Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Woman After God's Own Heart, Day 2

Leslie Basham: Janet Parshall says every woman is called to invest in future generations.

Janet Parshall: Whether you have biological children or not, we are all spiritual mamas to somebody, and we can be praying—single women, childless women, women with a quiver full of children, women who’ve never had any children—God has put us in the position of being true women for children through prayer.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Tuesday, April 26, 2016.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Yesterday we heard part one of a riveting Bible story about motherhood and unfulfilled longings. Janet Parshall delivered this message at True Woman ’08.

Janet Parshall has been a really good friend to Revive Our Hearts. She’s a syndicated talk show host and is involved in many public policy issues. Even though she’s in a public role during this season of life, she’s always made motherhood a top priority. In the message we began yesterday, Janet left off with the biblical character, Hannah, in the temple praying fervently for a child.

Janet: “O Lord Almighty, if You will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget Your servant but give her a son” (1 Sam. 1:11). Dear ones, she could—most of us would—have ended the prayer at that point. “Give me a son.” That’s the self-evident want, is it not? But oh my, she does not end the prayer there. She says, “Then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life.”

Wait a minute. The one thing she’s begging God for is a son, more than anything else—bitterness and ridicule from Peninnah, emptiness of her womb, knowing it’s been closed by God, “Oh God, give me a son; give me a son.” Perfectly reasonable, perfectly understandable, and then—“I’ll give him right back to You”?

Could you have prayed that? Could you have said, “God, if You’ll give me the one thing I want more than anything on the face of this planet, I’ll turn right around, and I’ll give it back to You”? How could she do that? Because she was God-centered.

Because her relationship with the living God said, “Lord, I will trust You. I can surrender myself to You. I so believe in Your provision and Your compassion and Your care. God, give him to me, and let me show You how much I love You by giving him back to You.” That is truly a magnificent prayer.

Then she goes on to say that “no razor will ever be used on his head” (v. 11). No one will ever cut a hair on his head. Hair has significance, particularly in the Old Testament. It was a form of protection, a form of covering. So she was almost being a bit prophetic, not even knowing this son, what his name would be, how he would be used. “Oh God, I ask for Your protection, not a hair on his head will be cut.”

So what happens? Well, she keeps on praying to the Lord, and Eli observed her mouth. Now, let me tell you about the temple. Picture this: This is why all these different aspects of Bible study are so important, the anthropology, the history, the cultural issues. It just makes these stories that much more alive.

This was not like the temple in Jerusalem. This would have been a different kind of temple. Temple, yes, but it would have been pillars, and it would have been pieces of linen. So the wind would have blown, and even though she would have been standing back in the place where the women could be, as the wind blew the linen, Eli the priest could turn, and he could see her praying.

Picture that moment—crying out. Have you ever done that? Have you ever cried out to God in absolute silence, but your lips move, just because it’s just percolating up, and so you move your lips when you’re praying? I bet every single one of us have done that. Sometimes you just can’t stop it. You just want to mouth it because it’s just coming out of you as you petition our great King and stand boldly before His throne of grace.

So what does Eli do? Eli watches her. Because Hannah was praying in her heart and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard, Eli thought, She’s drunk. Now, is this not maddening? She gets it from Peninnah for years. She goes up to the temple to pray for that which she has made a vow, says she’s going to turn right around and give it to Him, pours out her heart to God, and the priest says, “You’re drunk.” And notice what the language is—this was also something that jumped out at me—he said, “How long will you keep on drinking?” (v. 14).

Oh, the slander in that statement. It’s not just a matter of being momentarily drunk. He makes this quantum assumption that she’s an alcoholic, which, by the way, was a big deal in those days. It would have not at all been uncommon to have a bunch of people—remember, the temple’s defiled, this country is in disarray—so he’s accusing her now of being a drunkard. Boy, do I love her response.

“Not so, my lord. I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer” (v. 15). I love the words “wine or beer.” What do you do with liquor? You pour it. She says, “I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and my grief.”

Now Scripture does not record an apology on Eli’s part, and yet, look at the way she conducted herself. Is there not a lesson there for us as women of God? The gentle spirit, the way in which she responded to this false accusation, and look at the gracious way in which she responds.

So Eli then says, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him” (v.  17). It was believed at that time that when the priest made that kind of a statement, they were in many respects being prophetic. So if the priest said it, she had a pretty good sense that maybe—maybe—her prayer was going to be answered. So she said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes, and then she went home and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast” (v. 18).

What is it about food and feeling good? Ah—so she has something to eat.  I love this. And the timeline. The wonderful thing about Scripture is you can read chapter 1 to chapter 2 like this and you’re done in five minutes. When you read the biography of Hannah, you have to walk through this experience trying to see it from her vantage point. She doesn’t know how the story is going to end. She just has to trust God, doesn’t she? You and I get to know how the story ends, but we get to peer into her experience and watch how she trusted Him every step of the way. So what happens?

Early in the morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord, and then they went back to their home in Ramah. Elkanah lay with his wife [now check the time on this] and the LORD remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah conceived (vv. 19–20). 

You know what that means? It means Elkanah knew her. I don’t think she got pregnant right away.

“I made my vow, Lord. You give me a son; I’m going to give him back to You. All the days of his life he’ll be Yours, my way of thanking You for your sovereign gift and mercy and love for Your servant.”

She gets a false accusation from the priest. She doesn’t return fire. She’s gracious and loving, thanks the priest, goes home, and then “in the course of time.” She’s still walking by faith, trusting Him every moment of the way—“Was the priest right? Will I conceive? Will I have a son? Oh Peninnah, not today.” But yet still trusting Him every step of the way.

“In the fullness of time, she conceives and gives birth to a son, and she named him Samuel, saying, ‘Because I asked the Lord for him’” (v. 20). Wow. The story doesn’t end there. Now she wants to dedicate him, because the vow is, “Lord, You give me a son; I’m going to give him back to You, all the days of his life.”

This is tough. You want this baby boy. This baby boy has been turning under your heart; he’s been kicking and rolling and having the hiccups. You now have the leg cramps that Peninnah had. You know what all of this is about. Every day of that nine-month period of gestation, every little movement, every little thump, every little kick, she had to give up a quiet prayer that said, “Yes, Lord, he’s Yours. Yes, Lord, he’s Yours.”

She didn’t relinquish once. She relinquished over and over and over and over, reminding us, dear ones, of the profound reality that our children do not now, nor have they ever belonged to us. They are His. We are simply in a lend-lease program. He gives us permission to touch their hearts and their minds, to teach them, to write truth on the tablets of their heart, to help them to know and love the Savior, to get them to love His Word, but in the end, they’re His and His alone.

This was driven home to me in a powerful way when one night in the middle of the night standing in front of our door at three o’clock in the morning was a police officer who said, “Do you have a son named Sam?”

And we said, “Yes.”

He said, “Your son’s been shot in the head, and we don’t know if he’s dead or alive.”

And for three hours in the middle of the night, driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains, all we could do was hold hands and pray quietly, not knowing if, when we got there, our Samuel would be alive or dead.

In the quietude of that night, God gently reminded me, “Janet, he never did belong to you.” All I could say was, “Thank You, Father God, he knows You as Lord. If he’s gone, he is now absent from the body and in Your presence. If he is not gone, You are the Great Physician, and You’ve gone before us, and how I praise You and thank You.” But all the way through the night I had to feel my grip loosen because I realized he wasn’t mine, he was His.”

When Sammy was born, I would say constantly, “For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition which I have asked of Him.” It’s easy to say it at the beginning, but what if I had to let go of him before I thought it was the right time? Thanks be to God. Sammy recovered after many, many long months of therapy and rehab, and now he’s married, and he has given us three grandchildren. Our God is an awesome God.

So what does Hannah do? So now when the man Elkanah went up with his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, Hannah didn’t go. She said to her husband, "After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always” (vv. 21–22).

Let me tell you again about the customs of the day. When they weaned, back in those days, the average time for weaning was three years of age. So that meant for three years—three years—three years she taught him how to tie his sandals. She taught him how to do his jobs, to say his prayers, to make his little cot, raised him in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And every single day for Hannah, Hannah knew she was one more day closer to giving him up.

How in the world did she do that? She did it because she was a true woman of God. She did it because her life was God-centered, not self-centered. She had a million reasons, even by today’s modern standards, to say, “Me.” She trusted God. “Lord, I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that You hold the future. You gave me this child, and Father, I’m going to keep my vow, and I’m going to give him back to You, and he will be Yours all the days of his life.”

So she surrendered—she surrendered. She said, “Yes, Lord.” That’s how she did it. How else could you possibly do that? And in so doing, she becomes this magnificent role model for us and what it means to be a true woman.

So she does it, and you understand that she has to have the approval of her husband at this point, because what does he say? He says,

Do what seems best to you. Stay here until you have weaned him, and only may the Lord make good His word, so the woman stayed home and nursed her son until she had weaned him (v. 23). 

So the vow had the affirmation of her husband. It was his boy, too, you realize. She had the support of her husband. She kept that word, and every day, in the nurturing and the loving and cradling his little fevered brow when his first couple of teeth came in. She knew when he was weaned she would take him—at three. They’re still babies at three. But look at the intimacy of the nursing.

Turn if you can to Isaiah 49:15—just to go to this point where God understands this connection between a mother and the nursing that goes on. Isaiah 49:15, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion in the child she’s born? Though she may forget, I will never forget you.” Do you realize how unbelievably profound that is?

Here’s the God of all creation who even comes up with this idea of nursing babies, of that connectedness, that unbelievable bond between a mother and her child. When that young baby’s very life, his sustenance, is drawn from the mother, those moments when he falls asleep in your arms and you smell that sweet baby hair, and he curls his finger around yours as he’s nursing. Yet the Scripture says you’re going to forget that some day. But you know what? As profound, as intimate, as nurturing as that moment is, our great God turns to us and says, “I will never forget you.”

Does that take your breath away? “I will never forget you.” As intimate, as maternal, as universal as that experience is of a mother nursing her child, that will fade, but “I will never forget you.” How deep and wide and vast is the love our Father has for us. So we go on.

After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. When they had slaughtered the bull, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said [basically, “Remember me? Remember me?] “As surely as you live, my lord, I’m the woman who stood beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I have asked of Him, so now I give him to the Lord, for his whole life he will be given over to the Lord. And he worshiped there” (vv 24–28).

So we go on and we read, if you fast forward through the second chapter, and you get to verse 18, chapter 2, “but Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy wearing a linen ephod.” Now, that was like a sleeveless jacket that was worn over the tunic, and the Scripture says “each year his mother made him a little robe.” It could have just said robe, but the fact that it said “little robe” reminds us women that he was still a little boy.

Once a year she gets to see him and bring him a new coat—once a year. She took it to him when she went up to offer the annual sacrifice. What would it be like? “Oh, Samuel, how big you’ve gotten. Oh, Samuel, I never noticed how blue your eyes are. Oh, Samuel, do you remember me? Oh, Samuel, you belong to God.”

When they got back and turned around to go back to Ramah, in the quiet of that journey back home again, did she think to herself, One more year before I get to see him again, or did she think, Oh, God, You’re so gracious. You’re so kind. You gave me what I prayed for. Father, what a joy it was to be able to turn right around and give him back to You? I think it was the latter. 

And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, saying, "May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave it to the Lord." And they would go home, and the Lord was gracious to Hannah, and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters” (1 Sam. 2:20–21). 

Take that, Peninnah!

Now she didn’t know when she gave up her son that that was going to happen, but look how God is—exceedingly, abundantly beyond what we could ask for. “Do you trust Me? Are you willing to surrender to Me? Do I love you?” Amazing story.

So, meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord. It’s amazing—the prayers of a mother.

We read the Magnificat and how Mary, when she hears this good news says, “Oh God, let Your will be done.” Let Your will be done.

So Hannah prays for a boy who changed a nation. Mary prayed and was given a Boy who would change the world. The prayers of a righteous mother availeth much. I think that there’s something we can learn as praying women, and that is this: Whether you have biological children or not, we are all spiritual mamas to somebody, and we can be praying—single women, childless women, women with a quiver full of children, women who’ve never had any children—God has put us in the position of being true women for children through prayer. I think only this: When we’re finally in Glory, we’ll be able to meet the people that we’ve been praying for steadfastly.

But Hannah’s story teaches us exactly what it means to be a true woman of God. Her life was God-centered. She let go of her own plans and said, “God, You’re in charge. I’m not.” She then trusted God and said, “God, I believe You can answer this prayer. I believe it so much, I’m going to go home. I’m going to eat something. I feel good. I’m trusting You completely. I can believe in You.” And then she said, “Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord.”

This is a very powerful story, but it’s a very tough story, because it was motherhood as God’s refining fire. When we have babies, we think of fuzzy blankets and rattles and toys and Baby Einstein. But the reality is that when you have a baby, sometimes, that is God’s custom-designed refiner’s fire—the surrendering, the letting go, the trusting and believing that He is God.

It’s an amazing story. Hannah is a profound example of what it means to be a true woman of God. May we, like she, live lives that are God-centered, learning to trust Him completely, and then saying, “Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord.”

Nancy: And that’s really what it’s all about—living God-centered lives, trusting Him completely and saying, “Yes, Lord.” Whether you’re married or single, whether you have biological children or not, God wants to develop the heart of a mother in you. 

Janet Parshall has been describing the crucial role that mothers and spiritual mothers play. She gave this message at True Woman '08. 

Leslie: And she’ll also be back to True Woman '16 when women gather from around the country—and even around the world! True Woman '16 is coming to Indianapolis September 22–24. Along with Janet Parshall, a great lineup of other speakers will be there: Russell Moore, Blair Linne, Mary Kassian, and more. And this conference will include something never before done at True Woman.

Nancy: That’s right Leslie. The conference includes a unique three-hour focus on prayer on Friday night, September 23. 

I’m asking the Lord to not only sell out that arena in Indianapolis. But I’m also asking for Him to call hundreds of thousands of women to gather together that night in thousands of groups in homes and churches around the United States and in other parts of the world to join us in a live, nation-wide simulcast prayer meeting.

What are we going to do in that prayer meeting? We’re going to cry out. We see what’s happening in our world. We see what’s happening with ISIS, in the political realm, terrorism, the economic realm, moral breakdown, erosion of marriage. And closer to home: broken homes, broken lives, prodigal children. What can we do? One thing we can do is join our hearts together at the throne of God. He says it is a throne of mercy, and perhaps as we cry out to Him together, He will be gracious to us. He will visit His people in revival in His time and in His own way.

Leslie: To be part of this significant event, go ahead and register. The early registration deadline is May 2. Just a few days away. So you can sign up for Cry Out! True Woman '16, at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Do you believe that God is all wise? Tomorrow Nancy will explore the depths of the wisdom of God. When you think of how wise He is, it will affect your daily life in some significant ways Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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