As I mentioned last week, we started studying 1-2 Samuel together with the church last Sunday. (See my post “Studying the Books of 1-2 Samuel Together with the Church.”) As I was reading and studying 1 Samuel 1 in preparation for gathering with the church Sunday, I noticed something interesting.
When you think of Old Testament worship and sacrifice, what do you think of? Do you think about bringing an animal to the altar at the tabernacle or temple and presenting it to the priests to be offered as a sacrifice? Do you think about bringing wine or grain for the priest to offer? Yes, these are all valid images of sacrifice and worship in the Old Testament.
Do you think of eating a meal together with your family? No? Well, surprisingly, that is one of the main images of worship that we find in 1 Samuel 1. In fact, eating or drinking as an act of worship are found several times in the context of this chapter:
On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. (1 Samuel 1:4-7 ESV)
After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. (1 Samuel 1:9a ESV)
As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD.” (1 Samuel 1:12-15 ESV)
And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. (1 Samuel 1:18 ESV)
A good friend was leading our discussion Sunday, so I did not bring up this point much – I did mention it in passing. I did not want to change our course, because we were learning so much from one another – especially from a woman who told us she was barren. What a new perspective I have on Hannah now!
Anyway, I don’t know why it surprises me to see Elkanah and his family eating and drinking in worship to the Lord. This is exactly what the Law prescribed. Here are a few examples:
You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. (Deuteronomy 14:22-26 ESV)
You shall build an altar to the LORD your God of uncut stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God, and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 27:6-7 ESV)
I love that God wanted his people to associate eating and rejoicing together with worshiping him! This isn’t something that started in the New Testament. Of course, the meal was different, because now Jesus was with them as they ate together.
So, let’s continue to share our meals with one another, rejoicing together and worshiping the Lord!