(The Faith Forum Series – Batch 2)
It is amazing how you can read a scripture from the Bible more than once and still get something fresh from it, that you didn’t on a previous occasion, although you felt you had read it thoroughly.
The Bible is an amazing book of God’s truth, that keeps on giving! This has been my experience on many occasions and it just reminds me that God’s Word is not just words contained in a book but it is truly alive.
I have read the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel Chapter 1 on countless occasions, so that by now, you would think I had exhausted everything there was to learn from that blessed Chapter. However, this morning, in reading it afresh, four (4) key points struck me, which I would like to share as follows:-
KEY POINT 1: FAVOUR BRINGS JEALOUSY, ENEMIES AND ATTACKS
Verses 4-6 of Chapter 1 state that Elkanah, Hannah’s husband, loved Hannah and gave her a better portion over and above the portion he gave to his other wife Peninnah and to all of Peninnah’s sons and daughters. It therefore implied that Elkanah loved Hannah more than Peninnah, his second wife or maybe he was not in love with Peninnah at all.
The scripture goes on to say that Hannah could not conceive and that her adversary (Peninnah) provoked her sore, to make her fret because of her barren womb.
This scenario reminded me of the experience that God’s children have today and have always had throughout the age of time. Peninnah positioned herself as the adversary or enemy of Hannah because she realized that Hannah had favour with Elkanah and not her. She therefore hated her, rejoiced in her pain and wanted to maximise this as much as possible. Her jealousy of the love that Elkanah had for Hannah, motivated her to provoke and harass her, in the hope that she would fret, worry and suffer even more psychologically, due to her barren state.
This is EXACTLY what the devil does. He is fully aware of the love that God has for those who are his children, meaning those that genuinely believe in and have confessed the Lordship of Jesus Christ as their Saviour. He is also aware of the favour that is on their lives and given that he does not have that favour and can do nothing to gain it, he is angry, bitter and jealous. He therefore, goes about as our adversary, trying to get us to fret and worry about life and even to destroy us.
1 Peter 5:8 states that as Christians, we should “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”
KEY POINT 2: NO MATTER WHAT GOD ALLOWS, HE IS STILL IN CONTROL
Verse 5 states that it was the Lord that had shut up Hannah’s womb. This is a powerful statement right here. It shows that Hannah’s barren state was not by chance but by God’s design. He was in control of the situation, as bleak as it looked and it was he that had decided, in his wisdom, to not allow any babies to be conceived in her womb.
No explanation was given to her as to why and no explanation needed to be given because God is God. He was fully aware that in shutting Hannah’s womb, this would give her adversary Peninnah ammunition. He was aware that Peninnah’s taunts which continued for years, would hurt Hannah grievously and contribute to her sorrow and shame, yet he still allowed it and took the decision to shut up her womb.
This reminds us as Christians, that no matter what we go through, what happens or how much we hurt in an unchanged situation, God has not lost control. It also reminds us that nothing can happen to us without him knowing about it and allowing it to happen in the first place. He is a God of providence and still rules over all.
We may never understand why he allows certain things and may find it hard to understand why he would permit us to suffer so, when he could easily deliver us from a situation but he wants us to trust him still. We must continue to trust his heart, trust his will, trust his purpose and trust his timing. Even when it makes no sense and our enemies are provoking us sore because of where we find ourselves, we should still trust God.
As a single woman who has longed to be married for years and has been provoked, ridiculed and thought to be out of favour with God by others because of my unmarried state, I know how painful feeling stuck can feel, when you want the situation to change so badly. Yet, God in his wisdom has allowed me to remain single and to date, there is not a prospect in sight. I don’t understand fully why, although through the years, I have seen his hand working in other areas in my life.
I also know what it feels like to be jobless, doing everything within your power to obtain employment, yet failing miserably because God has the door firmly shut for a season and as a result, you are made to be the laughing stock by those around you because of it.
It was through those jobless moments though, that many of these Articles I write were written. So God had a plan, although nobody could see it then, to use me, in my brokenness, to bear spiritual fruit for the edification of many.
Irrespective of what we go through and how others provoke us during our down seasons, through it all, we must never forget, that God loves us and that his will for our lives is perfect. We must also trust him with our enemies and those who see our situation as an opportunity to provoke and ridicule us. They too are in God’s hands.
KEY POINT 3: PROVOCATION CAN BE A SPIRITUAL BLESSING
Verses 7 -11 of Chapter 1 state that, as a result of Peninnah’s continued provocation, Hannah wept and had even reached the point where she could not eat. However, after enduring this abusive and oppressive treatment for years from Peninnah and with no lower point in her grief to sink, Hannah rose up after the others had eaten and drunk and prayed to the Lord.
I am sure that this was not the first time Hannah prayed to the Lord or asked him to grant her a child. However, the kind of prayer she prayed at this point in her life was one maybe unlike any other that she had prayed before. It was a prayer that was motivated by the pain of the provocation and such that could only be prayed from someone under relentless attack. It was a desperate, soul-bearing, fervent kind of prayer.
The verses state that “…she was in bitterness of soul and prayed unto the Lord and wept sore…” In verses 15 and 16, Hannah states to Eli “…I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord….out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.”
She was a woman intoxicated, not with alcohol but with grief and this was fuelled and intensified by the provocation. I certainly know how it feels, to be down and out and to be provoked sore, when your face is already to the dust.
Yet, the provocation can be a blessing. It was the provocation of Peninnah that motivated Hannah to pray like how she prayed, fervently, effectively, bearing her soul before the Lord. Had Peninnah not been taunting her, she may have prayed another passive prayer but she had reached her boiling point.
As Christians, sometimes God will allow us to be attacked by the enemy, be ill-spoken of, accused, ridiculed and tormented, so that when we reach that point where we can take no more, it would take us far into a place in his throne room, that we have never been before.
Many of us are prone to pray passive prayers but sometimes God will allow us to be so provoked or overcome with grief, that it will take us to a new level, due to our desperation for change. The fire lit below us, so to speak, will cause us to weep desperately before the Lord, the one that we know can help us. The fiery trial would cause us to bare our souls before him, in a way that we may have never done before.
This is what Hannah did and she had Penninah to thank for it. This is what you call turning around provocation for good. The Word of God states that all things work together for good to them that love the Lord and that are called according to his purpose and this was certainly the case with Hannah (Romans 8:28).
I had a similar experience during a period of joblessness in 2015 to 2016 or thereabout. I felt so low in that period and was laughed at so much, that I eventually reached my breaking point and laid my soul out before the Lord with tears that were incessant and words muttered from a heart drunk with pain and grief. Enough was enough and I knew that I could take the hurt and the shame no more. The pain therefore worked wonders for my prayer life because I could not afford, in my pain, to pray passive prayers. I cried and cried to the Lord, begging him to change my situation, if only to silence the naysayers and critics and to remind them that HE was still on the throne.
My God was faithful and when he was good and ready, he moved and opened the door of employment again, that he had kept firmly shut and padlocked during that season, for what had seemed to me to be like an eternity.
In retrospect, I don’t think that I have ever experienced so much pain in my entire life and it was prolonged for months. Yet, I don’t think that I have ever prayed and fasted how I prayed and fasted during that season of barrenness, in my entire life. It was therefore the provocation that worked to empower me, to break down the door behind which my blessing lay, in faith. For this, I am grateful.
KEY POINT 4: EFFECTUAL, FERVENT, FAITH-FILLED PRAYER TO GOD, CHANGES OUR MINDSET, STRENGTHENS US AND FILLS US WITH HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
Verses 17-18 of Chapter 1 state that after Hannah had prayed and Eli told her to go in peace, Hannah left and her “…countenance was no more sad.” She did not hear an audible word from the Lord stating that she would definitely get what she asked for or when but she left the entire situation in his hands, believing, after that fervent and effectual prayer, that it would be granted. She left the throne room of grace therefore with strong faith, that it was already done.
The Bible does not say that when Hannah returned home, that Peninnah stopped provoking her. Yet, Hannah was able to eat and despite whatever taunts continued, it was immaterial because she was no longer sad. Unknown to Penninah who mistakenly thought that it was just another ordinary day to continue to mete out abuse and ridicule to Hannah and to make her cry, something had changed in Hannah’s mindset. For, she had had an encounter with the true and living and all powerful God and she was simply waiting on her miracle.
I could imagine Peninnah’s confusion. There she was, probably continuing to do what she had done for years, yet, this time, her efforts to provoke Hannah to fret were no longer working. She was using the same diabolical formula but the results were not the same. Hannah was no longer crying! What had happened? Why was she so calm and content…and confident?
There is nothing the enemy hates more than when he attacks and we remain calm, cool and collected, even daring to sing the praises of God and worship him in the middle of it. Verse 19 says that the morning after Hannah had prayed, she joined the rest of the family in rising up early and worshiping the Lord.
I could only imagine how Peninnah’s efforts, which were now wasted, would have caused HER to now fret, become anxious, worry and be even more insecure about the whole situation. The tables had turned, although she most likely could not figure out why. For, notably, it was clear for all to see, that Hannah, for some reason, was no more perturbed by all that she could think of to do to torment her and instead, stood shockingly confident and joyful, although, as far as Peninnah could see, her situation had not changed.
When the devil uses the same tactics he has done on us for years and after spending quality time in God’s presence, we emerge with a different attitude and no longer consider ourselves to be victims but VICTORS through Jesus Christ, he becomes uneasy, unsettled and unhappy.
Hannah waited in faith and God was faithful to her and remembered her. In his perfect timing and without asking for Peninnah’s permission or how she felt about it, God granted Hannah the child she prayed for.
Now, not only was Hannah still dearly loved and favoured by Elkanah but to Peninnah’s dismay, she Peninnah, now had no upper hand or advantage over her anymore. She could no more boast that she had borne Elkanah children because now, Hannah had too. As if this was not enough, after Hannah gave God the praise and thanked him in prayer for the child he had allowed her to bear, God further silenced Peninnah by visiting Hannah and causing her to bear five (5) more children (yes, I said five (5) more children!) for her husband Elkanah (1 Samuel 2:21).
When we have prayed effectually and fervently about any matter to the Lord, we should no longer allow our adversary to make us sad, even if he continues to provoke us. For, our situation is in God’s hands and we can be confident, like Hannah, that it is only a matter of time before God intervenes, not always to give us what we want but to set everything right.
If we go to him in prayer, effectually and fervently, having faith that he is able to do all things, he will work everything out in his own timing, as he sees fit, for our good and his glory.
(Written on 12th September, 2017)
Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be interesting, informative or edifying, I recommend that you also read the following:
- Note 161 – ‘Overcoming Oppression – Spiritual Warfare’
- Note 171 – ‘Dear Peninnah’
Additionally, under the ‘BIBLE-BELIEVING Daughters’ page:
- Note 212 – ‘Frustration In His Silence’
Under the ‘MARRIED Daughters’ page:
- Note 4 – ‘God’s Power – Defying The Cultural Norm’