Hannah is my favorite woman in the Bible. You meet her in the first chapter of 1 Samuel, where we learn that she desperately wants a child. She prays and promises God that if He blessed her with a son, she will give her son completely to God as a Nazarite. Hannah’s prayer is so desperate that Eli, the priest, accuses her of being drunk.
[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]It was during this time of learning about these different women and their holy lives that I realized just how unholy mine was.[/pullquote]I wish I prayed like that!
Because of this faith, God answered and blessed her with Samuel, whom we know became a great prophet of Israel. Even though five more children followed Samuel, isn’t it amazing that Hannah kept her promise to God and gave Samuel to Eli after Samuel was weaned? It wasn’t a tithe; she didn’t just give ten percent back to God. She gave 100% back to God.
Man, I wish I was like Hannah.
Another stand-out woman in the Bible, though there are many, is Mary of Bethany, sister to Martha and Lazarus. We meet this Mary a few times throughout the Gospels, but I want to zoom in on one occasion.
In John 12, Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 7, Mary anoints Jesus with expensive perfume. I’m currently studying Matthew, and the commentary on this scene says this ointment was likely worth 300 denarii, or about a year’s worth of wages for most first-century Palestinians. A year’s worth of wages! (For reference, the 2015 average American household income was around $54,000 [according to the Census Bureau], so let that sink in.)
If someone did that today, we’d probably respond just like Judas did: “Why did she give Him a brand new luxury vehicle? That money could have been given to the poor!”
Mary, like Hannah, gave God 100%. Their saving faith set them apart. If I define “holy” as meaning “set apart for God,” then Hannah and Mary lived holy lives. They wholly devoted themselves to God and His purposes. They aligned their wills to God’s.
I decided to follow Christ at a Cru weekend retreat in October of 2009. I was a freshman in college, and I had mono. I wasn’t planning on going (because I had mono!), but my friends dragged me there. I wasn’t planning on staying for women’s time (because I was so sleepy!), but my friends kept me there. Thank God they did!
For women’s time, the staff women had set up a series of stations, each one devoted to a certain woman in the Bible. It was during this time of learning about these different women (Hannah, Mary, etc.) and their holy lives that I realized just how unholy mine was.
Growing up, I went to church every weekend. I went to a Catholic school from pre-school until eighth grade. I attended CCD and confirmation classes. I volunteered at Vacation Bible School. At the same time, in high school, I fooled around with boys and, for a while, drank and got high on the weekends. One part of my life was great. The other part, not so much. I was living a double life, but I thought that all the extra churchy things I did made up for it. I thought I was living a “holy” life. But my life certainly wasn’t “set apart for God.”
That night, I finally understood the Gospel and the concept of grace. I understood that good works don’t save you. I understood that I needed to change.
There’s a graph I like, drawn below, that shows how as we grow more aware of our sin and unholiness, we grow more aware of God’s perfection. The connecting piece is the cross, which grows to infinite heights. As we become more aware of our wretchedness, the cross grows ever bigger to connect us to God. Nothing can separate us once we’re connected by the cross.
If you are feeling distant from God, I’m going to ask you to do something you might think is odd. I want you to pray to become more aware of your sinfulness. When God answers—and He will—think of this chart.
Thank you, Jesus, for being the connecting piece—for setting us apart and making us holy, even when we’re fully aware of our brokenness.