I.

Conceived in Prayer

 

1 Samuel 1:1–23

Samuel had a very noble beginning, for he was a product of his mother’s prayers. His name was a reminder of that fact; for when Samuel was born, his mother Hannah "called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord" (v. 20). Anyone who has a mother who can pray like Samuel’s mother has a tremendous advantage in life. So many children are brought into the world by a mother who is a minus spiritually and a mess morally. That any of these children ever amount to anything decent is a miracle of the grace of God. But with Hannah as his mother, Samuel had much advantage in life. So it is not surprising to read later that Samuel was referred to as a "man of God" (1 Samuel 9:6) and an "honorable man" (Ibid.), and that he became a "prophet of the Lord" (1 Samuel 3:20), and that under his leadership, the moral and spiritual health of the nation greatly improved.

The saying that "the hand that rocks the cradle rocks the world" has much truth in it. The work of the mother is so significant that even Napoleon Bonaparte had something worthy to say about it. He is reported to have said, "The future destiny of a child is the work of a mother." It certainly was so in Samuel’s case. In Samuel’s story, it was his mother who is the prominent parent. While his father is mentioned, and his father’s habits of worship are commendable, it is Samuel’s mother that shines forth the greatest and best in faith.

In this first study of the life of Samuel, we will examine the prayer of Samuel’s mother Hannah which resulted in the coming of Samuel into the world. To examine the prayer, we will consider the setting for the prayer (vv. 1–8), the specifics of the prayer (vv. 9–18), the success of the prayer (vv. 19, 20), and the stewardship of the prayer (vv. 20–23).

A. THE SETTING FOR THE PRAYER

Everything about the setting for the prayer for Samuel’s coming was dark. But as is often the case with God, He paints His most beautiful scenes on a canvas of life which has a dark background. Coming to the rescue when things are dark shows the great power of God. The greatest help is that which comes when things are the worst. Many are the friends when the sun shines and everything looks rosy. But when the clouds darken, many forsake us and move on. Not God, however. His help shines forth most gloriously when our times are at their darkest. God is truly "a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).

To look in more detail at the setting for Hannah’s prayer for the coming of Samuel, we note her country, her church, her childlessness, and her critic.

1. Her Country

"Now" (v. 1) tells us that Hannah’s praying occurred during the period of the judges in Israel. Specifically it was towards the end of the last century of the four centuries of judges in Israel. Reading the last part of the book of Judges will acquaint us with the situation in the country of Israel at that time, and it certainly was not a good situation. For the most part the land had sunk into a moral cesspool, and it had a weak government. The weakness of the nation was a result of the wickedness of the nation. Scripture succinctly describes the situation as "every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25) which certainly is not a description of a good society. But there were some exceptions in the matter of character. All Israelites did not walk in evil. Boaz, who married Ruth, was not of the usual despicable character of the land (Ruth 2–4); and Samuel’s mother certainly was not like the crowd either. God always has His remnant even in the darkest of days. You can still live godly though others around you do not.

2. Her Church

It was not a good day spiritually either. Three major problems hindered the land spiritually. They involved idolatry, illumination, and indecencies.

Idolatry. Heathen idolatry gripped the land of Israel at this time. This problem is reported frequently in the book of Judges. Also, when Samuel led Israel to victory over the Philistines some years after he had become Israel’s leader, he spoke of this problem to the Israelites and exhorted them to "put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you" (1 Samuel 7:3). Idolatry speaks of a doctrinal problem. Today we do not have literal idol images and poles displayed throughout the land, but apostate churches are just as bad with their doctrinal corruption. Doctrine is emphasized so little in our churches that even in our fundamental churches, people know little doctrine and are easily carried away by new movements which sweep across the land portraying themselves as evangelical when in truth they are not that at all. Belief determines behavior. We must be right in doctrine or we will not be right in deportment. Corruption in creed soon leads to corruption in conduct.

Illumination. "The word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision" (1 Samuel 3:1). The word "precious" is from a Hebrew word meaning "rare." Thus this text says God was not speaking much to the people in those days. He was not illuminating them regarding His ways. When sin dominates and people have turned away from God, they can expect heaven to be silent.

In our day, the same problem of deficiency in spiritual illumination is evident in the barrenness of the pulpits in our churches. Sermons do not open up the Scriptures. Preachers may be articulate, but they certainly are not doing a good job teaching the Word. The problem is also evident in our Sunday Schools, for they are not teaching the Scriptures well at all. We have an abundance of Sunday School literature, but ironically we are doing a poorer job teaching the Word of God than when we did not have much literature. The reason is that years ago when we lacked literature, the teachers knew the Word of God well. Today it is a different story.

Indecencies. At the time Hannah prayed to have Samuel, the spiritual leaders in the worship of Jehovah were a wicked bunch. The vile deportment going on at the Tabernacle was repulsive to anyone who was interested in true spirituality. Eli, who was the high priest at the time, was a compromiser who would not deal with sin even in his own household. His two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who were prominent in the service of the Tabernacle, were wicked men who demanded more than their share of the sacrifices and obtained it in a cruel way (1 Samuel 2:12–16). Furthermore, their morals were of the barnyard variety, for they "lay with the women that assembled [served] at the door of the tabernacle" (1 Samuel 2:22)—which is "turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness" (Jude 1:4). Their conduct made the worship of Jehovah understandably "abhorred" (1 Samuel 2:17) by many, and it caused-"the Lord’s people to transgress" (1 Samuel 2:24). We will note more about their indecencies in our next chapter.

Sadly, the sons of Eli have nothing on many ministers today; for moral and money scandals plague the ministry. The prominence of these evils have caused good people to often look upon church with much disdain. But if Hannah could be such a valiant person of faith and pray down a child like Samuel during those times, it surely says that the times must not be used as an excuse for a poor performance on our part. It makes no difference if all the world departs from God, we do not have to depart from God. One can always live for God. We may think that living for God is impossible at times, but there are too many illustrations in the Scripture like Hannah which tell us we can live a godly life even in the most wicked of times.

3. Her Childlessness

That which made Hannah’s prayer for Samuel so very earnest was the fact that she was barren—"Hannah had no children" (v. 2). We note three aspects of her barrenness: the pain of it, the puzzle of it, and the partners in it.

The pain of it. Being barren in those days was a great burden for the barren woman. Many in those days thought that barrenness was God’s punishment upon you for some sin in your life. This really made the problem of barrenness extra burdensome to the woman without child. And a Jewish woman particularly wanted a male child in hopes that he would be the Messiah. So barrenness was a great trial, a great pain for the woman without child. Abortion and unwanted children—problems in our age—were not problems in that age. Women wanted children. "Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalm 127:3) was not a despised statement in those days, even though they were not good days. That really shows how far down the ladder in values our society has fallen.

The puzzle of it. Hannah’s barrenness seemed so unfair. She was a godly woman who would provide a child a wonderful mother, yet she was barren. There were many other women, including her rival, Peninnah, who we will see more about next, who were of poor character and unfit to be mothers, yet they had many children. This same apparent inequity still occurs today, too. As W. G. Blaikie said, "We see a woman eminently fitted to bring up children, but having none to bring up. On the other hand, we see another woman, whose temper and ways are fitted to ruin children, entrusted with rearing of a family. In the one case a God-fearing woman does not receive the gifts of Providence; in the other case a woman of a selfish and cruel nature seems loaded with His benefits . . . we often see a similar arrangement of other gifts; we see riches, for example, in the very worst of hands; while those who from their principles and character are fitted to make the best use of them often have difficulty in securing the bare necessaries of life."

The principle of this problem is the theme of both Psalm 37 and 73. They speak of the puzzlement of the prosperity of the wicked while the righteous seem to experience poverty instead. The prophet Habakkuk lamented over the same puzzle. The answer to this puzzle will, however, come in due time. We only see part of the picture in this life. When eternity comes, we will see the entire picture. Then we will not see inequity in these situations anymore; for we will see the righteous prospering and the wicked in ruin. The privations of the righteous in this life will only improve their prosperity in eternity. But the prosperity of the wicked in this life only increases their eternal judgment. The righteous often get their blessings after the wicked have prospered, but the righteous’ blessings are worth the wait and will last longer than the blessings of the wicked. This truth is illustrated well in Hannah’s blessing of Samuel in contrast to the many children Peninnah had.

The partners in it. Hannah is part of a unique but choice group of women in the Bible who experienced a lengthy and trying period of barrenness only to finally give birth to a child who turned out to be very special. Sarah was barren till she was ninety, but then she bare a choice one in Isaac. Rachel was barren for years, but then she bore Joseph, the best of Jacob’s sons. Rebekah was barren for some twenty years before she bore Jacob. Samson’s mother was barren for a long time before baring Samson. And Elizabeth was beyond hope of a child when she gave birth to John the Baptist. Often the greater our blessing, the greater the trial preceding it. Take hope if providence seems against you and you are going through dark waters. It just may be the prelude to great blessing.

4. Her Critic

Hannah had to live with a carping critic. "Her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb" (v. 6). This was certainly an unpleasant circumstance to be in. We note the situation for the provocation, the source of the provocation, and the season of the provocation.

The situation for the provocation. The situation which predicted this problem for Hannah was the difficult marriage she was in. She was not the only wife of her husband. Elkanah "had two wives" (v. 2) which was too many. They were Hannah and Peninnah. Hannah, the most loved of the two wives (v. 5), was doubtless the first wife; but because of barrenness, Elkanah married Peninnah to have children in much the same way that Abraham resorted to Hagar when Sarah was barren. This constituted polygamy. Having another wife to have children (when the first one was barren) was an acceptable practice of the day as well as the practice of polygamy in general. But being acceptable to society did not eliminate the curse it brought upon the home. "Ignorance of the laws of God may mitigate or exempt from guilt; but it does not do away with all the evil consequences of their violation" (B. Dale). Polygamy is found periodically in the Scriptures and among some of the leaders of the Lord’s people. But you will never find polygamy without trouble. "Never was this situation the harbinger of peace" (Spurgeon).

Polygamy is still practiced today through divorce. The only difference is that in divorce men have their many wives one at a time. But regardless how men do it, polygamy always brings trouble. In Hannah’s home, polygamy brought great disruption just as it did in Abraham’s home. Peninnah "provoked" Hannah, and Hagar also behaved poorly towards Sarah when Hagar became pregnant via Abraham (Genesis 16:4). A marriage which is contrary to God’s way always aggravates.

The source of the provocation. Peninnah was the source of the provocation. Her character was so deficient. She was the kind that could not experience blessing (in her case the blessing was children) without becoming proud and insolent. We have many folk like that in every age. Providence smiles on them, but it makes them frown on everyone else. Those given much riches often look down on others and oppress others. How you handle your blessings shows what sort of character and faith you have. So many folk misuse their blessings, and the misuse causes the blessing to corrupt them. How tragic to let the good things God gives us defile us. That is indeed a perverted use of blessing.

The season of the provocation. Peninnah provoked Hannah on many occasions, but she seemed to especially provoke Hannah at worship time. "When she went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her" (v. 7). God have pity on those who must disrupt and disturb the worship of others. There will be special judgment upon those who choose worship time to attack people. Not only will this judgment come upon rulers and other persecutors of the land who attack religion, but it will also come upon those church members even in our fundamental churches who by their cutting remarks and detestable behavior continually provoke the pastor and other members of the congregation when they come to church to worship. One does not have to pastor long before he knows the experience of receiving a verbal blast from some dissident member just as he, the pastor, is on his way to the pulpit to begin a church service. When this happens, let the pastor remember Hannah’s experience and be even more earnest in the worship of God as was Hannah.

B. THE SPECIFICS OF THE PRAYER

Hannah’s prayer for a son was a great prayer. Here we note the specifics of the prayer. They include the prudence of her prayer, the posture of her prayer, the passion of her prayer, the persistency of her prayer, the petition in her prayer, the promise in her prayer, the perverting of her prayer, and the peace from her prayer.

1. The Prudence of Her Prayer

How wise it was for Hannah to go to prayer with her situation being so upsetting. When troubles mount, we need to pray more. Christ set us a good example in this practice, for "being in an agony he prayed more earnestly" (Luke 22:44). Frequently, however, when troubles increase, our spiritual efforts decrease. Instead of going to the Lord in time of trouble, we seem to prefer to worry, wring our hands, and write or phone our friends to tell them our troubles. But leaving out the Lord is not the way to solve problems; it will only increase our problems. Hannah had a lot of handicaps in life; but she could pray and she did pray; and that solved her problem and gave her Samuel, one of the biggest blessings of her life.

2. The Posture of Her Prayer

Hannah was such a contrast to Peninnah. Peninnah was proud and insolent, but Hannah was a very humble woman. This is evident in her prayer for Samuel. Three times she calls herself "thine handmaid" (v. 11) when speaking to God, and the general attitude expressed in the prayer is one of humility in approach and speech. This is the right posture to have in prayer. We will get nowhere in prayer to God when we come in a proud, arrogant way thinking that God owes us blessings because we are somebody. The humble "handmaid" posture especially shows her willingness to serve the Lord. Humility is required to serve God. A good many who are not serving the Lord are sitting on the sidelines because they are full of pride. They will not serve in the lowly place or in a place that may cause them to be mocked by the unbelieving world. Such folk need to look at the cross of Calvary and see Christ suffering ignominiously before a mocking crowd on behalf of our salvation. If He can so humble Himself for our eternal salvation, how willing we ought to be to humble ourselves to serve Him.

3. The Passion of Her Prayer

Samuel’s mother was very earnest in this prayer for a son. This is evident in four statements—she "wept sore" (v. 10), "vowed a vow" (v. 11), "spake in her heart" (v. 13), and "poured out my soul before the Lord" (v. 15). Hannah was not playing games, reading absent-mindedly through a prayer book, or spinning beads in haste to get done so she could do something else. Hannah was praying in dead earnest to God for a son.

It seems we can get earnest in so many things but not in prayer. We can be earnest in business, earnest in sports, and earnest in politics; but when we pray, we have little heart and soul in it. But without earnestness our praying will be disappointing, for it is the "effectual fervent prayer . . . [that] availeth much" (James 5:16). How can we expect God to get earnest and work mightily on our behalf if we are not earnest in petitioning Him to do so. Without passion in our prayers, we will have little power in our prayers; and they will, therefore, be pitiful, weak prayers. Unfortunately, that is the kind of praying most people do—if they even pray.

4. The Persistency of Her Prayer

Hannah persisted in her request for a son; for Scripture says, she "continued" (v. 12) in her praying. Persistency is not unrelated to passion in prayer. If we are not persistent, we show that we have little passion in our praying. This persistency is not vain repetition but is the spirit that will not give up until God plainly says, "No." God often tests the sincerity of our praying by not answering our prayer for awhile just to see if we really mean business. Delay does not necessarily mean denial, but frequently it is simply a check on dedication. How often we ask God for something but only once. Soon we forget it and go on our way. God will ignore such requests, for we obviously are not very interested in them. But persistently beseeching God for something will get results. Hannah got Samuel because of persistency. That ought to encourage all of us to be persistent.

5. The Petition of Her Prayer

Hannah did not pray in generalities. She prayed specifically. She prayed that God would "give unto thine handmaid a man child" (v. 11). She did not pray for just a child, but for a "man" child. "So many of our prayers miscarry because they are aimed at no special goal. We launch them aimlessly in the air, and wonder that they achieve nothing" (F. B. Meyer). When we pray specifically, we will get specific answers. It is true that sometimes we are not able to pray as specifically as we would like, but in such cases we can trust the mercy of God to take care of the details. However, when our petitions can be specific, we ought to make them such. It is the most satisfactory way to pray.

6. The Promise of Her Prayer

Hannah was not praying selfishly. It was not all receive and no give. In her prayer, she made a vow. That vow said that if God granted her a son, "then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head" (v. 11). This was a very unselfish vow. It was twofold. First, it said Samuel’s entire life would be devoted to serving the Lord. Second, it said Samuel’s life would be dedicated to being like the Lord (the Nazarite vow—the "no razor" statement—which speaks of dedication and purity of life). The first part of the vow said she wanted Samuel to help God; the second part said she wanted Samuel to honor God. This was a great request, and requests like this have a lot better chance of being answered than the selfish, carnal requests which comprise so many of our prayers.

7. The Perverting of Her Prayer

"Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard [many folk are just the opposite, their voice is heard prominently but their heart is not in it]: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee" (vv. 13, 14). The best of spiritual efforts will be evilly spoken of by someone somewhere. You can count on that! It was certainly so in Hannah’s praying. This great prayer was interpreted as drunkenness by Eli the high priest, who in his official seat (v. 9) could see Hannah as she prayed in the confines of "the temple of the Lord" (Ibid.). Eli made a terrible judgment here. Drunken people are loud and boisterous, not quiet and harmless like Hannah. But Eli’s accusation concerning Hannah’s conduct represents the accusations of the world upon Christianity. Their accusations make no sense. They are contrary to facts and common sense.

Spiritual dedication was also accused of drunkenness at Pentecost. But Peter reminded the accusers that it was the wrong time of day for drunkenness (Acts 2:15). However, the enemy of our soul does not need facts or common sense to make ugly accusations. Though the accusations are preposterous, he knows that some will hear and will think poorly of the accused. Zeal and dedication to the Lord are seldom appreciated by those unacquainted with such things, and they will have some scornful things to say about it. So do not be surprised if your dedication to God is given some twisted and perverted interpretation which makes you look like some evil or ridiculous person.

8. The Peace From Her Prayer

"So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad" (v. 18). What caused this wonderful change? It was caused by the fact that "she had by prayer committed her case to God and left it with him, and now she was no more perplexed about it" (Henry). Prayer can lift our burdens and remove the clouds in our life. It did so for Hannah when she prayed for Samuel to be born. Once she had explained to Eli that she was praying, Eli then became God’s spokesman by virtue of his being the High Priest and said, "The God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him" (v. 17). This promise assured Hannah of the answer to her prayer, and it changed her countenance from sadness to happiness.

The song writer Joseph Scriven, who wrote "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," was right when he said in this great hymn, "O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer." Turbulence was changed to tranquility, remorse to rejoicing, and lamentation to jubilation all because Hannah prayed. We can experience the same if we will pray as nobly as she prayed.

C. THE SUCCESS OF THE PRAYER

Hannah did not pray in vain. Her prayer was answered as God had promised. "Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel" (v. 20). Samuel’s birth, which declared Hannah’s prayer a grand success, was one of the most significant births in the history of Israel; though, of course, few if any at the time of his birth really realized the great significance he would play in Israel’s history. Sometimes we think God is not working at all. But in due time we will discover that God has been working very significantly all along in our lives and in history. Give our Samuels some time to grow up, and this truth will be driven home to us in a very forceful way.

To examine some details about Samuel’s birth, a birth which signaled success to Hannah’s prayer, we will note the town, tribe, time, and triumph of his birth.

1. The Town of His Birth

Samuel was born in the town of "Ramah" (v. 19) which is called "Ramathaim-zophim" in verse 1. This town is believed by some to be the same town as Arimathea of the New Testament, the place given fame by Joseph of Arimathea who along with Nicodemus took care of the burial of Jesus Christ (John 19:38–42). Samuel not only was born in this town, but he later made the town his home (1 Samuel 7:17), and it was in this town that he died and was buried (1 Samuel 25:1; 28:3). It was also in this town that the elders of Israel told Samuel they wanted a king to reign over them (1 Samuel 8:4,5), and it was where Samuel first anointed Saul as Israel’s first king (1 Samuel 9:6,27; 10:1). Samuel’s life honored Ramah. Will your life honor the place or places where you have lived?

2. The Tribe of His Birth

Samuel was of the tribe of Levi. We do not learn this in our text, however. Rather, our text implies that he was of the tribe of Joseph through Ephraim (v. 1). But "mount Ephraim" (Ibid.) was only where his parents lived when Samuel was born. Sometimes people are referred to by where they live, such as, Samuel’s father was called an "Ephrathite" because he lived in the tribal territory of Ephraim. Samuel’s genealogy in 1 Chronicles 6:33,34 establishes his Levitical ties (Samuel’s name is spelled "Shemuel" in that text). Being of the Levitical tribe is the key to why Hannah could give Samuel to the service of the Lord at the Tabernacle. Elkanah, Samuel’s father, evidently did not have any duties at the Tabernacle as many Levites did, and so he farmed in the territory of Ephraim in an area where the Levites were granted a place to live. The Levities, according to instructions in Joshua 21, were given various areas from the territory of the other tribes because the Levities did not have a section of land given to them as did the other tribes.

3. The Time of His Birth

"It came to pass, when the time was come" (v. 20) Samuel was born. Samuel’s birth was timely. It was a critical time in the nation of Israel. As we noted at the beginning of this chapter, the nation was floundering and lacked leadership. Furthermore, it was corrupt, plagued with idolatry, and the worship of Jehovah was greatly defiled by Eli’s sons. The kind of man Samuel was going to be was the kind that was desperately needed in the land at that time. Samuel was certainly God’s man for the hour.

It is ever the habit of God to send His man at just the right time. Moses, Joshua, the various judges (such as Gideon and Samson), the prophets Elijah and Elisha, and other men of God in Scripture came on the scene right when they were needed. This timing is especially evident in Scripture in the coming of Jesus Christ. "When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son" (Galatians 4:4) and "In due time Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6) are texts which illustrate this truth of God’s timeliness. We can still count on God’s providential timeliness. Walking according to His way will especially help us to experience God’s timeliness in wonderful ways in our own personal lives.

4. The Triumph of His Birth

The birth of Samuel was a triumph over a number of things. It was a triumph over barrenness (Hannah’s barrenness), over sorrow (Hannah’s bitterness of soul), and over persecution (the provocations of Peninnah). We will note more about this victory in our next chapter when we examine Hannah’s prayer she made after giving Samuel to the Lord. She said, "My mouth is enlarged [opened wide in cheering because of victory] over mine enemies" (1 Samuel 2:1). Samuel’s birth is a great exhibit that we can be victorious over the trials of life and that this victory can come through prayer to the Lord. How little we value prayer; yet it is prayer that can turn defeat to victory, sorrow to joy, and grief to gladness. All of us face problems in life which seem more than we can bear at times and also more than we can conquer. But Hannah shows us the way to triumph over all our troubles, and that is to pray earnestly to God Almighty. Samuel, Hannah’s son, is a great exhibit of that fact.

D. THE STEWARDSHIP OF THE PRAYER

Here we ponder the important truth about how to take care of the answers to prayer we receive from God. When God gives us answers to our prayers, it begets a responsibility on our part to be a good steward of that answer. When you ask for something and it is given you, what do you do with it? Do you squander it on selfish desires and wasteful uses? Or do you use it wisely to honor the One Who gave it to you? Hannah’s care of Samuel demonstrates excellent stewardship of prayer. We note it in three ways: the naming of the child, the staying with the child, and the preparing of the child.

1. The Naming of the Child

Hannah gave Samuel a most fitting name. "Samuel" means "heard of God" (Strong) or as some say, "asked of God" (a.v. margin). Either way, the name is a tribute to God for answering her prayer. So the first thing Hannah did when her prayer was answered was to give God honor for answering it by naming the boy Samuel. In this way she publicly acknowledged her blessing as an answer to prayer. Would that men would do this more. Too often, however, when the blessing comes, men have a tendency to boast of their achievement or else attribute the blessing to some other cause (even "luck" of all things) instead of to God. It is a shameful bit of stewardship to treat our blessings like that. Hannah gives a better example. Give honor to God by acknowledging His work. It is a good way to get more prayers answered.

2. The Staying With the Child

Hannah was not like many modern mothers of our day. She stayed with Samuel for some two to three years until he was weaned (v. 23). Motherhood involves more than childbirth. It is a noble task to mother the child. And you cannot mother the child unless you stay with the child! While it may be necessary at times to have a babysitter (or a servant’s help as in Hannah’s case), what is going on today in the raising of children is positively wicked. Mothers dump their children off at some day-care center or other place as soon as possible and take very little care of the child. They seem to forget that God gave the child to the mother—not to the day-care center or someone else. When God gives you something, you are to take care of it!

Churches can learn a lesson here. They are to do more than just give birth (evangelism). They are also to parent the one that is born. Some call it discipleship; others use different names. But the point is, the church is to teach and train the new converts. Unfortunately, the church has failed miserably in this area. As a result, church members are woefully ignorant about the things of God and are easily led into making their religion nothing more than a bunch of Shibboleths or slogans or pet peeves.

3. The Preparing of the Child

Hannah prepared Samuel for service in the Tabernacle (called the temple in our text because it had taken on more permanent features over the centuries). This preparation obviously involved a good deal more than seeing that he had a good physical start in life and that he had ample clothes (see 1 Samuel 2:19). It also provided spiritual training. When Samuel was brought to the Tabernacle to begin his lifelong service to the Lord, his performance was outstanding spiritually. He had obviously been well tutored by his mother in spiritual matters; so even though he was a young child, he still reflected considerable godliness.

A good many folk seem to have the idea that children simply cannot learn much spiritually. So they program fun and games at church instead of trying to give them some spiritual food. If they do teach the children, the teaching is too simple. They treat the children like they were incapable of learning much of anything spiritually and that spiritual matters are much too deep and complicated for their minds. Yet, in secular training, we are giving the children more advanced learning earlier and earlier in life. Do not underestimate the ability of a child to learn spiritually. Do not hold back spiritual teaching from them. Cut down the fun and games at church and increase the spiritual instruction. It will pay dividends that no fun and games will ever pay.

This exhortation does not mean that the church is the sole one responsible for the children’s spiritual learning. The prime teaching should come from the parents. If Hannah could indoctrinate Samuel so well in her day, surely we parents ought to do better in our day with all the aids to teaching that are available. Samuels are not accidents. They are earnestly prayed down and diligently trained for service for God.