I Samuel 3:12-13 The time has come for me to bring down on Eli’s family everything I warned him of, every last word of it. I’m letting him know that the time’s up. I’m bringing judgment on his family for good. He knew what was going on, that his sons were desecrating God’s name and God’s place, and he did nothing to stop them.
It is a popular assumption that public accomplishments can somehow overrule private life deficiencies. Hardly a day goes by that we are not informed of yet another modern day icon’s demoralizing descent due to poor judgment. Contrary to popular opinion, historical evidence tells us being good and doing good in the presence of others isn’t a true test of core character. It’s much deeper than that and only the Creator of the Universe can be the ultimate judge.
During a time of constant battle and unrest, Eli served as High Priest of God’s chosen people. For forty years, he and his family carried on the Aaronic priesthood legacy established in the days of Moses, when he and his brother Aaron led the Israelites out of Egypt. As far as his priestly abilities go, the Bible offers no disapproving words. But as a father and leader of his home, this otherwise good man fatefully failed. He absolutely refused to direct and discipline the conduct of his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. These young men top the “the worst leaders of all time” list. They were rude, obnoxious, and utterly irreverent. God first warned Eli in private through the words of a prophet (I Samuel 2:27-34). Eli did nothing. Later, God spoke to the innocent young Samuel, whose mother had dedicated him to the Lord, three times in the night. The message, in essence was “Judgment is coming to the house of Eli.” Still the priest took no action.
Maybe it was fear of hurting his boys’ feelings or maybe he just thought discipline and training to be cruel. Maybe he even viewed God as too loving to truly allow harsh consequences for corrupt character. Maybe he just didn’t want to do the work it would take to consistently train his sons. I don’t rightly know. But I do know the Bible tells us that because Eli was unwilling to correct his sons, he eventually lost them completely along with his name and position. Instead of being known as one of Israel’s great spiritual leaders, Eli’s clan went down as the priests who cared more about outward appearance before the people than inward obedience before God.
Home can be the hardest place to step up to the plate and direct. Our children are our pride and joy, therefore we often despise having to be the heavy hand in their lives. But if we love them and if we truly respect God, we will periodically play the bad guy, so, in the future, God won’t have to!
Biblical Meditation: Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.