To jump back to the beginning of this series, click here.
In the last post I sketched out the story of Hannah and her family, told in 1 Samuel 1. You can click back and refresh your memory if you want to, before we consider this question: how does Hannah's story illuminate Psalm 34:18, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (NIV)?
Think about it: does the Hannah at the beginning of the story sound like a woman who could give up a child? A baby boy who finally shows the world that she is not a failure, that she is not unblessed?
Isn't it more likely, given the setup of this story, that if Hannah bears a son she will stuff that boy in Peninnah's face, every day? It's not hard at all to imagine her doing just that. Or to imagine Peninnah responding by increased scorn and competition, shoving her multiple children back in Hannah's face, so the misery of this whole family will just continue on and on, twisting the poor kids who get used as pawns in the sad, stupid games of their parents.
(Sound unlikely to you? Read Genesis 29-37 and then we'll talk.)
Hannah's vow shows that something deep inside her changed, profoundly and completely. If she is given the gift of a son, she will not cling to him, will not use him in family power struggles. She will give him up to the LORD and go on in her daily life, in front of her family and home village, effectively childless. Even if the stigma of barrenness is removed from her, she will not get to enjoy her child like other mothers and fathers do. Her family won't benefit socially and economically from his presence.
This can only be possible because the LORD was close to Hannah at the Tabernacle in Shiloh, just as Psalm 34:18 promises. The LORD came to her when she was brokenhearted and saved her crushed spirit; he enabled her to give up her hope for a child to rescue her, because he would rescue her.
Hannah experienced something that enabled her to remove her hopes from a child and to place them on the LORD, and we can tell because of what she does next -- she returns to her family and eats. She is no longer upset. She is at peace, and it is because God met her when she needed him to, healed her broken heart, rescued her spirit.
Hannah's story continues, and she does receive a son ... but I don't want to race on to that part. It's too easy to look at the later events and say "oh, that's where Hannah was rescued, the part where she got stuff." In truth, Hannah is rescued right here, where she prays and God meets her, with the kind of love and grace that enables her to change.
God is close to the brokenhearted and rescues those who are crushed in spirit. Hannah's story shows me how. It helps me understand that God can do the same for me.