Harbor Presbyterian - Uptown

Fixing Society, Step One: The Cry that Saves

“The Cry that Saves”

1Samuel 1:1-28


What do you do when you experience frustration?  When you don’t get what you want in life, where do you go?  When your expectations from life are not going to come true, how do you respond?  What does the disappointment cycle look like in your life? 

First Samuel is a story of leadership—the leadership of God’s people, of God’s nation, and the power of leadership to transform society, but this story begins—and it shakes us—with the news of a woman who is barren.  Not being able to have children—this is at the top of the list for most people of agony—because of the utter helplessness it creates:  both for the one suffering it, and for those who try to provide comfort.   

Hannah’s longings, frustrations, tears, disappointments draw us in—they involve us—even if we don’t share this frustration.  For many of you, it’s broken relationships that have shattered your hope for life, or it’s work that is your constant crucible.  You wish you had more financial security or improved social status?  Or is it physical suffering?—being diagnosed with HIV, or with cancer that drives you to give up on having the life you’ve always wanted.   

Do you know this cycle of disappointment?  Disappointment leads to frustration, then to anger, and first it attacks outward:  you lash out at others, or at the world that is preventing you from getting what you want.  You slowly become an angry person, a bitter person.  If that anger  and bitterness strengthens you so you then turn things around and get what you want—you think you’re happy, but now you’re controlled by that anger.  If you lose what you want, you have to get angry again.  And this anger gets worse and worse over time. 

If your anger outward doesn’t work, then you start to look inward—now it’s not others who are keeping you from being happy, but it’s your fault.  When your anger turns in on yourself, it leads to despair when you realize that you’re just not good enough to get what you want.  You can’t get what you’re missing and you can’t fix yourself.  So you pursue counseling or unhealthy relationships or alcohol or drugs, or you work more hours—either to make up for your what’s missing, to forget about what’s missing, to cover what’s missing, or to change how you view what’s missing.  Then you become slaves to that substitute, because—ironically—what’s missing never goes away. 

There’s got to be a better way.  A secular person would say, “If you can change it, work harder to change it.  If you can’t change it, don’t worry about it.”  A religious person would say, “If you’ll just adopt this way of living, it won’t be as big a deal to you.” 

Both of these answers, though, don’t deal with the chronic pain and longings of reality, of having to deal with rethinking our lives and what we should expect from them. 

But this text gives us a way out.  We see in this story of Hannah God’s advice to people who are suffering because life hasn’t turned out the way they wanted.  Hannah is God’s suggestion for how we need to respond. 

  1. The Weight that Presses Down (v1-8)
  2. The Pain-filled Cry to God (v9-11)
  3. The Assurance that Re-centers Life (v12-28)
  1. The Weight that Presses Down (v1-8)
    1. As we’ve seen, Hannah is suffering
      1. She has no children. 
        1. We can identify with the pain of this, but it was much worse back in these days.  Back then to be barren was a societal curse, and some treated it as punishment from God.
        2. It was a curse because it meant that you had no future.  In a world that was dominated by the family name, and its continuing on, to have no children meant to have no future. 
        3. Do you identify with Hannah?  What are you missing that makes life not worth living?
      2. Hannah was also sharing her husband. 
        1. Peninah had kids—which just showed that it was her, and not him, who was having problems.  Isn’t it worse to be around people who have what you want? 
        2. Peninah was cruel—provoked her, teased her, reminded Hannah that she was a failure.  It was bad enough to live with being barren, but to have a caustic, Fertile Myrtle constantly reminding you of your failure made life absolutely torturous.  Peninah’s cruelty was probably born out of Elkanah’s preference for Hannah over her.  This was her way of justifying herself.
        3. A note on multiple wives.  Many people get confused because they think that in these stories, the Bible is condoning multiple marriages.  But look at this situation.  Is this an endorsement?  Throughout First Samuel—polygamy is not a pretty picture.  No one reading this story would think that it was saying it’s okay to have two wives.  Having two wives leads to incredible conflict and misery for the entire family.  Women should not be treated this way.
      3. She had no hope things would change
        1. Elkanah comes to her with love and compassion (v5, 8)
        2. But this only made things worse, because now she knew she was cutting off his future too, not just her own. So the love of her husband and the love of God—these blessings she couldn’t see.  These blessings were meaningless in light of the one thing she really wanted that she didn’t have.
        3. This is so true in marriage and in relationships, when one person begins to get frustrated with the other.  You lose sight of all the wonder and the beauty of the other person, and you only focus on their bad qualities.
        4. Poor Hannah should know that life is more than children, but she can’t help herself.  Nothing else matters!
          1. This is that one thing The one thing you want in life makes you blind and hardhearted to all the rest of life.
          2. When we do this, we’re tempted to committing idolatry of the heart.  Having kids is a blessing, but not the only blessing.  Are you with Hannah here?  Is there something you want that you’ve decided you can’t live without?
        5. Hannah is weighed down more and more and more until she comes to grip with the deepest reality in her life. 
    2. Hannah’s problem is with God.
      1. It wasn’t Elkanah’s fault, it wasn’t even Peninah’s fault.  V5—The LORD had closed her womb.  V6—The Lord had closed her womb. 
      2. In one sense the teasing just exposed Hannah’s heart.
      3. We know that this is true because if she had children of her own, she would receive the comfort of Elkanah, she wouldn’t care what Peninah says.  Her problem was with God.
      4. Often this is why God doesn’t give us all the things we want—he wants us to deal with our bitterness toward him.  Ive seen it time and time again in peoples’ lives.  People beg for something, they don’t get it, NOT HAVING IT EXPOSES THEIR BITTERNESS AND  HEART IDOLATRY.  They then run to the Lord, deal with the bitterness, find peace, then God gives them more than they could imagine. 
      5. We see here that God often puts us through these things to show us what we’re really living for, to expose our real attitude toward him. 
      6. But now we’re stuck, because how to you fix a problem with God.  If the Lord closes your womb, what do you do?
      7. So again, for Hannah, the pressure mounts—and that’s the point.  That’s the deepest reality that God wants us to see.
    3. The weight
      1. One preacher told me, “If you feel the weight of the world pressing down on your shoulders, that’s the thumb of God pushing you to your knees… TO PRAY.”
      2. Where do you go when you have a problem with God?  You have to go to him!  Hannah finally turned to God.  You have to go to God with the weight of your world.  He alone can help you deal with it.  You have to go to God.
  1. The Pain-Filled Cry to God (v9-11)

    I love verse 10  In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD.  “In bitterness of soul, Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord.”

      1. It doesn’t say, “after being bitter, Hannah prayed.” 
      2. It doesn’t say, “ignoring her bitterness, Hannah prayed”
      3. It says, “In her bitterness.”  This is such a comfort, and it’s an invitation.  Don’t try to deal with it before you go to God.  Go to God to deal with it.

    This is a gospel moment.

      1. The secularist might say, “Blame God, he did this to you.”
      2. The religious person might say, “Don’t complain to God, you’ve probably done something to deserve this.”
      3. But the gospel says, “Go to God in full honesty, with all your frustration.  Cast the weight of your pain upon him, let him feel your anguish.” God can take your prayers, no matter how raw they are. 
    1. Hannah’s cry is really her heart.
      1. Hannah wept, “Why God?  Why?  You know my heart needs this!  Why would you withhold this from me?  Aren’t you my father?”
    2. Hannah’s cry is mixed with faith. 
      1. She goes to God because she knows he can heal her.
      2. V11—She prays to “Lord Almighty.”  This is the God of armies, the one who can do all things.
    3. Hannah’s cry shows dependence
      1. When you pray, search your heart to see if something has become more important to you than God.
        1. Often this is really at the core.  Something has become so important to us that God isn’t enough.
        2. We think, “If God won’t give it to us, then we don’t want God.”
      2. God wants us to live dependent on him.
        1. This keeps us humble, it keeps us from pursuing our dreams in our ways, apart from him.
        2. It is a demonstration that God is the most important thing in our lives, and he is enough to satisfy.
      3. Peter Leithart, p39—“Hannah’s prayer was an acknowledgement that she could do nothing to open the closed door of her womb.  Only God could do it.  Every prayer is like the prayer of Hannah:  powerless creatures confessing their powerlessness by turning to God—the giver of life.”
      4. Dale Ralph Davis, p, “Our utter incapacity is often the very prop God uses in his next act.”
    4. Your cry connects you to others.
      1. This is another amazing blessing
      2. Have you ever heard that?  Your cry was shared by another?  This is a huge point of connection with other people.  Share your pain. 
      3. Sometimes, we find our own cry isn’t just ours.  Sometimes our hearts are crying for our pain and we find our cry, our pain, our emotion captures the cry of others.  Our pain gives expression for others who share our pain, but can’t cry.  Our cry becomes their cry. WE find here that Hannah’s cry is the cry of Israel.  She captures what the nation is feeling.  Is she capturing your heart?  Are you crying with her?
      4. And you crying for others?  Are there others in pain around you that you can teach to cry to God?  Is your pain shared with others?  This can comfort them, just to hear your cry of faith.  You can give others a pathway to faith if you let others hear your cry of fiath. 
      5. And what else?  It will comfort you, because you’re not alone.
  1. The Assurance that Re-centers Life (v18-28)
    1. Eli comes to Hannah.
      1. This interaction foreshadows that something is wrong with the priests in Isarel, but we don’t see any more of this until the next chapter.
      2. Eli’s accusation turns to benediction.
    2. Hannah goes away healed
      1. Her request has been transformed by her devotion to God. 
      2. She devotes the child to God.  This means that she now wants the child, not just for herself, but she wants it for God. 
      3. The key to knowing whether or not we have really done this?  Whether our hearts are truly right before God when we ask:  Do you know what the key is?  If you won’t be undone if God does something different.
      4. This is so important, and it really does show where our hearts are.  If we beg God and tell him that we are devoted to him, but then get upset if he disagrees with what is best for us, are we truly devoted to him?  ILLUSTRATION.
      5. When we are devoted to God, we are literally saying, God, I am giving this to you, and I am ready to accept and live with whatever you give back.  If you give me what I want, I will praise you.  If you don’t give me what I want, I will praise you.  Job said it this way, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  Can you say that?
      6. My kids are always asking me about heaven.  “Daddy, will there be pets in heaven?  Daddy, will we be able to fly in heaven?  Daddy, will we have a pool in heaven?”
      7. First I tell them, “Well, heaven is only a station on the way to eternal life.  Ultimately we’re going to be in the New Heaven and New Earth.”
      8. They roll their eyes and repeat the question, “Daddy, will there be pets in the New Heaven and Earth?  Daddy, will we be able to fly in the New Heaven and Earth…”
      9. If I don’t know, I always tell them the same thing.  “Kids, if  that isn’t part of the New Heaven and Earth, it’ll be even better, and you won’t miss it at all.”
      10. That’s really the answer you need to hear when you give something up to God.  This for me has been the best promise that I have had to cling to and has given me more confidence, more assurance to give up things I was afraid to release.
      11. When I was in high school, I played baseball, and I was told that I was good enough to play at a good school in college.  I worked my tail off my senior year, during the I offseason, during the season, after the season, over the summer.  Hours and hours/day.  Running, pitching, playing for club teams, doing everything I could to get ready.  When the fall came, I tried out for the team at UCLA, and I was immediately cut.  They told me I wasn’t good enough.  I was devastated.  It was painful.  I kept playing my try-out in my mind over and over and over again.  What could I have done better?  What should I have said to the coach to convince him to give me at least one more day on the team?  What was I going to do, now?  I was angry, frustrated, bitter…
      12. But I gave it up to the Lord.  I said, “God, here I am.  I’m mad and frustrated I didn’t make the team, but I trust your word—you say you’ve got a plan for my life that is abundant, that’s filled with blessings.
      13. God began to lead me in college to pursue the ministry.  I really did live an incredibly blessed life in college.  I was so thankful for everything I was able to be a part of. 
      14. Six months later, I actually met someone who was on the baseball team, and we were talking about what it was like to be on the team.  He told me that baseball took up 30 hours/week.  I was floored.  I had no idea. 
      15. Not only was I floored, but I was thankful.  For me, baseball was nothing compared to teaching people the Bible, to helping people understand and apply it.  Baseball was great, but it paled in comparison to the ministry that God had set up for me.
      16. Now, please know, that I’m not saying that ministry is more important than a baseball career.  My best friend plays for the AAA New York Yankees, and I am amazed at the influence he has on that team for Christ.  But that simply wasn’t my calling.  God had a different path for me, and for me, it was far more fulfilling.
      17. I would not have had the ministry I had if I had made the baseball team.  I would not have been able to fully pursue my calling in life if I had made the baseball team.  When I gave it to God, I didn’t get it back, but I got something far better.  That conversation with that guy on the baseball team once again confirmed for me that God really does know what’s best for me, and sometimes he’s going to say no to the things I think I need or I think are best for me.  What a comfort!
    3. Hannah goes home trusting that God will do what’s best.  And he gives her a Son!
      1. The joy and elation of being lined up with God. 
      2. Remember that Hannah had to realign herself before she could receive this blessing in the right spirit.
      3. And Hannah responds to God’s faithfulness, by her own faithfulness.  She devotes Samuel to the Lord, and gives him to God.
      4. When she does, she makes sure that Eli knows of God’s faithfulness to her.  Make sure when you bring someone into the cry of your heart, that you tell them when and how God showed himself faithful to you.


Hannah’s cry saved her.  But it didn’t just save her.  Hannah’s cry echoed out from her life.  Hannah’s cry was actually the cry of the entire nation. 

Remember, First Samuel is a story of leadership—the leadership of God’s people, of God’s nation, and the power of leadership to transform society.  That was the desperate need of Israel during Hannah’s days.   

Here’s how God fixes a broken society:  with the cry of one woman.  Through individual people who go to God in their pain and teach others to find answers by recentering their lives around him. 

Samuel led to Saul, and Saul led to David… whenever God’s people cried the cry of Hannah, he raised up leaders who would bring people back to God, back to wholeness and blessing. 

This cry reaches us today.  It invites us to echo this cry because it was echoed by Jesus himself.   

When Jesus was in anguish, HE cried out to God.  Hebrews 5:7-8 “During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”   

But instead of getting what he wanted so that he could be saved (like Hannah), Jesus didn’t get what he wanted so that WE could be saved.   

He cried out—not for his own salvation, but for ours. 

So what is this text calling you to do?  If you’re a Christian or not, this text calls you to the same response:

      Let your heart cry to God.  Go to him. 

      Pour out your heart to him. 

      Put him first.



    1. God provides relief, showing his dedication to Hannah
    2. Hannah provides Samuel, showing her dedication to God
    3. And Elkanah even loves Hannah more.  You might think he feels sorry for her, so this is sympathy, but it’s not.  The text says, “Elkanah loved her, even though the Lord closed her womb.”  He wasn’t concerned about the same things that society was concerned about.
    1. Elkanah gave Hannah a double portion of the offering.  The portion of their sacrifice that they received back from the priest—they were allowed to eat themselves.  This was God’s way of showing his love and concern for his people—it was God saying, “I want you to eat with me.  We are family.”  Like a pre-cursor to the Lord’s Supper. 
      1. So when Elkanah gave Hannah a double portion, he was not only telling her that he loved her more, despite her struggles, but that also God loved her more.  She got a double portion of the food from God.
      2. But Hannah couldn’t see these things.  She couldn’t see the blessings of her husband’s love or the love of God.  All the blessings were meaningless in light of the one thing she really wanted that she didn’t have. 
    2. Elkanah comes to offer Hannah comfort.
      1. Please don’t cry.  Eat up!  Why are you so sad?  Aren’t I more important to you than 10 sons?  Isn’t my love better than any number of children?
      2. This is pretty bold of Elkanah.  This has been going on for years, can you imagine him saying this?  Wouldn’t he sound pretty insensitive?  It’s his fault, after all.  He took a second wife. 
      3. But the text says that he really  loves her (v5).  He was expressing compassion—he knew it was the Lord who closed her womb.
      4. But Elkanah’s compassion doesn’t help Hannah.
    3. The picture here is Hannah who should know that life is more than children, but she can’t help herself.  Nothing else matters!
    4. It’s easy to vilify Elkanah.  Hannah gets to the point where you are against anyone coming to you.  He comes to Hannah in love.  Don’t you know I love you?  I care for you, you are my favorite.  I give you the double portion.  Here’s a good man trying to support and comfort his wife. 
    5. But Hannah can’t be comforted by her husband.  Because her problem isn’t really with him, it’s with God.
    6. It’s not Elkanah’s fault.  It’s not even Peninah’s fault.  V5—The Lord closed her womb.  The teasing actually just exposed Hannah’s heart.
      1. She went to God, you need to go to God.

But first, you have to go to him.  That’s what Hannah does.

  1. The Cry that Shows the Pain
    1. Hannah knew her problem was with God, so she accepted the love of Elkanah and ate, but her problem wasn’t resolved, so she went to the Lord.
      1. Maybe at this point she realized it’s her heart that is the problem.  She was deeply distressed and wept bitterly in her prayers.  Have you been there?
      2. I’ll show you that this isn’t just about me, O Lord of Armies.  If you grant me a son, I will devote him to you.
        1. This is amazing, and a sign of repentance.  She still wants a son, but she wants him for the Lord, to serve him, not herself.
        2. “no razor,” this means that the baby will take a Nazarite vow.  There was a Nazarite in the book of Judges—Samson.  Fully devoted to God.  Brought down the enemies of Israel by himself.
    2. Eli comes to intervene
      1. This is supposed to be the relief, right?  What do you expect?  A poor, beat down woman cries out to the Lord.  The priest comes and he’s going to bless her, right?
      2. But that’s not what happens. 
      3. This is telling us something about the rest of the story.  When the priests get this wrong, this shows you that something is wrong with the priesthood in Israel. 
      4. We won’t find out until the next chapter, so for now this is just a foreshadowing of what is to come.
      5. In response, Hannah pleads her concern and she is vindicated before Eli.  Eli’s accusation turns into benediction. 
  2. The Assurance the Stops the Tears
    1. Eli realized she is godly, she is holy, and she is needy.  So he blesses her and gives her assurance that she’ll receive what she desired.
      1. We have to be careful as we apply this, don’t we?  How many of you have fully devoted your hearts to God, begged him for something (salvation of a friend, healing from a sickness, promotion, not get in trouble)… and not gotten the response you wanted?
      2. Hannah had fully devoted herself, she had even told the Lord that she wasn’t asking for herself, but for God himself, she promised to devote her son to God.
    2. So Hannah returns home, and she received a child.  God’s promise through Eli came true—God showed himself faithful to her… she had a child.
      1. And she does devote him to the Lord.  She honors God with him, she gives him to serve God. 
      2. For some of you, you need to devote yourself and your desire to God, and you will get it.
      3. For others, you will devote yourself and your desire to God, and you’ll get something else back from him that’s better than what you asked for.  Sometimes you’ll agree right away that it’s better.  Other times, it’ll take a while to agree.


Was it Peninah’s fault?  Was all of this because of her?  Yes and no.  Hannah’s cry saved her—but it was more than just her.  Her cry sounded out and it was picked up by the nation of Israel.   

Hannah’s cry actually gave voice to the cry of Israel.  She was expressing what the whole nation was feeling.MORE DETAILS HERE. 

We see this happen in our lives.  We are enraptured with a movie character, a character in a book… even politicians capture us this when, when we feel like a candidate is speaking for you.  His or her cry for change is your cry. 

Israel was stuck, oppressed and society was corrupt.  They needed healing, they needed redemption.  God’s answer was to provide leadership—again that is what 1-2 Samuel is about.   

The nation cried with Hannah.  And God heard Hannah and raised up Samuel, who would deliver them and lead Israel into a greater experience of God’s kingdom. 

This cry continued to echo… down the ages… downt he centuries.  IF you read the books of 1 & 2 Samuel, you find out that Samuel ultimately doesn’t deliver.   King Saul ultimately couldn’t deliver.  King David couldn’t either.  So in each generation, when the one who was supposed to bring in the fullness of blessing showed himself to be a failure, Hannah’s cry echoes and the people continue to look for another leader. 

Finally, Hannah’s cry was picked up by Jesus.  God’s people again were being oppressed, the world was burdened. They needed a leader.  Hannah’s cry was echoed by another young maiden, who was also barren.   

She was also misunderstood in the temple.  Her husband was rebuked and mute…  NOT SURE IF WANT ALL THE DETAILS here. 

Jesus came to bring the ultimate salvation.  He himself embodied Hannah’s cry as his own.  He cried out to God in his anguish and he was heard.  But instead of getting what he wanted so that he could be saved (like Hannah), Jesus didn’t get what he wanted so that WE could be saved.   

Hebrews 5:7-8  7 ¶ During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.   

He cried out, and for him, salvation for the people meant he had to die.  That was the price he had to pay to see us saved. 

So what is this text calling you to do?  If you’re a Christian or not, this text calls you to the same response:

      Let your heart cry to God.  Go to him.

      Pour out your heart to him. 

      Put him first. 

Then, let your cries connect you to others.  As you receive the comfort of God in your anguish, a comfort that sustains you even if you don’t get exactly what you want, as you receive this comfort, then share this comfort with others.  Help others who are suffering to know how God has met your deepest needs. 

Do these, and God will hear.  He will move and work to give you not always what you want, but what you need, and what will lead you to a life that overflows with blessings and abundance. 

Do we owe it all to Peninah? 

Davis, p26  “We owe it to God who uses all the trials to draw us close to him.  He saved a whole nation through the anguish of one woman.”  

And in this, she is a picture of Jesus, whose suffering saves every nation. 

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