"Then Eli answered and said, ‘Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of Him.'"
I Samuel 1: 17, King James Version
"Why Are You Surprised?"
"The cream of enjoyment in this life is always impromptu. The chance walk; the unexpected visit; the unpremeditated journey; the unsought conversation or acquaintance."
How has God unexpectedly "surprised" me so far in my life?
"And, through and over everything, a sense of glad awakening."
Edna St. Vincent Millay
"Women run on expectations, the way a car is fueled by gas."
I absolutely love our text for today. After recognizing that Hannah was suffering from the effects of a broken heart rather than too much intoxicating drink, Eli responded with this instruction: "Go in peace," which is the traditional Jewish word "Shalom," meaning go in health, prosperity and happiness. But my favorite meaning of this simple Hebrew word is, "be well wholly." With a compassion that contradicted his earlier cruelty, Eli sent Hannah home with the blessing of God poured out upon her empty life. Her God, whom she trusted, had made her whole and complete.
However, Eli didn't just say, "Go home and be happy." He continued by informing Hannah that the God of Israel would grant her the "petition" or as the Hebrew states, her "request." The Hebrew word "shelah," used in this text, has three words that fit in its place: petition, request, and loan. When I read this I thought to myself, "Why the word, ‘loan'?" Then I went to the dictionary and found that "loan" means, "something given to someone for a temporary basis." Isn't the Bible amazing? Even before Hannah became pregnant, she understood that heaven's gift was a temporary gift, given to her for a larger purpose. This piece of important information certainly helps me understand more clearly Hannah's generous spirit in giving her precious Samuel so willingly to God's service.
As I reflect on how, as a woman I would have felt had I been in Hannah's shoes, I want to focus on three words which are integral to this story as it transpires.
The first word is "expectation" or as the dictionary defines it, "to look forward to the probable occurrence of or appearance of something. To consider likely or certain." The second word is "anticipation." This word is defined as, "looking forward to something before it happens. To eagerly foresee in advance." And finally, there's the word "surprise," which means, "to encounter suddenly or unexpectedly. To cause to feel; wonder and astonishment."
Let's look at how these three words relate to the circumstances in not only Hannah's life, but in yours and mine as well.
Year after year Hannah asked God to fulfill her longing for a child. But as we have learned today, this wasn't just any child. She asked for a boy child. A child that God would loan to her to raise for His purpose on earth. This story reminds me of the story of Moses, who was cared for temporarily by his mother, too, as God worked through Moses' life to fulfill His grand purpose on earth. And this story also sounds like that of John the Baptist who was temporarily given to Elizabeth and raised to be the forerunner of Jesus Christ. And this story also sounds like that of a young baby given to a young teen mom whose child grew up to bring redemption to a lost world.
With great anticipation and long waiting, the prayers of fulfillment were answered. The expectations were great and deliverance from bondage was the key element that wove through the lives of those God called to serve His purpose on earth.
This is why I wanted to include the word, "surprise," in our study today. It's also the reason I titled today's devotional, "Why Are You Surprised?"
As we have looked into Hannah's life, it is a life filled with expectation and anticipation. Why else would one of God's daughters repeatedly ask her Father for something, if she didn't anticipate and expect Him to respond to her? Would you go to someone with your requests if you truly believed they would turn you down? Praise God, Hannah knew her Father well enough to know that even when the answer she wanted didn't come as quickly or in the way she would have liked, her God was still faithful. He keeps His word. He never changes. He never falters. He never fails. And it is with this knowledge in the palm of her hand that Hannah got what some might think was the surprise of her life - a baby boy. And yet, she didn't seem shocked at all. Why should she be? Why should you and I ever be surprised when we find out that our Father keeps His promise? What confidence we should have in our Father whose loving-kindness should not ever surprise us: "So let us seize and hold fast and retain without wavering the hope we cherish and confess and our acknowledgement of it, for He who promised is reliable and sure and faithful to His word " (Hebrew 10: 23, Amplified Bible). And that cannot surprise us at all.
O Keeper of Faith,
to keep the faith entrusted to us,
faith in a world worth saving,
faith in a dream worth sharing,
faith in a heritage worth keeping
even as we reinvigorate it
to have meaning for us now.
Help us keep faith in You,
and help us not lose faith in ourselves,
for faith is the substance of our hope,
and hope, the assurance of love.
Praise to You, O Faithful One,
now and forever."
Miriam Therese Winter
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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