Today we celebrate our mothers. Many of us had the privilege of knowing and growing up under the care of a good mother. She carried us inside her belly for 9 months, fed us, potty-trained us, spanked us, clothed us, and dealt with all of our shenanigans. Despite our best efforts to the contrary, she led us in the way we should go and somehow chose to keep us! So, it is fitting for us to remember and honor our mothers today.
If you were to search for every mention of mother in the Bible, you would come up with a variety of interesting events. In my Bible, I found 306 mentions of the word mother. In the beginning, Adam called his wife Eve because she was the mother of all people. Then there was Sarah who gave birth to Isaac at age 90! Then there was Bathsheba who convinced David to make her son Solomon king. In the New Testament, we read of Jesus’ interesting relationship with his mother Mary. Even while dying on the cross, he put his mother in the care of a close friend.
While there are many stories about mothers in the Bible, the one best remembered is probably the story of Hannah and Samuel. It is the story of a woman with a less than normal family situation, a frustrating desire, and a miracle child. As we look at what happened, you will feel the emotions and see God’s hand at work in the situation.
- Hannah’s odd family situation (1 Sam. 1:1-7)
Do you ever get the idea that someone else’s family is normal and your own is the weird or troubled one? I suppose that every family has its quirks and probably some secrets as well. Sometimes we think that a godly person must have come from a perfect family where nothing bad ever happened and everyone was perfect examples of faith and propriety. The family situation of Hannah says otherwise.
a. She was one of two wives (2).
Imagine what it must have been like to live in such a home. Would you be willing to share a husband with another woman? I think not. It would be a bad situation involving jealousy and mistrust. Not good at all.
i. This was not God’s plan.
You only need to go back to Genesis to find God’s perfect plan for marriage. There God gave Adam one woman as his companion not two or three. And from this we learn God’s pattern for marriage: one man and one woman.
ii. This was not a pattern for happiness.
Having more than one wife may have seemed like a good idea to Abraham, Jacob, and Solomon, but consider how things turned out for each of them. Abraham added Hagar to give him a son but almost lost his wife. Jacob wanted to marry one but eventually had four women. If you have read the Book of Genesis, you know all of the conflict that resulted from those poor choices. Then there was Solomon who had 300 wives and 700 concubines. Can you imagine that Mother’s Day celebration?
Like these others, Hannah’s home was not a happy one.
iii. This was not surprising for the times.
Being that they lived during the time of the judges, it is not surprising that this was the case. At that time, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25). Does that sound familiar? Perhaps that description could be said of how our current culture operates. And as it was back then, those who stray from God’s blueprint are often frustrated, unfulfilled, and unhappy.
b. She was unable to have children (2b).
Many would be mothers struggle with infertility. They have the desire but the desire remains unfulfilled for a variety of unknown reasons.
i. During this time, children were considered a blessing.
Have you noticed how angry people are today about “reproductive rights”? Many are angry that the Supreme Court may be overturning Roe vs Wade and making abortion legal. This mindset is at odds with what the Bible says.
According to Psalm 127:3, “children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” Instead of looking at children as an unwanted obstacle to happiness, we should view them as God does. Children are a blessing given by the Lord.
This is certainly what Hannah thought about children — especially because she was unable to conceive.
ii. Note that children are not always part of God’s plan.
For those who have not been able to have children, keep in mind that God’s plan sometimes is different than what we desire. There are some who never marry. And there are some whom God does not choose to bless with children. It doesn’t mean that you are any less special to God. Instead, His plan for you is just a little different.
For Hannah, the constant conflict and ridicule from the other woman was more than she could handle. Every day, it was hard for her to get up and smile because the one thing she really wanted was something she could not obtain.
- Hannah’s frustrated prayer (1 Sam. 1:8-18)
[Read 1 Sam. 1:8-18.]
During the family’s annual visit to the tabernacle, Hannah would weep and pray. Her husband, who loved her more than the other woman, couldn’t understand her emotions.
a. She was depressed.
Her husband didn’t know what to do. As is the case with most husbands (or so I have heard), Hannah’s husband was unsure how to help his wife. They had tried to have children but nothing happened. He even asked why she didn’t value him more than ten sons.
To make matters worse, the other woman provoked her, making things more miserable than they needed to be. You get the idea that she flaunted the fact that she had children and Hannah did not. What a terrible things to do!
Hannah was quickly sinking into a deep depression that nobody seemed to be able to help.
What if you were able to talk to Hannah at this point in her life, what would you say? The words of an old song come to mind.
Are you weary, are you heavy hearted?
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus
Are you grieving over joys departed?
Tell it to Jesus alone
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus
He is a Friend that’s well known
You’ve no other such a friend or brother
Tell it to Jesus alone
That song has support in the New Testament. Hebrews 4:15-16 reminds us that “we do not have a High Priest [speaking of Jesus] who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
b. She was distraught (9-11).
After the meal, Hannah went to the tabernacle to pray. Her emotions were so powerful that she wept in anguish. She was at the breaking point and could find hope in nobody else.
As she wept, she prayed to the Lord and made a vow. She promised two things. First, if God gave her a male child, she promised to consecrate him to the Lord for life. Second, she would never cut his hair.
The second part of Hannah’s vow may sound familiar. Like Samson, her son would take the Nazarite vow. This was an outward expression of the person’s consecration to the Lord. Besides not cutting his hair, he would never drink wine or touch a dead body. You can read more about this in Numbers 6:1-21.
Basically, Hannah made a deal with God that she intended to keep. If he would give her a son, she would dedicate the boy to God’s service for his entire life.
c. She was accused (12-16).
Did you notice who was nearby when Hannah arrived at the tabernacle? It was Eli, the high priest, sitting by the doorpost. As he watched her weeping and praying, he got the idea that something was wrong with her. He saw her lips moving but didn’t hear any words. So he assumed that she was drunk.
Why would the priest think she was drunk? Well, if you read more about Eli you will find that his sons were very wicked. Their evil practices are described in the next chapter. Perhaps his own family experience led him to believe that most people were evil. Or he may have seen many people turn to the bottle to handle their difficulties. Whatever his reasoning, he confronted Hannah and accused her of being intoxicated.
Hannah quickly denied being drunk and explained her situation. In a play on words, she insisted that she had not been drinking intoxicating beverages, but had been pouring out her heart to the Lord. She explained that her grief had led her to pray fervently to the Lord.
d. She was comforted (17-18).
Despite his first impression, Eli quickly changed his tune. He told Hannah that he understood and hoped that the Lord would grant her request. Hannah responded with grace and hurried back to her family.
If you had been there, you would have noticed a completely different woman. She washed the tears from her face, ate a meal, and skipped down the path like a little girl. Well… we don’t know if that happened, but we do know that she was no longer sad.
In all reality, Eli hadn’t told Hannah that God would answer her prayer. He only hoped that God would do that. Was Hannah reading into what Eli said? Would her hopes be dashed in the coming days?
- Hannah’s happy results (1 Sam. 1:19-20)
[Read 1 Sam. 1:19-20.]
a. She worshiped the Lord (19).
When you have prayed to the Lord and been encouraged that He will answer your prayer, what has been your response? Hannah’s response was to rise the next day and worship the Lord.
This parallels what God tells us in Philippians 4:6-7:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Hannah’s hope in God’s provision had taken away her tears and replaced them with a calm assurance in God’s goodness for her and the future.
b. She had a baby boy (20).
Not long after this trip to Shiloh, Hannah became pregnant and had a little boy. How happy she must have been! In thanks to God for answering her prayer, she named him Samuel.
“Samuel (sometimes spelled Samual) is a male given name and a surname of Hebrew origin meaning either “name of God” or “God heard” (שם האלוהים Shem HaElohim) (שמע אלוהים Sh’ma Elohim).”
It seems that the latter meaning fits best for Hannah’s situation. She had taken her grief to the Lord and was heard.
c. She gave him to the Lord (21-28).
[Read 1 Sam. 1:21-28.]
Can you imagine how Hannah felt after God answered her prayer? The Lord had given her a son but she had promised to give this boy to the Lord. What a conflict of interest! So what should she do?
After talking things over with her husband, they decided to keep the child until he was weaned and then fulfill her vow. When the boy had been potty-trained and was able to eat regular food (probably 3 years old, BKCOT 434), she made the journey to Shiloh and presented him to Eli the priest.
When she arrived, she reminded Eli who she was and what had happened several years earlier. She praised God for answer her prayer and explained that she had promised to lend him to the Lord for life.
Wouldn’t you like to have been there when this happened? All of the women would have been crying and hugging Hannah. All of the men would be scratching their heads and wondering what old Eli was going to do with a little boy in the tabernacle!
The next chapter reveals that Hannah didn’t stop being a mother to little Samuel. She visited him and brought him a new outfit every year but she kept her promise to the Lord. And because of her willingness to keep her promise, the Lord blessed her with three more sons and two daughters.
Today’s message from God’s Word is heart-warming. We like to see how things turned out for Hannah and her little boy Samuel. But as we read this true story in the Bible, what lesson should we take with us?
1. God can overcome your bad family situation.
If you were to read about Samuel’s future ministry and not know about his family situation, you would think he had come from a godly home with no issues. But that was far from the case, his dad had two wives and his mom didn’t get along with the other woman. It wasn’t the perfect situation, but God chose to bring Samuel into that situation and used him despite of it.
Do you think God could use you despite your family background? We know that God can do anything but often think that we are limited by our upbringing. What if my parents got a divorce when I was younger? What if my dad beat me when he was drunk? What if my family situation contains things I can’t talk about? Could God still use me? The answer is yes. Remember, “with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).
2. God cares for you.
Do you recall how bad Hannah felt while she was childless? Her depression was deep. Her grief was great. Her hopelessness was growing. And yet God was always there.
Sometimes our emotions get the best of us. We think that we are alone and without hope. But is this really the case? Does God leave us to suffer in our situation without showing any interest in our case? I would say no.
Consider what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:7. There he says that we should be “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” Do you believe that to be true? I think that most of us understand the first part but don’t accept the second. Our circumstances often cloud the truth that God wants us to know.
Today, know that God does care for each of His children. He cares about you and wants you to take all of those burdens that have been pressing down on your shoulders and lay them at his feet. When you do that, believing that He actually does care for you, you will find the peace that only He can give.
It worked for Hannah and it will work for you.
David Erdmann, Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Vol. 3 Samuel-Kings, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1960, reprint 1980, 47-53.
“Samuel (name)” as viewed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_(name) on 5/7/2022.
Eugene H. Merrill, “1 Samuel” in Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989, 433-34.