A CHILD LENT TO THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 1
5-13-79 8:15 a.m.
Now to all of you that are listening on the radio, and to the vast throng in this First Baptist Church, this is a Mothers’ Day sermon, and it is entitled A Child Lent to the Lord. And if in your Bible you would turn to the First Book of Samuel, chapter 1, we will begin. You can follow the message beautifully and easily if you will turn in your Bible to 1 Samuel, chapter 1; A Child Lent to the Lord.
The story begins in deepest sorrow. There is a man in the tribe of Ephraim by the name of Elkanah. He has two wives; one is named Hannah, and the other is named Peninnah. Peninnah had children, and Hannah had no children [1 Samuel 1:1-2]. And because of her barren sterility – now we begin at verse 6 – "Her adversary, Peninnah, provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb" [1 Samuel 1:6]. Now verse 7: "So she provoked her; therefore Hannah wept, and did not eat" [1 Samuel 1:7]. Verse 10, "And Hannah was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore" [1 Samuel 1:10]. Verses 14-16, "And when old Eli," the pastor of the church said, "You are drunk!" because she prayed – but she did not say anything out loud, just her lips moved; she prayed in her heart. Hannah answered:
No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit. . .
I have poured out my soul before the Lord.
Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial:
for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I prayed.
[1 Samuel 1:14-16]
See how many times in that little brief passage the sorrow, and the grief, and the burden of heart of Hannah is described? So the story begins in tears and in bitterness of soul.
May I turn aside here for just a moment to point out to you, wherever, in the Old Testament, there is polygamy, it is always filled with heartache and tears, always. Jesus said, "In the beginning it was not so; God made one woman for one man, and one man for one woman" [Matthew 19:3-9], a monogamous relationship. But when Abraham violated that [Genesis 16:1-5], we are reaping the bitterness of that transgression to this day in the children of Isaac and Jacob, the Jew, and the children of Ishmael, the Arab. Wherever it is found in the Bible, it is sorrow and bitterness: Jacob, Israel, with Rachel and Leah [Genesis 29:16-30]; even Joseph sold by his half brothers into the hands of the Egyptians [Genesis 37:26-28, 39:1-3]; the children of David, the man after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22], in the multiplicity of his wives [1 Chronicles 3:1-9], the children murdering each other, raping each other [2 Samuel 13:1-39]. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, destroyed and the kingdom rent asunder because of his polygamous relationships [1 Kings 11:1-13]. And you see it here [1 Samuel 1:1-2], wherever in the Word of God you find this situation, it always is fraught with heartache and weeping and grief.
So the story begins in the sorrow of Hannah. But it is a remarkable thing how God turns the wrath of man to praise Him, and out of transgression and out of bitterness and tears God can bring some beautiful and marvelous thing. So it is in this story: out of the grief of that godly woman, the Lord did a beautiful and precious thing. Now look at verse 11:
And Hannah vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if Thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and forget not Thine handmaid, but give unto Thine handmaid a man child, then 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]
That’s what all of us ought to do in grief and sorrow and disappointment: take it to God, lay it before the Lord, tell the blessed Savior all about it. That’s what Hannah did. And as she laid her grief and sorrow before the Lord, she said, "If You will answer my prayer, and give me a child, I will give him back to You; and there shall no razor come upon his head" [1 Samuel 1:11]. This is a reference to a Nazirite vow, a perpetual one.
In a generation just before the days of Hannah, an angel of the Lord had appeared to Manoah and to his wife, first to his wife [Judges 13:3-20], saying to her – she was barren as Hannah, and could not have a child – the angel said to Manoah’s wife, "According to the time of life, you shall have a son. And he is to be a Nazirite to the Lord all the days of his life" [Judges 13:5]. There are only three perpetual lifetime Nazirites in the Bible: one is this son of Manoah and his wife, named Samson [Judges 13:7, 16:17]; the other is Samuel, this lad, when he’s born [1 Samuel 1:11]; and the third one is John the Baptist [Luke 1:15]. He is dedicated completely to the Lord all the days of his life. And evidently, following the example of what the angel had said to the wife of Manoah when Samson was born, she says to the Lord, "If You will give me this child, I will give him back to You, and all of the days of his life he shall live the life of a Nazirite, one completely given to God" [1 Samuel 1:11], the sign of it, hair uncut, no defilement and no partaking of the fruit of the vine [Numbers 6:1-21].
So she thus prays, and in praying God answered her prayer. Look at verses 26 and 27. She says to Eli, "O my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying." I have used that as a funeral text, "I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying." When I have buried a godly woman, I have used that as a text; a beautiful word. "I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying. For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him" [1 Samuel 1:26-27]. So, the child is a gift from God. God created that little bundle of life. The hands of the Almighty fashioned him. The child comes from the unseen hands of God. Thus Hannah says, "For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given him to me"; a gift from God. And when a mother and a father look upon the child born in the home as a gift from heaven, how beautiful and how precious is the beginning days of the youngster. "This is from God, and the Lord hath given me this child."
Now one other thing that she did, she and Elkanah her husband: verse 25, "And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to old Eli" [1 Samuel 1:25]. Now isn’t that unusual? "They slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli." Training is not enough. Training, nurture, will never substitute for the atonement of Christ. The child comes into a world redeemed by the blood of the Crucified One. And the child must be born twice: the child first is created by the hands of God and born one time [Psalm 139:16], but the child must also be born a second time; this time, the second time, in the love and grace and mercy of our atoning Savior [John 3:7]. That is a remarkable thing.
And may I also parenthesize again to speak of the child before God? If a child dies, does the child go to heaven? If the child is too young to understand, hasn’t reached what we call the age of accountability, is the child saved? The answer is an unequivocal yes, because, "As in Adam all die, so in Christ are all made alive" [1 Corinthians 15:22]. This world is a redeemed world. Christ has bought it to Himself with His own blood [1 Peter 1:18-19]. We are a purchased possession [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]. And when the child comes into the world, he comes into a world for whom blood has been poured out.
Now, when the child reaches the age of accountability, and he knows the difference between right and wrong, and he does wrong consciously, volitionally he does wrong, then he must repent for his sins, and he must ask God’s forgiveness for his sins, and he must receive the proffered grace of Jesus Christ for his sins [1 John 1:9]; but only for his sins [Galatians 6:5]. As Ezekiel says, "No child shall ever be responsible for the sins of his father" [Ezekiel 18:20]. No child is ever lost because of original sin, the sins of the fathers that go clear back to Adam [Genesis 3:1-6; Romans 5:12]. All of the sins of the world have been paid for in the blood of Christ [Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:2], and the child is born into that redemption given to us in Christ. It is only when I sin that I must come to God, I must repent, I must ask God’s forgiveness, and I must seek from the hands of the Savior the blessed redemption that He has brought to me [1 John 1:7, 9].
So the child is born twice: once, when God fashions the youngster in the unseen womb of the mother [Psalm 139:16] and born again when Christ comes into the heart and life of the youngster [John 3:7]. And thus Hannah, when she brought the child to the Lord, brought the child in a sacrifice of blood, blood atonement [1 Samuel 1:24-28]. And it is thus with our children. "O Lord, this is a gift of God created by Your hands. And dear God, in blood atonement in Christ, save this child; saved now under the blood as a little baby unconscious of sin, saved consciously, volitionally, acceptedly, when the child becomes of age and is an acknowledged part of the fallen nature of this whole world and seeks in forgiveness from God’s gracious hands to be accepted in the family of God." So Hannah brings the child before the Lord and gives the youngster to the service of the blessed, blessed Jesus [1 Samuel 1:26-27].
Now, when she does it, she does it completely and forever. "Therefore," she says, "I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord" [1 Samuel 1:28]. It was a forever gift, a complete dedication. I think of Jochebed, the mother of Moses. Look how she did that same thing, a complete giving away. First of all, on the bosom of the Nile River, she put the little lad in an ark and laid it among the flags, the reeds, the papyri of the river, completely giving the child to the providences of God. And the little child in the ark floated on the bosom of the river [Exodus 2:2-4]. Look again how completely she gave away the life of the little fellow, when she placed him in the arms Pharaoh’s daughter. She nursed the little lad for Pharaoh’s daughter. Then, when the lad became of age, she gave him completely to the royal family. Jochebed did [Exodus 2:5-10]. Hannah does the same thing: she takes the child and fully and completely gives the child to the blessed Lord all the days of his life [1 Samuel 1:28]. Now, having given the child to the Lord, that consecration does not mean abandonment; look at the nineteenth verse of the second chapter of the Book of Samuel:
Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child, girded with an 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]
She consecrated the lad; fully, completely gave him to God. But that did not mean that she had abandoned the child like a waif laid at the door of a foster home. No, she kept the little lad in her memory, and kept him in her prayers, and kept him in every blessed remembrance. And I can just see her come up to Shiloh every year with that little coat; each year, a little larger than the year before. And how eagerly did she speak about the lad, and talk about him, and visit with him, and instruct him, and guide him in the beautiful way of the Lord.
That is the way that we mold these little lives that God gives us.
I took a piece of plastic clay
And idly fashioned it one day –
And as my fingers pressed it, still
It moved and yielded to my will.
I came again when days were past
The bit of clay was hard at last.
The form I gave it, still it bore,
But I could change it nevermore!
I took a piece of living clay,
And gently formed it day by day,
And molded it with power and art,
A young child’s soft and yielding heart.
I came again when years were gone;
It was a man I looked upon.
He still the early impress bore,
And I could change it nevermore.
["I Took a Piece of Plastic Clay"; author unknown]
That is all of the experience that we know in life. This little life, molded and shaped and guided and turned, so malleable and pliable and amenable, yielded, when the child is young; but as the days pass, the child hardens into the character of a man, and all you can do then is just pray and wait and commend to God. What you do you must do early in life.
And thus it was with Hannah and her little boy – prayed for him, loved him, made the little coat, brought it to him every year, and in that visit as the child ministered unto the Lord [1 Samuel 3:1], how sweet and precious those visits of the mother with the child. Oh, I can just imagine a thousand things that she talked to the little fellow about the things of God! And he grew up; he grew up knowing the will of the Lord and the things of God.
Now last, God’s will for the child. In the third chapter, the Lord calls Samuel and he answered, "Here am I," and ran to old Eli and said, "Here am I; you called me" [1 Samuel 3:4-5]. Now Samuel did not know the Lord [1 Samuel 3:7], he hadn’t reached that age where consciously he had accepted the Lord as his Savior. And when the Lord called him, the little fellow thought it was old Eli that called, and he ran to him and said, "Here am I; you called me." And old Eli said, "I did not call. Lie down again." And the little fellow went and laid down again. And God came the second time; and he ran to old Eli. "I did not call," said old Eli, "lie down again" [1 Samuel 3:6]. And the Lord called the third time, and he ran to old Eli. And the old pastor was spiritually sensitive, even though he did not control his own children, Hophni and Phinehas. The old pastor was still sensitive. He said to the boy, "I see that God is calling you. God is calling you. And when He calls again, you say, Here I am, listening, Lord. Here I am, speak" [2 Samuel 3:8-9].
Do you believe that? Do you believe God can speak to a little child? Do you believe God calls little people? Do you believe God has a will and a purpose for these children, so small? I say yes, because I have experienced that very thing. How old was this little boy Samuel when he heard God’s voice? It doesn’t say; it just says he was very young, very young. My sweet people, as far back as I can remember, as far back into my childhood as I can summon up any remembrance, I had the conviction in my heart that God had called me for the work that I have done in these years and years and years ever since. I have been asked to be president of a university, I’ve been asked to be president of a college, I’ve been asked I don’t know in how many areas of life I have been invited to be leader in, or to share in. I have never felt but one thing in my life, just one, and that is that God wanted me to be the pastor of a church. I have felt that from the days of my earliest remembrance. Does God speak to little children? Does God call little children? God’s Word says yes. He was so young he was not even converted. It says here that when this happened Samuel did not know the Lord [1 Samuel 3:7], he had not been converted. He was still too young. And yet the Lord called Samuel. And old Eli said, "When He speaks, you say, Here I am, Thy servant is listening" [1 Samuel 3:9]. And the Lord spoke to Samuel, and delivered the word of the Lord to that little boy.
Now, look at verse 19 and 20 in chapter 3:
And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did 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, in the days of his childhood – that is remarkable! That is remarkable.
My dear people, it is wrong for us to think that it is in after years that we come to know God, or to do God’s will. It is just the opposite. It is in childhood that we come to know God, and it is in childhood that we come to do God’s will. And when, in childhood, the youngster comes into the will and the knowledge of the Lord, all the days of his life flow heavenward; and God establishes and blesses and encourages, makes known – oh, in how many ways are the heavenly blessings of life poured out upon a youngster who gives his heart to Jesus and all the days of his life walks in the way of the Lord? Not only someday to be a wonderful Christian woman, but now to be a wonderful Christian girl. Not only someday to be a fine Christian man, but now to be a fine Christian boy. This is the way that God blesses. This is the way that pleases the Lord.
Now, I have one other comment to make: you look at these little children of ours, and as they grow up before us, you look at them. They seem so young, and so inexperienced, and untaught, and untrained, and they just live the life of little children, and here they are around us. But did you know, when you look at those youngsters, those boys and girls, those children, did you know that you’re looking at everything tomorrow? Are there going to be any preachers tomorrow? That’s where God finds them, among those little children. Are there going to be any Sunday school teachers? Are there going to be any deacons? Are there going to be any churchmen and churchwomen tomorrow? That’s where God’s going to find them, among those little children. And of course, that goes for the whole nation. Are there going to be any political leaders tomorrow? Are there going to be any judges to sit on the Supreme Court? Are there going to be any officers of the law? Are there going to be any legislators? Are there going to be any councilmen? Are there going to be any professors in our schools? Are there going to be any home builders? What is it tomorrow – all of it in the life of these little children who walk around our feet, who are in these nurseries and in these children’s divisions? O Lord, it humbles you and brings you to your knees. If we have any kind of a world tomorrow, it’s because we have a prayerful and dedicated intercessory appeal to God for our children today.
Did you ever hear this?
The soul of a child is the loveliest flower
That grows in the garden of God.
Its climb is weakness to knowledge and power,
To the sky from the clay and the clod.
To beauty and sweetness it grows under care;
Neglected it’s ragged and wild,
‘Tis a plant that is tender, and wondrously rare,
The sweet wistful soul of a child.
Be tender, O mother, and give it its share of nurture
Of warmth, and of light,
And let it not lack for painstaking care
To protect it from the frost and the blight.
For the day will soon come when the bud will be bloomed
To the ways of the world beguiled.
Let us win him to Christ while yet there is room
In the sensitive soul of a child.
[adapted from "The Soul of a Child"; Author unknown]
Ah, Lord, out of all the responsibilities God has given us, as a church, as a family, as a parent, out of all the responsibilities God has assigned us, there is none that even begins to compare with the heavy weighty assignment of taking these children and rearing them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord [Ephesians 6:4]. So may God find us faithful. "Lord, Lord, This is the child that came from Your hands, and all the days of his life I lend him to Thee," beautiful, precious, father, mother, child, home, and family.
And that is our invitation to your heart this blessed Mothers’ Day: to give your own self to the blessed wonderful Jesus, to bring your family and to worship God with us, to come into the fellowship of the Lord’s church, to be baptized upon the confession of faith, to present your child before the Lord. As God shall make the appeal, as the Spirit of Jesus shall open the way, in a moment when we stand to sing – and it’s late, when I get to thinking about the things of the Lord, I forget these times. God is so dear and so precious, and the way of life is so eternally responsible, Lord, Lord – make that decision in your heart, do it now, "I have decided for God, and here I am. This is my family, pastor." Or, "This is my child." Or, "This is my wife." Or, "This is my friend. And we’re coming today." Make that decision in your heart, and on the first note of the first stanza, when we sing this hymn, down that stairway or down that aisle, "Here I am, pastor, and here I stand." Do it now, while we sing and while you come.