"For Those Who Honor Me, I Will Honor"
1 Samuel 2:12-36
Eli was a priest and judge in Israel during the time of Samuel's birth. This means that he served toward the end of the period of the judges and before Israel had her first human king. He served in the tabernacle at Shiloh. The temple had not yet been built at Jerusalem.
The sons of Eli were corrupt and estranged from God. Eli spoke
to his sons, and reprimanded them. However, they ignored their father and
continued in their rebellion and Eli never took further steps to correct the
situation. As a result, God was not pleased, either with the sons behavior nor
with Eli's failure to adequately correct them. Though God had blessed Eli's
house, He was going to withdraw His honor of them (1 Samuel 2:30).
Profane and Irreverent Sacrifice
The tabernacle of the Lord was in Shiloh. Eli and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord there (1 Samuel 1:3,9). The Bible describes the corruption of Eli's sons to be so complete that "they did not know the Lord". No doubt they knew His name, but did not know Him (1 Samuel. 2:12).
Eli's sons profaned the sacrifices. They would take meat of the sacrifices before offering them to God. If the worshipper objected, wanting to offer the sacrifice to God before the priest took his portion, it would be taken by force (1 Samuel 2:16). It was supposed to be sacrificed unto God first, then the priests received their portions. In this way, the priests Phinehas and Hophni despised the offering of the Lord (1 Samuel 2:17).
Today, all Christians are to be holy priests, offering spiritual sacrifices to the Lord (1 Peter. 2:5,9). Our sacrifices, too, must be acceptable to God (Romans 12:1,2). Conforming ourselves to the world's standards rather than according to God makes for an unacceptable sacrifice. We are irreverent priests as well when we give God only the leftovers of our lives.
Our priesthood is better than the one of the Old Law. First,
because Jesus is our high priest today; a perfect High Priest unlike Eli and his
sons (Hebrews 9:11-12; 7:23-25). Second, because we function as our own
priesthood. No one can tamper with my sacrifice to the Lord... it is what I
determine it to be. If God only gets the leftovers, then it is my fault, because
I am my own priest making my own sacrifice.
The corruption of the sons of Eli grew worse and worse. Much like the modern day sex scandals among apostate clergy today, these religious leaders committed acts of fornication with the women who served at the tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:22). Some say that such behavior is one's own private business. Evidently the Lord feels otherwise.
Eli rebuked his sons. "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 Sam 2:23-24). Their leadership did not place them above the Law. This was a sin against God as well as against the people (1 Samuel 2:25).
Parents must discipline their children. Though Eli's sons were adults now, one wonders if he had always been so lax as they were growing up. Had he always given them repeated warnings when they were children without ever following through? The Lord expects better of parents than that (Deuteronomy 6:6,7; Ephesians 6:4).
And, on the matter of discipline, the Bible teaches the church should exercise discipline also (1 Corinthians 5:1,2;4-8) There are times when more than a mild reproof is required.
We are also reminded that teachers and preachers and elders have
a very great responsibility to live righteously. Greater influence mean greater
potential damage through failure. (Romans 2:22-24; cf. vs. 13; 2 Peter 2:2).
A man of God came to Eli. Eli's father and his descendants were blessed and honored by God. But to adopt a phrase, "The buck stops here!" Eli was High Priest and he was responsible to see that things were being done righteously. Had been lukewarm in his duties when dealing with his sons. There is also a suggestion in the text that though Eli complained to his sons about what they had been doing, that he, himself profited from their misdeeds; "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?"
The Lord responded; "Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me; I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed" (1 Samuel 2:30).
The consequence of their rebellion would be grave. Many of Eli's house would die young, before reaching old age (1 Samuel 2:31,32). The household would stagnate, not grow and prosper (1 Samuel 2:33). The instigators, Hophni and Phinehas would die on the same day ( 1 Samuel 2:34). Those who are left will beg for food in poverty, having been expelled from office and wishing that they could have again what they had despised and lost (1 Samuel 2:36).
But God will raise up out of the mess a righteous priest to serve. Samuel? Perhaps. Jesus? Maybe, if speaking of His spiritual priesthood. The time of God judgment on Eli's house was said to be near (1 Samuel 3:11-14). And it was; the deaths of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas are recorded (1 Samuel 4:10,11; 17,18).
There are so many other points that could be made. We as priests
in the Lord's kingdom are blessed ((1 Samuel 2:36b; Luke 15:17; 1 Timothy 6:6).
We, too, are expected to honor God (1 Timothy 6:11-16). We, too, must love our
Lord more than earthly relatives (Luke 12:51-53). Those who mock the warnings of
God and continue to be disobedient will be punished (Galatians 6:7,8).
We have received from the hand of the Father many blessings (Ephesians 1:7-8;11,12). These blessings are so great that even death loses its sting when these blessings are understood and received by faith. We must never lose sight of the fact that God had honored us so very richly. We should rise up each morning with deep appreciation of His kindness and never allow ourselves a day in which we forget, as did Eli's sons, who the Lord is and what He expects of us.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 13.10; October 2006