Tributes to mothers date back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who designated a day to celebrate the mothers of their gods. On those occasions, sons and daughters gave gifts to their mothers. Christian churches then continued this practice until they become a commonly-held holiday among church-goers and non-church-goers alike.
Most countries honor their mothers on the second Sunday in May, which means Mother’s Day is only two days away.
Consider for a moment how our society would be different without our mothers. Unfortunately, fathers can’t boast the consistency in raising their children; absent fathers are much more common than absent mothers. Without those significant women in our lives, society would literally fall apart.
Please join me today as we explore the life of one significant mother.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
1 Samuel 1:1-2:21. For the next three months or so, our main Old Testament reading will focus on a span of about 1000 years, beginning with Samuel the prophet (ca. 1100 BC) and ending with Judah’s exile into Babylon (586 BC). We’ll read about the kings who led Israel and the prophets who advised them on God’s behalf. Their successes and failures will provide us with plenty of material to discuss—and apply to our lives. But through it all, we’ll see the fingerprints of God. If you’re interested in timelines (like me), click here or here for two helpful websites.
Originally 1 and 2 Samuel were one book, but the people who translated the Old Testament into Greek (called the Septuagint) broke it into two parts. Proving that people are reluctant to change, later translators followed their example. This two-part series retraces Israel’s history through the lives of Samuel, Saul, and David.
Historians believe Samuel was still an adult when Jephthah and Samson were judges. In fact, Saul probably appeared on the scene only five years after Samson died. But I‘m getting ahead of myself…
Just like Samson, Samuel’s mother made a permanent Nazirite vow for her son. But that was the only thing the two men shared in common because Samuel was a righteous man.
Hannah was a pretty amazing woman. For years she agonized for a son, and then when God answered her request, she gave her son back to God. More on that later. In chapter 2 we read Hannah’s prayer, which resembles Mary’s song in Luke 1:46-55.
Then we read about Eli’s evil sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who resemble Aaron’s evil sons Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10:1-7.
The differences between Eli’s sons Hophni and Phinehas, and Samuel are striking. The two brothers treated the things of God with contempt whereas we read that Samuel “ministered before the Lord” and “grew up in the presence of the Lord.” All three men, however, were raised by Eli.
John 5:1-23. The story of Jesus healing the invalid at the pool of Bethesda is quite telling. The man had laid around the pool for 38 years, waiting to get well. Then Jesus walked past all the other blind, lame, and paralyzed people sitting around the pool and asked the invalid, “Do you want to get well?”
All too often we become so accustomed to our infirmities (physical, emotional, physical) that they become our friends. To be healed requires a change.
So the man gives Jesus an excuse for not jumping in the water when it is stirred (assumedly, the first one in would be healed), so Jesus says to him, “Get up, pick up your bedroll and walk!”
And he walked.
Incidentally, archeologists have located this pool in Jerusalem.
Proverbs 14:29. “A patient person shows great understanding, but a quick-tempered one promotes foolishness.” I have proven this proverb true on many occasions—not because I was patient but because I was quick-tempered. James 1:20 says, “Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Hannah wanted a child. Desperately. After crying out to God, we read in 1 Samuel 1 that Eli the high priest blessed her request—and within a year, Hannah gave birth to Samuel.
A year later, this unconventional mother gave her son to Eli so he could grow up in the presence of the Lord.
Initially, the story of Hannah bothered me. How could she give away the son she so desperately wanted? I mean, what kind of a mother would do that?
Yet we know Hannah was a praying woman. Look at her words in 1:27-28:
I prayed for this boy, and since the Lord gave me what I asked Him for, I now give the boy to the Lord. For as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.” Then he bowed and worshiped the Lord there.
Reading these words I realized she intuitively understood who her son belonged to: God. “I now give the boy to the Lord,” she says.
Children are on loan to us from God. He lends them to us for a time, but they ultimately belong to him. Our responsibility as parents is to raise them.
Immediately after giving Samuel to Eli, Hannah breaks into praise. She must have been sad about leaving her son, but she also knew God had a different plan for him that included a voluntary separation. Nevertheless, Hannah demonstrated her love for her son by bringing him a new ephod every year.
Hannah. A praying mother. A loving mother. A woman who understood that her children belonged to God.
Seems a like a pretty good model to all of us parents.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- What can we learn from Hannah?
- How do you think Samuel’s unique upbringing affected his ability to lead Israel? How can parents raise up their children in a similar way?
- Read John 5:19-23. What does this tell you about the relationship between Jesus and his heavenly Father?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.