Today: [1 Samuel Chapter One]: God Always Answers Prayer. In this chapter we see the events leading up to Samuel’s birth. Samuel was a prophet that God would not allow his words to fall to the ground. Why did God deal with Samuel in this way? Because before Samuel was born his mother made a promise and would not allow her words to fall to the ground. Samuel, Saul and Solomon’s names all mean “Asked for”. Many think God says no when we ask Him but the sobering thought is rather that He always says yes even when the answer has implications for our lives that are unanticipated.
[1Sa 1:1-28 KJV] 1 Now there was a certain man of Ramathaimzophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name [was] Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite: 2 And 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. 3 And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, [were] there. 4 And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions: 5 But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb. 6 And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb. 7 And [as] he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat. 8 Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? [am] not I better to thee than ten sons?
In this chapter we see the events leading up to the birth of Samuel. Samuel, Saul and Solomon’s names all contain a similar meaning of being “asked for”. Samuel’s mother cried out for a son. Saul was asked for by the people. Solomon was asked for after the death of David and Bathsheba’s first son. They illustrate the response of God to the cry of the heart. Even when God did not desire the people to be ruled by a king He nonetheless gave the people king Saul. This is a deep truth that many do not understand. Many say that “God always answers prayer but sometimes He says no…” This is often a religious platitude to mask unbelief. The question is not whether or not God will answer prayer but whether or not we have faith to believe. This is a controversial thought that deeply provokes those who feel more of an affinity with unanswered prayer than they do with the promise of God.
Hannah cries out to God and God will answer her. The people cry out for a king and God will answer. David and Bathsheba even in the situation that brought them together nevertheless were blessed with Solomon. Never assume that you know that someone is excluded or that there is a prayer that God will not answer. Rather remember that God will always answer and think before we ask.
9 So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD. 10 And she [was] in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore. 11 And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt 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. 12 And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth. 13 Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. 14 And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee. 15 And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, 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. 16 Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto. 17 Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant [thee] thy petition that thou hast asked of him. 18 And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more [sad].
Hannah goes to pray before the temple in Shiloh. The temple is not a building it is the tent with its religious artifacts that had been constructed in the wilderness. Eli the High Priest is standing by watching her pray and thinks she has been drinking. Notice that Hannah vows a vow. God would have answered her any way. We often make vows and oaths to God. Many people in the biblical narrative we see taking oaths and vows but I don’t see one instance where God initiated the request for such a commitment. A vow many times is motivated by the thought that God is reluctant to answer so we have to offer Him something. You do not have to overcome God’s reluctance to answer your prayer. He doesn’t have any. Remember the words of Paul:
[2Co 1:20 KJV] 20 For all the promises of God in him [are] yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.
Notice the response of the High Priest to Hannah: “The Lord grant you petition…” There is a presumptive authority in Eli because of his position. He stands in the stead of God. We are also kings and priests of God. We can be confident not only that God will grant our prayers but also the prayers of others. We are ambassadors of the kingdom of God and have far more authority than we know. What was Hannah’s response to Eli? She wasn’t pregnant yet but she had an ironclad faith that God would answer her prayer – she goes on her way no more sad.
19 And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the LORD, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the LORD remembered her. 20 Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, [saying], Because I have asked him of the LORD.
How did God answer Hannah’s prayer? Through natural conception. There are many prayers that we pray and then in the course of time through natural process the prayer is answered. Those looking on would say that this is no answer to prayer at all but always remember that God is a God of PROCESS as well as OUTCOME. He answers prayer in the manner and means of His own choosing. If others don’t see the miraculous in what takes place that is not our concern. God does not answer prayer to prove something to those looking on. He is not insecure. He does not have anything to prove. He does not have a performing spirit that needs an audience before He will act. God’s concern was for Hannah and Elkanah alone. It mattered not whether others appreciated what was happening.
Elkanah and Hannah lived in Ramah which means high place. This is also one of the three places in the year where Samuel sat and judged Israel. Throughout his life Samuel would travel from place to place in three different locations and receive the people who lined up to ask him questions and for counsel. This is how he met Saul. The people would come and line up to gain an audience with the prophet. They would not come empty handed. God literally ruled Israel in Samuel’s lifetime by this method. This is how Moses also as a prophet ruled the people in the wilderness. He eventually appointed 70 men that he imparted prophetic spirit to assist him to minister to the thousands that lined up from morning till evening to receive his prophetic counsel. We are much more benefited today. We don’t have to stand in the hot sun all day or travel to some far corner of Israel to hear the prophet. We have the internet. We can come before the prophets and here the counsel of God over our lives. Samuel ruled from the high place. The prophetic is a high place. The prophet over your life is a living portal to the mind of God and the heart of God. He is placed there for your good and to further God’s purposes in your life. Lives were transformed when they came to Samuel. Remember Saul who came to Samuel as a mere herdsmen and left an anointed king. Don’t ever take for granted the place of the prophetic in your life and what happens when you come before the prophet.
21 And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and his vow. 22 But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, [I will not go up] until the child be weaned, and [then] I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide for ever. 23 And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him; only the LORD establish his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she weaned him. 24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the LORD in Shiloh: and the child [was] young. 25 And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, Oh my lord, [as] thy soul liveth, my lord, I [am] the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD. 27 For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him: 28 Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.
Hannah made a vow concerning Samuel’s birth. She said she would commit the child to the Lord like Samson was devoted to the Lord. We don’t see that God asked her to make the oath but she is making good on her promise nonetheless. When you make a vow you should be very cautious about deciding you didn’t mean it and going on your way without fulfilling your obligation. Remember the words of Solomon:
[Ecc 5:4-6 KJV] 4 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for [he hath] no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. 5 Better [is it] that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. 6 Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it [was] an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?
Angels are creatures of absolute obedience. 1 Peter 1:12 says that angels desire to look into the concept of forgiveness and redemption but cannot. They know nothing of changing your mind or deciding you didn’t mean what you said. The angel told Daniel “I am come for your words…” What if Daniel had said “I was just kidding?” Better not to vow. Vows are rooted in a stronghold of thought that God is not inclined to answer your prayer. Jesus speaking on the subject of vows said not to make such oaths but to let you “yes be yes and your no be no…”
Nevertheless Hannah returns to the priest Eli and leaves the child Samuel with him. Can you imagine a woman doing this today? Can you see an infertile woman asking for a child and then returning the child to the minister who prays for her as a gift to God? We don’t know of such devotion and integrity today. It doesn’t exist in our culture. Samuel grows into a man whose words God would not allow to fall to the ground. But before God stood by His word we see Samuel’s mother standing by her word. In everything that God does He very often first requires a man or woman to commit in faith before He does it. Consider the example of Abraham – he offered up Isaac, his only begotten son to God before God offered His only begotten son of the line of Isaac. This is what it means to seek the kingdom. We must be as faithful to God in anticipation of answered prayer as we expect Him to be in answering our prayer.
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