("My Son? No...not my son!!")
Gerrit Vos (1894-1968) was a minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches and a long-time contributor to the Standard Bearer. He wrote this meditation for the May 15, 1963 issue of the Standard Bearer.
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. And he worshipped the Lord there. I Samuel 1:27, 28
There is a grievous shortage of ministers in our churches.
And, as I learn from various church papers, this shortage is universal.
This shortage is "grievous." That is correct. As long as I have lived, and that is sixty-eight years, it never was this way before. There were always plenty of ministers in the churches where I worshiped: in Holland, Germany, England, and here in the States. Sometimes it was even said, also in our own churches, that there were too many young men seeking the holy ministry.
But those days seem to be past.
There are plenty of young men in the church of Christ. There are plenty of young men with bright and clear heads. God also regenerates many young men, and gives conversion and faith, so that they confess the name of their Savior.
But no, they do not give themselves to the holy ministry.
Results? Many vacant churches. Reading services, some times weeks on end.
Is it not grievous?
I know, I know, there is an easy way out. I have heard it said many times. "God is not calling ministers today."
Do I deny that God must call a minister? Of course not. I would say that the man who becomes a minister without the divine call is the worst kind of wretch imaginable. When these wretches come before the great judgment seat in the day of judgment they will hear God say to them: "The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their hearts" (Jer. 14:14).
And Jesus said: "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. 7:22, 23).
Some of these wretches were even called by Jesus, and they also prophesied; but, nevertheless, they were cast out. Take, for example Judas, and tremble. Jesus called him, knowing that he was a reprobate, to be an apostle of the Lord, in order to show to the whole world that when a reprobate comes very close to Jesus and the gospel, he reveals all the filth of his natural heart. Remember the sign, the devilish sign: Whom I shall kiss, He it is: take Him!
No, I certainly would not rule out the divine calling to the ministry.
But there is much more to the story of a prophet, of a minister of the Word. God works through means.
Listen again to Jesus: "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into his harvest" (Mali. 9:37, 38).
Did not Jesus know that a true minister of the Word must be called by God, both internally and externally? Of course He did. He knows everything. But Jesus knew that His God and Father works through means.
The general means is certainly that the whole church prays the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth laborers into His harvest.
Evidently this has not been done. And evidently this has not been done for a long time. For the call of God starts very early.
And that leads us to our text.
O, beloved reader, Samuel was a splendid example of what a prophet, a minister, should be.
His beginning, as far as the means are concerned, was his God-fearing mother, Hannah.
Here is Hannah: "For this child I prayed!"
It has been said that behind every great man stands a great woman. Looking at Hannah, I would almost believe it. For great she was and is.
When young girls marry, how many can say with Hannah: for this child I prayed? On good authority I have heard that there is sometime the very opposite: "We will not have any children until we pay for our furniture!" A far cry!
In Hannah you see how God works through the means He ordained. We are to pray for His blessings.
The Lord gave Hannah her petition: the child was born. And, publicly confessing her struggle, she named him Samuel. That name means: "Asked of God."
But that is not all. Listen to Hannah: "He shall be lent to the Lord," or, literally: "he whom I have obtained by petition shall be returned to the Lord."
That is the great thing about Hannah with respect to her petition and the gift of the child. He shall be returned to the Lord!
What does that mean? It means that he shall be dedicated to the service of God in the most intimate way possible: he shall stand in the house of God and serve Him in the Word of God!
Oh, it is a great thing to pray for children from the Lord. It is also a great thing if the Lord hears you and fills your hearts and arms with children. It is inexpressibly sweet when you hear your flesh and blood confess the name of God in His house. When and if they do, there is singing in your hearts.
But what is sweeter to the taste than to sit in church and hear your son preach the wondrous gospel of the promise?
How long shall Samuel stand in the house of his God? Listen again to the God-fearing Hannah. She will tell you: "as long as he liveth."
Yes, I know, that is a dogma of the church, of the true church. The calling of God is without repentance. Once a minister, always a minister. But the point is that this truth of all the ages lived in the heart of this mother. It was not Samuel that said it; it was his mother. And it belonged to the means which God employed.
Can you imagine how Hannah educated little Samuel? I can. Oh, often, very often, she told him in childlike language how she had struggled with the Lord to obtain this son; and how she had vowed a vow unto the Almighty. Often she would tell him: I promised the Lord God of Israel that you would stand in the house of God all the days of your life!
Beloved mothers, Hannah prepared her son Samuel to live in Shiloh. You can tell. When he heard the call of the Lord time and again and did not know it, he listened obediently to the advice of Eli, and when God called again, he said: "Speak; for thy servant heareth!"
Now listen, beloved reader: That first speech to God Almighty became his whole life's program. How he listened to the speech of God! And Israel was blessed through this Verbi Dei minister.
And the mother was blessed. If you wish to know the extent of her blessedness, just read her song of praise in I Samuel 2:1-10.
This mother of one of the most glorious ministers of all time continues her singing in the Paradise of God.
Well, the text says of him: "And he worshipped the Lord there."To worship is to enumerate all the beauties of the Lord God, to tell of His majesty, to sing of His wonders all the day long. It is to do so before the face of all Israel, so that they also may learn the praises of the Lord.
To worship is to begin our everlasting work in heaven here on earth.
Mothers! Daughters of Jerusalem! Are you not jealous of Hannah?
Elkanahs! Ye men of Israel! Do you look for such brides as Hannah? And when you have found her, do you join with her to approach the throne of grace together in order to petition our Father in heaven for a Samuel?
If and when you do, you shall be blessed in such a deed.
Only eternity shall reveal how many blessed ministers were born from the struggles of a mother in Israel.
Always remember: God uses and blesses the means.
It is sad to say, but there are many mothers and fathers who are duly concerned about their offspring, but it is a concern about their carnal advancement. My boy or boys must have a good education, the best education.
In the meantime, while he is studying and struggling to become thoroughly prepared for his life's task, someone comes to the door and asks for a gift for God. Sure, sure, sure, here is a ten dollar bill. You can even have twenty dollars! The Chinese and the Africans must have missionaries and ministers. For the theological school? Oh, yes, indeed, here is my donation! Give the professors and the students my best regards! But my son? No, no, no! My son is going to be a brick layer, a carpenter, an industrialist, a great business man. You can get my money, but not my son. It never entered my mind, or ... my heart!
Yes, that is right. It never entered my heart. There is the trouble.
Are there any God-fearing young men who read this?
Yes, it is late on the calendar. It is very late. It should have begun with your mom. But how about the holy ministry in your church? Are you not concerned about the fact that we are woefully short of ministers?
Would it not be heaven for you to say: "Speak, for Thy servant heareth"?
And heaven, with its joyful angels, would say, Amen!
Last modified: 30-Jul-2003