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Hannah: A Mother’s Prayer

A Sermon for Mother’s Day Sunday, May 14, 2023

1 Samuel 1:1-28 & 2:18-21

Veterans Memorial Chapel

By Ch Jim Odell

This is a synopsis, or quick review, of the sermon for Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 14, 2023. I am only hitting the highlights of the message, not reproducing the entire sermon.

Mother’s Day can be a conflicting day. Today some are excited to say thank you to mothers, or grandmothers, or even great grandmothers. However, others may have sad memories of a bad mother or missing mother. Others have memories of lost mothers or lost children. There are no doubt mother-wannabes, anxiously waiting for a husband or child. Others may be “Mother-can’t-bes” wishing for a miracle.

Wherever we are in that spectrum, God has a lesson for us from this story of Hannah’s prayer and God’s answer. Our story starts with a small Jewish family living of Ramah, identified by scholars as the modern city of Ramallah, capital of the Palestinian sector of Israel.

Here we meet Elkanah, a devout Jewish man who has made a vow to observe a family “thanksgiving” sacrifice at the Tabernacle every year on a given date. Perhaps it was his birthday, or a marriage anniversary, or a date of a relative’s death. The text does not tell us. But every year he came to Shiloh, where the Tabernacle was at that time, and made a thanksgiving sacrifice with the family. This included a feast, much like our Thanksgiving dinners in our times.

Now Elkanah had two wives. Peninnah had several children, but Hannah had none. In Ancient Israel the lack of children by a married woman, was viewed as a curse of God on that family. Nevertheless, Elkanah love Hannah. He gave her the best portion of the meat at the thanksgiving festival just to show his love to her. But Peninnah would taunt and irritate Hannah to tears and make her unable to eat, all because of the fact she had no children.

Hannah responded by going to the door of the Tabernacle and praying to God for a son, vowing to give him back to God as her own thanksgiving offering. Look at 1: 10-13. Picture her with her hands toward heaven, neck back, and crying as she mouthed words which came from her heart, not her tongue. The Priest, Eli, was sitting by and watching from his seat. He concluded she was drunk.

Eli, thinking she was drunk, scolded Hannah. But she replied “I am not drunk but pleading in prayer to God.” Eli, blessed her, asking God that her prayer be answered. And she and her husband went home.

Soon thereafter, Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son she named Samuel. Samuel’s name is a “pun” meaning either “‘requested’ or ‘dedicated’ to God.” When “the boy” (a word for “young school child,” not “toddler”) was weaned, on the date of the family’s thanksgiving sacrifice, Hannah took the boy, and the fixing for a thanksgiving offering and dedicated the son to God, giving him up to live with and serve the High Priest, Eli, at the Tabernacle.

Each year Hannah and Elkana would visit Samuel as they came for their family sacrifice. Hannah, yearly, made him a new robe and took it to him. He came to be known throughout the worshiping community of Israel as the boy with the linen ephod, the dress of a priest.

Hannah loved God and prayed that God would give her a son. She loved God enough to give her son back to God for His service as soon as he was old enough. Her prayer is a plea for a family. She loved her husband, and he loved her. But Hannah wanted something more, a gift of a child, which comes only from God. And Hannah wanted to dedicate that child back to God. So, Samuel grows up to be the last significant High Priest, and the first of the Prophets of God.

The Jews of the Old Testament recognized three great historic leaders, Abraham, Moses, and David. The fourth main character in the development of the nation was Samuel.

As we examine the life of Hannah, we see her love of God, love of husband, and love of her son. Do we love our family enough to leave them in the hands of God? Or do we want to “mother” and care for them to the point we may miss the best of what God wants for our children, our spouses and family, our community, and even ourselves. Something to think about on this Mother’s Day.

CH Jim Odell


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