1 Samuel 2:22-36 To Condone Evil is to Dishonor God
1 Samuel 2:22-36
22 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. 23 He said to them, “Why do you do such things, the evil things that I hear from all these people? 24 No, my sons; for the report is not good which I hear the Lord’s people circulating. 25 If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for the Lord desired to put them to death. 26 Now the boy Samuel was growing in stature and in favor both with the Lord and with men. 27 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? 28 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? 29 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? ’ 30 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. 31 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. 32 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. 33 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. 34 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. 35 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. 36 Everyone who is left in your house will come and bow down to him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread and say, “Please assign me to one of the priest’s offices so that I may eat a piece of bread.
In this episode, we look at the decay of a priestly lineage and the rise of a new priest and prophet Samuel. Eli lacks the courage and resolve to uphold God’s truth in the priesthood by allowing his sons to continue in their evil. It is required of a leader to make tough decisions even to disregard his closest relations in order to do what is right. To condone evil is equivalent to dishonoring God.
- If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him? – The sons of Eli have been sinning against God by fornicating with the women at the temple. They have also taken for themselves the choice meat that is rightfully God’s. Hence, their contempt for God and their sins are very great. This is considered as a “high handed” sin that is committed directly against God; this kind of sin is extremely severe and carries wide-ranging and far-reaching consequences. However, Eli’s reproof does not contain a clear warning and consequence for their sins. What Eli meant is if a man sins against another, God will judge between them justly based upon the law. However, if a man sins against God, who has the authority to pray and intercede on behalf of the sinner? Eli implies that the sinner is up against God with no one to arbitrate for them. What Eli fails to do is to deliver a firm warning and the consequence of such acts of contempt for God, which carries an irreversible curse.
- 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? – A man of God came to Eli to deliver a word from God. The premises for the allegations against Eli are his misplaced honor for his sons rather than for God. Eli by allowing his sons to continue in their wicked ways and contempt for God at the offering the animal sacrifices, he is honoring them above God. And by consuming the choicest meat that is reserved for God and by condoning their behavior, Eli is participating in their sin and hence their curse.
- For those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed. – Here is the basis of God’s judgment against Eli: the reciprocity of honor or the lack of it. God has honored Eli and his father’s house by entrusting to them the priestly ministry, but what God had gotten in return is contempt of His sacrifices. Because Eli has not done enough to rebuke his sons for their sin, he despised God. Therefore, God has decided to weaken the entire Elide lineage such that, not one of his descendants will have the strength to grow old, but shall die at a young age. For all whom God has lightly esteemed will suffer heavy consequences.
- 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. – God has decided to raise up another priest with the following virtue: He is faithful and He will do according to all that is in God’s heart and soul. Faithfulness denotes the resolve to do all that God had commanded despite immense difficulties. And God will build for his faithful priest an enduring line of succession (house) that will minister before the anointed one (the king).
- Everyone who is left in your house will come and bow down to him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread – This faithful priest will possess authority and executive powers that will determine the livelihood of many. He will have vast amount of resources under his control and his descendants will subordinate themselves under Samuel to beg for food.
- The attitude of not placing God as the highest priority weakens the strength of one’s descendants. The attitude of not placing the things of God (e.g. worship, tithes and offering, work of the Kingdom) as the highest priority carries the effect of reducing the strength of one’s descendants. Many who professed to be Christians, have yet to demonstrate the Lordship of Christ over every area of their lives. Though they respect God but did not fear Him as Lord. Even as their attitude is in no way compared to the blatant sin of despising God’s sacrifices as in the case of Eli’s sons; by not giving God the place of authority over their life, they deprive their descendants of God’s future blessings, favor and resources.
- Even though a minister may be morally upright, but if he allows someone to do evil without stopping him, he is honoring the evildoer above God. Eli could bear much, but he could dare little. The sins of his sons has implicated him and brought upon him and his house a terrible curse. The sins of one’s subordinate will implicate the superior if he does nothing to stop or to correct him. Hence, one must carefully consider if he is able to take up the position of authority les he be implicated by the sins of those under his charge. Jesus teaches believers not to let our relatives hinder our resolve to do what is right: “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:26.
- The most important virtue that God looks for in a leader is faithfulness to do His will in spite of immense difficulties and oppositions. People tend to look at one’s external appearance, his talents and competency to determine his potential. However, God looks not at the appearance or his talents but at his heart. A person’s heart represents his inclinations towards truth or evil, faithfulness towards God’s instructions or self-centered living. A faithful person is primarily concerned with the things that are in God’s heart and mind, for he believes that God will surely take care of His needs. Gifts and talents can be readily imparted when it is timely for God to release them. However, the virtues of the heart must be acquired through a period of time when he exercises humility and self-control.
- Are you listening to God’s instructions and obeying Him daily? Or are you too busy to listen to Him except on Sunday at worship service? We place God as the highest priority by reading His word and doing His will on a daily basis.
- Do you feel what is God feeling and know what He is thinking at this very moment? If you do, God calls you faithful. Always be sensitive to His thoughts and feelings as you interact with people and go about your work. You will be pleasantly surprised as to how transparent God is towards you.
Dear Lord, help me to place you as the highest priority of my life. Quicken my spirit and cause me to be sensitive to your voice in every situation. Give me boldness to exercise authority to preserve truth and purity in my church, work place and family. I will be faithful to do your will and to accomplish your call in my life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.