A CHILD LENT TO THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 1:1-28
5-13-79 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church delivering a Mother’s Day message entitled A Child Lent to the Lord. If you will open your Bible to 1 Samuel, the first chapter, you can easily follow the message; 1 Samuel in the Old Testament, chapter 1.
The story begins in deepest grief and sorrow. In the tribe of Ephraim, there is a man named Elkanah. He has two wives: one is named Hannah, and the other is named Peninnah. And Peninnah has children, but Hannah has no children. So Peninnah is an adversary to Hannah because the Lord has shut up her womb, and she does not bear children [1 Samuel 1:1-5].
So in verse 6, “And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb” [1 Samuel 1:6]. Now again in verse 7, “So she provoked Hannah; therefore Hannah wept, and did not eat” [1 Samuel 1:7], and verse 10: “And Hannah was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore” [1 Samuel 1:10].
Verses 15 and 16; Hannah prayed in her heart. Her lips moved, but there was no voice, and Eli, the old pastor, thought that she was drunk. But Hannah said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit . . . and 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 prayed to the Lord” [1 Samuel 1:13-16].
How many times in this beginning introductory word is Hannah presented in deepest grief and sorrow, weeping and crying in bitterness of spirit before the Lord. Always in the Bible—and there’s no exception to it—always in the Bible where there is a polygamous situation, it is always accompanied by many tears. Jesus said in the beginning it was not so [Matthew 19:8]. God made one man for one woman, and one woman for one man. And when a polygamous situation develops, it is always in deepest grief and sorrow.
It was so in the life of Abraham [Genesis 16:1-16, 21:1-21]. We are under the curse of that union with Hagar to this day in the bitterness of the Arab world; the children of Ishmael and the awesome confrontation with the children of Jacob, Israel.
It was so in the life of David. David’s children slew one another, raped each other [2 Samuel 13:1-29]. It was so in the life of Solomon. The multiplicity of his polygamous marriages ruined him and divided the kingdom [1 Kings 11:1-13].
It is so here. There’s no exception to it in the Word of the Lord. This man has a polygamous relationship, and it has brought indescribable grief and sorrow [1 Samuel 1:1-16]. But the Bible says that out of the wrath of man, God raises and ordains praises [Psalm 76:10], and so it is out of the bitterness of soul and the many tears of Hannah that God is going to do a beautiful and a wonderful thing. In the eleventh verse, Hannah takes her sorrow to the Lord, and as she prays, she vows a vow and says:
O Lord of hosts, if Thou wilt . . . look upon the affliction of Thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget Thine handmaid, but . . . give me a child; if You will give me a child, I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.
[1 Samuel 1:11]
She took her grief to the Lord, as all of us ought to do. Tell God all about it. Lay bare your soul and your sorrow before God. And in that vowing, in that praying, she said, “If you will give me a child, I will give him back to Thee, and all of the days of his life he shall be a Nazarite [1 Samuel 1:11].
The last judge was Samson and he lived just about a generation before the days of Hannah and Elkanah. The Angel of the Lord came to the wife of Manoah, who also was childless; God had shut up her womb. She was sterile and barren. And an Angel of the Lord came to her and said she is to be the mother of a child, and the child is to be dedicated to God all the days of his life. He is to be a Nazarite [Judges 13:2-5].
There are three Nazarites, full time, all life, perpetual in the Bible. In the Scriptures there are many temporary Nazarites, men who would take an oath for a few months. But in the Bible there are three perpetual Nazarites, all their lives given to God. One is Samson [Judges 13:2-5], one is little Samuel [1 Samuel 1:11, 27-28], and one is John the Baptist [Luke 1:13-15]. The sign of a Nazarite: the hair and the beard uncut. No razor ever to come upon the head; a second, never to touch strong drink, the fruit of the vine; and the third, never to touch anything unclean [Numbers 6:1-7]. All their lives they are to be given to the Lord [. So the prayer and the vow of Hannah, “Lord, if You will give me a child, I will give him back to Thee, and all his life he is to be fully dedicated to Thee as a Nazarite” [1 Samuel 1:11].
So the Lord God hears her prayer [1 Samuel 1:20], and in verses 26 and 27 she presents to Eli this child that comes from God [1 Samuel 1:26-28]. She says in verse 26, talking to the old pastor, “Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying…” [1 Samuel 1:26]. Once in a while I will use that as a text when I have the memorial service at a funeral for a wonderful mother: “I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying…” Isn’t that a beautiful thing to say about a wife? “I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying…For this child I prayed; and the Lord has given me my petition which I asked of Him…” [1 Samuel 1:27].
So the child comes from God. A child is a God-given remembrance from heaven. It is the hands of the Almighty that framed the little thing, wove all the sinews, created the chalice in which is the brain, created the heart and the soul and the mind. All of it is of the genius of the hands of the Almighty. So Hannah says, “The Lord gave me this child [1 Samuel 1:20, 27]. He is a gift from the unseen, from the hands of God.” Then look again: as she comes before the Lord, in verses 24 and 25, she comes with a blood offering. They slew a bullock and brought the child to the old pastor Eli [1 Samuel 1:24-25]. So a child is born one time in the genius of God, but the child must be born a second time in the blood. When the little child came into the world, he came into the world redeemed by the blood of the Crucified One [Exodus 13:12].
That answers forever the question that once in a while I am asked: if a little child dies before the age of accountability, does the child go to heaven? The answer in the Bible is plain and obvious, “As in Adam we all die, so in Christ we are all made alive” [1 Corinthians 15:22]. This is a redeemed world; it is a world for which Christ has died [1 John 2:2]; His blood has paid the penalty of all of our sins [Galatians 3:13-15]. And when the child comes into the world, the child is born redeemed by the blood of the Crucified One. As Ezekiel says, “No child shall ever bear the iniquities of the father” [Ezekiel 18:20].
What happens to the child is this: as the child grows up, he reaches what we call “an age of accountability” when he knows right from wrong, and because all of us are fallen [Romans 3:23], we choose what is wrong. We do what is not right. Therefore, the child must ask God for forgiveness for his sins; he must repent for himself [Psalm 38:18]. And that is what we call conversion: the child becomes consciously and volitionally a Christian [Acts 3:19, 16:31].
So Hannah, when she comes before the Lord with the little boy, she comes with blood of atonement [1 Samuel 1:24-25], and the child, in God’s time and grace, becomes twice born [John 3:3]: one time born in the flesh from the hands of God, created wondrously [1 Samuel 1:20, 27]. The psalmist says “fearfully” [Psalm 139:14], and then born again in the love and grace of Jesus [John 3:6], who forgives our sins in His atonement on the cross [Ephesians 1:7]. What a beautiful picture here in the Old Testament of a reality that is given to us in the atoning death of our Savior. So the little lad is brought before the Lord in blood atonement, in sacrifice [1 Samuel 1:24-25], and is lent to the Lord all the days of his life. And that’s the verse 28, “Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth—as long as life shall last—he shall be given to the Lord” [1 Samuel 1:28]. It was a complete surrender, a complete dedication.
I can show you another mother who did that exact thing: Jochebed, the wife of Amram, had a little baby boy [Exodus 2:1-2]. And because the edict of the king was that all the children of the Hebrew families—male—must be slain [Exodus 1:22], this mother took the little boy and put him in a small ark and laid it on the bosom of the waters of the Nile [Exodus 2:3]. And there, in the reeds and the papyri where the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe, this mother had completely committed the little baby to the providences of God [Exodus 2:5]. Then she did it a second time. When the child was brought to Pharaoh’s daughter and the little thing wept, it moved the daughter of Pharaoh’s daughter [Exodus 2:6-9]. And seeing the child beautifully formed, she asked for a nurse. And the sister, watching, said, “May I find one of the Hebrew people?” And the daughter of the Pharaoh said, “Go.” And Miriam, the sister, brought the child’s mother, and the mother nursed the little boy for Pharaoh’s daughter. Then when he came of age, she gave him to Pharaoh’s daughter, to the court of the king, completely, absolutely, finally committing him to the grace and the providences of God [Exodus 2:10].
That is what Hannah did. She took the little boy and gave him, all of him—finally, forever, absolutely—to the hands of God. “He shall be lent to the Lord all the days of his life” [1 Samuel 1:11, 28]. A beautiful and a precious thing for a mother to do; “I give to God this life that first You gave to me.” Now, that does not mean, a full dedication does not mean abandonment: look at verse  in the second chapter. “Moreover his mother gave 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 has in it the whole picture of a mother’s prayers, and a mother’s remembrance, and a mother’s hands of ministry, and love, and care, and helpfulness.
Ten thousand times did I look at the hands of my mother. Here making a little coat for Samuel [1 Samuel 2:19]. My mother worked with her hands to make it possible for me to go to school. She baked pies, she sewed, she took in boarders. Oh, in how many ways! And that this mother did. His mother made him a little coat and brought it to him from year to year. And I can just see, as you can, as she would come at that yearly sacrifice, she’d talk to the little lad, speak to him about the Lord, tell him things that belonged to God, and seek to encourage him and train him in the things of the wonderful Jesus. And that could not help but find a repercussion in the life of the child. How could a child ever, ever get away from the earnest, godly care and remembrance of a sweet and precious mother?
That’s why the proverb could say, “You train up the child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not forget it” [Proverbs 22:6]. He’ll come back to it if he drifts away; these things become a part of the very sinew and soul of the child. So malleable, so molded in the softness of childhood, then in womanhood and in manhood those things become a part of the very life. So this mother, making a little coat, bringing it to the lad from year to year, watching him grow up in the Lord [1 Samuel 2:19].
Now a last thing: in the third chapter, this little lad is ministering before the Lord. He is standing by the side of the old pastor, and Samuel has a part, apparently, in taking care of, say, the lamps in the house of God. And in the nighttime, in the quietness of the evening, the Lord calls Samuel [1 Samuel 3:1-3]. Verse : it says in 1 Samuel, that “Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him [1 Samuel 3:7]. And the Lord called Samuel.” Just a little boy, we don’t know exactly how old. The Bible says he was very young, “The Lord called Samuel: and he said, ‘Here am I’” [1 Samuel 3:4]. And he ran to old Eli, the pastor, and he said, “Here am I; for you called me.” And old Eli said, ‘I did not call you. Lie down again.’“ So the little lad laid down [1 Samuel 3:5]. And the Lord called a second time. He ran to old Eli and said, “Here am I. You called me.” And the old pastor said, “I never called you. Lie down again” [1 Samuel 3:6]. A third time; and this time the spiritual intuition of old Eli, “Samuel, that is God. That is the Lord” [1 Samuel 3:8-9].
What do you think about that? Do you think God can speak to a little child? Do you? Do you believe God can call a little child? Do you? Sweet people, as far back as I can remember in my childhood, as far back as memory will carry me, I felt God’s call to be a pastor. As far back as I can remember. In these years that have passed since, I have been asked to do, I don’t know how many different things. I’ve been asked to be president of a university, to be president of a college, to be president of yet another college, to be in so many areas of life, but I have never felt but one thing: God wanted me to be an undershepherd.
I don’t feel that any more poignantly or movingly or deeply this minute, after fifty-one years of being a pastor, I don’t feel it any more now than I did when I was a little boy. I felt it then, moved by it then: when I went to grammar school, elementary school, I was studying to be a pastor; when I went through high school, went through the college, went through the seminary, all through the years and the years. I wouldn’t trade my place for the president of the United States or the prime ministership of England. I feel I would be stepping down if I did it. I’d rather be a pastor than anything in God’s world. I’m like Dr. George W. Truett, my predecessor, “If anything happened that I couldn’t be pastor here, I’d go up the hollow,” he was a mountaineer then, “I’d go up to the head of the hollow, and I’d organize me another church and be a pastor there.” Do you believe that? I do.
The Lord said, “Samuel,” and he answered, “Here am I.” The Lord called the little boy [1 Samuel 3:4, 6, 8]. God speaks to our children, and He calls them to Himself, and you look what happens. Verses 19 and 20 in that same third chapter: “And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord” [1 Samuel 3:19-20]. That’s God’s hand in the lives of these little children.
Sweet people, when you look at these little children, do you sometimes think, “O God, how much is wrapped up in their lives?” Who is going to be our preachers tomorrow? It has to be from among those little children. Who is going to be our Sunday school teachers tomorrow? Those little children. Who is going to be our deacons tomorrow? Those little children. Who is going to be our great representatives and witnesses for Christ in the earth tomorrow? Those little children. And if I could carry it, who is going to be the legislators and the justices on our courts and the presidents of our nation and the great leaders of our corporations and banks, and who is going to make our nation, please God, full of reverence before the Lord? Who is going to do that tomorrow? These little children. Look at them. Look at them. Every dream we have on any golden day of the future is wrapped up in them, moves on their little feet, talks from their tongues, speaks from their hearts. Oh, dear Lord, what a responsibility we have, God-given!
And when these little children say to you, Dad, or to you, Mother, “I feel God speaking in my heart,” remember my word for thirty-five years: don’t ever interdict the child. Don’t ever say, “You’re too young, or you don’t understand,” never! But when the child tugs at your dress or pulls at your coattail and says, “I want to give my heart to Jesus,” or “I just feel Jesus calling me,” or “I want to tell the pastor that I love Jesus,” you say, “Son, that’s great. Let’s go.” Or, “Sweet little doll, that’s wonderful. Let’s go.” Bring the child to me, dad I’ve been doing this over half a century. I know exactly what to do. Bring the child to me. And what we do is: if the child is real little, we call it a step toward God: “I feel in my heart God has spoken to me.” Or if the child is older and knows what sin is and has a conversion experience, we take the youngster and put him in a class for about six weeks. And he’s taught what it means to be saved, then what it means to be baptized, then what it means to take the Lord’s Supper, then what it means to be a good church member. Then the child is brought to me, and I pray and talk with the youngster, with the family, then present him to the church to be baptized.
God speaks to children. I know; I’ve been there. And when one of those youngsters comes up to me and he says, “I want to give my heart to Jesus. Jesus talked to me.” I say, “Son, I know exactly what that means, because I felt just like that.” And for the father and the mother to preside over the upbringing of their children in the love and nurture of the Lord [Ephesians 6:4], is the finest and most heavenly assignment that God could ever bestow upon us. What a privilege!
And God bless our people, our families, our homes, as they rear these children in God’s grace. And then, when they’re grown, commending them to the Lord—to pray for them that the same heavenly remembrance that made them, that wove their very sinews in the first place, in the last place will make their lives a beautiful and heavenly blessing.
So we give our lives to the Lord to that precious end, believing that Jesus will answer prayer as He did the prayer of Hannah [1 Samuel 1:11, 20], that He will receive these dear to us that we offer to Him. And that the same grace that guided the life of Samuel in such an effective way through all the years that followed after will guide the lives of our children and make them a blessing.
And that is our invitation to you this solemn and precious Mother’s Day hour. To come as a family, “Pastor, we are just all coming today. God has spoken to us, and this is going to be our church home. We are going to rear our children in the love of the Lord here in this place.” You come. A couple you, “The Lord has bid us and we are answering with our lives.” Or just one somebody you, in the balcony round, down a stairway, in the throng on this lower floor, down an aisle, “Here I come, pastor.” May the Lord bless you and angels attend you as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.