The sweet story of Hannah and Elkanah comes next before us. There is peculiar comfort to a parent’s heart in this Mother’s faith. You remember Hannah was so grieved over her adversary’s vexatious teasing, because she had no son, that she could not even eat. She did the right thing, the very best thing she could have done; she took it to the Lord in prayer. And this, the most obvious thing for a Christian parent to do, is often just where we fail. The children vex us, our friends vex us with criticism and comparisons. Our relations vex us, often well meant advice, that does not in the least understand the real conditions. How often we let these things vex us, like Hannah did, so that we can hardly eat. Let us follow her example and take it all to the Lord in prayer. It was not entirely easy, there were trials, one might almost say opposition and criticism, from the one who ought to have given help and sympathy; but that only served on the one hand to impress that day’s prayer the more deeply on the heart of the sorrowing woman and the old priest; and on the other hand, to draw from Eli himself that wonderful benediction: “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition which thou hast asked of Him.” How deep the comfort and consolation of these words to that wounded heart we may judge by the fact that several years later she herself uses almost these very words.
And now: Notice what happens: her countenance is no more sad. That is the true result of prayer. As we pour out our complaint, and roll our burden on the Lord, He lifts the burden, and our sorrow and vexation is turned to peace that passeth all understanding. “In every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God, and the peach of God that passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” So was it with Hannah, and that incomprehensible Peace did keep her soul, and change her countenance. It reminds us of our own blessed Lord. “As He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered.” I know the meaning is entirely different, and the circumstances of a special and extraordinary character; but in a certain sense it is true even of us, in our own prayer: as we pray, really pray, the fashion of our countenance is altered.
And now, some years later, when the child is weaned, she takes him up to the Tabernacle to old Eli, the one whose words had wrought such comfort to her embittered soul. “For this boy I prayed”, she says, “and Jehovah has granted me my petition which I asked of Him.” (New Translation.)
How many a Mother and Father can echo those words, “For this boy I prayed!” How often the boys (and the girls, too) bring us to our knees! Be not discouraged Father, Mother, the Lord does hear as you ask for that boy. Go on praying for him, and, “Go in peace, and may God grant thee thy petition which thou hast asked of Him.”
But thee is another lesson for us parents to learn from Hannah. She gave up her claim on her boy, and loaned him to the Lord as long as he lived. Surely this is the right way for each of us. Another mother in later years, wrote:
“Joyfully, gladly, my son I give to Thee;
And still I deem him Thy choice gift to me,
What Thou hast given, with joy, I give again,
And yet what pain in joy, and joy in pain.”
May God help every one of us parents to hold the children God has given us, as the most sacred trust which it is possible for God to put into our keeping. Some are “stewards” of the Lord’s goods, but how much heavier a responsibility to be put in trust with precious, never dying souls, to train and prepare for Himself and His service!
And there is only one right way to do this. These precious gifts must be given back, “loaned” (see New Translation) “to the Lord” as long as they live. (Notice, also, the marginal reading of I Samuel 1:28, in our ordinary English Bible,) –and then, as we realize Whose they are, not only will we realize more solemnly our responsibility, but we will also know more deeply the One Who is ready and willing to give the infinite grace, patience and wisdom that are required to train them for Himself. Notice, too, that the parents “Slew a bullock and brought the child to Eli.” We can only give our children back to the Lord through death, an acknowledgment that they only deserve death, but that Another died for them.
And it is well for us to remember that when we loan them to the Lord, the Lord accepts the loan, and from that day and onward they are His. Hannah did not go, after a few months, and bring her boy home again to have him with her for a while. It was a definite transaction that she carried out with the Lord in all seriousness, and the Lord accepted her loan. Too often we are apt to forget this, and act as if those children loaned to the Lord were our own, and we train them for their own profit, or for ourselves, or the world, and not for Him to Whom alone they belong.
Thine, Savior, Thine,
No more this child of mine
Belongs to me, but loaned to Thee,
Is Thine for aye, Henceforth to stay
As wholly Thine.