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Hannah's Sacrifice
© 06.08.19 D. Eric Williams

It is easy to read the story of Hannah and gloss over what actually happened. Stop and think for a moment; Hannah prayed for a child and then promised to devote that child to God if he answered her plea. At no point does the text tell us Hannah wavered in her commitment. When the baby was born, it seemed best to Hannah to release him to God's service after he was weaned yet there was never a question of whether or not the vow would be kept.

How would you feel if you were contemplating giving up your first born child for adoption? What would it be like to know you had just three or four years with him before you would lose him forever? Hannah had "visitation rights" but she would not be the one raising her firstborn son. That privilege would be given to another. The point is, it's important to understand the sacrifice Hannah was willing to make in order to be blessed.

There is nothing in the Old Testament law that required any of this. Hannah could have prayed for a child without an attending vow. Indeed, it is likely she had done just that for quite some time. The text tells us Peninnah taunted Hannah "year after year" (1 Samuel 1:7). Thus the bullying behavior of Peninnah, the shame of failure as a wife, the desperate longing of Hannah to be blessed and to be a blessing; all of this was part of Yahweh's decree to bring his purpose to pass. And that purpose was to have his chosen servant Samuel at the center of Israel's religious and cultural life.

As we read about the series of events that took place prior to the birth of Samuel, it is Hannah's absolute devotion to God that stands out. True, there was a spiritual quid pro quo in Hannah's thinking but one is struck by her commitment to Yahweh nonetheless. Hannah wanted a child in order to be a "fulfilled woman" as defined by her socio-cultural and religious context. She was willing to make a tremendous sacrifice in order to do so. Her desire to achieve that end was not selfish but flowed from her commitment to Yahweh and a wish to be seen as blessed by the God of Israel. Even then her quest for God's blessing was not ultimately for herself but for her husband. It is true bearing children would be seen as proof of God's favor, but it is her husband who would be principally honored in the community as a result. The removal of her shame would enhance Elkannah's standing more than her own.

Therefore, Hannah is an example of one who wishes to be blessed so she might bless another. I do not advocate cutting a deal with God to receive his blessings; the timeless principle found here is seeking God's favor on behalf of another even to the point of making great sacrifices to accomplish that end.

Followers of Christ need to emulate Hannah's hunger for blessing. We need to understand how to embrace a self sacrificial quest for blessing to honor God and bless others. It requires a transformed mind to understand a hunger for blessing in order to bless another. It requires Christlikeness to shoulder public acclaim for God's glory and on behalf of others. In short, it requires a spirit of devotion like that of Hannah.

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