When we tell people the names of our children, it’s not uncommon to hear the reply: “They’re interesting/unusual/different names. Do they mean anything?” The eve of Samuel Hosea’s baptism seems a good opportunity to explain what his names mean to us. (Maybe one day I’ll get round to writing about Boaz Alexander and Josiah Wilberforce too!).
The books of Samuel in the Old Testament are packed full of amazing and gripping historical story and teaching, but, for me, it’s Chapters 1 & 2 of 1 Samuel which prompted us to choose Samuel as a name. In fact, before we found out at the 20 week scan that we were having a boy, Hannah was the name we had in mind for a girl. Here’s why:
- Elkanah loved Hannah even though she was not able to have children (1 Samuel 1:5) and, to him, her value was not based on her fertility. Although the books of Samuel don’t elaborate much on Elkanah and Hannah’s relationship, and though they were written long before Paul wrote to the Ephesians, it seems to me that Elkanah was loving Hannah in the way we now know that Christ loves the Church (Ephesians 5:25). By giving her a double portion (1 Sam 1:5)he makes it clear that he loves her and Hannah would hopefully feel secure in this love. He tries to comfort her when she is heartbroken over her infertility, and reminds her that their relationship is valid and worthy even without it resulting in children (1 Sam 1:8). Then finally, he lovingly leads her in 1 Sam 1:23, listening to Hannah’s reason for wanting to wait before going to the tabernacle and allowing her to stay behind, but also gently holding her accountable to what she says. I’m so grateful to have a husband like this, and if God calls our sons into marriage, I pray that they will love their wives like this too.
- Hannah poured out her hurt and her pain to God (1 Sam 1:10), but then got up and ate something and was no longer sad (1 Sam 1:18). I love that this shows us that it’s ok to be grieved, and it’s right to cry out to God (the Psalms also show us this a lot), and petitioning God for something very specific is not wrong at all. But Hannah also knew that God was sovereign, His will perfect, His ways right. She could ask, she could plead even, but she could also then leave it at the feet of God and trust Him, whatever His answer.
- Hannah was willing to give Samuel to God. Giving our children to God is a surprisingly easy thing to say we’ll do, but often very difficult in reality. Hannah had to physically hand over her child to Eli and leave him there, and all she was able to do was visit him yearly and give him the little robes she made him (1 Sam 2:19). I can barely imagine how hard that would have been. But one of the reasons we home-educate our boys is so that we can, hopefully, help them discern and prepare for the calling God has on their lives. And maybe God will call them to a nice safe job in a nice safe place, and maybe he won’t. And I pray that God will prepare my heart to be like Hannah’s.
- Even after God blessed Hannah with Samuel, she still knew that her heart exalts in the Lord and that He is her salvation (1 Sam 2:1). Like Samuel, all children are a gift given to us by God (Psalm 127:3). They are a blessing, a joy. Sometimes it doesn’t necessarily feel that way, but in those instances it is our hearts and our attitudes that are wrong, not the truth of Scripture. Hannah knew that children were a gift from God, but that a gift only points to the giver. Hannah knew that her ultimate joy and exaltation was to be found in God, and though she could delight in her baby, this delight was only pointing her to the greater delight to be found in God.
I’ve previously written a post about a great book called ‘Redeeming Love’ by Francine Rivers and why you should absolutely read it! This book has been deeply important in my realising both what the love of God looks like for me, and what Biblical headship means. I can’t recommend it enough. There is one other thing I would add to what I have already written in that post, and it is this: Hosea redeems and welcomes back his wayward wife several times. In the parable of the prodigal son in Luke’s gospel, we see the father welcome back his wayward son with open arms and total delight. But the amazement we feel when the father runs down the road to embrace his son would surely be only the greater if the son continues to repeat this pattern of leaving and returning, and if the father continually rejoiced in his coming home – and the book of Hosea shows us that this is what God does. God’s mercy knows no bounds, and I pray that our children will grow up sure in this truth.