3 Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord.
(1 Samuel 1:3)
As we learned in our introduction to 1 Samuel, the events of this book took place at a time when Israel was in spiritual decline. The nation as a whole was no longer walking with God. They had replaced God and His law with the gods of their neighboring countries and even with their own made up laws [Judges 21:25].
However, that does not mean that there were not individual people who still worshipped the true God and Elkanah was such a man. Year after year he would go up from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts.
God had commanded that all males in Israel should go, three times a year, to a place of His choosing (at this time this was at Shiloh) to worship Him. These three journeys each coincided with an annual festival [Exodus 34:23; Deuteronomy 16:16]. It is very likely that attendance at these festivals had waned over the years due to the spiritual decay of the general population.
Even though other people in his culture were not worshipping God, Elkanah did not follow suit. He made it a habit to obey God by going to Shiloh annually.
Every word and phrase in the Bible was put there by God to make us think; there are no extraneous words that we should skip over. The mention that the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas were priests at Shiloh is not just an interesting historical fact. It tells us something about Elkanah.
As we’ll learn when we get to Chapter 2, these two priests were evil. They were using their position for their own personal gain. But that did not deter Elkanah either. He still went to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice as God commanded.
There are many people who refuse to go to church to worship God because there are imperfect people in the church. That is true; all people are sinners. But the imperfections of pastors or within the general congregation is not an excuse to disobey God who still commands His followers to gather together in worship [Hebrews 10:24-25].
Of course, the imperfections are worse in some cases than in others. If a church is very corrupt we can just go to another church. In our day and age we have many choices as to where we can gather together with other believers. There are multiple good churches in every town and city across our country. Back in Elkanah’s day there was only one place he could go.
Elkanah could easily have made an excuse not to obey God. He could have justified his own disobedience by pointing to the disobedience of his neighbors or to the disobedience of the very people running the sanctuary. But he didn’t. He chose to obey God despite the behavior of others.
This is a great lesson for us today. The vast majority of people in the United States do not go to church nor do they acknowledge God in any way. It would be easy to do the same.
But God’s children are not to conform to the world [Romans 12:2]. The world is not on the right path. We are not to follow them. We are to follow God despite what those around us are doing.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.