Summary: Part of a series on the Heroes od Faith from Hebrews 11. This is an expository, alliterated sermon on Sameul.
Do I need to give more examples? I do not have time to tell you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets.
— Hebrews 11:32 NCV
Long ago in the sun-baked land of Canaan, a woman prayed for a son. Hannah was one of two women married to a man named Elkanah. Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, had several children while Hannah tried and tried but was never able to get pregnant. Peninnah looked smugly down on Hannah and demeaned her year after year, making her feel worthless because of her inability to have kids. Elkanah, on the other hand, loved Hannah very much despite her inability to conceive and encourage her whenever she felt down. “Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” he’d smile with a twinkle in his eye. And, I’m sure, she’d smile back.
But one day, after Peninnah had been especially degrading, Hannah went to the temple in Shiloh to pray.
Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the LORD. And she made this vow: “O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the LORD, his hair will never be cut.” (1 Samuel 1:10-11 NLT)
Standing in a darkened corner of the cool sandstone sanctuary, God’s prophet watched as this curious woman poured her heart out to God. “Go in peace,” Eli said to her “and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him” (vs. 17 NIV).
So began the story of Samuel.
The very next day “Hannah became pregnant, and in time she gave birth to a son” (vs. 20 NCV). Hannah’s heart overflowed with gratitude toward God and she named her son Samuel, which means God heard, because he was an answer to her prayers. She spent the first three precious years of his life weaning and raising her son, then Hannah did as she had vowed and Samuel was dedicated to God for the rest of his life.
Wouldn’t you like to be dedicated to God? What does that really mean? How was Samuel dedicated to God and how can we be just as dedicated? Well, first being dedicated to God, at least for Samuel, meant being…
Willing to Leave
Hannah’s tears, moist on her cheeks, were a mixture of sorrow and joy as she returned with her son to the place he was first conceived—not her and Elkanah’s wedding bed, but the temple of God in Shiloh. Finding Eli, the priest and prophet who assured her an answer to her prayers so many years ago, Hannah asked, “Sir, do you remember me? I am the woman who stood here several years ago praying to the LORD. I asked the LORD to give me this boy, and he has granted my request. Now I am giving him to the LORD, and he will belong to the LORD his whole life” (vs. 26-28 NLT).
Hannah, like Jephthah before her, would give her only child to the Lord to live and work in the temple of God. Although the decision wasn’t Samuel’s at first, he continued to live and serve in the temple year after year for the rest of life. He was sheltered and set apart from the world. He now belonged to the temple of God.
While God certainly doesn’t require us to leave home before we’re even out of diapers or to sleep on a cot in the church basement, our dedication absolutely requires that we too be set apart and that we too belong to the temple of God.
In fact, that’s what church is all about!
The word translated church in English Bibles is the Greek word eklesia, which literally means the assembly or the called out. Just as in a school assembly where student are called out from class to meet together in the gym, the church is an assembly of people dedicated to God who’ve been called out from the world around us into the temple of God—not a temple made by human hands nor built with bricks and mortar, but a living, breathing, beautiful, constantly growing Holy Temple. The apostle Paul explains it best.
You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22 NLT)
God breathed life into you not just so that you’d believe in him, but so you’d belong to him and to his family! Even in the perfect paradise of the Garden of Eden, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). God’s temple today, his family of faith, gives us a place to belong so that we never have to be alone. As Rick Warren says, “We are created for community, fashioned for fellowship, and formed for a family… A Christian without a church home is like an organ without a body, a sheep without a flock, or child without a family. It is an unnatural state.”