45. Hebrew Worship: Food as Worship

Scripture is ambiguous about the spiritual orientation of Jethro.  He is simply described as THE priest of Midian.  The Midianites were descendants of Abraham, but in the general engagement through the centuries of Israel’s relationship with them, they were deemed to be followers of other gods, not the God of Israel.  So we don’t know where Jethro stood with Yahweh during the decades Moses was part of his family.

After the Exodus, when Moses gave a report, Jethro overtly validated Moses’ God.  We don’t know whether Jethro became monotheistic, or simply acknowledged that Yahweh was a cut above the gods he served.

“So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him.  They greeted each other and then went into the tent.  Moses told his father-in-law about everything the LORD had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the LORD had saved them.  Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians.  He said, ‘Praise be to the LORD, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians.  Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.’

“Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God.”  Exodus 18:7-12  NIV

The Gentiles generally acknowledged multiple gods.  There was a hierarchy with a god who was greater than the rest, but there were also specialty gods who could be served for a particular asset which they were supposed to deliver.  My guess is that Jethro was simply acknowledging that in the pantheon of gods, he was recognizing Yahweh as supreme.

The point however, is that there were three components to this worship.  First, the unambiguous declaration of the greatness of God and the attitude adjustment that he, Jethro, had experienced.  “Now I know . . . ”

Second was the animal sacrifices.  There was the traditional burnt offering for sins and then “other” sacrifices for food for the party.

Third, there was the feast.

From the beginning, food has been the central meeting place for God and man.  There was no religious protocol at all in the Garden of Eden.  Just God and man talking and walking.  When the first post-fall sacrifices were offered, it was two different kinds of food in competition.  Through the season from Cain to Mt. Sinai, both the righteous and the unrighteous celebrated their gods with food.  At Mt. Sinai, God instituted a massive eating-centered religious structure.

When the complexity of the Mosaic Law was reduced to two ordinances in the New Testament, one of them involved eating – and in the Church of the apostles, it was not a crumb and a sip.  The elements for Communion came out of a full meal.

In eternity, at the marriage of the King and the Bride, there is no mention of any ceremony or vows or symbols other than the clothes of each.  But central to the ceremony is food.

Today, one of the greatest triumphs of the enemy is to secularize food.  Broadly speaking meal times at home or at church are times for fellowship and feeding.  The body and soul get all the attention.  There is little spiritual consideration other than perhaps the token prayer at the beginning.

Ironically, the most spiritual thing we do with food is to abstain from it!  Fasting is considered a high spiritual discipline.  Feasting is considered a concession to the crass body cravings.

That simply is not the picture Scripture portrays.

Feasting was central to worship.

The challenge we face is that we are so far behind, we don’t even know what questions to ask to begin to dig out of our ignorance.

What are the spiritual implications of boiled meat versus broiled?  What combinations of meats and grains produce which spiritual results?  What kind of food would comfort the brokenhearted? What kind would produce faith?  What kind would be best for an evangelistic meal?  Why is meat central to God’s worship services and not veggies?  What are the spiritual qualities of different grains?

Bottom line:  Hebrew worship was mostly anchored in food.  And our worship is rarely even peripherally related to food.  We have lost a huge treasure in knowing how to worship God with feasting.

45. Hebrew Worship: Food as Worship  Mercy Season SLG Coaching blog

Copyright February 2016 by Arthur Burk

From the Hub




  1. Leslie says

    I am not suggesting that any one attempt the following, just mentioning that even in “counterfeit” religious practice there is an element to spiritual food practice…

    In yogic practice there is something called “mindful eating.” I’m not super well-versed in this, nor do I practice it, just have known some who are and do. This mindful eating is not a soul-ish practice to engage the mind, will, or emotions. It is not really a social encounter. It is a way of practicing a meal in which the spirit is engaged that does, of course, incorporate the senses and soul, but with the end-game of the spirit in mind. Worship (of whatever it is that those who practice a full yoga lifestyle worship–which is demonic in nature, I’m sure…) through food is the goal.

    Now, to me, in light of scripture and Arthur’s blog post, it makes sense as to why I am a “foodie” and why I always want to feed people, why food seems most like a spiritual encounter aided by the senses and soul. (Probably a lot more to unpack there as well besides worship through food!) Why celebrating with food seems to always go beyond the senses and even the savoring that I’ve learned to practice in my soul–mind, will, emotions–for pleasure. I want to know and practice food as worship to the LORD!!

    The Christian religion’s treatment of food seems very Greek, Platonic, in mindset. Not a surprise, as the Church is very Greek in mindset, as is Western culture in general. However, it is a diametrically opposed to how Hebrews thought of food and used it in worship of YHWH.

    I guess the place to start is to ask Holy Spirit for light and direction in this study.
    Thanks for bringing this topic up and in this way–it’s something I’ve skirted around the edges of for a long time! And thanks for the prayer at the end.
    Who knows? Maybe I’ll write a book, or two, on the subject!


  2. Maggie says

    So we wait for the marriage supper of the end times, of the Lamb of God and His bride. For those of us who have not been married its an amazing thing to look forward to. I love that you have written this Sir . May much blessing be yours and then ours as you continue to see and open our eyes to Him. So much insight into such a seemingly small thing in our busy western mindset /lifestyle.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. nita7932014 says

    I always found it fascinating that so much food was involved in the reconciliation, forgiving, justice, and celebration for the activities lead by the priests in the Tabernacle. There was also variety in the food preparation. Oil, salt, water, spices, grains, different meats, different preparations as you reminded of boiling, baking, frying, bar-b-quing all made for wonderful flavors, aromas and memories. I like ‘comfort food’. Our senses are very much part of worship. You have mentioned other feelings which we long to experience such as Joy, Peace, Love, just a few, to which we were first introduced in combination with food. I grew up in South America. The memories that are stirred of significant events (empanadas for Christmas) (yellow cheese sandwiches and oranges for lunch on Sundays with our ministry team on assignment) , places I have been (on Choir tour eating turtle stew). Those memories are part of my faith building. I love it that our God is part of all our lives. The Spiritual should not be something on the shelf that we handle like a trophy or a museum artifact.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kathryn Lapp says

    When I was young (in the 50’s & 60’s), mealtime in my family was usually a joyful time to gather and share together, after a busy day apart at school, work or activities. There were stories, jokes, tears, and kicking each other under the table. We were expected to show up and participate in the family meal each evening (no hiding in the bedroom). There was opportunity for teaching from the parents to the children, and for sharing what God was doing in our lives.

    With the advent of fast food, electronic community (such as Facebook), and the devaluing a woman’s job in the home (which usually includes meal preparation), the importance of the family dinner has fallen into relic status. Along with the family meal, the opportunity to share our spirits and our experiences of God seems to have diminished as well, unless we make a concerted effort to find or make opportunities for true fellowship around food.

    I wonder if some of the roots of obesity lie in the lack of food worship experiences and the demise of the communal family dinner?

    Liked by 1 person

    • says

      Kathryn, I think there is a connection here, but possibly not in the sequence you presented. Yes, food as a resource for enriching the soul events — community — matters and is largely a lost art in some nations. The Italians and Greeks would certainly be exempt from that blanket statement. But knowing how to do food for the soul does not necessarily position one to do food for the spirit — as the Greeks and Italians demonstrate.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Louise says

    I trained in hospitality and have done meals for people for different celebration events. Last year I did an art workshop which did include food as a part of opening the natural and spiritual senses. I so totally resonate with what you are saying!
    It opened their spiritual senses when I gave them the food that I had made in the workshop. I do also think that there is deeper spiritual significance in the colour of the food and the taste and texture and how it is prepared to how it will nourish our bodies. Just like we need to speak words of life over each other, so too over the food in its whole process to our plates. It is a part of the land that God has given us because the land is able to grow the food.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. says

    If there is one thing we do REALLY well, it is fellowship over good food!
    The deepest friendships are made over a great meal, the most unexpected and glorious ministry times happen over food. Celebrating the fact that we are even able to do this at all because of the provision of a good Father who loves us. I reckon that qualifies as worship 🙂

    I will definitely bookmark this post and circle back to digging into those last two paragraphs in a few weeks… That really does intrigue me.

    Another lesson food has taught me is to roll with the seasons. Working with what you have in your hand in that season. Insisting on preparing a dish when all the ingredients are out of season is frustrating, expensive and difficult. But when you learn to love the season you’re in and what’s available to you, life flows so much better.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. talya says

    I also find this very interesting,because while working with the colors and frequencies it came to my attention that certain foods also carry different frequencies just the same way essential oils do.I have not explored this deeply enough yet and also would consider looking into the ideas mentioned in the post…..

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Michelle Neely says

    This prayer broke me. I believe there is more to this study and revelation for me than meets the eye, or on the surface. I am agreeing with the prayer and asking God to root out all the secular and wrong attitudes about food to replace them with His. I am looking forward to learning more on this. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Rosa says

    This is really resonating! I would like to put to practice and experiment with some of those suggestions in the last two paragraphs. What’s a good way to study up or practice on that?


    • says

      Everyone has their own study style, Rosa. What I would do in my style is make a list of foods mentioned in Scripture, track the contexts and look for patterns. And one could also ask their own spirit and experiment with different combinations.


  10. LaVonne says

    Wow that is very insightful, glad I read it. It lifts a bit of guiltiness off of me. would like to recapture that. I have gone to Jewish gatherings for a few years and this does help to further put it in a clear(er) perspective. Was always lots of food.


  11. viviennehines says

    I can say that there are foods that I look forward to eating and I am very gratified when I savor those foods, however, I have not given much thought to the issue of worshiping God with food. Just thinking about all the mention of food in the celebrating God is staggering.