History tells us much about people who have inspired with heroism, conviction, and faith.
We also know about some who have taught us what not to do with our lives and callings.
What story will historians tell about you?
Samuel enters Israel’s history at a pivotal moment. The judges were ‘ruling’ ( for lack of a better term), and he plays a role in not only being the last judge, but also in anointing a king or two as Israel’s monarchy rules starts under his watch.
Samuel’s early life was one of crisis in Israel. There was no rule of law. No real enforcers of law or keepers of it. No one cared, everyone did whatever they wanted.
This attitude wasn’t just found in the outskirts, the outer towns and villages. This corruption was also found and sadly, even more obvious in the one place in Israel that was meant to sacred, and in the one family in Israel that you would hope would set the best example, the place of God at Shiloh where Eli and his sons were priests.
1 – The Sons of Wickedness v12-17
Have you ever met a bully?
Bullies thrive on manipulation, threats, and abusing others for their own pleasure or just to get noticed.
We meet a couple of no-good, greedy bullies in 1 Samuel 2.
They are described as ‘worthless men’ / ‘sons of wickedness/Belial’, and ‘they didn’t know the Lord’ – 1 Samuel 2:12.
Bad enough we think, but it gets worse. These were the sons of Eli, the priest. They were meant to be serving God, but they had made up their own rules and customs that showed they had nothing but contempt (2:17) for God and His offerings.
They were entitled to certain portions of the offering ( Leviticus 7:31-32), but they were not entitled to chose whatever part they wanted, and the fat was to burned on the altar, not taken out beforehand, as they were doing.
Anyone who argued with them or questioned their actions were threatened with force (2:16). They were exploiting the people God had ordered them to lead as sons of Aaron. They were even treating God’s house like a brothel ( 2:22).
For Hophni and Phinehas, this priestly role was just an opportunity to act on whatever lusts they had. It was privilege and power they were after, not holiness and faith.
Phinehas may well have been named for his ancestor, but he certainly didn’t follow his example. He was hero of Israel who had confronted evil when no one else would, bringing relief from a plague that came on the people after some of the men had sexual relations with women of Moab. ( Numbers 25).
This Phinehas is far from a hero. He is despicable.
The first Phinehas was zealous for God’s holiness and put a stop to fornication.
The second Phinehas treats God with contempt and initiates fornication.
You can have a name among people.
You could be renown for what you have been born into, but your lineage does not determine your standing before God.Your name does not determine holiness. If it’s your name you are trusting in or worshipping, you are on a path to sure destruction.
2 – The Favoured Son v. 21b, 26
There is another son in this story of course, and even though he is a young man, all that is said of him, even at this stage of his life, is positive.
That Samuel was growing up in the presence of God (2:21b) despite what else was going in the same place is no small thing to note. God clearly had His hand on Samuel, protecting him from all the corruption.
That Samuel grows in favour with God and man ( 2:26) is a familiar phrase we hear only of John the Baptist ( Luke 1:80) and of course, our Lord ( Luke 2:40).
Samuel stands as a beacon of hope in the midst of anarchy and corruption. While the sons of Eli were worthless, Samuel, the son of Hannah ( whose name means favoured of God ), grows in favour with God and man. He ministers before God while Eli’s sons have contempt towards God.He gets favour with God and man while Eli’s sons abuse both.
There is no true growth without an increasing awareness of people around us. If people around you can’t discern anything favourable or increasing about you than God won’t see it either. There is no growth without relationship. We need the vertical and the horizontal for growth in our own lives. If we do not love others, we will not love God.
It challenges us to not only integrity, but also to purity when all around is impure. To stand firm and grow when all around is stagnant and destructive.
If their is no growth, there is no hope.
We say we know things are not as they should be, but are we willing to grow in favour with God and man? Or do we more often seek the comfort of our own favour?
We need a solid reputation, but not one based on our name, position or environment. All these things do matter, but should not be the basis for our identity. Our first identity should be as servants of God, favoured by Him because He has shown us grace. Everything else should flow from that in faithful obedience.
3 – The Indulgent Father v. 22- 34
It becomes clear that Eli is not the priest he should be to Israel.
God has used him to speak His Word at times ( 1:17; 2:20), he was God’s appointed priest, prophet and judge of the time, but he was compromised.
He was not only inactive in not judging his sons, he may well have been complicit in some of their actions, especially in taking the choice parts of the sacrifices ( 2:29,4:18). He had failed in his calling as a priest and a father. He indulged their sin even if he didn’t partake. He was sloppy in his responsibilities.
“Evil prevails when good men do nothing” and talk is cheap when not backed up with action. Eli was a leader, but had no conviction to lead as God called him to.
He does confront his sons ( 2:22-25) but their hearts were so hardened, they would not listen and God had already destined them for destruction anyway( 2:25b), which is a sad state for someone to be in.
God’s prophet announces a judgement against Eli that means his family would lose all the rights and privileges of the priesthood. They had dishonoured God, and would harvest dishonour. They had despised God and would end up disgraced. (2:30b).
Hannah foretold of those who were full needing to beg for bread ( 2:5a, 2:36) and we see her song in a new light with the context given here. God brings down those who exalt themselves. God cuts off the wicked, and the might of men will not prevail. Hannah was prophesying against the corruption of the priesthood when she dedicated her son to it.
Eli and his sons had been arrogant, prideful and greedy. God resists the proud, He only give grace to the humble ( James 4:6).
Position does not determine holiness. The position of priest was one meant for those of high standing before men, and a faithful and humble standing before God.
It is an honour to serve God in any position. When we treat it otherwise, we set ourselves up not only for personal disgrace, but also ensure that future generations that follow after us will miss out on blessing also.
4 – The Faithful High Priest v. 25, 35-36
Eli’s failure meant that Israel would have to look elsewhere for not only a new priest, but also new lineage.
God of course, was raising up Samuel, we will see more his commission in chapter 3, but there is no way Samuel could fulfil all of what God was saying would be fulfilled in the priest He was going to raise up.
Samuel would not be able to go in and out before God’s anointed forever (35b).
God was not only going to raise up a King who would save Israel, He was going to raise up a priest who would be in the presence of that king forever.
An eternal King and Priest are being promised and we know that Jesus is both.
One Who is King, of the tribe of Judah’s kingly line, and also a priest, not in the line of Aaron, but like Samuel and Melchizedek ( Hebrews 7:11-19), Jesus’ priesthood would come because of God’s appointment, ‘not by bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life’.
This means that in Jesus, we have what was prophesied to Eli and also by Eli.
Eli indicates that they are beyond hope of escaping destruction (2:25a) in a statement that would be completely overwhelming if we did not know we have such a mediator Who can go between us and God.
A priest who could go before God for the consequences of sins of the people against God would have to have no sins himself. He had to have his sins atoned for before he could make sacrifice for others. That’s why there was so much wrong with what Eli’s sons were doing. They were sinning against God without seeking repentance or forgiveness and they were disdaining the sacrifices that others were bringing. No covering for sins could be given in that priesthood.
In the priesthood of Jesus though, we have a priest Who CAN go into God’s presence to intercede for us. ( Hebrews 7:23-28).
We have a Great High Priest who doesn’t take from the sacrifice, but is the sacrifice.
One Who can bring us near to God, saving us completely.
What does this all mean for us?
-For professing believers it means that we need to examine our church activities, our ministries.
What are we doing that is for God and what are we doing that is for purely for us?
Where can I see that I need to grow personally and am I willing for things to change to facilitate that growth?
-We cannot use God and things He has instituted for us us to our own advantage.
“ We have turned to a God that we can use rather than a God we must obey; we have turned to a God who will fulfil our needs rather than a God before whom we must surrender our rights to ourselves. He is a God for us and our satisfaction, and we have come to assume that it must be so in the church as well. And so we transform the God of mercy into a God who is at our mercy. We imagine that He is benign, that He will acquiesce as we toy with His reality and co-opt Him in the promotion of our ventures ( comforts) and careers.” – Al Mohler
-It certainly means we can be forgiven!
We don’t have to rely on faulty people or institutions for our salvation and forgiveness, we have full access to God’s throne through faith in Jesus Christ.
-It also means we have absolutely nothing to hide or fear.
If we truly have this kind of Advocate ( and we do!) we don’t have to live in the shadows, fearing exploitation, threats of abuse. Our priest is forever, and Who can save to the ‘uttermost’ ( Hebrews 7:25a), the very lowest of people with the lowest of sins can be lifted up by a priest Who was lifted up on a Cross for them.
In what way can you ask for Jesus to intercede for you today?
Before God’s throne, I have a strong and perfect plea, a Great High Priest Whose name is love and who ever lives and pleads for me.