The book of 1 Samuel begins with the fascinating story of Hannah, Samuel’s mother. Hannah was a barren woman. She was infertile and didn’t have the ability to bear children. It was heartbreaking for her, no doubt. But the Scripture is clear on the fact that the Lord had closed her womb. Hannah understood her limitations; however, she did not lose hope and persistently prayed to God for a child. Despite discouragements and disappointments from the people around her, she kept her eyes on the Lord. She persevered in prayer. She knew that the One who closes wombs can also open them. She believed in a God who hears prayers and does miracles. She did not doubt God’s power or sovereignty. Despite the desperate state, she placed her hope in God who was her refuge. Hannah ran to God because she simply knew that God is God.
In His providence, God heard Hannah’s prayer and gave her Samuel. He granted her longing heart’s desire. It is important to note that having a child was not something Hannah idolized. The proof of this became apparent when she gave birth to Samuel and was ready to give him back to God. Hannah, even before being pregnant, decided in her heart to dedicate her child to God’s service. She was ready to give back to God what belonged to Him. Samuel was not Hannah’s idol, nor was he her savior. He was not where she placed her hope. In wanting to have a child, she anchored her hope in God, not the child. All hearts have hopes, but the question is: what kind of hope? Hearts either set their hopes on God or on idols.
Idols are things or persons we determine are the source of our life and happiness. They are what we crave and the reason why we sin against God when we do not get them. We pursue our idols and persist in our desire to have them. For this reason, idolatry is a war of identity. Identity is what makes me, me and what makes you, you. It is what shapes our character and has a profound influence on us. In fact, let me be bold and say that we ARE what we worship. What we worship reveals the object of our true love. People rarely let go of what captures their hearts. Whatever we cannot let go of, this has surely become the object of our love. It has become our idol. Hannah did not struggle to give away her child to the Lord. She did not struggle because she loved God more than her child. Her heart was set on the right thing. Her hope was set on God not on the child. Though children are gifts from God, they can become idols. But for Hannah, God was her all.
The story of Hannah teaches us to search our hearts and see what we really love and what we really value. Whatever we cannot give up reveals the real object of our devotion, love, and worship. Do we love God more than anything else? Every morning and every night I should examine my heart and ask: Is God my all?
Cherif Arif is originally from Cairo, Egypt. He has a passion for teaching and preaching the Bible. He is involved in equipping pastors and leaders in the Middle East.