*Good afternoon! Yes, it is now afternoon and almost evening as I write this. I'm a little late, but as they say: "Better Late Than Never." Yesterday we began the Book of I Samuel. I hope you enjoy this study. Yesterday we were introduced to Samuel who was born to Hannah, who had been unable to have children. We were also introduced to Eli the priest. Let's see who we meet today.
"Eli's sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord. This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord's sight, for they were treating the Lord's offering with contempt. But Samuel was ministering before the Lord." (I Samuel 2:12,17-18a)
We want to take a moment to just get the picture of what is happening here. Keep in mind that Hannah had prayed that God give her a son. Hannah represents piety and faith. She trusted the Lord to give her a son, and when God did give her a son she gave the boy to the Lord. (After he was weaned.) Now, Hannah did not abandoned her son. In fact, we are told that Hannah would take Samuel a little robe when she visited the temple.(verse19) But, if Hannah represents piety and faith, what about Eli the priest? We discovered yesterday that he couldn't recognize piety if piety bit him in the...If you remember, while Hannah was praying he thought she was drunk. But, Eli blessed Hannah and sent her away. Is he a bad guy? I would suggest that Eli is not a bad guy, he is just a bad priest, and perhaps father. Maybe, the best way to describe Eli (and the way I can write it) is that Eli has his head in the sand. Now, we are introduced to his sons. I won't go into all the detail of their sins, but if you read verses 12-16 you will discover that they were self-serving. They would take the best for themselves. While Eli is in contrast to Hannah, these sons of his are in contrast to Samuel. the son of Hannah.
"Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. So he said to them, 'Why do you do such things? His sons, however did not listen to their father's rebuke, for it was the Lord's will to put them to death. And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men." (I Samuel 2:22-23,25b-26)
Here Eli shows some signs that he may not be that bad after all. However, it seems to be too little too late. A holy man appears to Eli to denounce his house and to warn that "all your descendants will die in the prime of life. And what happens to your two sons...will be a sign to you-they will both die on the same day. I will raise up for myself a faithful priest..." (I Samuel 2:33b-35) Samuel is being lifted up while the sons of Eli are being brought down. The theme of ascending and descending was voiced in the Song of Hannah earlier.
Samuel is left in the care of Eli. Eli is a man who has just been told that his sons are going to die in the prime of their life. Eli is old, his life is spent, and there is nothing he can now do about his sons. But, Samuel is left in his care. This begs the question: Is it ever too late for redemption? Sometimes second chances come through unexpected opportunities. While Eli might have messed up with his own sons, he now has Samuel. And, oh my! Oh my!!! There is a hidden gem in chapter three that brings tears to my eyes.
"One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord...Then the Lord called Samuel." (I Samuel 3:3)
As you read that verse I ask you, "What was the most important part?" Some might answer, "Oh that's easy, preacher! It's "then the Lord called Samuel." I would answer, "No. It wasn't that part at all." For me the most important part of that was "The lamp of God had not yet gone out." Notice, Eli was going blind, but the lamp of God was still shining. What's this mean? Well, to me it means that God was not yet done working through Eli. God was not done with Eli.
Samuel hears God's call. But, he does not recognize it as being God calling him for "the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him." (I Samuel 3:7) Samuel, in a series of humorous verses, wakes Eli up thinking that Eli had been calling for him. Then, it is Eli who realizes that God is calling the boy. Eli gives Samuel instructions as to how to respond to God. In the end, the priest who thought a praying, barren wife was drunk helped her young son realize his calling. Eli understands and accepts what his, and his son's fate is to be. The moral of this story is: it is never too late to point others to God.
Join me tomorrow as we continue looking at the "Samuel Cycle." I hope you have a great evening. -Pastor Rick