Text: I Samuel 1: 21 – 28
By: David D. McDonald
May 10, 2020
NRSV PSALM 22:25-31
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the LORD.
May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him
28 For dominion belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations.
29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth
before him shall bow all who go down to the
and I shall live for him.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet
saying that he has done it.
I SAMUEL 1: 21 – 28
21 The man Elkanah and all his household went up to offer to the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and to pay his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, that he may appear in the presence of the LORD, and remain there forever; I will offer him as a Nazi- rite for all time.” 23 Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Do what seems best to you, wait until you have weaned him; only--may the LORD establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son, until she weaned him. 24 When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine. She brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh; and the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the LORD. 27 For this child I prayed; and the LORD has granted me the petition that I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he is
given to the LORD.”
She left him there for the LORD.
As the book of Judges draws to a close, it looks like there is no righteous one in whom the promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be brought to pass. Israel is still looking for a righteous king to lead and protect them. They are looking for a king after God’s own heart. The priesthood seems to be a dismal failure. The sons of Eli are among the most horrible of sinners. Before we can reach the line and lineage of the Messiah the reader has to wade through their sordid affairs and subsequently the failure of the prophet, Samuel, to coronate a good king – Saul fails the test early in his reign.
Samuel is the little boy in this story, from the book of I Samuel, who is born into a troubled family, a troubled nation, and a troubled world. He will stand as a prophet before Saul and dare to speak the Lord’s word. It is Samuel who comes to Jesse and pass by all his robust sons and finally anoints the youngest, David, who becomes a great king of Israel.
As Walter Bruggemann, the great Old Testament scholar, points out in his commentary on I & II Samuel; before we can arrive at Jesse’s household to pass all the sons by in a search for the Lord’s anointed; we first must pass by a haunting, patient woman named Hannah who is fervent in prayer, and confident that the Lord hears the prayers of an aging childless woman even if the priest thinks she is unfit to be in the Lord’s house, much less worshipping among the saints.
For years Hannah had been praying fervently for a son. In fact, we learn earlier in this Biblical book, Samuel, that she is so distressed, her expressions of despair so animated as she prays in the temple, that in spite of her silence, Eli the priest mistakes her as a drunk. She sees herself as worthless without a son. Her life is a void without a child of her own. She bargains with God – who can blame her. She prays:
“O LORD of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.” (I Samuel 1: 11)
Students of scripture might want to rush into Hannah’s presence and clap a hand over her mouth, cautioning her against nursing any such thoughts, and ask why in the world she would pray like that. Consider that The Book of Judges is still wet with the ink of Samson’s story when he had taken the vows of a Nazirite. His vows of abstinence and a life of piety not withstanding, Samson became something of a rogue even if he was a legendary hero of Israel, but that’s a story for another time. So, what’s the tale this story has to tell?
The point of the story is this.
“In the darkest of hours when it seems that the world is the cruelest and there are no words to express the anguish we feel; God’s grace will prevail and His grace will be sufficient. The weakest, most likely to fail, may possibly become God’s conduit of grace for a whole nation.”
Samuel, the Old Testament book, records the “Mighty Acts of God.” It endeavors to tell us about God’s love for the world. We can see in this story something of that nature of God uncovered. Hannah’s deepest desire is to have a son. That is a very human emotion and desire. What comes to pass is that she discovers it is the will of God to grant her a son on loan. Samuel is her boy, her child, her flesh and blood; but she loans him to God. Everything is on loan to the Lord. She offers the bull in her pasture, the flour in her kitchen, and the wine in her cellar. Only the best will do for God and that includes her only son! Of course, the child would not have been born except by the grace of God. Of course, the child would not have been sustained except by the grace of God. Of course, the child would not have been the last judge and first prophet except by the grace of God. What we see most clearly is that all things are God’s. Life is a gift and it is a loan to us. Children are a gift and they are on loan. Sooner or later the time comes for our children to take their turn to glorify God. In the case of Samuel, it came early in years. For others it comes much later in life. Mothers and Fathers have children in their homes for awhile. They are on loan to us for a period of time. A time during which parents, especially mothers have a profound influence on their attitude, their education, and those who will teach and preach to them. We acknowledge that we belong to God. The Study Catechism that I have used with Confirmation Classes addresses the topic in this way:
“Question 2. How do you live by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ?”
Answer: “I am not my own. I have been bought with a price. The Lord Jesus Christ loved me and gave himself for me. I entrust myself completely to his care, giving thanks each day for his wonderful goodness.”
We belong to Jesus Christ, heart, soul, mind, and body. We are children of God. We are his people and He has laid down His life for us. We are saved by grace. This is indeed God’s blessing upon us! As the family of God we pray for one another in spite of the hurts and aggravation that we have endured at the hands of others. We pray for one another as we live out our lives in possibly desperate times and desperate places. We pray with one another in rejoicing and thanksgiving as we recall all that God has done, is doing, and will do for His creation. We affirm in our daily prayers and weekly worship that God is the Lord of all of life; especially those portions over which we have no control. Hannah, who appears to be forgotten, or at least temporarily ignored by God and the lowest member of the community, totally dependent on Elkanah; becomes the conduit of Israel’s salvation and the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. The fate of the world depends on Hannah to be a woman of faith and a keeper of her promise. As we celebrate this Mother’s Day we affirm that Mothers have played and will play an important role in our lives and in Salvation History.
DickVan Dyke in his book, Faith, Hope, and Hilarity tells the following story:
It seems that a very thoughtful six-year-old was listening in on the conversation his parents were having with some friends that had come over for dinner. In spite of being sent to bed, he couldn’t resist creeping down the stairs just far enough that he could hear but not be seen. During the evening they coursed through a variety of problems, maladies, and difficulties. One of the visitors summed up the evening discussion when he said:
“Everything just seems to be going to pieces.”
That evening the little boy was saying his prayers and his parents overheard him say:
“God bless Daddy and Momma, and all those other people who are falling apart.” (p.26)
My charge to the congregation this day, especially on this Mother’s Day as we celebrate the gifts of mothers living in these days of a pandemic, who are being challenged to work from home, serve as teachers, do the laundry, order food, prepare meals, and calm the fears of frightened children is this:
“Pray for one another, especially for those whose world is falling apart, even moms who are supposed to have it all together.”
Then, in the silence that comes at the conclusion of your prayer; listen for the voice of God speaking within and you will find that in the family of God, life is a blessing. You will bless and be blessed. Mothers seem to learn that lesson well. Take time to give thanks for the blessings of God to you and your family, community and nation.
Returning from this past Sunday’s Session meeting, I called each of my children to see how they were doing. My middle daughter, Christy, has been managing a household with three children, a husband working at home in the midst of a very big bank merger and totally committed to his work, and the care for three dogs. The arrival of the third pet was a puppy whose arrival came about as the result of an interesting story. Christy’s oldest child is my granddaughter, Emily. When Easter came this year, her high school was closed, she had her drivers’ license and a vehicle to drive, so she asked if she and her good friend could get some lunch if they went to an establishment that had a drive thru service. Emily’s friend is a typical high schooler except that she has a heart arrhythmia. Christy wisely asked if it was all right with this friends’ mother to go get some lunch. The two mothers trust each other and so the girls were given permission to leave the house. Some time passed and Christy became suspicious. She called Emily who quickly confessed that they had indeed had lunch, their boy friends were with them, and they were at Tractor Supply and they loved the little chicks and Emily begged to have a duckling. Christy blurted out, “What are you thinking? You have a friend who has a heart arrhythmia and Covid-19 is loose in the area, are you trying to kill us all? Get home right now. They get home and all turns out well except that Emily is heart broken that she cannot have a duckling because they live on Lake Jeanette and domestic fowl do not fair well with heir wild cousins on the lake. So, Christy says, “Look, I know we have two older dogs, maybe we could look at puppies when our dogs go the way of all creatures.” That was a mistake, of course; that soon resulted in the puppy being brought home.
So, Sunday I was asking how everyone was doing and how things were going with the new arrival. About that time, I heard Christy exclaim, “No!, No! not over the air vent!” Well, the puppy had just relieved her bladder over the air vent and the older male dog had arrived to cover the mess with his scent and so Christy had to get off the phone and tend to the matters at hand. So I found myself, laughing and praying, “Lord, bless her with patience! May the grand children grow up to be responsible adults! Thank you Lord for being with me on my way back to Wilmington!
On this Mother’s Day, let us pray for them and give thanks for all they do and let us help shoulder the burden they carry. Let us honor them and give voice and expression for our love for them. For those of us whose mothers have passed on – Let us take time to cherish special memories of them and share the love of Christ made visible in their kindness and guidance throughout our lives. Mothers have an awesome responsibility as servants and witnesses to Jesus Christ. It has been said, “The hand that rocks the cradle, rocks the world!”
Paul in his letter to the Philippians 4:5 writes, “Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.”
For Mothers everywhere who have far too much on their plates let us ease their burdens and join them in moving forward and celebrating life in this ever changing world.
Happy Mother’s Day! Amen!