Monday, 20 February 2012

1 Samuel 2:11-36 Failing to Honour God

Here are the notes from LightHouse last night with teh questions we began with and ended with:

1. Read through the passage what things surprise you?
2. What repeated patterns do you notice?
3. What questions does it raise for you?

There is a continual compare and contrast going on in this passage between Samuel and Eli’s sons (notice their names aren’t given until the final detail of judgement), and between Elkanah and Hannah’s family and Eli’s. And the shock and tragedy is that it is the priestly family that is immoral and godless and is judged, whilst Elkanah’s family is righteous and godly and is blessed.

1. Don’t treat God with contempt (11-17)
Young Samuel (11)is left in the care of Eli as Elkanah and Hannah head home, you would imagine quite secure in his upbringing given that Eli is a priest. But the compare and contrast in this chapter makes you shudder as a parent. **How are Eli’s sons described? “Wicked... had no regard for Yahweh.” It is a devastating and damning indictment of Eli’s sons, all the more so when you remember what their job was. They were the priests in Shiloh; they were responsible for teaching the people, encouraging the people, correcting the people in their worship of God. But how can they do that when they do not know God! How can they worship and lead the people in worshipping one they do not know! They answer is that they can’t.

And because they do not know God they have no respect for him, they treat God and his offerings with contempt(17), (13-16)list some of the ways they do that:
· They take their portion before God gets his
· They eat from the fat of the offerings which was meant to be burnt as an offering to God.
· They use violence to get their way, corrupting even genuine worship.

What do you think the consequences were for Israel? Such sin is contagious, if that is the way the priests treat God’s offerings imagine how the people felt about them. If that is how the priests think of God imagine how the people thought of God.

But (17)God knows, whilst that was a comfort to Hannah in ch1 as God saw her pain and suffering, here it is a dire warning for Eli’s sons, God saw the contempt with which they treated his offerings and their sin was very great in his sight. God knows, God sees, God is not indifferent.

2. Love for God is not hereditary(18-26)
The second section contrasts Eli’s family with Elkanah and Hannah’s family. First we see the faithfulness of Samuel’s family. Having dedicated him to God’s service what do they do? They provide for him to carry out his duties serving God, and they continue to come year by year to make their sacrifices to Yahweh, despite the corruption they faithfully serve God, and they experience God’s blessing for their faithfulness – just as God promised(Deut 28).

The contrast with Eli’s family could not be more stark. You see Eli is not unaware of everything his sons do, in fact he knows, he even knows they sleep with the women at the temple treating them as pagan shrine prostitutes. And look at how their sin is described (22)”doing to all Israel”, all Israel knows what is happening and the effect it is having on Israel driving them from God. And here Eli steps in and warns his sons, but does no more.

(25)Because of their persistent sin and the repeated contempt with which they have treated God, God has justly decided to put them to death therefore they do not listen to Eli’s plea. God will judge Eli’s sons for their sin. The contrats is heightened by(26).

Godliness is not hereditary. Samuel will need to decide for himself in ch3 to listen to God and follow him. But Hophni and Phinehas are a shocking reminder that just because we love God does not mean our children will. It is possible to grow up with all the opportunities to hear the word of God, to observe worship, to serve God and yet not know God. In fact this chapter seems to suggest it is possible for them to see all that and yet treat God with contempt. This chapter ought to drive us to our knees to pray for the children in our church and families.

3. Beware an easy idolatry – family(27-36)
We live in a society which perhaps more than anything values family, which puts family on a pedestal, or ring fences it to protect it. Trends we see in the world also tend to work their way into the church and I think there we see too that we highly prize family.

Now the bible holds family up as a good thing, it is God given but it is not the ultimate thing. There is a great warning here about making family, especially children an idol.

What ought Eli to have done to his sons?

They ought to have been disqualified from the priesthood, he may have given them a warning but it was a warning with no teeth to it. And God sends a prophet to Eli to remind him not of a failure in his parenting style but a heart failure – Eli has failed to have no other god’s before Yahweh. (27-28)The prophet reminds Eli of his families blessings, of the privilege it is to serve God as priest, of his provision for them of food so that they can dedicate themselves to serving God. But them come the key questions(29), in light of all this blessing “Who do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honour your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?” Eli is implicated in the sins of his sons, what would honouring God have looked like here? It would mean removing his sons from priestly office so that they would no longer corrupt worship and show contempt for God and his people. Eli tolerates his sons sin because they were his sons. His sons mattered more to him than the holiness of God.

And because of the failure to honour God the family lose their priestly privilege, they will be judged and be under God’s curse. It may strike us as harsh but God will have no rivals, God will not allow his name to be tarnished and his worship polluted among his people. God’s judgement on Eli’s family is part of God’s mercy towards his people as he acts to bring them back to himself.

I think there is a great challenge here for us in terms of our love for God and our love for family. Could God’s charge against Eli be levelled at us, “do you honour your sons/family more than me”?

I think there is also a second challenge here we see how much God hates sin, what Eli is prepared to tolerate God is not. What Eli rebukes God removes. Sin needs to be cut out from among the people of God because it pollutes others.

What is the most loving thing Eli could have done for his sons? The hardest thing put them out of office of priests so that they realised the magnitude of their sin and their danger! Eli’s niceness, his failure to call sin sin and deal with it as serious is one we are so prone to sharing in. We must not confuse being nice with real love when it comes to helping each other deal with sin.

4. God’s will have a people who worship him
In what is a bleak chapter there are two threads of hope, one which reoccurs throughout the chapter and the other which God declares at the end.

1. Samuel – Throughout the chapter the contrast is made with the boy Samuel, while Hophni and Phinehas serve themselves and treat God with contempt Samuel ministered before Yahweh. Whilst they sin against the people and their sin becomes known by the people (26)Samuel grows in favour and stature before Yahweh and the people. God is not done with his people yet, even as he promises judgement on Eli’s family he is raising up a Godly leader for his people in their place. God is not done with his people yet and he will keep his promises to have Israel as his treasured possession.

2. A faithful priest – (35)God promises that he will raise up for himself a faithful priest, “who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will establish his family line and he will minister before my anointed one always.” Some people think this priest is Samuel but Samuel is spoken of in terms of prophet rather than priest. God keeps his word, in 1 Kings 2:25-27 Abiathar is removed from the priesthood “fulfilling the word the LORD has spoken at Shiloh about the house of Eli.” And instead Zadok becomes priest.

Even amidst all the immorality and idolatry, wrong worship and failed spiritual leadership God promises he will provide for his people to know him and his will through Samuel and to worship him rightly through his priest. Our confidence rests not in us or our spiritual leaders but in God and his provision for us to know him, to serve him and to worship him.

1. How might we treat God with contempt?
2. How can we help each other deal with our sin? What stops us doing so? How does this passage expose the danger in that?
3. What comfort and encouragement is there for us here in the character of God? How is that applicable to us in Jesus?

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