Worship is a big buzz-word. But what does it really entail? The kids and I have been reading through 1 Samuel the last couple of weeks, and the story of Hannah has really caught my attention. Every year, her family went to the Tabernacle at Shiloh. It’s not made clear if this is for Passover, FirstFruits, or the Day of Atonement (the 3 feasts they were commanded to gather for celebration and sacrifice), but I honestly think the lessons apply here.
The first we see of Hannah is of a woman near the end of herself. The one positive thing in her life is her loving husband, and it seemed as if all else was against her, even to the point of barrenness. She desperately wanted a child, if only to take away the idea that she was somehow not fit before God for motherhood. So she goes to the entrance of the Tabernacle to pray. She is quiet, maybe silent….no one can hear her words, or even the desperation in her voice, as she pours out her heart to God. She describes it as praying out of her “great anguish and sorrow”. I don’t see her prayer as a bargain with God, but as a promise of future sacrifice in gratitude for His provision.
The second instance of Hannah in this place is when she brings her son, Samuel, to the tabernacle. At this point, she has weaned him (so he’s maybe something between 12 to 36 months old) and returns him to God so that he can learn to lead people toward God. He is to live in the area of the tabernacle with the priests and Levites, dedicated to God’s service, for the rest of his life.We find out that she goes on to have other children in the coming years. But she would most likely only see him once per year, when the family returned for the feast and sacrifice.
So, what lessons can we learn from Hannah about worship?
- Remember who God is. Hannah called God by one of His names, one that denotes His might and ability. I must remember that God is who He is, and who I am in relation.
- Bring the desires of your heart before God. Part of real worship is the ability to open your inner self to God for a closeness in relationship. Yes, he already knows what we want, but it’s so freeing to know God has heard us and cares about what we desire.
- God hears our quietness. There is no need to shout my prayers toward the heavens, nor to make sure those around me hear my communion with God. He listens to my quiet and my silence, and hears the cry of my heart.
- Allow God to cleanse me. The sacrifice had already been offered before she came to pray (she left the meal, which occurs after the sacrifice). Whether the sacrifice was one of obedience (Passover), of gratitude (Firstfruits), or atonement for sin (Atonement), she would have gone through a cleansing ritual before presenting the sacrifice. When I am clean before God, I may approach Him as His beloved child.
- Don’t forget gratitude. In her desperate need to have a child, she did not forget to be thankful for a God who cares about her and provides her needs. When I have a God-experience, I need to remember to thank Him for all He does for me.
- Sacrifice shows where my heart is. Hannah was willing to sacrifice watching her son grow up. No, she wasn’t offering him to be killed….but to live in God’s service and to be separated from her. Honestly, I can’t imagine sending one of my young sons (our youngest two are currently 1 & 3, so within the right age-range) to live away from me permanently. That must have been excruciating! God generally doesn’t ask us to make these kinds of sacrifices now…but He does ask us to sacrifice. I need to ask myself what attitudes, activities, or possessions are standing in the way between me and God….and be willing to sacrifice those things in order to become more like Him.
- Praise is a way to turn my heart toward God. When Hannah brought Samuel for service in the Tabernacle, she sang a song of praise. Certainly, song is not the only way to praise God. It is, however, a powerful way to redirect my thoughts and emotions toward praise of my Creator and Provider.
Worship isn’t always easy, since human nature wants to focus on ourselves. These seven principles can help us get on our way, as we approach the Father with the Firstfruits of our worship.