11 Then Elkanah went home to Ramah. And the boy was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli the priest. 12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord. 13 The custom of the priests with the people was that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, 14 and he would thrust it into the pan or kettle or cauldron or pot. All that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. 15 Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give meat for the priest to roast, for he will not accept boiled meat from you but only raw.” 16 And if the man said to him, “Let them burn the fat first, and then take as much as you wish,” he would say, “No, you must give it now, and if not, I will take it by force.” 17 Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt.
(1 Samuel 2:11-17)
After traveling to Shiloh, Elkanah (and his family, including Hannah) then went home to Ramah, leaving Samuel behind where he was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli the priest.
Today’s passage introduces us to the sons of Eli and some of what was going on at the tabernacle at this time. It wasn’t good. This was a time when the nation of Israel was very corrupt with everyone doing whatever they wanted [Judges 21:25]. People were not following God. Sadly, this was true even in God’s house.
The sons of Eli were worthless men. And even though they worked in tabernacle serving God they did not know the Lord. Eli’s sons functioned in an official capacity in the tabernacle and were in line to succeed their father. But they were corrupt. That is why God needed someone to replace them. And that is why Samuel, although just a boy at this point, was brought to the tabernacle.
Just because someone holds a holy place within a church does not mean they have a relationship with the one true God. We see a good example of this within the Catholic church. Many priests, who speak holy words and dress in priestly garb, seem to be men of God. But their actions in private are unspeakable and betray their spiritual claims.
It is not what one says or wears on the outside that matters. What matters is what is in our heart. Anyone can fake spirituality and fool the people. But God knows our hearts [Jeremiah 17:10; Matthew 6:4; 1 Corinthians 2:11]. But in the case of Eli’s sons, they weren’t even trying to keep their behavior secret.
Once of the functions of the priests was to receive a peace offering from the people. God had spelled out the exact manner in which this offering was to be conducted including which portions of the sacrificed animal were to be given to Him and to the priests [Leviticus 7:28-36]. But this is not how Eli’s sons conducted the peace offering.
They took whatever pieces of meat they wanted even though they tried to make it seem like it was a random result of the three-pronged fork being thrust into the pot. Nor would they accept boiled meat. They wanted only raw meat presumably so they could prepare it anyway they liked (or maybe sell it as raw meat would have more value than cooked).
The fat of the sacrificed animal was considered the choicest part and as such was to offered up to God by being burned. But Eli’s sons would not allow this. They even wanted this portion of the animal – a portion that belonged to God.
Notice that if the people tried to make a deal with Eli’s sons by offering them as much meat as they wanted in exchange for offering the fat to God, they (the sons) would get angry and violent, taking it by force if necessary. Even if the people wanted to honor God, Eli’s sons would not allow it. That’s as bad as it gets.
But as bad as their selfish and ungodly behavior was, it was the result of their behavior that was more troubling: the people treated the offering of the Lord with contempt.
The behavior of Eli’s sons affected the relationship the people had with God. People started having contempt for God’s commands because they were being hurt by them and by the very ones who were supposed to administer them.
When professing Christians sin they can lead others away from God. People who teach morality must themselves be moral. A sincerely lived life is just as much of an argument for what one believes as are words to the same effect. In fact, it is likely a more powerful argument. Anyone can claim to believe God. But the proof is in the lifestyle that accompanies those words.
Nowhere is this more true than those who serve God in an official capacity.
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