Sunday School Lesson 5 June 2016

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Answered! God answers the prayers of those who humbly seek him

Bible passage — 1 Samuel 1:1-2:11 — focus on 1: 10-18, 26-28

Opening

Consider the homework assignment.

(Women) Read 1 Samuel 1:1-10

  • Why was Hannah so upset?
  • What was her reaction?

(Men) Read Genesis 30: 1-5

  • Why was Rachel so upset?
  • What was her reaction?

Aside: David C. sent me the following link giving a Jewish interpretation of the complex relationship between Rachel and Leah: https://www.alephbeta.org/course/lecture/understanding-leah

When we take matters into our own hands, we fail to seek God’s will.

Ask: What are the different reactions to childlessness?

Rachel seemed to blame Jacob, her husband, then she gave him her maid as wife so that she could indirectly have children. She tried to take the problem into her own hands.

Hannah directed her pain to God through prayer.

Elkanah and wives Hannah and Peninnah were from the tribe of Ephraim, whose lands are in the central hills. They went annually to worship at Shiloh, also in Ephraim. This worship center was probably the most important one at the time given the presence of the Ark of the Covenant.

The priest Eli and his two sons administered the worship center at Shiloh.

Having a son to inherit his property was considered essential for an Israelite man. Elkanah’s first and most loved wife Hannah had been unable to have a child for some time, so, according to custom, he took a second wife Peninnah, who was able to give him a son. Peninnah continually provoked Hannah, reminding her of this fact.

Having a son is also important to an Israelite woman. If she outlived her husband, without a son she would have no one to provide for her in the patriarchal Israelite culture.

So Hannah was desperate!

Hannah’s prayer

Read 1 Samuel 1: 10-18 (overlapping one verse from above)

Ask: What is the difference in Hannah’s emotional state in verses 10 and 18?

In v. 10 she was crying in desperation. In v. 18, she was no longer felt hopeless. Pouring out her heart to God changed her attitude about the situation.

She prayed to the Lord. She promised that if God gave her a son, she would give him to God for His service for his entire life. She promised his hair would never be cut.

Ask: In verse 12, what does never cutting his hair mean?

Not cutting hair was sign of a Nazirite vow—a sign of extreme devotion for a short period of time, maybe not more than a few months. Here it was a lifetime commitment. It was a longer commitment than the priests had; they served from age 25 to 50.

At first, we probably find Hannah’s bargaining with God disturbing. We may see this sometimes when a person who does not regularly pray gets in trouble and makes a promise to God to try to get out of the trouble. We cannot bargain with God. Prayer is not like a Get Out of Jail Free card in a Monopoly game. `< But Hannah was a person who apparently prayed regularly. She was honest to God about her needs and called out to Him. She showed her devotion by her vow.

God bestowed grace on her and granted her request. It was within His bigger plan for Israel.

Ask: Why is it important to be honest to God about our pains and frustrations?

We need to acknowledge them ourselves. We need to acknowledge that they are often beyond anything we can do to alleviate them. We need to submit them to God–to get them off our backs and onto God’s broad shoulders. We need to accept God’s response.

God does not need our prayers. Prayer is something we need. God wants and expects our prayers. But prayer is something we need to do; it puts our concerns in the right perspective and opens us to God’s purposes and God’s peace.

Hannah’s response

Read 1 Samuel 1: 26-28 — listen to how Hannah responded to God’s blessing.

God answered Hannah’s prayer by giving Hannah and Elkanah a son, whom they named Samuel. He remained at home until he was about 3 years old, then they took him to the Lord’s house to be dedicated. There he became an apprentice to the priest Eli.

Hannah responded faithfully in her commitment to God. We also have the responsibility to be faithful stewards of what gives us.

Any comments?

Closing

The book of 1 Samuel is, in some sense, about a political transition in Israel–from a loose confederation led by priests and God-chosen judges to a monarchy.

But the opening chapter is about an ordinary woman in great distress who shared her burden with the Lord. As a result of her faithfulness, Hannah played a key role in the working of God’s plan for Israel.

Samuel, the child born to her, becomes a stabilizing force in this period of upheaval.

Any other comments?

*Pray: Thank God for answering our prayers and for helping us to rejoice in Him and His ways.*

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