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Unfaithful Servants Will Not Thwart God’s Plans

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)

The other day we studied the punishments meted out by God to Eli, Hophni, Phinehas and their descendants for their abhorrent behavior in the tabernacle.

Since these actual judgments were not going to happen for many years, God gave Eli a sign that He meant business. It would be easy for Eli to assume God was bluffing if he didn’t see these things come true in the near future – as many God-doubters do today. So God gave Eli a sign to prove He was serious.

That sign would be that both Hophni and Phinehas would die on the same day. It would be unusual for two siblings to die on the same day, unless they were involved in some accident or event. They likely wouldn’t die at the same time from natural causes. Their simultaneous deaths would prove to Eli that everything else God said would come true.

Furthermore, God would raise up a faithful priest for Himself who would do according to what is in His heart and mind.

Notice that God’s plans are never neglected or set aside, even when those He calls on to carry them out are unfaithful. God may reject the unfaithful worker, as he did with Eli and his sons. But He will never allow the work to do go undone.

God’s plans will be carried out. He will find someone who wants to serve Him, although as time goes on the number of people God has to choose from will dwindle.

But not only does God work through people, He works with people. We do some of the work and God does some of the work. In this passage we see that God’s role in this will be to build a sure (i.e. permanent) house for His priest. And that priest shall go in and out (i.e. serve) before God’s anointed forever.

In human terms, God’s anointed are His kings. At this time Israel did not yet have a king. But as we’ll see later in our study of 1 Samuel, Israel will want a king and God will give them one. Israel will have a series of kings until the time they are conquered and exiled off their land.

In a sense today’s prophetic passage was fulfilled in Samuel because he will function as a priest before the first kings of Israel after Eli is dead. It was also fulfilled in Zadok, in the days of Solomon, because he replaced one of Eli’s descendants as the official priest [1 Kings 5:27]. From that point on, no one from Eli’s family ever served as a priest again.

But ultimately, this was fulfilled in Jesus because He is a priest forever [Hebrews 7:12-17]. Jesus is also God’s permanent and final king over mankind. This is doubtless seen in the use of the term Hebrew word “מָשִׁיחַ” (translated here as “anointed“).

This introduces us to the biblical concept of “double fulfillment” when it comes to prophecy. Often, a prophetic statement, such as today’s passage would be fulfilled twice. The first time would be in the not-to-distant future, relative to the time it was delivered. But there would also be a second, and greater, fulfillment sometime in the distant future.

Prophecies that are doubly fulfilled are almost always ultimately fulfilled by Jesus with the first fulfillment – a human – being a symbolic pointer to Jesus.

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


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