Keeping A Vow

It seems that I frequent the New Testament and certainly love it. But, I want to know the God of the Old Testament a lot better. I have to admit, I get “tired” of reading that So-and-so begat So-and-so but when I really start to read the lineage and put things together it is amazing. And the stories, oh the stories of old. Stories that seem unbelievable, stories that are only explained as miracles. Gruesome. Great sacrifice. Loyalty. Determination. Sacrifice.

I’ve been reading in 1 Samuel about Hannah.  Married to Elkanah, she was dearly loved by her husband and from what it seems, had a good life. Except . . . she couldn’t bear children. She was unable to provide the one thing she so desired and be a mother which was what gave women worth in that culture. To make matters worse, she had competition. In that day, men had several wives and such was true with Elkanah. He was also married to Penninah, a woman able to bear children with very little grace and understanding for the barren Hannah. Penninah taunted and teased her. She constantly reminded Hannah of her inabilities.

In deep sorrow, Hannah retreated to the one place she could bare her soul. The temple. There she pleaded with a tear streaked face that God would give her a child. Scripture says she “wept bitterly.” Her words and her actions were so emphatic that the priest Eli accused her of being drunk. With grief she explained her heart to Eli and told him of the vow she had made before God.

1 Sam 1:11 says, And she made a vow, saying, “O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

A year later, she held in her arms a beautiful baby boy named Samuel.  She praised God and thanked Him for the gift of a son. And it says, he grew in wisdom and stature.

Wasn’t that a great story?

Oh wait, there are a few things missing. What about that vow? What about the sacrifice? What about Samuel?

Like Hannah, in our desperation, we seek to make deals with God. They may sound something like this:
God, if you would …
Next time I promise I’ll …
God please help me this time and then I’ll serve you the rest of my life.

I am guilty. I’ve done it. Here we have Hannah, having made a vow before God. She promised to give up her son for the work of the Lord.  For her only son to leave home and live at the temple. The dinner table would now have one empty seat. His bed would remain untouched. Her “mothering” wouldn’t be necessary any longer.  At this point in the story, I began to cry. My first question was, “How old was he when he left home?” The answer is 3, the typical weaning age.  I have an almost 3 year old and my heart sank. I couldn’t imagine my home without my beloved son. Oh, the thoughts of how I could retract my vow.  I wonder if Hannah felt that way?  Do I really have to God? Once push comes to shove, how many vows have we been reluctant to keep because the cost just seemed to great?

But, being the woman of God she was, Hannah kept her vow. She walked her son Samuel into the arms of Eli, the priest. She kept her promise.  Sacrificed herself.  Now in this temple again, do you think she felt sorrow of another kind? Or, do you think she was rejoicing? Believing God for the good things he had planned for Samuel. I have no idea. In my humanness, I have a hard time believing this was easy. However, God’s comfort is so great and his peace is indescribable that maybe I am unable to understand. Hannah knew this wasn’t goodbye,  scripture tells us that she visited him often and brought him linen robes each year. I am left in awe.

We read later that Samuel grew to be a prophet and a judge. A powerful man of Israel. “…The Lord was with him and people listened carefully to his advice.” God used Samuel. His mother’s sacrifice was not in vain. She kept her promise, her end of the bargain, and God was glorified.

I walk away from this story impacted by Hannah’s integrity and eternal vision. Her life was so hard and so frustrating. When in deep sorrow and need, she ran to her Heavenly Father’s arms. She prayed. She received. And she kept her vow.

A . M . A . Z . I . N . G

Be a woman {or man} of your word this week!



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One Response to Keeping A Vow

  1. charis says:

    this is a great post kc. i think about hannah often and she is one of my heroes in scripture. i believe she will be rewarded for her faithfulness when she stands before God on the day of the Lord because she both believed and obeyed. samuel was an amazing man of God, and it was all because of this woman who cried out until God answered and kept her word even when it hurt. thanks for sharing your take on the story. it is a favorite.

    my recent post starting to feel better

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