Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2 celebrates her answered prayer for a son. She has experienced a reversal of fortune. But her prayer moves out from there and anticipates a reversal of fortune for all of God’s children.
In her song, the mighty and feeble change places, the hungry are filled while the full seek bread, the dead are made alive, the poor exalted and the needy lifted to sit with the nobles (1 Samuel 2:4-8).
This is what Hannah was praying for when she asked for a child. This “resurrection” of a lifeless womb is a sign that God is beginning to raise up His people.
In the subsequent passage, Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phineas, are the “full” ones at Shiloh (1 Samuel 2:12-17, 29), but the man of God prophesies that they will soon be begging for bread (1 Samuel 2:36).
They had treated the food of the Lord lightly (a pun on Eli’s ever-growing waistline, cf. 1 Samuel 4:18), and so God had determined to cut them off from the His table.
This cutting off from the table was a sign that God was going to cut off Eli’s house from their inheritance as priests (1 Samuel 2:34).
Fidelity is more important than family. Eli may have rebuked his sons, well and good, but he did not remove them from the priesthood. As a father, Eli bears responsibility for his sons’ actions – not guilt for their sin – but responsibility because they are his sons.
Hophni and Phineas had a habit of stealing the meat from other people’s ( read, ‘neighbours’) sacrifices. They treated the sacrifices shamefully by robbing their fellow Israelites of their portion, and so God would take away the portion He had given to Eli’s household.
The same truths apply to the table of the Lord today.
Paul observes that many were sick and dying – effectively cut off from the table – because of their disregard for their brothers in Christ (1 Corinthians 11: 20, 27, 33).
In disregarding one another, they had disregarded, and treated with contempt, the sacrifice of Jesus that was set before them in the symbols of bread and wine.
This sacrifice was the sacrifice of a Father who took responsibility for the sins of his children by sending His only begotten Son to die for them.
He died so that we could eat from the tree of life. He died so that we could come back to the table and be fed the bread of life.
Jesus, the son of God, completes what was lacking in all other sons. He comes as an offerer, offers Himself and, as priest, presents Himself to God, a clean and acceptable sacrifice, wholly pleasing to God and able to save all who come to Him in faith.
Just as the sacrificial worship of God in Israel was symbolised by meat offerings to the Lord, so our gratitude and worship of Jesus is symbolised in eating bread and drinking wine.
To treat lightly and disregard the symbol is to treat lightly and disregard the substance.
This runs upstream all the way to our love for God as expressed, or not expressed, in our love and treatment of our neighbour – who is made in the image of God. He who does not love his neighbour, does not love his God (1 John 4:20).