The books of Samuel bring to our attention two great deliverances of Israel. The mighty victory won by Samuel (1 Sam 7), who completed the work commenced by Samson, and the deliverance of the nation wrought by David, both displayed the power of God at work in dark days. To compare the lives of these remarkable leaders yields royal dainties of divine truth. They were both devoted to the Lord from their youth. They were victorious on the field of battle. They faced enemies who appeared to have overwhelming might, and prevailed. Their lives were lived serving the God of Israel.
But there is one further feature, which could easily be overlooked, that marked them both. Hannah, the mother of Samuel stated before the Lord that she was His "handmaid" (1 Sam 1.11). Little is known about the mother of David. We do not even know her name. David, however, mentioned her on one occasion when he stated that he was "the son of thine handmaid" (Ps 86.16). Some have claimed that he is speaking of Ruth, and some even that he is going back to Sarah, but his words doubtless refer to his mother. His conduct as a young man would appear to confirm that he had a godly mother. How fitting then that these two men should each have had mothers who were handmaidens of Jehovah.
But what does the expression convey? The writer of Psalm 123 speaks of the eyes of the maiden being upon "the hand of her mistress" (v.2). A handmaid was one whose eyes were constantly looking to the hands of her mistress. This was not only a mark of relying on her mistress for supply, but also of looking to these hands for instructions. When guests were present, the eyes of the handmaiden would not be taken up with what was taking place around her. She would be intent only to look at those hands so that she could respond immediately to any instruction given.
These two mothers, therefore, were both devoted to doing the will of the Lord, to move immediately when the command was given, no matter the cost. They were mothers who appear to have had a better appreciation of the Lord than their husbands. What a privilege to enjoy a mother like those two. What a debt future generations in Israel owed to them.
But they are not alone in Scripture. A great deliverer of earlier days had a mother who was anxious to preserve her son for the service of God. Jochebed (Ex 6.20), the wife of Amram, hid Moses until he was three months old in order to preserve his life (Ex 2.1-2). Against the dark background of Egyptian persecution she and her husband (see Acts 7.20; Heb 11.23) kept him safe. They feared the Lord and "were not afraid of the king's commandment" to slay the male children. They would not have him thrown into the Nile, the river of the world, although they recognised that he could not remain for long in their home. In the making of the little ark they prepared for that day. How far-sighted was this godly mother! She was rewarded by being able to keep her son in the home and to teach him about the God in Israel. This was doubtless an objective that she always held in her heart, preparing him for the day when he would leave the family home for the palace.
Parents have these fine, godly examples to follow. There will come a day when children will require to leave the sheltered environment in which they have lived and go out into the cold, godless world. What a responsibility it is to seek to instil into them the Word of God and to ensure that they see around them a home where the Lord is given His rightful place. Mothers have a major role in this vital work. They are charged with a heavy, demanding, physically tiring and onerous responsibility. This God-given privilege, which may entail sacrifice, has to be taken seriously. Whatever decisions a young mother makes regarding the shape of her life and how her time is allocated, the mothering of her children must be prime. Let those who do so take heart. Be encouraged, and leave the other issues with the Lord.