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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The priority of parents – spiritual instruction of young children (1 Samuel 1:1-28)

Hannah had to make sacrifices in order to experience the Lord’s blessing. The blessing came her way because she had to experience the dark valley of trouble before she knew the refreshing waters of rest. But once the child was born she had to continue to make sacrifices for the benefit of the child. The one that is mentioned here is being unable to take part in the annual pilgrimage to the tabernacle. In this situation it would not have been appropriate for Elkanah to stay at home because he had responsibilities towards his other children who were old enough to go to the tabernacle.  

First, it is important to note that Hannah’s decision was voluntary, no-one compelled her to do it. But she took seriously her role as Samuel’s mother. She knew she had a few brief years in which to teach him what she could before his instruction would be taken over by Eli. The passage is suggesting that involvement in teaching a child spiritual truths is the priority of parents. But the lesson is that parents should not put their own spiritual highs above the responsibility to teach their children when they are young.  

One of the best ways to appreciate how this can be done is through reading biographies of Christians, because in such books we can learn from others who have passed this stage of life. I have been reading the biography of Nate Saint, one of the Ecuador martyrs. One of the impressive features of the book is the commitment of his parents. His father was an accomplished artist and designer, with one of his achievements being the production of the stained glass windows of Washington Cathedral. His mother was also an accomplished person, fluent in different languages and possessed considerable ability in writing poetry. But what the book tells us about them is the intense care they gave to the spiritual needs of their children when they were very young. They had eight children, three of whom became missionaries and one a preacher, and the other four were believers as well. 

Second, Hannah’s presentation of Samuel reminds us that we should keep promises that we make to God. A vow is a serious matter, and the writer of Ecclesiastes (5:4-6) reminds us concerning them. The danger of a vow is obvious, but what are the benefits of making a vow? A vow is a means of retaining spiritual direction, as we can see from the one made by Jacob (Gen. 28:20-22). And this was also the case with Hannah. 

Third, this occasion reminds us of the privilege of presenting one’s child to the Lord. Very few of us would be required to do in a literal sense what Hannah did. But I think there is an important principle here that those of us who have young children can take hold of: God gave the child to Hannah and Hannah gave the child to the Lord. How can we today present our children to the Lord? One obvious way is baptism. Another way of presentation to the Lord is prayer. I suspect Hannah prayed for Samuel many times a day. This should have practical features to it.

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