Recommended reading: 1 Samuel 1-8
I am intrigued with the rise of Samuel’s leadership as described in the first few chapters of 1 Samuel. After the years of Israel’s spiritual, moral and national decline as described in the book of Judges the years of Samuel’s leadership stand sturdy and tall. Under his faithful and godly guidance Israel regains her faith in God as well as her sense of nationhood under God. Samuel was a giant among leaders. What fascinates me are the people surrounding him during his growing up years.
What contributed to his development as a leader? What about the people surrounding him? In his earliest years there is his mother, Hannah; there is Hannah’s rival Peninah (with all her children) and there is his father, Elkanah. Later, as he begins his tenure as the understudy for the temple there is Eli, the priest and default leader of the day along with his two evil sons Hophni and Phinehas. Then there were the Israelite worshipers who came to the tent of meeting there in Shiloh to offer sacrifices and worship the One True God. What influence did these people have on young Samuel? What did they contribute to the development of this great leader to be?
Hannah is the first influence in his life. Imagine with me young Samuel growing up under Hannah’s godly care. I get the sense from the conversation between Hannah and Elkanah in 1:21-23 that Hannah intended to pour herself into her little boy during the years that she had him and before she was to give him into the Lord’s service. It is likely that from his earliest recall he would hear the stories of Hannah’s sorrow and ultimate blessing. Hannah probably retold many times how God answered her prayers. I am sure Samuel was also quite aware from early on of his mother’s promise to God. My guess is that Hannah had a great deal to do with Samuel’s growing up with a deep sense of awe of God and His goodness.
Samuel probably could see early on the contrast between his mother and that other woman, Peninah. The gentleness contrasted with the sneering, the selfelessness contrasted with the pettyness… Even though we are not given many details, I doubt that Peninah’s character changed much with the birth of Samuel and the contrast must have been instructive to him. His mother’s character and godliness were great influences in his life.
Hannah was a woman of prayer. She understood prayer as communing with God. When Eli questioned her in the tabernacle, Hannah described her prayer as "Pouring out my soul to the Lord" (1:15). I believe Samuel’s deep and close relationship with God began here on Hannah’s knees. Hannah’s prayer in chapter 2, recorded for all succeeding ages, gives us a little glimpse of this woman’s considerable understanding of God and his ways. I believe it can be safely infered that she did not stint in communicating these truths to her young son.
Commentators vary on how old Samuel might have been when he was presented to the Lord at the temple. But short time or long, Hannah was probably the most influential person in the development of this leader.
Put yourself into the picture of the yearly pilgrimages from Ramah to Shiloh. Imagine with me the excitement preceeding the event. Samuel in Shiloh waiting impatiently for the day to come when his mother and family would arrive. Hannah in Ramah, lovingly putting the finishing touches on the garment she made for her little man every year. There is a faraway look in her eye, a tiny smile tugs at the corners of her mouth. She will see her little boy soon. "How tall will he be by now"?
It is what the text does not tell us that intrigues me. Was Hannah’s heart lifted to God daily on behalf of this little man? Did she ever worry? Did doubts ever creep in? – "Did I do the right thing?" "Did I really have to give him to God for all of his life?" Did intense longing for her first-born ever cloud her eyes with tears?
What influence do you and I have in the lives of the youngsters around us? What do they see in us? Are we praying for the children in our sphere of influence? Are we contributing to the development of tomorrow’s godly leaders? Allow me to encourage us to take another look at the influence of this godly woman on an entire nation through her influence on her son and let’s ask God how we can be used of Him in similar ways.
Note: The topic for the fall ACTS Seminaries Pastors’ & Mentors’ Day is "Children Matter"