Judges 17:1-4 and 1 Samuel 1:21-28 – 2 Mothers, 2 Ways, 2 Outcomes

Everyone seems to have a fondness for his or her mother.  Even hardened criminals will get mushy for their mothers.  They will stand up and protect them if others harm them.  Moms are wonderful gifts of God and their life can have a powerful effect upon the children they bear.  This morning on mother’s day we are going to look at the lives of two mothers and the way their life influenced their sons.

Both mothers lived in hill country of Ephraim during the time of the judges. A time the Word characterizes by saying, Everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judg 21:25).  This is a period of time in Israel’s history following the Exodus from Egypt and the entrance into the Promise Land, but before the first kings are installed.  They both lived in similar situations with similar memories and the same kind of culture to influence them, but they themselves are very different.

As we meet Micah’s mother in Judges 17, the first thing we learn about her is that she curses.  Her own son recounts this reality of his mother.  She is quick to speak with her mouth and as the passage unfolds, the image presented of this mother, of this woman, is not very kind.  She has raised a son who steals from her and her response to this revelation is to bless his wrongdoing, not to correct him or rebuke him.  Instead of chastising her son, she rewards his evil behavior by giving him some of the stolen property back.  The picture is ludicrous and it goes from bad to worse.  This mother, who arguably loves her son and wants the best for him, is strangely deluded and theologically bereft of all wisdom.  She is a violator of God’s covenant obligations by empowering her son with not one, but two idols – one of stone and the other of silver.  And what is really sad in the whole thing is she thinks she is worshipping Yahweh, the God who brought them out of Egypt in the whole thing.

This glimpse into her life is meant to display to Israel the reality of failing to worship the Lord in spirit, truth and obedience to the covenant.  The life she has lived in her home has raised a son who can’t tell good from evil.  He himself is confused theologically and believes that worshipping these idols is acceptable and good.  In fact later as his story unfolds he even goes to the point of hiring his own Levite to minister in his family shrine with this idol.  Obviously, the lack of knowing God’s word in the mother has affected the son.  Unfortunately this mother and son have not been raised in the fear and instruction of the Lord and the outcome is disheartening.  First, Micah has a confused sense of God’s blessing as we can see from his words in Judges 17:13 “Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest.”  Second, we find out that the poor life passed on to her son, affects all of Israel.  Not only is Micah’s family led astray but the whole tribe of Dan is affected.  The conclusion to the story of Micah says, “[The Danites] continued to use the idols Micah had made, all the time the house of God was in Shiloh” (18:31).

How tragic that one woman who didn’t know God or obey his word affected not only her son’s life, but also an entire nation.  But this morning, I want to contrast Micah’s mother with Samuel’s mother, Hannah.  Hannah is so amazingly different than Micah’s mother. Hannah finds herself alone and tormented by another woman, but unlike Micah’s mother, Hannah doesn’t pronounce a curse, but instead seeks after God.  She prays for deliverance and expresses her grief and anguish to the Lord.  Hannah is a woman who understands her covenant obligations to God.  Hannah is a praying woman, both for her own needs and presumably for the needs of her family.  She regularly participates in worship with her family.  She understands that faithfulness to God is of great importance and so when she is granted a son, she knows that she must give him back to the Lord.

Hannah understands that it is her responsibility to bring her child to God.  Literally we see this being played out as she packs him up with a bull, flour and wine to take to the tabernacle, but the paradigm that is so graphically displayed in this story is relevant to each and every mother.  There is a responsibility to make sure our children get to the house of God.  What really strikes me about Hannah’s life when contrasted with the mother of Micah is that Hannah was a woman who rightly worshipped the Lord and that had great affects on her son, Samuel.

Though she did not raise Samuel at their home, she raised Samuel in the fear of the Lord.  There is no doubt in my mind that her yearly visit to Shiloh was a time of great anticipation and expectation for both her and her son.  Worship was occurring, reciting the way God had answered the previous year’s prayers.  I can even see her retelling him the story of his own birth and dedication to God.  These would have been very impressive upon a young child’s mind and they formed Samuel into a man of great integrity, honesty and fear of the Lord.  Her dedication to God laid the groundwork so that Samuel could become the guide of Israel, leading them in military victory and spiritual faithfulness to God.  The life of this mother brought about a vastly different outcome than the life of Micah’s mother.  Hannah affected the preservation of truth and the propagation of the faith in ancient Israel.

And such is the reality of many mothers.  While much of what has been said could be applied to fathers as well, today our focus is upon Godly mothering.  Mother’s have the power to change the world and mothering is a force of great power to be reckoned.  Mothers, if they love their children and desire to see true growth in their offspring must bring their children to the temple of God and deposit them in the care of God.  This is your greatest job and it begins in praying for your children.

A fictitious story written in 1822 tells us of a family who

did not wish their dear little children to be handsome, or rich, or powerful in the world: all that they desired for them was, the blessing of God; without which, all that this world can give is nothing worth.

And so what did they do to ensure this outcome.  They prayed.  This mother and father prayed every morning for their children.  They prayed.

The pious Father and Mother’s Prayer for their beloved Children.

Oh, heavenly Father who has opened a way for us to approach you, through the blood and righteousness of your blessed Son, for his sake listen to the prayers of we sinful parents, who presume to intercede with you on behalf of our children. You, O God in your infinite love, have provided a means of salvation for all men. O grant to our humble and earnest prayers the assistance of your Holy Spirit, to enlighten and renew the minds of our children, to convince them of the unbelief in which they have hitherto lived, and to point out to them that glorious atonement which you have provided for their sins.

We do not ask any worldly honor or possession for our children; but we pray that they may be enabled to prefer you above all things, and be made sensible of that everlasting love with which you have loved your people through all eternity. O glorious Savior we devote these, our little ones to you, wholly unto you, either to take them now to yourself, or to give them longer life, as it seems good to you: but, oh intercede for them, that they may be the children of the Holy One; and that of these little ones whom you have given to us that we may be able to say, at the last day, ” Of those which you gave to us, we have lost none.” (John xviii. 9.)

Now to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, be all glory, honor, and praise now and for evermore. Amen.[1]

Mothers, women – pray for the children in your life.  Bring them to the temple of God daily and often.  Set them in his presence and then teach them by the life you model to give everything to God, to live completely devoted to God and in great thanksgiving.  As women, your job never ceases, you never outgrow it.  You must Intercede for your children and believe that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is powerful, able to affect even your adult children.

History is full of encouragement like this.  Like Hannah, Elizabeth raised a son named John the Baptist who was reverently submissive to God.  And John stood for faithfulness and decried injustice and hypocrisy.  In fact his ministry placed him in the unique position of declaring about Jesus, Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Similarly, Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, raised him in the fear and instruction of the Lord and their life and example brought forth a great missionary who served in partnership with Paul and according to the church history, he became the first bishop of Ephesus and affected the life of countless men and women (2Timother 1:5).

And then of course there is the great example of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who like Hannah must have raised her son to love the Lord.  In fact, he loved the lord so much that he stayed on in the temple at one point when his parents had left.  Motherhood is powerful, and it has the ability to influence children, nations and even the world more than we can imagine.  And godly mothering, mothering that is focused on prayer, worship and submission to the Lord, is extraordinary.

Consider the life of Augustine, who lived in sin.  Carousing and drunk, far from Christ and yet through the ministry of his mother’s prayers, he came to know the Lord and became one of the theologically brilliant men who helped to shape western orthodoxy.  Or consider the life of Hudson Taylor.

James Hudson Taylor was born at Barnsley, England, May 21, 1832. He was fortunate to have been born in a home of genuine piety. Heaven lay about him in his infancy. He saw it in his father’s faith and in his mother’s prayers. Even prior to his birth his parents had dedicated him to God and prayed that he might be a missionary to China, though this information was withheld from him until long after he had reached that land.

Despite the godly example and teaching of his parents, Hudson became a skeptical and worldly young man. He began to think that for some reason or other he could not be saved and that the only thing for him to do was to take his fill of this world, since there was no hope for him in the next.

Hudson Taylor’s conversion, like all else in his life, is a monument to the power of prayer. When he was about seventeen years of age he went one afternoon into his father’s library in search of a book with which to while away the time. Finally he picked up a gospel tract, which looked interesting, saying to himself: “There will be a story at the beginning and a sermon at the end. I will read the former and skip the latter.”

Little did he know what was going on at that very time in the heart of his mother, who was on a visit seventy or eighty miles away. That very afternoon she went to her room with an intense yearning for the conversion of her son, turned the key in the door and resolved not to leave the spot until her prayers were answered. Hour after hour she continued pleading, until at length she arose with glad assurance that the object of her prayers had already been accomplished.[2]

So this morning, if you are a mother, or grandmother, I urge you, the scripture urges you to model a life of faith.  Pray for your children.  Bring them to the house of God.  Speak to them about the promises that God has fulfilled in your life.  Give testimony to God’s faithful concern for his people and then like Hannah, Elizabeth, Eunice, and Mary entrust your children to the Lord.  For though you may have not known the Lord when your children were being raised and so your life was more like that of Micah’s mother than that of Hannah, you serve a God who is able to change hearts and perform miracles.  He can turn the hearts of your children to the Savior. Ask him!And he was saved that day and went on to become a missionary to China.


Micah’s Mother, a poor example


Praises and blesses wrongdoing

Promotes idolatry

Samuel’s Mother, a good example



Brings her son to the house of God

Praying for children

Enlighten and renew their minds

Convince them of unbelief

Bring to awareness of the glorious atonement

Prefer God to all else

Sense the Love of God

Christ will intercede for them

Other Examples

[1] The history of the Fairchild family; or, The child’s manual, Mary Martha Sherwood, pg. 3-4., © 1822. (language updated to modern English by me.)

[2] http://www.wholesomewords.org/missions/biotaylor3.html


About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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