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Feckless Fools and God’s Faithful Prophecies
1 Samuel 2:12
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #020
July 28, 2015
“Father, we’re thankful we can come to You this evening. We pray for our nation. We pray for our leaders. We know that there are many leaders who are oriented toward the destruction of this nation. They don’t believe it is necessarily destruction of the nation because of the way they have declared right to be wrong, and wrong to be right. They think that they are actually taking us in a direction that will make us a better nation. But it will destroy the foundations. It goes against the Constitution. It goes against everything that made this country great. It will end up destroying this nation. The only hope is Your Word—a transformation on the part of the people—that can only come about as God the Holy Spirit transforms us from the inside out. The only ultimate solution is Your Word.
Although there are millions of solid believers in this country, people who know the truth and understand it, we need to be involved as much as we can in the affairs of government. Yet ultimately we know that that is not the final and ultimate solution. The ultimate solution lies in Your Word. Much of it will start with us as believers—that we focus on Your Word and make it a priority, and that we understand that there is no alternative to Your Word; that there is a call upon us from Your Word that we are to exclusively depend upon it, commit to it because it is Your Word.
And it is the Word of the Creator who made things the way they are, and that we need to align our thinking with Your Word. Father, we pray that You would strengthen this nation. We pray that You would strengthen us in our resolve to be consistent and faithful as believers and to press on to spiritual maturity. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to 1 Samuel 2. We have made our way down past the opening hymn of Hannah. The narrative resumes in 1 Samuel 2:11 from 1 Samuel 1:28. [If we look at the end of 1 Samuel 2, verse 28, we see that when Samuel was about four to five years of age, his parents brought him to Shiloh. There Samuel is dedicated to the service of the Lord, because of the vow that his mother took. Hannah brings him to serve the Lord with Eli, the high priest, at the tabernacle in Shiloh.]
The narrative then picks up in 1 Samuel 2:11. What’s interesting in this next section is that it goes from 1 Samuel 2:11 through 1 Samuel 2:36. The rest of this chapter is essentially a contrast between Samuel, who is serving the Lord on the one hand, and the sons of Eli, who are serving themselves, on the other hand.
We see a contrast between the person who is serving the Lord, basing his life on Who and what God is and what God has said and mandated in Scripture, devoted to the Lord, versus those who are devoted to self.
It is the same sort of polarity that we see in every other area of life. We either walk by the Spirit, or we walk by the flesh. We’re either living on the basis of divine viewpoint or on the basis of human viewpoint. There are only two options. The options in life follow this binary path, one or the other. People often think it is a mix of both, but whenever we blend leaven with the lump, a little leaven leavens the whole lump. It permeates it and destroys it. How much cyanide does it take to render a glass of water toxic? It just takes a little bit. A little bit of error is destructive, and it destroys the purity of the truth. You can’t balance truth with error. We see this kind of contrast in Scripture. And this section points this out because it’s building to something.
One of the questions I like to ask, we all should ask when we read Scripture, is why is this here? Of all the things that happened in the ancient world, of all the things that happen throughout the history of Israel, why does God tell us about this?
What is significant that we have to understand about these loser priests? Obviously, they weren’t the only loser priests in Israel. They weren’t the only apostate, abusive priests in the history of the Old Testament. There are probably a number of the abusive, apostate priests in the history of Israel that are not mentioned in the Scripture at all.
So why this focus on Hophni and Phinehas? Why is God telling us about them? Why are they important? Why is Eli so significant? And part of that that we’ll look at this evening is that there is something else going on here besides the surface narrative that God is changing things in Israel.
One of the things I pointed out in terms of our overarching theme in Samuel is that God is bringing something redemptive to the nation. They are starting off in the worst case, the worst situation they’ve ever been in. They are at the end of the period of the Judges.
The period of the Judges is characterized today by what we would call postmodern relativism. It wasn’t postmodern then, but that is what we call it today. It was just the sin nature out of control where man had elevated himself to the position of deity and was making up his own rules as he went along. Those rules would change with the circumstances so that people did whatever they wanted to do.
Twice the writer of Judges says that there was no king in Israel at that time; everyone did what was right in their own eyes. They did whatever was right in the morning might be different in the afternoon, because when you get away from a solid rock upon which to base your thinking and on which to base your worldview, then what happens is the culture moves to that which is unstable, and that which is uncertain, and that which has no ability to hold up a solid productive fruitful culture.
I mentioned on Sunday that I’ve been reading a book, a fascinating testimony of a woman who was an extreme leftist, a radical liberal, feminist, Marxist lesbian. She hated Christianity. In some ways her testimony, I think, is so absorbing to people because in some ways, reading her testimony is like reading the conversion of the Apostle Paul.
Here’s a man, the Apostle Paul, who hated Christians, persecuted Christians, caused Christians to be executed for their faith, and then when he trusts Christ as Savior he has a radical worldview shift. In fact, he has to take a year or two to go off into isolation in the desert to rethink everything that he held to be true. Because everything that he believed about the Old Testament, which was based on the thinking of the Pharisees at that time, was wrong.
It was the wrong framework, wrong grid through which to observe reality. It was a grid that was built off of a human viewpoint works based scenario that had basically created idolatry. We’ve been studying that in the Matthew series on Sunday morning.
This book that Rosaria Champagne Butterfield wrote, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, is insightful in a number of ways. There are some weaknesses with this book and her theology because when she was saved it was under the influence of a pastor from the Reformed Presbyterian Church. That’s a denomination. That’s not a theological statement.
That’s a specific denomination with specific beliefs, strong five-point Gordian Calvinists. Very, very conservative biblically in a lot of ways but it holds to a view of perseverance that is lordship; not just eternal security but a belief that most Calvinist or many five-point Calvinists do believe: that faith is a gift, that repentance is a gift, and that nobody can have faith in Christ unless God gives them the faith to have in Christ. In perseverance nobody can persevere unless God gives them the gift of perseverance, and those kinds of things.
But if you look past that, and that’s not the focal point, then it is really her thinking, to observe the thinking, the pathology might be the right word, of the thought shift that takes place from a person who is so radically committed to Marxism and feminism and postmodernism, and is teaching this as an English professor.
A lot of you may not realize this, but probably the most dangerous department of any university is the English faculty, because they are not teaching the old canon that was taught 40–60 years ago. They are teaching a new canon that is specifically designed to change the way students, especially incoming freshmen, think.
As she writes she goes back to explain some of these things, which I find interesting because it gives us a little bit of a window on what is really going on in academia. I know a lot of people who basically have their head in the sand.
Remember, the time period that Butterfield is talking about was 20 years ago, back in the mid-90s. She was hired and achieved tenure at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, which was a strong radical leftist school. About a year after she was saved, she took a sabbatical, and she got a job teaching at Geneva College down in Pennsylvania, which was a reformed college and seminary.
She was teaching literature there, and she hadn’t been saved that long, so she really hadn’t quite grasped what her new identity in Christ is, as opposed to what her identity was as a radical Marxist leftist feminist postmodernist. She’s trying to get her new sea legs under her.
As she is getting ready to teach the course there—she’s quite bright, she’s teaching on Christian hermeneutics. I want to set up something that she says. I want to read the paragraph before it—she says, “As a feminist scholar” referring back to what she was before she was saved, “this concept of a worldview was the most important concept in my intellectual arsenal.”
A lot of Christians don’t even grasp what a worldview is. And if you don’t, you are toast. That’s the weapon your enemy is using against you, and you are out there without your Kevlar vest on, because you don’t understand the danger. Your Kevlar vest is the Word of God, but as Paul says, “we’re taking captive every thought for Christ.” If you don’t understand certain vocabulary and concepts today, then you don’t know what the enemy is that you’re supposed to be taking captive.
Butterfield says, “the worldview is the most important concept in my intellectual arsenal. Worldview is central to feminist studies and to any field of study that analyzes oppressed or marginalized people.” As soon as you hear terminology like that, you immediately need to recognize that they are coming from a Marxist position. “It helps us to understand how interpretations come from the frames of intelligibility that we use to look at the events that matter.”
See, we all have these grids that we impose on data, but you can change them. In postmodernism you can’t really change those grids. That’s one of the problems in hermeneutics today. It is the idea they have of this pre-understanding of the reader. They don’t really think that can be changed, but she changed, I changed, you can change, everybody can change.
Butterfield says, “It helps us to understand how interpretations come from the frames of intelligibility that we use to look at the events that matter. Critical perspective…” is another key term in feminist Marxist postmodern academia. They have courses called just “Critical Perspective,” teaching students how to think like a radical Marxist feminist gay-rights activist, whatever.
She says, “Critical perspective asserts that we make meaning out of our lives, not by personal experience, but by the frames through which we filter that experience in my Women’s Studies 101 syllabus.” That’s what she taught when she was at Syracuse before she was a believer. That’s Women’s Studies 101, first semester.
“I (Butterfield) wrote this about critical perspective. This is what was in the syllabus, ‘Nota bene,’ which means ‘to note well.’ ” This was in the syllabus telling students what they can expect in class: “Students are expected to write all papers and examination essay questions from a feminist worldview or critical perspective.” Think about that. You go to class, you sign up. It is a required course.
I had a young gal, 18 years old, she came out of Preston City Bible Church, went to the University of Connecticut. She had to take a Women’s Studies course just like this her first semester some fifteen years ago and got hammered with this same thing. This is real.
Why in the world anybody wants to send (as a Christian, as a conservative Bible-believing Christian) their kids into this kind of a war zone without properly preparing them, I don’t know—probably because they don’t understand how overt this is.
Butterfield says, “Students are expected to write all papers and examination essay questions from a feminist worldview or critical perspective. In Spanish class you speak and think in Spanish. In Women’s Studies you speak and think in feminist paradigms. Examination essay questions written from critical perspectives outside of feminism will receive an automatic grade of “F”. Papers written from critical perspectives outside of feminism will be allowed one revision. Any student who is unable to write and think from a feminist critical perspective or worldview with a clear conscience should drop this class now.”
This isn’t exceptional. This is standard operating procedure in every Ivy League school, University of Texas. Probably more of your favorite universities have people in their faculties who are teaching like this than you would dream of. It’s your worst nightmare, people!
We’re living in a world where the halls of academia are dominated by the people about whom that verse in Judges is written. There is no king. There is no authority other than their own authority. They are out to change the way your children, your grandchildren think. That is their raison d’être.
I’ve got some other quotes from her about how she and her colleagues would sit around and read things written by those who held to traditional family, traditional marriage. They would sit around and laugh, and ridicule, and heap scorn and make fun of Christians who believed these things. They would do this all day long.
See, if it got out that Christians said this about leftists, oh! It would be terrible. We would be vilified in the public square, and we are vilified in the public square. But they can do this all day long and nobody even reports it. She gives us such a window at times in what is going on.
Well, that is the kind of thing that was going on in Israel at the time of the Judges and at the time of Samuel. But guess what? As bad as it was then and as bad as it is now, God’s grace can change things. It’s not something we should get discouraged or depressed or hopeless about. God changed things then and God can change things now.
What we are reading about in Samuel is how God changed things. He did it because there was some obscure woman who was faithful to God, and who prayed to God, who dedicated her son to God. God used that to bring a leader into Israel that would change things. That’s what we need to pray for—that God would raise up leaders like Samuel, like David, like Paul, others who can have that kind of an impact.
That’s why I called this Feckless Fools and God’s Faithful Prophecies, because what this section really tells us is how faithful God is.
We always have to look at life’s scenarios as believers from the grid of God’s Word. The Bible is that book. We should read that Bible. One of the things I think that really transformed this woman is that at her beginning she was trying to write a book to just discredit the Christian Right, to just blast evangelicals. But she knew that she needed to read the Bible.
I’ve heard some interviews on-line with her. She reads the Bible five, six, seven times a year. I am just trying to get people to read five or six verses a day. I’m kidding, five or six chapters a day. If we’re not doing that we’re like a soldier who wants to go into combat without ever going through boot camp, without ever learning how to break down his weapon, without ever learning how to clean it. The Bible is our weapon. The Bible is not only our weapon; it is what informs us and shapes our thinking. We need to be in it ten times more than we are.
We just get too busy. We need to get rid of a lot of distractions and spend a lot more time just reading the Bible. We’ll learn a lot of things.
One of the things that happens here is we have a picture in this last half of how God is going to bring judgment on the house of Eli. I want to front load this a little bit and then we will see how this happens. But you’ve heard me in the past talk about ways in which we know that God’s Word is true, not because certain things prove God’s Word is true in the sense of a logical syllogism, but because certain things are validated.
You have prophecies that were made hundreds of years in advance that come true to the very detail of the prophecy. Some of those we have looked at in the past. This is one of those prophecies that are in process of being fulfilled in 1 Samuel 2. I need to show you.
This is the middle. It is sort of like the beginning was earlier in Numbers 25. This is the middle, the transition. And then by the time we get to the end of 2 Samuel and the beginning of 1 Kings, you see the final fulfillment of that prophecy. But the prophecy is made back in Numbers 25.
The issue whenever we face challenges, problems, things that need to be changed, is to go to the character of God. We are reminded of God’s essence, of who He is, and that He is veracity. I’ve highlighted two things here: veracity and immutability, which means that He is absolute truth. This is why Jesus can say, “I am the way the truth and the life.”
This is the cutting edge of the difference between a biblical worldview and a non-biblical worldview. It is that we believe that there is absolute truth that is unshakable and unchangeable. God is immutable; He never changes. His Word is always true; it is sufficient. If God is powerful enough to make us the way we are, He is powerful enough to change us into what He wants us to be.
We have too many people running around who just don’t think that God has the power to do anything and they are living lives that are failures because they are not appropriating the tools, the methods, the promises, the provisions that God has given us in His Word.
One of the great passages in Scripture that is often quoted, that talks about this character of God is Numbers 23:19 where we read, “God is not a man, that He should lie.” What attribute of God does that emphasize? His veracity. He is truthful. “God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent.” What does that mean? Do a word substitution, “that He should change.” God doesn’t change. He is immutable. He does not change. “Has he said, and will He not do?” You can count on Him. He will fulfill His Word. “Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” He will. He will fulfill that.
So as we look at this passage though, we have to recognize that this comes out of one of the strangest people in the Old Testament, a character by the name of Balaam. What most people remember about Balaam, if they remember anything at all, is that his donkey spoke to him. Balaam was a soothsayer. He would hire out his services, but he had some gift of prophecy. He is hired by Israel’s enemies.
I got distracted with a phone call today, and I got halfway through fixing this map and didn’t, but here we have Israel, that comes along following this red line here. That’s their route of travel. They went around to Edom in the south. Right down here is Bozrah. That is near where Petra is located. They went around that awfully barren landscape, headed north into the territory of Moab, then passed Moab and up into the territory of Ammon.
They came near Mt. Nebo. Mt. Nebo is where Moses died. He went up after his final message in Deuteronomy to the Israelites. He went up to Mt. Nebo where he died. God gave him a look west across the Dead Sea and across the Jordan where he could see all the land that God had promised him. This area just to the north in the flats down here from Mt. Nebo down toward Jericho—this area here is called the Plains of Moab where Moses had his final address to the people.
It was there that we read the episodes that took place as Balak, who is the king of Moab, brings Balaam over from somewhere in the area of modern Bagdad, somewhere in modern Iraq. Balak is hiring Balaam. Balaam is a prophet for hire to come over and to curse Israel. But God won’t let Balaam do that. First God says you can’t even go. And then Balaam convinces God to let him go. God takes him, but He is going to block him, and that is the episode with his talking donkey. The donkey sees the angel who is blocking His path, and the donkey talks to him and says why are you beating me? Because Balaam keeps beating the donkey to get past the angel; that whole strange little episode.
But then Balaam couldn’t curse Israel. Every time he started to do so, he would just pronounce a blessing on Israel. Those four oracles or blessings are given in Numbers 23 and Numbers 24.
Then Balaam did do one thing though. Numbers 31:16 says that he did counsel Balak that the way to defeat the Israelites (he couldn’t curse them)—but if you would just turn all your women loose, all the temple prostitutes loose and let them get into the camp of the Israelites and seduce all the men, then you will destroy them. This episode takes place in Numbers 25, which is a passage we will hopefully get to tonight to pull all of this together.
What happens is God brings judgment on Israel because they are, as the text says, practicing harlotry with the women of Moab. They are involved in just having this huge sexual orgy and God brings judgment down on the Israelites at that point. One of the figures who is critical to ending this judgment and ending and killing the last of the Moabite women is a priest whose name is (like the bad priest we are studying in 1 Samuel 2) Phinehas. He is the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron.
I am pronouncing it correctly. It’s Elazar. The English puts an extra ‘e’ in the name Eleazar, but there is no second ‘e’ in the Hebrew. It’s Elazar. It is like the first ‘e’ in Phinehas. It is silent in Hebrew. It’s Pinchas. So we have Pinchas, the son of Elazar, and he is going to end this. As a result of that, God gives him the promise of an everlasting covenant.
We’ve gone through the eternal covenants. We’ve talked about the Noahic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, the New Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the Land Covenant. All these are different covenants, but we’ve never talked about this eternal priest covenant with the house of Pinchas.
We’re going to look at that some tonight because that’s the backdrop for understanding why this transitional chapter here, at the end of 1 Samuel 2, why this is so important, and this judgment that God is bringing on the house of Eli.
We see this contrast in 1 Samuel 2 between the horrors and the abusiveness that comes from these priests who have compromised with paganism. We saw the same thing at the end of Judges. At the end of Judges you see that the Israelites have become worse and they become more abusive than the Canaanites. They are "out-canaaniting" the Canaanites because once you shift away from a biblical worldview you no longer have a rock to stand on in terms of your thinking. When they sink into the morass of moral relativism then the culture becomes absolutely perverted and the ultimate standard is what is best for “me”. It always deteriorates to when it is down to doing what is right in “my” eyes, what matters are “my” eyes, I’m going to do what I want to do and to hell with everybody else. This is exactly what has happened.
We see this self-absorption come along. When you get any individual or group of people where the ultimate value is self-absorption then you get into where they are just fulfilling all of those desires. They get into self-indulgence, and as they get into self-indulgence anything goes. It is all about being able to justify and rationalize their self-centeredness. This is exactly what happens.
When truth is apostatized, then freedom is lost. Freedom can only come when you are operating on the basis of truth—God’s truth, not man’s truth. Once freedom is lost, then abuse of all kinds flourishes. This is what happens.
Go back and listen to the Judges series. I trace this. As the nation of Israel became more and more apostate, more and more relativized, more and more into moral relativism, then you see the increase of just total gender confusion, reversal of roles.
You see the arising and increasing abuse of women until you get to the last judge, and he’s just an immoral womanizer. That’s Samson as opposed to the judges at the very beginning, like Othniel who had a high view of women and treated women with respect.
You get to the end of the book of Judges and they are abusing women. You have the story of the priest who goes to Gibeah of Benjamin and the men want to rape him and he ends up giving his concubine to them. You just see these absolute horrors that are taking place in their culture as they just reach the absolute bottom of the barrel.
What we see is that in paganism and under its influence, when you take God out of the picture, the result is totally destructive. We see this in microcosm in what Pinchas and Hophni have done to the worship of God. Let’s just go through this and summarize and give you the structure of this section starting in 1 Samuel 2:11.
We see in the history of the Bible, and in any history, you always have a hero. When you study Greek history, who is the hero? The Greeks are the heroes. When you study Roman history, who is the hero? The Romans are the heroes. When you study the Bible who is the hero? Not the Jews; it is God.
We try to think and I try to express my outlines always in terms of what God is doing. Sometimes you can’t. When you get down to the most sub, sub, sub points, you might not be able to do that. But most of the time you can. In 1 Samuel 2:11 what we see is Yhwh is now being served by Samuel. The second part of 1 Samuel 2:11:
- “The child ministered to the Lord before Eli the priest. It is an unusual word for “minister” there. It indicates a high level of service, 1 Samuel 2:11.
- Then the next section is going to contrast the paganism, the self-centeredness, the corruption, the evil of Eli’s feckless sons who are feckless fools. It is a contrast. They are serving themselves, whereas Samuel is serving the Lord, 1 Samuel 2:12–17.
- In the next section we see that Yhwh blesses Hannah, her family, and Samuel, 1 Samuel 2:18–21. We get the first progress report of three about Samuel. That “the child Samuel grew before the Lord.”
- The fourth section goes from 1 Samuel 2:22–25. In this section Yhwh determines to judge the house of Eli.
We see that in the last clause of 1 Samuel 2:25, Eli tried to intervene. He tried to straighten out his boys, and they won’t listen to him. We are told that they did not heed the voice of their father because the Lord desired to kill them. It was God’s will that they be executed by Him—the sin unto death—because they have gone too far in their rebellion.
It is not that He has negated their freewill. It is that they have freely chosen to rebel against God, and it has reached a point where it’s locked in, and there is no recovery. God is going to execute them in a tremendously dramatic way to indicate that He is judging the corruption of the house of Eli to bring about the fulfillment of this prophecy from Numbers 25.
- Then the fifth part is we see that God’s blessing of Samuel is evident to all. This is the second progress report in 1 Samuel 2:26, “The child Samuel grew in stature and in favor both with the Lord and men.”
Does that sound familiar to anybody? It ought to if you know your Bible. You ought to be saying that sounds like what Luke says about Jesus in Luke 2:52 that “He grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with both God and man.” That is a phenomenal statement. Luke is patterning what he said on what is said about Samuel in 1 Samuel 2:26.
- The sixth section is the long section from 1 Samuel 2:27–36. Yhwh sends a prophet to announce the judgment upon the house of Eli. This is the first of two judgment announcements. The second one comes in 1 Samuel 3.
We start off in 1 Samuel 2:11 that “Elkanah went to his house at Ramah.” He goes home after they’ve taken Samuel. They’ve brought him down. They leave him with Eli, and then we are told that “the child ministered to Yhwh before Eli the priest.” The word there is not a word we might expect.
The normal word for working or serving somebody is the Hebrew word abad and that would cover a whole range of situations. But here it is the word sharet. This should catch the attention of a reader of Scripture because this is used not just of the service of a priest to the Lord in the tabernacle or the temple, but it is used of court officials who are serving an emperor or serving a king.
It is a high level of service. It emphasizes the value and the significance of this kind of service. What we read here is that Samuel begins to serve the Lord, and this forms the theme of this section, which contrasts his service with the rebelliousness and the self-service of the sons of Eli.
In 1 Samuel 2:18, which starts the next section, there is one verse positive about Samuel, 1 Samuel 2:11. Then 1 Samuel 2:12–17 are the negatives about the sons of Eli. And then we come back to 1 Samuel 2:18 to start talking about Samuel again. Notice how it picks up from 1 Samuel 2:11. I put both of those on the slide for you so you can see those. “But Samuel ministered before the Lord.”
Notice there is a little difference. In 1 Samuel 2:11, it says he “ministered to the Lord before Eli the priest.” This indicates that he is being observed and supervised by Eli, but by 1 Samuel 2:18 he is ministering before the Lord on his own. He has learned. Time has gone by. He is not a small child anymore. He may be nine, ten, or eleven years of age, but he has a little more responsibility and capability.
I’ve retranslated that, making it a little more clearer. That’s the statement in brackets: [But Samuel ministered/served before the face of Yhwh.] He is serving before Yhwh. [A child wearing a linen ephod.] A linen ephod was a special garment. It might look just like a robe or a long t-shirt type of thing today that signified priestly service. He had on a linen ephod.
Then we get to the next section. In this section we see that Yhwh is treated contemptuously. Remember in the Ten Commandments there’s a little prohibition that said: “Thou shall not take the Lord’s name in vain?”
A lot of people think that is limited to just using “God” as some form of profanity, or using the name of Jesus Christ as profanity. That would be one of the most superficial ways you could apply that prohibition. It is used a lot by Christians. Probably, we find it in churches whenever people say, “Well this is God’s will for my life.” What we have done is said that God wants me to do this. We’ve taken God’s name, and we’ve used it as a way to validate what we want to do.
That’s what that verse is talking about. Don’t assign the name of God to a project that God hasn’t authorized. Don’t swear that you’ll tell the truth in the name of God, and you are not going to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That is taking the Lord’s name in vain, or treating God contemptuously.
That would be a form of violation of that commandment. This is what is going on here. They are treating God contemptuously. They are blaspheming Him. They are in complete opposition to Him. I want you to look at these verses. I just want to read these five verses to you.
1 Samuel 2:12–17, “Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord.” That phrase translated “Eli were corrupt” is literally the sons of Eli were the sons of Belial. I will talk about that in a minute. They were real SOBs. They were the sons of Belial. But there is a play on words there because if they are the sons of Belial and Eli is their father, then there is an insult there to Eli—that Eli is playing the devil’s role. There is a charge there, a subtle charge against Eli.
“Now the sons of Eli were the sons of Belial. They did not know the Lord. And the priests’ custom with the people was that when any man offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fleshhook in his hand while the meat was boiling.Then he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; and the priest would take for himself all that the fleshhook brought up.”
“So they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there.” Also, before they burned the fat, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who sacrificed, “Give meat for roasting to the priest, for he will not take boiled meat from you, but raw.” And if the man said to him, “They should really burn the fat first”—in other words, they should do it the correct way and burn the fat first and give it to God rather than taking it for themselves— “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”.
What he is saying is you have one person who objects and says you are not doing it the right way. And the way he would be answered is this resounding “No! Give it now, and if not I am going to beat it out of you". It is a strong threat of physical violence that if they don’t give up the goods then the priests are going to beat it out of them.
It is a very abusive situation, truly evil. “Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord.”
Those five verses lead to that conclusion. That’s what it is all about. It is that they are showing contempt to the Lord. They are engaged in such a self-absorbed culture that what we learn from this is when you are engaged in self-absorption, when you are letting your sin nature run free (and we all do that in different ways) there are ways in which we are comfortable with our enemy, and there are ways that we are not.
We want to fight the sin nature when we know it is really bad but when it is really comfortable and our sin nature is in our comfort zone we want to cozy up to the sin nature much like President Obama is cozying up to Iran. As conservatives what do we think we ought to do with Iran? Bomb the hell out of it!
What do you think you ought to do with your sin nature? Oh, well, you know, we’ve just been friends for such a long time. We’re just so comfortable. We just like each other so much. It works for me a lot of times. You know, that’s not what Paul says. Let’s run through a few points before I get into that:
- The values of the self-absorbed culture blind the person to the realities of life. The more self-absorbed you are the more you are blind to reality, the more divorced from reality you become, because the more it becomes about you, you forget everybody else. You think about everything that goes around you just in terms of what it means to you.
- The second thing we see in self-absorption in a relativized culture is it always leads to self-indulgence. Self-indulgence by its very concept destroys morality; it destroys absolutes. Self-indulgence destroys self-control and self-mastery. Therefore, if you don’t have self-control and self-mastery you won’t have virtue and integrity. Self-indulgence cannot exist alongside of integrity and virtue; they are mutually exclusive. We have to get rid of the self-absorption.
- A culture that has replaced an objective morality with subjective relativism will always implode. It will self-destruct. If you don’t believe it just pay attention to what I read from Rosaria Butterfield earlier, and what she is saying is going on as the objective in our universities today to destroy the thinking of our students. They don’t think of it as destroying it, they think they are enlightening them; but it is destructive.
- The only thing that someone who serves the Lord can do is to put to death the works of the sin nature. That’s our objective. It is a “seek and destroy” mission. We fail, and we can use 1 John 1:9 and recover, but the sin nature is the enemy. We need to have search and destroy.
Look at what Paul says in Romans 6. Roman 6:7–13, “For he who has died has been freed from sin.” He is going to go on to say that if you yield to your sin nature, you are enslaving yourself again. I’m not going to ask for a show of hands how many of us are comfortable serving the sin nature? More of us would raise our hand than we would want to, and more times than we’d want to raise our hand than we want to. It is comfortable. But we are either serving the sin nature, back to that binary equation again.
You are either serving your sin nature or you are serving the Holy Spirit. Those are the only two options. You are not an option. Okay. Some people say, “Well I am just doing what I think is best.” No, you are not the option. Your eye is the sin nature. You are either serving the sin nature or you are serving God. Those are the only options. Most of us don’t do such a good job of that.
“He who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ (and we did, 1st class condition), we believe that we shall also live with Him.” We believe we have new life in Christ.
Then Paul says, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” Notice the absolutes here. “And don’t present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin.”
Let’s go back to Romans 6:11, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead.” Look at the mandates here. “Reckon yourselves”, consider yourselves; think about yourselves as dead to sin. Do we wake up in the morning and say I am dead to my sin nature? I’m done with it. I don’t want to have anything to do with it. It is out of here! I’ve got to be controlled by the Holy Spirit today.
Five minutes later we go, well, you know, it is kind of easy. We do a better job getting sugar out of our diet than the sin nature out of our life. “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus …”
The second command, “don’t let sin reign in your mortal body.” Paul is saying don’t do it! Quit it! Do we have to? It is comfortable. Then he says, “Don’t present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin.”
And then Romans 6:14, “For sin shall not have dominion over you.” That’s strong language. Well we believe in grace. Grace is not an excuse to sin. Grace enables us to recover from sin and not lose our salvation because we fail.
I read an article a couple of weeks ago on the Internet. It was talking about the fact that one of the things that needs to be taught to seniors is how to recover from a fall because many seniors are weak and if they fall down they don’t know how to get back up. They don’t have a way to call. They don’t have an emergency thing, these things that you can get. But some people can’t afford them because they are expensive, and there are cases where people lie on the floor for hours or days before somebody discovers that they have fallen down.
A lot of Christians are like that. We don’t know how to get up. Most of us do. We get up by using 1 John 1:9. But unfortunately too many of us get up and we fall again right away. We are spending most of our time getting up and falling down, getting up and falling down, getting up and falling down, instead of walking by the Spirit. That’s the focal point. The emphasis isn’t on recovery; the emphasis is on staying recovered, abiding in Christ.
It goes on in Romans 6:16 to talk about the fact that there is a juxtaposition between who we serve. We either serve righteousness, or we are serving ourselves. Before we were saved, we were slaves to our sin nature. In Romans 6:16 Paul says, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are the one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?”
Did you notice? There is not a third option. You are either a slave to God or a slave to your sin nature, one or the other. You choose. We do that a 1,000 times every day. What Paul is thankful for, Romans 6:17, “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed form the heart.” In Romans 6:18, “And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” We need to stay that way.
We look at 1 Samuel 2:12, “Now the sons of Eli were corrupt [they are called the sons of Belial]; they did not know the Lord.” Again, we have to look at a couple of these phrases here:
- First of all that phrase, “sons of Belial”, is in direct contrast to what Hannah says back in 1 Samuel 1:16, but in neither place does it translate it the same, or does it translate it the sons of Belial. So people miss the point.
In 1 Samuel 1:16 when Hannah has gone to pray and make her vow to the Lord, Eli sees her lips moving and thinks that she is drunk. She goes on in her defense in 1 Samuel 1:16. She says, “Don’t consider your maidservant a wicked woman.” That is not what she said. She said, “Don’t consider your maidservant a daughter of Belial.” He would know what a daughter or son of Belial looked like because he’s got two of them. See, this is the contrast. Hannah is not a daughter of Belial, but his sons are sons of Belial.
In the Old Testament that phrase “sons of Belial” is used 27 times. It is never used for a personal name for Satan in the Old Testament like it is in the New Testament in 2 Corinthians 6:15, but it refers to wickedness, or worthlessness, or corruption, or an evil person in the Old Testament. In the Psalms it is often associated with death and with Sheol. By the time you get into the Second Temple period after the return from Babylon, Belial becomes a stock idiom for wickedness, or an evil person, and it became a nickname for Satan.
It is especially used that way in the Dead Sea Scrolls. These are the sons of Eli, the sons of Belial. When it says that “they don’t know the Lord,” that is a phrase that is used nine times in the Old Testament. This is a phrase that means that they didn’t have respect or regard for the Lord. It is not a soteriological phrase. It doesn’t mean they are not saved; it means they have no respect for God; they have no regard for the Lord.
The opposite in the Old Testament is to “fear the Lord.” That’s the beginning of wisdom. But fearing the Lord isn’t a salvation term any more than not knowing the Lord. This is a description.
In the last five or ten minutes I want to run through our understanding of why this priestly family is going to get hammered like this. This is one of those great prophecies. It is a little more in-depth than we see in the fulfillment of some prophecies. But it shows that God’s in control even in the midst of all the chaos.
That’s something we can take home and be reminded about every single day, especially when we watch the news: that when all the chaos hits, God is still in control. It may get a lot more chaotic. It may get a lot worse. It may get a whole lot worse, but God is still in control. We can be like Hannah, or we can cave in to the culture and be like the sons of Belial.
To get some background here, we have to understand the family of Levi. I spent some time this afternoon and put this little graphic together so that you could see the genealogy of Levi. Levi is at the top. Remember, he is one of the sons of Jacob. This covers a lot of time, and this genealogy is given in Exodus 6. You might want to turn there. We’ll go to a couple of different passages real quickly.
In Exodus 6, you have this outline; and it tells us that Levi had three sons: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. The line we are really focusing on is the middle one: Kohath. Kohath has four sons. There is no numbers; there are no ages listed in Exodus 6. There are a lot of gaps in these genealogies. It is sort of a summary of the lineage of Aaron and Moses. Kohath has four sons, probably many generations later: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel.
Amram is the father of Moses and Aaron. That is the green line on the far left (on the slide). Izhar is the father or Korah. Korah is also a Levite; all of these are Levites, and Korah, you’ll remember, leads a rebellion against Moses. There is jealousy between the line of Izhar and the line of Amram.
When we go down this line here, we see that Aaron has four sons. I didn’t want to stretch them out across it, so there are four sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. Those four sons are mentioned a few more times in the Old Testament: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, Ithamar. Nadab and Abihu are going to wipeout really early. They are going to apostatize and reject God pretty early.
During the wilderness wanderings, they are going to get vaporized by God, just incinerated, because they go into the tabernacle, and they bring unauthorized fire or unauthorized incense that doesn’t come from the holy fire that is inside the tabernacle. That shows that you can’t make up your own rules when it comes to worshiping God. We worship God according to His rules, not according to our rules.
Eleazar has a son named Phinehas. He is the one who is mentioned in Numbers 25, and eventually there is going to be a priest in his line named Zadok. Zadok is going to be elevated to the high priesthood in the first part of Solomon’s reign. This is why you have got to trace all these lines in the Bible.
When we come back in the Millennial Kingdom and we have a millennial temple, who runs the temple? The Zadokite priests. It all goes back to understanding what I’m getting ready to tell you. Those Zadokite priests are going to run the temple. This is significant because Phinehas understood holiness. That’s the bottom line.
Go down Ithamar’s line and you find Eli, and eventually Abiathar. In the first point we learned that Aaron had four sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. These are mentioned in Exodus 6:23–25.
- The second thing that we are going to learn is that the first two sons are vaporized by God due to their rebellion against God. This is in Leviticus 10. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers… In Leviticus 10 we read that Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer”—that’s his bronze bowl that would carry the coals, the fire, and the incense to take into the Holy Place—“and they offered profane fire.” That means “common.” It has not been sanctified within the tabernacle. They brought this unauthorized fire and incense before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. People are always trying to add something to God’s plan. “So the fire from the Lord went out and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.” Just like that. They are vaporized. Nothing left.
Leviticus 10:3 “And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy.”
God is distinct and unique. He’s not common. He’s not our best buddy. God is the Creator-God of the heavens and the earth. God seeks behavior from His people that is set apart to Him. That’s sanctification. We are to live our lives set apart to Him.
So that is what is being depicted here about those who treat God lightly. It reminds us of what event in the New Testament? Those of you who went through Acts, where we have the story in Acts 5, the two people who are slain by the Spirit? Who are they? Ananias and Sapphira. Ananias and Sapphira are slain in the spirit because they lied to the Holy Spirit. They said we are going to give you all the money we got off of our property.
There was no reason to lie. Nothing said they had to give all the money, but they wanted to look good, so immediately they died. God is emphasizing that He is a holy God. Two of Aaron’s sons are down. We are left with Eleazar and Ithamar.
- The third instance of a rebellion also involves Levites. That’s in the next book in Numbers 16. In this rebellion, this involves another descendant of Levi. This is Korah; he is a cousin. Remember, the line of Korah, and later the sons of Korah. We read in Numbers 16:1–4, “Now Korah the son of Izhar” that’s him. It goes through the genealogy, which I will skip. “They rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown. They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them” you guys are taking too much authority on yourselves.
They were jealous, so they have this conspiracy. So Moses fell on his face. He recognizes that this is a violation of the holiness of God. This is one of the problems I think a lot of folks have. We don’t take God’s holiness seriously enough.
He spoke to Korah, Numbers 16:5–30, “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His and who is holy.” Notice the emphasis on His holiness. “And He will cause him to come near to Him.” The one He chooses He will cause to come near to Him. So do this. He said to Korah, take all your guys, get your censers and you are going to come and put fire in them. Put incense in them.
It sounds like a repeat of what happened with Nadab and Abihu. They are going to bring their own unauthorized fire. They are going to try to worship God on their terms. What happens is that they come the next day and I’ll skip to the end, God causes an earthquake and swallows them all up. He just takes them out of the picture. He ends that rebellion. God’s holiness is not going to be violated.
Then we go to our last incident. I know we’re running out of time, but I just want to hit this very carefully, Numbers 25:11. What has happened is this incident where the Israelites have been infiltrated and seduced by the women of Moab. This orgy is taking place and the wrath of God comes against them, and He begins to turn His anger, His wrath, His judgment, against Israel.
Moses orders the judges of Israel to kill all the men who have joined sexually, through these temple prostitutes, Baal, the false god of Peor. No compromise with another god. They do, but there is one guy who just wants to flaunt it with his temple prostitute, Cozbi, and they run to a tent. One guy is going to take care of this, and that is Phinehas.
We read that because of the fact that he killed her and brought this judgment of God to an end. Phinehas killed her with his javelin. In Numbers 25:11 we read, “Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace.’ ” God establishes a peace covenant with Phinehas. “And it shall be to Him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.”
Eli is from the line of Ithamar, not the line of Eleazar, not through Phinehas. So what God is going to do when He brings His judgment here is He clears out the line of Ithamar, goes back to the line of Eleazar, and Zadok is in that line.
In 1 Kings 2:35 we read that Zadok the priest is made the high priest in the place of Abiathar. Abiathar was a priest and served at Nob. We’ll get to this later on. This is the incident where David is fleeing from Saul. He goes to the priest at Nob. This is up near where the Hebrew University is located to the northeast of the Temple Mount in Israel on Mt. Scopus. It is not that far from the Temple.
David first goes there to get some food for himself and his men. There is a servant of Saul, Doeg the Edomite, who sees David there. He goes back and tells on David. Then Saul gets mad and sends his troops after them and they slaughter all of the priests. It is a massacre. It is violent. It is bloody. They kill all of the priests. One gets away and that is Abiathar.
David later makes Abiathar high priest, but he is going to betray David during the Absalom rebellion. Then he is going to align himself at the beginning of 1 Kings with Adonijah against Solomon. That is going to cause him to be taken out of the priesthood and put into exile. This is the prophecy. God is faithful. He fulfills His Word. He fulfills His promise that no matter how chaotic it gets we can always trust in God to solve the problem. No matter what takes place, God is faithful, and His Word is true.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things. May we be reminded of this incident and the significance of this as we see how Your grace solves the problems of paganism and carnality in Israel during this time. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”