Grab your Bibles, and let’s go deeper into the testimony of Eli.
Who is Eli?
In 1 Samuel 2:11, we read that Eli was a priest, and in 1 Samuel 2:22, that he was very old.
In general, Eli was known to be a good, God-fearing man: a man of influence and leadership in his role as a judge over Israel and as a priest who interceded for the people.
Who are his sons?
In 1 Samuel 2:12, we read that “the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord.” In 1 Samuel 2:12-17, we read how they profaned the house of God. Verse 22 says, “He kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting.”
A father’s plea to his sinning boys:
1 Samuel 2:23-25 And he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad. If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.
The error in Eli’s leadership over his boys was that he pleaded with them to change, but he did nothing to hold them accountable or to restrain them from their sin and wicked ways. Discipline is a good thing. It is not loving or honoring to God to let those under your care run headlong into sin.
Hebrews 12:5-6: And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
Did you hear it? “Those whom the Lord loves he disciplines.” Our Father disciplines us because He loves us! Now, our English understanding of discipline is punishment, which is not the right picture here. The key is to look deeper at the word discipline. The Greek word for discipline is paideia. It is where we get our word pediatrics! What is a pediatrician’s primary concern? The over-all health of the child. The same is true of a parent for a child. Out of love, we are to discipline our children and not let them practice or pursue sin.
1 Samuel 2:27-29 And there came a man of God to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Did I indeed reveal myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt subject to the house of Pharaoh? Did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? I gave to the house of your father all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel. Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’”
The word of the Lord comes to Eli to remind him who God is, what He has done, and with what He has entrusted to Eli. Then it goes on to say clearly that Eli honored his sons above God. This is a huge reminder to us. We, too, are guilty of forgetting all that God has done for us by sending Christ to live and die and rise again for our victory and new life, which we did not deserve or earn. Yet we often spit on God’s grace and all that He deserves for who He is when we, too, make the things He has created and people we love more important to us than Him.
1 Samuel 2:35 “And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever.”
The promise of God in verse 35 of chapter 2 is huge. In the midst of declaring the demise of Levi and his house, the word of the Lord promises to raise up for Himself a faithful priest who will not live for his fleshly desires but will do what God wants. Upon this priest, He will build a sure house and he will be anointed forever. This is a beautiful pointing to Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 4:14-16 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need
1 Samuel 3:13 “And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.”
It is not loving to fail to restrain the evil in our loved ones’ lives. To let them practice sin is to endorse their rebellion against the Lord and to disregard the command of God on their lives, which is to worship God by obeying their parents.
Eli was a priest when the judges governed Israel, and as such, he was supposed to be an example to the people as their worship leader. Yet his home life made it impossible for him to be a model for those under his care. Scripture minces no words in describing his sons as “worthless” men who “did not know the Lord” (1 Sam. 2:12). In passing, we would not look at Eli as responsible for his sons’ adult transgressions, especially since Eli did plead with them to stop sinning (vv. 22-26). But in all actuality, Eli’s admonitions were half-hearted, because God charged the priest with exalting his sons above the Almighty (vv. 27-29), something that Eli likely did from their youth. Eli’s disordered, undisciplined, sinful family revealed that his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord. Being unfaithful and unfit for ongoing leadership, Eli was finally removed from his position (vv. 30-36; 4:12-18).
The Judgment for the House of Eli
1 Samuel 3:14 “Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”
This is a sobering and damning word on the House of Eli, which is why Eli’s response to this news is so surprising.
Eli Is Told His Fate and Receives It
1 Samuel 3:15-18 Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.”
It is interesting that Eli doesn’t honor God by rebuking his sons, but he does honor God as God through His judgment against him, even though it is so terrible.
Eli recognized the word of God when he heard it, because he understood the character of Him whose word it was. God is good and perfect and right and righteous in all His ways. Eli’s response affirms these ideas: “If this is God’s will for me, if this is God’s judgment on my life, because of who God is, I receive it and do not rebuke it.” Scripture tells us Eli said, “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him.” Can you make this affirmation from the depths of your heart in difficult times as well as in good times?
If your child or spouse dies, do you say to God with Eli, “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him”? Do you say with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21)?
When you get demoted or lose your job for no fault of your own, do you say to God with Eli, “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him”? Do you say with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21)?
As hard as it is, God must be the first and greatest allegiance. We must never undermine His character and perfect will in the face of great hardship or loss. We who are His blood-bought children must follow the faithful before us and yield to His perfect will.
In 1 Samuel 4:1-11, we read about the death of the sons of Eli and 30,000 soldiers of Israel and the capture of the Ark of God. In 1 Samuel 4:12-18, we read about the death of Eli.
What are the take-aways from this testimony?
Parents should take seriously the commands of God on them to discipline and raise their kids to obey them and honor the Lord.
Children need to take seriously the command of God to obey their parents.
Proverbs 6:20-23 My son, obey your father’s commands, and don’t neglect your mother’s teaching. Keep their words always in your heart. Tie them around your neck. Wherever you walk, their counsel can lead you. When you sleep, they will protect you. When you wake up in the morning, they will advise you. For these commands and this teaching are a lamp to light the way ahead of you. The correction of discipline is the way of life.
Most of all, God is worthy of our trust and our praise. We are to honor Him above all others and obey His commands. May we take seriously the commands of God and the opportunities He puts before us to live for Him despite great adversity.
Praise God we have a great high priest who intercedes for us before our holy God. In Christ we live and serve and do all things.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
By His grace and for His glory,
Pastor Joshua Kirstine