God and hand over the robe - a pitifully small gift for the little boy she longed to wait on day and night. At each visit the priest would ask God's special blessing upon this precious mother. And God heard. Radiance burst through the tears of sacrifice. That once-barren lady gave birth to three more sons and two daughters. (1 Samuel 2:19-21) Her glory was complete. Yes, the Lord made her like other mothers as she had always wanted, but first he had exalted her above other mothers.
Hannah's vow of surrender unleashed the power of God. Is your life at a stalemate because heaven is awaiting a new depth of consecration from you? Search your heart and God's mind for an answer.
But never make rash vows. Always add, 'if it be God's will.' Otherwise, the vow, not Jesus, is our Master. Our humanity makes it impossible to know we have every eventuality covered. We may be certain our vow is divinely inspired and later discover to our horror that we have misheard. The Bible exposes the perils of disregarding this warning. Unless you are convinced of the gravity of this matter, I beg you to study the relevant Scriptures. (Compare Deuteronomy 7:1-2 with Joshua 9:4-20; note also Judges 11:29-35; Psalm 15:4; Proverbs 20:25; Ecclesiastes 5:2,4-6; Leviticus 5:4; 27:28; Acts 5:3-5) Commitment is the key, not a rush of well-meaning words that flare and fizzle.
Ending barrenness involves being intimate with the one we love.
We can think this a chore, and turn it into one, but it is meant
to be delightfully fulfilling. Communing with God and waiting
in his presence is intimacy with God. We can treat this as a burden
- struggling, straining and afflicting ourselves - or we can unleash
love and let snuggling into the heart of God become the beautiful
experience he intends it to be. To wish we could know everything
about our calling without spending hours alone with God is to
wish we could trade the pinnacle of human experience for the clinical
coldness of some sort of spiritual in-vitro fertilisation.
Sing, O Barren
Let's bring together the many of principles of entering fruitful service that Hannah's experience highlights.
God's woman turned barrenness into a blessing not by suppressing her desires but by letting it bring her to her knees and to a rare level of commitment. Despite her husband's pleas, she would settle for nothing less than God's best. And God, in his grace, would settle for nothing less than her best. Creature and Creator wrestled in prayer until she finally yielded, reaching heights of devotion fertile women seldom know. Then she believed before seeing the answer. Closing her mind to a thousand previous failures, she again tried to be fruitful. Even when she held her dream in her arms, she did not slacken in her spiritual quest. She praised her Lord and mixed it with more faith. She kept her costly vow. She gave no space to bitterness. Without overstepping the mark, she faithfully did the little she could to serve the son who now was God's. Finally, the Lord poured upon her an abundance beyond her fondest hopes.
So if life seems barren, emulate Hannah and 'Sing, O barren, ... for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, says the Lord.' (Isaiah 54:1)
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