Father’s Day Advice from Eli

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1 Samuel 2:22-25, 27-29, 3:11-14

INTRODUCTION: We have been going through the book of 1 Samuel verse by verse on Sunday mornings, but I thought we’d take a break this week and look back on some verses we already covered, but from a different perspective. Today is Fathers Day, and you may have noticed a number of verses that focused on Eli the priest and his sons. So I thought it would be instructive to go back and look at these verses and see what we could learn from them as they relate to fathering.

Dads, I will be speaking primarily to you this morning, but many of these principles apply to parenting in general, so Moms, this is for you, too. What if you’re not a parent this morning? Listen up anyways! Maybe you will be a parent some day, or maybe you’re a grandparent, or maybe God will give you the opportunity to have a godly influence in a young person’s life along the way. So there will be plenty for you in this message as well.

If Eli could come back today to talk to us about parenting, what would he say? We have seen that Eli made some big mistakes in his own parenting of his sons, and those mistakes resulted in some terrible consequences for Eli and his family. I believe Eli would have a lot to say to us as fathers today. He would be speaking from personal experience, and he would probably speak with a lot of passion and regret for the mistakes he made as a Dad. So let’s imagine Eli was back with us. What Fathers Day advice would he have for us today? I believe he would share the following four things.

1. Put God first in your life (1 Samuel 2:27-29)

First of all, he would tell you: Dads, put God first in your life. Let’s look at 1 Samuel 2:27-29:

Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “This is what the LORD says: `Did I not clearly reveal myself to your father’s house when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh? I chose your father out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in my presence. I also gave your father’s house all the offerings made with fire by the Israelites. Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?’ (1 Samuel 2:27-29)

Dads, the first thing Eli would tell you is put God first in your life. This was Eli’s first and greatest mistake. He did not put God first. He had other priorities. He had other concerns.

So how do you put God first in your life? We see three things in this passage. First of all, putting God first means honoring God above all things. When God sent his prophet to rebuke Eli, he asked him, “Why do you honor your sons more than me?” (1 Samuel 2:29) Eli had put his sons before God. Eli’s sons were abusing the sacrifices in the temple, and Eli knew what they were doing, but he did nothing about it. His sons were dishonoring God, and yet instead of removing his sons from their priestly duties, he honored them by letting them continue as priests even in their sin. Men, we need to honor God above all other things – above our family, above our money, above our friendships, above our jobs.

Secondly, putting God first means dealing with the sin in your life. Eli not only let his sons continue in their sin, but he participated in their sin with them. The prophet made it clear that Eli was fattening himself on the offerings of the people along with his sons. Dads, if there is sin in your life that you are not bringing before God and confessing, you are endangering your family’s well-being along with your own. You are the spiritual leader, and your walk with Christ sets the tone for everyone else in the home. When we do not deal with sin in our own lives, many times we pass that sin on to our children, and then they have to deal with it as well. (See message: Sins of the Fathers from Exodus 20:5) Don’t pass your sin down the line. Deal with it now, for the sake of your family and your children.

And then thirdly, putting God first means setting the example for your children. It’s hard to ask your children to follow Christ if you are not doing it yourself. As godly fathers we need to be able to say to our children what Paul said to the people at the church in Corinth: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all Dads could say these words to their children!

Fathers, if Eli were here today, the first thing he would tell you is to put God first in your life.

2. Be sure to discipline your children (1 Samuel 3:11-14)

Secondly, Eli would tell you: be sure to discipline your children. We read in 1 Samuel 3 God’s word to Eli through Samuel. This was Samuel’s first prophecy.

And the LORD said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family — from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore, I swore to the house of Eli, `The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.'” (1 Samuel 3:11-14)

This was Eli’s second big mistake. Not only did he fail to put God first in his life, but his sons were sinning against God, and he failed to restrain them. Dads, one of your primary responsibilities as a parent is to discipline or train your children. Now notice I said “train.” Too often we think of discipline just as punishing our children when they do wrong. But that is only one part of discipline. Discipline is really training your children to live in a way that is pleasing to God.

So how do you discipline or train your kids? First of all, teach them God’s Word and God’s ways. Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.” (Psalm 119:9) One of the most important things you can do for your children is to make sure that they learn and know God’s word. You can do this through family Bible reading at home. You can make sure that you all attend church weekly as a family. You can get them involved in Sunday School or Awanas or youth group. You can get them good Christian books to read to learn more about God and the Bible. You can also read those books yourself – that’s part of setting the example!

As fathers, we need to make family Bible reading an important part of our regular routine. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to read the Bible with your family. Just take the time to read God’s Word as a family and discuss it together. When our kids were younger, we found bedtime was the best time to do this. When they got older we did it right after supper. We didn’t hit it every night, but we did when we could and we got through a lot of Bible together as a family. That’s what’s most important. Don’t give up. Keep at it! It’s worth it. Teach your children God’s Word and God’s ways.

Next, encourage them when they do right! It is part of a Dad’s job to encourage his children. The apostle Paul said to the church at Thessalonica, “We dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12) Your children need your encouragement. We all know what it’s like when someone catches us doing wrong. Get in the habit of catching them doing right, and then encourage them for it.

Encourage them when they do right, and correct them when they do wrong. Proverbs 19:18 says, “Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” (Proverbs 19:18) If you say or do nothing when your children do wrong, you are only encouraging them in their sin. Don’t be a willing party to their death. Correct them when they do wrong.

So how do you discipline your children? Teach, encourage and correct. Remember, Eli’s mistake was that his sons were sinning against God and he failed to restrain them. Be sure to discipline your children.

3. Teach them about Jesus (1 Samuel 2:22-25)

Thirdly, Eli would tell you: teach your children about Jesus. Now Eli, of course, didn’t know about Jesus. Eli lived about a thousand years or so before Jesus was ever born. But if Eli came back today knowing all that had taken place since, I can guarantee you he would tell every one of you to teach your children about Jesus. How do I know that? Look at what Eli said to his sons in 1 Samuel 2:

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? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear spreading among the LORD’s people. If a man sins against another man, God may mediate for him; but if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?” (1 Samuel 2:22-25)

Eli was very concerned about his sons’ relationship with God. When Eli asked the question, “If a man sins against the Lord, who will intercede for him?” he didn’t know the answer. But God answered Eli’s question when God sent his Son Jesus into the world. God sent Jesus to be that mediator between God and man, to be the one who would intercede for us when we sin against God. So Eli would tell you: Dads, tell your children about Jesus.

What do you tell them? First of all, tell them what Jesus did for them at the cross. Explain to them that we have all sinned against God and deserve to be punished for our sin, but God sent Jesus to die on the cross to take that punishment for us. Jesus never did anything wrong. When Jesus suffered and died on the cross, he was dying for our sins; he was dying in our place; he was taking the punishment we deserved. Tell your children God loves them so much that he sent his only Son to die for them. Tell them Jesus loves them so much that he willingly died in their place.

Next, teach them about repentance and faith. Teach them that we must turn away from our sins and put our trust in Jesus as our Savior. We are saved not by the good things we do, but simply by putting our faith in Jesus who died for us.

And then, teach them about confession and forgiveness. Teach them that we should confess our sins to God daily. As soon as we know we have done something wrong, we should talk to God about it. We should confess it as sin and receive his forgiveness through Jesus Christ his Son. Teach them this Bible verse from 1 John: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) That’s a great Bible verse that every Dad should memorize and pass on to his kids. If Eli were here today, he would definitely tell you to teach your children about Jesus.

4. The earlier you start, the better (1 Samuel 2:25)

And then I believe Eli would have one more piece of Fathers Day advice for us today. And that is this: the earlier you start the better. 1 Samuel 2:25 ends on this tragic note:

His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the LORD’s will to put them to death. (1 Samuel 2:25)

Eli finally rebuked his sons for their sin, but it was too little, too late. He should have started so much earlier. Why is it better to start early on all these things with your kids?

First of all, their hearts are more open when they are young. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:16) A child’s heart is open and responsive to God’s kingdom in a special way when they are young. We need to share Christ with our kids before the years of sin take their toll and possibly harden their hearts towards God.

Secondly, you will save them a lot of trouble along the way. Why wait until they’re older to teach them God’s Word and God’s ways? The Bible says this about God’s wisdom: “Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace.” (Proverbs 3:17) The sooner your children start their walk with God, the sooner they will learn God’s ways, and you will spare them – and yourself – much heartache along the way.

You might say, “But my kids are already teenagers. Is it too late for me to do these things now?” Eli would say, “Don’t put it off until tomorrow. Start today!” Starting yesterday would have been better than today, but starting today is better than tomorrow. We can’t change the past, but we can change the present which will impact the future. So, sure it would have been better if we had all done these things starting on day one with our kids. But don’t let the past stop you in the present. Don’t put if off until tomorrow. Start today!

CONCLUSION: So, what is Eli’s Fathers day advice for us this morning?

    1) Put God first in your life.
    2) Discipline your children.
    3) Teach them about Jesus.
    4) The earlier you start, the better.

Eli would also be the first to tell you that he didn’t follow his own advice. But he would tell you that with a broken heart and through painful tears of regret. And he would tell you that you don’t have to make the same mistakes that he did. Dads, Eli has some pretty good advice for us this Fathers day. Let’s listen to his counsel and put it into practice.

© Ray Fowler

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