Eli refused or neglected to correct his sons so God is going to do it for him. Eli’s household will be removed from office, permanently. The Lord is patient but there are limits.
Eli is boldly confronted with his sins and his sons’ sins by a prophet from God. We don’t know the man’s name because the Holy Spirit didn’t give it to us. What we do know is that everything he said was true. He is speaking directly for God against the sins of Eli’s house.
I don’t believe that every priest was corrupt but I could be mistaken. We know that each line of Aaron’s sons were to serve in a different function. Eli’s house was from the line that was responsible for burning offerings on the altar, burning incense on the altar of incense, and wearing the ephod with the special breastplate. He was from the line of Ithamar. This was the line that the high priest came from and that was the office Eli was serving in. But Eli was not the only member of this house. He had brothers and cousins who were also of the line of Ithamar and may have been serving in this role too. So it is possible that some of the priests were still honoring the Lord.
Here comes a BIG ‘however’. “One rotten apple can spoil the whole bushel.” This is true of more than apples. When one person in a group is getting away with, and even prospering from, unscrupulous acts the others in the group tend to want the ‘rewards’ too.
When I think about Eli’s sons and their behavior I see men who are extremely rotund. They are eating the best of everything from everyone! There is no lack in their diet or end to their appetites. I see them strolling/rolling through the courtyard picking out the best of everything there is to offer. No one can refuse them. To do so would mean that their offering would be refused and they would have no access to God. These men were the gatekeepers to the Lord. You could complain about their behavior but you couldn’t prevent it. They had all the authority. I see men drunk on power and privilege.
If you saw this kind of behavior being tolerated wouldn’t you want in on it; especially if it has been going on for some time? You could tell yourself that “everyone else is doing it” and feel justified in joining in. I have a feeling that’s where things were either headed or already there. The high priest was turning a blind eye to all the evil so he must have been secretly condoning it. Or so the others might think.
I’m wondering how far the Lord’s house had been dragged down. Were ALL those in charge participating or were they still watching? Was God’s discipline for Eli’s immediate house or for all those serving in the House of the Lord? How widespread was this cancer? Was it contained (encapsulated) or rampant (metastasized)? Would God use precision surgery or amputation?
From what I can gather it will be amputation. My reasoning for this is twofold. The first is that Eli is told that his sons will both die on the same day and it will be a sign that this prophecy is true. If that were the end of God’s judgement there wouldn’t need to be a ‘proof’ offered. It would be over. The second reason comes from my bible helps. It points me to the events that will happen while David is running from King Saul. David went to the House of the Lord at Nob and received bread and Goliath’s sword from the priest. Saul found out and killed all the priests in Nob except one who escaped who then fled to David. Eli’s whole extended family, save one, fell that day. An amputation.
So WHY didn’t Eli correct his sons? Because he ‘loved’ them more than he loved God! I’m going to say it plain as simple; THAT’S NOT LOVE. “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 3:24). This does not mean it HAS to be a physical rod that is used in discipline. The rod was something that was used to designate boundaries. The one being disciplined was taught through many applications of the ‘rod’ that they changed their direction every time they came into contact with it. With the shepherd it was his staff. All he need do was touch the sheep’s side and it went the other way. For the horse it was the bridal. It didn’t take beating it half to death to get the message through but it took CONSISTENT application whenever correction was warranted.
You CANNOT ignore discipline when your child is young and expect them to follow your rules when they get into their teen years! You MUST start when they are small. You also CANNOT expect a young child to understand your directions like an older child would. Consistency is key as well as breaking down the instructions into steps. Uncurling a baby’s fingers from your hair and saying “No” will get a MUCH better result than trying to explain ‘why we don’t pull mommy’s hair’ or slapping the hand repeatedly until the child turns loose ever will.
Discipline is age and developmentally tailored to the individual. And it is done out of LOVE. When you love your child you want what is best for them long term. Yes, discipline is not pleasant to either the giver or receiver but the outcome in its absence is even worse. The child who is never told ‘no’ will be the one who takes advantage of or injures others because they feel entitled to whatever they want.
The child who is always to ‘no’ suffers too. They never have a chance to learn how to correct their own behavior. Children need room to grow and make mistakes. Discipline is like a fence running around a safe enclosure. There are things to explore within the boundaries but nothing so dangerous that it threatens the safety of the child. The boundaries also move back as the child masters what is within them to allow more learning opportunities. Ultimately the individual grows to the point where they erect their own boundaries. And this is only accomplished by bumping up against appropriate ones provided by someone who loved them when they were young.
Eli is too little too late with his boundaries and now God has to intervene. Eli’s sons have no boundaries and their behavior is breaking down the boundaries of those around them. For EVERYONE’S health, they will be removed, permanently. If Eli truly loved his sons he would have started the process of boundary setting when they were little.
Eli has apparently learned from his past though and is using appropriate boundaries with Samuel. Maybe it is because he sees what his sons have become. Maybe it is because God is taking a more active role in Eli’s parenting. Maybe it is because Samuel is a much easier child than Hophni and Phinehas were. Whatever the reason, Samuel will benefit greatly from Eli’s new and improved parenting style.
Father God, I have no idea why we came this route today. I pray the words shared today were YOUR words! I know that not every child fits the mold society wants to place on them. Some children do not learn boundaries and behavior rules as easily as others do. The child with autism or developmental disabilities presents challenges in parenting. But even these children need boundaries. They will learn them in a different way and at a different pace. I pray You bring resources to these parents that will help them build safe boundaries for their children. Boundaries that they can both use as a healthy framework for building on. One born out of love and a desire for the best for their child. NOT one of desperation or defeat.
I pray for all of this world’s children who have been given no boundaries. You know each of them by name. You want only the best for them. Show them Your love and help them discover the true freedom that comes with healthy boundaries.
I pray also for the children who have been given no room for growth. You know each of them by name too and want only the best for them. Show them Your love and that the world is not the scary place they have been led to believe.
I pray for the children of these children. The ones who did not know love and discipline worked together. Teach them Lord as they teach the next generation. Watch over ALL our children Father! Teach EACH of us how to love them like You love.
Thank You for my parents Father God. They weren’t perfect and I didn’t make life easy for them, but they introduced me to You. That was the BEST gift I EVER received! They also showed me true love by providing the discipline necessary for me to grow up knowing there are boundaries to my life too. And the most important boundary that I have is KNOWING that I am NOT the judge of mankind or even the person sitting next to me; YOU are. Please do with my words today what YOU will, including making them disappear if You so choose. I want to stay within YOUR boundaries on this issue.