A Pilgrimage Fueled by Hope: As Long As He Lives
By Sharon W. Betters
Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord. And he worshiped the Lord there. -1 Samuel 1:28 ESV
How many of us make desperate promises in an attempt to influence God to give us what we want, especially when life doesn’t go as we planned? Then, when it appears God “came through”, we quickly forget our words or tell ourselves that we were not serious. Not so with Hannah, she remembers her promise to give God her firstborn son and we have no record that she tried to negotiate her way out of giving Samuel to the Lord.
After Samuel’s birth, Elkanah continues his practice of traveling to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice. Hannah tells him she will not return to Shiloh until Samuel is weaned. She makes it clear she is not trying to avoid her vow but plans to bring Samuel to the Lord when he is older. Elkanah trusts the heart of his wife to follow through on her vow, telling her to:
Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him; only, may the Lord establish His Word. -1 Samuel 1:23 ESV
In my church, we present babies before the congregation in a ceremony of baptism and make a similar vow to Hannah’s. Though baptism does not require giving up our parental rights or signing over ownership of our children to the church leadership, Hannah’s commitment to giving her son to the Lord reminds me of our commitment to raise our children to know, love and fear God. Hannah declares that as long as Samuel lives, he belongs to the Lord. Isn’t this the same promise Christians make when we present our children to the Lord?
Don’t miss the life-giving lessons in this vignette. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, the writer wrote this account and there are important details easy to skip over. Instead, treat each word as packed with potent life-giving truth. Remember every word of Scripture is supernaturally included for a reason. Old Samuel, possibly the author of parts of 1 and 2 Samuel, was a participant in this unfolding story. Samuel was young when he watched his mother worship God through the sacrifice of a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine. He listened as his beloved mother reminded Eli of that profound moment when Eli thought she was drunk and in reality, she was praying for a child. Imagine the emotions in Hannah’s voice as she declared in front of her young son,
For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to Him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord. -1 Samuel 1:27 ESV
What a life-giving mother! How did Hannah prepare her little boy for this transfer from her care into the care of an old man he had never met? Imagine her intentionally teaching and preparing Samuel, reminding him of the sovereignty and faithfulness of God. Seared into his little heart and mind would be the face and words of his mother who joyfully explained the details of his birth and that one day her boy would have the privilege of coming under the influence of the priest and learning how to give his whole life to the service of their faithful and gracious God. How many little deaths did Hannah experience while teaching her child to see his own life as blessed in a unique way?
Hannah gives physical life to her baby boy, but even more, she pours spiritual life into him in preparation for a life of serving God, and oh, Hannah taught this little boy well. Look at his response to his mother’s declaration, that now his home will be the temple where he will learn what it means to belong to God:
And he worshiped the Lord there. -1 Samuel 1:28
Take a few minutes to absorb the emotions of Hannah and little Samuel. Get into the mother’s heart of Hannah and imagine how she communicated to Samuel this new home was a safe place and a privilege. Is there a place in your pilgrimage where you need to take a step back and present your emotions and heart desires as a living sacrifice to God so you can teach your watching children how to reflect intimacy with Jesus, even when life comes crashing down? What is your child observing in you that is teaching him about your auto-response to life crises? This is not a dire warning, but rather a mother-to-mother invitation to dive deep into God’s Word, to taste and see that the Lord is good and He will equip and enable you to walk by faith on the pathway He has marked out for you.
Lord, Hannah’s love for You shows up in the way she dies to self in order to encourage her son to fully embrace a life of service and worship. May our sister Hannah, teach us through her story how to die to self in order to experience new life in You.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sharon W. Betters is author of Treasures of Encouragement, Treasures in Darkness and co-author of Treasures of Faith. She is Director of Resource Development and co-founder of MARKINC.org, a nonprofit organization that offers help and hope to hurting people. Sharon enjoys quality time with her husband, children, and fourteen grandchildren.
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