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God Holds Fathers Responsible For Their Children’s Behavior

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27 And there came a man of God to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Did I indeed reveal myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt subject to the house of Pharaoh? 28 Did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? I gave to the house of your father all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel. 29 Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’ 30 Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. 31 Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. 32 Then in distress you will look with envious eye on all the prosperity that shall be bestowed on Israel, and there shall not be an old man in your house forever. 33 The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep his eyes out to grieve his heart, and all the descendants of your house shall die by the sword of men. 34 And this that shall come upon your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day. 35 And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever. 36 And everyone who is left in your house shall come to implore him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread and shall say, “Please put me in one of the priests’ places, that I may eat a morsel of bread.”’”
(1 Samuel 2:27-36)

In today’s passage a man of God comes to Eli to speak with him and pronounce God’s judgment on him. We don’t know who this man was. Whoever he was he was sent by God to deliver His message (as noted by his words “thus says the Lord“) to Eli.

God uses people to reveal Himself to other people. He does this throughout the Bible, especially in the Old Testament with the many prophets He sent. Samuel will be the first of these prophets.

In this case God’s message to Eli started with review of how Eli came to be the high priest in the first place. It came about because God made it happen. God revealed Himself to the house (ancestors) of Eli’s father (Aaron) when they (all the Israelites including Eli’s ancestors) were in Egypt being treated like slaves by Pharaoh. Out of all the tribes of Israel, God chose Aaron and his descendants to be His priest.

Being a priest in the tabernacle (and later the Temple) was a great honor and should have been seen as such by Eli and his sons. God could have chosen any of the families in Israel for this important work. But Eli did not treat his position with honor. He let it be ruined by the behavior of his sons.

Eli scorned God’s sacrifices and offerings. Even worse, Eli honored his sons above God by fattening himself on the choicest parts of every offering. The choicest parts of each sacrifice (e.g. the fat) was to be dedicated to God by being burnt. But Eli and his sons took it for themselves.

Notice a couple of things here. First, God knows exactly what is going on. He sees everything and knows every intention. The manner in which Eli’s sons took the meat appeared to be random [1 Samuel 2:13-14], but God knew otherwise. There was nothing random about it. It was designed to provide Hophni and Phinehas with that which belonged to God. Second, even though Eli was not the one taking the meat, he apparently benefitted from his son’s actions. It wasn’t just Hophni and Phinehas who enjoyed the choicest parts; Eli enjoyed them too.

God doesn’t like it when people abuse the blessings He gives them. Doing so will always lead to loss of reward, as we’ll see tomorrow. He especially doesn’t like it when people who are supposed to be leading people to Him through their service end up leading people away from Him. Such people (e.g. Catholic priests) will suffer the consequences of their actions either here on this earth or in eternity (or perhaps both).

Notice also that even though Eli was not the one who was primarily disobeying God, he was held responsible. This is consistent with how God works.

It was Eve who first disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit. Yet it was Adam God held responsible [Genesis 3:9-11]. Fathers/husbands are commanded by God to be the leaders of their family [Ephesians 5:23, 6:4]. They are responsible for the actions of their wives and children and for how closely (or distant) those family members are from God. Hophni and Phinehas sinned badly and were certainly responsible for their behavior.

But as their father (not to mention their boss in the tabernacle), so was Eli.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.



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