(1 Samuel 2:3)
The priest Eli was old and it was rare for God to speak in those days. “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli. And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.” (1 Samuel 3:1) This is critical to understand. Wasn’t Eli a priest in God’s service? Didn’t he love the Lord? Yes, but there were some problems that Eli had not taken care of. And I think this is one of the lessons God wants us to understand today. Our hearing from God does depend upon our obedience to His word and our intimacy with Him.
Eli had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas who were also priests. But there was a major problem. “Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the LORD and the custom of the priests with the people…” (1 Samuel 2:12-13) “Now Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting. He said to them, “Why do you do such things, the evil things that I hear from all these people? No, my sons; for the report is not good which I hear the LORD’S people circulating.” (1 Samuel 2:22-24)
Was Eli responsible for his son’s behavior? No, but he was responsible for disciplining his sons. He “talked” to his sons but he never did anything to change their abominable behavior towards the Lord and His ways. You may ask what he could have done and that would be a great question. Let’s look at that through the Lord’s eyes.
God loves us abundantly but because of that great love he set boundaries for us in which to keep us safe. If we chose to step out of those bounds, there will be consequences. As we know, God was very specific about blessings or curses, we would choose one or the other by our actions. (Deuteronomy 28 and 29) But there was also a very specific statute concerning the sabbath which can be easily overlooked. “Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death...” (Exodus 31:14) Notice that this is not worded to apply only to those in service in the Lord’s house.
Are words enough when we know that someone is sinning and there would be grave consequences? Eli was their father, he was charged with their discipline, just as God disciplines His children when they sin. But Eli did nothing to stop the profanity. Eli would be held accountable for his sin of not obeying God’s commandments regarding his offspring and his respect for the Lord’s house. His sons would be held accountable for their actions. Here’s a quick summary of God’s expectations. Do you question God’s judgment upon a person for his sin? Maybe you will reconsider at these words of the Lord to Samuel, “For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them.” (1 Samuel 3:13)
“The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways. So all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they will be afraid of you.” (Deuteronomy 28:9-10) “But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:” (Deuteronomy 28:15)
The words of our dear Lord Jesus repeated this very same command to obey, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:23)
Did Jesus speak of being put to death? He did! Do you recall the parable of the vineyard? There is a verse that is very direct to what will happen if we are not the Lord’s, even those who pretend to be or think they are safe just because they attend church. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” (John 15:6) Abide is to reside, live in His covenant, remaining faithful to the Lord and being transformed into the new creation in which He had originally intended each of us to be! In the previous verses He explained how we are to do that, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)
Eli’s sons were not abiding in the Lord’s commands, nor did they have any desire to learn them! Because Eli did nothing to remove his sons from their positions the Lord spoke to Eli. Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Did I not indeed reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in bondage to Pharaoh’s house? Did I not choose them from all the tribes of Israel to be My priests, to go up to My altar, to burn incense, to carry an ephod before Me; and did I not give to the house of your father all the fire offerings of the sons of Israel? Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling, and honor your sons above Me, by making yourselves fat with the choicest of every offering of My people Israel?’ Therefore the LORD God of Israel declares, ‘I did indeed say that your house and the house of your father should walk before Me forever’; but now the LORD declares, ‘Far be it from Me--for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming when I will break your strength and the strength of your father’s house so that there will not be an old man in your house. You will see the distress of My dwelling, in spite of all the good that I do for Israel; and an old man will not be in your house forever. Yet I will not cut off every man of yours from My altar so that your eyes will fail from weeping and your soul grieve, and all the increase of your house will die in the prime of life. This will be the sign to you which will come concerning your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas: on the same day both of them will die. But I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed always.” (1 Samuel 2:27-35)
This story is not only applicable to those in ministry but there is a foundational teaching for each and every one of us. We can address those specifically in ministry and how their actions, words and behaviors will be judged. I was struck several years ago when serving in a ministry capacity by these words in Scripture, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” (James 3:1) I take those words seriously. God will not be mocked! “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) Jesus also taught this to His disciples regarding the Pharisees. The Pharisees were not flagrantly defiling women at the temple but their behavior and actions defiled the Lord! Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” (Matthew 23:1-13)
We try to judge people according to their degree of sin IN OUR EYES. ALL SIN IS SIN IN GOD’S EYES! The last couple of verses above apply to each of us, whether we not we are in a ministry position. Truthfully, our lives are a ministry. The Lord is challenging us today, how are you doing? Can others see Christ in you? Can they tell there is something different in you than the rest of the world?
King Solomon made a very good observation when he stated, “That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) That statement shouldn’t make us comfortable, but VERY uncomfortable. Mankind prides itself on being so smart but yet it keeps making the same mistakes over and over again. And, we are so prideful and stubborn that we do not even learn from the past! The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, this is our society. Honestly, it amazes me that God still loves us. That, in itself, proves His unconditional and covenantal love!
But back to Eli for a moment so we can tie this all together. We have no word to tell us if Eli taught his sons of the love of God at home or not. Whether he did and they rejected his teaching or Eli was negligent, what we need to hear is God’s assessment in these couple of textual references, “Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the LORD and the custom of the priests with the people…”, “and how they lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.” It is very critical for us to understand what the Lord is revealing to us. When it says that the sons were “worthless men” there had to be something concrete to base that assumption on, and there is in the next part of that sentence, “They did not know the Lord”. Scripture is very specific in the specific words used and this one tells us a lot. It is a verb meaning to learn, to perceive, to discern, to experience, to confess, to know someone relationally, to make oneself known. What do we now understand about these two men? They never experienced a relationship with the living God and they never entered into a covenant relationship with Him. Just because they were of the right lineage did not make them qualified to be priests! Eli was the head of all the priests and should never have allowed them to be placed into service before the Lord!
Another lesson I hear the Lord speaking to me regarding this passage is that if we are not in Christ and in intimate relationship with Him, our lives are worthless. We may not think so while we are living our everyday lives but when we stand before the judgment seat all those who did not KNOW God will be thrown into the lake of fire for eternal punishment.
Eli was the head of the household, including the temple, and because of his lack of direction and oversight to do the right thing, judgment was now being brought upon him that would affect generations. As for the sons, both would die on the same day, God’s judgment would not be withheld. But look at the last line of the message of the Lord, “But I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed always.” Who was that priest? Samuel!
God has a plan in EVERY situation. It may not be in the timeframe we want it to be but it is in God’s perfect timing! Years before He would bring His judgment, He was preparing Hannah’s heart to surrender fully to His will and to bless her with a baby named Samuel who she would dedicate to the Lord for service to Him. He was ready to step into his role when God was ready to bring judgment upon the house of Eli.
My dear friends, I hope you are beginning to be touched as deeply as I am of God’s sovereignty. Nothing in my life, or yours, should be out of God’s control. As I continue to read over and over what God is showing me I see the application to my personal life, my marriage, my family, and also our government. God’s plan will unfold. Man’s wisdom is always looking for the miraculous happy outcome but God’s plan often unfolds through much tribulation and pain. That isn’t God’s desire but it is the outcome of the sinful nature of man. Sin is abounding and things are turning upside down in our lifetime.
Scripture is being fulfilled daily. Everything is Scripture is leading us towards God’s Kingdom on earth. Just as God’s judgment was brought upon Eli and his lineage, God’s judgment is coming upon the earth and all those who live in it. We are to learn God’s way by what He has shared with us. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” (2 Timothy 3:16)
Let me give you a few examples for your consideration in light of today’s events. And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:4-14) “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron,” (1 Timothy 4:1-2) “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:3-5) “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness,” (2 Peter 3:17)
Do you have God’s discernment to see with His eyes what is going on in those who are leading your church? In those who are leading Bible studies? In those who are in national ministries speaking to the masses? Do you take what they speak and line it up with Scripture? Are you following false prophets? Do you remember how God dealt with false prophets in Scripture? God has not changed, He will bring judgment upon all those who lead His sheep astray! Just like Eli’s sons did not honor the sovereignty of the Lord nor have respect for the house of worship, a great majority of today’s churches are desecrating the Lord’s altars! My dear friend, you will be held accountable if you are staying under their leadership and remaining silent. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:12-14) “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” (1 Corinthians 10:21)
Let us close in summary with the words of the Apostle Paul, “If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS”; and again, “THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS.” (1 Corinthians 3:14-20)
Abba Father, You are great and greatly to be praised! I love You with all my heart! Your words are life to me! Thank You for Your amazing love which teaches and reproves us! Thank You that You teach us the truth of what Your covenant is and that the only entrance into that covenant is through Your Son Jesus Christ! He is the payment for all of our sins!! His blood washes us white and clothes us in righteousness! You wrap us in Your garment of salvation. My cup runneth over with good and mercy as I dwell in Your presence. Thank You for teaching us of the consequences of sin but also for teaching us the path to repentance and forgiveness! Your ways are perfect. I lay myself before You and ask You to continue the good work in me that You have started. Lead me in Your paths of righteousness. Open the hearts of those reading these messages that they will see with spiritual eyes the warnings that You are giving us. Fill us with the Spirit of love and discernment in these dark days and strengthen us in Your word to live each day as You would have us live. This I pray in the blessed name of Yeshua, our Redeemer, the One and Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth! Amen!