What does that word mean to you? To some, it conjures up biblical images of bulls and lambs and doves being sacrificed on the altar at the temple. To others, including me, the word embodies what Jesus did for us on the cross when he who was sinless bore our sins so that we could be free. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is the ultimate sacrifice.
In today's society, sacrifice usually means 'going without' something we want or possibly need. Parents often sacrifice time and money to ensure their kids have a good, comfortable life. Being the mother of two young men, I can look back on their growing up years and see a lot of sacrifice on hubby's and my part. I don't know that the boys see it yet, but they will, especially when they become fathers themselves. Just as God the Father willingly sacrificed his Son for us, his children, I believe parents are called to do likewise. Our sacrifices will look different, but the love behind them needs to be the same.
That brings us to Hannah, a mother in the Old Testament. In 1 Samuel 1 and 2, we read the story about a woman who is barren. Her husband, who loves her, has another wife who has given him children. That wife makes Hannah's life miserable to the point of tears, all because of her barrenness. When Hannah accompanies her husband to the temple at Shiloh on their annual trip, she is heavy with her childless state. In 1 Samuel 1:10, she does what each of us needs to do when we are burdened with life's problems. She prays.
"LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head."
Hannah is totally sincere in her prayer. She truly means what she says. If God will bless her with a son, she vows to give that child back to God. And you know what? God answered her prayer. He blessed her with a son whom she named Samuel, saying, "Because I asked the LORD for him." (v. 20)
As a mother, I can well imagine the joy that filled Hannah at the birth of this baby boy. I remember the joy I felt seeing my babies for the first time. I'd prayed for them too, and was so happy in my heart that God looked on me with favor. So when I read what happens next in Hannah's story, I'm awed at her sacrifice.
In verses 24-27 we read that Hannah kept her word to God. When the baby was weaned -- probably at about two-years of age -- she took him back to the temple in Shiloh. The priest, Eli, is there -- he'd blessed her the day she was praying in the temple -- and she goes right up to him and presents her son.
"I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD." (v. 27)
Wow! I simply cannot imagine leaving my two-year-old son there, even if it was a House of God. I can't imagine not seeing my little boy every day, watching him grow, taking care of him. But as much as I think Hannah's heart must have ached for Samuel when she walked away that day, she also had joy.
"My heart rejoices in the Lord," she says in 1 Samuel 2:1. Eli saw her sincerity. God did too. She went home, her arms empty but her heart full. But that's not the end of the story. God was gracious to Hannah. He blessed her with three more sons and two daughters. And Samuel grew up to become the priest whom God would use to anoint the first king of Israel, Saul, and later he would anoint David as king.
Amazing sacrifice always reaps amazing fruit.
This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, Russia, France, Netherlands, Philippines, Taiwan