Loving God for Life
1 Samuel 1:1-11
James C. Denison
This has been a tough week for me. It started so well. A wonderful weekend of ministry last Saturday and worship on Sunday. I was excited about this week and all it held. Then I came home from work Monday evening to find my AARP application waiting for me.
I will turn 50 later this month. I will then be half a century old. It’s a milestone worthy of reflection. Over these 50 years, what events stand out as most significant? There’s no contest: my salvation, my marriage, and the birth of our sons.
Every parent would feel the same way. There is no greater privilege in life than being a father or a mother. And no challenge more important or overwhelming. To be so responsible for another person–to be the most important influence on an eternal soul–is a daunting assignment.
If you’re a mother, you’re facing such a challenge today. The good news is that God wants to help. He wants to help every mother and every mother’s child with the burdens and responsibilities we carry. But there’s a catch, as we’ll see this morning.
How to give your child to God
Here’s the setting of our text.
Hannah had no children, in a day when this was a terrible stigma and shame. In their culture a woman’s highest privilege and responsibility was to be a mother. Women did not work outside the home, and had no social standing outside their father or husband. From the time they were small girls, they were told that their primary work in life was to raise children. But this Hannah could not do. This was literally the greatest tragedy a woman could face.
It’s still hard to want to be a mother and be unable to have children. Even today, with all the strides we’ve made in recognizing the importance of women before God and in society, it’s still hard for those who cannot be mothers. For people like Hannah in this room today, Mother’s Day is not an easy day. You have some sense of her pain and grief.
And there are others today for whom Mother’s Day is difficult. Some of you no longer have your mother with you, and this day brings back the pain of that loss and grief. Some have had mothers who were not godly. Some have experienced the pain and trauma of abortion. Some are estranged from children. Many of you know how Hannah felt.
In the face of such difficulty, Hannah did exactly what we should do–she went to God. She went directly to him, in the tabernacle which preceded the Temple, to pray.
Her intercession came from the heart, praying in “bitterness of soul” (v. 10). The Hebrew literally says that she was “weeping much in her prayer.” She prayed with such emotion that Eli the priest thought she was drunk. No rote prayer, going through a prayer list, keeping the routine.
If your mother prayed for you like this, thank God and thank her. If you’re a mother, this is your best gift for them. Godly parenting starts with godly people. Are you praying every day for your children and your witness to them?
Next, we dedicate our children to their Father (v. 11). Hannah prayed for a son so she could give him back to God. He will be a Nazirite, a very special class of people in ancient Israel. We’ll say more about them in a moment.
By promising him to the Lord’s service, she would never be able to know the joy of raising him herself. She could visit him at the tabernacle, but not be in his life every day. But she wanted God’s glory, God’s best, not her own.
Have you surrendered your children to God? Do you want him to bless your plans and ambitions for them, or can he do anything with them he wants? Can he call them to missions and ministry? Can he lead them in a direction you would never have intended? Do they belong to him before they belong to you?
Once we submit ourselves to God in prayer and our children to him in commitment, we leave the results with him (v. 18).
Hannah left the tabernacle with a deep sense of inner peace, even though she had no tangible answer to her prayer. She trusted the future to her Father, and had his peace which passes understanding as a result (Philippians 4:6-7).
So can we. So must we. Why?
Why to give your child to God
Why should you follow Hannah’s example with your most precious possessions today? With your children, or family, or future, or vocation, or dreams? The simple answer is that God can do more with your child than you can. The more your children are submitted to him, the more he can lead and bless and use them. Samuel is proof.
Hannah committed her unborn child to be a Nazirite. These were a kind of monks or nuns of ancient Israel. Numbers 6 describes their four-fold commitment: abstain from all alcohol and products of the vine, keep the hair and beard uncut, refuse to touch a dead body, and refuse all unclean food.
Some people kept this vow for 30, 60, or 100 days. Samson and John the Baptist were Nazirites; the Apostle Paul took a Nazirite vow for a period of time; and Samuel was made a Nazirite for life by Hannah.
What’s more, she dedicated him to live and work at the tabernacle. She would give him when he was “weaned” (v. 21), three years of age according to Hebrew tradition. He would then serve the Lord for the rest of his life. Levites served from the age of 25 to 50 (Numbers 8:24-25), and priests in various rotations, but Samuel would spend every day of every year in the service of God. From the time he was three, Hannah would see him only when she came to the tabernacle for worship.