Sacrifice of an Offering
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” - Romans 12:1 NKJV
I love Hannah! (If you’ve got a minute you can read her story in 1 Sam 1:1-2:11,18-21.) I love that this hurting woman became a woman known the world over for her strength. When I think of Samuel, I can't say that I know the name of his father off the top of my head but I do know who his mama was. She was a woman willing to fight in the face of immense hurt and brokenness. She was a woman who ran to her God in the middle of her challenges. She was a woman with fire in her eyes and passion in her heart. I want to be like Hannah!
I grew up around the church and heard all the Sunday school stories, I've been aware of her story for a long time but it wasn't until the last couple of years though that the magnitude of what she did began to sink in. There is a lot we don't know about Hannah. We don't know how long she was barren before she had Samuel. We don't know how many times she had to watch Peninnah (her husband's other wife) carry and give birth. We don't know how often she prayed or what her prayers consisted of before that pivotal day at the temple.
What we do know is this: Hannah wasn't praying for herself, not this time. Hannah wasn't asking for a son so she could finally show that bully Peninnah what's what. She wasn't asking for a baby so that she could finally be invited to the playdates that were going on in the morning by the well. She wasn't asking for a son so that she could raise in status and someday hold a grandbaby in her sun-spotted hands. She wanted a son so that she could give him back to God! She wanted God to give her an offering that she could sacrifice!
I want that to sink in for a minute. This was a broken and hurting woman, a woman of sorrowful spirit (as the NKJV puts it), a woman so distressed she couldn't even eat the best portion of meat specifically given to her, a woman so distraught and tormented that she was mistaken for a drunk! While I cannot fully imagine what that looked like, I believe it is safe to assume that there was a whole lot of snot and ugly crying going on there. It was this woman that prayed for God to give her the most precious gift of all so that she could give it back to Him. I want to pray like Hannah!
I don't know if this was the first time she prayed like this—if something shifted in her perspective from self-seeking to God-serving. I don't know if it was the blessing of Eli. I don't know what it was that made this the moment but here it was, God said ‘open’ to a womb that had been closed for so long.
So Hannah went home and Hannah conceived! Life quickened in her womb and now she was faced with a choice. She had made a vow to God, she promised Him her son. Here's the thing though, this wasn't just some infant dedication promise. No, this was an “I'm going to take him to the temple and leave him there” vow.
I can't imagine. I cannot even wrap my head around what that would be like, to hold this child that you have prayed for, that you have fought for with the knowledge that one day you're going to have to leave him in the very place that you fought so hard to receive him. Oh, the weight and the pain and the tears that that woman would have carried.
After the boy was weaned, Hannah left with her family to make the same trip that she took those years before as a woman barren and broken. How different she was now! She was a mother with her son, a small boy walking beside her, though I think she probably carried him in her arms a little longer than times past and I'm sure she held on to him a little tighter too. She is walking as a woman changed, ready to make the ultimate sacrifice. She is giving her son back to God.
I wonder what that day was like for her, how she must have cried as she turned her face and began to walk away from the one thing that she wanted more than anything else. But Hannah's sacrifice wasn't just then and there. It was every moment that she yearned for the touch of her boy, to tousle his hair or kiss his sticky cheeks. It was every morning when she missed his smile and every night when she longed for his smell. It was in the quiet moments when she could still hear his voice and the small hours when she cried into her bedding. Hannah's sacrifice was felt deeply and made daily. Hannah's sacrifice—her prayer prayed and kept—changed the trajectory of a nation. One woman who loved God more than she loved herself, one prayer, one sacrifice ushered in a new era and removed the corruption from the house of God. I want to pray like Hannah!
I'm not generally a crier, but I find tears welling in the corners of my eyes when I think of her cost. I think of this beautifully strong woman wiping away a tear as she handmakes the coat that she will bring to the temple when she finally gets to see her boy again. I can almost see her steps quicken as she nears its gate and her breaking into a run to meet her son, falling to her knees to shower him with tears and kisses when they are reunited once again. A reunion that brings joy but cuts a new depth of sorrow when she has to once again turn and walk that same walk away year after year after year. Yes, God blessed her with more children, five to be exact, but they didn't replace her Samuel, no child can ever fully fill the hole left in the absence of another.
That, my friends, is the sacrifice of an offering. In the face of her cost mine looks tiny, minuscule at best. Her offering cost her something, it wasn't the extra change she found in the bottom of her handbag or the five-dollar bill that she forgot about in her coat pocket. She wasn't offering God the time that she would have otherwise spent binge-watching Netflix or scrolling endlessly on Instagram or watching reels on TikTok. Her sacrifice cost her something; it was expensive. What she sowed in tears an entire nation reaped in a harvest of joy!
At the beginning of Hannah’s beautiful prayer in chapter 2, she says, “My heart rejoices in the Lord! The Lord has made me strong.” As she was leaving her son, doubtless there was pain but along with it, she was rejoicing in and through the strength that the Lord had given her! God doesn’t leave us in our hurt, but meets us in the midst of it, growing us in the face of it.
She put her money where her mouth was, she didn't make some empty promise to God easily walked away from. She promised Him her most precious thing. She wanted something precious to lay at His feet. I want to pray like Hannah but more than anything else I want the resolve of Hannah to follow through. I want to pray that brave prayer and then live it out. In the suffering I want to exude grace, in the hardship I want to be a light, and in the waiting I want to have a testimony. I want to have something of value to lay at his feet, no matter the cost, so that He can use it to do something miraculous. I want to plant the seed and watch Him grow something beautiful no matter the price because He is worthy of far more than I could ever give.
Could I do ever do what Hannah did? I don't know. I'm happy that the practice of leaving small children at the church forever is no longer applicable. But what if my girls were called into missions, to a place where I was not promised that I would ever see them again? Could I pay? I hope so. But that is not my cost for today.
So how about this: can I give the best of my time and not just what I have leftover? Can I give the best of my money and not just what I won't miss? Can I give Him my hopes, my dreams, my passions, my future and not just ask Him to fit into what I've already planned? Can I offer what hurts my heart to let go of? Can you?
This is what it looks like to lay our lives down as a living sacrifice. It’s laying it all on the altar for Him to do with as He pleases, even the expensive things, the precious things, our treasures. I want to make a difference, I want my life to make an impact on those around me. I'm not going to be able to do that by giving God my leftovers and hand-me-downs. There is no sacrifice in the offering if it costs me nothing to let it go.
Is He not worthy? He is worthy of all. Who am I, who are we, to not be willing to lay all at His feet? It's time, beloved, to start praying like Hannah.
Written by Amanda Strauser