I was reading the first couple of chapters of 1 Samuel this morning, and the theme of worship came up a few times. For those unfamiliar with the story, it starts with Hannah, the wife of Elkanah, praying fervently to the Lord for a child. God answers her prayer, and the child Samuel is born. Shortly after he is weaned, she brings him to the temple and offers him to the service of the High Priest, Eli.
25 When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there. (1 Sam 1:25-28)
There are two distinct acts of worship going on here. I find the first one incredible. She had prayed so hard, and longed so long for this child… and yet, when he is weaned (somewhere between 3 and 5 years old I would guess), she brings him to the temple and lets him go. She offers him to the High Priest for his service. Worship for her is defined as being willing to let go of that which is most precious to her.
Have I dedicated to the Lord, that which is most precious to me, and would I let go of it if he asked me to?
The second act of worship is the worship of Samuel. Though he is young, the text clearly states, “And he worshiped the Lord there.” I don’t know what his level of understanding was, and I’m sure he was not theologically sophisticated, but the devotion of his mother must have made a deep impact on his life, and he can worship to the limit of his understanding. I love having children in the service at Central Christian Church. It stirs my heart to see and hear my children worshiping – sometimes out of tune and sometimes with the wrong words, but with hearts that want to worship. There’s a purity to it, uncomplicated in the way that a child’s worship can be.
Over in chapter 2, there is a contrast presented. The sons of Eli are also priests, but they are described in the text as wicked men, and they are trying to skim off the top of the meat offering, demanding their share to roast, rather than accepting the meat that has been boiled to the point where the fat has dissolved. They lie to the servant of the priest:
15 But even before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the person who was sacrificing, “Give the priest some meat to roast; he won’t accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.”
16 If the person said to him, “Let the fat be burned first, and then take whatever you want,” the servant would answer, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.”
17 This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt. (1 Sam 2:15-17)
And then this great contrast in verse 18:
18 But Samuel was ministering before the Lord—a boy wearing a linen ephod.
The sons of Eli look like priests, but it is actually the boy Samuel who is ministering. They look the part, but he has the right heart.
So, from these brief chapters this morning.
Worship is: being willing to offer to God that which is most precious; able to be offered even by a young child; offered with the right heart.
May the words of our mouths, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight Lord, today.