Happy Mother’s Day! There are many motherhood stories in the Bible. In our Bible reading this past two weeks we read through the stories of Ruth and Hannah. Ruth, from Moab, became a grandmother of the great King, David, and one of the ancestors of Jesus Christ. Hannah, a barren wife of Elkanah, became the mother of Samuel the great prophet and Judge of Israel. Samuel, incidentally anointed David as King.
These mothers both are known in part, for the vows they made. Listen to Ruth’s vow to stay with Naomi, her mother-in-law: Where you go I will go, where you stay, I will stay. Your people shall me my people and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die and there will I be buried, and may the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely if anything but death shall separate us. What a beautiful vow of loyalty! Ruth 1:16-17 Through Ruth, God provided an heir for Naomi’s family name to continue. Ruth married Boaz, a kinsman redeemer and they had a son named Obed, father of Jesse, father of King David.
Hannah’s story involves a vow as well. Her vow was part of a prayer.
Today is Mother’s day, so in honor of Mothers, our lesson will be on how Hannah became the mother of Samuel. But we are also in the midst of a series of lessons on prayer, and as the Lord would have it, Hannah’s prayer makes this a great part of this series.
All we know about Hannah is found in the first 2 chapters of 1 Samuel. When we meet her, we discover that she’s married to a man named Elkanah, who was of the tribe of Levi, 1 Chron. 6:26,33, though he lived in the territory of Ephraim. Elkanah has not just one, but two wives. Hannah appears to be his favorite, but Peninnah, his other wife has children, and Hannah has none.
Thus the story is set up for us in the first two verses of 1 Samuel. Does anyone feel the tension? It’s like the Bible is tightening the strings of this relationship before we get past two verses. By verse three we’ve already got several names before us of major characters here: Elkanah, Hannah, Peninnah, Hophni, Phenihas and Eli.
Let’s just read this amazing record together. Look at 1 Samuel 1:3f. (Read 1 Sam. 1:3-28).
I wonder what things strike you about this? It’s interesting to me how the Bible doesn’t explore or explain Peninnah’s situation more. Her name only occurs three times. God focuses our attention in these two chapters on Hannah, who seeks Him for help. Hannah is miserable at first. But her misery drives her to seek God and depend on Him and even make a vow to Him. What does Hannah want? A Son? Yes, but more than a son, Hannah wants deliverance from barrenness. She wants the sense of completion and fulness that motherhood brings. She’s being provoked by a rival wife who is fruitfully bearing children for her husband. She
Why? Why was it so hard to be the favorite wife without the responsibility of children? In our day, Hannah would be considered the lucky one by many. Jesus spoke of a time when people would say, blessed are the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed. But Jesus was speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem and the horrors of a war torn, famine ridden period. The normal, biblical world view is that children are a blessing from the Lord. Motherhood is not simply honorable but on the other side, barrenness is a state of being under some kind of curse. When God created us in His image and likeness, He created us male and female and God blessed us saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and plenish the earth.” Bearing children, biblically is being blessed by God. Hannah’s world was a world that believed this. Look at Ruth 4:11-17.
So, where does prayer fit into today’s message? 1 Samuel 1:9-20, 25-28.
Hannah then prays this prayer that is preserved in scripture for us: A mother’s prayer, celebrating and worshipping the Lord, God. Chapter 2:1-10.
Then look at verses 18-21.
What’s the take home?
This biblical story of Hannah’s prayer and vow to God offer many powerful lessons for us today. Let’s just take one:
Our children belong to God. Hannah succeeded where Eli the priest failed.
She vowed to give her son to God and she did it. Her prayer was answered and then came the responsibility to fulfill her vow to God. Hannah did it. She kept her promise to God.
Have you made any vows to God? Next week, Lord willing, we will look at how God’s people have always prayed to God with vows, promises and gifts as part of the worship of prayer and building their relationship with God. We will see how worship includes vows, oaths, covenants, promises and gifts to God. God has made vows, promises, oaths, covenants and offered gifts to us, has He not? One of our expressions of this is in baptism into Christ. We are pledging ourselves to Christ, taking on the name of Christ and entering His death, burial and resurrection. This is a covenant act. Just as taking the bread and cup of the Lord each Sunday is a covenant act, a remembrance of Jesus, a proclaiming of His death, a sharing in His body and blood. In doing so, we are not simply asking God’s blessings on us, but promising faithfulness to Him, expressing a vow of loyalty to God through Jesus Christ. God takes our relationship to Him very seriously. It is better not to enter covenant with God, than to enter and turn away from Him.