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We Can Change Our Behavior Or God Will Change It For Us

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11 And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. 12 At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. 13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them. 14 Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’” 15 Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, 16 but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son.” Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 17 “What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes.” 19 The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.
(1 Samuel 3:11-21)


Yesterday we read about God calling to Samuel in the middle of the night. It was the first time Samuel had heard from God. Today we learn what the Lord said to Samuel.

God told Samuel that He was about to do something in Israel about which people would talk. Word would get around – people would talk about it over and over. At that time He would carry out against Eli everything He spoke against his family.

If we recall, God had previously told Eli (through a messenger) that He would punish Eli, Eli’s sons, and their future descendants for their sins [1 Samuel 2:27-36]. If would appear that this first message was a warning. Perhaps if Eli and his son’s repented and changed their ways God would spare them.

The events of today’s passage are likely several months or even a couple of years later. Apparently Eli and his son’s did not change their behavior. So now everything God told Eli He would do will be done – all of it, from beginning to end.

It’s not apparent that Samuel knew about the details of God’s coming judgement upon Eli. God does not reiterate the details here. He simply tells Samuel that He told Eli that He would judge Eli’s family because of the sin he (Eli) knew about.

Notice Eli knew about his sin [1 Samuel 2:22]. He knew about it long before God confronted him about it. Yet he did nothing about it.

All Christians make unintentional mistakes. But God is not unreasonable. He doesn’t treat those the same way He treats intentional sin. When one of His own (as Eli was) knows he/she is sinning and doesn’t do anything to stop their behavior he/she can expect God to stop it for them.

And it certainly goes without saying that it would be better if we stopped our bad behavior ourselves rather than having God stop it for us.

Notice that there was no going back now. God wasn’t going to change His mind. There would be no stay of execution. There was no more opportunity for Eli to correct the situation. The guilt of Eli’s house could no longer be atoned for. Judgment was coming. Eli didn’t stop his behavior. So now God was going to stop it for him.

Notice that God gave Eli a warning. He told him in no-uncertain terms that He was displeased with his and his sons’ sin and He gave them a chance to repent. The verb “to repent” simply means “to change”. More specifically, in biblical terms it means to change one’s mind and agree with God.

God gives everyone chance after chance after chance to repent – to leave their life of sin and view themselves as God views them. He is constantly exposing people to His message of free salvation through Jesus.

He hopes people decide on their own to accept His offer as He does not want to see anyone face His judgment for their sins [Isaiah 30:18; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9]. But neither will He force anyone to repent against their will.

But make no mistake, God is not patient forever. He’s patient for a long time. But He will not tolerate sin endlessly. People who are actively, knowingly, and unapologetically engaged in sinful behavior will have their behavior stopped one way or the other.

Perhaps God will bring about some event in their life that will cause them to stop (e.g. being arrested). Or perhaps God will stop their behavior by ending their life. As we’ve previously studied, this is God’s prerogative and is something He can and will do.

Of course, this applies to countries as well. Hundreds of years after the events in today’s passage Israel became a sinful nation. God sent messenger after messenger after messenger to warn them about their behavior, pleading with them to change. But they did not. So the nation of Israel was destroyed.

Sadly, the United States is on this very same course. God graciously created this nation as a beacon of hope, much like He did with Israel. And like Israel, God gave us tremendous resources, prosperity, and influence. But like Israel we have rejected God and have chosen to create a wantonly sinful culture that knowingly promotes and celebrates behavior God tells us is sin including abortion, pornography, and homosexuality.

God has been very patient with the United States. But He will not be patient forever. His judgment is coming. We can avoid it by repenting and changing our behavior. But if we don’t, God will change it for us.

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

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