3rd April 2020
1 Samuel 2:12-26
These verses compare Eli’s sons with the boy Samuel who was being taken care of by the priest Eli in the temple. Eli’s sons were part of the temple “establishment”. They had a high social status there because they were Eli’s sons. Unfortunately, they were scoundrels (v12) and they had no regard for the Lord. They showed contempt towards the peoples’ offerings to the Lord (v17), they slept with women who served at the entrance to the tent of the meeting (v22). It is clear that they treated the peoples’ offerings to God with contempt and they treated the people who served God in the temple with contempt. In short, they treated the Lord with contempt, despite being part of the “congregation” of the temple. It is useful for us to think about our own attitudes towards God, towards other people in church, and the ministry and service that is offered by people in our church. Do we value and respect them or do we treat them and their offerings with contempt? Remember that evil and wrong-doing can often come from within the church. Reading these verses, it is not clear if Eli’s sons had the consent of the women they slept with(v22). Given their bad attitude and their known behaviour of stealing and aggression, it is not unlikely that these women were raped. Power can sometimes be abused in church. Eli tried to rebuke them (v22-25) but his sons did not listen to their father’s rebuke. In short, they were disobedient, rebellious and unrepentant.
This part of the book of Samuel also tells us about the boy Samuel who had been dedicated to the temple by his mother Hannah because God had answered her prayers for a child. Eli the priest was effectively Samuel’s foster father. Samuel, like Eli’s sons, also grew up in the temple and served in the temple. However, in contrast to Eli’s sons, Samuel was obedient to Eli’s teaching and he continued to grow in stature and in favour with the Lord and with people (26).
So what was the difference between Eli’s sons and Samuel? They all grew up in the temple in the presence of the Lord. They were all brought up and taught by Eli the priest. How did they turn out so differently to each other? The difference was in the condition of their hearts. This greatly affected their attitude and behaviour. This is an important reminder to all of us that no matter how long we have been in church, whatever “status” we may have or we imagine we have in church, we need to regularly examine our hearts. Do we value and honour other people and what they do for the church? Or do we disregard them and their offerings because we think that we are higher in status, better, more learned, or simply more entitled than others? We need to look for and remove any attitudes of contempt, ungratefulness, disrespect, or disregard towards the Lord, towards others in church, or towards whatever ministry, service or offerings that people contribute. Otherwise, there is a very high price to pay because we are told that the Lord finally decided to put Eli’s sons to death for their sins (v25).
Dear Lord, help me to examine my heart for any disobedient, rebellious or contemptous spirit. Help me to be obedient to you and to treat others with respect. Help me to develop a thankful and respectful attitude towards you and towards my brothers and sisters Christ. Amen.