The Prodigal Father
Topic: Special Service Scripture: 1 Samuel 2:12-36
This morning, open your Bible to 1 Samuel, chapter 2. We're not going to read our verses because it's a long passage. Verses 12 through 36, a message I've entitled, The Prodigal Father. The Prodigal Father.
It is said that while the great artist Raphael was painting his famous Vatican Frescoes, a couple of cardinals stopped by to watch and to criticize. One of the cardinals said, "You know what, sir? The face of the apostle Paul is too red." Raphael retorted, "He blushed to see into whose hands the church has fallen." It's a great reply and it's a gateway into our text this morning here in 1 Samuel 2 verses 12 through 36 because I would suggest to you that the author of 1 Samuel who is anonymous, as he writes this record of Israel's history, he writes it with a certain embarrassment. He picks up his one and he becomes rather red faced when he looks at the state of things spiritually in the land of Israel, at Shiloh, the religious center of Israel.
So I maintain then the background, why the embarrassment? Because number one, the broader culture was marked by spiritual apathy and anarchy. 1 Samuel places us up against the time of the judges. If you read at the end of Judges, chapter 21 and verse 25, you're going to read, "And there was no king in Israel and every man did what was right in his own eyes." It was a spiritual free for all. It was a spiritual free fall.
Number two, there was limited prophetic activity. When you get to chapter three verse one, you're going to see that the word of the Lord was rare in the days of Samuel and in the days of Eli. In fact, I'm going to put it like this, God hadn't showed up for a while. There was no revelation. There was no revival. Things were flat lining spiritually within the kingdom.
Number three, Eli's sons Hophni and Phinehas who we're going to learn about in our passage, can you believe this? They had turned the tabernacle into a brothel. That's no exaggeration. Look at chapter two and verse 22, where Eli confronts his sons and he says this, "I have heard from all Israel how you lie with the women who assemble at the door of the tabernacle of the meeting." If I might put it bluntly, these guys were having sex on the back pew of the church. Can you imagine?
It's no wonder, I'd suggest, that the writer writes with a red face. This is embarrassing. If it wasn't enough that the culture was apathetic and in rebellion, if it wasn't enough that God wasn't speaking, if it wasn't enough that Hophni and Phinehas were two hell raisers in the parsonage, we're going to read also that Eli, the high priest, has shamefully and sadly abdicated his leadership inside his house and God's house.
In fact, you have to go into chapter three verse 13 to get it stated bluntly, although I'll prove it from others texts. When God talks about his sons, who had made themselves vile, Hophni and Phinehas, what do we read? "And Eli did not restrain them." He was a failed leader.
So let's come this morning, as I look at this subject, The Prodigal Father, because I want to look at Eli, who was a failed parent. He was a pastor who raised two hellions. What we have in 1 Samuel 2:12-36 is an autopsy on a deadbeat dad, a postmortem on a failed parent.
If there's anything to be gained from this sad and sorted story, it's perhaps the fact that we might learn some good lessons from a bad example. I like the old Andy Capp cartoon strip, where you have Andy telling his beleaguered wife Flo, he says this, "I'm not worthy of anything. I'm not good at anything." His wife, Flo, turns to him and says, "Andy don't be so hard on yourself. If nothing else you'll serve as a horrible example."
That's what's going on here. If nothing else, and there's more, Eli serves as a horrible example, of fatherhood and parenthood leadership. LEt's jump right in, if you're taking notes I've got an outline that goes something like this: The contempt, the contrast, the complicity and the condemnation. LEt's just right in, the contemp.
This is verses 12 through 17 and we're talking about Eli's sons who were named earlier on as indeed Hophni and Phinehas. The Bible tells us in verse 12 that they were corrupt and didn't know the Lord. Then we read in verse 17 as they discharge their priestly duties alongside their father that they were men who had caused the people of God to abhor the offering of the Lord, or to show contempt for the offering of the Lord. That's where I get my first thought, the contempt.
The contempt shown by Eli's sons. Here we have two PKs, pastors kids, who treat the Lord's work and the Lord's people and the Lord's glory with disdain. There's a vanity and a profanity that marks everything they do. There's a witlessness to holy things regarding them. In fact, I like the way the old Ralph Davidson has come in 1 Samuel introduces our passage He says this, "A surprise indeed. Hannah's prayer, chapter 2 versus 1-10 has just alluded to the arrogant. Verse three, the mighty verse four, the wicked verse nine and those with whom God will content, verse ten." And here they are, not as expected, Canaanites or Philistines, but the priests of Israel. It's scary isn't it? The tabernacle that was housed in Shiloh looked more like a pagan shrine. The sons of Eli were more like Canaanite priests.
These two rascals, these two scoundrels were playing at church. They were openly profaning holy things. They're called, "corrupt," but if you look at your marginal reference, the Hebrew, it's sons os Belial, a pagan deity. In fact, your translation might put it, "they were wicked and worthless." Think about that. Now the sons of Eli were wicked and worthless. They caused the people of God, verse 17 to sin directly and show contempt for God's house. These were two hell raisers.
Let's just profile their profanity and their vanity just to kind of fill this in. I want you to see that they were graceless ministers. Look at verse 12. They did not know the Lord. They weren't regenerate, they weren't saved. These were godless minsters. These two lacked fear for God, they lacked the knowledge of God. They were going through the motions of the ministry without the proper emotions to accompany the ministry.
Number two, they dishonored the Lord in worship. You read in verse 13 and the priest's custom with the people was that when any man offered a sacrifice the priest's servant would come with a three pronged flesh hook, or like a big fork, in his hand while the meat was boiling. They could take some of that meat.
Now let me fill in the background for the sake of time. You go back to the book of Leviticus, the high priest and the priests along side him could take the breast or the thigh of that which was being sacrificed. The fat and the best parts of the sacrifice were to be completely offered to the Lord. But if you read through verse 13 to verse 16, that's not what Hophni and Phinehas did.
They sent their servant with a big fork and they just put the fork in while the offering was being made to God and they took what they wanted. They took fat and all. In fact, you'll read in verse 16, when the people of God said, "You shouldn't do that," what does the servant say? "No, but you must give it now and if not I will take it by force." Give me it or I'll punch you in the nose. This was going on in the worship of God at the shrine at Shiloh in the tabernacle. It's kind of scary, isn't it? Graceless ministers dishonoring the Lord in worship, abusing God's people. We'll take it by force, they were fleecing the flock. They were making themselves fat and dishonoring God and they were indeed threatening violence to God's people.
Then as we said, verse 22 they committed sexual immorality. They lay with women at the door to the tabernacle, back in the Pentateuch we read of certain women who served around the tabernacle and it seems that indeed these two boys were committing sexual immorality with some of those women on the very precinct of the tabernacle. That's hard to believe.
When we read from verse 24 in chapter 2 that they made God's people to sin. "For it is not good," says the man of God, "The report I hear you make the Lord's people transgress." That's Eli on his sons. They were luring the spiritual temperature. They were corrupting the spiritual culture.
Before I came here I pastored a church in Ohio and the man that proceeded me was a man who fell into immorality. In fact, for several years prior to him being caught, he was having sex with prostitutes on a Saturday night. He was discovered because one of the prostitutes heard his voice on the radio and blew the whistle. I can tell you, it took June and I awhile to gain the people's trust. I can tell you based on the verse I just read, that the young people at our school of 600 students used this man to excuse their own misbehavior. He had lead the people of God into sin. That's what's going on here.
This is a terrible litany of sins. This is a mountain of moral offense. Now, I've got a question, how? How can these two, and how can their father especially allow these two to get away with what they're getting away with? Well, we saw, verse 17. They and others who watched their behavior, came to abhor or show contempt for the offering of the Lord. There was not fear of God. There was no sense of holiness. Reverence was not part of their vocabulary. In fact, you'll see this even more in verse 29.
How did this happen? Because their familiarity with God's work had led to a disastrous contempt. In fact, you'll read in verse 29 when God again, through this man of God, pronounces judgment on the house of Eli. When we read, "Why do you kick at my sacrifice and my offering which I have commanded in my dwelling place and honor your sons more than me?" Literally, Eli, in the light of all of I've given you, why do you kick the dust in my face? Why do you dismiss me with the flick of your wrist? Kind of scary isn't it?
I want to be challenged. I want to be challenged. There was motion without emotion. They stopped ministering to an audience of one, the holy one of Israel. It was a blessing to be brought up in a high priest's home. It was a blessing to be around holy things. It was a blessing to be part of the worship of God in the services of the tabernacle, but if you're not careful, blessings can be come cursed. Unto whom much is given, much with be required and these two boys prostituted their privileges. It's a scary thing.
It's a scary thing to become familiar with the things of God. Scare thing not to take a big breath and pause on your way to church and realize, you're about to enter into house of God and hear the word of God. This is no trivial thing. Familiarity, we say, can breed contempt. In this case, it did. Dale Ralph Davis to quote him again says, "They had turned the tabernacle into a brothel. They had turned the place where sin was to be confessed into a place where sin was committed." That's the contempt.
Let me illustrate this and move on. Charles Simeon was a pastor in Cambridge in England many years ago. He mentored a famous missionary by the name of Henry Martin who was a brilliant young man who was destined for life in academia. But God got ahold of him and took him across the world in missions. He died on the mission field, early on in his ministry.
According to the story I read, just a few days after this young man had died, I think in India, Charles Simeon received a portrait of him. He hung it up over his fire place on the top of his mantle and it is said that in the years that followed and certainly by this stage he had known that Martin had perished, he would point to that picture and he would say this to the guests in his home, "There, see that blessed man? What an expression on his countenance. No one looks at me as he does. He never takes his eyes off me. He always seems to be saying, 'Be serious, be earnest, don't trifle, don't trifle.'"
And you know what? That's what the texts is saying to us, the church who live on the other side of the greatest sacrifice of them all, calvary, made by the greatest person of all, the very son of God. Don't trifle with the gospel. If you're unsaved, don't trifle with it by keeping hearing it and rejecting it. For now is the day of salvation. Today, not tomorrow is Gods promise regarding eternal life for you.
If you have embraced the gospel, don't trifle with the gospel. Don't let the things of God become worthless to you. The treasure of the book, the treasure of Christian fellowship, all of these things are sacred and wonderful and we need to embrace them and not trifle. Guard your souil from familiarity, from a creeping awareness in your soul that you love Jesus but not as you once did. You're skipping church a little bit more as it suits you. You don't pursue the joy of Christian fellowship as Dan outline it this morning.
What about not only the contempt, what about the contrast? The contrast, let's move here quickly. There's a contrast in verse 18, "But," That's a conjunction, but you notice this conjunction is drawing a contract. But Samuel ministered before the Lord as a child, wearing a linen ephod, that's the breastplate of the high priest of the priest of Israel. Then you go on to read how his mother would come up every year and give him a new rode or a new coat and he would wear the ephod over on top of that. You'll also read how Eli blessed Elkahnah and Hannah.
Although Hannah had simply prayed for a child and God had given her Samuel and she gave Samuel to God, we read that indeed God had answered her prayer, exceedingly, abundantly, above all that she could ask or think, and gave her more children. God is good. You'll never sacrifice in a way that doesn't return to you a blessing. You'll never out give god my friend. She gave little Samuel and God gave her a whole bunch of kids.
But that's not the point, the point is this, the contrast. There's a deliberate contract. The faithlessness of Eli's sons who were corrupt in the priesthood is contrasted my the emerging faithfulness of a little boy who lights the candles in the tabernacle at night and puts them out in the morning, who brings a cup of coffee to the high priest as he sits at his desk, who goes about the precedent of the tabernacle, brushing the floor and administering in any way he can as he does his apprenticeship because God's getting him ready to take over from Eli.
In fact, let me just show you this in the text, what you have in our text is Samuel ministering and then some notation of faithlessness in the part of Hophni and Phinehas or Eli. So look at chapter 2 verse 11, "Then Elkahnah went to his house in Rama, but that child," that is Samuel, "Ministered to the Lord before Eli the priest." Then we read of the wicked sons of Eli, then in verse 18 we read, "But Samuel ministered before the Lord." Then in verse 22 we'll read about the judgements that God will pronounce upon the house of Eli because of the sin of his sons. But notice in the middle of that, verse 26, "And the child, Samuel, grew in stature and in favor both with the Lord and men."
Eli is carrying God's condemnation while Samuel is indeed winning God's favor. You see the contrast? Then you have the pronouncement of judgment, then look at chapter three and verse one, "Now the boy, Samuel, ministered to the Lord before Eli." I think you've got it by now.
Here's the point. The contrast between faithfulness and faithlessness. Samuel who's growing in favor with God as he ministers with integrity and Eli and his sons who are carrying the disfavor of God because of their apostacy.
You know what I love about this? That means that little Samuel is the backdrop to our story. He's the backdrop to our story. It's not just a footnote, because I think God is inserting a ray of hope into the darkness. I mean, before we're done, God will say to Eli, "I'm going to tear you metaphorically and your house limb by limb. I'm going to cut your arm off. There won't be an old man left in the house of Eli."
But against the backdrop of that, and the darkness and the decadence and the disobedience that portrays is this wonderful story, God is getting ready the next high priest. That the contrast in this message of hope. That while the culture and even the leadership in the believing community goes backwards, the work of God goes forwards. God is a already at work providing new godly leadership. God is always got a remnant. God has always got an answer. Samuel is growing up and becoming spiritually strong, while Eli is growing old and becoming spiritually weak.
You know what? Even in our day, with our culture going to hell in a hand basket, with evangelicalism getting weaker and weaker and theologically diluted day by day, God's at work. There's a remnant and God is preparing a new leadership, always. I like what Dale Ralph Davis, to quote him again says, "It must have seemed to many like there was no hope of improvement no exit from the night. But in the middle of it all, the text keeps whispering, 'Don't forget Samuel, you see how Samuel is serving?' That is Yahweh manner quietly providing for the next moment even in the midst of the dark moments." Love that. God is always preparing the next moment in the midst of the darkest moment.
That's true in church life, true in family life, just true in our lives. That's an encouragement. God is always up to something. It might be small, it might be away from the spotlight, it might not create a lot of noise right now, but God's getting the next moment ready in the moments in which we're in, even if they're marked by darkness.
Let me illustrate this and move on. Several years ago in the Leadership Magazine they told a story about a B17 bomber that we doing a run over Germany in the second world war. At it was dropping its bombs across Germany, it was hit several times by anti aircraft fire, by anti aircraft flack. In fact, several shells pierced its fuel tank. They were able to shut the tank off and fly on what they had left.bThe amazing thing was that those shells didn't go off.
The pilots, from their point of view counted their lucky stars and they got back on dry ground and afterward, one of the pilots went to the ground crew and said, "Hey, if it's possible I'd like one of those shells as a souvenir because we dodged one out there." What was found out by the army intelligence was this, that those shells that had punctured one of the tanks, several of them, there was no explosive charges on the inside, which was a mystery.
One of the shells in fact, had a note that was in Czech, so they got a man who could interpret Czech and so the translation in Czechoslovakian was this, "This is all we can do for now." So everybody concluded, hey, you've got a bunch of Czechs down there being forced to work in German ammunition factories. And while the Germans aren't looking, quietly and away from the spotlight, they're taking the explosive charges out of the shells and they want us to know they're dong it and it's all they can do for now. It's a great story.
It's god's way among God's people. God's always at work. It's not always noisy, it's not always dramatic, but what he's doing now is a big help and he's getting ready for the next moment even in the darkest of moments.
Let's move on, what I call complicity. The contempt, the contrast, the complicity. I'm talking about Eli's complicity in his son's sins. Were they not culpable? Absolutely. God will judge them. In fact, we can read in the text that God begins to harden their hearts, because when Eli confronts them, it says that they did not listen to their father because God intended to kill them. This is what's called judicial hardening. You have to sin pretty severely and pretty repeatedly for this to happen in your life, but sometimes it can happen in people's lives. These guys are contemptible. We've gone down their profile and God's hardening their hearts. They're culpable for their sin, but the text also tells us, so is Eli culpable for their sin.
In fact, I'll show you this in the text in several places. In chapter three verse 13, we're told what? We're told that his sons had made themselves vile and he did not restrain them. He's complicit. He didn't restrain them. He sat on the sidelines. He became a spectator to what they were doing. We see in verses 22 to 25, even when he confronts them it's all words and no action. "I heard that you're lying with the women on the back pew of the church, cut it out." And then they keep their jobs, there's not church discipline. The guys a flake as a father. He's complicit.
Number two, look at chapter two verse 29. Chapter two verse 29, "Why do you kick at my sacrifice and my offering, which I've commanded in the dwelling place and honor your sons more than me? TO make," Notice, plural, "To make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings?" Hold on a minute, the text introduced Hophni and Phinehas taking the fat that belonged to God. But the text is telling us, later on that night, God said give me a piece of that. And he became complacent in their sin. They got fat and he got fat. He dishonored God by honoring them, we've already read that in verse 29.
Here's an interesting text, I'm going outside our passage, but in chapter four verse 21, this is the story of the Ark of the Covenant being taken by the Philistines. It was a low point in Israels' history. Panic sets in. They were using the Ark of the Covenant like some kind of lucky charm or talisman and they lose it. That's the time in which Eli's sons will be killed by God. Someone will tell Eli and he's so fat and sedentary, he's sitting on a big chair, he kind of gets rocked by that, he falls over, breaks his neck and dies. It says he was heavy. He was heavy around the waist from the fat, from the offerings he had stolen from God. He died of a broken neck and a broken heart.
You know what his daughter in law says about that? She actually dies in childbirth, before she dies she calls her son what? Ichabod, the glory of the lord is departed. But I want you to notice, verse 20 in chapter four, "Then she named the child Ichabod saying, 'The glory has departed from Israel,' because the ark of God has been captured and because of her father in law and her husband." Eli's daughter in law says, "He's to blame along with my husband, his son." Do I need to say anything more? Talk about the complicity. When God's judgment comes, it just doesn't fall on the boys, it falls on Eli and his whole house, chapter two and verse 31.
For a few minutes let's kind of think about this, he is complicit, he is a failed father, he's a prodigal father. He has raised two hell raisers in the [inaudible 00:28:18] or the parsonage. How do we explain that? I've got three contributing reasons. I don't think it's exhausted, but it's suggestive.
Number one, what I call, distracting duty. Distracting duty. I think that Eli got so busy in ministry that he didn't pay attention to his sons, that he didn't give them the oversight that they required. No doubt his life was busy and he was involved in a lot of stuff for God's glory in terms of overseeing the ministry and ministering before the alter of God, verse 28 of chapter 2. I believe that he was so busy in the ministry, his boys got the crumbs of his involvement in their lives.
Remember, Shiloh, where we're at in this text, is the religious center of Israel. No doubt, Eli would have been involved in traveling throughout the land, a bit of a circuit riding preacher going from town to town and village to village. I'll tell you why I believe that, it's not explicit, but I think it is implicit. I think this is a fair deduction. I want you to notice verse 22, "NO Eli was very old and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle." Look at verse 24, he challenges his sons, he says that, "It's not a good report that I hear, you make the Lord's people transgress."
Did you notice that everything he came to know about his son's sin came second hand? He didn't discover that. He was told that because he was too busy to notice it. That's challenging, distracting duty. He was a passive parent. He was an absentee dad. Even when he was present, he was absent, he was absent a lot of time. But when present, probably still absent. Careless.
Song of Solomon, chapter one verse six warns about the dangers of having taken care of other people's vineyards you do not take care of your own. I've found that most painters houses need painting. You know why? That kind of stuff can go on in a pastor's home. 1 Timothy 3, versus 4-5 warns us, you don't take care of your own house, how ar you going to take care of God's house? If you don't take care of your children and disciple them, how are you going to take care of my children and disciple them?
I think it's a fair deduction. This guy through distracting duty, through ministerial busyness overlooked his responsibility as a parent. He didn't give his sons individual attention. He didn't give his sons the oversight that they required. That's why they dismiss him. They don't listen to him, they don't obey him. Perhaps he's away so often he feels guilty about it and that's why he doesn't restrain them. You can put it all together.
It's a challenge by the way. Some parents give their children everything but themselves. That's a mistake. Some parents give their children everything but themselves. Children with their heads screwed on don't want stuff. They want dad's time. They want mom's ear. They want both parent's love. You can't buy their love with trinkets and toys and trips to Disney.
Young people don't want plush homes they want parents at home. It's been well said that love is spelled T-I-M-E. We need to be present in our kid's lives. You can't make it up on the weekends. That won't be enough. Strategic vacations won't be enough. Just being at home may not be enough because you can be present and not absent. Just because you've got an office at home doesn't mean you're present if you're not available. We need to be present. We need quality time with our kids and that comes through quantity time with our kids.
Do you remember back, you ever hear the kind of contrast, you know what? Life is busy and I get that. I understand where life is coming from. Our bosses want more from us and more time and more involvement and less money. Life seems so sped up some of our families are challenged by military deployments and because we're in this long extended war with Islam it's being repeated, repeated deployments and its having devastating effects on families. I get that and I'm willing to try and understand that but you've got to work at making sure that you balance that with individual involved attention paid to your children because we can see that absence, disinterest, indifference to your children is deadly. We should have to chose between quality time and quantity time.
I don't know about you, when we've enjoyed quality time it's in the middle of quantity time. I don't know, you can't sit your kids down and say, we're going to have some quality time together. All the sudden it's magic. Doesn't work that way. Sometimes it just take you about a half an hour to start to like each other. Then you start working on that in the middle of the quantity time, quality time appears and something's achieved that bonds a family and blesses a family and builds the family.
In fact, let me just remind you, we all want that choice. The way I'd illustrate it was kind of a funny story. Some years ago, a friend of ours gave Jenn and I $300. I was going to speak in Dallas and they gave us this $300 to go to the Adolphus Hotel. This is like a real swanky hotel in Dallas. We were at the master seminary at the time. We were broke we lived in a little apartment, we had basic food, we were running about in a clunker of a car. All the sudden man, some guy gives me $300 for a five star hotel. He says, "You've got to go to the Adulphus hotel in Dallas and you've got to eat in the French Room." He says, "It's a beautiful old room. Looks like one of those early places in the 20th century. You almost feel like your dining on the Titanic." I said, "That's not a good anaology.I don't like the thought of dining on the Titanic. I'm a son of Belfast, don't bring the Titanic up."
Long story short, we go to Dallas, we're staying with friends and we tell them the story. They go, "That's crazy. It's a nice hotel, but you know what? For $300, we can get you two nights in a really good steakhouse." I said, "I can't. Sounds good, but I can't This guy's given me money." They said, "Well hey, if you're going to the Adulphus you need to dress up, we'll lend you our fancy car," because I was in a little bit of a run around hired car from DFW.
This was real fancy car, so fancy I didn't know how the windows went up and the windows went down. Everything was electric. Everything was, I don't know. We get down there and we had never done valet much before, so that was a challenge in itself. The guy comes and June doesn't even get out of the door when he opens the door, like what are you doing here? You know. It was real funny. I was hitting buttons all over the place and windows were going up and down. I think the guys were looking going, "The hillbillies have arrived." You know? All right.
So we eventually get out of the car having navigated valet. We go upstairs, beautiful, and we look at the menu. It was all of a $150 a head. A little bit of a start, little bit of a dessert. But the main course. I said, "Hey, this is what it is, let's enjoy it." So I picked my meal, you know, which was about 60 or 70 bucks or something. It was a rack of lamb. I'm going, "Phenomenal. A rack of lamb." But you know what? When it came out, it was no rack of lamb.
It was two kind of squares, little cubes or lamb with bones sticking out of them. Literally it was like two little drumsticks. It was pathetic. Pathetic. There was a swirl of potatoes and there was 23 glazed peas, because I counted them. And there was this massive white plate with all the garnishing. I'm going, "If this is fine dining you can keep it." But hey, it was what it was. At the end of the night, June and I concluded, wow, that was a nice experience. But let's go to Mcdonalds for a Big Mac or something. We were still hungry.
So here's the point of that story. Quality, it's beautiful, I love quality. That was quality food. But there was no quantity. I don't want to chose between quality and quantity. I want both. I think that's the case in any family. Don't buy into this idea, oh you know what? All I can afford is quality time with my kids because I'm so busy. That's not going to work. Not going to fly.
Here's another thought.DElayed discipline. Delayed discipline. Eli was not only passive, he was permissive. Because of time I'll kind of skip through this a little bit, but the biblical text tells us that he failed to correct his sons. We see in verses 22 to 24 where he challenges them, about he had heard from others, he wasn't up to speed on his own family. He heard from others, it's a bit like, you know what? When you get a call from the police and say, "You know Mr Smith? We want to inform you about your child." Or a teacher calls you up and says, "Of you realize the trouble your child is in?" That's what's going on in his home. He needs to be informed.
But he challenges this about the most gross sin, sleeping with women in God's house. It seems that they didn't listen to him partly because God had hardened their heart and he was going to kill them. God had had enough. But the point is, after saying all of that and they didn't respond positively, what did he do about it? Nothing. They kept their jobs. According to Deuteronomy 21:18-21, a recalcitrant, rebellious, repeated rebellious son is to be taken to the gates of the city where the elders are and he's to be stones to death. But he couldn't bring himself to do that because he had a gutless compassion with his kids. This was a child centered home where he honored his children more than he honored the Lord. So he delayed his discipline. That's why you read in chapter 3:13 that he would not restrain them.
The point is simply this, Eli was an ineffective leader in his home, permission parenting, mistook leniency for love, he bought into this modern idea, I assume, that love doesn't require discipline. Love makes discipline unnecessary. THat's nonsense. Those whom God loves he disciplines. If you don't discipline your children, that's not a sign of love, that's a sign of apathy and indifference about their sin nature, their eternal wellbeing and their discipleship in Christ.
You've got all kinds of things available to you. Early on the rod. The Bible teaches, physical corporal punishment for your children. Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. The rod will drive it from him. Do it early, do it often, and you won't have to do it much later on. The rod. The not only the rod, rebuke advice, council, in your face conversations, that's good. Then removal. Removal of privileges, grounding, take away of cell phones. That's all in the arsenal. A mom or dad who loves their child young and old will do that while they're under the roof.
By the time we get to this point of the story, his sons are in their 50s, Eli's probably in his 80s or 90s. I would assume that what we're reading about is the fruit of negligence for years and years and years. Delayed discipline. I trust that you and I will be challenged to indeed do the hard work od disciplining our children. Spare the rod and you'll spoil your child. Ignore their disobedience and they will continue to be disobedient, not only before you, before their teacher, before the police and before God himself. Hold the line.
Be like the father I was reading about, a pastor by the way, whose son has just got his driver's license and he came into his father's study. He said, "Dad, you know what? Now that I've got my license, you think I can have a use of the car?" Well the dad didn't want to waste the opportunity. He said, "Well, son, let's make a deal. Bring your grades up at school. Read a bit more of your Bible that I see you reading and get your hair cut because it's too long and we're talk about it." Well a month or two later, the boy comes in, says, "Dad I've done what you've said." The father says, "Well, you know what son? I'm real proud of you. You have got your grades up, I see you reading your Bible a lot more, but you haven't got your hair cut."
The boy says, "Well dad since you had me reading my Bible I did discover that Samson had long hair, Moses had long hair, Noah had long hair and Jesus had long hair." To which the father replied, "That's true. But they walked everywhere they went." He held the line, not giving in on that one. That's a good, wise, strong parent. Any child that has a dad or a mom like that can be thankful.
Last thought on this thought, diminished discipleship. I mean, we are stunned, are we not, by the complicity of this man in the sin of his boys. How do we explain it? I'm trying to make an attempt, what about distracting duty? He got so busy that he didn't oversee the souls of his children. Not only distracted duty, there was delayed discipline and now we've got diminished discipleship on his part. He wasn't the man of God he should have been. He wasn't the man of God perhaps he was at one point. There was a diminished spiritual character and capacity in Eli's life and it effected his effectiveness as a parent.
Can I make an argument for this? We read in chapter 2 verse 12 that his sons were corrupt. They were the sons of Belial, a pagan deity. They were wicked, worthless children. That was true of them. If you go back to chapter one verse 16, you've got that incident where Hannah is at Shiloh pouring her heart out because she is without a child. That was the worst curse upon an Israelite woman. She wanted to have a son. In fact, she wanted to bear God's son because he was promised in the old testament. And she is there pouring out her heart. She was so emotional that she must have seemed imbalanced and Eli concludes that she was drunk.
The implication is, he called her a wicked woman. Then she says, "No, I'm not drunk! But my heart is heavy. I'm pouring out my could to God. You've mistaken my emotion for drunkenness." She says to Eli in 1 Samuel, 1:16, "I am not a wicked woman." Here's what interesting for all of us [inaudible 00:44:07], that's the Hebrew for, "I am not a daughter of Belial." Interesting. Here's my comparison.
So Eli does nothing about the true sons of Belial, Hophni and Phinehas, but he comes down like a ton of bricks on a woman who was not a daughter of Belial, a true worshiper of God, because you see, he was not at a good place. There was no spiritual discernment. In fact, when you're not in a good place, you'll see other people's sins before you see your own. You'll point to their homes and be totally ignorant of the debacle that's going on in your own.
I'll tell you another thing, chapter three verse one, we read that the word of God was rare in those days and there was no widespread revelation. Interesting in the next verse, chapter three verse two, we read that Eli's eyes had begun to grow dim and he could not see. Most common theaters would say that there's more than a hint there by the writer that just as you have spiritual darkness in the land, you have spiritual darkness in the priest. It's not just his eyes that are dim, how whole spiritual vision is dim.
So what's my point? My point is this, that while these boys were culpable, I think their father could have been a better man. Maybe at one point he was a better man, maybe this is slippage. We're dealing with a father here who's walk with God isn't as real as it should be, isn't as right as it should be, and the point I simply want to make is this, if you're going to give your children the truth, be the truth itself. Or as someone has said, if you're going to show your son or daughter which way to go, go there once in awhile yourself. In fact, if you read Deuteronomy six verses four through nine, before you get to the place of, "Teach your children diligently," you're going to get the Shema, to love the Lord your God with all your heart.
Parents must love God with all their heart before they sit their children down and teach them diligently because if you don't get that order proper, it's going to be rules without reality, which will lead to rebellion. That's why Marty McSheen as a pastor said what? "My people's greatest need is my personal holiness." Can I just paraphrase that and change it a little? Every parents needs to say, "My child's greatest need is my personal holiness."
Time's gone, so I'll squeeze it in, the condemnation. The contempt, the contrast, the complicity, the condemnation. This is really verse 27 through to verse 36, a man of unnamed the peers and he pronounces judgment on Eli's house. God had honored Eli, Eli and his family has dishonored God, God was now going to dishonor Eli. God was going to take him apart and his family bit by bit. Look at verse 31, just an example, "Behold the days are coming when I will cut off your arm and the arm of your father's house so there will not be an old man in your house." It's metaphorical. I'm going to tears your family to shreds, to pieces, I'm going to pull your house down and no one will be left standing. That's exactly what happens.
Read that for yourself and you're going to soon realize that Hophni and Phinehas will die when the battle for the Philistines takes place and the Ark of the Covenant is lost. You're going to learn about the fact that when Eli hears about that, he sits heavy on a large chair and he kind of rocks back, he's knocked over by the news of his sons' death and he falls and breaks his neck. His daughter in law will die in childbirth after giving birth to Ichabod, the glory of the Lord is departed. Then you'll read in the account of Saul, King Saul later on that he will kill a lot of the house of Eli and eventually under Solomon the priest Zadok will take over from the last priest of the Eli line and that lines is finished. According to verse 35, God will raise up a faithful priest, perhaps in the immediate context that's just Samuel, in the long term it would be Jesus, our great high priest.
The point is this, listen to Warren Wiersbe as the team comes up and we wrap this up. Here's what we read, "The greatest tragedy wasn't that Eli's sons were killed or his daughter in law died or his own life was forfeited, but that he disgraced the name of the Lord and robbed his descendens of the privilege of serving as priests of the Lord. The men who would die young would not be able to serve as priests and those who lived longer would be disqualified because of personal blemishes." That's a sad story. There will be a child in Eli's family called Ichabod who will tell everyone that under Eli the glory departed. God put a full stop at the end of Eli's story. He forfeited the blessings of the priesthood to his descendens.
A lot more could be said, I'd love to say it, but you get the point. I've said it often, no success without succession. WAsn't it DL Moody who said, "You want to know a man's impact? Don't just look at his children, look at his grandchildren." Succession, that's what we want. It's not that Christianity runs in the family or is a matter of bloodline, but as I read scripture often, God's favor is upon his people and their children. We want that. We want generational blessing. We want the gospel to impact our children and our children's children. It's one of my prayers.
Psalm 128, I want to live long enough to see my children's children and peace on Jerusalem. I want to do my darnedest to make sure there's success through succession. It holds my feet to the fire. It challenges me when I wobble. It caused me to get up every day and make sure the legacy's still in tact.
I like the story, as we close, of the little boy who was climbing a hill with his father. The father was up front on the trail. It was getting steeper and more dangerous. The father stopped to take a look at perhaps the best path that was in front of them. You know what? As he was looking and choosing, his little boy shouted, "Daddy, chose the way well, because I'm coming right behind you." I think that's the kind of exclamation mark in the story of Eli and the condemnation that came to his family. This about all of his descendant who forfeited the blessing because of his disobedience.
Guys, Ladies, mom and dad, if you're a grandparent, chose your path wisely because the little ones are coming up behind. Let's pray.
Father, help us to hide this word in our hearts. We may not sin against you. Help us to learn lessons from this bad example. Help us to love you before our children, but in loving you we'll always love our children and we'll love them well. Help us not to be frightened to restrain them. Help us not to buy into the culture and the nonsense of secular psychology that our children are good an innocent. They're born in sin and shaped in iniquity and foolishness is in their heart. We need to drive it out with the rod and with rebuke and with the forfeiting of privileges so we get them that humbled place where they'll be humble before you and accept the gospel.
Lord, helps us just to pause in the middle of all the traffic jam of life and ask ourselves, where are we going and where are we taking our families for the future?
Lord, help us in our latter years not to worry about retirement or what we're going to do and travel and have because the only thing that'll satisfy us on our deathbeds are our children and our children's children around the bed and the gospel doing its work.
So we pray and ask these things in the name of our good, good father, amen.
Pastor Philip De Courcy
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