Out of the Silence Free Sample
Daring to believe
Reading: 1 Samuel 1:1-20
And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head” (verse 11).
Every good story revolves around an initial tension which finds its resolution at the end. This opening section of 1 Samuel represents a complete short story in itself: within these first 20 verses, we are presented with a tension which is subsequently resolved. What’s the tension? That Hannah is barren. The narrative tells us this, not once, twice, but thrice (verses 2, 5, 6) with the added tension within the tension that it was God who had closed her womb.
Hannah dwelt in a personal world of silence, within a nation pained by the silence of God. Hannah’s womb was silent, and her home echoed only with the sounds of other people’s children. The first 8 verses of the chapter paint a picture of deep anguish within Hannah. Antagonised by Peninnah in a merciless and sustained campaign of provocation, Hannah recoils into grief and loss of appetite (verse 7, 10, 16). Her husband’s love is expressed to her (verse 5), but he doesn’t seem to understand the depths of her trauma (verse 8).
Elkanah’s inaction against the baiting towards Hannah may have been the result of his own pain at her barrenness. The opening genealogy tells us that Elkanah came from illustrious stock. As a Zuphite, he was descended from Kohath, the second son of Levi (see 1 Chronicles 6:22-27). In the time of Moses, the Kohathites cared for the ark and other sacred items within the Tabernacle, having the privilege and responsibility of carrying them personally upon their shoulders (see Numbers 7:9). Trace your finger back across Elkanah’s family line and you should be impressed by his past. But when he looked forward . . . he saw no future through Hannah. In that Jewish context, that would have been a big deal for them both.
In the midst of a nation starved of the word of God and in the midst of a family pained by the silence of barrenness, Hannah dares to believe that there is a God who will both hear and answer. She becomes an example for all those who face silences of their own kind, all who wait for answers to their own questions and yearnings. Today’s reading is full of questions. Elkanah questions Hannah’s behaviour (verse 8). She faces similar interrogation by Eli’s questions (verse 14). If God sat opposite you at the moment, what questions would you most like to ask Him?
Hannah’s choice to dare to believe that God might hear and answer leads her to pray. We see good principles for prayer in her approach:
Honesty: “I was pouring out my soul to the Lord” (verse 15)
A call for God’s attention: “O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember . . .” (verse 11)
Petition: “But give her a son . . .” (verse 11)
Persistence: “As she kept on praying” (verse 12)
Praying silently: “Hannah was praying in her heart” (verse 13)
What becomes of this daring prayer for a child? Once Eli has overcome his misunderstanding of her situation, he pronounces a priestly blessing upon her, an expectation that the silence will be broken, that God will answer. That priestly statement brings both peace and hope to Hannah. She eats again, her grief lifts and she chooses to worship (verses 17-19). And the silence of God is indeed broken as a result of her daring prayer: she conceives and Samuel is born. How fitting that he should bear that name which, as we saw in the introduction, is a declaration of a new era, not only for his family, but also for all Israel. God was hearing and speaking again.
What daring prayer would you like to bring to God today? What waiting and time of silence would you most like God to break through? Let Hannah be your model. Begin with honesty before God. Do not hold back; your own anguish of heart will not be dismissed by God. Hannah’s tears in the Tabernacle were heard. Then out of your honesty, bring your longed-for request. And keep at it; learn from Hannah’s persistence. We cannot know at the outset how God may bring His newness to us. For Hannah, her longings for a child fell within God’s wider purposes for Israel. So, the One who had closed her womb then opened it. But for us, the outcome might not be directly in line with our specific yearnings. The deepest kind of trust we place in God is when we can yield to His answers for our prayers. But newness is always His heart for us. A daring prayer will place us in the best position to receive from God whatever newness He intends for us.
In the face of silence, venture into an adventure with God, by choosing to trust He hears and answers. Bring your yearning to Him. And wait for His Spirit to bring newness. You may be surprised at what He does. Your daring to believe will be the first step of the journey. God’s answer will be “because [you] asked the Lord” (verse 20).
O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon me and remember me and not forget me. [Now speak with God honestly about something that troubles you because there seems to be a silence over that situation in your life. Then, bring your petition to God. What is your request of Him?] Lord, grant me your peace, as I wait for your answer to what I have asked of you. I place my trust in you. Out of the silence, hear and speak. Amen.