“And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish.”–1 Samuel 1:10
And Hannah prayed and said:
“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
My horn is exalted in the Lord.
I smile at my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.
–1 Samuel 2:1
“The most dangerous hurts in our lives are the hurts that justifiably lead to bitterness. These kinds of hurts can drown out God’s grace and the joy of our own salvation. The road to peace and joy during these bumpy times in life starts when we surrender our sense of need to focus our heart’s desire upon the Lord. When all our heart desires is Him, He will give us the desires of our heart.”
This week we begin a study that will carry us through the book of 1 Samuel. This is a time of great transition for the nation of Israel. We get to watch as the nation goes through a major paradigm shift. Samuel, the judge, prophet, and priest, is the man God uses to lead Israel through this transition.
As the book begins, Israel is in the midst of a dark time. You can drop your finger just about anywhere in the book of Judges and you will see the kind of depravity and disintegration that is tearing Israel apart. Spiritually, Israel is weak and anemic. There have been periods of revival and hope, but these are often soon forgotten as Israel returns to her sinful ways. The phrase that summarizes this period of time in Israel is found in Judges 17:6–“ In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
This is where we find ourselves as 1 Samuel begins. It’s a dark time. As the narrative begins, we are introduced to two families–one, the family of Elkinah, is a devout, deeply religious family that worships the Lord faithfully, yet were bigamist who conformed to the morals of their day. The other, the family of Eli the high priest, is an evil family that preys upon the people of the Lord and uses their position as pastor/shepherds at the temple of the Lord to satisfy their own lusts and pleasures.
We titled this week’s lesson “The Intersection,” because the Bible presents us with one of those incomprehensible conflicts where the sovereign will of God appears to bring trial and pain into the lives of God’s people. In this case, it is the inability of Hannah, one of Elkanah’s wives, to get pregnant and have a child. To make matters worse, Elkanah has two wives, and his other wife, Peninnah, not only has several children with Elkanah, but she uses her blessing to antagonize and ridicule Hannah to the point that Hannah is so bitterly depressed that she struggles to eat. I told you, this is a dark time.
Yet, Hannah doesn’t let her depression and bitterness rule her. She does what many of us should do, but often fail to do. She takes her pain, her bitterness, her depression to the Lord in prayer. As our teaching team studied this last part of 1 Samuel chapter 1, we concluded that in her prayer, Hannah did ask of the Lord that He would bless her with a son, but the joy and peace that she experiences is not because she is promised a son, but because she has finally surrendered her need for a child to the Lord. Psalm 37:4 tells us that we are to delight ourselves in the Lord, and when we do, he will give us the desires of our heart. We often turn this statement around so that we interpret it as “when we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us whatever we want.” That’s not what it says. Psalm 37:4 teaches us that when all our heart desires is the Lord Himself, He will fill our heart with Himself.
This is what I think we see happen in the life of Hannah. In her bitterness and depression, she surrendered her desire for a child to the Lord and replaced it with a desire for the Lord. In Samuel 2, we see Hannah express this in her prayer of praise:
My heart exults in the LORD;
my horn is exalted in the LORD.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.
That is “The Intersection,” when our desires intersect with God’s sovereignty, and we submit ourselves to His sovereign leading in our life, we experience true joy and peace, even in the midst of great trials.
May the Lord bless you and lead you this week as you study and meditate on this truth from His word.