Formations 01.12.2014: Promises

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Emil Österman, Mother and Child, 1910

Emil Österman, Mother and Child, 1910

How are your New Year’s resolutions coming? Are you off to a solid start, hopeful you’ll make real progress in the next twelve months? Have you already started to backslide?

We make many promises to ourselves around the turn of the year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if we have discerned some area of our lives where we need to make a change. But far more important than the promises we make to ourselves are the promises we make to God. Sometimes, like New Year’s resolutions, those promises come because we realize we could do better. Sometimes, we make those promises because we find ourselves in a tight fix and want God to act on our behalf. Again, I’m not entirely sure that’s a bad thing—especially if we are faithful to keep our promises.

In his commentary on this week’s passage, Tony Cartledge writes,

Many believers find it rather easy to make promises to God but much more difficult to remain faithful to those promises. Modern persons may even unconsciously verbalize their promises in the form of an Old Testament vow: “Oh Lord, if you will only get me out of this predicament (or give me this blessing), I will never let you down again”—or “I will attend church every Sunday.” Yet those same promises made in moments of crisis are easily forgotten when calm returns. In this sense, the Old Testament vow functions as a means of holding the believer accountable for her promises. In contemporary churches, believers may seek greater accountability through public declarations of their specific commitments to God, either in corporate worship or in small groups.

This story offers an impressive challenge to any persons who make promises to God yet fail to fulfill them. What pledge could be more difficult to keep than giving up a child—especially a long-awaited and only child? Yet Hannah kept her word, and Elkanah supported her. Believers through the ages are called to be faithful, too, and to encourage one another. (48-49)

Hannah made a vow to God, but it wasn’t just desperate posturing in a time of crisis. She did what she promised by consecrating her son, Samuel, to the Lord.

What have you promised God—in your baptism, in your wedding vows, or even in your New Years resolution’s? What steps can you take this week to keep those promises?


• How important is keeping one’s promises to the people in your life? How important is it to you?
• What are some of the most serious promises a person can make?
• What promises do you need to make to God for 2014?


Tony W. Cartledge, 1 & 2 Samuel, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2001).

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. jerry sutton says

    Where can I find the current event, resources, etc. which were part of the previous helps? Are they no longer available?

    • Katie Brookins says

      Rather than provide the four separate entries you were familiar with via Premium, our editor now writes this one entry each week that touches upon those topics. We believe that this format and Darrell’s continued hard work will bless you with more accessible and useful material as your prepare for Next Sunday.

  2. Ann Biggers says

    I found the previous offerings perfectly accessible and miss the enrichment they brought to my teaching. I like the Bible version you are using, and love the Formations series. I just wish my “coracle” (nice analogy, by the way) took me to more scholarly support.

  3. This new format is not entirely useless, but is definitely much less helpful. I am disappointed in this change. The previous format provided much more food for thought and was much more helpful.

  4. Lawrence Roush says

    What little relationship between the above commentary and the Sunday 01/12/2014 Lessons in Formations titled “My Heart Rejoices before the Lord” .was, for me, very difficult to find. I prefer the previous version.


  5. Earl Stroup says

    I preferred the previous format in order to do more in-depth study with the current event, resources, etc. This particular source is of no use to me. I’m disappointed with the change.