I want to begin with a quote that I found in a book in my library. It's by Galan Anderson. He said a man's life is either the tumbleweed or the oak tree. Some people just grow like the weed. They are of no value in their youth and as the years of life come, they break loose and become a blotch on society. They have no useful purpose. Just drifters. Their loved ones will mourn their loss, but society will not miss them. Then there are those whose lives are like the oak. They have turned from the frivolity of this life and have invested in things that have genuine worth. Their influence for good will live on in the lives of others after they are gone. Their death is noticed because their lives were spent bettering the nation and the community. They will be missed.
That's a good way to begin this series. I'm calling it Movers and Shakers. It talks about the lives of people who influenced the nation in the formative years when it was just budding into monarchy. The nation of Israel was established in the land. It was a low point in the nation after the period of the judges. And then three people came on the scene: a prophet, a politician, and a poet. The prophet was named Samuel. The politician, Saul. The poet who turned king was named King David. The key concept is influence in this series. These are people who influenced an entire nation. They all three had great starts. One had a very bad ending but they all three had great starts. All three of them had flaws. We'll see them in the next few weeks. All three of them influenced a nation and all three of them influenced each other as well. It seems that our influence is either negative or positive. It's never neutral. The footprints that we leave in people's lives are for the good or for the worse. And we're going to look at the lives of these people in the next few weeks. Maybe you can think of those in your lives that have influenced you. They've had a good impact on you. Made a great impression on you. Perhaps it was a teacher or it was a grandparent or a parent or a good friend. Somebody that you met that dramatically impacted your life. It could've even been a cartoon character. It's funny how we get impressions from many, many different sources.
But the issue we want to focus on is what kind of footprints are we leaving in our family? What kind of footprints are we leaving; impressions are we leaving, in our church, in our community? You should also know that this is not just the story of three great men. There are women involved and we're going to look at their lives as we go through this series on movers and shakers as well. In fact, the beginning of the story begins with a woman named Hannah. That's where we start this morning and that's where the author begins with her life. You know it seems that whenever God wants to do a great work, He gets hold of a man. And whenever God wants to do an exceptionally great work, He gets hold of a woman. I've seen that in so many instances where when there is a need that arises in the church women first come to volunteer to help out. Look in the Scripture at how many times that happened. The story of redemption in the book of Exodus begins with a godly woman named Jochebed, the mother of Moses, who had faith to drift her baby off in the river and then there's another girl, Moses' sister who watches as he goes and fills in another woman, Pharaoh's daughter. Three women begin the story of redemption.
The story of the genealogy of Christ from King David begins with a woman, a Moabitess, named Ruth who marries Boaz who has Obed and then Jesse and then David. The story of miraculous preservation of the entire Jewish nation in the country of Persia is because of a woman named Hadassah. We know her by her Persian name better: Esther. The story of the Gospels begins with a woman named Mary, a woman of faith trusting upon the Lord, the mother of Jesus. There's an old proverb that says one generation plants the tree and another gets the shade. Samuel, the prophet, the first in the groupings known as the Prophets, gets the shade from a wonderful woman by the name of Hannah, his mother. She provided the shade. She was the oak tree that Galan Anderson spoke about. In fact, the entire nation of Israel has a debt of gratitude to pay this woman. We're going to read her story this morning, or part of it. We're going to look at two things. She was a woman with a problem. She was a woman with priorities.
The problem becomes quite clear. "Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, and Ephramite. And he had two wives." Now that's a problem. It's not her problem; it is his problem. And we'll see that in a moment. "The name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children." That's her problem. It's a problem indeed. "This man went up from his city yearly to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. Also the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord, were there. And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat. Then Elkanah her husband said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?"
The woman, Hannah, was a woman with a problem. She was barren. She had no children. The burning desire of every Hebrew couple was to bear children so that their name could live on in Israel. And in their view back then, the more children, the better they were. The better they would be in their old age. The better they would be as their name would develop in the land. And so Psalm 127 says children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is His reward, and happy is the one whose quiver is full of them. That was every mother's desire, every woman's desire, every man's desire, to have children. This guy has two wives which is against God's standard. God's original design in Genesis 2 is the one man, one woman relationship and it was never God's design nor desire that polygamy ever be in place. In fact, every time it was in place there was a problem. We can see it here---the rivalry. It was in ancient societies, however, permitted primarily for the perpetuity of the name of the tribe in Israel. So evidently, Elkanah married Hannah, no children developed, so he married Peninnah for the sake of having children. Childlessness was a terrible stigma. Most women believed it was a curse from God. It wasn't a curse from God. They believed it was. They took it very personally, very seriously.
You may remember back when one of the wives of Jacob named Leah finally found out she was pregnant and she rejoices saying the Lord has taken away my affliction. That's what they saw it as: an affliction, if you couldn't have children. And then when she became pregnant, the other wife of Jacob named Rachel, grabs her husband and says give me children or I'll die! A Jewish rabbi at that time said there were seven people that were excommunicated from God and the list began: a Jew who has no wife or a Jew who has a wife and who has no child. In some cases, childlessness was grounds for divorce. Now that's bad enough. Hannah had it worse. Not only was she barren, she had competition. Her name was Peninnah. She had to share the home with her and her children and notice the end of verse 4, that Elkanah would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. You get the impression that there's more than one? Like there's a whole bunch? Not only is Hannah childless, but she's in the same home with another wife that her husband shares who has lots of sons and daughters. Imagine preparing family meals. Going out on outings. Going to church. Going to worship.
In fact, the most painful period was no doubt this annual 15-mile trek from Ramathaim Zophim to Shiloh where they would worship at the tabernacle. Because the family was to give an animal in sacrifice, a portion was used to burn on the altar, the rest of the animal given back to the family, they were commanded to eat it in the presence of the Lord with rejoicing. And everybody was rejoicing except Hannah. No joy was in her heart. She was broken. Look down at verse 6: Her rival provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it was, year by year---this went on for a long time---when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat. Peninnah means pearl. What a gem she was. Peninnah the pest. Hannah means grace. It took a lot of it to put up with Peninnah. Every time they'd go to worship this rival would make fun of her. Now look down in verse 9: "So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the Lord. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish."
That verse gives insight into the emotional makeup of many people even today who deal with infertility. In fact, just the very word infertility stings as some people have to listen to it again. I did a little research this week and found that infertility affects 6.1 million people in the United States. I know that's just another statistic but let's put it in perspective. 16 couples out of 100 in church face it. that means right now I'm talking to hundreds of people who have been affected by infertility---painfully. Now you wouldn't think it's that high especially if you go over to the nursery and see how many babies are there. There are tons of them. the problem is none of them belong to those couples. And they feel very unblessed, very isolated, very left out, very afflicted. It's a pain that they deal with for years upon end sometimes. Why? Because somehow the ability to reproduce speaks to their completeness as a man or as a woman, their worth as an individual. That's not the case, we know, but that's how it feels to them. think of it. girl grows up playing house and as she plays house and imagines being a wife, she also imagines being a mother. And she takes the dolls and she imagines the time when she's going to have her own babies and what it would be like and then that dream is shattered---over and over again. Or the husband and wife, before they get married, they talk about their relationship and they start planning and the question comes up well, how many children do you want? Do you want a boy or a girl first? What would you name the child? And all of those plans are dashed once again.
And so they go to doctors. They get prayer. Get anointed with oil---whatever it takes to no avail. And it's painful. It's painful every time that couple gets a baby announcement in the mail. One of their friends is pregnant or had a child. It's painful every time there's a baby dedication at church and it's not them. it's painful every Mother's Day. And all of that to say the rest of us need to learn to walk softly around such broken hearts, to deal tenderly, because of those feelings. I want to tread, trying to follow my own advice, very carefully here but there's something to notice. It's even in our text. And that is childbearing is part of the sovereignty of God. I'll admit I don't understand it but it is part of the sovereignty of God. The Lord closed her womb, it says. It says it twice. Later on, God will open up her womb. And that is a phrase that is used not just here but often in the Scripture, that childbearing is part of the sovereignty of God. Now I'll be quick also to say I don't know why some people can have lots of kids and others can have none. Or one. I don't know why there's over a million teenage pregnancies every year by those who don't want kids while others who would desperately love to nurture them can't have any. It's an enigma. I'm puzzled by it.
One woman had to come to grips with this as many do. her name was Cindy Lohan and she wrote in an infertility journal these words: I have been prayed over. I've been anointed for healing on various occasions. But each time I've submitted to God in this area, my doctor has reported a poorer prognosis. Yes, in His own way God was answering my earnest prayers. While my self-esteem had been bruised, I realize now that it does not rest upon my ability to reproduce. A lesson that she learned. Life does not always come in packages that we design, does it? you know, we kind of plan what it's going to look like when we're a certain age and what our life's gonna be but the house with the white picket fence doesn't always happen, does it? not the way we planned. If you are unable to bear children, it does not mean you are cursed by God. It simply means that God perhaps wants to bless you in a different way. Let me give you a few suggestions. First, perhaps it's because God is preparing you for when you will have children. Just because you can't have them now doesn't necessarily mean you couldn't have them in the future. Maybe you're not ready. Some people get pregnant after a few months. Some it takes seventeen years. Another suggestion: perhaps the Lord is preparing you for foster parenting or adoptive parenting. You know, there are multitudes of children out there without any caretakers whatsoever. There are more children who would love to have parents than there are adults who want to be parents. And there are 100,000 frozen embryos in kryo banks across this country right now waiting. A third possibility is that God might want you available in some way that childbirth would make it impossible otherwise. And so God has reserved you for something special; a different kind of a blessing.
Now let me switch gears and give a little note to those who are already parents. You're already married, you're already parents, you're building your family. I want you to notice what Hannah wanted more than anything else. She wanted a family. This gal was willing to identify herself, her life, her being with being a member of a family and raising a child. Hannah wanted what many people today are willing to walk away from. She didn't see children as a financial burden, as a terrible responsibility, but as a wonderful blessing from God. This year, 6 million people in our country are going to be parents. Their lives are going to radically change. I wonder how many of them are going to see that child as a gift from God. A lot of them won't. A lot of them will walk away from their family. Hannah wanted it more than anything. All of that to simply bring up this point. Our nation needs more Hannah's. Gals who will say this is important. This is not some little tiny job of being a mother, having a family, that is so demeaning compared to something else. And our nation needs more Elkanah's who would go after their wives and bring encouragement and support. I was reading about two people in England, a young couple. He was a factory worker in a British factory. After years of marriage, the announcement came---she was pregnant. They were so excited. And so they went over and the man told the co-workers that he worked with hey, God answered our prayers! We're going to have a baby. And of course the factory workers didn't believe in God necessarily and they mocked him, oh really, you prayed and God answered your prayer? You have a gift from God? Well to make it worse, when the child was delivered he was diagnosed with Down's Syndrome. And so the man thought as difficult as this is, and they were devastated, how am I going to tell this to my coworkers? Well he went to work, they had already found out, and they were looking at him and he was very nervous and they said so, this child was a gift from God? You prayed for it, God answered your prayer? You're still glad? There was a long pause. And a quick prayer for wisdom. And the man said you know what? I'm glad that God gave me the child and not you. And I applaud his remark. Because this world needs more children that Christian, devoted parents can produce.
In a world that's going away from God, to have children that are loved by godly parents and put into this society can be a great asset. Well that was Hannah's problem that presents itself at first. Something else and this is the second part of this message. She's a woman with priorities. There's two snapshots of Hannah that reveal her portrait. She's a woman of great value. There's more than two, by the way, there's three or four, but I need something to preach on next week so we're going to stop with two this morning. First of all, she was a woman rightly related to God. Story opens up. What are they doing? They're going to church. They're walking 15 miles to Shiloh and she's part of it. She's devoted to this regular attendance for the Feast of Tabernacles in Shiloh. Not only that, but when she's down and out what does she do? What's her first instinct? I'm going to talk to God about this. I'm going to pray about this. and she goes and she prays. Look at verse 11: "Then she made a vow and said, "O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head." And it happened, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli watched her mouth. Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli [this is the high priest] thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, "How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!" But Hannah answered and said, "No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord."
This deep, spontaneous expression of grief. She prayed. By the way, isn't that a great description of prayer? Pour out your soul before the Lord. Sometimes people will say yeah but I don't know how to pray. You know how to talk? You know how to express grief? Do you know how to complain? Now everybody I've ever met knows how to complain. And even David said I'll pour out my complaint before the Lord. He said in Psalm 55, cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you. The deep hurts, the pain, the things you wrestle with as well as the joys, pour out your soul before the Lord. What's great about this prayer is that it shows a secret to effective prayer. Effective prayer is when we align ourselves with what God wants. Not what we want, but the purposes of God. In 1 John it says if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us and if we know He hears us, we know that we have what we've asked of Him. It says that God shut her womb. That drove her to prayer. God, give me a male child! You give me a child---he's yours! That's exactly what God wanted---to raise up a prophet. The nation was at a low point. It needed a spokesman. It needed a Samuel. Somebody devoted from youth to the work of God.
And so she aligns herself with the purposes of God, prays for it, and God does it. What's the point? The point is this. Prayer is not a good sales job. It's not talking God into something. It's not like God just kind of folds His arms and waits till you really give Him a good spiel and well I'm gonna fast a little longer and God'll really know I'm serious. Effective prayer is reached when you align yourself with the purposes of God and God is looking for somebody to bless who's aligned with His purposes. 1 Chronicles says the eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the entire earth that He might strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. And so she prayed in alignment with the purpose of God. Not only did she pray, but skip ahead to chapter 2. Now she writes her own worship song. "My heart rejoices in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation. No one is holy like the Lord. There is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God." Listen, that's a whole lot deeper than Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. She had a depth of relationship. It was real. It was authentic. She was in right relationship to her God and she's going to be Samuel's mother.
You know what? Samuel had a great heritage, didn't he? A praying mother. You know a praying mother will do more good than all the congressmen and senators put together. Abraham Lincoln said no one is poor who has a godly mother. Theodore Roosevelt wrote the mother is the one supreme asset of national life. She is more important by far than the successful statesman, businessman, artist, or scientist. Amen to that. A godly mom, rightly related to God. Gals? If you are going to be all that God called you to be as a woman, as a wife, as a mother if that comes, you need His strength. You need to be rightly related to your God. To reach maximum potential. The second priority is she was a woman rightly related to her husband. These two things to God and to her spouse. Notice in the first couple verses that her husband's name is Elkanah. His name means God has created. Classic name. Perfect. God created Elkanah just for Hannah, I believe. They had a good marriage. They had a good relationship going. And when I look back on my own relationship and how it started and how we fumbled but we finally did the engagement, got married, I have to say wholeheartedly that Lenya is made perfectly for me. We're meant for each other. Now I tried out other models before I married Lenya. And I look back now and say God thank You for Your deliverance. Thank you that I didn't make that mistake. Thank you that this one that You made me for is with me.
Verse 5 shows us a little bit of that relationship: "But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the Lord had closed her womb." Did you get that? Her worth to him was not based upon her ability to produce children. The Lord closed your womb but I love you. I love you for who you are. Verse 8: "Then Elkanah her husband said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?" Now he could've said what's up with you? Crying at the table? Hey---deal with it, ok, chick. It's the way it is. No. He went after her and tenderly spoke to her. Tenderly spoke to her. As if to understand. And as if to comfort. Happy is the marriage where a man and a woman understand each other, where they love each other, and where they do everything they can to build up not tear down their love. Somebody once said marriage is like a long trip in a tiny rowboat. If one passenger starts to rock the boat, the other has to steady it or both will go to the bottom together. Ever heard the saying love is blind? Well marriage is the eye-opener. And if you think you're going to live in this perpetuity of emotional highs that you have when you're infatuated throughout the rest of your life, you are mistaken. It goes much deeper than that. It goes to a level of real love and real commitment beyond any infatuation.
And in the marriage with eyes wide open, then love comes in and pours itself on all the flaws and all of the discouragement and all of the stuff that comes along with a relationship. And you know what? That is the greatest gift parents can give to their children is that they love God and they love each other. Dads? One of the greatest things you can do for your son or daughter is to love your son or daughter's mom. And moms? One of the greatest gifts you can give to your children is to love God and love that child's father. Bring stability. Bring stability to a child. My son is cute. He loves to see us give each other attention. When my wife and I are together, I'll pat her or hug her or give her a kiss he starts kinda getting closer, looking and he goes, dad, kiss mom! I wanna watch.