Sermon for Sunday, September 3rd, 2023 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[1Sa 1:21-28 ESV] 21 The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the LORD the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the LORD and dwell there forever.” 23 Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him; only, may the LORD establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him. 24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. And the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the LORD. 27 For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the LORD. As long as he lives, he is lent to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there.
New Testament reading:
[2Co 8:1-7 ESV] 1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints– 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you–see that you excel in this act of grace also.
[Luk 18:35-43 ESV] 35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
From our Old Testament reading today, there are two verses in particular that are the basis for this sermon.
27 For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the LORD. As long as he lives, he is lent to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there.
Now some Bible translations, including the ESV and the King James indeed say “for as long as he lives, he is LENT to the Lord.”
But this isn’t a great translation. God had not first LENT a child to Hannah, but He had GIVEN Samuel to her. And now she GIVES back to the Lord.
And so a number of Bible translations say more adequately “for as long as he (Samuel) lives, he is GIVEN to the Lord.”
Others yet use the word “dedicated” saying “for as long as he lives, he is DEDICATED to the Lord” but the idea of “Given” is the most apt. AS God GAVE to Hannah, now Hannah GIVES to God.
Samuel is GIVEN TO THE GIVER. And Hannah GIVES praise to God.
I. God is the Giver of all things
It is well that we first establish clearly that fact that God is indeed THE GIVER. There are none other. God ALONE is the giver. We do not at sometimes receive from God and other times receive from others, but we ALWAYS and EVERYWHERE receive from God the giver.
It is more often that God is spoken of as the creator. We might also speak of Him (righty so) as the sustainer. And we certainly speak of God in Jesus Christ as the redeemer.
But it is also right to declare the truth that God is the giver. The giver of all things.
Knowing that God gives all things that are given, we can understand that praise is due to Him alone. And we do not praise Him just on those miraculous occasions where it is most clear that God has acted, but upon all occasions, for God provides all that is provided. We must praise Him and thank Him for all things.
There is that powerful statement in the Book of Job. After Job’s property is destroyed and children are killed, he tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshipped God, saying “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
All things are from God. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. And then our response is to give praise to Him. This is exemplified in Job’s responses “blessed be the name of the Lord.” “The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
On “God the giver” there is also a statement of David in the book of 1st Chronicles.
He says of God:
[1Ch 29:12-14 ESV] 12 Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 13 And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. 14 “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.
Indeed, ALL things are from God.
And so God has given Samuel to Hannah. Answering her prayer. Blessed be the name of the Lord, to answer that great prayer for a child. Hannah must have been ever so grateful for he Lord’s answer to her prayer, for the giving to her of Samuel.
And what is so great about Hannah’s response is that it is another prayer, recorded in the next chapter. A prayer of praise to God, who has given Samuel to her. But in that prayer, there is no mention of Samuel. Only in verse 5 does she speak of “the barren” (barren women in general) saying that “the barren has borne seven (children).” The focus of her prayer is on her exulting in the Lord. She is jubilant because of God. Yes, she must certainly love Samuel, but it is God who is the Giver and who deserves praise.
And, after God gives Samuel, we find that Hannah fulfills her vow.
II. Hannah Fulfills Her Vow
Her vow is back in verse 11 of the first chapter:
[1Sa 1:11 ESV] 11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”
Even the ESV there says “give” not “lend.
And the promise of Hannah is that if she can bear a son, then she will give him to the Lord. And she says “no razor shall touch his head.”
This “giving to the Lord” is clearly more than your regular commitment to God. This is the Nazirite vow. A special vow of separation to God. It is explained in Numbers 6 as the vow to not drink wine or strong drink, nor vinegar, not any product of grapes. And, under the vow the person is not to cut their hair. “No razor shall touch his head.” These are signs of separation, being set aside for devotion to God.
Hannah’s vow for Samuel is AT LEAST a Nazirite vow. But it seems to be something more. It is more permanent than temporary as the Nazirite vow was only temporary. And it is not just a separation from alcohol, but a devotion to working as a priest in the tabernacle. Samuel is brought to the tabernacle at Shiloh and is to “dwell there forever.”
Now typically, vows are to be fulfilled with the utmost haste. But here there is wisdom (or perhaps necessity) in Hannah weaning the child first. It is thought that he might have been about three years old when brought to the temple.
When he is brought there all the sacrifices are made and Hannah exults the Lord. She first identifies herself to Eli, saying “I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him.”
God has answered her prayer. Now, she will fulfill her vow. “Therefore I have give him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.”
There has been the suggestion — I think valid — that barren Hannah resembles barren Israel. The birth of Samuel then is both for Hannah’s benefit and for Israel’s. In the period of the Judges, Israel lacked a focus on God. They lacked obedience. They were barren in good works. But now God provides despite their previous barrenness.
Those “down times” or “barren periods” of church history (by which I include the Old Testament times as well as modern) go throughout the ages. And it is God — always God — who through revival brings the good times of faith and growth. We see that so clearly in the cycle of the book of Judges. When things were at rock bottom, it was God who provided a judge to save the people from their enemies and to turn them back to worshipping the Lord.
Now, we have had a greater savior in Jesus Christ, calling us to return to the Lord. Giving to us salvation though we were barren in good works.
Now, it is as if God is declaring: You will no longer be barren! You will be fruitful, because God makes it so. He provides. God is the provider.
This is a theme of the Scriptures. Hannah is not the only one who was declared barren only to have a child by the miraculous grace of God. There was also Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Manoah’s wife. To each and all of these, God declares, in effect, “I am God who brings fruitfulness from barrenness.”
God indeed brings fruitfulness from barrenness.
The Lord, the giver, provides.
And trusting in Him, Hannah gives Samuel to the Lord. Certainly this would have been a difficult parting. But, I think anyways, she would be able to visit him or at least know where he is, in the temple. Yet, it would have been very difficult for her. A real sacrifice.
And, perhaps this is even a foreshadowing, a type, of God giving his own son, Jesus Christ.
Last week we saw Hannah “taking it to the Lord in prayer.” She was our example. Now she again is our example as we are called to “Give to the Giver.”
III. Giving to the Giver
How do we give to the giver? Of course He needs nothing.
You know that person, that grandfather perhaps, whose birthday comes around and you declare “How can I get him a gift, he has everything.” Well, that is proverbial of course. It is not literally true.
But God not only has one of everything, He has ALL of everything. What could we possible give Him?
A. Our money, time, strength, and talents.
Of course, we cannot “give” him but that which he has first given us. And so we give of His gift of ourselves, our money, our time, our strength, and our talents.
[Deu 8:18 ESV] 18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
See, God not only gives you those tangible gifts. And He not only gives you your existence. But he gives you “power.” All your strength, energies, talents, mental abilities are from God. And so, following Hannah’s example (and God’s very example as well), we are called to Give to the Giver.
But there is something else. There is something more. There is one thing that we can “give” to God that isn’t “given” to us. It is one thing above all other things. We are to Give PRAISE to God, the Giver.
B. Our praise.
We are to praise God, to boast in Him. And we see that in Hannah’s prayer in the next chapter. She exults in God. She is not focused on the gift (Samuel), but the giver (God).
This sermon can be summarized in these words: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”
Then, there is one other thing to note. At the very end of our passage. After Samuel is weaned. After Hannah brings him to Shiloh, it says “And he worshiped the LORD there.” Honestly, I wasn’t sure who “he” was in this verse. My first thought was “Samuel is too young to be mentioned.” But, as noted previously, Jewish weaning was at about age 3. And so Matthew Henry says “SAMUEL worshipped the Lord there, that is HE SAID HIS PRAYERS.” Samuel, even at this young age was not too young to worship the Lord.
It is never too early, and never too late, to worship the Lord.
So let us ever say with the Psalmist:
[Psa 135:1 ESV] 1 Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD, give praise, O servants of the LORD,
Let us pray.