May 24, 2020
Pastor John Hering
21 When this man Elkanah and his entire household went up to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, 22 Hannah did not go up with them, because she said to her husband, “Not until the child is weaned. Then I will bring him, so that he can appear before the Lord and remain there permanently.”
23 Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Do whatever you think is best. Wait until you have weaned him. Yes, then the Lord will establish his word.”
So the woman stayed at home, and she nursed her son until she was ready to wean him. 24 When she had weaned him, she took him up with her. She also took a three-year-old bull, twenty-five pounds of flour, and a container of wine, and she brought him to the House of the Lord in Shiloh. The boy was with them. And they brought him before the Lord, and his father killed the sacrifice as he regularly did before the Lord, and he brought the boy. 25 When they had killed the bull, they presented the child to Eli. 26 She said, “Excuse me, my lord. As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood here next to you, praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked for. 28 So now I have also dedicated him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is dedicated to the Lord.” So he worshipped the Lord there.1 Samuel 1:21-28
Two weeks ago the Pastors of the South Central District held their spring conference using Zoom. One of the topics presented was the change of the WELS pension plan and one of the questions that came up was this: Are you making enough contributions to your 401(k) or IRA so you can have enough income in retirement? Maybe you’ve made some plans for the day you die where you’d like your accumulated assets to go. Some people set aside an amount for the church and for their kids. Or maybe you’re living out the bumper sticker on the RV that says, “We’re spending our kid’s inheritance!” How much should you save? How young should you start? There are probably as many answers to these questions as there are money managers.
Today in 1 Samuel we hear about Elkanah and Hannah. They were preparing for their future with kids. But, they didn’t have any yet. As time went by Hannah fell into a bit of a depression for two reasons. 1) She was childless. 2) Another woman in the story, “…kept taunting her to make her miserable” (vs 6). This was going on day after day, year after year! Hannah soaked her pillow with tears. She had no appetite, no hope, no future. Finally, at one of the annual festivals at the temple, she left her lamb chop on the table, went out behind the tent and fell to her knees, “11 She made a vow and said, “O Lord of Armies, if you will carefully consider the misery of your servant and remember me, and if you do not forget your servant but give your servant a male child, …. 12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli was looking at her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking silently from her heart. Although her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to be drunk? Get away from your wine!” (11-14). Hannah then explained her trouble to Eli and he backed off and offered a blessing, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel give you what you have asked for” (17). For the first time in years she was beaming with joy, confident of her future because she understood his blessing to be God’s promise of a child. Then Hannah made her own promise to the Lord: If you “remember me, and if you do not forget your servant but give your servant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life” (11). That was no rash promise. Hannah knew what she was doing because that child was tied to her future. That brings us to the lesson for us to take home from today’s message:
God Makes The Future Secure!
For the OT people of Israel, planning for the future revolved around having children. It wasn’t about having kids to work the fields, or to carry on the family name out of a sense of pride, or even to have the joy of parenting. Their main hope was to have a child, yes, THE CHILD that was the promises Messiah and Savior of all mankind! Every Israelite baby was tied to that promise. Every baby born made the nation larger and stronger. Each child was treasured to guard and to share the promise. All the tribes, clans, families and babies were leading to the birth of the most important Israelite baby, the one born in Bethlehem.
You can see why the future was bleak for Hannah. Without a child her family would die out, her connection to and contribution to the future of her nation would die out. That was the setting “21 When this man Elkanah and his entire household went up to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow.” This was a big deal. You might not think so because it is our custom to go to church (or watch on line) every Sunday. How can Elkanah taking his family to an annual festival be so important? The next chapters tell us. The Word of the Lord was rare in those days. There were no prophets, no preachers, no teachers proclaiming God’s promises. Hardly anyone made the trip even for the annual sacrifices. Makes we wonder if Elkanah and his family stood out, maybe taking flack for being “church people” or “Bible thumpers”? Makes we wonder, if the tabernacle was packed like it should have been with worshipers, would Eli have even noticed Hannah silently praying off by herself? If the place was empty and Hannah was all by herself praying think of how she must have felt, not just childless but in practicing all alone what she believed. It must have been a struggle for her to cling to God’s promises.
But this was a spiritual family. Worship was special. Sacrifices were meaningful. And their dedication to their son and their family was not skimpy. They were convinced that clinging to God’s promises were worth it. They believed in the forgiveness of sins through the promises of the Messiah. The child they expected tied them to God’s promises to make their future secure.
I have to say something about babies. Listen: “21 When this man Elkanah and his entire household went up to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, 22 Hannah did not go up with them, because she said to her husband, “Not until the child is weaned.” Now, don’t use this passage to tell parents not to bring their small, noisy babies to church. We want everyone to bring their babies to worship. Yes, they can get a little bit squirmy and even noisy at times and it might distract us for a second or two. But, what’s the alternative? No babies? Then we’d begin to worry about the future of our church! But, we would never say that babies born today are the guarantee of our future in heaven. Lots of couples don’t have children and there are lots of single people too. There was only one baby born that made our eternal life secure. That baby Jesus grew up, lived a perfect life, died on the cross, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven for us all. God made our future secure through Jesus.
Compare that with your life today. What are you doing to make your life secure through Jesus. I’m not saying that it’s your job to help God make your future secure, or thinking that God won’t keep his promises. I’m saying compare the time you spend in God’s Word to the time and effort you put into your 401(k) or IRA? How much time do we spend on homes, family gatherings, eagerly awaiting sporting events compared to our effort to keep our life secure in Jesus? For those sins we repent and trust in God’s forgiveness. Then let’s turn again to God’s promises as we anticipate the joyful future that God Made Secure for you. Then being secure in our future, God uses us to make the future secure
Elkanah and Hannah must have been so happy to have their child. As the child grew they were getting closer to the day of fulfilling their promises: “23 Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Do whatever you think is best. Wait until you have weaned him. Yes, then the Lord will establish his word.” You parents know what it’s like to send your children off to kindergarten, some off to High School or College, some off to their new life as a married couple, and some to send their children off to serve in the military. I’ve told a few parents, “Get ready! That day won’t be easy!” I’m telling you that you can make plans for that day all you want, but once the plan is set and you prepare for that day, it will be tough. We sent 4 kids off to high school and the last one was the toughest! There were tears from leaving the parking lot of LPS all the way through Illinois driving home! But, imagine sending your child away as age 5 or 6! That’s Hannah. God gave her a baby to hold, then to watch roll over, then crawl, walk, talk, climb stairs, furniture, run, play patty-cake and bonding with her son, only to keep her promise, “Then I will bring him, so that he can appear before the Lord and remain there permanently.” Oh, the dedication of this godly family! Then the time came, “24 When she had weaned him, she took him up with her. She also took a three-year-old bull, twenty-five pounds of flour, and a container of wine, and she brought him to the House of the Lord in Shiloh. The boy was with them.” Talk about the cost of tuition!
Were they crazy? Were they nuts? Who would give away a child like that? Hannah and her husband would. Why? They saw the big picture. “26 She said, “Excuse me, my lord. As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood here next to you, praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked for. 28 So now I have also dedicated him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is dedicated to the Lord.” They trusted in the future promised by God to them and to all people. They were confident that the Lord would bring about the salvation of the world through a special child. Perhaps their child would be used by God to bring many more of their neighbors into a relationship with the Lord God once again. Perhaps God would make the future secure for others through them. And God did just that!
It wasn’t all fun and games for Samuel. He wasn’t just leaving a godly family to live in the temple, but he was going to live in the temple under Eli the priest! Surely he was treated well and learned well, but he had to watch as Eli failed to properly parent his own sons, Hophni and Phinehas. Yet, there is a phrase at the end of today’s word that we dare not overlook. “So he worshipped the Lord there.” That sums up the wonderful training Samuel received at home and at the House of the Lord. Do you know how this all paid off? Samuel became the spiritual leader of the entire nation as prophet, priest and ruler in Israel at a time when they desperately needed it. And in this three-fold office who do we get a picture of? Jesus! Jesus- our Prophet, Priest and King who has secured our future, and through us sharing Jesus with others—a secure future for them.
Now, at this point of the sermon I’m not saying that you parents need to send your children off to school to become pastors and teachers. But, with over 100 pastoral vacancies and only 23 seminary graduates, with over 167 teacher requests and only 98 positions filled, yes, in this time of shortages we need to encourage our youth to consider full time work in the church. I am going to say that we need to continue to prepare all families to be the royal priesthood of believers, ready at all times to give a reason for the hope that we have in Jesus. Our role as Jesus’ church is to be his witnesses to everyone. Jesus has secured our future! And to think that God uses sinners like us to make the future secure for others! Waylon and Willie sang, “Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys!” I’m not sure if that’s good advice or not. But, let me encourage you, “Do let your babies grow up to be like Samuel!” They may not make the Fortune 500, but passing the truth of God’s Word on to the next generation is priceless! Our world needs doctors, and lawyers, and such….nurses, technicians, accountants, cabinet-makers and CEOs who know and believe in Jesus who made our future secure.
I’m not a retirement advisor. But, I do think it is good common sense to do what a very wise man once told me: “If you begin doing this today and do it the rest of your life, you’ll be fine. Give the first 10% to God. Save the next 10% for your retirement. And use the rest to serve God with your life.” I can’t promise you that his formula will make your future secure. But, there is something I can tell you that will make your future secure in heaven. God Made Your Future Secure in Jesus who died, rose and ascended into heaven. Believe it. Jesus endured the cross to bring us glory. God made your future secure in Jesus. And Share Jesus with others so they can have a secure future, too. Amen!