In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah was barren in a day that looked upon barrenness as a judgment from God. Her husband, Elkanah, loved her. But he had another wife (another aberration of that day) named Peninnah, who vexed Hannah for having no children.
Hannah went up with her husband to their annual pilgrimage to the Temple, which in those days was at Shiloh. She went to sacrifice and pray for a child. She vowed to God that if he would give her a child, that child would be dedicated to him. God granted that child and Hannah promptly gave the child wholly and unreservedly to God to serve the Lord in the Temple from his very early years; perhaps as young as six years of age. When she delivered the boy, Samuel, to the Temple for his life-long service she told the residing priest at the time, Eli, “For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore, I have lent him to the LORD. As long as he lives, he is lent to the LORD” (1 Samuel 1:27-28).
Now there are many angles at which we might come to this text. When Michal and I began to have children, as soon as we knew we were going to have a child, we dedicated him/her to the Lord. It was no idle dedication. It meant that we recognized that they did not belong to us. It meant we did not have an option whether or not we would train them to serve Christ. It meant there would be no question whether or not they would be reared as a fully functioning participant in a local church. The question of faithful attendance in worship, Sunday school, youth programs, etc., was settled at that time. They were dedicated to the Lord and such dedication would entail our commitment to their presence “in the temple” so to speak. So, certainly that is one angle at which we might look at this passage.
But there is another angle that is oft overlooked in the whole narrative. At the end of chapter 2 we read of how Hannah went yearly up to the House of the Lord where Samuel lived and ministered as a young boy. She would make him a robe yearly and she would take it up to him. Now, one might wonder at the sense of loss Hannah had in the fact that once Samuel was weaned from his mother, he lived with Eli and ministered in the Temple. Hannah would not be there nights to rock him to sleep, hold him when he was ill, or laugh with him at the dinner table. In other words, she was going to miss out on the vast majority of his childhood because he was “lent to the Lord”. It hardly seems fair. This woman who so desperately wanted a child would not be able to rear the child.
But God is not like that. No, she would not be able to rear Samuel. Instead, God gave her three more sons and two daughters (2:18-21). He would fill her “quiver” with a family with whom she would spend the rest of her life. Her commitment to dedicate the one child she thought she would ever have, led to the outflow of God’s blessings the likes of which she never dared to hope or imagine.
My point would be this: God’s blessings flow abundantly toward those who sacrifice for him. The blessings are not always material, numerical, or temporal for that matter. But God will be in debt to no man. You cannot out give God. Michal and I have had and continue to have so many profuse blessings poured out to us over our lives. We have scarcely ever given near what God has given to us. Our children are a part of that blessing as are our grands. But so is this church in which we have labored for over 27 years. We have received a hundred fold more from you all than we have ever given. God is so good.
So, what will you give God? I believe he will give you back far more than you will ever give him. We give to God with teaspoons. He gives to us in shovel fulls. If this has not been your experience, one of two things might be the case:
- You have never come to him in saving faith to become his child. God is never stingy with his blessing to his children or
- You really are blessed beyond measure, but you just don’t realize or appreciate it. Sometimes we do not realize the blessings of God because they don’t come in the form of things we normally consider “blessings”. One of the greatest blessings of my life was my cancer. God did and is still doing much through that blessing.
So, praise God from whom all (sorts) of blessings flow! You can’t out-give God!