Faithful Priest

1 Samuel 2:27-36

27Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Did I not clearly reveal myself to your ancestor’s family when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh? 28I chose your ancestor out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in my presence. I also gave your ancestor’s family all the food offerings presented by the Israelites. 29Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?’

30“Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. 31The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age, 32and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age. 33Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.

34“‘And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same day. 35I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always. 36Then everyone left in your family line will come and bow down before him for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread and plead, “Appoint me to some priestly office so I can have food to eat.”’”

Introduction

The Lord in the Old Testament who gave Moses the Commandments is the same Christ who declares in Matthew 5:18-19, 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

By nature, mankind is rebellious to the will of God. Our sinful desire always oppose to the righteousness of God so that we normally resist His instructions.

Eli and his sons were priests of God but their title as priests did not cause them to obey the Lord. Their disobedient lifestyle is a proof that human by nature is insubordinate to God. They repeatedly scorned God’s sacrifice and offering.

1. Scorn

27Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Did I not clearly reveal myself to your ancestor’s family when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh? 28I chose your ancestor out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in my presence. I also gave your ancestor’s family all the food offerings presented by the Israelites. 29Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?’

The name of the man of God who rebuked Eli the priest was not recorded.

It’s not relevant to the Lord’s message to Eli. The privilege of Eli and his sons as priests of God should have been the most coveted social status in Israel. They scorned God’s sacrifice because they didn’t really believe the Lord at all.

They desired priestly benefits but didn’t want to abide by God’s command.

Election

In few months, we’ll have Federal Election in Canada and also election of church leaders. Do you agree that God had already chosen who will be elected? It’s not automatic that the person God chooses will do what’s right. The Lord has chosen Eli and his sons as His priests but they scorned His instructions. So, pray that God will bless all elected government officials and also church leaders to lead their respective constituents in accordance to the righteousness of the Lord.

The Lord reminds us of His justice in Exodus 20:5-6, 5I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

To love Him and keep His commands are practical proof of faith in God.

The man of God who reminded Eli about their privilege as priests of God proclaimed the sentence that God has declared for those who despised Him.

2. Sentence

30“Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. 31The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age, 32and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age. 33Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.

God sentenced Eli and his sons for their abuses. Such should serve as warning for everyone. We all have the tendency to disobey. If we are submissive to the Lordship of Christ, He will empower us to obey Him diligently with joy and peace. Yet, even when it is carefully and eloquently explained that there are favorable benefits of obedience, most often we fail to obey the Lord, why?

Jesus said in John 8:31-32, 31If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Christ did not encourage us to hold onto His teaching by our human effort, did He? Human effort always falls short to the glory of God or the standards of God. Most often, we do things to glorify ourselves, not God.

The kind of life that we instinctively desire offers temporary thrill but actually leads to eternal death. In contrast, the Lord Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The life that Christ offers leads to eternal rejoicing. Yes, unending!

By faith in Christ, we understand and accept that Christ is the Truth who sets us free from darkness so that we see the benefits of obeying to His orders.

Christ says in John 8:12, 12I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

A lifestyle acceptable to the Lord is comparable to living in the light where one can do things properly as well as enjoy the benefits of having clear view of the surroundings. In contrast, lifestyle not acceptable to the Lord is comparable to living in darkness where one may do things improperly because of the limitation view or not having clear view of things and the surroundings.

The sentence God gave as punishment to the wickedness of Eli and his sons implies that their lifestyle was comparable to walking in darkness. If they have believed in the Lord, they should have light of their life, enlightened and they should have done what’s right and proper in the eyes of God.

The man of God gave the tragic sign that what he said was firmly decided.

3. Sign

34“‘And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same day. 35I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always. 36Then everyone left in your family line will come and bow down before him for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread and plead, “Appoint me to some priestly office so I can have food to eat.”’”

Why was the wickedness of the sons of Eli mentioned next to the lifestyle of obedience exemplified by Samuel as faithful priest? Indirectly, the Lord teaches believers and readers the kind of lifestyle acceptable to Him, and warns that the sentence for disobedience to His instructions is unavoidable.

Moreover, when the man of God gave a sign that the punishment God has declared, Eli may doubt but cannot stop what was about to happen.

Would you think that God punishes only unbelievers? One may doubt it.

But as believers, we are saved from the eternal punishment but there unavoidable consequences of every action good or bad. Did the Lord not save us also from those consequences? If God has saved us from eternal punishment why does God not stop the consequences of our action?

Speaking from his personal experiences many years later, King David declared in 2 Samuel 22:26-31, 26To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, 27to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd. 28You save the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low. 29You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light. 30With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. 31As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.

Prophet Samuel was believed to be the author of the books of Samuel which includes the life and encounters of King David. Did Samuel hear the word of King David so that they were included in his books? Most probably, the disciples of Samuel who wrote the latter part of his book may have heard or seen Samuel taught David personally. Or, his declaration about God, King David may have heard from the teachings of Samuel.

The ways and means where David took his idea about God were not important. What he proclaimed about the Lord is God’s priority for us to know.

Like the sons of Eli, unbelievers ignore them but believers like David and Samuel have proven the truth and put into practice the instructions of the Lord. By faith we can obey God and don’t worry about consequences of our actions.

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