Summary: Hannah’s sacrificial love

Langham/Stiffkey 30-03-03

Mothering Sunday 10-03-02

Hannah, the sacrificial mother

1 Samuel 1:1-28 and 2:11

Today is Mothering Sunday, the day when we thank God for giving us the one person, on this earth who generally has had the greatest impact on our lives.

Question: Can anyone tell me what mothers do?

Answer: Mothers are:

1. teachers

2. cooks and cleaners.

3. nurses and doctors,

4. psychologists and counsellors,

5. car drivers and coaches - and

6. even football supporters.

Story: Maddy used to drive Jonny and Chris when they were younger to football in Kandern about 20 miles away, when we were living in Basle, Switzerland. She came so regularly, that at the end of the season, the Kandern football club presented her with a bottle of wine for being their best supporter!!

And mothers are a link to God, a child’s first impression of God’s love.

Someone once said “Mothers are the glue that holds the family together.”


But the one great motherly quality I haven’t mentioned comes from our Old Testament reading this morning – self sacrifice.

Mothers have a wonderful capacity for self-sacrifice – putting the good of their children ahead of their own good.

Today’s reading from the Old Testament reading is all about self-sacrifice.

It is the story of Hannah – the mother of Israel’s first major Prophet called Samuel.

And I would like to focus on the great motherly gift that Hannah had – self-sacrifice in the interests of her son.

The story is not one of the better known stories in the Old Testament and so bears retelling.

The scene of the story is set in the 12th Century BC (1171 BC) – a good 100 years before the birth of King David and about 170 years before the reign of King Solomon.

Question to the children: Can you remember the name of the Israelite who had two wives?

Answer: Elkanah.

One wife, Peninnah bore children but the other didn’t.

Question: Do you remember her name?

Answer Hannah.

And in those days, it was a great disgrace for a married woman not to be able to bear children.

And indeed in Israelite culture, barrenness was seen as a curse from God to be barren.

What is more, Peninnah was particularly unpleasant to Hannah about it.

Question: What did Penninah do?

Answer: She teased her.

Hannah’s husband tried to comfort her – but without success.

So Hannah took the matter to God and persistently prayed for a son. She promised God that if she bore a son, she would dedicate him to the service of God.

Eventually God looked down on her grief and she conceived and bore a son.

Question: Can you remember her son’s name?

Answer: Samuel.

In those days they had no public education and

therefore if her son Samuel was to fulfil her vow - to become a priest - he had to go away to the Temple to be apprenticed to Eli the High Priest.

And so we read of the heartbreak in 1 Samuel Chapter 1 as she takes him off to boarding school – at the Temple to become a priest in the Temple in Shiloh.

And God honoured her by calling her son, Samuel to be the next “ High Priest” after Eli.

What an honour from those years of disgrace.

In those days, being the High Priest was the top job in the land.

Question: Can you think of any jobs in England today that the High Priest’s job would have entailed – there are four of them.


1. Prime Minister

2. Head of the Armed Forces

3. Lord Chancellor – head of the judiciary and

4. Archbishop of Canterbury

all rolled up into one.

Politically and spiritually he became the leader of the nation for many years.


Hannah wanted the very best for her son.

However, the only way Samuel would be able to fulfil his godly calling was to go away from her.

He had to go away to boarding school with Eli, the High Priest in Shiloh.

I am sure that it must have broken her heart - to know that she wasn’t going to have him much longer – though she would visit him regularly.

But she was prepared to give up what she wanted for Samuel’s best.

Because she loved him and loved God too.

She wanted Samuel to be a man who would serve God wholeheartedly.

Question: Why do you think she sent him to the school of Eli?

Answer: Because it was the only way in her day that he could fulfill his God given calling.


Story: Recently I came across a true story that happened during the Holocaust of the Second World War.

Solomon Rosenberg, his wife and their 2 sons were arrested, together with his mother and father for the crime of being Jews. They were placed in a Nazi concentration camp.

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