by Christopher Harbin

Form and Essence
Christopher B. Harbin
1 Samuel 2:1-10; John 4:19-30; Galatians 3:1-14

How often we hear messages that our strength, wealth, intelligence and initiative are the things that will take us forward in life! The world around us is very determined to focus on the self above all else. It is said that we should live life according to our own way. We are told that our desires, plans and dreams are of supreme importance in life. One's personal decision is the decision is said to be the important one. The freedom to choose our own way is the larger direction of society, almost without restriction. Many times we bring the same concept to our service of worship and our religious activities. Without realizing it we often confuse the forms of worship with the essence of offering worship and praise to God. How do we distinguish between forms and essence in religious concerns?
Hannah's prayer in 1st Samuel is exemplary in many ways. She had experienced a very difficult time in her life. She had been married for years, but had no children. Her husband had another wife as well, according to the custom of the day. The other wife had conceived and borne children to present her husband. That was OK as far as it went, though it hurt Hannah that she had no son of her own. The issue was that the other wife, Peninnah, ridiculed for having a barren womb. She would laugh at Hannah and make fun of her. She insulted and reproached her. Her life was made difficult because of Peninnah's jealousy towards her and their husband. The biggest problem between the two was that their husband loved Hannah more than Peninnah, and Peninnah sought opportunities to make Hannah feel bad.
It was already difficult for a woman to live without having children. The situation with Peninnah, meanwhile, wore down Hannah's energies and weakened her emotionally even more than normal. Her husband tried to cheer her and affirm his love for Hannah, but his words fell into the void ...

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