“Making a vow, she pleaded, “Lord of Hosts, if you will notice of Your servant’s affliction, remember and not forget me, and give me a son, I will give him back to the Lord all the days of his life, and his hair will never be cut.”
1 Samuel 1: 11
Someone recently asked me how was it that I was able to get through it all, the years of infertility and a miscarriage. I think they wanted a word or some anecdotal piece of advice. The truth of it is this, I got through it one day at a time. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and I relentlessly pursued my hope of having children one day. That was what kept me going, it was also my ultimate undoing and thankfully was what released me into the fullness of what God had for me.
I did whatever I could do with the help of modern medicine. I looked to doctors and tests to explain it, to fix it, to make me less barren. I wanted to push the testing envelope and go further to satisfy a means to the end of the loneliness I was feeling. To fill the empty rooms of our home. I did, I sought, I read, I searched, I inquired. I.I.I.I… Until I gave up. Sure I mixed in prayers… before any exam. Before I’d retreat into the restroom with a white test stick. Before reading the results of the minus sign. I prayed for answers that were my desires. I didn’t turn my heart to His desires, His will, I never recognized the Author and Finisher of life for His role in it.
That is where Hannah had faith more than my own, at least until I couldn’t handle the sorrow anymore and prayed the prayer as she did, after the failed pregnancy of my first child. I literally begged Him to take away any desires I had for children if they weren’t from Him. I told Him I could no longer seek test after test for another 10 years, I told Him to do what He wanted with the situation, only take the desire away if it was not of Him. I relinquished my will to Him. I gave up my control, which I understand now, is all He wanted of me, to begin with.
When I first read the story of Hannah and her empty womb, the kinship from understanding her sorrow gripped me. I can remember thinking, “Yes, this is how it feels.” Knowing the desperation, being broken when other women were bearing children. Pleading with God and making a pact with Him. That’s what I did… God, I will raise them to know You, to follow You, to be mighty warriors in Your army for Your Kingdom. I still pray that over them and with them today.
“God, watch over them, keep them, and when they stray let it never be too far from You so that when they grow older they become mighty warriors in Your army.”
I could identify with Hannah. I thought her words were strange, “and his hair will never be cut.” many times I passed over that. I could do everything she prayed, I could give them back to Him, I could make sure they were raised to know Him all the days of their life… but maybe, just maybe the razor haircut was something “Old Testement-y” that didn’t matter so much in this day and age.
Only recently have I begun to have an understanding of what this actually means and how deep her faith went, how serious she took what she was saying.
Hannah had just taken the vow to raise her son as a Nazirite, taking a Nazirite vow. In Numbers 6:2-6 we see this, the Lord instructs Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When a man or a woman makes a special vow, a Nazirite vow, to consecrate himself to the Lord, he is to abstain from wine and beer. He must not drink vinegar made from wine or from beer. He must not drink any grape juice or eat flesh from grapes or raisins. He is not to eat anything produced by the grapevine, from seeds to skin, during his vow. You must not cut his hair throughout the time of his vow of consecration. He must be holy until the time is completed during which time he consecrates himself to the Lord; he has to let the hair on his head grow long. He must not go near a dead body during the time he consecrates himself to the Lord.” It’s very specific, very set apart, and for specific reasons.
The Bible I use, The Study Bible for Women HCSB summarizes it this way, “It is a voluntary vow consecrating oneself – devoted and separated for the Lord. The vow has specific restrictions. The vow has a sacred purpose “to the Lord”, a person would become holy to the Lord and sacrifices would be made to the Lord in the form of burnt offerings and animal sacrifices. The vow was symbolic such as abstaining from wine, keeping one’s hair long or uncut, and staying away from dead bodies. — staying undefiled. The vow could be temporary, it was for a specific length of time.” More from the Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary, “Men and women could take the vow. The vow could also last one’s full lifetime, as was intended for Samson and Samuel. An individual could take the vow by personal volition, or it could be imposed by others. Samson – Judges 13-16, Samuel – 1 Samuel 1:11, John the Baptist – Luke 1:15”. I cannot say that I understand all of it but my basic understanding is this:
- The vow was for the Lord
- Setting aside, in this case, a child for the Lord’s service, will, and protection – for the glory of God
- It was to be taken seriously
Even without all this knowledge previously, I understood, that if I prayed before God to give them back to Him I better do it. In 1 Samuel we see that while Hannah took it seriously and Elkanah did too… “1 Samuel 1:21- When Elkanah and all his household went up to make the annual sacrifice and his vow offering to the Lord…”; as head of household he took this vow as well and dedicated Samuel right along with Hannah.
We read that she was intentional to keep her vow, that she left him at the temple with the priest, that she returned to him and brought him new robes and still cared for him.
“I now give the boy to the Lord. For As long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.” Then he bowed in worship to the Lord there. ~ 1 Samuel 1:28
“…Then he bowed in worship to the Lord there.” This statement shows he, Samuel, had already been raised from infancy to three or four years of age learning how to be reverent towards the Lord, that this was modeled in the home. Hannah and her husband taught Samuel the ways to revere the Lord, to worship Him, pray to Him and wait upon Him.
Hannah knew and trusted the Lord with her whole heart. She knew He was safe to take her barren prayers to. She knew He would remember her prayers to Him. She had complete faith.
1 Samuel 2:1-11 is labeled Hannah’s Hymn of Praise, she says, “My heart rejoices in the Lord; my horn is lifted up by the Lord.
“My Horn” is translated to a name of God, Jehovah-Chatsahi, Lord of my strength. It’s the same reference David prays in Psalm 27, The Lord my Stronghold. God is the strength of His people.
In her prayer, Hannah acknowledges that she joyfully gives Samuel to the Lord, that He is her strength. She acknowledges that God brings salvation for His people. That He is Holy, He is the Rock, He breaks the warriors and lifts up the lowly… That He brings death and life. That God formed the foundations of the earth and they are all His… He also guards the steps of the faithful and judges the ends of the earth.
Her faith… her vow… her joyful response to giving her son back to God. I want to be a mother like that.
My vow, to raise them to know Him, to love Him, and follow in His ways – is not exactly this same vow of Hannah’s Samuel but it’s close. It’s one I take seriously, it’s one that my husband also honors and commits to. It’s one we reaffirm time and again in our household – especially as the world tells us to live differently. We reevaluate, realign and seek after Him whenever we feel we aren’t aligned with His thoughts and His ways. And our kids… they are fully aware of who we serve and why. It is our lifestyle.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart, repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.