Hannah’s actions were misinterpreted by those closest to her. Her husband wondered how she could discount his love for her, seemingly so easily, and instead remain dolefully morose about her lack of children. He tried, in his way, to show her public honor by giving her a double portion at the yearly festival in Shiloh. But, that one day could not balance out all the days in between when she was not mistress of her own home and labored instead under the cultural weight of humiliation reserved for childless wives.
Peninah’s actions expressed overt scorn and self-satisfaction.
And Eli’s actions initially condemned Hannah for her unusual behavior, praying in the sanctuary alone, without her husband, praying soundlessly, merely moving her lips, and appearing in dishevelment from her weeping.
But God weighs every action against the motives of our hearts, and what others might scorn, condemn, or dismiss God meets with tender mercy. By the same token, those whose hearts are motivated by self-centeredness, self-aggrandizement, callousness, or unbelief will receive God’s severe mercy. For God will supply many opportunities for such a heart to be broken and remade with love.
Zechariah surely also thought of how God’s severe mercy silenced him for the nine months of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. And God’s tender mercy delivered to them their beloved son who would announce the Lamb of God, the Mediator between all those who come to Him in faith and the mercies of God.
Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb.
O star of wonder, star of light,“We Three Kings” John Henry Hopkins Jr. (1857)
star with royal beauty bright,
westward leading, still proceeding,
guide us to thy perfect light.
Merciful Lord, You are our empathetic Mediator, having come to us as fully human, experiencing all of what it means to be mortal, giving compassion and grace.