God Prophesies Judgment on the House of Eli
1 Samuel 2:12–36
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #021
August 11, 2015
“Father, we are thankful for this opportunity to look at these things in Your Word this evening and to be challenged by the fact that You are the God who controls history, and that You bring about Your plan and purposes. Even though man may propose, and man may make all kinds of plans and run away from You in rebellion, nevertheless, You are still in control. Just as that was true throughout numerous episodes in the Old Testament periods, so it has been true in the Church Age, and it is true now that, even though we have a terrorist-sponsoring state, even the most evil terrorist-sponsoring state in the world, and they are on the cusp of developing nuclear weapons, we know that You can intervene, and that You can stop this. Even if they do, we know that they cannot operate or use them apart from Your permissive will.
Father, we pray for us as believers that we may truly shine as lights in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation. We live in the midst of a culture that, for the most part, has rejected You, has rejected absolutes, has rejected biblical truth, and is running wild on the arrogance, on the energy of their own arrogance, and their own ideas of right and wrong. Everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes.
Father, we pray that You would give us wisdom to live in this kind of a culture, to recognize that we are to live for You, and that the critical issue for us as believers is to recognize all of the assets that Christ has provided for us; that we are in Him and He is in us, and that He is the One who gives us strength. Christ is in us, the hope of glory. We should be manifesting that every day and it should impact our speech. It should impact our attitudes. It should impact the values and the priorities that animate our lives.
Father, we pray that as we study Your Word today, that we might have our confidence in You reinforced through a study of these episodes surrounding the rearing up of Samuel. As even a young boy who would be the one through whom You would change the course of the nation Israel and provide for the ultimate arrival of the Messiah. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen”.
Let’s open our Bibles to 1 Samuel 2. It has been a couple of weeks, so I want to remind you a little bit about what we have been looking at in 1 Samuel 2:1–10.
This was Hannah’s great hymn of praise to God because God is the one Who enabled her to become pregnant and give birth to a son. That son she has dedicated to YHWH, and she understands through what she has learned through her own meditation in the Word, that there is a connection between this child that she has been given and the future arrival of the Messiah. At the end of her psalm she says, “He will give strength to his King and exalt the horn of His Anointed, His Messiah”. She clearly understands this connection.
As we saw last time at the end of 1 Samuel 1, we have Elkanah and Hannah. They have brought the infant to the temple to be given over to Eli. Then they return home. This is where things begin in 1 Samuel 2:11. As we think about this, it is sometimes important for us to think in terms of big chunks of Scripture. Often I take time to go through and we drill down, but it is important to think of the large narratives within Scripture and what is going on. This is especially true in a lot of literature in the Old Testament, which tells stories. It is telling the story of how God is working to reverse the fortunes of Israel.
At this time Israel is, basically, under the bondage, dominion, and tyranny of the Philistines. They have become, under the tyranny, even worse. They’ve come under the tyranny of their own sin nature and depravity. This is the period of the Judges.
The key verse in the book of the Judges is, “There was no king in Israel”, which is an allusion to the fact that there wasn’t a human monarch, and that they had rejected the divine kingship of YHWH over Israel. Therefore, everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes. They had become this secularized, pagan culture where everyone is just doing whatever makes them happy. They are giving themselves over to all forms of idolatry.
Arrogance is essentially idolatry because in arrogance we deify ourselves. We are doing what we think is right—as opposed to what God is doing right. We substitute our own values for God’s values. That’s the essence of idolatry. You are worshiping someone other than God. You are submitting to the authority of someone other than God. This is the state of Israel. They have succumbed culturally to idolatry.
The same thing has happened in western civilization and in the United States. We have succumbed to the idolatry of secularism. We’ve succumbed to the idolatry of moral relativism. We’ve succumbed to the idolatry of evolution. We are no longer, as a culture, focused upon the God of the Bible. We are doing the same thing that Israel did. We are on a course of self-destruction, because destruction comes from the inside out. Whether it is a nation, or whether it is an individual, we destroy ourselves by giving reign to our own sin nature, to our own lust patterns—as ultimate expressions of our own arrogance.
The solution to sin is not to stop sinning. The solution to sin is always to get focused upon the essence of God.
The essence of God that we’re focusing on here is on His righteousness and justice, which is the expression of His holiness. The holiness of God emphasizes His uniqueness.
This is exactly what Hanna brings out in 1 Samuel 2:2, “… there is none holy like the Lord”. The word “holy” really means to be unique or distinct. In and of itself it doesn’t have the denotation of moral purity. That is a connotation that it picks up in some contexts. It has the denotation of that which is separate and distinct, or that which is unique.
The holiness of God emphasizes His uniqueness, and that is centered on the fact that He is absolute righteousness and perfect justice. Righteousness is the standard of His character. He defines that which is right, that which is good, and that which is moral. It is expressed then through His justice. His justice is the expression of His righteousness toward His creatures.
In combination with that, we have the other two attributes that I have highlighted on the slide: His veracity, which means He is absolutely true. Veracity fits together with righteousness. Righteousness is a standard of absolute integrity. The expression of that is in the area of truth.
Everything that He says is absolutely true, and because God is truth and He is righteousness; it follows that he is immutable, because righteousness and truth imply an unchangeable standard.
Immutability is that aspect of His character, which means He cannot change. This is what stands behind the historical events in the history of Israel through 1 Samuel. It is emphasizing the holiness of God as He is bringing this nation, that is supposed to be a kingdom of priests, back to Himself.
The focal point isn’t on moving from sinning to not sinning. You can move from being immoral to being moral, and you can still be in idolatry, and you can still be in failure. Both morality and immorality can be expressions of a person’s sin nature. The issue is to conform to the righteousness of God, which can only come when you have a personal relationship with God, which is in the Mosaic Law. How is that expressed?
You have all these “dos and don’ts” in the Mosaic Law. The first thing people think of is that to conform to God means that you are going to do what God says to do, and don’t do what He says not to do. In other words, it seems on the surface that the way you’re going to conform to God is that you are going to follow a set of rules. The way to change from being pagan idolaters is simply to stop doing what you are doing wrong and start doing the right thing.
But it goes deeper than that if you read through the Law, because the primary command in the Law, as Jesus summarized it when He’s asked by the rich young ruler, is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength focuses on what? It focuses on that relationship. You are absorbed with the Lord, with that relationship with the Lord.
In that personal love for God, the outworking of that is that you are going to live your life in a way that will be pleasing to Him. That is why you have to get the cause before the effect. That’s why in the Scripture you see that the barometer of love is obedience.
It’s in Deuteronomy. It’s in Exodus. It’s in John, in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. “If you love Me you will ...” what? “keep My commandments”. Scripture doesn’t say, “Keep My commandments and then you will love Me”. The issue isn’t changing from wrong behavior to right behavior, in the sense of cleaning up disobedient acts and now having obedient acts.
The issue is to focus upon the character of God and the relationship with God, then, as we come to understand who God is and what He expects, we love Him. The fallout and result of that is then we live to obey Him.
It is just like when people begin dating. They begin developing a relationship. They begin loving each other. They want to spend time together, and do things that are going to please the other person. They are not going to do things that are going to upset the other person. That is a manifestation of that relationship.
As we come to understand who God is and His grace, what do we call that? We call it doctrinal orientation and grace orientation. Then the fallout from that is that we love God, and because we love God, that then has the impact of drawing us toward greater maturity because we want to please Him.
That’s the backdrop and part of understanding the righteousness and justice of God is that: when God is obeyed, in the Old Testament under the Mosaic Law, He is going to bless Israel; when they disobey, God’s righteousness rejects that disobedience, and in justice He has to condemn that and bring judgment upon it.
We are going to see two things happening in here, in this section from 1 Samuel 2:11ff. We will see the contrast between God’s blessing on Hannah and her son Samuel because of their obedience to Him, and judgment upon the house of Eli because of their unrighteousness and their disobedience to Him.
This is the outworking of the blessings and cursing themes in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28: that God is not going to bring prosperity to Israel in the land that He has given them unless they are walking in obedience. This is played out and illustrated as we go through this. You can look at these things that happen here, in some ways like a symphony. You have two themes:
- One theme is the negative, the judgment on the house of Eli.
- The other is the theme of blessing that is on the family of Hannah.
These themes are interwoven so that you have a few verses on one, then a few verses on the other. Then he comes back, and they are interwoven as it builds to the climax of the defeat of Israel by the Philistines at Aphek, the loss of the Ark of the Covenant that comes in 1 Samuel 5, the death of Eli’s two sons, the death of Eli, and the departure of the glory of God from Israel at the end of 1 Samuel 4. That gives us kind of the broad perspective here of what is going on in this wonderful narrative.
I set this up last time just to remind you that I try to structure my outlines in the thinking and the expression of what is going on here where God is the subject, because in any kind of story there is always a hero, and there is always a villain.
The hero isn’t Samuel. The hero is not Saul. The hero is not David. The hero is God in all Old Testament literature. We have to express what is going on here in terms of what God is doing:
- We start off – YHWH is served by Samuel in 1 Samuel 2:11. And then we switch from the positive, the blessing of Samuel, to the judgment on the house of Eli.
- That YHWH is treated contemptuously by the sons of Eli in 1 Samuel 2:12–17.
- Then we come back to how God is blessing the family of Hannah and blesses Samuel in 1 Samuel 2:18–21.
- In the fourth movement, YHWH determines to judge the house of Israel in 1 Samuel 2:22–25, which is a fascinating little section. There is an interesting wordplay, an interesting little pun in 1 Samuel 2:25, which we’ll get to.
- The fifth movement is YHWH’s blessing of Samuel that is evident to all in 1 Samuel 2:26.
- Then we shift back to the longest section here in 1 Samuel 2:27–36, which is the announcement by this man of God, this prophet, that God will bring judgment upon the house of Eli. This will be confirmed again in 1 Samuel 3.
Here is something I have said again and again and again. I got this principle and I first understood it in studying Samuel, and that is: God doesn’t do anything in private that He doesn’t confirm objectively in public.
Think about that. That means when God appears and gives a prophecy in private (what we will see here when we come to this last section in 1 Samuel 2:27, “Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him”, you’ve got a man of God that comes to Eli) it is just the two of them. Nobody knows what is going on. It is private; however, God never leaves anything in private.
What this shows is that the people who have said, “Well God spoke to me”, unless they are saying that God spoke to them through His Word, it is garbage, SKUBALON, horse manure.
Did you notice in that debate on FOX News last week that Megyn Kelly had a little gotcha moment with Ted Cruz? Trying to hang him on this, “well does God speak to you, Senator Cruz”? He answered it perfectly. He said “Yes, He speaks to me in His Word every day”. “Well, well, that’s not what I meant”. Well that’s because there are a lot of Christians who don’t understand that today God doesn’t speak any way other than through His Word, and it is confirmed objectively.
Here we have an example of where God is going to send a man of God. He speaks privately to Eli, and He gives this prophecy of the destruction of the house of Eli. And this is confirmed through an additional prophecy that’s given through Samuel. The truth is established by two witnesses, based on the Mosaic Law. It is not just an independent, private thing.
Anybody who comes along and says God speaks to them today is in epistemological antinomianism. I love that phrase. It sounds so high and mighty. Epistemological has to do with what you know and how you know it. Antinomianism means that it is not on the basis of any kind of rules and regulations. It’s just against the law. It is lawless.
People who say that “God spoke to me,”—there is no objective standard to verify whether He has or He hasn’t. That’s the problem with mysticism. That’s exactly what that is. It is mysticism, and it’s not any different from the kind of lawlessness you have in moral relativism and paganism.
Last time we just looked at the first part:
1. YHWH is served by Samuel in 1 Samuel 2:11. The emphasis is on “the child ministered to the YHWH before Eli the priest”.
It is repeated again in 1 Samuel 2:18 using the same verb. It is not the normal word that we find for service, but it is a special word that emphasizes service within the temple.
1 Samuel 2:11 is picked up again by 1 Samuel 2:18. That tells us that the section in between, from 1 Samuel 2:12–17, is a stand-alone section. 1 Samuel 2:11 then comes back to develop what God is doing in the life of Samuel in relation to Israel and how God is going to change Israel because of this.
2. The second section YHWH is treated contemptuously by the sons of Eli in 1 Samuel 2:12–17.
They are the sons of the priest, and they are functioning as priests. We saw that they are called the sons of Belial. It is translated, “corrupt”, but it means sons of Belial. “They did not know the Lord”. There is not an on-going relationship with the Lord. They are in spiritual rebellion against God.
At that point I took a couple of minutes just to explain a couple of things:
- The term Belial in the Old Testament wasn’t associated necessarily with Satan. It was a general term referring to an evil person or someone who was wicked or worthless.
- In the New Testament in 2 Corinthians 6:15, it is picked up as sort of an allusion to Satan. What fellowship is there with light and darkness; what fellowship is it with the sons of God and the sons of Belial? That’s the context there in 2 Corinthians 6:15.
But as we go on in this section, we have to understand what’s happening in the background. This is a fulfillment of prophecy.
We looked at this chart and we have to understand, this forms the backdrop for this whole section. What’s happening here is this: you have a prophecy made back in Numbers 25:11–13, where God says that He is going to make an everlasting covenant with the house of Phinehas, the first Phinehas who is the son of Eleazar. He’s the grandson of Aaron.
We read this in Numbers 25:11–13, because at this time when the men of Israel are being seduced by these temple prostitutes, they are entering into the temple prostitution, the sexual immorality related to the fertility cult, as they are about to enter the land. This is designed by the king of Moab to destroy the integrity and the genetic or racial purity of Israel and the spiritual purity of Israel.
Phinehas stands up, and he’s used by God to kill and execute those who are committing this adultery, which would be self-destructive to Israel. He is praised by God because of his stand for God’s holiness and righteousness. As a result of his actions, God says in Numbers 25:11–12, “Phinehas … turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume” them. “Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace”.
It is further described in Numbers 25:13 as an everlasting covenant and “everlasting priesthood”. To understand this, we have to look at this genealogy. Here is Levi. This genealogy (back to slide 9) comes out of Exodus 6:16–25. This is what is called an open genealogy. I didn’t cover this part last week—an open genealogy.
A closed genealogy is when ‘A’ lives 35 years and gives birth to ‘B’, and then ‘A’ lives another 150 years and dies. The numbers close it. Then when ‘B’ lives 45 years and gives birth to ‘C’, and then ‘B’ lives another 120 years, and then he dies, those numbers close the genealogy so there can’t be any gaps in between the generations.
But in a number of genealogies you don’t have numbers. You just have a statement like: Levi is the father of Gershom, Kohath, and Merari, and then they are the fathers of these other individuals. And there is no numbers given, and that means there can be several generations between them.
We have a similar example in Matthew 1. Matthew gives us a genealogy of Jesus Christ, but there are numerous gaps in that genealogy. There are no numbers. He’s just tracing the main figures through that genealogy, not necessarily trying to tell us every one.
In the closed genealogy, the idea is to tell everyone in the line of the Seed, but that is not the point of this genealogy in Exodus 6. It is simply to paint with a broad brushstroke the descent of Moses from Amram and Kohath to Levi, demonstrating that Aaron and Moses are both from the tribe of Levi. It is not trying to give every person between Levi and Moses.
What we see here is the line through Kohath is really the main line that we are focusing on. What we see is that there are two sons of Kohath that are emphasized in the genealogy:
a) Amram who is the ancestor and the father of Aaron and Moses;
b) then we have Izhar who is the son of Kohath and his line goes down through Korah, Nepheg, and Zichri.
Korah is the main run. Korah and his sons lead a rebellion against Moses when they are out in the wilderness. God doesn’t wipe out the whole line. God punishes them, and eventually they survive as the sons of Korah. They are involved in the writing of some of the Psalms and the singing of some of the Psalms and are mentioned there.
Whereas the line through Aaron: all the descendants of Levi are Levites, and they are priests who have the right to serve in the tabernacle or temple, but the high priest comes only through the line of Aaron.
Aaron had four sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. It is through those four sons the line of descent from the priesthood would take place. The first two sons, Nadab and Abihu, were rebellious against God. Leviticus 10:1–3 tells us that they brought in illegitimate fire. They brought in incense that was not sanctified. They brought it into the tabernacle. This is a sign of rebellion against the authority of God. They were brought under judgment, and God instantly incinerated and vaporized them as a result of their rebellion. God’s holiness can’t be breached! Okay? He is making a standard; His holiness must be preserved. You can’t compromise it. That’s what their rebellion would have done.
The next rebellion that is emphasized during the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness is in Numbers 16:13, when Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, along with Dathan and Abiram, have a rebellion against Moses and Aaron and their authority. As a result of that God is going to open up the earth in an earthquake and swallow up 250 of these rebels with Korah. They are destroyed.
The emphasis is God brings judgment on those who are to be leaders that have been set apart. They are overtly rebellious against Him. Nadab and Abihu are wiped out, and then Eleazar and Ithamar survive. Eli is in the line of Ithamar, but Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, is the one who is mentioned in Numbers 25 as having an everlasting covenant.
That means that the eternal line of high priest is going to come from Phinehas, and that will ultimately be realized in the end times when the priest of the Millennial Kingdom are the Zadokite priests.
It is the sons of Zadok that are the ones who are the sanctified line from God. But Eli is high priest now. So that tells us that God’s got to fulfill His prophecy. What we are getting at is the end result of this prophecy doesn’t take place until we get into 1 Kings. We are looking at a snapshot of the middle.
We have the beginning, which is the giving of the prophecy in Numbers 25:11–13, and then we are going to see the end of it as described in the prophetic passages in Ezekiel 40–48 dealing with the end times temple. What we see in the intermediate stages is this event.
Then when Abiathar is kicked out of the high priesthood by Solomon , he is replaced by Zadok. That is one of the reasons this little episode is so important and so significant. We have to pay attention to that.
It is in 1 Kings 2:35 that Solomon is going to replace Abiathar with Zadok.
Let’s go back to what is happening here in 1 Samuel 2:13–17. We see the corruption—the reason God is going to bring judgment on the house of Eli at this particular time. What we see here is a description of how they are abusing the people.
There was a well known (you wouldn’t know his name), healing evangelist back in the late 1940s and late 1950s who would have these big tent revivals. After he’d gotten everybody all worked up emotionally, he would say, “I’m the shepherd, and you’re the sheep. And now it is time for me to fleece the sheep”.
That is exactly what the sons of Eli were doing. They were fleecing the sheep when they would come to the tabernacle to worship God. They were taking for themselves that which was to be dedicated to God. That’s the backdrop here. This is what we are told about.
1 Samuel 2:13–14, “The priests’ custom with the people was that when any man offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant …” See, they wouldn’t even go in there. They just hired somebody to do their job for them … “the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fleshhook in his hand while the meat was boiling”. Then he would take this big meat hook, reach down deep into the pot, pull out the meat, and take out for the priest everything that he brought out.
Nothing is left for God. This was to be an offering to God. He did this whenever Israelites would come to Shiloh to the tabernacle in order to worship.
One of the things we ought to note about this is that this not a practice that is legitimized by the Mosaic Law. Nothing like this is described in the Mosaic Law. These various traditions that are taking place by the priests at Shiloh don’t have their origin in the Mosaic Law. This is possible for two reasons. I think both are true:
1. They were willingly ignorant of the Law. They didn’t know what the Levitical regulations were. Because of their ignorance of the Word, they were just doing whatever they wanted to do. They were doing what was right in their own eyes.
2. They were probably influenced by the practices of the pagan Canaanite priests who were using the worship at their temples in order to take advantage of the people. They were following the various practices of the Canaanites.
It shows how the religious practices at the tabernacle of God were already paganized. They were corrupt. That’s why they are called the sons of Belial.
Then in 1 Samuel 2:15 we read, “Also” …. Notice how that verse begins. In addition to ripping off God and taking all of the food for themselves, they did something else, “before they burned the fat”.
“Before”—that is the important term, because what would happen, according to Levitical rules, is the fat around the entrails, which was apparently considered a delicacy, was to be burned on the fire as a burnt offering offered to God.
But what they would do is before they burned the fat, the priest’s servant would come, and basically he is intimidating and bullying the worshipers that are coming, and demanding and threatening them that they have to “Give meat for roasting to the priest”. For he wants it raw so he can cook it however he wants it to be cooked. He wants to take the fat for himself.
The issue here is that it is important to understand the timing here—that before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come to demand all of the meat for the benefit of the priest. This shows how self-centered they were.
In 1 Samuel 2:16 we read, “And if the man said to him …”
The worshiper comes in. He is bringing his meat for a sacrifice. Then the bully from Phinehas comes and says, “give me all of the meat”. He says. “No, this is the way it is supposed to be done. I have to ‘burn the fat first’ as an offering to God”.
Then the servant would intimidate and threaten him. He would (if the man says “burn the fat first; then you may take as much as your heart desires.”), he would then answer him. “No, but you must give it now; and if not, I will take it by force”.
He’s ready to beat the man into submission and threatens him physically with violence. This is a typical example of what happens under paganism. This is developed all through my study on Judges a number of years ago. As a culture gets further and further away from the God of the Bible, human beings are treated with less and less individual dignity and value. That is because only in the Judeo-Christian heritage do we have a basis for treating every person as unique and distinct and with real dignity, because they are created in the image and likeness of God.
Under paganism, without any influence from the Old Testament, man becomes nothing more than part of nature. He becomes nothing more than part of nature. This is exactly what we’re seeing happen now as you see this shift that has taken place over the last 150 years with Darwinism.
In Darwinism, human beings are animals. You and I are viewed just as a higher order of animal, but there’s nothing really that distinguishes human beings from other animals. The assumption of evolutionary thought is that man is just part of this chain of being and just a higher form of animal life.
In contrast to that, the Bible teaches that man is a distinct and higher order of creature than the animals because he is in the image and likeness of God. Therefore man is expected to live as a moral creature, and he is accountable for moral decisions. He is to live at a higher level than that of the animals. He’s held to a higher moral order, a higher ethical order, so that social life among human beings is to reflect the value of the imageness of God in each and every creature.
This should affect every relationship. This is the foundation for integrity. You lose that foundation for integrity under evolution. There is no basis for it other than that which is pragmatic or utilitarian.
But there is an essential metaphysical foundation to it within Christianity, because you want to treat everybody of value. If you don’t, you are making a blasphemous statement, because you are being rude to someone who is in the image of God.
That’s why when you look at the death penalty in Genesis 9 in the Noahic Covenant, the reason a murderer is executed is not because it is a deterrent. It is not because it is less expensive than keeping them alive in prison. It is not for any of those reasons. The reason you execute someone who commits murder is because they have murdered someone who is in the image of God. They have made a blasphemous statement against God Himself by murdering an image bearer.
What we learn from this is human beings are to behave socially according to the higher standard. Human beings, therefore, have established certain standards of behavior in different cultures that we call etiquette or good manners. Some years ago I read in Emily Post that the reason that etiquette and good manners were developed was to control the baser selfish instincts of human beings.
What is interesting is that a well known historian at the turn of the last century, nearly 20th century, by the name of Arnold Toynbee, who wrote volumes dealing with the history of the world, was not in favor of Christianity. He was not pro-Christian, but he was an observer of human history to a certain degree. He recognized that over the course of history, that what you find in a developing, growing civilization is that there is a constant improvement of these social, etiquette and manners—that as a civilization is advancing, the lower social economic classes are imitating the higher socioeconomic classes.
But when a civilization is in reversal and in decline, the upper classes, the wealthier classes, the aristocratic classes, are imitating the values, standards, and trends that are set by the lower socioeconomic classes.
You can think about this just a little bit within your own frame of reference. If you think back, if you watch any sort of drama on television, if you ever saw the musical “Oliver” which was set in Victorian England, and you look at some of these different kinds of stories … If you ever read Dickens, you look at even the people on the street. You look at Fagan, who is the arch villain in Oliver Twist, and he dresses in a coat and tie. You look at the women on the street, and they always have on gloves and hats. No self-respecting woman, even into the early 60s, would ever go out in public without wearing gloves and a hat. That was the standard.
But what happens when a culture goes into decline is all of a sudden your higher socioeconomic classes start dressing like the ghetto. The ghetto sets the standard. The gangs set the standards. We see this today. You see high school kids and junior high school kids, and they don’t want to dress up to emulate those who are successful. They don’t want to dress like Donald Trump. They don’t want to dress like businessmen who are successful. They want to dress more along the lines of drug dealers and those in the ghetto. They want to look in the opposite direction.
But you don’t find people like a Clarence Thomas or a Ben Carson dressing like some street punk. They are going to dress for success. That’s one of the things that we have to understand. We live in a culture that is in decline, and so everything moves toward greater and greater informality.
I’ve made it a point over the course of my ministry to try to fight against this. I’m tilting at windmills because that’s the trend of our whole culture. It is to be as informal as possible. Unlike many of my peers, I still wear a coat and tie on Sunday morning, but I would say the vast majority of pastors today just dress in what might be called business casual, not even a sport coat. Many of them may show up just in blue jeans and sandals on Sunday morning. I think that brings us down to a lower level.
Also recognizing that there is certain protocol for how, in certain situations, you’re going to address one another. In the academic world you would address people as Pastor or as Doctor. Even if you are friends with them, in a formal situation, you are going to address them according to their appropriate title. But we’ve lost that so much I find that it is interesting. In many cases I hear people refer to pastors as Mr. So-and-So all the time. They are not churched, and they don’t know any better. They don’t know what the appropriate title is. If anything, just call him Pastor or Reverend, but they don’t do that because they are not trained socially. That just shows the decline.
This is exactly what we see here. It is that this culture has just deteriorated and declined. They’ve become just a bunch of bullies. They are not even trying to have a veneer of civilization about their activities.
In fact, we are told as a summary to this in 1 Samuel 2:17, “Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord”. This is an interesting Hebrew word which means they despised it. They scorned it.
This is an example of Romans 1:17–18, they are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. They are fools who are rejecting the reality of God. They treat Him with the height of disrespect. This will be the cause of judgment on this house.
3. The third movement shifts us back to how God is blessing the family of Hannah, 1 Samuel 2:18–21.
This is just a great story because Hannah went through difficult times (we studied that for probably 10–15 years). She is the barren wife who can’t have children. She’s persecuted by the second wife, Peninnah, her rival. She is made to feel like she’s completely and totally worthless because she can’t have any children. She goes through a miserable existence for a number of years. She pours out her heart to God promising that she will give to the Lord and dedicate her son if God would open her womb and give her a son. This is what happens. God is going to bless her.
We are told in 1 Samuel 2:18 that, “Samuel ministered before the Lord”. There is that word again that we saw earlier, indicating this higher level of service within the tabernacle or temple even as a child. This would be before he became an adult, at the age of 13, which today would be called Bar Mitzvahed.
“He wore a linen ephod”. A linen ephod was like a tunic. It was made of linen that only a priest could wear. Only the high priest or priest could wear this linen ephod. This indicated his office, his role, as a priest. He has a linen ephod.
Then we are told that his mother every year would come to him. She would make him a robe and bring it to him whenever she and Elkanah would come to Shiloh to offer the yearly sacrifice. We see how the mother is still doing what she can to influence and to talk to her son and to maintain that relationship.
Each time we see a glimmer of hope in Eli that he still recognizes that part of his responsibility is being the high priest. He “would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, ‘The Lord give you descendants form this woman for the loan that was given to the Lord’ ”. God then answered that.
We are told in 1 Samuel 2:21 that “the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters”. In total she had six children. That is why back in the hymn when she talks about “the barren woman has born seven”, that is not talking about what she gave birth to because she actually only gave birth to six. It is using the term seven there as a representative number of that which is reaching fulfillment. That is, that which is complete.
“… so she conceived and bore three sons and two daughter. Meanwhile …” We get another status report of Samuel. “… the child Samuel grew before the Lord”. I want you to notice this. If you have a pen you can connect the dots here. At the end of this little section we have some foreshadowing that takes place in that last line.
Notice it says, “Meanwhile the child Samuel grew before the Lord”. Look over at 1 Samuel 2:26. We have another status report on Samuel. “And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the Lord and men”. Now we see that he grows more. It gives us more detail rather than just growing before the Lord. Now he is growing “in stature, and favor with both the Lord and with men”. This is going to continue.
If you skip over to 1 Samuel 3:19 we read, “So Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground”. In other words, when he spoke that this was what the Lord said, that was what the Lord said. And God fulfilled His prophecy. We have this other status report.
4. We come to 1 Samuel 2:22–25. This is the fourth movement. YHWH determines to judge the house of Eli.
Some time goes by between 1 Samuel 2:21 and 1 Samuel 2:22 because as we began in 1 Samuel 2:22, we are told, “Now Eli was very old”. Now he is much closer to the end of his life. He is very old “and he has heard” all these rumors about his abusive sons and how his sons are taking advantage and fleecing the people and ripping off God.
He’s heard all this “and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay …” They forced the women who served at the tabernacle. “… and assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting” to have sexual relations with them. They were trying to force them to become like the temple prostitutes in the Canaanite and pagan religions.
They weren’t just simply taking advantage of them sexually. They were trying to convert them over to the kind of practice that would be found in a pagan temple. This is what is emphasized here. We see the contrast between the evil of Eli’s sons and how God is blessing Samuel and his family. That contrast is brought out.
This just emphasizes the further degeneracy that comes in paganism. One of the things that is interesting is as peoples’ sin natures become less and less restrained, it is interesting how, although it doesn’t always end up this way, but in cultures they tend to end up with this sexual degeneracy.
It happened in the antediluvian world. The sons of god, the demons, came down and took the daughters of men as their wives. That was a corrupt sexual sin according to Jude.
Then we look at Sodom and Gomorrah. We look at the Canaanites. We look at the Phoenicians, and again and again and again, when their sin natures became unrestrained. That doesn’t mean everyone became sexually degenerate, but it became a characteristic of the degeneracy of the culture that dominates.
That’s what we are seeing in our culture again and again and again. We are obsessed with sex whether it is heterosexual or whether it is homosexual sex. This just dominates things. In fact there is a little video that was going around today of an encounter over in Baytown, I think yesterday or the day before, between Senator Cruz and a reporter.
The reporter kept asking questions related to the same-sex decision, and he tried to side step it by saying aren’t there a lot of other issues? Finally Senator Cruz said, well are you just consumed with sex? Is that the issue? Then the reporter said why do you hate homosexuals? Senator Cruz masterfully responded by saying, “it seems to me that as a Christian I am to love everybody, but you seem to hate Christians”. I loved the way he flipped that back on him. That is exactly how we should respond.
Christians don’t hate homosexuals. But why do you hate Christians? The Christian standard is to love one another, which is not permissiveness by the way. Anyone who says love is permissiveness would make a lousy parent, because parents understand that love means that you restrict the behavior of your children so that they don’t do the things that are harmful for them and will destroy their lives.
So Eli is dealing with the fact that he had got these sexually perverted sons who are raping the women who are coming to the tabernacle. We have examples of women serving at the tabernacle. For example, Exodus 38:8 says that there are “serving women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting”.
In 1 Samuel 2:25 we have this interesting little play on words, as I mentioned earlier, where Eli is talking to his sons in 1 Samuel 2:23–24. He says, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people”. He said, “No, my sons!” It is a little late when you’re probably 80 years old and your kids are 55 or 60 years old; it is a little late to try to teach them a little self-discipline. My mother would have tried anyhow! She would have been successful. He wasn’t, because he had no basis for ever teaching discipline or self-control to his sons.
This is the principle. It says in 1 Samuel 2:25, “If one man sins against another, God will judge him”. Here is the point, if you offend somebody else, if you do something against somebody else, then that can be brought to court, and the judge will adjudicate between you and bring about justice. “If one man sins against another, God will judge him”. Not directly, but intermediately through the government that God has established.
Then we have one of those examples where you sort of lose the thrust of this with the way it is translated, “But if a man sins against the Lord, who will intercede for him”? What is interesting here is you have a play on words that you miss when one word is translated “judge” and the other word is translated “intercede”, because we don’t really have the kind of cognate or word system that the Jews used.
Both cases use the root word palal. In the first case it is in the piel stem, which shows an intensification of action, and it means in the piel to intercede or to mediate. It should be translated, to get the thrust of this, “if one man sins against another, God will provide a mediator between the two men”.
But then the next line is where it gets fun, “but if a man sins against YHWH, who will intercede for him”? That is not the same word. It is not a piel stem there. It shifts to the hiphel stem, which is the causative stem. In the hiphel stem the word is normally translated prayer or intercession. It has the idea primarily, in the Old Testament, to pray.
If we are going to put it into modern English vernacular it would read like this: “If one man sins against another, God will judge him or intercede for them. But if a man sins against the Lord, he doesn’t have a prayer”. That is an accurate translation.
That is the point. It is that God then, if that sin is against God, God is the One who will bring judgment. One of the things that come out of this, as a reminder, is not the same word, but it is a reminder, is in Job 9:33. Job talks about the fact that if there was only someone to mediate between us, then we could talk with God, emphasizing the need of a mediator. We connect that to the fact that God has provided a Mediator between us so that when we sin against God, there is a Mediator.
Paul speaks of this in 1 Timothy 2:5, that “there is one God and one Mediator, the man Christ Jesus”. The answer to this is that we don’t have a prayer, because of sin, except for Jesus Christ, who is our Intercessor, our Mediator, who took the sin upon Himself.
The last clause in 1 Samuel 2:25 (I will finish up here) is that the writer of 1 Samuel gives us a conclusion: “Nevertheless, they did not heed the voice of their father, because the Lord desired to kill them”. The idea here is that they had already committed a capital crime.
In Leviticus 7:25 we are told that “whoever eats the fat of the animal of which men offer an offering made by fire to the Lord, the person who eats it shall be cut off from his people”.
In Leviticus 22:9, “They shall therefore keep My ordinance, lest they bear sin for it and die thereby, if they profane it”.
They committed a capital crime by the way they are abusing the tabernacle sacrifices and taking the food and the fat for themselves. They are already under a sentence of death from the Supreme Court of Heaven. God is simply warning them of what will happen. He’s not giving them an opportunity to recover because they’ve already crossed the line of no return. They are under the sin unto death.
This is what is being emphasized here: that their disobedience is just a sign of the fact that they’ve already hardened themselves into disobedience. The meaning here isn’t as harsh, that the Lord desired to kill them, but the Lord’s will was now that they be executed for their sin. That is the idea here.
But the implication that we learn from this, in talking about who will be the mediator, is to remind us that today we have a Mediator between God and us, who is Jesus Christ, and that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone. When we trust in Him, then we have eternal life. Our sins are wiped clean at the Cross, but we have to realize that through regeneration by trusting in Christ for salvation.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study through this to see that there are real implications for sin, and that when a culture or an individual continue in carnality, there will be an internal chaos and collapse as a result of arrogance and a result of the carnality. This will go from bad to worse unless there is a correction from Your grace.
Father, we pray for our nation because our culture is sliding rapidly into the same sort of relativistic chaos and moral and ethical perversion that we see in Israel in the Old Testament here. And the only solution is Your grace. Just as Your grace turned the tide during this time, so Your grace can turn things around in this time. For with You there is nothing that is impossible. Father, we trust in You, that You would give us wise leaders in this country—that you would raise up wise Christian leaders who can have a significant impact on the direction of this nation. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen”.