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She make an oath to God no one could keep, and it costed her a blessing! | 1 Sam 1-3 Bible Study on oaths

Updated: Apr 17

When many ask God for something, they feel like their request isn’t adequate on it's own and get cold feet. The first thing that warms these "cold feet" is offering God something in return for answering that prayer. Big problem! Althought it might not be apparent at first, the end of this path is bondage to dead works. This approach causes a beliver to step over everything Jesus has taught us about grace!

And for you to avoid making this mistake I am going to reveal the root of this problem through the story of Hannah and Samuel in 1 Sam. 1-3. By the end you’ll have a greater understanding of the throne of grace we’ve been given through the blood of Jesus and avoid the snare of “dead works”!

1 Samuel 1:1 begins with prophet Samuel’s mother, Hannah. We discover how her affliction from being childless drove her to cry out to the Lord and experience the miracle of an answered prayer as God gave her a child. The Word describes how she offered her son Samuel to the Lord as a loan for answering her prayer and details how Samuel went on to become a mighty prophet of the Lord. And this is what many read when they first look through this story, but there’s a deeper message revealing the source of dead works that's hiding under the surface.

Let’s start with Hannah’s relationship with her husband. In 1 Sam. 1:5 it says how Elkanah would give her a “worthy portion” which was more than the portion he gave his other wife, and in verse 8 we read why. Elkanah believed his kindness could fill the hole in Hannah’s heart, as he questions Hannah's sorrow saying “why is thy heart grieved? Am not I better to thee than ten sons?” There is no man on planet earth that can be husband and son to the same woman. Hannah’s sorrow was proof Elkanah’s hopes didn’t fulfill his expectations. It seems like this fact offended the “worthy portion” he gave her. Elkanah thought his “works” could justify joy and fulfillment. Based off his response, it looks like he took it personally, but what could he do if God withheld her from having children?

He could have done what his forefathers did, intercede for his wife. We see Isaac pray for Rebekah when she was barren in Gen. 25:21 and God answered. Elkanah’s “worthy portion” was the dead works that was hindering his faith from wholeheartedly believing in God’s answer, otherwise he would have defended his faith instead of his works.

Before we move on to Hannah’s vow to the Lord, let’s take a moment to reflect on Jesus’s words.

Matthew 5:34,37

“I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: 37 let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”

Let's apply this wisdom to Hannah’s oath before God. She says in verse 11 “O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.”

She swears to offer up her son Samuel “all the days of his life” yet keeps him a few years to breastfeed him, 1 Sam. 1:22. Can you call it “all the days of his life” if you have to subtract the years he needed to be breast fed? No, and that’s the point Jesus was making in Matthew 5. Hannah made an oath she couldn’t keep, and breaking that oath only condemned her by her own words, something Jesus also warns us about in Matthew 12:37 “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”

Second problem with this oath is the Laws she had to step over to complete it. We see how in 2 Sam. 2:11 Samuel is taken in by Eli to minister, and in verse 18 it says “Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child, girded with a linen ephod.” Priests could only minister before God at the age of 30 years and up.

Numbers 4:3

“From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation.”

Priests could only minister before the Lord if they were of the bloodline of Aaron’s sons.

Exodus 28:41

“And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office.”

But Sammuel was an Ephrathite, 1 Sam. 1:1. You can see the problems this oath created already. But most notably, only the sons of Aaron were permitted to wear the linen ephod, Exo 28. Would all these laws really matter before God? Yes, and God most notably proved it when He killed two of Aaron’s sons for offering a sacrifice His law didn’t permit in Lev. 10.

Look at this from the standpoint of Eli and you’ll see the problem. Hannah’s oath before the Lord was a temptation for him to rebel against his commitments. It was the job of the priest to keep the law and uphold it, and the severity of this job is seen in Phineas spearing two people for breaking God’s commandments, in

Numbers 25:6-8.

"6 And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 7 And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; 8 And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel."

Did Eli take Hannah’s offering under the hopes God would be gracious to this error? It’d be hard to believe considering he allowed his sons to rob God of the Israelites food offerings, 1 Sam. 2:12-17 and openly rejected God’s prophetic word against him in 1 Sam. 3:18. Eli was an example of what not to do, and there is a reason it took a minister such as him to receive this offering Hannah brought.

What Eli spoke over Hannah summarizes this problem of dead works, 1 Sam. 2:20 “The LORD give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the Lord.” Eli blessed this offering because he no longer served God, and this started when he stopped believing it was his job to enforce the law, 1 Sam 2:25 “If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat for him?”

Eli and Hannah (1 Sam. 1:28) considered her answered prayer as a loan to the Lord, why is that? Because they felt debted to God’s grace. Hannah felt as though God’s kindness was beyond what she was deserving of and thought she could pay it back to the Lord by offering up her blessing. This is a dead works mentality and ended up costing Hannah her own blessing. The truth is God would have answered that prayer even if she kept Samuel all to herself, and it’s because God is kind!

It was the kindness of the Lord and His wonderful grace that overlooked all these problems in her oath and gave her Samuel to begin with. It’s a fleshly mind that views God’s grace as a finite resource rather than infinite. It’s equally fleshly to only use suffering as a means to call out to God to begin with. It was affliction that motivated Hannah to make this oath, and once that affliction was gone her commitment to her oath wavered.

This is the exact problem many believers face today, they feel guilty for the grace Jesus has given, so they fill their time and prayers with dead works in hopes of “earning it back”. But just like Elkanah’s “worthy portion”, those dead works are the only thing hindering the faith needed to receive! How do you know you're giving dead works? Because you're offended when it isn't accepted, just like Elkanah.

The early church knew they could ask for more! In Mark 16:15-18 we read how Jesus gives His believers the ability to lay hands on the sick to heal. Yet in Acts 4:23-31 the church is crying out to the Lord for MORE, to simply stick their hand out for the sick to get healed!

Our lives before we were in Christ were grounded on a lie, a lie that said you had to use hard work to justify your request, but this isn’t the case with Jesus. Romans 3:24 tells us that we have “justified freely by his grace”, which means we don’t have to feel like we are under an impossible debt to “pay back” what Christ has done for us. How can you? It was a price no one could afford, and that will never change! Let the blood of Jesus free your mind from the guilt and shame of pulling on His hem and pull until you get an answer because His grace is sufficient! Hebrews 11:6 Tells us God answers the prayers of the diligent, so let His grace be the reason you unashamedly seek UNTIL!

Hebrews 9:14

“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

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