7th Sunday of Easter
1 Samuel 1:21-28
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear people of God, What are you sacrificing for? We make sacrifices all the time for a greater good, don’t we? Let me explain: If you’re planning to take an expensive vacation or buy a new boat or get a new car or purchase a new home or whatever, you have to make sacrifices. You decide not to buy any and everything that you’d like, you might decide not to go out to eat so much, you might decide to not take a vacation one year so you can have a better one the next year- you make sacrifices for the greater good. Those sacrifices become the means to achieve a greater goal. It’s also why we’re celebrating what we’re celebrating this weekend. This weekend we’re honoring those men and women in our armed forces who are or were willing to sacrifice many things – even their lives – for the greater good of preserving the ideals and values that our nation holds dear, particularly our freedoms. Their own lives become the means to the end goal of preserving our nation’s freedoms.
We do this sort of thing all the time in our lives, don’t we? We make sacrifices for a greater goal. And, yet, so often for some not-so-honorable goals. We might have an end goal in life of being able to retire and be financially sound or have a lot of money, but what are we willing to sacrifice for that end goal? Our marriage? Our relationship with our children? Our health? All those things- marriage, children, health – have become the means to the end goal of money. Or, we might have a goal of being popular or well-liked by many people, but what are we willing to sacrifice for that? Our values? Our faith? Compromise and do things we know are wrong or sinful?
What we have here in our text this morning is an end goal switch in Hannah’s heart that makes all the difference. Let’s look at: Hannah’s hurt Hannah’s hope, our hurt, our hope
To understand our text we have to first understand that this is part of a larger account. You see, we’re told right away that Hannah’s husband Elkanah had two wives. Now, perhaps you’ve noticed that this comes up a number of times in the Old Testament and perhaps you’ve struggled a bit with these polygamous marriages that we see in the Bible. But if you ever come away from one of these texts and think that God is condoning polygamy, you’re not reading it. Every time that it comes up we see it bring just incredible disaster and hardship and problems to families. This is one of those times.
Hannah could not have children, Peninnah – Elkanah’s other wife – could. So, Peninnah mocks and taunts and ridicules Hannah and Hannah is devastated, she weeps, she can’t eat, she’s crying all the time. Now, why is Hannah so devastated? We have to understand the context of this time. At this time both family and society depended on women having children. First, the more children you had, the more money you had. More children meant more workers the family had in the field. The more workers, the greater prosperity you enjoyed. Secondly, the more children you had, the greater chances you could live into old age with some degree of comfort. They, of course, didn’t have social security or 401ks, so older people were cared for by their children. And lastly, your country needed a lot of children because the more children the country had the more people it had, the more people, the greater the army. If your army was larger than the enemy, it was more likely that you would win. So, women who had children were viewed as heroes, they were patriots.
So, NOT being able to have children was essentially equal to hopelessness. It meant no foreseeable future for your family, for yourself, or for your nation. And that’s what Peninnah reminded Hannah of over and over again. To them in that culture having a family was the ultimate thing. But every culture has a value system, it does this to something, it makes something the ultimate thing so that if you don’t have it, you’re nothing, you’re worthless. Perhaps today it’s achievement, prosperity, or popularity – if you don’t have it, you’re considered less and not important.
So that was Hannah’s hurt. But what did she do? She made a resolve. Once, while the family was at Shiloh- where the tabernacle was, Hannah made a resolve, she went to the tabernacle, prayed to the Lord and made a vow that if the Lord should give her a son, she would give her son to the Lord to serve him for his whole life. He would become a Nazirite. Now, at first, it seems like she’s making some kind of a deal with God: Give me a son and I’ll give him to you. But that would still be making having a child the ultimate thing and God just a means to that end. But that’s not what Hannah did. You see, after she made this vow to the Lord, she went home, she ate, and she was no longer downcast. In other words, she had peace. If it was a bargain she was making with God it would have gone like this: prayer, pregnancy, and then peace. But it doesn’t work that way. She has peace before she gets pregnant. And she promises to give her son to the Lord. Should the Lord give her a son, she would give her son to be a non-Levitical priest, a Nazirite. This meant that her son would live in God’s house from the time he was very little – probably 3 years old. That means she wouldn’t have a son to show off to all the people, he wouldn’t be there – he’d be at the tabernacle. That means she wouldn’t have a son so that the family could prosper, the son would be doing the Lord’s work. That means she wouldn’t have a son to have some financial security because he’s gone, he’s dedicated to service in God’s house.
And so, can you picture it? They are on their way to Shiloh- Elkanah has a massive 3 year old bull that he’s leading – which would have been a huge sacrifice for a farmer, and Hannah is leading her little 3 year old boy hand in hand to give him to the Lord. Wow! How could she do that? How could she give up her son like that? Well, this is what changed in Hannah- she says, “I’m not going to rest my heart in what society says, I’m not going to rest my heart in culture or in my husband’s love or in the desire to have a child, I’m going to rest my heart in the Lord, I’m putting my hope in the Lord.” No longer is she wanting a child for her, but for the Lord. She doesn’t want a child for her sake, but for the Lord’s sake. God is no longer the means to the end of having a child, but having a child is the means to the end of glorifying the Lord. See the difference? Israel was a terrible spiritual disaster at this time- they needed a solid spiritual leader. Hannah says, “I no longer want a child for me, I want a child for the Lord, I want a child for spiritual strength of the nation through whom God is going to send the Savior into the world.” In other words, she set her sight not on the temporary, not on the seen, but on the unseen, the glory and salvation of God and His kingdom.
What about you? Do you have a hurt like Hannah? Do you have a hole in your life that you want desperately to be filled? Has God become just the means to the end of having whatever it is your heart is really desiring? Are you willing to dedicate your job, your career, your family, your prized possessions to the service of the Lord? Are we willing to say, “Lord, thank you for this job you’ve given me, the career you’ve blessed me with, may I use it for your glory?” Are we willing to say, “Lord, thank you for the family you’ve given me, may I honor and glorify you with it.” Fix your eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
But how does that happen? How do we have that eternal perspective? How can we have that willingness to sacrifice for the greater good of the Lord and His kingdom like Hannah? It doesn’t come from within us, it comes from outside of us. Hannah prayed for a son to be given for the work of the Lord. Hannah then gave that son up for the work of the Lord. The work of the Lord, however, was all working toward one goal: to bring the Savior into this world. Yes, Hannah sacrificed having her son for herself for the greater good of God’s work and His kingdom. But, that doesn’t come close the sacrifice God made on behalf of you and me. Jesus, God’s own Son, wasn’t only given to the work of the Lord, but Jesus was sacrificed- not just by living in God’s house – but really sacrificed on a cross. In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, “Lord, your will not mine be done.” Jesus kept God’s plan of salvation first and foremost- even above His own life, He did so in your place and mine for all the times we’ve selfishly made other things more important than God and His work. And He was dealt all the blows, all the wrath, all the punishment from God Himself for all your sins and mine. Why? Because in the heart of God is a love so great, so boundless, so amazing that the greater good to God is having you and me in heaven with him forever.
Perhaps you’re feeling the hurt of some hole in your life right now or perhaps you’re tempted to be controlled by the value system of the society, culture, and world that we live in- as if money, things, relationships are the ultimate goal that you should sacrifice everything else for. But don’t focus on the seen, but the unseen. Realize what Hannah realized: In the Lord you have all the significance, worth, and love you’ll ever need. And since you have him you can sacrifice all the lesser things for the greater goal of having the Lord and doing His work and like Hannah have peace. Amen.