Truth and Consequences

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1 Samuel 2:27-36 (Prophecy against Eli)

INTRODUCTION: We are continuing in our Life of Samuel series. Samuel is still a young boy at this time serving at the temple structure in Shiloh under Eli the priest. Last week we saw Eli rebuking his sons for their sins at the temple. This week we find God rebuking Eli. God sent a man of God, a prophet, to confront Eli with the truth about the sin in his own life and the consequences that would follow. (Read 1 Samuel 2:27-36)

Truth and consequences. This is one of the judgment passages in Scripture, which means it’s a tough one to preach. I’m sure it was a tough message for this man of God to bring to Eli. Sometimes the truth hurts, and we would much rather sugarcoat it or water it down than deliver it straight. But we don’t help each other when we hide or shade the truth from each other. There was sin in Eli’s life that Eli had left unaddressed. So God addressed the sin for him. He sent a prophet to tell Eli the truth of his actions and the consequences that would follow. And as we listen in on this rebuke to Eli, we can learn some valuable lessons for our own lives as well.

I. We are accountable for God’s gifts (27-29)

The first lesson is simply this. We are accountable for God’s gifts. Has God given you certain gifts in life? Has he given you family, work, position, resources, abilities? Then God expects you to use those gifts for his glory. We are accountable to God for how we use the gifts he gives us.

    A. Eli’s privileges (27-28)

We see this in Eli’s life. Look at verses 27-28:

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. (1 Samuel 2:27-28)

Eli was given all sorts of privileges from God. First of all, God had chosen his family to serve the people of Israel as priests. This went all the way back to the time when God first called Moses and Aaron to deliver the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. Aaron was the first high priest, and his descendants served as priests after him.

As priests Eli and his family were given the privilege to go up to God’s altar to make the sacrifices for God’s people. They were also given the privilege of burning incense. Every morning and every evening the priests would burn incense on a special altar located in front of the curtain that guarded the way to the Ark of the Covenant. (Exodus 30:5)

Eli was also given the privilege of wearing the ephod in God’s presence. This ephod was not the same as the linen gown that Samuel wore when he ministered in the temple. This was the special ephod described in Exodus 28 worn only by the high priest. It was made of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and finely twisted linen. The breastpiece had twelve precious stones, each engraved with the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. The breastpiece also contained the Urim and the Thummim, which were used in inquiring of the Lord to make decisions. It was a great privilege to wear the ephod and to inquire of the Lord for God’s people.

And then finally, Eli and his family were also given the privilege of sharing in the offerings made by fire. God made provisions for the priest and his family to share portions of the meat that was offered for sacrifice. But, as we saw last week, Eli’s sons abused that privilege. They took extra portions from the people’s offering as well as from the Lord’s portion of the offering.

    B. Eli’s sin (29)

So this man of God begins his rebuke of Eli first of all by highlighting Eli’s many privileges. Next he highlights Eli’s sin. Look at verse 29:

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 2:29)

Eli’s sin was two-fold. First he scorned God’s sacrifice and offering. The word translated “scorn” here literally means “to kick at something.” Have you ever kicked your dog? When you kick a person or animal, it is a sign of scorn or disrespect. God says to Eli, “Why do you kick at my sacrifice and offering?” This goes back to what Eli’s sons were doing with the sacrifices, taking more than their share and even taking God’s share. And apparently Eli was not guiltless in this matter either. Notice the man of God includes Eli when he says that Eli and his sons have fattened “themselves” on the choice parts of the offerings. Eli was not the one taking the meat from the people by force, but he still ate from the meat his sons brought back.

In doing so, Eli sinned in a second way. He honored his sons above God. Eli knew what his sons were doing. He knew about the sacrifices. He knew how they bullied and threatened the people. He knew they were sleeping around with the women who served at the Tent. But he did not stop their actions or remove them from priestly service. He honored his sons above God, a direct violation of the first commandment.

We are all accountable for God’s gifts to us. We may not have the high privileges that Eli had as high priest, but we have all been given gifts from God. Every good thing we have comes from God. Are we using those gifts to honor and glorify and serve him? If not, then we are also sinning against God. In many ways, the greater the gifts, the greater the sin and the greater the judgment when we do not use them for God’s glory. Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48) Eli’s sin was certainly the greater because he had been given so much. That’s the first lesson we learn from this passage. We are accountable for God’s gifts.

II. We reap what we sow (30-34)

A second lesson we learn from this passage is that we reap what we sow. This is a principle that is repeated in other parts of the Bible. We sometimes call it the law of the harvest. If we sow good things in life, we will reap good things. If we sow bad things in life, we will reap bad things.

    A. Your attitude towards God matters (30)

And in this passage the law of the harvest is especially applied to our attitude towards God. Your attitude towards God matters. Look at verse 30:

“Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and your father’s house would minister before me forever.’ But now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.'” (1 Samuel 2:30)

God had made a promise to the descendants of Aaron that they would serve as priests before him forever. But now that promise would be taken away from Eli and his descendants because Eli had dishonored God. God honors those who honor him, but those who despise him will be disdained.

Do you honor God with your life, or do you dishonor him? I’m not asking if you’re perfect. None of us are perfect. We all sin. But when you sin, do you confess your sin to God? Do you turn away from that sin and ask God to help you be stronger the next time? Do you do your best to live in such a way that brings honor to God and to Jesus Christ? God honors those who honor him, but those who despise him will be disdained. You reap what you sow. Your attitude towards God matters.

    B. God’s judgment can be severe (31-34)

It’s also important to know that God’s judgment can be severe. In Eli’s case it extended even to his descendants. First of all, Eli’s descendants would die young. Look at verses 31-33:

The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your family line and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, in your family line there will never be an old man. Every one of you that I do not cut off from my altar will be spared only to blind your eyes with tears and to grieve your heart, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life. (1 Samuel 2:31-33)

Part of God’s judgment on Eli was that all of his descendants would die young, while still in the prime of life. We don’t have all the historical details to fill in what happened to each one of Eli’s descendants, but we do know this prophecy was fulfilled in a dramatic way later on in the book of 1 Samuel. Eli’s son Phinehas had a son named Ahitub. Ahitub had a son named Ahimelech. So Ahimelech was Eli’s great-grandson. Ahimelech was priest during the time of King Saul. When David was on the run from Saul, Ahimelech gave David and his men food and provisions. (1 Samuel 21) As a result Saul killed eighty-five priests under Ahimelech’s supervision. Ahimelech and all of his sons died in this massacre except for one who managed to escape. (1 Samuel 22:16-20)

Of course that would all take place in the future, but the second part of God’s judgment on Eli struck even closer to home: Eli’s two sons would die together as a sign. Look at verse 34:

“And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you — they will both die on the same day.” (1 Samuel 2:34)

We already learned from last week’s passage that it was God’s will to put Hophni and Phinehas to death because of their sin. So we already knew they were going to die. Now we learn that they will both die on the same day. This would be a sign to Eli that his future descendants would also be cut off and that God’s judgment was certain.

The Bible is clear. We reap what we sow. Do not presume on God’s promises. You may “get away” with sin for a season, but it is only a matter of time before the consequences of your sin will catch up with you. God will honor those who honor him, but those who dishonor him will be disdained. God’s judgment for sin can be severe. We reap what we sow.

III. We can miss out on God’s blessing (35-36)

    A. God can fulfill his plans without you (35)

And then the final lesson we can learn from this passage is that if we dishonor God, we can miss out on God’s blessing. God wants to use you to fulfill his purposes and plans in this world, but you know what? God can fulfill his plans without you – and without me, too, for that matter. Look at verse 35:

“I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his house, and he will minister before my anointed one always.” (1 Samuel 2:35)

Eli and his sons had shown themselves to be anything but faithful priests. But that would not stop God’s plans. God would raise up for himself a faithful priest who would serve God from the heart. So who is this faithful priest? At first glance you might think it is Samuel. Samuel is certainly the only one enjoying God’s favor in Shiloh at this time. But although Samuel fulfills some of the priestly roles, he functions more as prophet and judge than as priest.

So if not Samuel, then who? We need to look a little further on down the line before we can identify this faithful priest. The last remaining priest from Eli’s line was a man named Abiathar. Remember the massacre of the priests by Saul and how only one of Ahimelech’s sons escaped? That son was Abiathar. Abiathar served David for most of his life, but right at the end he turned against David and took part in a rebellion against his son Solomon. We read in 1 Kings 2:17 that “Solomon removed Abiathar from the priesthood of the LORD, fulfilling the word the LORD had spoken at Shiloh about the house of Eli.” (1 Kings 2:27) A new line of priests was established at that time through a man named Zadok, and so Zadok is most likely the faithful priest spoken about here in 1 Samuel 2. Of course, this prophecy is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who is the faithful prophet, priest and king, the Messiah sent by God.

God would fulfill his plan with or without Eli’s help. It didn’t matter. In our pride we can convince ourselves that we are indispensable, but the truth is, God can fulfill his plans without you or without me.

    B. God can give your blessing to someone else (36)

Not only that, but God can give our blessing to someone else. Look at verse 36:

“Then everyone left in your family line will come and bow down before him for a piece of silver and a crust of bread and plead, ‘Appoint me to some priestly office so I can have food to eat.'” (1 Samuel 2:36)

Eli probably thought that he and his descendants would continue to be priests and enjoy God’s blessing no matter what. But not only would God raise up a faithful priest for himself, this priest would replace Eli’s family. Right now his sons were stealing food from the people. In the future his descendants would come begging for food from the new line of priests. The line of Zadok would replace the line of Eli, and Eli’s family line would basically disappear off the map.

No person, church or organization can presume on God’s blessing. Unless we remain faithful, God can remove anyone of us at anytime. For example, Saul was anointed as the first king of Israel, but God removed him because of his unfaithfulness. The chief priests and Pharisees in Jesus’ time thought they had God’s blessing forever. But Jesus told them, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43) Later on in the book of Revelation, Jesus told the church at Ephesus: “If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” (Revelation 2:5)

God’s word to Eli is a sober reminder to us as a church that we must remain faithful to God in order to remain under his blessing. God has a job for us to do as a church. And our greatest blessing as a church will be to fulfill that task. God will accomplish his plan with or without us. But if we are faithful to the task, we can enjoy the wonderful blessing of being used by God to glorify him. Otherwise God can always take that blessing away and give it to someone else. So that’s the final lesson we can learn from this passage: if we dishonor God, we can miss out on God’s blessing in our life.

CONCLUSION: This is a tough passage. I warned you it was not going to be an easy one! But as with all judgment passages, we also need to look at it from the perspective of God’s grace. God is a righteous God who judges sin, but he is also a merciful God who forgives sin. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) The fact that God can take your blessing away and give it to someone else is a sobering thought. But the fact that God can take your sin away is a joyful thought.

When you put your faith in Christ, God takes your sin away and gives it to someone else. He gives it to Jesus. Jesus paid the penalty for your sin so that you wouldn’t have to. But you need to put your trust in him. You cannot honor God apart from Christ. The Bible says, “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” (John 5:23) God honors those who honor him. Will you honor God this morning by putting your faith in Christ?

© Ray Fowler

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