For This Child I Prayed
May 14th, 1967 @ 8:15 AM
1 Samuel 1:1-28
FOR THIS CHILD I PRAYED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 1:1-28
5-14-67 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled For This Child I Prayed. Now the reading of the Scripture is the first chapter of 1 Samuel:
Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim –
the "Rama of the two watches" –
of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah . . .
And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, 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 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 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 unto 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?
So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli, the old priest, sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the Lord.
And 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 . . . but wilt give unto Thine handmaid a child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and he shall be a Nazarite, no razor shall come upon his head.
And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli marked her mouth.
Now Hannah, she prayed in her heart; only her lips moved, but 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 . . .
Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition . . .
So the woman went her way, and did eat, she believed the word of the Lord through the old pastor Eli, and her countenance was no more sad . . .
So when it came to pass that the time after Hannah had conceived, she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord.
And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the Lord the yearly sacrifice . . .
But Hannah went not up, saying, I will not come up to Shiloh until I have weaned the child . . .
So when she had weaned him, she took him up with her . . .
And after they had made their offering, and had brought the child to Eli,
Hannah said to the old pastor, O my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord.
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 little Samuel worshiped the Lord there.
[1 Samuel 1-28]
This is a story of a woman, a mother of a sorrowful spirit. It begins in the household of a godly man. He had two wives; one was named Hannah. There is no "h" in Greek, so when you spell it out in Greek with an aspirated breathing it is Anna. Anna, or "Ann" in English is "Hannah" in Hebrew, the identical word; Hannah, Anna, Ann. So many of our children and people are named Ann or Anna or Annie. It is the Hebrew "Hannah." The word in Greek is charin, so many of our children are named Karen. The word in English is grace, Grace, Karen, Hannah, Anna, they are all the same word.
Now the other wife was named Peninnah. Peninnah in Greek is margaritēs, and in English it is Pearl. So anyone name Margaret, or margaritēs, or Pearl, or Peninnah; it is all the same word, except in different languages.
Now the story begins with a presentation of a polygamist institution. This man is not monogamous; he has two wives. He is a bigamist. This was allowed by the law of Moses, as Jesus said, "Because of the hardness of the heart of the people . . . But from the beginning it was not so" [Matthew 19:8]; thus said our Lord. God makes one man for one woman; and one woman for one man [Genesis 2:24]. And wherever in the Bible there is a polygamist institution presented, it is done with great sorrow. The first polygamist was Lamech [Genesis 4:19], the descendent of Cain who was a boastful murderer [Genesis 4:23-24]. And the institution, whether in Abraham, or in Jacob, or in David, or in Solomon, or here in the household of Elkanah, is always presented with great sadness and sorrow.
Now in this household, these two wives: one of them, Peninnah, Margaret, Pearl, had several children [1 Samuel 1:2]. That was a sign in that ancient day of God’s favor. But Hannah had no child, for the Lord had shut up her womb [1 Samuel 1:6]. And that was a sign of heaven’s disfavor, and of course a great personal lack, not measuring up in the sight of her husband and the home. So Hannah lived year after year in untold grief and misery, aggravated by the caustic and bitter and critical words of Elkanah’s other wife Peninnah who had children.
So the story begins: Hannah is a woman of a sorrowful spirit:
So she provoked her. Therefore Hannah 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 1:7-8]
But all of the speaking in the world does not lift up a broken and a despairing heart. Elkanah could not make her glad, though he said, "I love you and am better to you than if you had ten sons. It is not to me a lack or a failure that you do not bear children. I love you just the same." But that did not lift up her heart, nor could she lift up her own spirit.
Sadness and sorrow are like that; words and devotions do not change the bleeding and the crying and the weeping on the inside. The night cannot be resplendent as the day; the winter cannot bear the flowers of summer. So it is idle to chide the sorrowful heart; the nightingale does not sing at noontime. A crushed worm cannot leap like the hart upon the mountain. And it is useless to plead with the willow tree whose branches bow over the river that the tree should lift up its head like the palm, or spread out its branches like the pine. So Hannah is a woman of a sorrowful spirit, and all of the speaking of her husband cannot lift her up. And she herself cannot make her life glad.
Now what of a fine Christian person who lives in sadness and frustration and despair and disappointment? Well, let us look at Hannah and find for ourselves some of the things that God would have us know about ourselves.
She was a godly woman in her sorrow. It is a colossal mistake, an almost unforgivable one, for us to think that outward circumstances are indications of the favor or the disfavor of heaven. Dives was rich and lived sumptuously every day, but Lazarus, a beggar was laid at his gate full of sores, hoping to be fed by the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table [Luke 16:19-21]. Yet Dives lifted up his eyes in hell when he died. And Lazarus, the poor beggar was carried by the angels to glory [Luke 16:22-23].
It is a foolish assumption on our part that outward circumstances are indications of the favor or the disfavor of heaven. There are flowers that bloom under the golden sun. There are also flowers that bloom and love the dark shaded areas of a forest. And possibly these like an orchid are more gloriously beautiful than these like the sunflowers. In broken hearted intercession and in a grief stricken spirit, God sometimes leads His children into those spiritual lessons and benedictions that otherwise we had never known. A Christian of a sorrowful spirit is not like an emerald with a bursting springtime of life; not like a ruby with ruddy hue of order, not like a sapphire with the blue of joy and gladness, but like a diamond which is a crystallized tear and someday shall shine in the diadem of God. She was a woman of a sorrowful spirit but a godly woman [1 Samuel 1:15].
Another thing about her: in her sorrow she was a lovely woman and a loveable woman. Elkanah loved Hannah and sought to comfort her, saying, "Am I not better to thee than ten sons?" [1 Samuel 1:8]. She was a loveable woman and a lovely woman. Nor could I describe to you the number of people I see that are embittered by the sorrows they experience in life. Nor could I describe to you many people that I have known in churches I’ve pastored, including this one, who sit down and think and say, "There is no one that has any trouble except me. And there are no sorrows except these that I know. Nobody else, nobody else carries the burdens that I carry. I alone am singled out for these tears and frustrations." And they become critical and bitter, and hasty and unlovely. But Hannah, the more she suffered, the more apparently she was sweet and precious in her life.
And that leads me to my third characteristic of her in her sorrow: she was a gentle woman. When old Eli said, "You must be drunk," she did not lash back at him with a bitter and caustic word [1 Samuel 1:13-15]. And when Peninnah, the other wife, provoked her sore every day in the household where both of them lived, she never answered. She never replied. She was a gentle, lovely woman [1 Samuel 1:6-7].
Now may I speak of some of the spiritual characteristics that came out of her life because of her great sorrow? One: since she had no family and Peninnah had children – and I can just see the interest of the household – Hannah increasingly had to live by herself, separate and apart. But in that separation and in that apartness, she came to know God. Spending long hours with the Lord, she came to speak to Him face to face.
And second: she learned how to pray. As she wrestled – remember Jacob wrestled with God, and finally broken said to the Lord, "I will not let Thee go, till Thou bless me" [Genesis 32:26]. And in his brokenness, not in his strength, when God touched his thigh and he was thereafter and always a cripple, lame, he hobbled on one leg – when God touched him and broke him, God changed his name from Jacob, "Supplanter," to Israel, "a Prince of God" [Genesis 32:25-32] – and in her broken heartedness she learned how to pray [1 Samuel 1:10-15].
A third thing about her: in her sorrow she knew and came to experience self-denial. When she asked in prayer for the gift of this boy, this child, she said, "But not for me, I will not keep him. I will give him to Thee, Lord. All the days of his life he shall be lent unto Thee" [1 Samuel 1:11, 28]. Self-denial. Have you ever looked at your prayers? "Lord, give me this. Lord, give me that. Lord, give me this other. Lord, give me, give me, give me." And if we don’t get it, ten thousand times am I asked, it must be that God doesn’t hear us, and God doesn’t answer us, and there’s no need to pray. That’s our praying: celestial begging.
And I have nothing to criticize about celestial begging. God asked us to ask [Matthew 7:7]. But I do have something to say to my own heart, at least, about seeking to use God. "Now, Lord, I want this for me, and I want this for me. And if You don’t give this for me, then there’s just no need for me to say I know You, or I ask of Thee, or I even pray to Thee." We haven’t learned, and it’s hard to learn.
But in her suffering she learned self-denial. "Not for me, Lord, not for me, but the child shall be given to Thee all the days of his life" [1 Samuel 1:11]. And somehow in that sorrow she learned to believe in prayer and to trust in God. As she prayed there at Shiloh, and the old pastor – making a colossal mistake like all of us do – and unconsciously rebuked by the sweet and tender reply of Hannah, the old pastor said, "Go in peace. God will grant thee thy petition. And she arose and was no longer sad and did eat. And her countenance was no more sorrowful" [1 Samuel 1:13-18]. She believed God. Oh, I am not saying that there are not glorious things that come to us in mirth and in laughter and in all of the triumphs and happinesses we experience in this life. I am just pointing out to you that there are far greater benedictions and blessings that come to us in our grief and in our sorrows.
Now, look what came to Hannah. Out of the sorrowful spirit and the days of agony by which she poured out her soul before God, look what came to her. First: in her grief, and in her commitment, and in her trust in God, she found answered prayer. Not forever will God turn deaf His ear to the importunity and intercession of His saints. God bows down His ear to hear when His children pray [1 John 5:15]. And God heard the prayer of Hannah. Nor could I think of a more beautiful thing in this earth than the name she gave that little child. She called him Samuel, "Asked of God"; Samuel, "Asked of God" [1 Samuel 1:20].
Again: how God blessed her with grace and with love. And with perfect commitment and devotion, she brought the child to the Lord [1 Samuel 1:24-27]. And I don’t know how old the little fellow was. He was very young. But the first time that the little boy was in the house of the Lord, he worshiped the Lord [1 Samuel 1:28]. "Ah, but pastor you can’t expect little children to know Jesus. You can’t expect these little ones to worship." He did. Samuel did. And I’ll tell you why he did, because his mother taught him. It will surprise you, in all of their energy and in all of their apparent distractions – it will surprise you if you will look at it closely, how much a little child can learn about the Lord, and how they can be taught to be worshipful and reverent in the presence of the Lord. This Hannah did. However old the little fellow was, the first time he was in God’s house he worshiped the Lord [1 Samuel 1:28]. And thereafter, as in the second chapter, the 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 2:19]; that is, at the Passover time, they went up to Shiloh together and worshiped there in the great national family feast of the Lord.
You know, I can just see Hannah as she did that. How would she know how big the coat was made? She just saw the little fellow once a year. Isn’t it an amazing thing how much mothers know? That was always an astonishing thing to me. My mother just seemed to know everything about me, everything. They just do. That’s one of God’s intuitive gifts to mothers. So every year she would make that little coat and it would be made just right. And you know I can see her nimble, deft fingers as she would embroidery all the little places, and put maybe little fringes or little bells and pomegranates around the edge. Oh, I can just see her working on that little coat every year, bringing it to the Lord.
Now a third thing: not only in her sorrow – God answered prayer, not only in her sorrow; God gave her grace to give the little fellow to the Lord and to rejoice in his service before the great God, but the Lord spoke to her in her soul, in her heart, and in the second chapter, most of the second chapter is made up of a magnificat of Hannah [1 Samuel 2:1-10]. When you think of the Magnificat, you think of Mary. "My soul doth magnify the Lord…" [Luke 1:46]. But the first magnificat is here in the second chapter of the First Samuel book. "And Hannah prayed and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn is exalted in the Lord: I rejoice in Thy salvation" [1 Samuel 2:1], and on and on, that beautiful paean of praise [1 Samuel 2:1-10].
Now, I have time for one other observation. "And the child Samuel," in the third chapter, "ministered unto the Lord before Eli" [1 Samuel 3:1]. And then you have the story of the call of the little fellow [1 Samuel 3:2-14]. Do you ever think through some of these things as you sit down and ponder over God’s Word? Think of the disparity of age in these two. Eli was old, so old that he was blind [1 Samuel 3:2]. Eli may have been a hundred years old, the old pastor of the church at Shiloh, and that little boy. Isn’t that just one of the most unusual things? The old preacher, the old pastor, and the little boy; and they became fast friends.
In the story that follows that I haven’t time to recount, when the Lord called Samuel, he thought it was old Eli. And he got up out of his bed and ran to the old pastor, "Here am I." And the old preacher said, "Why, I never called thee. You go lie down."
And the second time God called he immediately got up and went, "Thou surely didst call me."
"No," said old Eli, "why, I never called; go lie down again" [1 Samuel 3:3-6].
And the third time, now Samuel did not yet know the Lord [1 Samuel 3:7]; he’s just a little fellow; he hadn’t been converted; he hadn’t been saved. The Spirit of the Lord had not spoken to him like our little children. He did not know the Lord, nor the word of the Lord [1 Samuel 3:7]. So when the Lord called him the third time he arose and went to old Eli, and said, "Eli, surely thou didst call me." Old Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child [1 Samuel 3:8].
That will happen in your household as surely as God lives. If you bring this child to church, and if you expose that child to the things of Christ and the things of God, there will come a time when that child will say to you, "Mother, Daddy, I want to give my heart to Jesus." Where does that come from? The same God that made us on the outside, that gave us life, gave us fingers on our hands, and eyes in our heads, and ears, and feet; the same God that made us on the outside is the same God that made us on the inside. God made that little girl of yours and that little boy of yours to be responsive to the call of heaven. And if you bring that little fellow, that little lassie, under the influence of the gospel, the time will inevitably come, surely come, as God lives, that the little child will say to you, "I want to give my heart to Jesus."
And when that time comes, don’t ever say, "Why, you’re too little. You’re too young. You couldn’t understand." Don’t ever do that. Whenever the child says, "I want to give my heart to Jesus," you say, "Wonderful. Oh, glorious!" And when the child says, "And I want to go down and tell the pastor that I have taken Jesus as my Savior," don’t ever stand in between and say, "Why, child, no; you’re too young." Bring the little fellow. Every time in his life he wants to take a step God-ward, take it with him. Encourage him. "Yes, we’ll go down and tell the pastor." Then of course, all of these things are in training and in teaching.
What does it mean when God speaks to the heart of a little fellow? And what does it mean when the time comes to be baptized? And what does it mean to be a member of the church? All of those things will come. We teach them: the father, the mother, the pastor, the Sunday school teacher, the church. But these beginnings, when the child hears the call of God, I call it a quickening. When God quickens the heart of the little boy, the little girl, rejoice, rejoice, and encourage them in the way. And it will surprise you, I say, how much of Jesus a little fellow can know.
Some people have asked me about this, and I have considered it a thousand times, and I haven’t changed my mind yet. I do believe I was nearer God when I was a little boy than I have ever been in manhood. Oh, when I was a boy, heaven seemed right there! And God seemed so close but after these years of buffeting and the callousness of the scars of the world, sometimes in manhood God seems far away. Like that poem of Thomas Hood:
I remember, I remember
The fir trees, dark and high;
I used to think their silver spires
Were pressed against the sky;
‘Twas but a childish fancy
But now ’tis little joy
To know I’m further away from heaven,
Than when I was a boy.
["Past and Present," Thomas Hood]
When I was a boy heaven seemed so close and God so near. Now that I’m a man, sometimes, the world kind of blocks out the vision. Childhood is the golden day, the golden moment, the golden time to find God. And blessed is Hannah, and blessed Elkanah, and blessed that family that leads that little boy and that little girl to know Jesus.
Our time is spent; we must sing our song of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you, coming into the fellowship of the church; a couple you; one somebody you, while we sing this song, come and stand by me at the front. In this balcony round, on this lower floor, as God shall say the word and open the door, make it now. "I want to take Jesus as my Savior today," you come. Or, "We want to put our lives here in this church," you come. As God shall lead in the way, make it this morning. Make it now. Do 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
3. Polygamy in
Scripture is always attended with tears and sorrow
Woman of sorrow
1. Elkanah could
not lift Hannah’s heart
childless, mocked by Peninnah
3. Hannah in her
sorrow possessed godly characteristics
Child of promise
1. Dedicated to God
2. Ministered unto
the Lord before Eli