A friend of mine shops at a second-hand clothing sale and finds a handsome men’s suit. Because it is priced very low, she eagerly searches the lining for the size. Alas, the tag is missing but she has a creative solution. Instructing her companion to hold the coat at a specified height, my friend wraps her arms around it in an embrace. Ignoring some stares, her companion dutifully holds on. After another hug or two, my friend is convinced the coat feels just right. She brings the suit home to her loved one and it fits him perfectly.
Three thousand years earlier, Hannah, another wife and mother, has a similar clothing dilemma. She has a coat for her family member, too, but her situation is far more challenging. She has not seen her dear one for an entire year and he is a growing child, at that.
This child is Samuel. From the time of his weaning he lives at the house of the Lord in Shiloh learning the work of a priest. As recorded in I Samuel 2:19, “His mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.” Just once a year, a brief moment to wrap her arms around her child and give him a coat—a little bigger than the previous one. The coat is a constant reminder to Samuel of his mother’s love and care. She unselfishly leaves him to be raised among the priests, acknowledging that he is “lent to the Lord.”
When she leaves little Samuel for the first time, she prays. Christians often call her prayer a song, and in essence it is. It is thankful, joyful praise magnifying the Lord’s glorious perfections and just judgments—the substance of a God-glorifying song. Joy and singing go together, do they not? This song is also instructive. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, there are striking reversals: The mighty break and the weak are strengthened; the full are hungry and the hungry are full; the proud are debased and the humble are exalted.
By referring to these examples, Hannah makes known that with the handmade coat and priestly linen ephod, Samuel still needs a different article of clothing to do his work. It is with humility that Samuel must, as the Spirit has said, “…be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (I Pet. 5:5). Most any mother will give her child a coat for the cold, but only a godly mother will pray that her child be clothed in humility.
Now to another period of time—approximately 1,100 years later. Two women rejoice in a song strikingly similar to Hannah’s. God has revealed to Elisabeth and Mary, both with child, that their children will be used mightily in His service. Elisabeth’s baby, John, will herald the coming of the Christ, who is Jesus—the babe in Mary’s womb and the author of these very songs. Like Hannah’s, this song is prophetic in nature, magnifying God’s promises, power, and holiness. Yet, it is the astounding reversals that make them resemble one another most especially. The similarity cannot go unnoticed:
Mary: “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree” (Luke 1:52).
Hannah: “The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up” (I Sam. 2:7).
Mary: “He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away” (Luke 1:53).
Hannah: “They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased…” (I Sam. 2:5).
Mary: “He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts” (Luke 1:51).
Hannah: “The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces…and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed” (I Sam. 2:10).
The world rejects this truth. That the poor are rich and the humble are exalted is nothing but foolishness to them. The sin of pride will increase in the end times. “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud…” (II Tim. 3:3). Temptation comes in many forms, yet there is an unprecedented allurement today. Our children are the first generation to grow up online. The availability of social media networks and online video sharing sites can become a compelling stage replete with audience feedback and clicks of the “like” button. A myriad of reality television and talent shows are also popular, featuring obscure people skyrocketing into overnight stardom. Although social media and video sharing networks can be used rightly, the danger of feeding our pride and selfish ambition is there. It is just another way, but a powerful way, Satan uses to “…corrupt by flatteries…” (Dan. 11:32).
A study was conducted analyzing the values of children ages 9 to 11.1 Over a 40-year span, sixteen values were rated on a scale from most important to least. For the first 30 years, from 1967 to 1997, children consistently rated values conducive to family and community living the highest. However, from the period of 1997 to 2007, there was a shift. The combination of fame themed shows and the opportunity to showcase oneself online, has the makings of a perfect storm. It is not surprising that in just one decade fame soared to the number one spot, the most important value, among children.
This desire for glory is troubling. The famous of this world have an old saying, “It is lonely at the top.” How true, when one is at the top in his or her own estimation. Pride makes people selfish. They cannot see the needs of others with the limelight blinding them in their pursuit of glory. Pride makes people friendless. With the lifting up of oneself while looking down upon others, how can it not?
How is digital media affecting our covenant children? With all the hours of this form of entertainment, are they remembering to be clothed in humility? Are they experiencing God-glorifying activities and godly fellowship? Being clothed in humility is not an external putting on, but an inner—a putting off of our old man of sin and putting on of the new. This calls for much prayer and frequent self-examination.
Perhaps ask your children what their estimation is of themselves. Hannah and Mary spoke of their low estate. They were poor in spirit. They had poverty of self-will and poverty of pride. They spoke of their Savior from sin. They magnified and rejoiced, not in themselves, but in the Lord. Do we and our children view ourselves this way, too?
This song of mothers is a warning to all of us: There is no grace for those who walk in pride. Without God’s grace it is impossible to serve the Lord. Our children must expect that in their homes there will be strong words for boasting and for putting others down. “Talk no more so exceeding proudly…” (I Sam. 2:3)! I never cease to be amazed that while giving correction to my children, that same correction comes right back to me. This song is for every Christian mother to sing. How we need to pray for the grace to be humble.
Then, everyone will love us? Our children might think so, at first. However, a truly humble person does not do whatever pleases man. A humble person is not self-willed but delights to do God’s will. Sometimes being humble means remaining silent. Other times it means we must speak. It is especially the latter that comes with persecution. As it did with John the Baptist. He told Herod that he could not marry his brother’s wife. Divorce and remarriage was a problem then, too. Herod did not listen. His new wife, Herodias, hated John for what he said. Herod put John in prison. In his bleak cell, doubts and feelings of despair began to creep in.
To speak humbly against sin is extremely difficult for adults. How much more for our children? Lord willing, there will be times when they must speak. Perhaps when they are tempted by their peers to sin. This, of course, can bring backlash. I have a friend who went through such a time. She told me that looking ahead just one hour seemed overwhelming to her. She learned to pray even before getting out of bed. She prayed for strength for that hour…and then the next. The Lord uses such trials for our children to see humbly their need of Him. The Psalms in Scripture and the Psalter are so encouraging for prayer and for singing together. “In need am I, and poor; O God, make haste, I pray; Thou art my Saviour and my help, O Lord, make no delay” (Psalter 189).
John saw his need. He called for his disciples to ask Jesus, “…Art thou he that should come? Or look we for another?” (Luke 7:19). Jesus responded, “…Tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached” (Luke 7:22).
As John sat in chains listening to the words of Jesus, his heart was surely strengthened. Those reversals again! Certainly John remembered the stories from his childhood of how his mother and the mother of Jesus rejoiced in them? Even when life gets most difficult, the promises of God shall never fail.
In correcting our children do we talk about the promises of God? Or do we keep finding ourselves saying, “Do this… Do not do that…Do this…Do not do that…”? Why leave out the best part? Listen to Hannah, “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory…” (I Sam. 2:8). Dunghill to royalty, lifted to heights unimaginable are the ones who are clothed in true humility. Beginning in this life. Every grace received in humility lifts us to a higher blessedness. There is a treasure trove of God’s blessings for poor and needy souls. An exponential magnification of His blessings! “Grace for grace,” said John—as much as we can take in.
Every mother in Israel who loves the Lord rejoices to know that her child is being used for God’s service. By teaching our children to be clothed in humility, we are loving and faithful mothers. To God be the glory.
1 Yalda T. Uhls and Patricia M. Greenfield, “The Rise of Fame: An Historical Content Analysis,” Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial research on cyberspace 5, no. 1 (2011): 1. Accessed April 11, 2014. http://www.cyberpsychology.eu/view. php?cisloclanku=2011061601.