1 Samuel 2:18-21
“But Samuel was ministering before the LORD—a boy wearing a linen ephod. Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, ‘May the LORD give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the LORD.’ Then they would go home. And the LORD was gracious to Hannah; she birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the LORD.”
During the Covid-19 pandemic, with no sports on television to watch, I checked out the ESPN special about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls run of 6 NBA championships in 8 years back during the 1990’s. It was entitled ‘The Last Dance.’ I wasn’t a big Bulls or Jordan fan (and they included some pretty raunchy stuff!), but the storyline interested me as a sports fan. One particular exchange caught my attention just before Mother’s Day. Michael Jordan had just been drafted by the Chicago Bulls. He hadn’t played in a single game yet. And the Nike shoe company invited him to their headquarters to talk about endorsing their shoes. Nike was just a runner’s shoe in those days, not the mega sporting goods outfit we know today. The big shoe companies that interested professional basketball stars were Converse and Adidas. So, MJ didn’t even want to go meet with the Nike team. But his mother, who was a fairly savvy businesswoman, told him he should go and, at least, listen to their offer. Jordan said he wasn’t going. He recalled with a smile, ‘My mother told me you’re getting on that plane and you’re going.’ So, Michael Jordan went and met with the Nike leaders. Turns out it was a wise decision. Nike, with the help of stars like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods became a huge sports conglomerate. And since 1984 Michael Jordan has earned over $1.3 billion dollars in endorsements from Nike. The message is clear. Always listen to your mother….it may put a few more bucks in your pocket!
A mother’s wisdom should be heeded! In fact, there is much that can be learned about building healthy and satisfying relationships from good and godly mothers. In this chapter we’re going to focus on the lessons that can be gleaned from an Old Testament mother named Hannah. She was the mother of Samuel, a great leader in Israel during the period of the Judges. Hannah understood the highs and lows of faith and motherhood. And she points us toward two additional traits which help us to develop the kind of relationships God created us to enjoy.
Let’s begin with Hannah’s longing to be a mother. 1 Samuel 1 relates that she was one of two wives of Elkanah, an Israelite man from the tribe of Ephraim. That’s not the start we were expecting, huh? Two wives? Why would Elkanah go there? Perhaps because Jacob (Israel), one of the founding fathers of Israel, had two wives? (If you’re wondering how that happened check out Genesis 29) Or maybe because the period of the Judges recounts a time when the Israelites weren’t exactly holding fast to the law of God? As Judges 21:25 described it, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” The bottom-line is that sinful and fallen people are all God has had to work with since the Garden of Eden, so he leads us from where we have wandered to where he wants us to be. So, Elkanah had two wives and Hannah was one of them. His other wife, Penninah, was a baby factory. She ‘had children, but Hannah had none.’ (vs.2) She tormented Hannah with that painful reality. On one of their trips to Shiloh (where the Tabernacle was located) to worship, after they ate, Hannah stood to the side of the Tabernacle praying. She vowed to God that if he would just give her a son, she would give him back to the LORD to serve him all the days of his life! (vs.11) She was in such deep anguish over her situation that her lips were moving but no sound was coming out of her mouth. Eli, the high priest in Israel at that time, was sitting on his chair near the door of the Tabernacle, and he saw Hannah weeping and praying. But she appeared to him as a woman who had had too much to drink. So, he rebuked her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.” Hannah replied, “Not so, my lord. 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.” Eli, duly corrected and moved by her faith replied, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” Hannah went home encouraged and sure enough she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, which means ‘heard by God.’ And after she weaned him, she took Samuel to Eli, at the Tabernacle in Shiloh, and Samuel served the LORD for the rest of his life as a leader in Israel. Quite a sacrifice! But it was good for Samuel. He was raised by a grandfather figure to know and serve the LORD instead of being raised in a divided home where faith was not as significant. And it was good for Israel. After the death of Eli and his wicked sons (1 Samuel 4) Israel needed a devout leader like Samuel! In her love and kindness and grace each year Hannah made a new robe for Samuel and took it to him and we can be sure she prayed for him every night and day!
Can we spend a moment thinking about God and motherhood/femininity? Jesus told us to address God as our ‘heavenly Father.’ (Matthew 6:9) So, we tend to view God in masculine terms. But God created humanity, in his image, male and female. When we experience our earthly fathers’ strength, through their protection, provision, and discipline, we are seeing a reflection of who God is and what he is like.
But the same is true of mothers. God created femininity and motherhood. When we experience our mother’s loving and tender care, we are seeing a reflection of the love and grace and kindness which are the heart of God! God is our Father with the love, grace, and kindness of a mother. (Isaiah 66:13)
God’s grace and kindness are key elements for building healthy and satisfying relationships. Think of a relationship in anatomical terms. Humility is the feet (foundation) of a healthy relationship. Respect is the spine (it enables us to deal with each other face to face) of a satisfying relationship. Grace and kindness are the arms (they enable us to hug each other) of healthy and satisfying relationships.
Grace is favor. God’s amazing grace (Ephesians 2:8, 9) is the undeserved favor he gives to fallen and sinful people like us. He always treats us better than we deserve. Moms do that too! They favor their children. They treat us better than we deserve to be treated. If you think back on the days of your childhood you, no doubt, remember times your mother did things to favor you….to make you feel so special! She made sure special foods were prepared, parties were planned, excursions were hosted, and that you had what you needed when you needed it! Moms, like God, are amazing in their grace!
Do you treat the people God has placed in your life better than they deserve to be treated? Or do you simply do for them what is expected….just maintaining the status quo? When you are rudely greeted with a healthy dose of attitude, do you respond with a smile and favorable word? Do you go out of your way to please one who is hungering for your affirmation? When we grace each other, when we favor each other, when we treat each other better than we deserve to be treated we take those relationships to a whole new level.
Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. God and moms are all of that and so much more! Considerate of our wants and needs. So generous with their time and attention. Friendly, in terms of, doing so many little things to make our lives more satisfying and successful. There seemed to be no end to the kind gestures my mom showered upon me. As a child, I don’t think I appreciated her as I should have. But when I saw Joni pour out that level of kindness on our children, I realized and appreciated how far she had gone above and beyond the call of duty. When we treat each other (your spouse, your child, your friends, your church family, your neighbors, etc.) with godly kindness, like our moms showered on us, those relationships are full of hugs and joy and satisfaction.
One of my core memories of Joni and the kids occurred in the first year we were serving at Concord Christian Church in North Carolina. Lindsay was 4 and Garrett was 3. I came home from an elders meeting with good news. We had gotten a big raise and were going to be able to survive financially. I walked into our home and the kids were playing in the dining room (in which we had only an old couch tucked against the back wall). I was not only a poor preacher; we literally had no money. Lindsay and Garrett were ‘skating’ on a floor covered with old newspapers wearing shoe box skates. They were having the time of their lives. Joni sat there taking pictures and just drinking in the moment. She was full of grace and kindness and our home was full of joy! It’s a memory that always brings a smile to my face.
Healthy and satisfying relationships are developed as we shower each other with the grace and kindness of a mother, that comes from the heart of God. Hug someone you care about today by treating them better than they deserve and by being considerate and generous. God does that for you every day!