Sermon on 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26
Text: But Samuel was ministering before the LORD — a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19 Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. 20 Eli would bless 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 to the LORD.” Then they would go home. 26 And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the LORD and with people.
Parents, in general, try to do and give their children what is best for them. It may not always be the fanciest or the latest, but still, the parent tries to do what is best for the child. At times, when Christmas rolls around, you find parents scrambling to find the perfect gift for their child. Jesus picks up on this tendency of parents trying to do what is best for their child. In speaking of prayer, he said in Matthew 7:9&10, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?” Yet, some parents believe that they are giving their children the best, but are, in reality, harming them. They believe that, if they give the child everything that they ask for, they are doing the best for them. This is not the case, at all, and will, in time, be very harmful to them. So, what is the best thing that we can give our children? As we study this portion of God’s Word from 1 Samuel, we will see WHAT IS THE BEST THAT WE CAN GIVE OUR CHILDREN? 1. Teach Them God’s Word. 2. Set An Example In Christian Living. 3. Show Them What Really Counts. I realize that there are some whose children have already grown and left home, yet these words can still apply to those children and whatever grandchildren the Lord might have blessed you with.
Before we begin our study of this section of God’s Word, we need to be reminded of the background. The nation of Israel was at a low point in their history. There was complete moral decay in the land. People worshiped many different gods. Even the priests at the temple, the sons of the high priest, Hophni and Phineas, were strong-arming portions of the sacrifices and slept with women who served at the tabernacle. The military was also in shambles. It could offer, at best, feeble resistance to Philistine attacks.
At this time we read of a man by the name of Elkanah and his wife, Hannah. The Lord had not blessed them with any children. This was a source of constant sorrow for the couple. One time, when this couple went to offer their annual sacrifice, Hannah prayed to the Lord. She prayed that, if God were to bless her with a son, she would give him back to the Lord to serve in the Lord’s temple the rest of his life. God heard and answered her prayer. She had a son and named him Samuel. As soon as he was weaned, probably at the age of three to five years, she made good on her vow and took him to the tabernacle. There she presented him to the high priest, Eli, for a lifetime of service to the Lord.
It is here that we find Samuel in our text. In verse 18, it says, “Samuel was ministering before the LORD.” Samuel served as an assistant to Eli. He wasn’t just a boy playing priest, but was actually serving the Lord in the tabernacle. What bittersweet joy Samuel’s service must have been for Eli. While, no doubt, he rejoiced at Samuel’s dedication, he also very likely saw the great difference between Samuel’s service and that of his own sons. His sons were corrupt through and through. As a matter of fact, God told Eli in verse 34 of this chapter, “What happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you — they will both die on the same day.” (1 Samuel 2:34)
Why did Samuel so faithfully serve the Lord while Hophni and Phineas did not? Perhaps it was because Eli saw how thoroughly he had missed the point with his own sons and was determined not to let the same thing happen to his charge, Samuel. No doubt, it was also due to Hannah’s teaching and reminding Samuel to be faithful to the Lord. They made sure that, whatever else Samuel might have learned, he knew God’s Word.
This, too, is one of the most important things that parents can give to their children. Our children need to know God’s Word. It is the most important thing that we can give our children. They must be taught that they are, first of all, sinners. They need to be taught that they have broken God’s Law and deserve to be punished for all eternity for their sins. Our society tells us that we are never to hurt the self-esteem of children. However, if they do not realize who and what they are by nature, they will see no need for a Savior.
This, of course, is the most important thing that we can teach our children. There is but one way to heaven, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ. Already at a very tender age, the children can be taught who Jesus is and what he has done for them. The very simple children’s song, “Jesus Loves Me,” is more that just playing. Already at that time they are learning about Jesus’ love for them, a love that moved him to come to the earth to be their Savior. This is the most important thing that they can learn. If the child knows all of the subjects of arithmetic, English, science, etc., but don’t know God’s Word and the Savior it teaches, what good is it? The answer is “None at all!” There is but one way to salvation and but one place to find it. Give your children the best. Teach them God’s Word.
Every year Hannah would come to the tabernacle and see Samuel. We read in verses 18&19, “Samuel was ministering before the LORD — a boy wearing a linen ephod. Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice.” Though faithful to her vow, Hannah was still Samuel’s mother. She continued to care for him. Samuel wore a linen ephod, which was a two piece vestment worn over the shoulders front and back and belted in the middle. It was a child’s version of the high priest’s vestments. She also made him a little robe every year. We might have the modern day equivalent of a good suit. It was the type of garment prominent men would wear. Thus, Samuel was properly attired to serve the Lord. So her providing these clothes was more than an act of love and care for her son. It was also an encouragement to serve the Lord.
It is also interesting to note that this was not the only reason that Hannah came to Shiloh. The way that the Hebrew is phrased suggests that the main reason that she came to Shiloh every year with her husband was to offer the annual sacrifices required of them by the Lord. Seeing Samuel was the secondary reason for their annual trip. Hannah and her husband were setting an example for their son in Christian living, which also involved these sacrifices.
So, also, Christian parents make sacrifices, so that their children might learn of the Lord and serve him. Parents make sacrifices so that their children might serve full-time in the church. It means sending them off at an early age to begin to prepare for ful-time service. There is no doubt that Hannah and Elkanah would have enjoyed having Samuel at home, but, serving the Lord at the tabernacle was where he was to be. So, also, Christian parents who send their children away to prepare for full-time service to the Lord. Yes, they would enjoy having them at home, but preparing their children for service is where they need to be. These parents don’t know where their children will serve, but they are willing to make the sacrifices for the Lord and serve as fine examples.
Even if your child doesn’t go off and prepare for full-time service, yet parents also make sacrifices so that their children can learn and serve in the local congregation. They make sure that their children are attending Sunday School, Lutheran Elementary School, Confirmation Class, and Youth Group. They may send their children to secondary Lutheran education, such as Nebraska Evangelical Lutheran High School. They want their children to learn God’s Word and serve as examples of how important this education is. If the parent shows that this is important to them, the children will pick up on it, and it will be important to them. Parents make an impact on the next generation by their examples, priorities, and routines they set in their worship life. If going to church and Bible Class is important to you, your children will see it and learn from your example. Your relationship with God affects your relationship with your children, as well as others around you.
The old saying goes something like this: “Do as I say; not as I do.” Those are nice sounding words, but are hardly appropriate. If you want your children to act a certain way, you’ve got to do it first. Then your encouragements will fall more readily on their ears. In love for your Savior, give your children the best. Set a Christian example for them.
Samuel continued to grow, as all children do. Verse 26 notes the following about Samuel, “The boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the LORD and with people.” Samuel “grew in favor with people.” In other words, Samuel had a good reputation with those around him. The people knew him as a good person.
More importantly, however, it is noted that he “grew in favor with the LORD.” As important as it may have been to have a good reputation in the community, this was far more important. People can have a good reputation in the community for the wrong things or the wrong motivation. However, it is far more important to grow in favor with the Lord. The Lord was pleased with Samuel’s growth in the knowledge of his Word and service to him. It was not because Samuel was such a great person, but rather the faith in his heart.
So, also, parents, we can show our children what really counts. It isn’t a fancy car or the great job or the social standing. It isn’t the big bank account. What really counts is growing in favor with the Lord. Spiritual growth is the most important thing. That’s what really counts and that only comes through contact with God’s Word. If you want to show your children what really counts, you teach them God’s Word.
So many parents are so concerned with making sure that their children have the best: the best clothes, the best nutrition, the best grades. However, they miss out on what is truly the best for their child. If we, as Christian parents and congregation, want to give our children what is best, we will, empowered by the Holy Spirit, do these things. We will teach them God’s Word. We will set them an example of Christian living and we will show them what is truly important. When we give our children what is truly the best, they will be blest and will be in a position to pass it on. May God help us to always give our children the best. Amen.
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