Date: May 9, 1943
For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him; therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth, he shall be lent to the Lord. – 1 Samuel 1:27-28
O God, Thou Lord of Unlimited Love:
We praise Thee for our Christian parents, especially for the faith and devotion of our mothers who guarded and guided us from our earliest moments, taught us the truth of Thy marvelous mercy in Jesus, and constantly sacrificed themselves in our behalf. Graciously preserve them amid the dangers of this darkened day! Spare them all unnecessary burdens, and in each hour of their sorrow grant them the rich comfort of Thy Word! For the sake of Christ’s suffering, dying, and rising again, forgive us every thoughtless word or deliberate action whereby we have refused to obey our fathers and mothers, caused them to suffer, or brought them disgrace! Strengthen our family life, and by the power of Thy pure Word draw many households to Thee! Make our homes temples of Thy truth, in which parents and children gladly hear Thy Word and sing Thy praises! We plead constantly for our military youth, embattled on far-flung areas. Be Thou their Shield and Protection! May it be Thy will that they come back to us soon! O Lord of might and mercy, bless our country! Spread Thy Word with increasing power! Always be our God and Father through Jesus, in whose name we pray! Hear us for His sake! Amen!
FOR more than a half century the majestic statue “Liberty Enlightening the World” has towered over Bedloe’s Island, near the entrance to New York Harbor, as a symbol of the freedom we enjoy in this God-blessed nation. When Bartholdi, the sculptor, looked for a model whose form and features he could reproduce as “Liberty,” he received much contradictory counsel. A leading art authority advised him that the statue should depict “figures of thought which are grand in themselves.” After examining outstanding heroes, Bartholdi chose as model for the colossal masterpiece—his own mother.
How appropriate that motherhood is thus prominently connected with our national blessings! Take the influence of Christian mothers from the lives of eminent American leaders, and the very names of these men would have been forgotten, their monumental contributions to our freedom entirely lost. Remove from this country’s annals the New England mother who daily taught her children the Scriptures; exclude the pioneer mother who at her husband’s side and under heavy hardship established a frontier home; cut out from our past the immigrant mother who, with meager funds, but with intense loyalty to God and country, helped build the families responsible for much of our industrial prosperity, and you have wiped out the support on which, under the Almighty, much of our progress has rested. Every statue symbolizing American advance should somehow pay tribute to the mother’s part in building a better nation.
Similarly if we expect the United States to continue its forward, onward, upward march during the coming years, when the foundations may be shaken by tremors greater than we have yet felt, we must look—beyond our armies and navies, our courts and legislatures, our commerce and industry—to the Christian home—first of all to Christian fathers and, as we recall particularly this Sunday—to Christian mothers.
Yet the Christian mothers’ role is much more important than helping advance our country, glorious though this duty is. They have the sacred responsibility of building the home spiritually, helping to lead children to the Lord. In the Scripture for today (the first Book of Samuel, chapter one, verses twenty-seven and twenty-eight) we meet a faith-filled woman, who may well serve as example for every American mother. Therefore as I appeal:
MOTHERS OF AMERICA, TURN TO CHRIST!
I make the Scriptural basis for my plea these words centering in Hannah, the mother of Samuel. She says: “For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him; therefore also have I lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth, he shall be lent to the Lord.”
GIVE HIM YOUR HEARTS!
Hannah was a grief-burdened woman. Although her husband loved her dearly, yet, as frequently in the Oriental world, he had another wife, and consequently the household was torn by strife. The misguided radicals who insist that because the war will supposedly create a large surplus of women, husbands should be permitted to take more than one wife do not know God’s Law or history. It is plainly written throughout the ages that whenever any man has spurned the all-wise Creator’s injunction, repeated by Christ Himself, and has refused to “cleave unto his wife,” sorrow and conflict have ensued. The divine ideal of marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman, for better or for worse, through health and through sickness, in riches and in poverty.
The source of Hannah’s deepest pain was the sorrow that God had not given her a child. In those early times women believed in having babies, and Hannah had prayed earnestly that the Lord would grant her this happiness—the very blessing which too many modern women despise. In our cruel, selfish day husbands and wives often plan to avoid parenthood. They flee from it as though it were a curse. They go to murderous ends in preventing their homes and lives from being enriched by one of the most beneficial gifts God Himself can grant. And the consequences? Too often: ruined health, wrecked happiness, broken homes, divorce trials, lost self-respect, a weakened nation, and disregard of God! Of all delusions which have brought American families misery few are more destructive than the rejection of the Almighty’s repeated command, “Be fruitful, and multiply!”
Hannah’s distress was increased by the fact that her country faced powerful enemies, the Philistines, who repeatedly swept down on Israel. Many of you understand her sorrow; for war always burdens women with heavy heartaches, and the present struggle may multiply their suffering unless God intervenes—as we pray that He will. While we plead, let us intercede for the mothers of our soldiers, especially of the prisoners, the wounded, the crippled, the dying, the dead; weeping, soul-crushed women, who, as they pay the heavy price for war, need Christ’s unfailing comfort.
Added to Hannah’s hardships was another heavy disappointment. She had hoped to find courage in God’s house; but when she bowed silently before the Lord in the Tabernacle, Eli, the high priest, thinking she was drunk, rebuked her. Some of you mothers have likewise failed to find comfort in your churches. A Wisconsin woman reports concerning her visit to a Modernist congregation: “While sitting in the pew, I had to overhear such fragments of conversation as: ‘I had a no-trump hand.’ ‘Yes, they’re almost bankrupt.’ ‘Who’s your dressmaker now, or are you buying your clothes ready made?’ When the sermon came, the text was taken from the Old Testament—the words, ‘David longed.’ Ah, I thought, he is going to give us a wonderful sermon. He will draw a comparison between the water of the well and the living water, and David’s thirst for it. Alas, I didn’t know Modernism. The preacher told about his own old home, the things his father did, how his mother wanted a veranda. Not once was Christ mentioned. The sermon referred to God two or three times, but the speaker showed by his manner that he expected God to be grateful for the fact that His name was mentioned. Those who attended the service received not the Bread of Life, but ashes.” A Canadian listener protests: “Unfortunately I am a member of a church which in former years was faithful to the Master, yet now has lost its first love. The pastor is so afraid of offending someone that he preaches on every topic but the crucified Savior.” A Montana mother complains that none of the ministers in her town preach the cross and blood. With the pulpit trying to answer almost any question except the most vital, “What must I do to be saved?” should we not be prepared for the tragedy that when some of you protested, like Hannah, you were falsely accused? Stick to your defense of the faith! Champion Christ even though you are called narrow and bigoted!
In all these sorrows, with trouble in her own soul, her home, her country, her church, what course did Hannah take? Did she surrender to despair and cry out, “What’s the use anyway?” Did she resort to fortune-tellers, abounding as they did in the unbelief of her day? Did she clench her fists and vow that she would smash her way through these difficulties without God? Did she try to drown her sorrows in drink or to laugh them off in one round of pleasure after the other? People try such follies today, but not Hannah! She turned to God. Her trust in the Lord, though severely tried, triumphed.
Every American mother should follow Hannah and rely on the Almighty. Not in feminism, Modernism, Communism, which destroy the interdependence of husband and wife, weaken the ties binding a mother to home, husband, and children; not in worldliness and the wanton rejection of God’s Law, can the women of this country find abiding help and building power. With Hannah they must go back to God, and that means back to Jesus. “American mothers, turn to Christ!” is the plea and promise of our distressed day.
No one has ever exalted motherhood as did our Lord. Recall women’s position in the ancient pagan world! They were offered as booby prizes for athletic contests in Greece. Women’s tombs were even marked with a muzzle, to show that wives should not speak; with a pair of reins, to show that they should be led or driven by their husband. A whip might have been added to those tombstone markings, for frequently the wife was hardly more than a slave. Plato, whose name is carved into the walls of many public libraries, taught that men should have their wives in common. Socrates, likewise held up before our youth as an example of exalted thought, preferred the company of loose, abandoned women to that of his own wife. In Rome a husband could discard his wife at his will; legally he held the power of life and death over her.
Into this reign of unspeakable misery, indescribable lust, came Christ; and through Him motherhood was elevated to its highest heights. He might have entered the world as one of His Prophets had left it, on a chariot of fire. He might have descended, as He later ascended, by a spectacular miracle of divine power. Instead He, the mighty God, was born of the Virgin Mary. What an honor to motherhood! During His boyhood years He obeyed her; and even in the agonies of His crucifixion He provided a home for her. He likewise offered merciful help to all mothers who approached Him. Outside the Nain city gates He met a weeping widow, and He resurrected her son. The mother-in-law of His disciple Peter lay sick, and He healed her. A Syrophoenician woman was distressed because an unclean spirit tortured her daughter, and Jesus compassionately healed the child.
Because the risen Christ has lost none of His divine interest, power, and comfort, we repeat the cry “American women, turn to Christ!” If in any of the homes reached by this message quarreling has supplanted quiet and hatred seems to banish love, we appeal, “Turn to Christ!” If you mothers are worried about your children, the boys on the battle front or the girls on the home front; if you are distressed by fears for their bodily or moral safety, turn to Christ! Do you sorrow under the same burden that weighted Hannah’s heart, because you have no child of your own—no chubby, dimple-cheeked baby to cuddle and caress? Turn to Christ! If you are tortured by conscience, oppressed by your sins, disturbed by the serious mistakes of the past, turn to Christ! Learn the first and greatest of His unnumbered blessings, that He has taken away your transgressions, placed them, with all their guilt, their penalty, their curse, on Himself, to make you stainless and spotless in the Almighty’s sight.
What a marvelous Redeemer Jesus is! During the past days we were moved by the heroism of Submarine Commander Howard Gilmore, who, as he lay mortally wounded on deck, signaled his men to submerge even though the command “Take her down!” was his own death warrant, since there was not time for him to be carried below to safety. Yet the Son of God died not for His country, not for His friends, but—here is the marvel of His mercy—He was crucified for His enemies, for everyone of us, who through our disobedience of God’s will had deserved eternal death.
The compassion of the Savior, who once refused to cast a stone on an abandoned woman, has not changed. His promise still reads, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” If you want this to be a true Mother’s Day, instead of just another holiday; if you want to be a God-pleasing, God-favored, Godblessed mother, then, before this day of grace draws to its close, take Hannah as your example, and turn to the Lord!
It is deeply tragic if a man with boisterous blasphemy denounces the Savior. How doubly shocking for a woman, with the finer qualities we expect in her, to defy the Almighty! How trebly appalling when a mother, under added divine blessing, rejects the Lord Jesus! One of the most disturbing signs in these distressed days is the fact that probably more American mothers than ever before are living without God, willfully spurning Christ’s mercy. Cocktail-drinking, card-crazed, pleasure-bent mothers see Sunday come and go without giving a thought to their soul’s salvation. Atheist organizations list mothers among their staunchest supporters. Some of the worst novels and plays have been written by mothers.—To prevent the spread of this national menace, the appeal must constantly be repeated and reemphasized, “American mothers, turn to Christ!”
Hannah also shows us how motherhood is to approach God. Year after year she went to the Lord’s Tabernacle at Shiloh; and what that sanctuary was to her the true churches of Christ are to us today. She lived a long distance from the Tabernacle; but spurning every suggestion of worshiping at a nearby Canaanite shrine, she regularly made the pilgrimage to God’s house. What marvelous blessing would come to our country if all our women were led by the same loyalty! Yet half of America’s mothers are not members of any church, and many of those enrolled on congregational rosters do not attend, even if they can walk or easily ride to worship. As long as millions of mothers keep their distance from God, this country has no assurance that the fullness of divine favor will continue to bless us. On the other hand, when women, following the examples of their Christian sisters who were the last at the cross and the first at the grave, eagerly dedicate themselves to the Lord’s work, they can help strengthen the foundation of our true prosperity. Mothers, because your trusting faith in Christ should be not only one of the nation’s greatest assets but, in addition, your own personal assurance of the Savior’s guidance on earth and of your salvation, I plead with you, join a true church! Attend it regularly, even though you may not be close to a Scripture-loving, Christ-exalting congregation and you have to save gasoline for the trip! Working with me and praying for you are thousands of Christian pastors, ready to travel many miles in bringing your home or community the same Gospel I preach. Will you not write us now, while the Spirit prompts you, and let us help instruct you and your family in the eternal truth of your redemption?
Hannah, however, did not restrict her zeal for the Lord to the yearly visits at Shiloh. Instead she constantly communed with God. Read the opening chapter of First Samuel, and you will see that hers was a prayer-filled life! You will find that she “poured out” her “soul before the Lord.” Her pleading with the Almighty was not the bare recitation of memorized prayers, not the mere saying of so many petitions. She put her whole spirit into every request that winged its way from her devoted heart to the Almighty’s throne. As we behold her prostrate before her God in the time of her country’s visitation, will you not agree that the appeal which leaps over the centuries to us asks, “Pray, American mothers, pray”? Who can describe the happiness which could dawn on our country if from coast to coast our women would regularly, repeatedly, bring before the Lord the needs of our land! In Colonial times praying mothers helped insure divine protection for our cause, and we gratefully acknowledge that in this crisis many women are on their knees pleading for peace.
Hannah’s prayer was answered. Though she waited year after year, finally, in God’s time, she received her long-desired son. Take comfort in her experience, you, the childless mothers of our country! If it be His will, the Lord can do the humanly impossible and grant you a baby of your own. If, however, His mercy has decided otherwise, you have the assurance that whenever your heavenly Father withholds anything from you, His compassion always foresees your good. Keep on praying, as Hannah did, even should it seem that God’s ears are closed to your entreaties! Her child was born at the right moment, and the help you need will arrive at precisely the proper time. Trusting, continued, undismayed prayer is your strongest hope.
GIVE HIM YOUR CHILDREN!
When her long-desired child was born, Hannah called him “Samuel,” which means, “the one asked of God.” She was not ashamed to proclaim her faith by naming the child in honor of the Almighty. Parents today will do well similarly to give their children reverent, Scriptural names in place of heathen, questionable designations. Last week the newspapers told us that a Buenos Aires judge fined local parents who had their two baby boys called “Zoroaster” and “Jupiter” and ordered these names changed. If Christians recognize that according to the Bible children are “an heritage of the Lord,” they require no court action to keep them from spurning all objectionable terms.
Hannah centered much of her attention on the child. She herself nursed it, cared for it, prayed for it. Her husband evidently was a man of wealth, and she could easily have placed it under a servant’s care. Nevertheless she said, “For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him.” She implied that the baby Samuel was a trust imposed on her by the Lord and that nothing would make her untrue to this charge. It cost her a good deal, we may be sure, to stay home and personally to tend to the child. She had to forego many social contacts and other pleasures; but how readily she made these sacrifices! What were all other enjoyments compared with the son who was an answer to prayer?
If only Hannah’s spirit would rest on all American women and they would discover that their place of prime importance is the home; their task of greatest responsibility the care of husband and children; their highest privilege bringing of happy, healthy boys and girls into the world and then watching prayerfully over their bodies and souls! However, many mothers—and I omit the fathers only because of this day’s special interest—find little time for their children. These war years increase the usual sins under which families suffer: the unfaithfulness of husband or wife; the evil of divorce, which robs the child of the parents’ care; the careerchasing of mothers who are not satisfied with simple, unapplauded home duties; the selfishness of wives who criminally avoid motherhood. In addition to these difficulties, heightened, as they are, under the laxity of war, American mothers are being coaxed away from their families into high-salaried positions. I have some startling figures for you. They are reliable, submitted to me by Frank X. Reller of the Saint Louis juvenile court, and show that in this city almost one third of all juvenile offenders under seventeen came from homes in which both father and mother were employed.
“But,” you say, “perhaps their mothers had to work. Perhaps these families could not exist without her extra salary.” What does Mr. Reller say? He answers, “In every one of these cases the father was employed with an adequate income to support his family without the necessity of the mother’s employment or her leaving the home.” Why, then, you ask, do these mothers work? Again, this juvenile court official explains, “They are actually sacrificing the welfare of their children for a few paltry dollars and a few items of luxury.”
You may be ready to denounce me for what I will now say; but I am certain that if you follow this advice, some day you will be ready to thank me: Mothers, unless your children have good care while you are away from home, give up your work now! Go back to your family! Pray God to show you how your children should be trained! Watch over them as the gift of the Lord’s love! You may lose a little money, but how rich you will be when your boys or girls—under parental direction—become stalwart Christians!
Do not imagine, however, that Hannah was a doting, selfishly ambitious mother who spoiled her child with overaffection, who thought only of his health or appearance, and who could laugh approvingly at his naughtiness. We have mothers like that today. They prepare their children for baby contests, but they never prepare them for the Lord. They besiege theatrical booking agencies, hoping to have their daughters selected for a motion-picture role; but you look in vain for them at church services. They teach their boys and girls ballroom dancing, but they never show them the inside of a Sunday school.
By contrast, see what Hannah did! She vowed that if in her advanced age God in His mercy would give her a baby, the child would become His servant. So when Samuel was young, she took him to Eli, the high priest at Shiloh, and said, “I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth, he shall be lent to the Lord.” “He is my only child,” she declared in effect; “but instead of keeping him with me, I now place him into the service of the Almighty.”
Mothers of America, have you brought your sons and daughters to God in Christ? Have you heard the Savior say, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God,” and then have you answered, “Here am ‘I and the children whom the Lord hath given me’”? Have you taught them Christ’s marvelous love? Did they learn their first prayers from your lips? Did they receive their earliest religious instruction nestled at your bosom? Have you Christian mothers insisted that time and place be set aside regularly and reverently for the family’s reading of God’s Word? Do you teach your boys and girls to kneel, morning and night, in prayer to the Savior? Have your children been baptized? Do you take them to Sunday school? Or, better still, do you appreciate the advantages of sound spiritual training offered by our Christian day schools? If you have; if on this Mother’s Day a glow of gratitude warms your heart because the Savior has blessed you and all your dear ones, none of whom has been lost, then we thank you and pay you tribute. God bless you in Christ! Your children will rise up to call you blessed.
I have invited to the broadcast this afternoon my own dear eighty-three-year-old mother, who is now at my side in this small studio. As she has meant indescribably much to me, so I see in her the type of Christian parent for whom thousands of us thank God today, the mother who gave us life, worked for us, sacrificed for us, prayed for us, brought Christ to us, and who always, in success and sorrow, was our comforting guide. Let us honor her faith and loyalty to Jesus in every way we can!
If your mother is a Christian, and if you have fallen from the faith, think of the anguish which must surge within her when she knows that you, without Christ, are lost, that in the great reunion after the resurrection you will not stand at her side! To remove this worry from her heart, to honor her by honoring your God, but, far above all this, to deliver your own soul from eternal death, I ask you: Come to the Lord Jesus today! Be reunited with your mother in the true faith! Bring back the happy times when you were bound together by devotion to the Savior! Make this the most radiant Mother’s Day in her life by writing, telephoning, or telegraphing her that you have returned to her Savior and yours!
If, however, some of you mothers must admit that you have not followed Hannah in giving your child to God; if, worrying about your children’s health, education, manners, you paid scant attention to their souls, then Mother’s Day has a meaningful message for you. It must be terrifying to know that you will have to stand before God in Judgment and admit that you never tried to lead your sons and daughters to the Lord, that your example of indifference tended to make them unconcerned about Christ and hostile to the Church. In dread warning Jesus tells His followers that it would be better for them to have a millstone hanged about their neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea than to give offense to a child. To avoid that shocking end, mothers of America, turn to Christ with your children now! Resolve on this day dedicated to you that you will dedicate yourself to the Redeemer! Write to that soldier lad of yours in far-off Africa, in the South Seas, or in the broad oceans and tell him that you have accepted the Lord Jesus, that you plead with him to join you in the faith! Make this Mother’s Day monumental in your home. If with your husband (and we are making a serious mistake by not commemorating equally the blessings and responsibilities of the Christian father, since in God’s plan he is the head of the family), if with your household, your heart is turned to Christ, you will also offer our beloved country the solid support it needs in the present crisis. Keep this in mind: had Hannah not turned to God with her whole soul and with her baby boy, the subsequent history of Israel, humanly speaking, might have been written in far darker lines. Her child became the man of the hour, through whom Israel’s victory was ultimately won. Behind Samuel was faithful, praying Hannah, just as behind those who, under divine direction, will help defend and save our country and its free institutions, are you, our Christian, consecrated mothers. If you fail, God help us! Follow Hannah in trusting the Lord and lending Him your children! Then you will secure mighty benedictions for yourselves, your Church, your family, your country. Mothers of America, turn to Christ! Amen!
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.