God cares for the “losers” when no one else does

13 Oct

Penninah was mean to Hannah, but God is not like that. Here are some of my notes on 1 Samuel 1-2

The first two chapters of First Samuel tell an amazing story.

The characters

Elkanah= the dude with two wives

Hannah= Elkanah’s favorite wife who is unable to get pregnant. She is living with deep grief, hurt and pain.

Penninah= Elkanah’s other wife, the one who gets pregnant easier than the sun coming up every morning. She is jealous of the favorite wife, in rivalry with Hannah

Eli= the senior priest in charge of the temple at Shiloh. He is a religious leader with wild, out-of-control sons. His boys are both heavy drinkers and womanizers

God= the One who is on our side, especially the Hannahs and the losers of the world. 

The Plot

Penninah taunts, ridicules and mocks Hannah in her childlessness, “Hey Hannah, you must be tired, because you look terrible! Were you awake all night breast feeding your babies? Changing diapers? Washing toddler clothes? Oh, that’s right. You don’t have any kids! So your flea bitten, mud caked, harpy look must come naturally. It’s a good thing you cannot reproduce, because the planet doesn’t need any more maggot pies like you.”

Hannah is hurting, and Penninah adds salt to her wounds. Some people are like Penninah. When life’s losers are already in deep pain, they sarcastically add more hurt.

Elkanah is the compassionate husband who loves Hannah even when she does not give him children. He loves her for who she is, not for what she produces for him. Yet he also offers too easy, well meaning answers, “Am I not worth 10 sons to you? Don’t you see how much I love you? Why not focus on what you have, me? Can’t you move on, get over it, count your blessings, and look on the bright side of life?”

On the one hand, Elkanah is right. Hannah is blessed by his love. On the other hand, she is in deep pain. Platitudes like, “You must not have kids for a reason. It must not be God’s plan for your life” hurt Hannah even more than Penninah’s taunts. Yes, Elkanah means well. And he is confused as to how to respond to Hannah’s unfathomable grief.

Eli faithfully performs his duties as head priest. He gets up at the crack of dawn. He goes to the office to get everything ready. On the way in, he almost trips over Hannah. She is on the front porch of the temple. There–  she is praying her hurt and her hope and her grief out to the Holy One. What Eli sees, however, is a drunk bag lady who has been partying on the temple steps all night.

What a hypocrite– his own sons are out of control, and here he misjudges Hannah’s behavior. There are many Eli’s in the world. They misinterpret other people, judge life’s losers as bringing it upon themselves, while seeing themselves as morally/religiously superior to them.

But Hannah stands up to Eli. Her prayer has been so passionate that her lips were moving, but no sound passed from them. She tells Eli that he has her all wrong, then describes her prayer. Eli repents, “I’m sorry. May the Lord God of the angel armies heed your prayer. Amen.”

God now enters the story. Often, when people are hurting, there is a faith interpretation which goes, “God is against the losers. God doesn’t like these bums. God is punishing them.” There is a twist in the plot. God is on Hannah’s side! God is always on the side of the losers.

God is a God who is for us. That’s why we gather in worship. God in Jesus is given for you, as individuals and all who gather around the Table. God in Jesus is given for all people– for the forgiveness of sin. God is ON THE SIDE OF EVERYONE! God is FOR EVERYONE!


The Bible constantly reveals our human rivalry: the “favorites” versus the “rejects,” the “Penninahs” versus the “Hannahs,” the “winners” versus the “losers”. The scriptures are realistic. This is how we see things.We believe that God loves some of us (favorites) more than the rest of us (the regulars) and that God despises the worst of us (losers). The “Satan batters us into thinking that God hates the people we label “the worst” until they get their act together.


However, in this story, we see that God is ON THE SIDE of life’s losers. So Hannah prays in 1 Samuel 2, thanking God for turning things upside down. In Luke 1, the peasant girl, Mary, sings a praise song, about how God is on the side of the losers. But then there is this… as we receive the God who is ON OUR SIDE we are then able to relax into being a people who are ON THE SIDE of everyone. As God is FOR us, then we are released to also be FOR others.


So how about we try this? Instead of seeing people’s faults, see their pain– look at everyone through God’s eyes, the God who is on their side.



P.S. God listened to Hannah’s prayer. A year later, she had a baby boy named Samuel, a sign that God is ON OUR SIDE.

P.P.S. Even when we were enemies against God, doing not-so-cool-things, Christ was on our side, to the point of showing his love up upon the cross.


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