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Dedicating Your Best!

1 Samuel 1: 11

I'm not sure I fully comprehended the gospel message until I became a parent.
Would you ever entertain the thought of permitting your child to suffer for someone else's sake.
Of course not!

Your child is the best that life has to offer, and is a part of you.
Being a parent should cause us to be amazed that God would allow -- even give
-- His only Son to suffer and die for our sins.

In many ways, the story of Hannah and her son, Samuel, is a type of the gospel.
For Hannah chose to relinquish her only son to God's service before Samuel was even conceived.
Her dedication to the Lord was accentuated by the fact that Samuel was the son
she had pleaded to God for after many years of being barren.

We wonder where she found the inner strength to part with a son she had longed for.
And it's amazing to think that she parted with him the first day she felt he could survive without her.
The story of this woman, who dedicated her best to God, is found in 1 Samuel 1-2.

What woman would feel elated if her husband introduced her to his business associates
as his "favorite wife"?
Would such a complement evoke only a blushing protest from his wife?
In most households that remark would trigger a summons to a divorce court.

Yet, the title "favorite wife" was the dubious honor that Hannah enjoyed
as the first -- but barren -- wife of Elkanah, the Ephraimite.
Although bigamy was not sanctioned by God, the Hebrew husband of an infertile wife
often took a second wife in order to bear sons to protect his posterity.

This practice was especially prevalent during Hannah's time.
This was a lawless time of the judges when "everyone did what was right in his own eyes."
(Judges 21:25)

Hannah was a woman with thoughts and feelings.
Although the Bible does not tell us what she looked like, it does tell us that she was
very unhappy because she was barren.

I wonder how Hannah felt the day that Elkanah decided to take another wife to make up for her inability.
When Hannah learned of this decision, did she cry herself to sleep that night,
or did she just step out into the night tempted never to return home.

The Scripture says that Hannah's "rival" would provoke her
especially on their annual trip to Shiloh to make sacrifices to her Lord.

"Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the Lord
had closed her womb.
And it happened year after year, as often as she went up to the house of the Lord,
she would provoke her, so she wept and would not eat
." (1 Samuel: 6-7)
Hannah must have dreaded those trips!

During those times, her thoughts probably turned to the Lord, and she may have wondered why
He had chosen this plan for her life.
Hadn't she been faithful to Him throughout her lifetime?
Wasn't God a rewarder of the righteous?

And as she thought about her predicament and meditated upon God's promises,
she became more and more determined to ask God again for a son who would fulfill
her hearts deepest desire.
She determined that it will be different this year in Shiloh.
In 1 Samuel 1: 8-10, we see that it was not enough for Hannah to be Elkanah's "favorite wife,"
she desired to have a child of her own:

"Then Elkanah, her husband, said to her, 'Hannah, why do you weep, and why do you not eat,
and why it is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than 10 sons.'

Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh.
Now Eli, the priest, was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the Lord.
And she, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly

Hannah's barren womb had created a barren life.
She longed to rejoice with the psalmist who declared:
"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness
of the Lord in the land of living
." (Psalm 27: 13)

As a woman of faith, Hannah believed God's promises about the afterlife,
but she wanted some reward and fulfillment in her earthly life as well.
She desired to touch the tiny fingers and kiss the soft face of a baby -- her baby.
What could be more natural than that of a woman to desire a child?

In Hannah's day, the absence of children was considered a curse.
The way that Hannah turned to the Lord to fulfill her desire is significant.

She did not approach God in the bored, mindless way that a present-day believer might offer
a prayer during a prayer meeting:
"Oh Lord, (yawn) please bless my dog, the preacher,
and all others who are tired, and have allergies, etc."
(or by the way, Lord...)

Instead, she approached God with weeping and with such torment of soul that only her lips moved,
causing Eli, the priest, to accuse her of being drunk!
Notice also, the vow accompanying her request.
She desired a son, so strongly, that she was willing to give him to someone else to raise.

Before he was conceived, she dedicated him to the Lord:
"She made a vow and said, 'Oh Lord of hosts, if Thou wilt indeed look on the affliction
of Thy maidservant, but wilt give Thy maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord
all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.
(1 Samuel 1: 11)

When you read these verses, you marvel at Hannah's faith.
Not only did she turned him over to the priests of Shiloh once he was weaned,
but she also limited her "visitation rights" to several times a year
when the family journeyed to Shiloh.

Can you imagine seeing your preschooler only several times a year because of a limitation
you had prescribed?
You would have to miss all of his "firsts" -- his first day of school,
his first bicycle, his first...

How could Hannah bear such a sacrifice?
Hannah's sacrifice was the result of her strong faith in the sovereignty of God,
as expressed in her song of praise which is recorded in 1 Samuel 2: 10.
The timing of this praise prayer is just as significant as the content.

She expressed her faith in God after she relinquished her son to God.
Hannah offered one of the most beautiful poems of thanksgiving
after she relinquished her child.
In this song of praise, we understand that Hannah trusted God with her son,
because she understood the character of God.

At the beginning of the song, we hear her joyous attitude in the words:
"My heart exults in the Lord." (1 Samuel 2: 1)

Hannah then delineated the attributes of God. Not only had the Lord demonstrated His power in her life, but also God was in control of every life.
(1 Samuel 2: 6-8)

Finally, Hannah warned of God's judgment of the wicked, in contrast to His preservation of the godly:
"He keeps the feet of His godly ones, but the wicked ones are silenced in darkness."
(1 Samuel 2: 9)

What did that have to do with her son, Samuel, who was to be raised in the household of Eli, the priest?
Eli was old and blind.
Furthermore, his sons, Hopni and Phineas, were reprobates -- keeping company with the prostitutes of Shiloh.

It was not a very good environment for an infant!
Yet, Hannah believed that the Lord, who "keeps the feet of His godly ones,"
would be able to keep Samuel from harm in her absence.
And that is exactly what happened.

The Bible says during that time:
"Samuel grew and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground."
(1 Samuel 3: 19)

In looking at the life of Hannah, we see three truths about worshiping God.

Worshiping God involves giving.

In 1 Samuel 1: 3 we notice that Elkanah went to Shiloh yearly "to worship and to sacrifice."
There is an inseparable link between worship and sacrifice. That sacrifice may be our money, our time, or our obedience.

Worshiping God involves giving our best.

God is not interested in our leftovers.
"If I have any money left at the end of the month, I'll give it to God."
Or, "If I have time, I'll pray and read God's Word."

God demands the "firstfruits" of our money, time, and our affections.
David said, "I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing."
(2 Samuel 24: 24)

For Hannah, giving her best meant giving her son to God.

Worshiping God involves giving our best unconditionally.
Today, we have many false teachers who say, "If you give to God, He will reward you tenfold!"
In other words, if I give my money to God, He will give it back with interest.
If that is true, my gift to God is not a sacrifice, but simply a good investment.

When we give sacrificially to God, we give with no strings attached.
For example, if you give a relationship to God, it means you have no expectations.
If God wants to bless it, fine.
But if He wants to end it, that's all right, too.

Does God reward us for our sacrifices?
Yes, but it is not always in the way we imagine.

Hannah gave Samuel to God with the full expectation that he would belong to the priestly service forever.
And he did.

But God rewarded Hannah by giving her five other children!

Giving her son to the Lord marked a crossroad in Hannah's life.
She could have continued weeping about her lot in life, failing to trust God with her circumstances.
Instead, she chose to give up something that she had not yet received from the Lord.
As a result of her faith, Hannah received a son who was destined to usher in a new,
more God-fearing era in Israel's history.

You may be facing a crossroad experience today.

There may be something you have refused to give to the Lord for fear of what might happen
-- to your business, your family, your friends for your possessions.

If so, there is some encouragement for you in the story of Hannah.
Her life demonstrates the truth that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at