Rosh Hashanah
For the week of September 7, 2002 / 1 Tishri 5763
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 21:1-34; Bemidbar / Numbers 29:1-6
Haftarah:2 Samuel 1:1 - 2:10

Desperation

And she made a vow, saying, "O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life..." (1 Samuel 1:11)

In this special Haftarah portion for Rosh Hashanah (Festival of Trumpets the Jewish New Year), we read of the beginnings of a most important transition in the history of God's people. What occurs here will culminate in the establishment of Israel as a kingdom and a significant power in the Middle East of those days. Prior to that time Israel existed merely as a community of tribal groups held together by a common religion and a very loose leadership structure.

We read here about the birth of Samuel, who would grow to become a leader and prophet to Israel. It was through him that not only Israel's first King, named Saul, was established, but he was also the one who called young David as Saul's successor. David would become God's model of what a true king should be and a foreshadow of the Messiah himself.

The circumstances surrounding the birth of Samuel are worth noting, for in them we learn something of how God brings about new significant things.

Our portion recounts for us the story of Hannah, who was one of two wives of Elkanah. Hannah unlike Elkanah's other wife, Peninnah, couldn't bear children. The reason being, according to the story, that God closed her womb (1:5).

In Hannah's day for a married woman to not be able to have children was a disgrace. What made matters worse is that Peninnah "provoked her in order to irritate her" (1:6). Now you may not be able to relate to Hannah's situation. You might be in a different kind of situation right now, but one that is causing you grief nonetheless. Many of us have been, are, or will be in very miserable situations. Let's look at how Hannah dealt with her problem.

Out of complete desperation, Hannah cried out to God. She knew that only he had the power to help her. In Hannah's desperation, she promised God that if he would give her a son, then she would then give that child to God for his service forever.

God heard her cry; Samuel was born; Hannah was true to her word, and the rest is history.

Notice that Hannah's desperation led her to a place beyond herself. Somehow in her place of need she was able to release her desires completely to God in every way. The giving of the entire situation over to God resulted not just in personal blessing for Hannah, but a blessing for the entire world.

We may find ourselves in desperate situations, in which we are helpless and disgraced. Yet God may be preparing us, like Hannah, to be the channel through whom great significant things may result. And this may be if we, like Hannah, completely place both the problem and the desired result absolutely in God's hands.

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