July 1: God Makes Good out of Trouble
1 Samuel 1:1–2:21; James 1:1–8; Psalm 119:1–16
God often shows His goodness to us through trials, making good out of human error. We see this principle in the lives of Elkanah and Hannah. Elkanah was prone to make mistakes. His first mistake was to marry two wives (1 Sam 1:1–4); his second blunder was to ignore his wives’ disputes (1 Sam 1:6). On top of that, he repeatedly imposed his own form of justice by giving Hannah double what he offered Peninnah, his other wife (1 Sam 1:5). In this story, however, the goodness of God redeems the mistakes made by fallible people.
Despite Elkanah’s generosity to her, Hannah was deeply disturbed: Nothing Elkanah offered could compensate for her barrenness (1 Sam 1:8–10). In this period, women who had not borne children were often considered accursed and second rate, as demonstrated by Peninnah’s persecution of Hannah. In her distress, Hannah prayed to God at the temple, seeking redemption. Eli the priest recognized the sincerity of her plea and blessed her (1 Sam 1:15–18).
God also recognized Hannah’s sincerity, and He answered her call by giving her a son, Samuel, who would grow up to be a great prophet (1 Sam 1:19–28). Hannah’s son offered her hope; in response, she delivered a beautiful piece of poetry to honor Yahweh’s goodness (1 Sam 2:1–11). This poem was so significant that Mary would later echo it in her own song of praise (see Luke 1:46–56). Through Hannah’s story, we see that God’s work among His people is so interconnected that He often chooses to answer not only our prayers, but also the prayers of others in the process.
In scenes like this—where God not only makes good out of a bad situation, but also sets up a providential event in the history of His people—we see much of the framework for the Christian life. New Testament writers including James drew on stories such as Hannah’s when discussing the trials of God’s people. In the first century AD, James remarks in a letter: “Consider it all joy, my brothers [and sisters], whenever you encounter various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jas 1:2–4).
Hannah’s story shows us that when we pray to God, He shows up. And in the midst of our dire circumstances, He answers the call of not one, but many people. Here, in the pain, we learn what it means to know our Lord and savior.
What trials are you currently experiencing? What do you think God is doing through them?
JOHN D. BARRY
- There was a man of one of the two Ramathaim Zophim, of mount Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. And this man went up out of his city every year, to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts in Shiloh, where were the two sons of Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas, Priests of the Lord. And on a day, when Elkanah sacrificed, he gave to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters portions, But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion: for he loved Hannah, and the Lord had made her barren. And her adversary vexed her sore, forasmuch as she upbraided her, because the Lord had made her barren. (And so did he year by year) and as oft as she went up to the house of the Lord, thus she vexed her, that she wept and did not eat. Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thine heart troubled? am not I better to thee than ten sons? So Hannah rose up after that they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh (and Eli the Priest sat upon a stool by one of the posts of the Temple of the Lord) And she was troubled in her mind, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore: Also she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt look on the trouble of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but give unto thine handmaid a man-child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. And as she continued praying before the Lord, Eli marked her mouth. For Hannah spake in her heart: her lips did move only, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? Put away thy drunkenness from thee. Then Hannah answered and said, Nay my lord, but I am a woman troubled in spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. Count not thine handmaid for a wicked woman: for the abundance of my complaint and my grief have I spoken hitherto. Then Eli answered, and said, Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant thy petition that thou hast asked of him. Then Eli answered, and said, Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant thy petition that thou hast asked of him. She said again, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight: so the woman went her way, and did eat, and looked no more sad. Then they rose up early, and worshipped before the Lord, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah. Now Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. For in process of time Hannah conceived and bare a son, and she called his name Samuel, Because, she said, I have asked him of the Lord. So the man Elkanah and all his house, went up to offer unto the Lord the yearly sacrifice and his vow: But Hannah went not up: for she said unto her husband, I will tarry until the child be weaned, then I will bring him that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide forever. And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee best: tarry until thou hast weaned him: only the Lord accomplished his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she weaned him. And when she had weaned him, she took him with her with three bullocks and an Ephah of flour and a bottle of wine, and bought him unto the house of the Lord in Shiloh, and the child was young. And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli. And she said, O my Lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood with thee here praying unto the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord hath given me my desire which I asked ofhim. Therefore also I have given him unto the Lord, as long as he liveth shall he be given unto the Lord: and he worshipped the Lord there. And Hannah prayed, and said, Mine heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn is exalted in the Lord: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies, because I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy as the Lord: yea, there is none beside thee, and there is no god like our God. Speak no more presumptuously: let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him enterprises are established. The bow and the mighty men are broken, and the weak have girded themselves with strength. They that were full, are hired forth for bread, and the hungry are no more hired, so that the barren hath borne seven: and she that had many children is feeble. The Lord killeth and maketh alive: bringeth down to the grave and raiseth up. The Lord maketh poor and maketh rich: bringeth low, and exalteth. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifted up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the seat of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them. He will keep the feet of his Saints, and the wicked shall keep silence in darkness: for in his own might shall no man be strong. The Lord’s adversaries shall be destroyed, and out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the Lord shall judge the ends of the world, and shall give power unto his King, and exalt the horn of his Anointed. And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house, and the child did minister unto the Lord before Eli the Priest. Now the sons of Eli were wicked men, and knew not the Lord. For the Priest’s custom toward the people was this: when any man offered sacrifice, the Priest’s boy came, while the flesh was seething, and a fleshhook brought up, the Priest took for himself: thus they did unto all the Israelites, that came hither to Shiloh. Yea, before they burnt the fat, the Priest’s boy came and said unto the man that offered, Give me flesh to roast for the Preist: for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw. And if any man said unto him, Let them burn the fat according to the custom, then take as much as thine heart desireth: then he would answer, No, but thou shalt give it now: and if thou wilt not, I will take it by force. Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord: for men abhorred the offering of the Lord. Now Samuel being a young child ministered before the Lord, girded with a linen Ephod. And his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband, to offer the yearly sacrifice. And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The Lord give thee seed of this woman, for the petition that she asked of the Lord: and they departed unto their place. And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons, and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the Lord. 1 Samuel 1:1–2:21
- James a servant of God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve Tribes, which are scattered abroad, salutation. My brethren, count it exceeding joy, when ye fall into divers tentations, Knowing that the trying of your faith bringeth forth patience, And let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, which giveth to all men liberally, and reproacheth no man, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, and waver not: for he that wavereth, is like a wave of the sea, tossed of the wind, and carried away. Neither let that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. James 1:1–8
- Blessed are those that are upright in their way, and walk in the Law of the Lord. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and seek him with their whole heart. Surely they work none inquity, but walk in his ways. Thou hast commanded to keep thy precepts diligently. Oh that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then should I not be confounded, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. I will praise thee with an upright heart, when I shall learn the judgments of thy righteousness. I will keep thy statutes: forsake me not overlong. Wherewith shall a young man redress his way? in taking heed thereto accoding to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: let me not wander from thy commandments. I have hid thy promise in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes. With my whole heart have I sought thee: let me not wander from thy commandments. I have hid thy promise in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes. With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. I have had as great delight in the way of thy testimonies, as in all riches. I will meditate in thy precepts, and consider thy ways. I will delight in thy statutes, and I will not forget thy word. Psalm 119:1–16