October 23, 2021
Scripture: And she vowed a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” 1 Samuel 1:11 ESV
Observation: The story of Hannah is a beautiful illustration of God’s grace (which is the literal meaning of her name) and the importance of fulfilling our vows. Hannah greatly grieved that she could bear no children. Her husband, Elkanah, tried to comfort her with the assurance of his love and devotion to her. But the barren womb in this ancient culture was a source of immense shame. Many wrongly associated such misfortune with God’s disfavor. So Hannah earnestly and persistently sought the Lord with heartfelt tears and vowed to give her firstborn son to him. The Mosaic Law required that all of God’s people dedicate their firstborn male to him. The circumcision ceremony symbolized this dedication, but Hannah offered to give her son to Yahweh to serve him in full-time ministry (as represented by “no razor shall touch his head”).
Takeaway: When I received an offer to join the pastoral team at a large Anglican church in Pittsburgh, I first talked to my mom about this ministry opportunity. At that time, she was a widow, 77 years of age, battling bone-marrow cancer. She lived alone but had strong church support, and my older brother and his wife lived an hour away in Jacksonville, FL. Still, I was concerned about living so far away, unable to come at a moment’s notice. My mom surprised me with her response, though. She informed me that she had hoped to do missionary work when a young, single adult, but plans changed when she met my dad and settled into family life. Still, she regularly prayed to the Lord, asking that one of her three sons would pursue full-time ministry. My oldest brother died at age 41, and my surviving brother had pursued a lifelong career as an environmental scientist. I served in banking and real estate for the first twelve years of my adult life until God had redirected me to seminary and church ministry. Now, the moment had come. My mother could have rightfully asked that I try to find work closer to her home, but she insisted that I take the job with the assurance that Lord would care for her needs through others.
Grace abounded for both of us. Separated by a thousand miles, we bridged the gap with prayers and regular phone calls that updated her on my ministry and family. And she also delighted in our family staying with her during our summer vacations. But when she needed me most, I took time off to surprise-visit her on Mother’s Day weekend three months before she left this earth to be present with Christ. For Hannah and my mom, God’s grace sufficed to bridge the gap with their loved ones.
Prayer: Father God, during this pandemic, many of us long to be in the company of our loved ones. Thank you for modern technology that allows us to at least see each other via video calls. But, most importantly, thank you for your grace in the gap that bridges us through prayer. Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling