Growing Godly Families – Putting God First

Growing Godly Families – Putting God First

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at what the Bible has

to say about growing Godly families. Because our families – our

homes – are incredibly important to God. As we saw last week, God

wants our families to mirror the relationship that he has with the

church. The Christian home is many ways an outpost of God’s kingdom

in our communities. But I’m also aware that there are people in our

church who have known the pain of seeing their children walk away

from Jesus. And the sad thing is – as far as the statistics go –

that a lot of children growing up in Christian homes will leave the

church. They’ll walk away. The stats I’ve got come from America 2

years ago – but I’m 100% sure that they’re much the same here.

Apparently, something like 70% of young adults drop out of protestant

churches. And after the age of 30, 34% don’t attend church at all –

not even every now and again. That’s scary stuff, isn’t it? And they

left, said 27% of them, because they wanted a break from church. 17%

had only been going along to please others. 22% said that they were

just too busy for church.

So if God wants us to grow Godly families – and he does, what

are we to do? If God wants our homes to be outposts of the kingdom –

places where the families are an extension of God’s family – what

are we to do?

This morning, we’re looking at the first couple of chapters from

the book of Samuel. Samuel’s a great book to read – it’s full of

drama and adventure and battles and romance and… it’s a great read.

And it begins with the story of Hannah, her husband Elkanah, and his

extended family. It’s about the birth of Samuel – a great prophet

of God. Even if you’ve heard the story before, try and listen to it

from a view of what God is saying to us about growing godly families.

The book begins by introducing us to Elkanah – son of Jeroham –

son of Elihu – son Tohu – son of Suph. Elkanah the father of

Samuel. To be honest, he’s not a very well-known character. He

doesn’t do much. Apart from a genealogy in 1 Chronicles 6, these two

chapters are the only place in the Bible where he is mentioned at

all. But mentioned him God does. His family line – expanded in

Chronicles – tells us that he was a descendant of Levi. He was a

priest of God. But just an ordinary priest, who lived out in the

hill country. So what makes Elkanah from Ramathaim so special? Why is

he mentioned? Simply because he was the father of Samuel, and because

he was a committed follower of God.

That’s it. That’s all that Elkanah does. He is the father of

Samuel. And a bunch of other kids. And he’s not a perfect man. By no

means is he perfect. His home was a mess. When he married Samuel’s

mother – Hannah – he did so for love. She was his first wife.

That’s why she’s introduced to us first. And Elkanah valued her love

and her commitment to him more than anyone else’s. Verse 8 – Hannah

– don’t I mean more to you than ten sons? But at the same time –

despite his love for Hannah – he couldn’t live with the fact that

Hannah was barren. No cries in the middle of the night disturbed his

sleep. He loved her – but his love for her wasn’t strong enough to

cope with not having kids. Back then, having an heir was the only way

that your family line could continue. He didn’t want to be the week

link in the family chain. And so he took another wife. He married

Peninnah – who bore him many children. He had his heir. Elkanah was


But his home was anything but happy. Wife number 2 – Peninnah –

made Hannah’s life a living hell. I suspect she knew full well that

Elkanah didn’t love her as much as Hannah. She was just there to have

his kids. And I suspect she resented Hannah. We’re told in verse 6

that Peninnah was Hannah’s rival. When they went to sacrifice at

Shiloh – Peninnah would provoke her and irritate her so much that

every year Hannah ended up pushing away her plate and crying the

night away. Elkanah would give her a double portion at the

thanksgiving meal after the sacrifice, but what sort of compensation

was that? Peninnah had her children there at the same table –

laughing, crying, whatever. Just her being there was enough to remind

Hannah that she hadn’t been enough for her husband. And Hannah got an

extra slice of the meat. Yeah – that’ll make everything okay,

Elkanah. Good one.

We’ve got to say that Elkanah wasn’t the perfect husband. But

despite everything, he introduces the book of Samuel. Because he was

a man committed to God. Year after year – without fail – he took

his family to sacrifice to God. This dad took his family to church.

Took them to worship God. Taught them to be faithful to God. He

wasn’t perfect… no parent is perfect. Not this side of Jesus’

return. But like Elkanah, we can live out our faith for our families

to see. We can make sure that they are involved in the church.

But back to Hanna. Verse 9ff tells us how on one occasion at

Shiloh, Hannah was – as usual – feeling down. Feeling useless. Her

soul was bitter. She felt the weight of her childlessness. She felt

the guilt of not having given Elkanah an heir. And it wasn’t fair! So

she stood up and made her way into the Lord’s temple. And she fell to

the floor and she wept. She cried her eyes out. She cried and cried

and cried. She prayed to the Lord. And she made a promise to God that

if he replaced her misery with joy – if he gave her a son – then

she would give him back to the Lord. She would dedicate that child to

God’s service for the rest of his life. Verse 12 tells us that she

kept on praying to the Lord. Her misery was welling up into prayer.

And you know the story, God remembered her pain – had compassion

on her – and she and Elkanah became pregnant. And she gave birth to

a son – Samuel. But jump back a bit to verse 13. We’re told that

Hannah had been praying to God in her heart. Her lips had been

moving, but nobody had heard what she had been saying. Eli – the

priest – assumes in verse 17 that she had been asking God

something. But he didn’t know about Hannah’s promise to give her

first-born son back to God.

It would have been so easy for Hannah to not mention that little

detail to anybody. It would have been so easy for her to not give her

son back to God. And yet Hannah doesn’t shy away from her promise to

God. As much as Hannah must have longed to keep Samuel with her, her

commitment to God – to the promise she made him – was what ruled

in the end. She told her husband about the vow she had made to God.

As soon as Samuel was physically able to leave home, he would.

And her husband Elkanah supported her in that decision. Agreed

that his child would go to serve God. Because like Hannah, Elkanah

knew the importance of putting God first. And he knew that God must

have a plan for little Samuel.

The years passed, and Samuel grew older. He would have known that

one day soon he would be going to live in the temple. His mother

would have explained to him how she had promised him to God. He

probably looked forward to it the way kids today look forward to

going to school. And the year came when he was old enough. Probably

somewhere between 3 and 5 – about average for weaning a baby back

then. And they went to Shiloh. As a family worshipped God. And left

Samuel there with Eli.

Which by the way must have been a bit of a shock for old Eli! All

of a sudden he’s being told that he’s got charge of a little boy. He

is to bring Samuel up to be a priest of God. And Eli was an old man.

His sons were well and truly grown. A couple of chapters from here

we’re told that Eli is just about blind. This old man of God has the

duty of bringing up this child.

But can you imagine the sort of emotional pain she must have gone

through that day at the end of chapter 1. That day when she left

Samuel behind at Shiloh. When she went home without her first-born

son. The son she had longed for for so long.

What do Hannah and Elkanah have to teach us about parenting? Three

things. First off, they teach us that children are a gift from the

Lord. Yes, Samuel was a special case – destined to do great things

for God. But all children are a gift – a blessing from God. We’re

told in 2:21 that God was gracious to Hannah, and she gave birth to 5

other kids. Psalm 127 tells us the same thing. 127:3 – “Children

are a heritage form the Lord, offspring a reward from him.”

But Hannah also teaches us that the right response to God’s gift

of children is to gift them back to God. Samuel literally grew up in

the church. But all parents can do what Hannah did. Even before

Samuel was conceived, Hannah dedicated his life to the Lord. All the

years he spent at home were in anticipation and preparation of his

going to live in the temple.

And even when Samuel had left home, Hannah still cared for him.

Each year, says 2:19, she made him a little robe and took it to him

when she went with Elkanah to offer their yearly sacrifice to God.

But most importantly, Hannah teaches us to put God first. She gave

up her most longed for son because God came first.

When you get home, have a read through the 2nd chapter

of 1 Samuel. Because alongside the godly family of Hannah and

Elkanah, we see a family where God is not put first. We see Eli’s


Eli – the head priest at Shiloh. A man of God. A man whose own

two sons were more important to him than God. And his two sons –

Hophni and Phinehas – were, says 2:12, wicked men. Because they had

no regard for God. Hannah and Elkanah honoured God so much they were

willing to give their son to God. Hophni and Phineas thought God was

a joke. They followed in their dad Eli’s footsteps and became

priests. But chapter 2 makes it clear they were only in it for the

fringe benefits. Good food. And a good time with the girls who served

at the entrance to the tent of meeting.

But we’re not talking about them. Suffice to say they went off the

rails. I guess some of you here might be able to emphasise with Eli.

Looking at his sons, and seeing how far they were from God.

Realising that despite his teaching them the ways of the Lord, they

weren’t there. Perhaps your own kids grew up in church, and haven’t

been back.

And Eli did try in verses 22-25 to speak them out of their ways.

But he loved his sons more than he loved God. They were stealing the

bits of meat that were supposed to be offered to God. And Eli would

eat with them. Says a prophet to him in verse 29, Eli, “Why do you

scorn my sacrifices and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling?

Why do you honour your sons more than me by fattening yourself on the

choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?”

Eli was a man – a priest – who had served God faithfully for

many years. But when push came to shove, his children were more

important to him than God.

The first two chapters of Samuel tell us a story of 2 families.

One family put God first – despite the cost. The other put God

second. Godly families are those where God is put first. And yes, the

cost might be high. Hannah gave up her son. But God – Jesus –

deserves to be first.

In Mark 10:28, Peter said to Jesus, “We have left everything to

follow you.” 29“I tell you the

truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who

has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children

or fields for me and the gospel 30will

fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes,

brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them,

persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31But

many who are first will be last, and the last first.”


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