1 Samuel 2:27-36
27 A man of God came to Eli. He told him, “The Lord says, ‘I made myself clearly known to your relatives who lived long ago. I did it when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh’s rule. 28 At that time, I chose Aaron from your family line to be my priest. I chose him out of all the tribes of Israel. I told him to go up to my altar. I told him to burn incense. I chose him to wear a linen apron when he served me. I also gave his family all the food offerings presented by the Israelites. 29 Why don’t you treat my sacrifices and offerings with respect? I require them to be brought to the house where I live. Why do you honor your sons more than me? Why do you fatten yourselves on the best parts of every offering that is made by my people Israel?’ 30 “The Lord is the God of Israel. He announced, ‘I promised that members of your family line would serve me as priests forever.’ But now the Lord announces, ‘I will not let that happen! I will honor those who honor me. But I will turn away from those who look down on me. 31 The time is coming when I will cut your life short. I will also cut short the lives of those in your family line of priests. No one in your family line will grow old. 32 You will see nothing but trouble in the house where I live. Good things will still happen to Israel. But no one in your family line will ever grow old. 33 I will prevent the members of your family from serving me at my altar. I will destroy the eyesight of all of you I allow to live. I will also cause you to lose your strength. And everyone in your family line will die while they are still young. 34 “ ‘Something is going to happen to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. When it does, it will show you that what I am saying is true. They will both die on the same day. 35 I will raise up for myself a faithful priest. He will do what my heart and mind want him to do. I will make his family line of priests very secure. They will always serve as priests to my anointed king. 36 Everyone left in your family line will come and bow down to him. They will beg him for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread. They will say, “Please give me a place to serve among the priests. Then I can have food to eat.” ’ ”
What a terrible judgement: to be despised by God would be even worse than to die tragically.
My initial reaction is that it seems harsh. It’s true that Eli’s sons were the most dreadful bullies, abusing their positions as priests and dishonouring God in the place where He should have been most honoured. But hadn’t Eli spoken out and told them to stop this behaviour?
Although he told them to stop, he did nothing to make them stop. They continued as priests with no respect for God. They continued dishonouring God by taking the best from His sacrifices and it seems that Eli continued to grow fat on what they took.
Words without action are empty.
I’m struck that contempt towards God is a really serious thing. I’m struck by the seriousness of God’s response: “I will despise those who think lightly of me” (v30). It concerns me that my country (which I love) increasingly thinks lightly of God.
But I’m also struck by God’s promise: “I will honour those who honour me” (v30). God is faithful. He sees those whose hearts are for Him. He honours those who seek His honour first.
I’m reminded of Eric Lidell (made famous in the film “Chariots of Fire”), who refused to run in the final of his best race at the 1924 Olympics because it was on a Sunday. Moments before he ran in the 400 yards final, one of the American team handed him a piece of paper with that promise “He that honors me, I will honor” (KJV). And He did. Eric won with a new world record.
I’m challenged to always honour Him first: in my heart, and in my words, and in my actions. And I’m grateful to have the greatest honour of all: to be made His son.
Written by David Cornell