BADNESS AND GOODNESS
Holy Father, from you all good proceeds. I pray that faith, hope, and love will proceed from me today.
Read 1 Samuel 2:12–36
Eli’s Wicked Sons
12 Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord. 13 Now it was the practice of the priests that, whenever any of the people offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand while the meat was being boiled 14 and would plunge the fork into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot. Whatever the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. 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[a] were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt.
18 But Samuel was ministering before the Lord—a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19 Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. 20 Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to[b] the Lord.” Then they would go home. 21 And the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.
22 Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 23 So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. 24 No, my sons; the report I hear spreading among the Lord’s people is not good. 25 If one person sins against another, God[c] may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the Lord, who will intercede for them?” His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the Lord’s will to put them to death.
26 And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people.
Prophecy Against the House of Eli
27 Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Did I not clearly reveal myself to your ancestor’s family when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh? 28 I chose your ancestor out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in my presence. I also gave your ancestor’s family all the food offerings presented by the Israelites. 29 Why do you[d] scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?’
30 “Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. 31 The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age, 32 and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age. 33 Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.
34 “‘And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same day. 35 I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always. 36 Then everyone left in your family line will come and bow down before him for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread and plead, “Appoint me to some priestly office so I can have food to eat.”’”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
How do outsiders view your Christian witness? Reflect before God on what needs to change.
Sadly, Eli’s sons are not the only priests to have misbehaved. The press has recently highlighted certain church leaders accused of safeguarding issues, which has obviously brought the church into disrepute. Church members (and particularly church leaders) have a huge responsibility to ensure that they reflect Jesus’ standards. Eli’s sons saw their priestly role as bringing them personal gain; their greed (and sexual misdemeanors, v 22) showed how far they were from God. They ‘had no regard for the Lord’ (v 12). Eli himself is implicated through his lack of effort to control his sons (‘he failed to restrain them’).1 Despite his age, he needed to take responsibility. God clearly did not excuse him.
In between the paragraphs about Eli’s sons we have a couple of much more pleasant interludes, focusing on the boy Samuel. Hannah must have loved those annual occasions when she took him a wee homemade robe (vs 18–20). And how refreshing to read in verse 26 that Samuel continued to grow well in every way. The contrast between Hannah’s son and Eli’s sons is painted in strong colors! It is amazing that Samuel was not influenced by the evil of Eli’s sons. Evans writes, ‘Goodness can survive in the presence of evil and it is the responsibility of the believer to seek it out and nurture it.’2 Challenging!
Through the prophecy sent against the house of Eli, God declared, ‘Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained’ (v 30). There is no record of Eli responding to those words. It was almost as if he didn’t care. How much are we honoring God in our daily lives and attitudes? Are there ways in which we dishonor him, which we need to repent of?
‘Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.’3
Loving Father, I pray for parents I know who are experiencing disappointment and difficulty with their children. Give them your grace and wisdom in all they do and say.
1 1 Sam 3:12–14 2 Mary Evans, The Message of Samuel, IVP, 2004, p35 3 Ps 139:23
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