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Monday, September 27, 2010

Hannah: Grace

Treasured Friend,

I've been posting some material in the last few weeks that hasn't quite been devotional--at least not technically. But, while I'm excited to share with you these items of news--I don't want to miss out on the opportunity to open the Word of God with you. So, for this week's devotion, I'm excerpting a chapter from my newly updated ebook (first printed by Moody in 1998; and revised this year for a new millennium), Names of Women of the Bible. I chose this chapter because in it we see how God has compassion on an exhausted, hurting woman who has no recourse but to carry her burden to Him in prayer. So, enjoy this excerpt from one of my favorite chapters. It represents the story of a woman I can relate to on so many levels. I pray you can, too:


I am a woman who is deeply troubled. . . . I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. (1 Samuel 1:15)

It was to be three weeks of bliss. The trip of a lifetime.

I had been chosen to join a touring choir on a mission to Europe. My dear friend Paul Yerden (our church's minister of music) and his wife, Rita Jo, would lead the tour.

While in Germany, we enjoyed the hospitality of host churches. They served us delicious cold cuts and cheese with heavily buttered hard rolls. Every afternoon we stopped at out-of-the-way bakeries for a stretch break and to enjoy luscious cream-filled pastries.

Soon after our arrival, my stomach began to complain. At first it was just a little discomfort, then the pain increased. I missed several concerts, having to lie down backstage while my friends were out front ministering. Discouragement crept in. It wasn't until five years later that my physician discovered the milk allergy—to cream, cheese, butter —that caused these symptoms. All I knew at the time was that I was missing all the good stuff by being sick.

One afternoon Rita Jo pushed a folded piece of paper into my hand. On it she had handwritten the words to the hymn "He Giveth More Grace." I read and reread those words, contemplating their meaning, desiring the grace they bespoke.

Hannah, whose name means grace, came to know that grace intimately during her deep distress. She experienced the miracle-working grace of God, because she carried her burden right to Him.

Hannah had good reason to be depressed. You and I certainly would have been troubled in her circumstance. Peninnah, her husband's other wife, had many children; Hannah had none. Peninnah, the Scriptures say, tormented her rival for Elkanah's attention: "Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat" (1 Samuel 1:7). In her pain and in utter disregard for anyone who might be watching, Hannah bared her soul to the Lord, begging Him to give her a son, vowing to give that child back to Him for His service.

In response, the Scriptures record a beautiful phrase, "and the Lord remembered her" (1 Samuel 1:19). She touched the Father's heart with her tears and prayers, and He extended His hand to her. God honored Hannah's sincerity and fervency. He granted her not only that baby, but later He also gave her other sons and daughters.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines grace as "A favor rendered by one who need not do so." God acted graciously on Hannah's behalf, not because He was obligated to do so, but because He chose to do so. Moreover, He displayed His graciousness through her, by using her firstborn son (whom she named Samuel, which means, "heard of God") to rule His people in justice and honor. In his old age, long after his mother was gone, Samuel had the privilege of anointing Israel's greatest king, David.

Hannah's response to the Lord's provision was as exemplary as her request. First, she did as she had promised. She gave the child Samuel to minister in the Lord's temple to become a blessing back to the Lord. Second, she gave all the glory to God, her heart overflowing into a poetic prayer of acknowledgment and thanks. "My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high. . . . There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God" (1 Samuel 2:1–2).

In some obvious ways, we are unlike Hannah. In few of our homes do two wives of the same man live together (although if they did, feuding would not be unthinkable). And in our culture, inability to have children is not thought to be a curse from God, as it was in Hannah's day.

But in the ways that count, we are very much alike. Our needs, our heavy burdens, the demands of life, and our tormentors and problems too often threaten to overwhelm us. Like I did on my college bus trip, we often suffer alone, when with just a prayer we can call upon the one who will "remember us" as He remembered Hannah all those centuries ago.

The writer of Proverbs noted that God "mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble" (3:34). It is a truth James quotes in his epistle (4:6).

It was in humbly pouring out her heart to God that Hannah found her burden lifted. Her life can be an example to us of what God can do—if we do our part. We are told in Scripture what that part is: "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).

It has been many years since Rita Jo handed me that paper, but I'll never forget its effect upon me. Those words reminded me that God, through His only Son Jesus whom He graciously sacrificed to meet the ultimate need of humanity, stands ready to provide for all my needs through His abundant, overflowing supply. And He does this not because of any obligation, but because He chooses to do so.

My dear, loving Father, I need a portion of that overflowing supply of grace today, and I know so many others around me have that same need. Please provide for me, and equip me to be a conduit of Your grace in the lives of those I love. Amen.

Blessings and prayers, Julie

© 1998, 2010, Julie-Allyson Ieron. Excerpted by permission from Names of Women of the Bible. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email:

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