I have been enjoying a chronological Bible reading plan this year. I've been using it for a few years now and it's getting more interesting each year as the cohesive story line of the Bible plays itself out step-by-step. This year has been a little different. We started a group-read at our church with the idea that we would be encouragers to each other. Daily emails on what passages to read developed into a daily commentary/devotion. Writing the commentary has forced me to stop and consider, for each reading, what was going on and how it fit into the big picture. I'm not sure everyone is reading it - I have a tendency to ramble - but the exercise has been good for my daily reading and meditation and I've enjoyed the process.
Hannah's vow to God was to give her son to the Lord, devote him to a holy life (1 Sam 1:11). In Israel, this meant taking him to the tabernacle at Shiloh and leaving him in the care of the priests.
Hannah was a good and godly woman. I can't begin to imagine what it was like to hold her baby in her arms, grow him, wean him, then give him away.
The world would see this as foolish. Some might even accuse Hannah of being an irresponsible mother. Perhaps Hannah had some of the same doubts. Perhaps she wondered, incessantly, whether or not she did the right thing,
whether or not she should have done something different. Knowing Hannah was a godly woman but a human being, as well, it would not be hard to imagine Hannah, on the way to the Tabernacle to leave little Samuel, wondering if she had prayed correctly, second guessing whether or not God had answered her prayer or it was just a coincidence and she should keep Samuel. After all, who was better equipped to raise him, his mother or some old priest?
Hannah is no different than any of us who love our children and want the very best for them. It's always a guessing game as to what to do for them, how to help them, how to show our love for them without holding them back or hindering them.
Ultimately, Hannah had made a vow, back in a time when vows truly meant something. So, she gave her baby to Eli. The rest of the story is an incredible tale of a young boy who would be called, by God, to anoint kings.
Hannah made the right decision. She released Samuel, not into the hands of Eli, but into God's hands (1 Sam 1:28. The Hebrew word for "lent" means "to dedicate").
I think releasing Samuel to God was one of the biggest struggles Hannah ever had. Still, she was a godly woman and did it as an act of worship (see 1 Sam 2).
Likewise, releasing our children into the hands of God is probably one of the greatest struggles in our lives. It doesn't mean we are bad parents. It's actually the opposite. Hannah
got it right. She never stopped loving or caring for Samuel. He was still a large part of her life. We know Samuel was always on her mind, always in her heart when we read about the gift she took to him every year, a "little robe", a reminder that he would always be clothed and warmed by the love of his mother. But Hannah knew Samuel was special. The "robe" was a little priestly robe, worn by young boys in training for the priesthood, a reminder that Samuel was in the care of God's hands, as well.
Hannah was a wise woman. She loved her son. She knew that love could watch over him, provide for him and protect him...for a while. I like to think that Hannah knew this as well: her love could not change him or mold him into the man he was supposed to be. Only God's love could do that. Once Hannah released Samuel into God's hands, God took Hannah's offering and did something far more amazing than anything Hannah could have dreamed of.
It all started with Hannah, taking her fondest desire, the most precious thing in the world to her, and giving him to God. Once she did, Samuel was free to be who God would make him. The double blessings is that Hannah is free as well, free to savor what God does in Samuel, free to receive further blessing. None of it means she forgets about Samuel, he is always in her heart and thoughts. Samuel is blessed and his mother, for her faithfulness, was blessed in a mighty, mighty way (1 Sam 2:21).
What kind of mother was Hannah? The greatest kind of all. The kind that loved her children profoundly and trusted God completely.