There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
Marked by social, political, and religious chaos, the biblical era described in the book of Judges was not dissimilar to our own times. The chaos was summarized and explained in this way: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). For people living in Israel at that point in history, around 1000 BC, it was almost as if the world were upside down. To many, it seemed that an earthly king was the only remedy for their problems.
In the midst of all this, we find the spotlight of Scripture alighting on the domestic circumstances of one man, Elkanah. His wife Hannah (presumably his first) was childless, while his second wife had many sons and daughters. Since God had promised that Abraham’s family, Israel, would grow to be countless and that it would be through a child born in Israel that He would bless the world, childlessness was more than a matter of personal sadness; it meant being unable to be a part of the way God was keeping His promises to His people. Small wonder, then, that Hannah was hopeless and helpless (1 Samuel 1:7-8). The simple statement that “Hannah had no children” describes a life of deep anguish. And yet through her, God would once again do what He had done throughout the history of His people: reach into the ordinary life of a family and, through His intervention, not only impact them but also direct the course of human history.
Hannah would surely have wondered, month by disappointing month and more and more with every passing year, “Why is this happening to me?” She could not have known that in the withholding, and then in the giving, of a child, God was doing something that would not only answer her own need but would begin to address Israel’s need. For her son, Samuel, would one day be the prophet who would anoint David, Old Testament Israel’s greatest king.
At times we may feel that we don’t fit in the grand scheme of things. Our situations, too, can appear hopeless and helpless. We, too, wonder, “Why is this happening to me?” But as with Hannah, the answer to our question may be in neither the “this” or the “me.” The ways of God are vast and beyond our ability to comprehend—and in many cases it will only be in glory that we will get past the surface of understanding how He works in our lives. For now, the story of Hannah reminds us that we can trust God to be at work, to keep His promises, and to reach into the ordinariness of life and intervene in ways that are beyond imagination.
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Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company, thegoodbook.com. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.