Hannah was very upset. Elkanah, Peninnah, and the children, however, were all enjoying the sacrificial meal. They had all gone to Shiloh “to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord.” (I Sam. 1:1-18). It was a time of rejoicing and festivity. But Hannah was not happy. Elkanah had always been a very loving husband to her. He gave her a better portion of the meal than he gave to anyone else. But Hannah could not eat. Instead of eating, she wept. Year after year it was always the same. Whenever they went to Shiloh, the others ate, drank, and enjoyed themselves, but Hannah wept. For on those occasions Peninnah would provoke Hannah. She would scornfully remind her of the fact that she was childless. All of Elkanah’s children were of Peninnah. In all the years that Hannah had been married to him, she had not been able to give him a single child.
Indeed, this was the source of Hannah’s sorrow. Not the wicked provocations of Peninnah. For a godly woman must expect such wickedness of her adversaries. But Hannah was childless. God had shut up her womb. Oh what a terrible affliction. There could be nothing worse than that. How could she be happy? How could she eat and drink? There before her eyes were all of Peninnah’s children, but she had none. She felt as if she had failed as a woman of Israel. Her life was unfulfilled. There was something very important which was left out of her life. This grieved her greatly. Oh how her soul was vexed. As long as she was childless, she could not rejoice.
How different is this attitude of Hannah from that of most women today. They do not grieve because of a lack of children. They grieve because they have too many. Most are more interested in a career than in motherhood. Children do not fit into their plans very well. Therefore, they sharply limit the number of children in order that their life may not be too severely burdened. Often times young couples decide that they will have no children at all. At least not for the first years of their marriage. They say that they are more interested in the quality of life than in quantity. The wife must find her full potential as a woman. To feel fulfilled in life, she must have a career. Besides that, the couple receives a very pleasant bonus when the wife works. They have two sources of income instead of one. With the extra money they can buy the things that they have always wanted to buy and do all kinds of exciting things too. Their chief desire in life is a very wicked one — the advancement of their own selfish pleasures and material prosperity.
Hannah could have had this kind of life if she wanted it. Just think of the things she could have done. While Peninnah was stuck home with her children. Elkanah and Hannah could have enjoyed life. Hannah was a free woman. But she was a godly woman. She was not interested in her own worldly prosperity. Worldly pleasure was not the driving force in her life. Hannah wanted to be a mother. This desire was so strong, that she even brought this matter before the Lord. She went to the tabernacle and there she prayed to the Lord. For she knew that, if the Lord so willed it, He could open her womb and make her fruitful. Children are not simply the products of a man and woman. They are the gifts of God. (Ps. 127:3). He gives and He withholds according to His good pleasure. If Hannah was to have the child she so dearly wanted, then God must do it. Thus we read, “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.” (I Sam. 1:11). This was Hannah’s prayer for motherhood.
Notice that this prayer was not a selfish prayer. Hannah, indeed, longed to be a mother. But she did not want a child simply to satisfy her own desires. She prayed for a man child, but in that prayer she also vowed to give that child unto the Lord. Her child, Samuel, would be brought to the tabernacle and there serve the Lord all of His days. The desire for motherhood was a desire for the advancement of God’s kingdom and Church. Hannah’s primary concern was not for herself, but for God’s cause in this world. She considered it to be her duty as a godly woman to raise a family in the fear of the Lord. If she was to fulfill her calling in life, then she must bring children into the world who, by God’s grace, would be children of the Church and Covenant.
This must be the desire of the women of our churches too. Our women must be mothers. The message which God gave to His people at the time of the Babylonian captivity, is the message we must hear and heed today. “Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.” (Jer. 29:5-6). For the sake of the church of God, we must “be fruitful and multiply.” The women of our churches must be mothers so that God’s people might be “increased and not diminished” in this world. This is not a matter of personal preference or choice. This concerns the kingdom of God and the Church of Jesus Christ.
Young women of Israel, do not seek to be doctors, lawyers, plumbers, and electricians as do so many women in our day. Your calling is to marry and be Covenant mothers in the Church. Do not desire the pleasures of the world as do the women of the world. The kind of freedom which they seek is really bondage. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.” (Matt. 7:33). Long to be mothers who bring forth the children of the Covenant, by God’s grace. Childbearing is the way of life which God has ordained for you. (I Tim. 2:15). It is the way in which He gives you a full and good life. Make your prayer the prayer of Hannah. Pray that God will make you fruitful. Pray that He will give you many sons and daughters who fear the Lord and serve Him always. Pray for motherhood.