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For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him: therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshipped the Lord there. I Samuel 1:27, 28

In 1963 the Rev. Gerrit Vos wrote a meditation for the Standard Bearer on this passage. Rev. Vos used the meditation as an opportunity to call parents to pray for sons who would serve the church in the ministry of the Word. The occasion for this plea was undoubtedly the fact that at that time seven of the nineteen congregations in the Protestant Reformed Churches in America were without pastors.

When Hannah prayed for the child she would return to the Lord, she was thinking of lifelong service for the spiritual well-being of the nation. We would do something similar if we would encourage our more gifted sons to enter the ministry of God’s Word. And even if the ministry is not a choice or an option, all godly parents are obliged, by their baptism vow, to teach the children God gives to them (daughters as well as sons) in the fear of the Lord. Along with such instruction, godly parents will not cease to pray that God graciously bless their instruction and example to the end that the child will give himself to lifelong grateful service of Jehovah in every aspect of his life.

There is a very close connection between Hannah’s (and our) asking God for a child and Hannah’s (and our) lending that child to the Lord. How close? So close is it, that the Hebrew word that is translated “asked” is also translated “lent.” This Hebrew word means “to grant, to give, or to lend on request.” And now realize that this same Hebrew word is the basis for the name “Samuel.” May we learn the importance of our lending to the service of the Lord the children we ask Him to give to us!

The Important Setting

When Hannah prayed her prayer, it was the later years of the judges. Recall that the period of the judges was characterized by everyone doing that which was right in his own eyes, and generations arising that knew not Jehovah (Judges 17:6; Judges 2:10). It is obvious that the parents of that day taught their children, but they did not command them to keep the way of Jehovah, to do righteousness and justice (Gen. 18:19). These parents taught their children, but not the right things concerning sin, salvation, and service. They taught them how to get ahead in the world and how to do their own will. They did not point them to the calling to do God’s will, nor did they give instruction in self-denial.

Another important part of the setting for Hannah’s prayer was the home of Elkanah. Elkanah was an Israelite whose recorded life indicates that he was not very strong spiritually. He was not content with one wife—as God had established in the beginning. It might be that he felt that his desire for children allowed him to have a second wife. Also, his spiritual weakness as a husband and as a believer is seen in the comfort he thought he was giving to Hannah when he declared, “am not I better to thee than ten sons?” Pretty arrogant! To this God-given headship Hannah was obliged to submit, trusting the Lord to care for her (I Pet. 3:5).

Hannah grieved sore for the spiritual poverty in Israel at that time. The church of God in her day was without good spiritual leadership. We may conclude that the spiritual leaders were typified in her husband and in the high priest, Eli, and his evil sons, Hophni and Phinehas. The nation of Israel desperately needed strong spiritual men to lead them back into the fear and service of Jehovah.

Also important to the setting is the old dispensational perspective of children. Not only was there the hope of being the mother of the seed of the woman and of the seed of Abraham, but also the view that children were a sign of God’s blessing on the nation. Notice that Deuteronomy 28:4, 18 puts the emphasis of the gift of children on the nation as a whole, not on the husband and wife. In the age of types and shadows it meant having a name in Canaan (heaven). Therefore, to be barren in that dispensation was a sign of a curse. It was not itself a curse, but the sign of it—just as having children did not mean that the woman was automatically blessed, but that she had the sign of God’s blessing on the nation. (Remember that grace is not in things, but is the attitude of God.) Could Hannah’s sorrow also have been that there were times that she wrongly took the sign for the reality and concluded that because she was barren her name (Hannah means “grace”) was false?

Finally, important to the setting of Hannah’s prayer is the persecution she endured from Peninnah. On a personal level Hannah was hurt when Peninnah exalted herself as if her children were her good works and she taunted Hannah for being cursed of God (I Sam. 2:3, 6ff.). In addition, Peninnah represented to godly Hannah the adversaries of Israel, the church. This added to Hannah’s general sorrow.

At a Passover feast Hannah was “marah” (in bitterness), crying in prayer for Israel and for herself as a believer. It was then that she vowed a vow to Jehovah (10, 11). Hannah (the object of God’s grace) prayed. She was given the spirit of prayer, and her bold request in her prayer was for God’s sake and for the sake of the church. Her prayer and vow did not begin and end in herself. Such would have been and is a selfish motive. She did not ask for a child so her personal desires would be met, or so she could get even with Peninnah. Rather, Hannah specifically prayed for “this child.” We may believe that when she wept bitterly in the court of the tabernacle she was repeating a request she had made many times over. She was asking specifically for a son (not a girl); and for that kind of a son who would be godly and willing to be devoted to God and to Israel. She sought a sign of God’s favor/blessing on His people, so His name might be vindicated and His enemies silenced!

The Fervent Vow

Let us consider Hannah’s vow. And the vow of baptizing parents.

Hannah vowed to “give him unto Jehovah all the days of his life” (11). And “as long as he liveth he shall be lent to Jehovah” (28). Remember that the word translated “lent” is derived from the same Hebrew word for “asked.” She asked for Samuel so that he could be used in the service of Jehovah. Instead of being trained to work the family land or to assist in the maintenance of the family and tribe, Samuel was trained for this work of lifelong service of the God of Israel. As soon as Samuel was weaned, Hannah brought him to the house of God and to Eli, the High Priest at Shiloh. It is obvious that Hannah did not want a child for herself, but for the cause of God. And it is obvious that Hannah prepared Samuel in his very early years for his calling, so he went with some willingness into the Lord’s service.

Godly believers, when gifted with a child, are to return him (a daughter as well as a son) to Jehovah. Unbelief views the child to be the product of our will and actions, to be ours to be done with as we please. But graced believers see the child as a gift—the kind of gift that always belongs to the Giver! They give “this child” back to the Lord. The child is to be trained to see himself as belonging to the Lord and to be used for and useful in the Lord’s church. He is to use every talent for the sake of the other members of that body and to guard constantly the unity of the body of Christ.

The child is not his own to do as he wants, but must keep the way of Jehovah and do His righteousness and justice in every part of his life. This is the content of the vow to bring up a child in the “aforesaid doctrine.”

When godly parents themselves serve the Lord and teach their children so to serve Him, then their house becomes a “house of the Lord.” Godly parents are to pray constantly and fervently. Because godly parents are very aware that they cannot make the child that God gave them to be a believer, ready to deny himself, and willing joyfully to take up his cross in God’s service, they constantly pray to Him who alone is able! And by prayer they constantly return (lend) to the Lord the child to be used for His purpose and in His service.

The Blessed Fruit

That Samuel “worshipped the Lord” (28b) is the result of God’s blessing on Hannah’s prayer for a specific kind of child and her vow to lend this child to the Lord. To worship means that Samuel (and all who worship) acknowledge God to be the most blessed One, full of majesty and blessing, worthy of all praise and all obedience. Samuel was doing what we all will do forever in heaven. Samuel worshiped Jehovah when he willingly served as a judge in Israel. And we worship Him when we give ourselves to doing God’s will in our marriages, family life, employment, and conduct in the congregation in which God places us.

Notice also that Samuel is identified in Scripture as a mighty man of prayer. A little known fact about Samuel is that he is mentioned with Moses for the activity of interceding for God’s people. And we know how fervently and how frequently Moses interceded for God’s people. The same was true of Samuel! “Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among them that call upon his name; they called upon the Lord, and he answered them” (Ps. 99:6). “Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people” (Jer. 15:1). Scripture records two of the times Samuel interceded for Israel: I Samuel 7:5, 8, 9; I Samuel 12:11, 18, 19. Those are examples of what Samuel did often. He was a great blessing to Israel because he frequently interceded for the church of God.

In addition to Samuel being blessed and a blessing, we see that blessing results for godly parents like Hannah. She and all godly parents sing, “My heart rejoiceth in the Lord” (I Sam. 2:1). All the work of instructing our children in the way and fear of Jehovah, when accompanied by fervent prayers, is “graced” (Hannah). We work at instructing and praying because there is no greater joy than to hear that the elder’s children walk in truth, serving the Lord by serving His church.