A Mother’s Strength
Text: 1 Samuel 1
Proposition: Mothers are measured by more than just the ability to bear children, they are measured by their perseverance, by their faith, by their obedience and by their worship.
Introduction: A Spanish proverb reads "An ounce of mother is worth a ton of priest." What it refers to is the depth of direction and encouragement and love that is endowed upon mothers as they raise their children. A young mother and father felt it was time to tell their ten-year-old son the facts of life. They took books out of the library and prepared themselves for any questions he might ask. At the end of a lengthy chat, he looked confused. “If you have any questions,” they said, “please ask them. There are no silly questions.” “Well, suppose I was married,” he said with some embarrassment, “my wife was pregnant and I had to rush her to the hospital. Okay?” They nodded supportively. He asked, “Can I go through red lights?”
Over one hundred years ago, G. K. Chesterton wrote this about mothers .. "Babies need not to be taught a trade, but to be introduced to a world. Our race has thought it worthwhile to cast this burden on women in order to keep common-sense in the world. How can it be an important career to tell other people's children about mathematics, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? A woman's function is laborious.. .not because it is minute, but because it is gigantic."
Let’s look at a character from the pages of the Old Testament, not so much as an example but as one who helps us to see the elements of being a godly mother. Turn with me to 1 Samuel 1 where we are introduced to a young woman by the name of Hannah.
I. Motherhood Requires Perseverance
That's such an obvious principle, it's like saying that mechanics need strong arms or those who sew a strong set of eyes. But look at Hannah's story... she met and fell in love with a young man named Elkanah. Things looked wonderful... for awhile. But then it seemed obvious that she could not conceive and would never be able to have a child of her own. Perhaps there was a great stress that developed in their marriage and Elkanah took an extreme measure in order to have an heir. He took another wife, Peninnah, and had children with her. That Elkanah was a good man seems to be indicated in verse 3, but the difficulty for Hannah definitely increased. As you read the next few verses you see the hurt she experienced, not just once but time and again. Every time they went to Shiloh, to annually give thanks to God for His blessing, she would be confronted with her childlessness. It says in verse 6 that Peninnah, “would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb.” Both of these women teach us much about perseverance. Peninnah failed to persevere under blessing. She grew haughty and insolent. Hannah also failed to persevere, for under affliction she grew sad and discontented. Motherhood is not an easy task, it demands the perseverance that often comes through failures.
II. Motherhood Requires Faith.
It's often the challenge from someone who loves us that calls us to exercise the faith that resides in us. Elkanah sees his wife's distress and challenges her with what to us seems almost a painfully obvious question? In verse 8 he asks, "Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad?" Is this just another case of a husband being so obtuse he doesn't see the obvious? I don't think so. This simple observation called her attention to not only the good character of her husband, one who was better than ten sons, but also to the greater goodness of God's character. It called her to go and make things right with God. Motherhood requires a faith that not only puts the outcome of events into God's hands, it also invites us to ask for the impossible. We don’t know when Hannah chose to make this plea bargain with God but it was a desperate ‘ask’. She would ask that she could have a child and then she would determine to surrender that child at a very young age to forever be separated from her, to leave home and be raised at the Temple. She asked for a miracle that she could surrender her son, her only son, before God as an act of trust and worship. So when she does go to Shiloh, the place where the Temple then was, she prays, "0 Lord of hosts"… it's a term that emphasizes the omnipotence and sovereignty of God. It refers to God as the commander in chief of all the angelic hosts and of all the hosts of Israel. Faith in God is not just a belief that He is, it's a belief in Who He is that then calls for my active trust in Him. Mothers you have doubtless had your faith tested many times, maybe in the exercise of it you were ridiculed as Hannah was, yet the result of exercised faith will bring peace to a troubled heart. After she had poured out her soul in prayer before the Lord, after she had declared her request to God, she left it before Him in faith. Look at the impact that faith had upon Hannah, verse 18... "So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad."
The circumstances had not changed a bit, but Hannah had, because her faith in her omniscient and sovereign God called her to pray in way that poured out her soul. All that she could not carry, He could and would. Mothers, your faith is not only the source of your peace in raising children, it is what prompts you to cry out to God when you cannot change that which appears to be about to defeat you.
III. Motherhood Requires Obedience.
The obedience of Hannah was all about her submitting her will to her God and to her husband. She wouldn't submit to either if she didn't trust in their ability and desire to care for her. Her obedience is seen as radical in the sense that she was willing to give her only son away, that he'd serve in the temple all his days. It was probably at the age of 3 that she took young Samuel, and in obedience to what she had vowed, she gave him back to God. That's an extreme action that pulls at every parents heart. She dedicated him to the Lord... verse 28... "So I have also dedicated him to the Lord, as long as he lives he is dedicated to the Lord." The obedience of motherhood will call you to train your children, even before the age of three. The obedience of motherhood calls you to be faithful to your vows, your wedding vows, your vows of dedication, the following through on your promises to God whatever they are. Obedience has a price, it’s the submission of your will in the pursuit of holiness.
IV. Motherhood Inspires a Response of Worship.
Now that sounds like a paradox! How could two o'clock in the morning feedings inspire worship. Or how could diapers, skinned knees or teens who are out late and you've no idea where they are, inspire worship? A four year-old and a six-year-old presented their Mom with a house plant. They had used their own money and she was thrilled. The older of them said with a sad face, "There was a bouquet that we wanted to give you at the flower shop. It was real pretty, but it was too expensive. It had a ribbon on it that said, 'Rest In Peace' and we thought it would be just perfect since you are always asking for a little peace so that you can rest."
There are definitely trying times, but the wonder of the child that God has given you, the wonder of this little one to whom you alone in all the whole wide world are 'Mother', this everlasting wonder inspires in us all a response of worship. When Hannah left her little son with Eli the priest at the age of three, her son, her only son, was separated from her. How could she know that one day God would do this very thing, He too would give away His Son, His only Son that life and forgiveness of sin would come to all who would receive Him. In the midst of this difficult and trying moment, she turned again to her great and sovereign God, the Lord of hosts, and she worshipped. I don’t think Hannah is some kind of super woman or that she is the original ‘hard hearted Hannah’. Her prayer is remarkable for there is no petition in it for her son Samuel, no specific prayer request to keep him warm or to watch over him and keep him safe. Instead she pours out praise to God for Who He is, she proclaims His boundaries over their lives and she worships Him. Matthew Henry once wrote, “Praise is our rent, our tribute. We are unjust if we do not pay it.” Hannah in the midst of her loss poured out praise before her God.
Let me close with the words of Hannah’s prayer, as she pays rent, pays tribute to the Lord of Hosts for what He has done for her, even for us all.
“My heart rejoices in the LORD; my horn is exalted in the LORD.
I smile at my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation.
No one is holy like the LORD, for there is none besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly; Let no arrogance come from your mouth,
For the LORD is the God of knowledge; And by Him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty men are broken,
And those who stumbled are girded with strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
And the hungry have ceased to hunger.
Even the barren has borne seven,
And she who has many children has become feeble.
The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up.
The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up.
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap,
To set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory.
For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s and He has set the world upon them.
He will guard the feet of His saints,
But the wicked shall be silent in darkness.
For by strength no man shall prevail.
The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces;
From heaven He will thunder against them.
The LORD will judge the ends of the earth.
He will give strength to His king and exalt the horn of His anointed.”