Sam's Mom

Sam’s Mom
A Biblical Message of 
Healing and Hope 
for Mothers Today

On this Mother’s Day we’re going to look at the life of a Biblical mom. We’re going to read about Sam’s mom and see what we can learn from her relationship with a holy and righteous God. Sam’s mom was a wonderful woman of God who received great rewards from God but not before undergoing great suffering and heartbreak. This was a time in Israel’s history when God was moving it from the rule of judges to the rule of kings. As part of God’s plan, He gave a mission to a woman who was going to impact history in a way that she could not have ever imagined.

This is the story of a woman who went from suffering to victory and throughout harassment and hardship, she never lost her faith in God. This narrative opens in 1 Samuel with the genealogy of her husband: 

1 Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

“Hannah had no children.” Four simple words, but a lifetime of torment. Let’s really understand what’s going on here. We know nothing about Hannah’s marriage to Elkanah but can assume that it was arranged like most all were in that time of history. Marriage was not about love but about the father of a teenage girl negotiating deals with the father of a teenage boy to acquire property and possessions. This was a culture when a woman had little or no chance to survive on her own. She remained at her father’s home until she married and then the responsibility for her care was transferred from the father to the husband.

In this culture a woman was valued primarily for her ability to reproduce. In fact, her worthiness as a woman was determined by the number of sons she had. Hannah’s most important job as Elkanah’s wife was to give him a son. Her husband was the fifth generation of a strong family and he was depending on her to deliver the sixth generation. Without a son, his generation would be the last.  His name would die out and be forgotten.  His honor, his name and his family’s survival depended on having a son. And Hannah was infertile.

And if a first wife was unable to produce a son, it was not only acceptable,  it was encouraged for a man to take another wife in order to have the son he needed. In fact, even today in many Mid-East and Muslim countries, where woman are still viewed primarily as child bearers and possessions, it is culturally acceptable for a man to divorce a barren wife and start over with a different one.

Hannah was infertile and Elkanah married a second wife who could and did bear him children. Hannah understood why he had to do that but it was devastating to her. When your worthiness as a woman is determined by your ability to reproduce, nothing could be more damaging to your self-worth than the inability to have children. What made this even more shameful to Hannah was that her husband’s other wife was quickly and easily making up for Hannah’s inability to reproduce. Peninnah was giving both sons and daughters to Elkanah. It was Peninnah – not Hannah – who was providing the answer to Elkanah’s prayer that he would have sons who would carry on his family line.  

But this story has another whole dynamic going on...  

3 This man went up from his city yearly to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. Also the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord, were there. 4 And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the Lord had closed her womb. 6 And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7 So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat. 

After the offering was made, it would be party time. There would be food, drink and a time of celebration. The tradition was that the man would give a double portion to his wife who had birthed him a son. The portion referred to was the amount of food that a man gave his family. A portion for the wife and an extra bonus portion to her for giving him the first son. So the wife who bore the son received a “double portion.” 

But we read that Elkanah gave a single portion to Peninnah and single portions to her sons and daughters. But to Hannah, Elkanah gave a double portion because he loved Hannah. As important as it was for Elkanah to have children and as much as Peninnah had provided him with the family he longed for, it was Hannah that he truly loved. It was Hannah that had his heart. It was Hannah that received the double portion. 

And, Peninnah was insanely jealous.  She was the one who deserved the double portion. She was the one who deserved Elkanah’s love. She had given her husband a family and it was because of her that he was honored and respected now by the community. Not that little “wanna-be mother” Hannah. But Elkanah loved Hannah more and Peninnah couldn’t stand it. Peninnah mocked and tormented Hannah constantly.

When you and I want to hurt another person with our words, we always know what to say that will bring the other person the greatest amount of pain.  Peninnah knew what Hannah’s most sensitive and hurt-filled area of her life was. Hannah’s struggle was with her self-worth and Peninnah drilled in with words to stab Hannah in that one place where her deepest hurt made her the most vulnerable – her inability to bear children.

And when the family made its annual pilgrimage to Shiloh where they went to offer their sacrifices and celebrate God’s goodness, this was when Elkanah gave the double portion to Hannah. Peninnah would become furious with jealousy and the harsh and hate-filled attacks on Hannah would escalate.

Look at it from Hannah’s perspective. This family trip to Shiloh was the time when offerings are made to God for His provision and goodness. When God’s gifts to His beloved were celebrated. And when all you’ve ever wanted was to have a child, how do you celebrate and give thanks to a God who “closes your womb?” 

I wonder if what was going on at Shiloh was that Peninnah’s taunting words were triggering an even deeper issue for Hannah. I wonder if Hannah’s real pain came from the feeling that she had been abandoned by God? No wonder we find Hannah weeping and unable to eat in the midst of a celebration. 

At this point what we want to see is Elkanah holding her and comforting her. But while Elkanah loved Hannah with all his heart, he could be an egotistical and insensitive guy. He had the kids he wanted. He had the respect he needed. He had money. He had a woman he loved to share his bed with. Life was good.  In fact, that whole infertility thing? “Hey Babe!  Get over it!  Life goes on!  You got ME!  Let’s have some fun!”  But that’s a paraphrase. Let’s look at his exact words.

8 Then Elkanah, her husband, said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?"

But this trip to Shiloh was going to be different for Hannah. She had finally come to a place of brokenness in her life that was so deep, her only way out of the pit of despair was to reach out to God. Sometimes God needs us broken because it’s only in the desperation of our brokenness that we’re willing to completely submit to Him. It’s only in our brokenness we realize that everything we’ve done to redeem and save the situation isn’t working. It’s in our brokenness that we reach out to Him and find Him waiting...

9  So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the Lord. 10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish. 11 Then she made a vow and said, "O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head."

“No razor shall come upon his head” was a reference to a Nazarite vow for those in the priesthood and Hannah was saying, “Give me a son Lord, and I will give You a priest.”  And Hannah did something that a woman struggling with infertility and longing to have a child would just not naturally do. But Hannah was done with her suffering at the hands of Peninnah. Done with the unspoken scorn of the community. Done with the insensitivity of her husband. 

In that darkest moment, Hannah made a vow that no infertile woman would make. She made a vow to God that if He would give her a son, she’d give that son right back to God. And, Hannah could only make a vow that outrageous if that had been God’s plan and purpose for her all along.

12 And it happened, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli watched her mouth. 13 Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 14 So Eli said to her, "How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!" 

We’re not sure what it specifically was that Eli saw but sometimes fervent Holy Spirit led prayer can be misunderstood as drunkenness. We read in Acts that when the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples, people initially thought they were drunk.

15 But Hannah answered and said, "No, my Lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now." 17 Then Eli answered and said, "Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him." 18 And she said, "Let your maidservant find favor in your sight." So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

For the first time in decades, Hannah was at peace. She had come into the presence of the Lord and she was a changed woman. Her whole countenance had changed. Her attitude had changed. Her mood – her emotions – her feelings – her whole response to life had changed. But, get this! Her attitude changed but her circumstances had not changed one bit.  She didn’t have a son. She wasn’t pregnant. 

It’s important for us to see there was nothing about Hannah’s circumstance that had yet changed, but through her prayers she had come into the presence of the Lord. She had met God. Out of that holy encounter, her faith had changed. She was not filled with joy because her circumstances had changed. She was filled with joy because her faith – her trust in God – had changed.
19 Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah (lay with) Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. (That doesn’t mean that God had forgotten about her but that He had remembered her vow to Him.) 20 So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, "Because I have asked for him from the Lord." 

Hannah’s situation had been hopeless. Her womb had been closed. She was infertile. For decades it felt as if God had abandoned her. Her inability to conceive was obviously not her husband’s fault.  It wasn’t even her fault. It was God who had closed her womb. It was God who had not given her what she had longed for most. It would have been easy to hate God for that. To walk away from Him. To abandon Him as He had seemingly abandoned her. But she didn’t abandon Him. She continued to cry out to Him and as much as she struggled in her trust, she never abandoned God.  

Of course we know that God never abandoned her. He had never left her. He was always by her side. In her suffering. In her depression. In her pit of despair, God was kneeling right beside her with His arm around her. Sometimes God is silent but He is there. It’s easy for us to forget that sometimes in the silence, God is doing His best work and He’s just not telling us about it.  

If you are a mother, you may be praying right now for your son or daughter. You may be praying right now for your grandchild or great-grandchild. Does it seem as if God is silent? And yet this may be a time when God is doing His greatest work. In Hannah’s case there was no voice from a burning bush, no thunderbolts from the sky, no positive color change on the pregnancy test. But in the silence, God was doing His best work in Hannah. He was changing her heart and preparing her to receive a miracle. 

If you’re praying for a situation in your family right now, believe that in the silence, God may be doing His best work and, as frustrating as it may be, God is under no obligation to give you daily reports.

21  Now the man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, "Not until the child is weaned; then I will take him, that he may appear before the Lord and remain there forever." 23 So Elkanah her husband said to her, "Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him. Only let the Lord establish His word." Then the woman stayed and nursed her son until she had weaned him. 24 Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bulls, one ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord in Shiloh. And the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered a bull, and brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, "O my Lord! As your soul lives, my Lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the Lord. 27 For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. 28 Therefore I also have Lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be Lent to the Lord." So they worshiped the Lord there.

We need to understand this clearly and apply it to our own lives. For all her adult life, more than anything, Hannah wanted to have her child.  Notice that nothing changed for her until she was able to release her child to the Lord. God did not open up her womb until she was able to release that child to Him. We read that she “Lent” him to the Lord but the Hebrew word doesn’t mean to lend, but to grant – to freely give away. Hannah had to fully give her son to the Lord.  

See, this whole story of Hannah now becomes crystal clear to us.  We now know why God had closed her womb and made her infertile for a season in her life. God had a plan and a purpose for Hannah that went far beyond her producing a child. God’s plan for Hannah was to produce a son who would be one of Israel’s great prophets, but He had to change her perspective first. God had selected Hannah to not just birth a son, He’d chosen Hannah to produce a priest who would write one of the longest books of history that we have in the Old Testament. 

If Hannah’s situation had been different. If she had easily given birth to a son, she would have cared for him, raised him and nurtured him. Her son would have been hers. But God wanted her to come to the place where she was willing produce a son that would be His.  And today, He wants us to do the same with our own children.

The truth is that our children are a gift from God, created by God and on loan to us parents. Psalm 139 tells us that it is God who creates our children – not us. He uses us to provide the biological ingredients and the place to grow His creation, but He is the Creator of Life. Our job is to just do the very best we can in raising our children and then give them right back to God. I know that’s hard for some of us to do.

Our kids can make us crazy. We suffer for our children. Maybe our daughter is making poor choices and not walking with the Lord and we are in anguish about it. Our son is in trouble again. Our daughter is unmarried and pregnant. A Grandson is hanging with the wrong friends. Our granddaughter is using drugs and drinking too much alcohol. Our son lost his job and now he’s losing his house. Our daughter – our son – is not talking to us. Our son’s illness is terminal.  We are in anguish and we suffer for them.

Our job is to just do the very best we can 
in raising our children 
and then give them right back to God.

Sometimes we just need to give them back to the Lord and take a step back. Sometimes we can even try so hard to influence our children that we alienate them instead. Sometimes we need to talk less to our children and talk more to God. The truth is that our kids may need less of us and more of God. We need to pray that God will be on the throne in their lives. We need to pray for forgiveness – for them and for us. We need to pray for wisdom and discernment for our children. For their healing and deliverance. Most of all, we need to pray for God to build up our trust in Him so much that we can give Him the concerns we have about our children and grandchildren and leave the burden of our worries at His feet.  

That’s what Hannah did. She prayed. She turned her anguish over to God and He heard that prayer. Hannah was filled with that peace that surpasses all understanding and she left Shiloh, for the first time,  not with sorrow but with a song on her heart.  Mother’s Day can be difficult to celebrate because it brings different memories to each one of us. This is a day that we are to honor our mother and some of us may have mothers that hurt us. Some of us may have mothers that abandoned us, rejected us, or even abused us. While some of us look back at our childhoods and remember a loving and caring mother, some of us remember a childhood of neglect or pain and Mother’s Day may trigger memories we’d prefer to forget.  

What has profoundly impacted me as a pastor has been Mother’s Day services where mothers were showered with accolades and flowers while other women left the service in tears. Some like Hannah were infertile and Mother’s Day reminded them of their failures. Some were not married, were at the age where their biological clock had run out of time and their dream to be a mom was over and done. A Mother’s Day celebration in church has the potential to bring both great joy and great pain to different people.

I don’t know where your heart is right now. You may have had a truly wonderful mother. A Godly mother who gave you a wonderful childhood. You may be struggling right now with your thoughts. But even if we struggle as memories of our mother or frustrations with our children surface, I think that’s where we can be inspired by Hannah. She came to understand that in her life, God is on the throne and although there were times she was in great emotional pain, she was standing on the Rock. Hannah gave her son to the Lord and then she prayed:  

2:1 And Hannah prayed and said: "My heart rejoices in the Lord; My (strength) is exalted in the Lord. I smile at my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation. 2 "No one is holy like the Lord, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God... 7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. 8 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes and make them inherit  the throne of glory. "For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and He has set the world upon them. 9 He will guard the feet of His saints...  11 Then Elkanah went to his house at Ramah. But the child ministered to the Lord before Eli the priest.

So Hannah took her son to the tabernacle and gave him to the priest. After all she had gone through, this should have been a gut-wrenching time for her. But Hannah is at peace. She is composed. Her heart is filled with joy. Hannah is triumphant. This is her day. For Hannah, her Mother’s Day celebration was not the day Samuel was born, it was the day she gave him back to the Lord.

She is triumphant because she knows the character and sovereignty of God. God reigns. He reigns over wealth and poverty, health and sickness, conception and barrenness. Our lives, our children’s lives, our grand- children’s lives are all in His hands. And we learn from Hannah that the struggles we deal with are often part of the process of change in ourselves. God uses the hard things in our life to make us strong. He uses the hard things in our life to conform us into the likeness of His Son, Jesus. And God often rewards us in ways that are impossible for us to even imagine.  At long last, Hannah was rewarded beyond her wildest dreams.

21 And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile the child Samuel grew before the Lord. 

On this Mother’s Day we honor Godly mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers.  You did the very best that you could, to do the right thing for your children at that time in their lives. You contend for your children in prayer and claim victory over darkness. You genuinely love them unconditionally. You want the very best for them and even if some of them have broken your heart, you keep praying for them. As God heard the prayers of Hannah, He hears your prayers today.

“Sam’s Mom” is the reprint of a sermon given to 
New Hope Family Church on Mother’s Day
Sunday - May 10, 2009

Copyright © 2009
 Rev. John B. Hickman
New Hope Ministries