The story of Hannah from the Bible is beloved by many and especially by those who have known the pain that comes with not being able to conceive. As the story goes from the book of 1 Samuel, Hannah was not able to conceive a child with her husband and she was desperate. One day while at the temple, she made a vow to the Lord and asked for a child that she would in turn give back to Him. The Lord heard her prayer, opened up her womb and she had a son and named him Samuel. Once Hannah had weaned Samuel (probably around 3 years old), she took him to the temple and brought him before the priest Eli who had earlier assured her that the Lord would answer her prayer. As she gave her child over, she said to Eli:
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.” | 1 Samuel 1:27-28a
Then, when most of us would have been in tears at the thought of leaving our young son, Hannah rejoiced and praised the Lord for His faithfulness. She didn’t regret her vow, she didn’t question whether or not God really expected her to keep her promise, she didn’t mourn that after only a few years she was basically childless again. She joyfully gave her long awaited son to God for His use. We learn that she visited Samuel regularly and the Lord blessed her with many more children but her joy was present before any of that happened.
There are three verses that I am drawn to:
But Samuel was ministering before the Lord—a boy wearing a linen ephod. | 1 Samuel 2:18
Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord. | 1 Samuel 2:22b
And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people. | 1 Samuel 2:26
In all three verses we see that the boy Samuel served God, grew up with God, and as he got older, grew in favor with God and the people. He was obviously a special boy but I think part of what enabled all of this was his special mother.
When Hannah promised the Lord that she was going to give her son to Him, she meant it. Her faith in God allowed her to leave him there and to return home with joy. The Bible does not record her fretting over who would make sure he ate all of his food, who would nurse him back to health when he caught a cold, or who would make sure that he learned to read before he was four and make the honor roll when he was eight. She left him in the care of Eli the priest to serve God. I’m going to repeat this for emphasis: she left her child at the temple to serve God.
Ordinarily, when we think about service to God in the church we are not often thinking about our children. Maybe they will tag along with us, but as far as being responsible for serving the Lord because it is their responsibility? I’m going to venture to say that’s rare. But why is that? At what point does the Bible teach that service begins in adulthood? Why is it okay to teach children about the love of God, the sacrifice of His Son, the forgiveness that is awaiting them…and then stop there? One of the most well known stories about Jesus is when he washed the disciples feet the day before his own death. If you have heard a sermon about this then surely it was emphasized that He wasn’t just ceremonially washing some basically clean feet but He was washing dirty, smelly and sinful feet. The Son of God and King of Glory did what seemed beneath everyone else in the room. When hearing this story, many of us will feel convicted and be motivated to look for opportunities to serve, but what about our children? A very familiar proverb for many parents is this:
Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. | Proverbs 22:6
If we do not train our children to serve when they are young, it won’t be something that they are readily able to do when they are older. So here are some questions that we all need to know the answers to concerning our children. How does my child serve God today? What sacrifices does he or she make for God’s kingdom? Is my child aware that they have a responsibility to the Lord?
Then we have some questions we need to ask about ourselves. What is my definition of service to the Lord? Does it in any way compare to the service that Jesus provided for His own disciples when He washed their aforementioned feet? Do I teach my child to humble themselves among their peers? Do I allow them the opportunity to clean up after others and help others? Then finally, what does my child see when they look at me? A well-respected Christian and member of the church or a humble servant of the Lord?
I am sure Hannah told Samuel all about how he came to be. I’m sure she emphasized how desperate she was to have him and how much she loved him. I will bet that even Eli the priest told Samuel about the day he saw his mother praying and pleading before the Lord in desperation. So imagine the impact this knowledge had on young Samuel’s heart to know what his mother sacrificed by giving him back to the Lord. Samuel was human and could have chosen at any time to walk away from God and the position his mother volunteered him for, but he didn’t. He eventually became a great priest himself. I am sure much of his resolve even when he was young came from the example he had in his own mother’s service to the Lord
So what can you do starting today to enable your child to serve the Lord? What opportunities are their for him or her to learn to serve humbly without expecting any glory or thanks in return? Finally, what are you training your child up to become? Training a child up is difficult. To train them to work hard for something that others probably won’t ever notice or will completely take for granted is even harder, but it is one of the marks of a true child of God.