The Desires of the Heart
1 Samuel 1
Hannah faced an unwinnable battle. Her obstacle was beyond her ability to change or influence. She could not have children. Her own body was the source of her misery. And, as if that were not enough, her human rival mercilessly needled and persecuted her. Ephesians 6:10 tells us:
Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Hannah was a woman of God. Her human rival was not her real enemy. Her true enemy was the same one who is our enemy today. This enemy is the one who attacked Job, stirred up David to sin, and tempted our Lord in the wilderness. He is called the accuser of the brethren. “Accuser” or “Adversary” is the meaning of his name.
The Hebrew word שָׂטָן (satan) means to oppose, obstruct, or accuse. The Greek term (σατάν, satan) literally means “adversary.” In the New Testament, it refers to a title or a name—(the) Satan. The term שָׂטָן (satan) is rendered as diabolos in the Septuagint.1
Our enemy, the devil, or Satan, seeks to destroy us. However, he has no power over us.
1 John 4:4 (NKJV) You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
While the devil has no power over us, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. God gave Satan permission to attack Job. Jesus told Peter:
Luke 22:31 (NKJV) “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.”
God grants this permission because as Hebrews 12 tells us:
Hebrews 12:6 (NKJV) For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.
The Father tells us to rejoice in our trials. He says much about suffering in His word. 1 Peter 1:6-7 teaches us that the testing of our faith purifies us as gold is purified in the crucible.
1 Peter 1:6–7 (NKJV) 6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
I cannot think of one of God’s servants who did not go through the crucible of suffering. Indeed, Hebrews 12:6 says, “...every son whom He receives.”
1 Samuel 1 introduces us to a Hannah overcome with sorrow. 1 Samuel 1:10 says of her:
1 Samuel 1:10 (NKJV) And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish.
Hannah’s battle was unwinnable. Nothing she did would change the fact that she could not have children. We all have an unwinnable battle. Nothing we do can change the fact that we have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Nothing we do can change the fact that the wages of sin is death. There is just one wage - death. Sorrow and grief over this unwinnable battle drove many of us to seek God for deliverance. However, God allows many unwinnable battles in our lives.
- How was Abraham to produce an heir?
- How were the disciples to feed the vast crowd?
- How was a young shepherd boy to save his sheep from bears and lions?
It is time to learn a secret of prayer from Hannah. 1 Samuel 1:13 says:
1 Samuel 1:13 (NKJV) Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard.
Let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6). Hannah did not need to move her lips. She spoke in her heart. God hears the cry of the heart. When the Pharisees prayed, they spoke many great sounding words, and Jesus said their prayers were for show and were not heard by God.
The first thing the crucible did was to shape Hannah into a God-seeker, a person whose heart’s desire and pursuit is God, Himself.
A second, more subtle change the crucible wrought was it made Hannah selfless. It burnt away the dross of seeking her own benefit. Hannah did not keep the child for herself but gave the child to God. In addition, in her praise, written in chapter two, she shows she was seeking the good of her people Israel, and the introduction of the KING. Consider verse ten of chapter two.
1 Samuel 2:10 (NKJV) The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces; From heaven He will thunder against them. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth. “He will give strength to His king, And exalt the horn of His anointed.”
This woman was looking forward and hastening the coming of the Messiah and the establishing of His kingdom. Again, she did not keep the child for herself but gave him to the Lord as his servant forever.
1 Samuel 1:22 (NKJV) “I will take him, that he may appear before the Lord and remain there forever.”
One often hears, “Our trials serve to make us bitter or better.” Our trials expose the desires of our hearts, whether they be for good or evil.
God gave Hannah the desire of her heart. He gave her the son she had been praying for. She now faced an even greater trial. She had made a promise. She said she would give the child to the Lord. Now she had to follow through.
We are all tested by our blessings. When we receive money, do we use it for ourselves, or do we use it to benefit others? Do we practice hospitality, using what God has given us to bless others? When we have a healthy body, do we use it to find pleasure or to serve others?
When Abraham was blessed with his long-awaited heir, he had to choose between God and his son. When David was faced with Goliath, he had to put his life on the line.
Think with me of the challenge each one of these faced. Abraham had no additional child of promise. Isaac was all he had. David was anointed as the next king, but as he stood facing Goliath, he only had one life to give. And Hannah, Hannah had not been able to have any children, and now she was faced with giving up the only child she had.
Our blessings are more difficult tests than our trials, because our hearts are drawn to the gifts instead of the giver. Sadly, not many of us pass this test. God blesses us, and we selfishly build bigger barns to hoard the excess. We do not seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We do not set our hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. We tend to ask how much we should give to the Lord when the question is, how do we give it all to the Lord?
Look at what happened when Hannah surrendered all that she had to the Lord.
Samuel was the child she prayed for. He was her heart’s desire, and she gave him to the Lord. She did not know that she would ever have another child. The one she had was a miracle! But look:
1 Samuel 2:21 (NKJV) And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters.
We must first surrender to the Lord before we can receive His blessing. It is said that gifts cannot be received by clenched fists. One must first let go of what one is holding to hold something else. When we surrender our heart’s desire to the Lord, He can loan it to us, not to possess but to hold for a short time. Then we discover it was never really ours to begin with.
Before Abraham could receive many descendants, he had to let go of the one he had. Before the widow of Zarephath could receive oil and flour sufficient to last through the drought, she had to surrender what little she had. Before the crowd could be fed, the little food available had to be surrendered to Jesus.
We do not surrender our money to get more money. We surrender our money to see God’s purpose fulfilled. That is the true blessing.
When Hannah surrendered her son, she did not do it to receive more children. Her praise was that God would “give strength to His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed.”
God used Samuel in the most incredible way. He was the last judge of Israel. He led Israel through one of the most significant transitions they would ever make. He did it without conflict, upheaval, and civil war. Not only was he the last judge, but he was also the first prophet. As the first prophet, he anointed the first two kings of Israel. He is the one who had the privilege of anointing David, through whom the Messiah would come.
Interestingly enough, Samuel really had no say in all of this. It was his mother’s decision to surrender him to the Lord. It was his mother’s prayers that brought about his birth. His mother dedicated him to the Lord. His mother said he would be a Nazarite. Did you know that Samuel’s hair was never cut as long as he lived? His mother decided that.
1 Samuel 1:11 (NKJV) 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.”
Samuel was a great man of God, and he was a great man of God because his mother was a great woman of God. His mother made his Nazarite vow for him. However, and this is important, Samuel willingly surrendered himself to the plans and purposes of God. He abandoned cutting his hair, drinking wine, and pursuing his own life to pursue God. He came by it honestly. He learned it from his mother.
I hope you catch the significance of this. The world and especially our children are watching. They know and can see what is truly important to us. We can tell them they ought to follow Christ all we want, but our words are meaningless if we do not follow Christ ourselves. The world knows that many churches are after the same measures of success and money that they are. Why would they want what we have if we are no different?
We have an unwinnable battle before us. We must reach our generation for Christ. What is impossible for man is possible for God. The only way to overcome the unwinnable battle we have before us is to surrender what little we have to the Lord.
1 The Lexham Bible Dictionary, Copyright 2016. Lexham Press, 1313 Commercial St., Bellingham, WA 98225