They had encounters with the Great I Am and it transformed them. Their life course changed. Heads bowed low in pain, shame and discouragement no more. When you read their stories it elevates your faith.
I shared Gomer’s story with you last week. In the upcoming weeks I’ll share new ones with you. I call them Soul Sisters. I rather think we are all similar in that we have experienced hurts, stumbles, failings, and lean seasons when we feel our prayers don’t reach the ceiling. And we can testify to God’s goodness and grace.
I wouldn’t be sitting here now if I didn’t have my own encounter with Jesus. I need Him so badly. He makes me sparkle. It’s my prayer that you have your own “face to face” with Jesus.
The feast of Tabernacles was an event not to be missed. Families traveled far to Shiloh to attend this festive time. This was a time to celebrate God’s blessings and favor. It was a time to meet with Almighty God. Groups of families assembled in the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle. Some stood aside and worshipped loudly. Others cried out to Jehovah with their faces to the ground.
Elkanah and his clan were gathered around a cheerful meal that accompanied the fellowship offering. Elkanah always gave his wives Hannah and Peninnah portions of choice meat to enjoy. Hannah got a double portion because he loved her so much.
In this special time when everyone was celebrating the presence and blessings of Jehovah, Hannah was miserable. With her head bent low, she picked at her food. A touch on her shoulder caused her to flinch. Peninnah’s little son stood beside her, a smile bursting through his grubby face.
“What do you think you are doing? Get away from that woman!” Peninnah snatched his arm and dragged him back. She gathered her children around like a brooding hen and glared at her. “Get your own children. Oh, I forgot, you can’t have any.” Peninnah taunted and harassed her constantly, yet it seemed worse here at the temple.
Peninnah rubbed Hannah’s barrenness in her face at every opportunity. To be barren was a curse that implied God’s displeasure. Peninnah’s accusations stung like poisonous darts, and caused Hannah’s had to droop lower and lower.
Here in the midst of a festive time, seated at a meal fit for a queen, she couldn’t even eat a bite. Tears flowed and dribbled onto her uneaten meal. She took to heart every ugly word.
How could she worship and celebrate when God was displeased with her. He had closed up her womb. She felt unloved, unwanted and unworthy. Nothing could make up for the void she felt. Even her husband’s well meaning words were of no avail. “Why are you so downhearted? Why don’t you eat? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
You and I have been given a double portion. We are seated at a bountiful feast. We are told that we loved and desired by the One who has given this to us. Yet we hesitate enjoying this. We sit with our heads down, we pick at our food. What keeps us from partaking in this great feast? Why don’t we rest in the presence of Jesus?
Hannah’s barrenness kept raising its ugly head; it filled her vision. What fills your vision? Is it your barren and broken past? Is it your failures and disappointments?
Hannah had an adversary, Peninnah, who constantly harassed and taunted her. Are we any different? We certainly have an enemy, the Devil. We sit at the table of our Lord and when we start to enjoy ourselves, he brings up all kind of trash and rubs it in our face.
Often we listen too much and take it all to heart. Our heads begin to droop, the silverware slips from our fingers. We excuse ourselves, feeling unworthy and ashamed to enjoy our Jesus.
Peninnah’s strident voice broke through her reverie. Hannah glanced up to see her sneering face. She couldn’t take it anymore. She rose and wandered through the crowd, completely oblivious to the jovial atmosphere around her.
A child’s laugh caught her attention. She glanced down to see a mother playing peek-a-boo with her son. The poisonous darts pierced deeper still. She felt utterly alone in her despair and misery. Stumbling she found a place where she could lick her wounds alone.
Would the face of a child always bring such torment? Is this what she had to look forward to for the rest of her life? Perhaps it would be better to allow this desire for a child to die; at least disappointment couldn’t crush her again. Yet could she give up this burning desire for a son?
She gazed around her at the people praying nearby. Her heart began to throb, her body trembled. She felt drawn to cry out to God.
Dare she pray? Would God even hear her cry? Surely the same God who answered Sarah and Rachel’s prayer for a child is the same God who abided in this tabernacle.
She hesitated for a moment, and then threw all restraint to the wind. With her heart wide open she poured herself out and pleaded for her deepest desire; a son. She was in such anguish that the priest standing nearby thought she drunk and rebuked her.
Yet she didn’t care what anyone thought, she knew where her hope lie. In her darkest hour she found that God hadn’t rejected her. “Go in peace,” the priest said, after hearing her story. “May the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him.”
At that moment peace settled deeply in her spirit. The despair and hurt eased away. God met her and gave just what she needed. She turned back different, so much so it showed on her face. Her appetite even improved. She sat down at her meal and enjoyed the rest of their time at the festival.
Hannah refused to allow her hope to die. She could have given up and resigned herself to a barren future. This is what makes her so remarkable. Rejection didn’t shut her up. Opposition didn’t keep her away. She pushed them aside and sought after her God. And God was pleased to show Himself strong on her behalf.
God did answer her prayer by giving her a son. In fact Hannah had three sons and two daughters. Her first son Samuel was used by God as a great prophet. But more importantly God did a work in Hannah. We see her grow from a downcast, miserable woman, to a confident, strong woman who delighted in her God. She sang out, “My heart rejoices in the Lord, in the Lord my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in Your deliverance. There is no one holy like the Lord, there is no one besides You, there is no Rock like our God.” 1 Samuel 2:1-2
Have you snuffed out those dreams that used to burn within you? Have you resigned yourself to a barren future, certain that the rest of your life will be colorless, meaningless? Are you sitting at the table with Jesus, yet keeping yourself at arm’s length?
Woman of God, it is time to rise up and become what God intended you to be. He has so much more for you and He’s made available to you all the resources and power to make it happen. He desires it more than you do.
When your life is over, you don’t want to look back with regret at what could have been. Take all that He has for you now. This is your day, your opportunity.
Your God is drawing you, calling to you. Seek after Him today. Do not allow rejection and opposition to keep you away anymore. It is your time. Find your purpose and His acceptance.