Sunday was Father’s Day and I’m reminded of dads in the Bible. Two in particular stand out because one troubles me and the other blesses me. One is the story of Eli, a priest and judge. The other is the father of the prodigal son.
Eli’s story begins with his discovery that his two sons, who were priests, were eating up the prime cuts of meat instead of using them for sacrifice. In addition, they were committing adultery with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. While he did rebuke them for their behavior when he heard about it, there was no punitive action taken when they didn’t listen to him. Because Eli wasn’t stern with them the Lord was going to be stern with him!
“But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death. So God sent a prophet to tell Eli of His failure after first reminding him how God favored him to put him in this position.” – I Samuel 2:25
“I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever, but now the Lord declares: Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength ….so that there will not be an old man in your house……this shall come upon your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day.” – I Samuel 2:27-35
UH OH. This reveals that God can be HARSH and EXACTING…ESPECIALLY if GOD places you as HIS representative. God did not want people to think His righteousness is to be treated flippantly. Leaders would be wise to pay attention to this in today’s uber-grace church culture! Then we see where the prophecy comes to pass and Eli witnesses it just as the Lord said, then he dies.
“And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. As soon as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded…. .So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.” – I Samuel 4:5-11
“When Eli heard the sound of the outcry, he said, What is this uproar? And he said, How did it go, my son? He who brought the news answered and said, Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has also been a great defeat among the people. Your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured. As soon as he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years.” – I Samuel 4:5-14-18
This concludes the pitiful story of ELI who would not discipline his sons and paid the price for it. It would be wisdom for God’s leaders to remember this story and the tragic, but avoidable, consequences of those who misrepresent or abuse the position God gives them.
(to be continued)