A Woman's Worth Is Never Done

Bible Book: 1 Samuel  1
Subject: Mother's Day; Family; Home; Parenting

Superheroes are IN these days—and this is clearly seen in the prevalence of superhero movies. For example, if I count correctly there have been six movies about Superman, seven about Batman, one about Daredevil, two about The Punisher, two about Hulk, four about Spiderman, two about Thor, three about Ironman, and two about Captain America. Last week the 2nd Avengers movie premiered and I understand there are at least two more in the works. There’ve been at least two Wolverine films and I’ve lost count of how many X-men movies have come out. Superhero buffs waiting in line so see these movies often pass the time by debating over which superhero is the most powerful. For example, who would win in a battle between the Hulk and Thor? Who’s faster: Superman or Flash? I understand there is a movie based on a battle between Superman and Batman coming out in a year or so. To me the victor of that match seems pretty much a sure thing but we’ll see!

Now, of course superheroes are works of fiction. There is no such thing as a superhero—or is there? Actually, there IS a true-to-life superhero out there and I’m referring to our moms. I say this because of all the superhuman abilities a typical a mom seems to have. For example, moms are somehow able to do multiple tasks—at the same time—almost like The Flash can with his hyper-speed.  Moms serve as teacher, psychologist, cook, housekeeper, janitor, van driver, grocery shopper, laundry do-er, bill-payer—and that’s just before breakfast. By the way, a survey in 2012 said that if dads had to PAY moms what it would cost to hire all the different people who do all the things they do it would cost $112,962 per year. I think that’s low! Surely it would be much more than that!

Well, believe it or not, science is helping to explain this particular maternal meta-human ability. Studies tell us that in mammals, moms’ caring for their young is associated with improved learning ability. Experiments showed that mother rats outsmart their childless counterparts at navigating mazes and capturing prey. That’s because in pregnant and nursing rats, dendrites, the special cell structures that are necessary for communication between neurons, are doubled.  And glial cells, which are important communication conductors, are also doubled. This is what allows mother rats to learn mazes more quickly than others. Sorry, dads, I have not read anything indicating that fathers experience a similar boost in brainpower.

Mothers have also been known to display “Captain-America-like-bravery.” For example, this week I read about Mary Thomas, single mom of nine children living in Chicago’s rough West Side neighborhood.  Seven of Mary’s nine kids were boys, young men constantly stretching the boundaries of their tired mom’s authority and patience. One day in 1966, Mary opened her front door to find 25 street thugs on her stoop. The men were members of the notorious Vice Lords gang and had come to recruit her seven sons.  Hearing their intentions, Mary dropped her gaze and said “Oh, okay. Hold on just a second.” Then she closed the door. When the door opened again, the first thing the Vice Lords saw was the barrel of a loaded shotgun held by this brave mom.  Mary said, “There’s only one gang around here, and that’s the Thomas gang. So leave. NOW!” They did—and with that same fortitude, Mary Thomas eventually ushered each of her nine “gang members” to their high school graduation and beyond. You may have heard of her youngest son—pro basketball player and Hall of Famer Isaiah Thomas.

So, moms can multi-task as fast as The Flash. They are as brave as Captain America. But perhaps the greatest super power a mom has is their ability as leaders to influence her children.

President Theodore Roosevelt put it this way, “When all is said, it is the mother, who does her part in rearing and training aright the boys and girls—-who are to be the men and women of the next generation—it is she who is of greater use to the community, and occupies, if she would only realize it—a more honorable as well as a more important position than any man in it. She is more important, by far, than the successful statesman, or businessman, or artist, or scientist.” Roosevelt was right—for mothers are indeed the most important—the most powerful people in the world. They should all wear capes for they are the ones—more than anyone else—who mold us in our most “moldable” years—which is why this message fits in nicely with our study of leadership.

Mom’s are powerful leaders—but these days people often either ignore or downplay this fact. Tony Campolo once said, “Too many women are made to feel that they should APOLOGIZE for being mothers or housewives. In reality, such roles can be noble callings. When I was on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania there were gatherings from time to time to which faculty members brought their spouses. Inevitably some woman doctor or sociologist would confront my wife with the question, ‘And what is it that you do, my dear?’ My wife, who has given her life to raise our two sons and who by the way is one of the most brilliantly articulate individuals I know, had a great response. She would say: ‘I am socializing two homo sapiens in the dominant values of the Judeo-Christian tradition in order that they might be instruments for the transformation of the social order into the teleologically prescribed utopia inherent in the Eschaton.’ When she followed that with, ‘And what is it that YOU do?” the other person’s response just wasn’t that overpowering.”

Now—there is certainly nothing wrong with a woman being a doctor or a lawyer or a sociologist—nothing wrong with opting not to have children if that is God’s leading—but women who choose to focus their time and energies being a mother have nothing to be ashamed of.  Mothers are very valuable individuals. Their WORTH is never done! And on this Mother’s day I want us to look at the life of a truly extraordinary mother—a superhero in her own right. Her name was HANNAH, and she was the mother of the prophet Samuel. This Godly woman is first mentioned at the beginning of the book of 1st Samuel—verses that chronicle the time in the history of Israel when the age of the Judges came to an end. You’ll remember that the book of Judges tells of a period of cycles in which the Hebrew people: rebelled against God, began to worship the pagan gods around them—suffered the painful consequences, cried out to God for help, and He responded by sending a judge who would deliver them. For a while they would return to God but when the judge died the people would rebel against God and the cycle would begin all over again. This cycle repeated itself seven times. And—when these seven cycles came to an end, Israel was nothing more than a loosely organized federation of anemic tribal territories—scarcely able to keep the Philistines and other enemies at bay. But as 1st Samuel begins, a NEW era is about to dawn. Judges 17:6 said that “everyone did what was right in their own eyes for Israel HAD NO KING.” Well, in Samuel’s day Israel would GET a king. As I said last week, this nation would become unified under the rule of monarchs like King Saul and King David, and King Solomon.

Our text for today tells the story of the events that led to the birth of the prophet Samuel—the man, who God used—more than any other—to begin this new era in the life of Israel. His father was Elkanah, a name that means “God has created a son” which was tantalizingly prophetic of what was soon to occur in his wife Hannah’s womb. Take your Bibles and let’s read the story of Hannah together. We’ll start with 1st Samuel 1:1.

1 – There was a certain man from Ramathim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 – He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. 3 – Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phineahas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. 4 – Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5 – But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. 6 – And because the Lord had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 – This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8 – Elkanah her husband would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” 9 – Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s temple. 10 – In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord. 11 – 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.” 12 – As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 – Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 – and said to her, “How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine.” 15 – “Not so, my Lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 – Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” 17 – Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him.” 18 – She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something and her face was no longer downcast. 19 – Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. 20 – So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.” 24 – After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. 25 – When they had slaughtered the bull, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 – And she said to him, “As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. 27 – I prayed for this child and the Lord granted me what I asked of him. 28 – So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.

Now—Elkanah must have been a man of some means because he could afford not one but TWO wives—and understand—polygamy was of course not God’s intention—but remember, this was a time when everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes—and Elkanah had apparently yielded to the pressure of the pagan customs around him. This is a good time to point out that the Bible does not white-wash its heroes. It tells not only of their achievements—but of their sin. This is one reason we can trust the Bible—because it holds nothing back. It is God’s Word of TRUTH.

Well, Elkanah’s first wife, Hannah, was his true love but as years passed it became obvious that she was barren. I’m sure this was hard a hard truth for Elkanah and Hannah to embrace because it was the burning desire of every couple in those days to have children—especially male children—so that the family name could go on. In fact, inability to conceive was one of the main reasons husbands back then took a second wife.

Now—I have known several couples who have faced the agony of not being able to have children and no doubt they understand how Hannah must have felt. But what made it even worse for her was the fact that she lived in a culture in which child-bearing was pretty much the sole reason for a woman’s existence. Well, since Hannah was unable to have children, Elkanah took a second wife, named Penninah and she was not barren. In fact she seemed to have a baby every time she turned around. Just as regularly as the seasons there came a new son or daughter into the family so that the house was filled with the laughter of children—but none of them were Hannah’s. The ache in her heart deepened as time went by—-and the final wrench of agony, of course, was that Peninnah could not KEEP QUIET about her FERTILITY. She found a thousand and one ways to remind Hannah of her inadequacy. Penninah taunted Hannah and mocked her and every word was like a knife plunged deeply into the spirit of this Godly woman. I imagine Peninah saying things like, “Oh Hannah, I know you’re disappointed that you haven’t been able to have children, but really dear, it’s a blessing in disguise. I mean, after all, I have so many. I just don’t know how we will feed them!”

Well, three times a year all Israelite men were required to be at the central or most important sanctuary to offer sacrifices in observance of the main religious festivals. These were held at Shiloh—the town where the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant were located. It was about 16 miles east of Elkanah’s home in Ramah. The festival mentioned in the first chapter of 1st Samuel was probably The Feast of the Tabernacles which was celebrated in the fall. Festival celebrations like this were times of rejoicing in God’s blessings, especially that of a bountiful harvest. When Elkanah’s family arrived, he followed the custom of his people and distributed a portion of the sacrificial meat to Peninnah and to each of her children—but he provided Hannah a double portion because of his great love for her. The Scripture tells us that in spite of this favored status, Hannah’s misery continued and peaked while they were at Shiloh for this festival.

In fact, one day while she was fasting and praying for a child—she made a vow to the Lord—that if He would only give her a son, she would give him back to God. Her prayer shows that Hannah knew that Elkanah was not the source of children. God was. She recognized that children are always a gift of God—one of His greatest gifts! Hannah prayed silently—moving only her lips for she wasn’t praying to be heard by men. She was talking with God from the depths of her heart. But this caused Eli, the chief priest at Shiloh, to think she was DRUNK, for prayer in the ancient world was almost always audible. Psalm 3:4 reflects this when it says, “To the Lord I cry ALOUD!” But Eli had misjudged Hannah for she had not been pouring herself a DRINK—far from it. She was pouring her SOUL out to God.  The Bible tells us that God “remembered her” prayer—and in time she conceived and gave birth to a son and this is how Samuel came to be born. His name means, “heard by God.”

Before we go any farther I feel led to say that I realize that God does not always answer the prayers of a barren couple in the way He did Hannah. I know of many couples who have prayed without ceasing that God would open wombs and allow them to have children. And I don’t want to be trite here by claiming to know WHY God doesn’t always answer this prayer. Some commentators on this text say that they believe God sometimes closes the wombs of Godly women—so that they and their husbands will be available to adopt all the orphan children of the world. And there may be some truth in that. I don’t know. But I do know this. God understands the pain we go through and I know He loves us and knows what is best for us. He remembers our prayers—HEARS our prayers—just as He did those of Hannah. There comes a time when in the midst of things we don’t understand we simply have to trust God’s heart—we need to simply trust in His omniscient goodness. That is what Hannah did—for when little Samuel was weaned—which in her day and age would have been when he was anywhere from three and six years old—-she fulfilled her vow and did what must have been a very painful thing. She brought Samuel to the tabernacle at Shiloh to dedicate him to the Lord and left him with Eli to raise as a priest.

And—as I have said—SAMUEL grew up to become one of the most influential leaders in all of Israel’s history. He lived from about 1090B.C. to 1015B.C. and was the greatest Biblical character between Moses and David. Under his leadership Israel renounced idolatry and shook off the yoke of the Philistines. And, I am sure that no one was prouder of his accomplishments than his mother!

So understand—here is a woman whom God used to bring into being a man who became one of the greatest of the prophets of Israel—a man who would be the spiritual guide and mentor of the first two kings of Israel! I’m sure you would agree that when it came to mothering, Hannah did good work! Well, what was it that made her such a good mother? I mean, how do you raise a child like Samuel? I’d like to suggest three very basic things—and this isn’t just for supermoms. It’s for their side-kicks as well. I’m referring to all you super-dads out there.

I. Hannah and Her Husband were Devoted to EACH OTHER

The first thing that I believe made Hannah a great mother was the fact that she and her husband were devoted to EACH OTHER.

I’m saying Hannah and Elkanah obviously enjoyed a great love! Remember? Verse 5 says Elkanah gave Hannah a double portion of meat because of his love for her. I guess back then meat was the “Hallmark Card” of “Mother’s Day!” Anyway, as I read verse 8, I can almost see him coming up behind his weeping wife and putting his arms around her from behind as he draws attention to their great love by saying, “Do I not mean more to you than 10 sons?” Hannah and Elkanah were very devoted to one another. You may ask, “How does that relate to successful parenting? What’s love got to do with it?” Well, the answer is “EVERYTHING!” 

The quality of the love relationship between a husband and wife has a great deal of influence on how our kids turn out. I think this is one reason that in Ephesians 5:28 husbands are COMMANDED to “love their wives” and in Titus 2:4 women are COMMANDED to “love their husbands.” If husbands and wives want to raise children who will grow up to be Godly adults they must OBEY these commands to love each other. And I’m not just talking here about just a FEELING kind of love. I am referring to a love that is VISIBLE in our actions in the way we relate to one another. Remember—as 1st John 3:17 says—we are to love one another, “not with words or tongue but with actions and truth.”

The sad fact is—if there is obvious HOSTILITY between parents it casts a shadow of INSECURITY over any sons or daughters we attempt to raise. But, if on the other hand the husband-wife relationship is strong and amorous—if it is characterized by the kind of noticeable devotion that Hannah and Elkanah had for each other—then it will create a sense of security, peace, and well-being in the lives of our children.

In one of his comedy routines Rodney Dangerfield once said, “My wife and I sleep in separate rooms; we have dinner apart; we take separate vacations. We’re doing everything we can to keep our marriage together.” Well—husbands and wives who are NOT “together” in every sense of the word have a very difficult time raising happy productive children. Children need to understand that mom and dad have something special going. They need to see us hug each other, kiss each other, show affection for one another. This is one thing that tells them that our marriage is solid. When they see that we can love one another in spite of disagreements, then they know that we love them with the same unconditional love. I like how Karen Dockery puts it in her book, “Growing a Family Where People Really Like One Another.” She writes, “Spirituality is showing: LOVE when you feel like attacking, JOY when you’d rather whine, PEACE when you’d rather argue, PATIENCE when you’d rather demand—KINDNESS when you’d rather be cruel.”

Another benefit of this parenting principle is the fact that the way we relate teaches our kids how to relate to others. When a husband and a wife deal with one another in a loving way, then their children are more likely to relate to each other and to their peers throughout life in a loving way.

Remember how lovingly Elkanah treated Hannah? He saw her grief and related to her with gentle empathy. In his actions he showed a love that is “patient and kind.” This is the quality of loving devotion that was shown to Samuel in his formative years. I believe was one of the primary factors that made it possible for him to grow up to become a great man of God.

And that leads me to cite a second thing that contributed to this:

II. Hannah was Devoted to Her SON'S FUTURE.

She wanted God’s best for her little boy and she knew that BEST would be found by him putting himself in the center of God’s will. She understood that God had a special plan for Samuel. After all he was the answer to her prayer—a prayer in which she had devoted Him to God’s service. And—don’t make the mistake of thinking this doesn’t apply to “normal parents” since most children are not the result of God miraculously opening a womb as He did Hannah’s. You see, in the same way Samuel didn’t really belong to Hannah—our children don’t really belong to us. Our kids are given to us for a little while and our job as parents is to prepare them for God’s purposes. And we all have a purpose from God. As Ephesians 2:20 says, “We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

There’s an old song by Bo and Dick Baker called His Way, Mine and the lyrics go like this:

God had a place for every planned creation—a path for every star to go. He drew the course for every river’s journey—now I know He has a way for me. I place my life in the hands of God, those hands so scarred now outstretched for me. Wherever it may be, over land, over sea. May Thy will sublime, O Thou God divine, be mine.

As mothers and fathers we have to parent our children in such a way that they come to say those same words to God, “May Thy will be mine. I want to fulfill Your plan for me God—not my own.” This is important because to ignore God’s plan is like going against our programming.

Now, it was pretty simple for Hannah to know God’s plan for Samuel but what about us? How can we know God’s plan for our own children? Proverbs 22:6 gives us a hint. Do you remember its words? “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” That phrase “the way he should go” literally means, “according to his bent.” And the word “bent” refers to a child’s individual characteristics or talents. These are clues as to God’s purpose for that child’s life. Well, it’s a parent’s task to discover the “bent” of their kids and use that knowledge in their parenting in such a way that their sons and daughters discover and follow God’s plan or purpose. This means parents must take the time and effort to become a student of their child. They must use their eyes and ears to pay close attention to their children so they can discover their unique talents and abilities. As Proverbs 20:11-12 says, “It is by his deeds that a lad distinguishes himself—the hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made both of them.” It takes time and effort to produce children like Samuel. As parents we have a homework assignment from God that will take years to complete. But if we want our kids to turn out right—if we want them to enjoy the life God intended then we have no choice. Charles Swindoll writes, “As a parent, you cannot afford the luxury of simply housing, feeding, clothing, and educating your offspring.”

III. Hannah and Her Husband were Devoted to GOD

Here’s the third thing. Hannah and her husband were devoted to GOD.

Let me put it this way. Hannah and Elkanah not only loved each other. They also loved the Lord.

And—this was also clearly seen in their actions. Look back at verse 3, “This man would go up from his city YEARLY to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh.” Now the word “yearly” doesn’t mean that Hannah and Elkanah only went to worship once a year. As I inferred earlier, it indicates that they attended the festival referred to in verse 3 once a year and probably went a total of at least three times annually—so they could attend the other feasts and worship times held at the temple. And—each time they went it meant a round trip journey by foot of about two to three weeks.  Verse 19 of chapter 2 says that after they gave Samuel to the priest Eli, they continued to make these particular pilgrimages to the temple:  “Each year [Samuel’s] mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice.”

Hannah’s dedication to God was also seen her prayer life. She prayed for a son and when God answered, she responded with a prayer of thanks, which is found in chapter 2. This prayer apparently became well-known among the Jewish nation—for Mary, the mother of Jesus seems to have patterned her own prayer of thanks after these words of Hannah. I’m saying that Hannah and Elkanah had a faith in God that was deeply felt, genuinely believed, and clearly expressed in the actions of their lives. And—again you might ask, “What does this have to do with parenting?” And again I would reply, “Everything!”—because the quality of the relationship we have with God will influence our children’s spiritual development. You see our kids are watching. They are looking to see if God is indeed real to us. They notice how much we pray. They see how often we apply the teachings of the Bible to our daily life.

Paul Harvey once said, “If you don’t live it, you don’t believe it.” And—while some might say that statement was too harsh….here’s a statement that is more difficult to debate: “If you don’t live it, your CHILDREN won’t believe it.” If you want your kids to believe in God and live in ways that please Him—then you have to do so as well. Having a deep faith in God is not enough. We must also model it.

There were once some gold prospectors back in the days of the old west who discovered an exceptionally rich mine. One of them said, “Hey, we’ve got it made as long as we don’t’ tell anybody else before we stake our claims.” So they each vowed to keep the secret. Well, when they ran out of provisions, they headed for town. After buying all the supplies they needed, they hurried back to the mine site. But they weren’t alone. A crowd of people followed them, because their discovery was written all over their faces. You see, what happens on the inside shows on the outside! So the question for us as parents is this: are we letting show on the OUTSIDE what God has done on the INSIDE?

Telling our kids to pray is not enough. We must pray with them. Telling our kids to read the Bible is insufficient. We must read it with them and talk to them about how its principles apply to our lives. This is what Deuteronomy 6:7 is referring to when it says that we are to teach our children God’s commands, “when we sit at home and when we walk along the road, when we lie down and when we get up.” You see we are not always going to have our kids. The day will come all too quickly when they will be out on their own. Hannah certainly discovered this. She only had a few years with her son. So while we have them with us, we need to show them how important it is to us know God personally.

A man once told the noted English poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge that he didn’t believe in giving children any religious education. The man said he didn’t want to influence his child on this issue in one direction or another. Coleridge then invited the man to go outside with him and look at his garden which was overgrown with weeds. Surprised at the condition of the garden, the man said to Coleridge, “Why this is not a garden! There is nothing growing here but weeds!” Coleridge responded that this was his intent. He did not want anything to influence his garden in any way. He said, “I was gust giving the garden a chance to express itself and make up its own mind how and what to grow.” Coleridge was inferring that we risk raising “weeds” for children when we don’t take advantage of the early years in which they are most open to understanding Who God is.


You know, we all want the best for our children. In fact we’re willing to sacrifice so that they will have it. We want to give them the best homes, the best clothes, the best vacations—the best education. But if we give them all of this and do not guide them into a love relationship with God we have really given them nothing. On the other hand, if we give them a relationship with God and nothing else, we have really given them everything! The very best thing we can give our sons and daughters is a personal faith in God. AND it’s the best thing we can give ourselves. This brings to mind two questions: are you running your family in such a way that you can give your kids God’s best? And do you have it yourself?  Do you know God personally? A personal relationship with God only comes through Jesus Christ. And if you’re here this morning and have never committed your life to Jesus I encourage you to do so and to walk to the front and share that commitment with me or Bobby or Kevin. Others of may need to make private commitments to God pledging to enrich their marriages or deepen their walk with God so that their children can find God’s best. You may be here and feel that God is leading you or your family to join this church. We’ll be standing here at the front and would encourage you to walk the aisle and share your decisions with us. Won’t you come as we sing?