Lesson 3

Hannah: Learning to Be Someone

(1 Samuel 1)
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Introduction: Talking with my classmates at one of my high school reunions gave me a profound insight. I realized that everyone in my high school class, even the most popular, had feelings of inferiority when they were in high school. It just came with being a teenager. Do people ever get over that feeling? I doubt that anyone completely gets over feeling that others are better. Indeed, unless you are the most talented person in the world, others are better. The Bible tells us to think of ourselves with "sober judgment" ( Romans 12:3) and encourages us to be "humble" ( Ephesians 4:2). But, what happens when your sense of self-worth becomes so low that you have trouble living? How should we react when those closest to us have well-intentioned, but unhelpful solutions? Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and learn from the story of Hannah, a woman who suffered severe problems with her self-worth.

  1. The Problem


    1. Read 1 Samuel 1:1-2. What problem do you instantly see with this family? (First, the husband has two wives - which sets the stage for rivalry. Second, one wife (Peninnah)has children and the other wife (Hannah) has none.)


      1. Is this Hannah's fault? ("Fault," might not be the right word, but the failure seems to be on Hannah's side of things because the other wife bore children with the same husband.)


    2. Read 1 Samuel 1:3-5. How do you think the husband's practice affects the situation?


      1. Do you think he is trying to make things better? (Yes.)


      2. Do you think this is working? (Of course not. The husband might have the best intentions, but he cannot be that smart. Why should the wife who has more children get less? The text says because the husband "loved" Hannah - with the implication that he loved Peninnah less or not at all). The combination of those two things has got to make Peninnah unhappy.)


      3. What do you think is important about the fact that the husband's gift is meant to compensate for the fact that the "Lord had closed her womb?" (The suggestion is that God does not care for Hannah. She is suffering under some sort of curse - and her husband is trying to make up for God's disapproval.)


    3. Read 1 Samuel 1:6. Are we surprised? Put yourself in Peninnah's place. You have the children and therefore should rightly have the greater affection. What would you do in her place?


    4. Read 1 Samuel 1:7-8. Is Hannah at fault for her husband's actions? Is there anything that she can do to help her situation - to stop the insults from Peninnah?


      1. Has the husband correctly identified the problem? (He thinks the issue is about him. If Hannah has him, why does she need children?)


        1. Has that thinking worked so far? (No. This is what is behind the "double portion" solution that is causing problems.)


      2. What, really, is the issue? (It has to do with Hannah's feelings of self-worth. Not the worth of her husband. She thinks that if she were worthy she would reflect her husband's love by bearing him a child. Her husband says "You've got me - I'm worth more than many sons. Good to hear that he has feelings of self-worth, but it is not doing much to fix the real problem.)


      3. When a person is having trouble with self-worth, have you ever said "God loves you?"


        1. Are you being like the husband? Or, is this advice different?


    5. Let's divert for a moment to a parallel story. Read Genesis 30:1-2. How are Rachel and Jacob handling this in comparison to Hannah and her husband?


  2. The Solution


    1. Read 1 Samuel 1:9-10. This is our first clue about what Hannah is doing to try to "fix" her bitter situation. What is it? (Crying and turning to God.)


    2. Read 1 Samuel 1:11. Does Hannah seem to think she is cursed? (No. She asks God to notice her misery and to remember her. She does not seem to believe that God has already noticed her and has cursed her.)


      1. What contract does Hannah offer to God?


        1. Is this a bribe?


        2. Have you ever prayed that if you won the lottery, you would give half of it to the church?


          1. Is your lottery offer a "Hannah prayer?"


        3. Who gets what benefits in Hannah's prayer offer? (Hannah gets to say that she bore a son - and that should stop the abuse at home. She would know that her son was alive - although not with her. God would get a man that, as a Nazirite, was specially set apart to Him. (For more about the Nazirite vow, see Numbers 6.))


      2. Normally, the Nazarite vow was taken for a certain period of time. Hannah pledges that her potential son will be a Nazirite all of his life. Can she make such a promise for her son?


    3. Read 1 Samuel 1:12-14. How does this fit into Hannah's feelings of a lack of self-worth?


      1. What does this show us about the intensity of her prayer?


        1. Have you prayed as intensely as that?


    4. Read 1 Samuel 1:15-18. What does Eli say that causes Hannah's change in attitude? (He prays for her and suggests that God has heard her prayer.)


    5. I may have seemed critical of Hannah and her "bribe." What is good about her approach and the approach of Eli? (Humans are not perfect. God wants us to turn to Him with our problems. Hannah has done this. If I were shown a record of all of my stupid, selfish, "bribe" prayers in the past I'm sure I would be embarrassed.)


  3. Answered Prayer


    1. Read 1 Samuel 1:19-20. What is the result of Hannah's imperfect prayer? (She gets what she requested - a son!)


    2. Read 1 Samuel 1:24-28. Tell me what kind of feelings are going through the minds of Hannah, Samuel and Eli? (I'm not sure any of them are excited about this. Hannah is keeping her word, but it is probably breaking her heart. Samuel does not want to leave his mother and his home. Eli is probably asking himself what he is going to do with this little kid?)


    3. Read 1 Samuel 2:1 and 1 Samuel 2:9-10. What is the key to Hannah's joy and her victory over her problems? (She rejoices in God. She says that we do not have victory over our problems by using our strength, we have victory by relying on God.)


    4. Read 1 Samuel 2:18-21. Recall that at the moment that Samuel was handed over we speculated that no one was excited about the transfer. How do things seem now? (Hannah has had several children. Eli seems to be happy with the situation. Samuel is growing up in the presence of God. It seems like a much happier situation.)


    5. Read 1 Samuel 3:19-21. How does this whole situation work out for Samuel and Israel? (Samuel becomes the instrument by which God speaks to His people.)


      1. Contemplate the original problem and how things ended up. When you face problems, could it be because God has great things in mind for you or your children?


        1. Is every problem an opportunity for God to be glorified through you?


    6. Friend, are you struggling with some problem? Are you having issues with your self-worth? Will you turn to God, seek His help, and look for great things to happen?


  4. Next week: Jonathan - Born for Greatness.

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