Mother’s Day ❧ Part 1 of 1
1 Samuel 1:1-28 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney
Happy Mother’s Day! This last week I read some myths of motherhood. I thought I’d share them with you. Somebody said that a child is carried in its mother’s womb for nine months. Somebody does not know that a child is carried in its mother’s heart forever. Somebody said it takes about six weeks to get back to normal after you’ve had a baby. Somebody doesn’t know that once you’re a mother, normal is history. Somebody said you learn how to be a mother by instinct. Somebody never took a three-year-old shopping. Somebody said being a mother is boring. Somebody never rode in a car driven by a teenager with a driver’s permit.
Today we want to take some time and appreciate our mothers. They more than deserve it. It is my belief that being a mom is easily one of the toughest, most thankless, and difficult jobs there is. If you don’t believe me, listen to this job description of a mother. Position: Mother, Mom, Mama. Job description: Long term, team players needed, for challenging permanent work in an often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings, weekends, and frequent 24 hour shifts on call. Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities. Travel expenses not reimbursed. Extensive courier duties also required. Responsibilities: The rest of your life. Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs $5. Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly. Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf. Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers. Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects. Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks. Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next. Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys, and battery operated devices. Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product. Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility. Possibility for advancement and promotion: Virtually none. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining, and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you. Previous experience: None required. On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.
Wages and compensation: Get this! You pay them! Offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent. When you die, you give them whatever is left. The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more. Benefits: While no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays, and no stock options are offered; this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth and free hugs for life.
Sound familiar moms? This morning we’re going to look at a passage of Scripture that tells the story of a mom who in my estimation is an unsung hero, a woman of unseen greatness.
Open with me 1 Samuel 1:1-28. The setting of this story finds its roots in a time when Israel had no godly leadership. The government was often corrupt. The priesthood was badly defiled (Hophni & Phinehas, both ostensibly wicked to the core). People seldom heard from the Lord (3:1). God seemed distant, aloof. Lawlessness was rampant. The future was uncertain. Judges 17 says, In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6). Proverbs says, When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan (Proverbs 29:2). In other words, Israel was struggling through a time very much like our own. But God was neither distant, or silent. His focus was in fact on a woman most barely would have given a thought. Her name was Hannah, which means “a woman of grace.” Her greatness was virtually unrecognized by others and would remain so for years. True greatness often is, but time has a way of unveiling that greatness sooner or later. Through this obscure figure God was about to change the nation. The Kinds of Greatness God Uses There are three that I see in Hannah’s life: 1) Great faith, 2) Great prayer, 3) Great sacrifice.
- Great faith. Great faith often reveals itself in times of great crisis. Hannah lived in a home that
was painfully divided. Her husband, Elkanah a Levite, had a second wife, Peninnah, which means “Ruby.” Turns out she was far from being a precious gem, but more like a cold hard rock.
Why did Elkanah have two wives? Good question. It seems that Hannah may have been his first wife but since she was barren, Elkanah decided a second wife was in order. Rather than wait on the Lord, like Abraham, Elkanah decided to take a second wife. God does not condone polygamy (Matt. 19:5-6). In fact taking on more than one wife will always get you into trouble. Just ask Abraham who had three wives, or Jacob who had four, or David who had at least eight, or Solomon who had seven-hundred and three-hundred concubines! When Ms. Cold-stone Peninnah came along, she was a slap in the face of Hannah causing almost immediate division and tension in the home.
Twice in the first eight verses it says Hannah was not able to have children because God kept her from having them (v. 5,6). A fact that Peninnah didn’t hesitate to throw in Hannah’s face on a regular basis; like throwing salt into an open wound. Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. It happened year after year(1 Samuel 1:6-7). Elkanah was able to have children through Peninnah proving Hannah was problem, not Elkanah. Barrenness for woman in those days was a mark of deep personal and public shame. Though she probably didn’t feel like it, but Hannah stood in a line of other barren women whom God used for greatness: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel.
Nowhere does it say Hannah retaliated. Instead, what we see is a quiet and persistent faith. While Peninnah continued to have one child after another, nowhere does it say Hannah finally had enough and let her rival have it. “Ok Ms. Cold-stone, I’ve had enough!” Nor did Hannah rail against God. “God, why?! Why are You doing this to me?” After all, God was the One preventing her from having children. Instead, she took her sorrow to God. Great faith, wrote one man, is not faith that always walks in the light and knows no darkness, but the faith that perseveres in spite of God’s seeming silence. Dwight L. Moody said,Real faith is man’s weaknesses leaning on God’s strength. Hannah’s strength was her persistent faith. She never gave up or let up.
We might wonder why God treated Hannah this way. Did He have a secret vendetta against her? Sometimes we feel like He does when things go wrong in our own lives. But what we see in Hannah’s life as well as in the lives of many great men and women of faith is that God allowed this crisis in order to show Hannah her great need for Him. God was preparing her for the faith she’d need as a mother in the days to come. In the life of every great saint there are often long and dark seasons of struggle and waiting. The list of names seems almost endless; Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David, Mary, Paul, and on and on the list goes. Motherhood is often shrouded with seemingly endless days filled with endless duties, and seemingly endless struggles. What you may or may not realize in the midst of all of this is that your children are watching and learning. They are assessing if your faith is real or not. I want to encourage you moms; your faith matters more than you think. Never underestimate the influence of persistent faith.
Four scholars were arguing once over Bible translations. One said he preferred the King James Version because of its beautiful, eloquent old English. Another said, he preferred the American Standard Bible for its literalism; the way it moves the reader from passage to passage with confident feelings of accuracy from the original text. A third man preferred the Moffat translation because of its quaint, penetrating use of words, the turn of a phrase that captures the reader’s attention. After giving the issue some thought, the fourth scholar admitted, I have personally preferred my mother’s translation. When the other scholars chuckled, he went on, Yes, she translated it. She translated each page of the Bible into life. It is the most convincing translation I ever saw. Mom’s, no pressure here! But the sincerity and persistence of your faith is the best translation your children will ever read.
- Great prayer. Next, Hannah was a woman of great prayer. On one occasion while she accompanied Elkanah and his cold-stone antagonist wife Peninnah to the yearly festivals at Shiloh where the Tabernacle was at, Hannah quietly left the crowd and went to the Tabernacle to pray. She, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. She made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never com on his head”(1 Samuel 1:10-11). She didn’t pray these words out loud but quietly. Seeing her leaning against the Tabernacle entrance mouthing the words of her prayer, Eli, a doddering old priest, and permissive father, thought she was drunk (V.13). He immediately began reprimanding her. Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!(V. 14, NLT). It seems Eli had the discernment of a rock. Instead of accusing Hannah of doing wrong what he thought was wrong, he should have been encouraging her for doing what was right. He jumped to wrong conclusions. It seems wherever Hannah turned people were against her. But they didn’t stop her! Eli doesn’t know it, but God uses him to give the assurance to Hannah that God had heard her prayer.
It is here though where Hannah’s great faith reveals what had been stirring in her heart probably for some time – the desire to have a son and give him completely to the Lord. No doubt, this was not the first time she’d prayed. But it wasn’t until now God chose to answer her prayer. What makes her prayer so great is her great humility. Three times in these two verses she says she is the God’s maidservant. Then two more times in her response to Eli (Vv. 16,18). This is the same kind of humility Mary prayed with when the angel told her she would be the mother of the Messiah (Lk.1:38).
God does one of three things with our prayers, He say “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” It seems she had been praying for years, but now perhaps her prayer took on a greater intensity. “God, if You’ll give me son, I’ll give Him to You.” Perhaps this is just what God was waiting for. She had wanted a son for herself as a mother. She wanted a son to give to her husband. This would rid her of her shame and him of his embarrassment. But God had something greater in mind; He wanted a prophet to give to the nation for His glory. I don’t wonder if God that is exactly what God desires from us in our prayers – a great humility that recognizes prayer is not me trying to sway God to do my will but my submission to do His.
Little did Hannah recognize the future of the nation of Israel would be significantly impacted by her prayers! I believe this is still true today. Speaking from his own personal experience, Charles Spurgeon wrote, “I cannot tell how much I owe to the prayers of my good mother.” Theodore Roosevelt observed, “Praying mothers are America’s greatest assets.”
Susannah Wesley was the mother of 17 children and is best known for her two famous sons John and Charles Wesley. John led countless thousands to the Lord and Charles was a great hymn writer. With 17 children in tow Susannah managed to pray one hour a day for her children as well as spend an hour a week with each child discussing spiritual matters about Christ with them. This mom of great faith and great prayer had an enormous impact on Great Britain and America through her sons. What kinds of greatness is God looking for? Great faith and great prayer.
- Great sacrifice. When the festival at the Tabernacle is over, Elkanah packs up his family and
returns home. Not long after they return home, Hannah discovers she is pregnant and has a baby boy. She names him Samuel which means “Heard of God.” Which is significant in two ways. Samuel was both an answer to prayer and all of his life he was a great man of prayer (Wiersbe, p.209).
Hannah knew if she were to keep her vow to the Lord, she would have to tell her husband, “O by the way, I dedicated your firstborn son to the to the Lord. He’s not going to be yours to raise.” Elkanah had the right to cancel her vow (Numbers 30:8), but he doesn’t which says a great deal about both his trust in God and his wife. For three short years they have little Samuel in their home before taking him to Eli and leaving him with the old priest. You can well believe Hannah didn’t waste those three precious years! She invested everything she could to prepare her son to serve the Lord.
The day finally arrived when Hannah scooped little Samuel in her arms to took him to Eli. She said, “Oh, my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you, praying to the Lord. “For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of Him. “So I have also dedicated him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there (1 Samuel 1:26-28). This was nothing short of a tremendous step of faith as well as an incredible sacrifice on the part of Hannah and Elkanah. Could you imagine leaving your three-year-old child with a permissive old priest who’s own two sons where hellions? Little Samuel was barely out of diapers! He was just learning to talk! Just learning control his emotions! He was only a toddler! I can’t imagine the kind of sacrifice Hannah made! And nothing is said about Eli. Why this elderly priest with a horrible track record as a parent was willing to take on the huge role of raising a three-year-old! Don’t you know she continued to pray for her son’s safety and purity! She believed just as God had kept Joseph safe and pure in Egypt, so God would keep young Samuel as well.
Here’s the point: the same faith in God Hannah received her son with was the same faith she gave her son with. Hannah didn’t invest three years into young Samuel to keep him but to release him. She wisely recognized our children are not ultimately ours, but the Lords. We don’t raise them to keep them dependent on us, but to learn to be dependent on the Lord. Hannah did this well. It is fair to say Samuel would not have become the great man of God he was had his mother not been a woman of great faith, great prayer, and great sacrifice. Samuel would serve as Israel’s final and greatest judge, a priest, a kingmaker (anointing two kings), and powerful intercessor. Mom’s never underestimate the power of your faith, your prayer, and sacrificial love.
Hannah’s story poignantly reminds us that moms have a tremendous influence on the life and future of a nation through their children. If you hear anything this morning moms, I hope you hear two important truths: you matter to God and you matter to us. You may feel being a mom is a thankless job, that your faith, your prayers, your sacrifices are not making a difference. Your efforts are unseen, ineffective. Hannah reminds us differently. Hannah reminds us you matter. Your faith matters. Your prayers matter. Your many sacrifices matter. God notices and He is working through you more than you know.
As we close the message, I would like to have us all pray for all of the moms here this morning.