For This Child I Prayed
May 10th, 1959 @ 10:50 AM
1 Samuel 1-3
FOR THIS CHILD I PRAYED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 1-3
5-10-59 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled For This Child I Prayed or The Vow of Hannah. The message is taken from the first three chapters of the Book of 1 Samuel:
Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of Mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite:
And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts in Shiloh . . .
And when the time was come that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions:
But unto Hannah he gave a double portion; for he loved Hannah: but the Lord had shut up her womb.
And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb.
And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.
Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?
[1 Samuel 1:1-8]
Two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, in Greek Charis, in English "Grace"; and the name of the other, Peninnah, in Greek "Marguerite," in English "Pearl". So in our language, the name of one was Grace, and the other was Pearl. And Peninnah had children, and Hannah had no children. And she was a woman of great sorrow and grief.
Anywhere in the Bible polygamy or bigamy is presented, it is always with tears and sorrow. For the hardness of their hearts God allowed it in the infancy of the story of His people. But in the beginning it was not so. God made one woman for one man. It was the intention of the Lord, and the Lord has faithfully in His Scriptures presented that ideal: one woman for one man. So this home, as you look at it, as the curtain is lifted upon it, is filled with grief and sorrow. And Hannah is a woman of tears and of burden.
Hannah rose up after she had eaten in Shiloh . . . Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the tabernacle of the Lord.
But Hannah was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore.
And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if Thou wilt look upon the affliction of Thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget Thine handmaid, but will give unto Thine handmaid a man child, I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and the sign of it shall be no razor shall come upon his head. He shall be a Nazarite.
And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli marked her mouth.
Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.
And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.
And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord.
Count not thine handmaid a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.
Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel will grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of Him.
And she arose, and went her way.
[1 Samuel 1:9-18]
A woman of a sorrowful spirit, and her husband, though he loved her better than ten sons, could not lift up her heart, nor could Hannah herself turn away from the constant grief and burden of her life. It is no good to chide the sorrowful spirit and the broken heart; you had as well tell the night to put on the brilliance of the day; you had as well bid the winter to put on the flowers of the summer, as to tell the heavy heart and the broken spirit not to be grieved and not to be sorrowful. The nightingale just doesn’t sing at noonday, a crushed worm cannot leap on the mountain like the hart; and it is futile to exhort the willow tree, weeping by the banks of the river, to lift up its head like the palm, or to spread out its branches like the pine. Hannah was a woman of a sorrowful spirit [1 Samuel 1:15].
And yet, in her grief she had some of the most beautiful and precious of all of the virtues and characteristics of life. One, she was a godly woman. Oh, I know the world; there’s a flash in the mirth and laughter of a Hollywood or a Broadway, but I tell you truly, there’s far more light in the grief of a Christian than in the thousand lights and banners of the stage and the show. Don’t you ever think that because one is burdened or grieved or bearing a sorrowful spirit that God does not love them, and the Lord’s eye is not upon them. I admit there is a sorrow of the world that is death unto death, and it has no hope. But there is a sorrow of the Lord that is consistent with the love and grace and mercy of God. There are flowers that bloom in the tropical sun, bathed in the golden flood; but there are also flowers that bloom on the shadowed bank and beneath the deep shades of the forest. There is something in their yielded intercession, in their gentle sweetness, in their humble love, that reflects the Man of sorrows, who was acquainted with grief [Isaiah 53:3]. They are not emeralds with the verdant green of the bursting life of a springtime; they are not rubies with the ruddy hue of ardor; they are not sapphires with the bright blue joy of gladness; but they are diamonds, incarnate drops of sorrow, clear and transparent, gems someday for the diadem of God. She was a woman of a sorrowful spirit and a godly woman.
Another thing, she was a loveable and loving woman. So many times, sorrow sours the life; bitter, caustic, critical, they tarnish everything they touch, and they hurt every life that they meet. Nobody had any grief like their grief. They brook no rival in sorrow and trouble. All other people’s troubles are just make believe. They’re just fruits of the fancy and imagination compared to their burden, and they sit alone, silent, and withdrawn, and unlovely. But there are some people to whom the burdens of life but make them the sweeter, the more sympathetic, the more precious. Hannah was one. "I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit," she said to Eli [1 Samuel 1:15]; but she was a loveable woman. She was a gentle woman. When Peninnah vexed her, as I have read this story in the Book, she never answered, she never made retort, she never replied [1 Samuel 1:6-7]. And when old Eli looked at her praying, only she just spoke in her heart, though her lips moved, and the old priest thought she was drunk. And he said to her, "How long will you be drunk? Put away thy wine, a woman drunk, ah" [1 Samuel 1:10-14]. Hannah could have answered very, very sharply; but she knew that the old priest was there appointed for the worship of God. And her answer is a model of gentleness: "No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink. I have just poured out my soul before the Lord." How beautiful a reply. "Count not thine handmaid a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken" [1 Samuel 1:15-16].
Sorrow does that to some people: in their bleeding wounds, they are sensitive to wounding others; and in the hurt of their own life, they are cognizant of hurting others. And this dear, blessed woman was a model of gentleness and kindness. Those were some of the characteristics in her grief. Out of her grief, may I speak of some of the spiritual virtues that crowned her life? One, because of her grief, she came to know God. Separated from the rest of the family by the children of Peninnah, with their joys and their laughter and their gladness, Hannah vexed and grieved by herself [1 Samuel 1:7-8]. She drew near to God, and she learned of the Lord. Another thing, she learned to pray because of her grief [1 Samuel 1:10-12].
When the Angel wrestled with Jacob, and prevailed not, the Scriptures say, "And the Angel touched his thigh, and it was out of joint, and he was crippled." And it was only then that Jacob clung to the Angel and said, "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me" [Genesis 32:24-26]. I suspect that is a picture of all of life: I don’t know whether anyone would ever really pray when the sun shines and laughter prevails and gladness is on every hand, and there’s not any need, and there’s not any hurt, and there’s not any crying, and there’s not any appealing, but when we are crushed and grieved and broken, we learn really to pray.
And Hannah, in her grief, learned to pray. Another thing, she learned self-denial.
She was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if Thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of Thine handmaid, and remember me, and give me a man child, I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life.
[1 Samuel 1:10-11]
When she asked, she asked not for herself, but for the Lord. "If God will give me this child, I will not keep him for myself; I will give him unto Thee, and all the days of his life, he shall be lent unto the Lord" [1 Samuel 1:11]. She learned that in her grief and her sorrow.
And in her sorrow and grief, she learned trust and faith in God. "Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: the God of Israel will grant thee thy petition. And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad" [1 Samuel 1:17-18]. She believed the word of the priest, that God had granted her prayer. And in that faith and in that assurance, she lifted up her face, she broke bread, and she was no more sad [1 Samuel 1:18].
Now, because of that grief that led her to prayer and to trust, look what happened: God did answer her prayer. "And it came to pass, when the time was come about, Hannah conceived, she bare a son, she called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord" [1 Samuel 1:20]. And God has given her the answer to her prayer. And out of that sorrowful spirit that prayed and trusted, she was given that ableness to dedicate the child to the Lord. And when they went up to Shiloh, she brought the child to Eli [1 Samuel 1:24-25], and she said:
Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am that woman that stood by thee, praying unto the Lord. For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition. Therefore, also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth, he shall be lent to the Lord. And the child worshipped the Lord there.
[1 Samuel 1:26-28]
Ah, what Hannah was able to do in so brief a little while. She did not have him for long, but in that little length of time she taught him of God. And the first act of the little boy, when she took him to God’s house, the act of worship; and little Samuel worshipped the Lord there [1 Samuel 1:28].
I was holding a meeting in the Osage Indian Reservation in north central Oklahoma; and one of the men in the church said, "Did you know one of the great art collections of the world is in a hotel nearby here?" I said, "I could not imagine it."
"One of these rich oil families," he said, "went all over Europe and gathered priceless treasures and art; and they’re in that hotel." So I drove over there, and you wouldn’t believe it: a hotel that seemed to me nobody ever stayed in, nobody ever heard of, in a little town nobody knows, is one of the great art collections of this world. And ever since then, there is a picture in that art collection, oh, how I have wanted it, and thought of it a thousand times a thousand times. I wish I had it for our church. It is the picture of the child Samuel, dressed in his little linen ephod, kneeling and praying. Haven’t you seen the picture of the child Samuel? That’s where the original is, up there in that hotel, among a whole host of other pictures. I wish somebody would buy it, and bring it here, and give it to us. There’s just something about that picture; it just speaks of this whole story.
And the little child is there before the Lord. "Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child, girded with a linen ephod. Moreover 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" [1 Samuel 2:18-19]. Every year, make the coat just a little bigger, a linen ephod just a little larger, every year bringing it up to the house of the Lord and giving to the little boy. Now, the little boy had a wonderful, marvelous, marvelous friend; and it’s hard to realize that it could be so. "And the child ministered unto the Lord before Eli" [1 Samuel 3:1]. What the Scriptures mean by that is this: that old Eli took the boy into his heart, into his life, into his ministry, and loved the little boy. "And he ministered unto the Lord before Eli." Eli talked to him, prayed with him, loved him, guided him, taught him. Why, that’s one of the dearest, dearest, dearest scenes you could ever imagine, the friendship of that old man and that little boy: separated by so many years, but one in heart and devotion to one another and to God. Why, I repeat, you could hardly, hardly think of a more beautiful scene than the friendship between that old, old man and that little boy, growing up before him.
Now, I did something. When I was in Boston last August, before I got there, so many of you said to me, "Now pastor, when you go to Boston to preach in your vacation, you must go to Durgin-Park." Well, I thought it was a place of animals, or a zoo, or something, Durgin-Park. Well, I said, "What do I do at Durgin-Park?" You eat. Oh wonderful! Durgin-Park, go to Durgin-Park. Well, I said, "If I don’t do anything else, that will I do. I will go to the world famous restaurant at Durgin-Park." Well, usually when somebody tells you about one of these marvelous restaurants, why, it costs you ten dollars just to stick your head in the door, five dollars just to sit at the plate. Durgin-Park, lo me! What a surprise: that most famous of all restaurants, one of the most famous in the world, is located down there in the produce, in the vegetable markets. It’s upstairs. And the stairway is just like that; you go just like that. And upstairs is the beatenest dump that you ever could think for, long tables and an old fashioned red checkered table cloth on each table. You sit down there with all of the other hosts around, just as close as you can get. And everybody just eating his head off, and they’re serving the food over your head, and passing it up and down in front of you. You never saw such a thing. But I tell you this: I never saw such food in my life, nor such abundance of it. Why, I took the menu with me: cabbage, twenty cents; boiled innards, twenty cents; sliced innards, twenty cents; sauerkraut, twenty cents; spinach, oh I don’t,squash, twenty cents; Boston baked beans, fifty cents; fried schrod, ninety-five cents; broiled halibut, fried soft-shell crabs, ninety-five cents; all of it. Why, I never had such a good time in my life, never in my life. "All our fried foods are cooked in pure vegetable shortening. Hooray for the cotton farmer and the cottonseed meal and the South; it’s going to rise again!" Oh. "All our fried foods are cooked in pure vegetable shortening. Our Boston baked beans are baked the old fashioned way, in stone crocks in our own bake shop on the premises." Never had such a good time in my life.
Well, on the back of the menu was a poem. I just couldn’t believe it. Well sir, I went up to the head waiter, and I said, "Mr. Headwaiter, may I have one of these menus?"
He said, "Yes, we’d love for you to take one."
Well, I said, "There’s a poem back here, and I want to take it and read it to my folks."
Now you listen to it. I just never read a better one; it is entitled "Just a Boy." Why they would put it on the back of a menu, I have no idea. But listen to it, "Just a Boy":
Got to understand the lad –
He’s not eager to be bad;
If the right he always knew,
He would be as old as you.
Were he now exceeding wise,
He’d be just about your size;
When he does things that annoy,
Don’t forget – he’s just a boy.
Could he know and understand,
He would need no guiding hand;
But he’s young, and hasn’t learned
How life’s corners must be turned.
Doesn’t know from day to day
There is more to life than play.
More to face than selfish joy.
Don’t forget – he’s just a boy.
Being just a boy he’ll do
Many things you don’t want him to;
He’ll be careless of his ways,
Have disobedient days.
Willful, wild and headstrong, too,
He’ll need guidance, kind and true;
Things of value he’ll destroy,
But reflect – he’s just a boy.
Just a boy who needs a friend,
Patient, kindly, to the end;
Needs a father who will show
Him the things he wants to know,
Take him with you when you walk,
Listen when he wants to talk,
His companionship enjoy,
Don’t forget – he’s just a boy.
["Just a Boy"; Edgar A. Guest, 1921]
I like that. And I brought it home.
And that’s what happened to the little boy Samuel. That old man, his foster father, delighted in him, and spent his days with him, and taught the lad, and trained the lad, and loved the boy. And the boy grew up to be God’s great prophet [1 Samuel 3:19-21]. And now, if I had another hour, I’d like to start there and just carry it on through. You have a picture here of Israel. "The word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no vision. It came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, and he could not see; and when the lamp of God was almost gone out" [1 Samuel 3:1-3]; all of that is a picture of Israel. The old priest nearly blind, and the lamp of God almost out, then came the voice of the Lord. And when God spoke, there was an ear to hear: Samuel was ready [1 Samuel 3:3-14]. Isn’t that glorious, that when God’s time comes to speak, there is an ear to hear?
And that time comes to us, to you. God speaks, oh, for an ear to hear. And that’s the appeal we make to your heart today. Has the Lord spoken to you? Would you listen? Would you listen? Does He bid you trust Him as Savior? Would you listen? Does He bid you come put your life with us in the church? Would you listen? Would you come? While we sing, while we sing this invitation appeal, somebody you to put your life in the church; somebody you to take Jesus as Savior, a family of you, or one of you, a youth, a child, a man, a woman, while we sing the song, while we make appeal, would you come and stand by me? Down one of these stairwells, at the front, at the back; or on either side, into the aisle and here, give me your hand, "Preacher, today I give my heart to Jesus, and here’s my hand." Or, "Today, we’re putting our lives in the fellowship of the church, and here we come, here we are." Would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.
FOR THIS CHILD I PRAYED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 1-3
1. God always intended one man for one woman
2. God tolerated polygamy
3. Polygamy in Scripture is always attended with tears and sorrow
II. Woman of sorrow
1. Elkanah could not lift Hannah’s heart
2. Hannah childless, mocked by Peninnah
3. Hannah in her sorrow possessed godly characteristics
III. Child of promise
1. Dedicated to God
2. Ministered unto the Lord before Eli