Rev. Smit is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church in Doon, Iowa.
he truth that these women were handmaidens of Jehovah is based upon the truth of their redemption. We with them were lost in the service and bondage of sin. We were enemies of Jehovah and slaves to sin and the curse of the law. We were by nature those who enjoyed the lusts of the flesh and being lords unto ourselves. But Jehovah, who is rich in mercy, redeemed us unto Himself. He made us His own property. He purchased us through the blood of Jesus Christ. By the Spirit of Christ, through regeneration and conversion, we were made the servants of Jehovah.
That emphasizes the fact that being handmaidens of Jehovah is possible only because of Jesus Christ. To become and to continue to be a faithful handmaiden of Jehovah is humanly impossible. That means that not only was the virgin birth of our Savior humanly impossible, but also for Mary to become and to be a handmaiden of Jehovah was humanly impossible. Yet, as God said to Mary, what is impossible for us is possible with God. God does accomplish His wonder of grace in us for Christ’s sake alone.
This is a truth that we have learned to confess from our youth. We cannot say before God, “This is my life, my marriage, my home, my children, my possessions, my money, and I am going to do my own will and do what is right in my own eyes!” Not at all. Rather, we have learned to confess,
“That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from the power of the devil…” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1).
In light of that truth, whetheryou are single, married, or widowed, you are not your own masters and lords. Christ’s blood has marked you as His handmaiden to serve and to do His will.
That was exactly at the heart of Hannah’s confession. Unlike many of her day, Hannah confessed correctly that her will was to do Jehovah’s will. She wanted what Jehovah desired and had promised for His covenant people. In submission to that, she asked for a covenant son whom she could return to Jehovah for the good of Israel.
Handmaidens of Jehovah, your duty is to know that you belong unto Him, and then in that knowledge serve Him faithfully in thanksgiving and praise.
Hannah, Jesse’s wife, and Mary served Jehovah faithfully. Let us consider some of the characteristics of faithful handmaidens of Jehovah that they showed.
First, they were given the virtue of spiritual dedication towards God’s covenant. Today, women are faced with many temptations to be dedicated to many other things. The world beckons to have you conform to their goals in this life. They tempt you to seek wealth and possessions as a goal in life. They tempt you to dedicate yourself to goals far beyond the scope of your marriage, your home, and your church. They tempt you to dedicate your life and yourself to yourself. The world tells you to break free from the bondage of the home and many children, or the bondage of the marriage. The world tells you to achieve your real potential, even if that means you have to discard your husband for another “husband.” The world tells the Christian woman today that the most important thing for you in life is how you feel and whether your potential is achieved.
There is always the strong temptation to listen to the evil world. Easy it is for us to compromise even just a little bit in order to have some of those things that the world promotes and that our flesh craves and covets.
By God’s grace, Hannah rejected that. Her goal in life was not simply even to be a mother. Her life as a handmaiden of Jehovah went far beyond that of simply having the earthly relationship of a mother to a child. Her great concern and goal was the prosperity and continuation of God’s covenant in Israel. In light of the sad state of affairs in Israel, her desire was made more acute. She desired a son whom she could dedicate for lifetime service to Jehovah for the good of Israel and for the sake of God’s covenant promise. Understand, then, that to train her son for lifetime service and devotion to Jehovah required her own lifetime devotion and dedication to Jehovah as His handmaiden first. The evidence of that was on the day when at the appointed time she brought Samuel to the tabernacle and to Jehovah to begin his lifetime of service.
You, handmaidens of Jehovah, must also be dedicated to Jehovah in a lifetime of service. In whatever situation God has placed you, therein you must be content and dedicated to Jehovah’s covenant, to the communion of His saints, and the continuing of His covenant in the generations of God’s people, not just your own. Whether she has children or is without children, the believing woman is called to be dedicated unto Jehovah and have as her burning concern the welfare of God’s covenant people. Her life must revolve around that, whether in the single state, in marriage, in a home with few children, no children, or with many children, like the homes of Jesse’s wife and Mary.
Your goal in life must be God’s covenant and kingdom. That goal may not be yourselves, your will, your convenience, and what is easiest and the most fun for you. The handmaiden of Jehovah must willingly submit herself to whatever He calls her to do in whatsoever state He may providentially place her.
Did they consider that service to be misery? No, they showed that it was a blessed privilege to be a handmaiden of Jehovah.
Of course, that is not what the world is telling you today. The world tells you that to sacrifice and to deny yourself for faithful service to Jehovah is bondage. To be like Jesse’s wife and be given the burden of the needs of ten children is only bondage. To be like Jesse’s wife and never be mentioned by name, and just to be known as a mother and as Mrs. Jesse, is degradation, humiliation, and bondage.
The world’s message is: “Liberate yourselves! Break free from the bondage of being a handmaiden of Jehovah. Break out of the prison house of the home and find your fulfilment away from and out from underneath the authority and will of your husband. Break free from those endless stacks of dishes, those dirty diapers, those never-ending mountains of laundry, and a life of seemingly thankless labor. Be your own master! Let your husbands answer to your will and desires. Let them submit to your decisions and will once in a while. Force them to approve of your search for fulfilment outside of the home. Let them be the homemakers, and you be the breadwinners. Break free from the life of having to follow the example of Christ, who washed His disciples’ feet. Don’t be burdened down with bearing the burdens of others. You do not have time to help and visit the widows, the single mothers with infants, the mothers with many children, the orphans, the fatherless, and the motherless teenage girls. Use your time, money, energy, abilities, and talents your way! After all, you deserve and have a right to the good life!”
I ask you, what would have happened if Hannah and Jesse’s wife were of that worldly mentality? Humanly speaking, we may suppose if Jesse and his wife listened to that devilish philosophy that poured over the borders of Israel from Moab, Ammon, Edom, and elsewhere, they would not have had and wanted their eighth son, their youngest son, David, the man after God’s own heart, the type of Christ, the king of Israel, and the father of Jesus.
What about Hannah? What would have happened if she listened to that old, anti-Jehovah message of the world? Would she have desired a son for the right reasons? Would she have returned her son to Jehovah? Would he not have become another son of Belial, like Eli’s sons?
Yes, you, handmaidens of Jehovah, are called to be truly liberated. However, your true freedom is not outside the boundaries of the truth and the will of Christ. There is no freedom in living apart from Christ. No freedom in finding supposed fulfillment apart from your husbands and the covenant children. No freedom apart from being faithful slaves of Jehovah.
True freedom for you is enjoyed in the way of submitting to Jehovah’s will. That is the truly blessed life. That is exactly what Mary confessed by faith: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit doth rejoice in God my Saviour!” (Luke 1:46-47).
That was not a blessedness unique to her alone. That is the blessedness that God gives to His daughters who serve Him faithfully in the single life, in the home with no children, in a home with few children, in a home with many children, or as a widow. To serve Jehovah and His covenant is a blessed privilege all the days of your life.
Further, these godly women demonstrate the importance of the covenantal relationship between mother and child. In the first place, they showed this from the viewpoint of God’s covenant promise. Jehovah promised to establish and fulfill His covenant in the line of believers and their seed in their generations. To each of these three women, God gave a son for the purpose of His covenant. Samuel was given to be a judge and prophet in Israel. David was given to be king for Israel and to be one through whom Christ would come. Jesus Himself was given to Mary as the fulfillment of that covenant promise.
That relationship between mother and child is no less important for the sake of God’s covenant today. In I Timothy 2, the apostle Paul teaches that the believing woman is saved through child-bearing and rearing. That means that, through the God ordained way of child-bearing and rearing, the believing woman is spiritually enriched. It also means that God is pleased to gather the generations of His covenant in this way and fulfill His promise.
In the second place, these godly women are evidence of the utmost importance of the relationship between the mother and the child in the work of covenant instruction. How could Samuel be given to the service of the tabernacle at such a young age, unless Hannah first had diligently taught Samuel all that he needed to know for that faithful service!
From whom did David learn to sing and to develop his musical talents for the glory of God? Under whose hand did he grow up to be the man after God’s own heart? God used the means of the instruction of his mother to accomplish this.
Think about Jesus, too. From whom did He learn the Old Testament Scriptures? Jesus, who is like us in all things except sin, learned and memorized perfectly the Scriptures under the instruction of His mother. He learned the songs of Zion in the arms of Mary and around the table of Joseph and Mary.
Jehovah prepared these men in the arms and upon the knees of Hannah, Jesse’s wife, and Mary.
Let us remember that the manner of faithful instruction for your children is essentially unchanged from the days of these godly women.
Where will your daughters learn godliness, meekness, and modesty? Not from the world, but from you!
Where do your sons grow up to be strong in the Lord and in His wisdom? Not from the world, but from you!
Where do they learn to be faithful servants of Jehovah in their life? Not from the world, but from you, sisters!
That applies particularly to our need for ministers in our churches. The need is great and growing. In light of the vacancies and the few students in our seminary, does not the care of the churches burden your souls? Are not your souls heavy with the concern that solidly Reformed preaching continue by God’s grace in your pulpits?
In response to that concern, what must you do? Those sons in your arms and upon your knees you must prepare to be returned unto the Lord for a lifetime of service in His church as ministers, elders, deacons, spiritual leaders, fathers, and faithful husbands. Those spiritual sons are not yours to train for what you might want them to be. These sons are the heritage of Jehovah. Jehovah has given those sons to you for a little while so that they may be returned unto Him.
Normally, by the instruction, the example, the modesty, the humility, the dedication, the wholehearted devotion, and faithfulness of Jehovah’s handmaidens, God grants His church the gifts of Samuels and Davids for the welfare of His covenant in our generations and, particularly, for the pulpits of our churches and mission fields.
Are you preparing those Samuels and Davids for a lifetime of dedicated service in the office of believer? Or in the special offices of the church, especially the ministry of the Word?
If you do not do that, who will?
By faith, you must!
To follow the godly example of Hannah, Jesse’s wife, and Mary is the urgent calling of godly women today. We live in spiritual times that are strikingly similar to their times. The world continues to grow in wickedness. The apostasy in the church world continues to increase. Clearly, these are the times in which we need faithful handmaidens of Jehovah, who know the times and what the churches need!
We need Hannahs whose eyes of faith are fixed on Jehovah’s covenant. We need those faithful wives who are not ashamed to be joined in marriage in the Lord unto the lowly and meek Jesses of the earth who shall inherit eternal glory. We need those who, like Mary, are willing to submit wholeheartedly and unashamedly to the will of God alone.
Be assured that in such faithfulness there is great reward. There is in that faithfulness the expectation that in the judgment the Lord shall say unto you, “Even as ye have done it unto the least of my brethren, so ye have done it unto me. Enter into my everlasting joy and glory!” Christ shall give His handmaidens the glorious reward of a faithful handmaiden of Jehovah, which He has merited for them.
Therefore, what a blessing it is when the most outstanding memory about you that your spiritual sons and daughters have all the days of their life and before the throne of Christ is:
“Behold, she was a hand-maiden of Jehovah!
And I had the blessed privilege to be her son!”