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“Hannah’s Holy Hope”

1Sam.1:24-2:10 – May 14, 2017


Mothers play a key role in the family unit, and especially in the lives of their children. Sometimes they can get relied upon even a little too much.

      One evening when his father was absent, little Billy was allowed to sit in his father’s place at the supper table. But Billy’s slightly older sister resented the arrangement. She sneered, “So, you’re the father tonight! All right, how much is two times seven?”

      Without a moment’s hesitation, Billy replied nonchalantly, “I’m busy.Ask your mother!”

      No one can love a child quite like a mother can: there are simply no substitutes. In another place, there was a young mother who was feeling sorry for herself because of her many responsibilities as a parent. Then one day she saw this sign on a local day-care centre: “Attention all mothers – Let me love your children, while you work.”

      Somehow that sign didn’t succeed in having the desired effect. Instead, after seeing it, the mother went away grateful for the opportunity she had to love her children herself.

      In today’s Bible passage we meet an outstanding mother who eventually raised six kids. But her attitude at the outset marks her as a mom who parents with God at the centre, and whose faith in God and remarkable values are passed on to her children and even, through them, to a nation.


The story of Hannah, mother of the OT prophet Samuel, is one of God’s miraculous deliverance and a person responding in thankful trust and dedication. To recap briefly: Elkanah was an Israelite who lived with his two wives, Hannah and Peninnah, likely about 5 miles north of Jerusalem. Every year he went to worship and sacrifice at Shiloh. Even though he loved Hannah and gave her a double portion of the festive meal, his other wife razzed Hannah severely because Peninnah had multiple children but Hannah had none. Hannah became very grieved and bitter about this. She prayed to the Lord, vowing if He granted her a son, she would give him back all his life. She prayed very sincerely, saying she was: 1:15 “pouring out my soul to the Lord”, v16 “praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

      And the Lord in His mercy listened to Hannah’s cry, and granted her a baby boy. As was customary for the time, she probably nursed him for 2-3 years then after he was weaned, she brought him back to Shiloh to give him to Eli the priest there in fulfilment of her vow. Her prayer-song at that time constitutes the bulk of today’s passage. Sometimes called “The Magnificat of the Old Testament”, it praises God’s greatness in a style that later seems to have influenced David (2Samuel 22) and even Mary the mother of Jesus (Lk.1:46ff) some 1100 years later.

      The first thing that’s striking is that, for Hannah, God is the centre of my life – the sun around which I orbit (not my child). Even though she’s been the recipient of a miracle in the opening of her womb, what is the source of her joy? What does she delight in? NOT - as you might expect - her baby boy; no, she is enraptured by the greatness of her God.

      2:1 “Then Hannah prayed and said: ‘My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.’” Note she rejoices ‘in the Lord’, she delights in God’s deliverance – not just her miracle baby. V2 goes on to emphasize God’s uniqueness, how special and outstanding He is: V2 “There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” God is without equal, there’s no comparison; there are NOT “many paths up the mountain”, but just one, through Jesus Christ (Jn 14:6).

      One of the most important things a parent can do for their child is demonstrate that they, the parent, are NOT the most important being in the universe: rather, God is! The Lord is far greater than Mom or Dad. Parents are important, but even if Mom and Dad die in an accident, there is still One more awesome and significant in whom a child can trust and look to for support in life.

      Righteous parenting points the next generation to God as Sovereign. Humans are fallible, weak, and limited: God is not. Praising God before your child, even through something as simple as saying grace before meals, provides a sense of security and cosmic order that troubles and illness will find it hard to overturn in a child’s life. Children ought to be obedient to parents, but parents in turn model obedience to an authority higher than themselves, One to whom we too one day will give account (Matthew 12:36).

      A common pitfall these days is so-called “helicopter” parenting. The term appeared in 1969 in the bestselling book Between Parent & Teenager by Dr. Haim Ginott, which mentions a teen who complains: "Mother hovers over me like a helicopter..." According to Wikipedia, a “helicopter parent” is “a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child's or children's experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions.Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead, overseeing their child's life.”

      Especially in the affluent west, parents can become all wrapped up in providing their offspring with the latest clothes and gadgets and best educational opportunities. A parent can invest so much of their time and energy and attention in raising their child that it becomes obsessive, and that’s not healthy. The child is not the sun around which we as parent orbit; God is – or ought to be. Catering overly to your child can set them up for selfishness, narcissism, and an ugly sense of entitlement. As parents we need to be modeling in the family system living for a mission or cause greater than ourselves – Christ’s Kingdom purposes in the world. We can be teaching our offspring that there is satisfaction in productivity and giving away our life for others, rather than in just consuming. In this sense, Hannah’s priorities are counter-cultural, challenging modern society’s conceit, pride, arrogance, and anti-authoritarianism.

      Hannah has a breathtakingly grand perception of God’s sovereignty, which we see also in vv6-7: “The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.” Is your concept of God THAT big? God is in control! Can we say like Job after hearing the news that he has lost everything, Job 1:20b-21 “Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: "Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised"”?

      Point your children beyond yourself as parent to God who is oh so much greater than yourself. And keep Him at the centre of your life: don’t let your children usurp that spot, no matter how much you love them.


Hannah also teaches us that children are a gift from God, not to be clung to but to be released back to Him. As parents we are to care for and nurture our kids but a point comes at which we need to launch them into the wide wide world, looking to God to watch over them when they’re beyond our range of influence and protection.

      The Hebrew root sha-al, meaning to ask or (in another tense) to be given, occurs 4 times in 1:27-28: “I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted* me what I asked* of him. So now I give* him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given* over to the LORD.” Or as the King James Version renders v28, “Therefore also I have lent* him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent* to the LORD.”

      Samuel’s very name is related to this verb, being “asked” of the Lord – it sounds like the Hebrew for “heard of God”. In some sense, all our children are gifts from God, “on loan” from Him: not our own possession as if something we can keep to ourselves forever, but a trust we enjoy for a short time but eventually must commit back to Him. This ought to help prevent us from becoming domineering over our kids: to remember they’re not finally ours – they belong to God, we are stewards of them for a limited time.

      NLT Study Bible notes: “Hannah’s prayer shows us that all we have and receive is on loan from God.Hannah might have had many excuses for being a possessive mother...She discovered that the greatest joy in having a child is to give that child fully and freely back to God.She entered motherhood prepared to do what all mothers must eventually do – let go of their children.When children are born, they are completely dependent upon their parents for all their basic necessities.This causes some parents to forget that those same children will grow toward independence within the span of a few short years.Being sensitive to the different stages of that healthy process will greatly strengthen family relationships; resisting or denying that process will cause great pain.We must gradually let go of our children in order to allow them to become mature, interdependent adults.”

      The Bible also emphasizes that children are a GIFT from God. Ps 127:3 “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.” Sometimes current culture can give the impression that children are a burden, a liability – they cost a lot; having kids gets in the way of achieving your career plans, etc. China not long ago reversed its one-child policy, but the expected rebound in births has not happened, because couples prefer material advantages over the additional costs of raising a second child. That’s not how Scripture views them: children are a gift, a blessing, a REWARD from God, something good and to be welcomed.


There’s a third way in which Hannah’s song is strikingly counter-cultural. Post-Darwinian culture is infected by the myth of the “survival of the fittest”, it’s a “dog eat dog” world. Christian parenting however provides an opportunity to model God’s mercy and grace, as opposed to the philosophy of “might makes right”.

      Note carefully the actions of God toward those who are have-nots in vv4-8: “...those who stumbled are armed with strength...those who were hungry hunger no more.She who was barren has borne seven children...He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.” Hannah sings of the Lord’s mercy and grace toward those who are undeserving and cast down.

      Is our parenting characterized by mercy, patience, gentleness, kindness, tenderness toward those who are weak or still developing in their abilities? Or are we harsh and dictatorial, getting quickly grumpy when youngsters fail at what they try? Ephesians 6:4 commands fathers to “not exasperate” their children; Colossians 3:21 urges them to “not embitter” their offspring. Power in parenting is to be used supportively, not harshly and coercively. Paul writing to Titus urges younger women in Titus 2:4f, “to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind...” If someone were to ask our kids if they felt (a) loved, and (b) that their parents were kind to them, how would they respond?

      The secular materialist mindset, shaped by Darwinism, champions the motto “survival of the fittest” – which leads to a bully mentality, be your own ‘king of the castle’. But see what Hannah says in 2:9B: “It is not by strength that one prevails...” That blows away your whole “survival of the fittest” theory! It’s not about becoming mightier than the next guy; what is the proper role of strength? V10 “the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.He will give strength to His king...” God will strengthen and raise up those who serve Him.

      Remember how Jesus very pointedly taught His disciples to avoid trying to wield power the way the world does. Mark 10:42-45 “Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."”

      The cross radically contravenes ‘survival of the fittest’: to get ahead in the Kingdom, don’t be a bully and throw your weight around, but instead become the very best at serving and helping other people, even as Jesus gave Himself to be our Saviour.


So, how can parents best serve their children, practically speaking? With this being Mother’s Day or “Christian Family Sunday”, I close with some practical suggestions from Dr Joyce Brothers that she titles “What Kids Really Need from Mom.”

      (1) Train their hearts.Moms need to demonstrate that treating people well – with kindness and courtesy – is just as important as succeeding in school and sports;

      (2) Boo less, cheer more.We all know that praise can do wonders for people. Excessive criticism can result in an overly self-critical child who fears to take the risks that lead to achievement;

      (3) Talk "taboo." We live in a dangerous world where kids are exposed to drugs, alcohol, and sex at ever-younger ages.Some mothers fear that talking about such taboo activities sanctions them.The opposite is true.A 1994 study of fifth- and seventh-graders in Southern California, for instance, found that children who have honest discussions with their parents are less likely to use drugs and alcohol;

      (4) Let limits grow as children do.Children need to be loved without qualification so the seed of self-esteem can grow.Such unconditional love does not mean you set no limits: setting boundaries demonstrates to a child how important he or she is to you.When a child oversteps, show disappointment with the behaviour, not with the child;

      (5) Show the way.Kids need a moral compass. That means instilling a sense of right and wrong not only about big issues, but also day-to-day matters;

      (6) Enjoy them.With time short, moms often focus on "what's important" – catching up on kids' news, helping with homework.Yet in our tense society, children crave something more – a good time with Mom.Motherhood is a big job, but it's not meant to be a burden.Sometimes you may need to be a little less responsible – to let go of your demands on yourself and have fun with your children.

      Let’s thank God for the gift of children, and seek His wisdom to parent them well; and if we don’t have children of our own, ask that we might still to find ways to influence the next generation positively, impressing upon them His goodness and greatness. Let’s pray.