HANNAH, WHO DID MORE THAN PRAY FOR A SON
In many ways, the Old Testament period of the judges was a time of lawlessness. There were, however, some splendid females who shined as lights during that age of darkness. Deborah, Naomi, and Ruth were three such women. When we come to the latter stages of the era of the judges, we also find Hannah, the mother of Samuel.
Mentioned in only two chapters of the Bible (1 Samuel 1,2), Hannah demonstrated knowledge and character that left a positive mark on God’s people in her generation. In fact, her influence is still alive today in the hearts of those who appreciate her efforts in serving God and her role as a mother. Let us notice some revealing facts from Hannah’s life.
Hannah cast her cares on the Lord. The woman faced genuine trials, matters that touched and broke her heart. Hannah dearly wanted a child, but she had none. Hannah’s husband had another wife, and she tormented Hannah, provoking her severely (1 Samuel 1:6,7). To whom could she turn when she was “in bitterness of soul?” (1:10). She poured out her soul before the Lord in prayer (1:15). As God’s children, you and I can do the same thing. God implores us to humble ourselves and cast our cares on Him, because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:6,7).
Hannah gave her son a special name. When he was born, she named him “Samuel,” saying, “Because I have asked for him from the LORD” (1:20). The name “Samuel” literally means “heard of/by God.” Hannah thought of her child as a gift from the Lord, saying, “For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him” (1:27). Children are a blessing, not a burden: “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3). Parents, regardless of the name you give your child, thank God for granting you such a blessing.
Hannah made a vow and kept it. She pledged to the Lord that if He would give her a son, she would give the child to Him “all the days of his life” (1:11). And, that is exactly what she did (1:27). Sometimes people make promises before they have thought seriously about what such commitments will require from them. At other times, folks make vows which, quite honestly, they never truly intended to keep. The words sounded good at the time, but they did not come from a sincere heart. What did the Lord say about vows? “When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed – better not to vow than to vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:4,5). We need to be people whose words and promises are reliable.
Hannah “lent” her son to Jehovah (1:28). That shows us something about the heart of this woman. Of course, it is true that Samuel, like every other child, belonged to the Lord, and he was loaned to Hannah for her to enjoy for a limited period of time. Yet, when Hannah willingly devoted her son to the Lord and His service, the Bible calls it “the loan that was given to the LORD” (2:20). How many of us today who claim to put the Lord first in our hearts are prepared to sacrifice our child so he/she could devote themselves to full-time labors in the Lord’s Kingdom?
Hannah loved Samuel, but her real joy was in the Lord. In her prayer, Hannah told God, “My heart rejoices in the LORD . . . I rejoice in Your salvation” (2:1). Yes, kids are great, but parents (and grandparents) must not lose sight of the real source and cause of true happiness.
Hannah had a great appreciation of God’s character. When she prayed to Him, among other things, she made mention of these aspects of His nature and actions: no one is holy like Jehovah (2:2); there is no other Rock like Him (2:2); He is “the God of knowledge” (2:3); He brings some people low while lifting up others (2:7); He weighs man’s actions (2:3) and will judge (2:10); He opposes the wicked and gives strength to His people (2:9,10). Hannah lived in a time when revelation from God was limited, but her words indicate that her heart was in tune with God’s nature and that spiritual truths meant a lot to her. Take the time to read and meditate on her entire prayer which is recorded in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. Then, think about the prayers that we hear offered today. A number of them are petitions about mundane matters of limited importance and lack the spiritual “ring” of Hannah’s words when she poured out of her soul in prayer.
Hannah’s godly influence in the world lived on through her son. Samuel grew up, and Jehovah used him as a prophet and judge in Israel. He was a great influence among the people of God. At least part of his spiritual, leavening influence can be traced back to his mother. Parents, your children have a great potential to be a righteous force in the world – in school, at work, in the home, in the church, and in society in general. Timothy was influenced by righteous female family members (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15), and when he was old enough, he lived like a real man of God. What a great influence he was in the early church. An excerpt from the poem “A Mother’s Mission” by Ramona K. Cecil reads:
To bring her children up in Christ,
Indeed is very much,
For the years will show her value
By the lives, their lives, will touch.
My wife and I have a sweet granddaughter whose parents named her “Hannah.” Our prayer is that she will grow up to demonstrate the good qualities that the Hannah of the Old Testament did.
— Roger D. Campbell