1 Samuel 1:21-28 – 5.14.17 Mother’s Day
Hannah brought her three year old son to the tabernacle at Shiloh. Elkanah and the family had along what was needed for their sacrifices. A bull three years of age, a skin of wine and an ephah of flour. This offering was generous and it seems even beyond what a normal offering would have to be for a special vow. Hannah walked up to Eli the high priest. Would he recognize her from four years before? When he spoke to her then, she was so distraught, unable to say the words of her prayer out loud, but praying with all her heart that God would grant her a son. If God would just give her a child she would dedicate his life to the LORD. She’d give him back. Eli had thought she was drunk. It was the time of the judges. I’m sure Eli had seen it all and witnessed quite a bit of apathy and loose spiritual living from God’s people – even when they came to the tabernacle. “Put away your wine” he had told her. She told Eli her prayer. He blessed her, asking God to grant her request. God did. And now four years later Hannah stood before Eli with her three year old son – the answer to her prayers. The LORD heard her. The LORD always hears the prayers of his people. And he answered this prayer with a “yes” that walked and talked and worshipped the LORD.
Hannah named her son, Samuel – “Heard by God.” Hannah presented a three year old bull for a burnt offering to be burned up to God. I don’t know the last time you ordered a side of beef, but this wasn’t cheap. An ephah of flour – about 22 liters, and a skin of wine accompanied this generous offering to say thank you to the LORD for his indescribable gift. The gift that had been given to Hannah and Elkanah, she now returned to the LORD, not just with a bull in its place, but with the very blessing the LORD had given her. She boldly gave Samuel to the LORD. Samuel would worship the LORD at the tabernacle at Shiloh. Samuel would stay with Eli at the tabernacle and live there. Wow.
Shiloh was 12 miles from their home. This wasn’t dropping Samuel off at daycare or preschool. In our preschool parent meeting for Hattie last summer, Mrs. Meyer coached all the parents through how to drop off our kids. You could tell she was speaking from years of experience as waves of parents blubber through dropping off their babies for three hours with some of the most wonderful teachers in the world. Each year Hannah would make her son a linen ephod – a mini-priest uniform – for him to wear as he served the LORD at the temple. How often would she be able to visit him? Would he be a good boy for Eli? Putting all questions aside, she did as she had vowed to do – In thankfulness for God’s great gift, she gave her son, her only son, back to the LORD to serve him. Was she a good mom?
Permit me a few observations from these verses. Hannah had a husband who cared deeply for her, and he cared deeply about God. Elkanah and Hannah encouraged each other in their faith life. The LORD was no stranger in their household. They talked about God. Elkanah encouraged Hannah to keep her vow to the LORD. And he also respected her wisdom and timing. Samuel wasn’t weaned. I’m sure the tabernacle did not have little jars of baby food in their pantry. Each day Hannah grew closer to her son, Samuel, and she nursed him through his weaning years – probably until he was about three. Our Gus is three. He’s finally potty training and able to feed himself when he wants to do so. Samuel no doubt was doing the same or more. Elkanah and Hannah loved, communicated and cared for one another. Elkanah knew how difficult this might be for Hannah. He encouraged and trusted his wife. And Hannah loved her husband and she loved her LORD.
I served at Luther Preparatory School in Watertown, Wisconsin, one of our synod’s preparatory high schools for ministry. 90 percent of the students stayed in the dormitories during the school year. Some had their homes only an hour away. Some were 20 hours from home, and some further – from foreign countries. Our house was located across from the entrance to the girl’s dormitory. On Sunday afternoon of opening weekend, my wife would not go outside our house because she is a sympathetic crier. Parents were dropping off their 14 year old daughters to live at a school and be trained in God’s Word and encouraged toward ministry. Luther Prep – good purpose for the school, great school, but the reality is that some of those parents wouldn’t see their kids until Christmas, and a few until Easter! Were they good parents? (Sidenote: Half of the graduates from Prep end up at Martin Luther College to pursue ministry. The other half go to serve their Savior in other ways. Please, encourage your children and those you know to pursue the public gospel ministry. We need more pastors, teachers and staff ministers to serve God’s people in our current churches and schools, but also in new missions and world missions. The need is great. Pray for more workers. Encourage young and old alike to consider it for their first or their second career. And no matter which work you choose to do, do it with all your heart as you are also serving the Lord!).
Parents who sent their kids to Prep, especially from areas where “you just don’t do that type of thing,” regularly reported that their friends, relatives, even complete strangers would make comments to them when they learned that they dropped their 14 year old off at a school 1000 miles away and had to pay tuition and room and board on top of it. “Is that like a reform school?” “I don’t think you should be pawning your kid off to have someone else raise them.” “I love my child too much to send them away.” (allowing the implication that the other person must not love their own kid) We are not told what comments and looks Hannah received as she returned from the tabernacle to her home without her little three year old Samuel in her arms or holding her hand. But what we are told is what Hannah says to the high priest.
“I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there. Was she a good mom? Was Elkanah a good father? Elkanah and Hannah had raised little Samuel to know his LORD. He heard stories of the Messiah, the promises God made of a Savior. And we do not hear he was unwilling to do what his parents now asked of him. In truth, they had prepared him well for this time. They fulfilled their vow in thankfulness for the great gift God had given them. They nurtured his body with good food. They had nurtured his soul with spiritual food to ready him for service to the LORD. And now they were willing not just to have him serve the LORD at their home, but they brought him to a place where he would, in a special way, learn how to serve the LORD and God’s people in tremendous ways. While we may say, “I could never do that,” we would never say that Hannah shouldn’t have done what she did. In fact God did amazing things through her Son. Samuel was judge over Israel and led them. Samuel was priest over Israel and represented them before God. Samuel prophesied God’s messages to Israel. How God blessed Samuel and God’s people through him! And so we know Hannah’s song and fame and Elkanah’s name. All Glory to God!
Sometimes we struggle with worshipping our children. Some Christians have even erred in saying that family time is more important than time in God’s house. We coordinate the right camps, clubs, sports, schools and vacations all in the name of loving the kids, but the Lord and time in his house and in his Word take second place or worse. While the two are both blessings from God, even good blessings become idols when we place them as of more importance than our God and our relationship with him, and our children’s relationship with their Savior. It is the high calling and privilege of each parent to instill in their children and, if God wills, grandchildren, that our God and his Son, Jesus Christ is of number one importance in our lives. This is best done by example. It is our love to give the Holy Spirit every opportunity to work on the hearts of our children through contact with God’s Word through devotions at home, conversations about God and his will, commands and his love, and through our use of making time in God’s house a regular priority, and in Sunday School, our Lutheran Schools, and other avenues of impressing on our children the law and the life-saving Gospel of God’s Word. Even on Mother’s Day, moms, dads and children must repent for our sins and our failures, for negligence, impatience, and misplaced priorities, for letting other things become more important that God in our lives. We need a Savior to rescue us. And we need God’s strength and wisdom to live and to keep him as #1 in our hearts and in the hearts of the next generation.
1000 years after Hannah and Elkanah dropped Samuel off, a Father would drop his Son off on earth into the womb of a virgin and to a world that struggled and was trapped in sin, a world that would otherwise end in hell. This Son would live perfectly and represent his Father well. His earthly mother and step-father fed not only his physical needs, but like Elkanah and Hannah, brought him to God’s house regularly to worship, learn, and offer the sacrifices God commanded and fulfilling whatever vows they may have made. This Son would find many people who listened. And he would find many people who rejected him. This Son, though perfect, allowed himself to be accused, tried, beaten, scorned and crucified. And unlike Hannah and Elkanah, his Father turned his love away from his Son. On that cross Jesus suffered the hell we deserved for our failures and our sin. Jesus died for us. But God raised him up with power. And that Son rules and reigns over all things for the good of his church. He is our prophet, our priest, and our King. How we have been blessed through the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our Savior!
Is Hannah a good mother? Is our God a good Father? Follow in their examples. Prepare your child in the best way possible. Nourish their bodies with good food. Nourish their souls with God’s Word. And encourage them in a life of service to their Savior. Model it for them. Turn from sin. Forgive others. Love God and love them.
What do good mothers do? They bring their children to Jesus. They prepare them for lives of service to their Savior in whatever callings and vocations the Lord has in store for them. They love the LORD. They love their husbands. And they love their children. Today, give thanks to God for Christian mothers. If God has blessed you with a Christian Mother or you know one, Thank God and thank them and encourage and help them in their vital work. Happy Mother’s Day. To God be the Glory. Amen.