"Why do you keep sinning?" 1 Samuel 2:23c NLT
These five words are sure to resonate within the hearts of many in our land today. They were spoken by a father confronting his sons about their grievous behavior in the house of worship. You see, the man was Eli, the same priest that met Elkanah and Hannah in Shiloh (see posts from August 17, 25, and September 2).
Eli had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. They are described by Samuel as, "scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord.," neither did they hold in high esteem their responsibilities as priests. (read 2:12-13) The two brothers were complicit in their contemptible handling of the sacrifices brought to Shiloh by worshipers. They also seduced the young women who assisted at the entrance to the worship center (2:14-17, 22).
Upon first inspection, one might be led to think Eli was acting appropriately in confronting his sons with their behavior: "I have been hearing reports from all the people about the wicked things you are doing. Why do you keep sinning? You must stop, my sons! The reports I hear among the Lord's people are not good. If someone sins against another person, God can mediate for the guilty party. But if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede?" (v.'s 23-25) Unfortunately, the confrontation possessed no consequences. Eli had been enabling his own sons actions for years. In fact, he had quite literally become fat from the sacrifices they misappropriated from the people's gifts which were specifically designated as a burnt sacrifice to God. It was Eli who was confronted next.
A holy man - we aren't given his name - arrived at Shiloh one day and addressed Eli with a message from the Lord. He reminded Eli of the origin for the priestly role and Aaron's designation as the one whom God had chosen to offer sacrifices, burn incense, and wear the priestly garment, and that the assignment was then passed on down the family line. Eli was then charged with the answer to his the very question he had posed to his sons: "So why do you scorn my sacrifices and offerings? Why do you give your sons more honor than you give me - for you have become fat from the best offerings of my people Israel!" (v.29)
The man of God then taught Eli the consequences of his own conduct: "...I will honor those who honor me, and I will despise those who think lightly of me." (v.30) In other words, it seems Eli had been weighed in the balance, coming up short. Eli was informed that his life and the lives of his sons would soon come to an end. In fact, the branch or family line of Eli would actually become extinct. All the family would die "before their time" (v.31), and the children would all die a violent death.
I shudder to think of God's judgment... it is too great for me to consider... which is why I glory in the cross of Christ and His interceding for me at that moment. (1 John 2:1; Hebrews 8:12; 1 Timothy 2:5; Revelation 12:10) Jesus is the one who intercedes when one has offended God. However, we shouldn't be deceived into thinking our actions have no consequences. Our actions affect others: our actions, our words, our body language, our attention or inattention... they are all filtered through the system of cognitive-emotional filters which elicits a judgement on them all. We are not perfect. We make mistakes... even big blunders. Perhaps we should understand the rightness of one's judgment against us, and provide greater grace to those who offend us?
Isn't it mysterious, though, how Samuel grew up under the corrupt influence at Shiloh without being affected by it? Why was he able to navigate to adulthood without even the slightest hint of influence by Eli's sons? Samuel is the one providing the entire account from his own memory of the years spent in Shiloh. Can you imagine how he must have felt hearing the words of the man of God confronting Eli? Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, Samuel describes himself as: "...only a boy...", yet, as a boy who served the Lord. Not only had Hannah nurtured the boy physically in his early development, but she had poured her faith in God into his young mind, and continued to encourage her son's faith each year she visited The Tabernacle. The boy Samuel had been imprinted and inspired his own mother's faith. In fact, Samuel then describes himself in a way that would one day describe the Savior of the world:
"Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew taller and grew in favor with the Lord and with the people." (v.26)
This description is very similar to Luke's description of Jesus in Luke 2:52. As profound as these two are similar, it is obvious that Samuel was indeed a type of Christ to the Jews of his day:
- He walked in righteousness, without any corruption.
- He pointed the people to God's way.
- He confronted evil with God's righteous Word.
- He was recognized by the people as an authentic prophet whose words were reliable.
Perhaps Eli's words, "Why do you keep sinning?" reached Samuel's ears at just the right time in his development, especially since Samuel witnessed the holy man's words, as well as the consequences described by the man of God to Eli. They are words for us to seriously consider today. Is there a besetting sin which grips your life, imprisoning your mind? Is there any way you may shrug off one's commission of being Jesus to the world? Have you allowed your spiritual disciplines to become lax?
God is the God of second chances. He is full of mercy. His kindness is ever pursuing each of us. Turn to Him and forsake the sin that enslaves you, and become a prisoner of hope - a slave surrendered to Christ's Kingdom and His ways.