The Word of the Lord
1 Samuel 3
1 Samuel 2:12 (NKJV): Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord.
Eli was from the house and lineage of Aaron, the one chosen by God to be the Priest and spiritual leader of His people. The priesthood passed down for generations through the line of Aaron. These priests were responsible for leading Israel, and there was no king or governor. Israel was a theocracy, a nation ruled by God. Therefore, the Priests were the leaders that the people looked to for guidance in all matters, political and religious. There was no separation of church and state.
The Scriptures’ indictment of the sons of Eli begins with their corruption. The word that this word “corrupt” was translated from is most often translated “worthless one.”
As leaders, these sons of Eli were indeed “worthless ones.”
1 Samuel 2:13-17 explains how Eli’s sons defiled the sacrifices the people were making to the Lord. At the passing of their father, they would be the leaders and judges of Israel. However, they demonstrated by their behavior that they were utterly unfit for the job. Although they were to lead the people in worship, the Scriptures tell us that they did not know the Lord.
Eli addressed this issue with his boys. 1 Samuel 2:22-25 is enlightening as to the behavior of Eli’s sons and the consequences of it.
1 Samuel 2:22–25 (NKJV): 22Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 23So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. 24No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the Lord’s people transgress. 25If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the Lord, who will intercede for him?” Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the Lord desired to kill them.
Eli was telling his boys that they were stepping over a line that should not be crossed. They despised the things of God. They treated these things as if they had no meaning and used them for their own advantage and advancement. They took advantage of the people who they were to protect and shepherd. Look at how Eli pleads with them in verse twenty-five. “If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the Lord, who will intercede for him?”
However, Eli’s sons would not listen. Verse twenty-five tells us why they would not listen. “Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the Lord desired to kill them.”
For the person or nation that deliberately chooses to despise the Lord, there comes the point of no return. The Bible has a word for these people. It calls them mockers.
Proverbs 21:24 (NIV): The proud and arrogant person—“Mocker” is his name—behaves with insolent fury.
The word insolence fits. According to Webster, it means: insultingly contemptuous in speech or conduct. And then there is the word “fury.” According to Dictionary.com, fury means: violence; vehemence; fierceness. Putting these two words together -- the mocker pursues insulting contemptuous speech and conduct with fierce energy. This conduct is generally directed towards God, and God puts up with it for a time. God warns the mocker and gives them time to repent. In 1 Samuel 2 and 3, God warns Eli about the coming fate of his household. Twice they were warned, but they were mockers and contemptuously dismissed the warnings.
Later in Israel’s history, Solomon warned:
Proverbs 29:1 (NKJV): He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
Rebukes are given for the purpose of correction. The intent is that a person realizes that his actions are wrong, and he needs to change what he is doing. The word repent means to see that one’s direction is wrong and turn around and go in the opposite direction. The first message Jesus preached was “Repent.”
Dare we talk about sin at this point? Every person finds himself in conflict with God over sin. We do not want to admit the serious nature of our rebellion. We do not see that our behavior and attitudes are evil. We make mistakes, for sure, but our intentions are not evil. We are not vile or corrupt like Eli’s sons. The truth of the matter is that we all are sinners in rebellion against God and our hearts are just as corrupt as Eli’s sons’ hearts were. Read Romans 3:10-18 to understand God’s perspective on sin.
Romans 3:10–18 (NKJV): 10As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; 11There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. 12They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” 13“Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; “The poison of asps is under their lips”; 14“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” 15“Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16Destruction and misery are in their ways; 17And the way of peace they have not known.” 18“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Repentance is the first step in salvation. If a person desires eternal life, a relationship with God, and eternal happiness, then the problem of sin must be dealt with. I see the idea of sin scoffed at, and some that deny they are sinners. We are so smart that we do not even know how to take our sin seriously. We have redefined sin to suit our tastes and rejected what God says about sin in His word.
Eli’s sons are an early example of what happens to those who will not repent even after multiple rebukes. The nation of Israel is a later example of what happens to those who will not repent after numerous rebukes. They suffered through defeat and exile at the hands of the Babylonians. 2 Chronicles 36:16 tells us:
2 Chronicles 36:16 (NKJV): But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy.
Let us pray that none of us suffers the wrath of the Lord.
Because Eli’s sons were godless, and they were in charge of worship, the people’s relationship with God suffered. 1 Samuel 3:1 tells us:
1 Samuel 3:1 (NKJV): And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation.
The people were starved for the word of the Lord. Their connection to the Lord was cut off because Eli’s sons did not know the Lord. God gave Eli’s family time by not immediately wiping them out. Instead, He gave them time to repent. True to form, they scoffed at the warnings.
What a contrast Samuel was! From the time he was a little boy, Samuel served in the temple. The Scriptures show the difference in 1 Samuel 2:18.
1 Samuel 2:18 (NKJV): But Samuel ministered before the Lord, even as a child, wearing a linen ephod.
Samuel had the same teacher that Eli’s boys had — Eli. But Samuel was completely different. Even as a child, Samuel served. Serve is just another word for minister. This is the opposite of the mocker. Samuel was humble and was not too proud to serve. God loves a humble, teachable heart that trembles at His word. Look at where we meet Samuel in chapter 3.
1 Samuel 3:15 (NKJV): So Samuel lay down until morning, and opened the doors of the house of the Lord.
Here we have a young boy who is the first one up in the morning and is opening the doors of the house of the Lord. I imagine Eli’s sons had been partying too much the night before to get up early. But this young boy was serving, getting up before everyone else to get started at the work of the Lord.
This is the person the Lord chose to speak to. And when the Lord spoke to Samuel, Samuel took it to heart.
The word of the Lord was rare because those to whom it was entrusted scoffed at it. But Samuel was a faithful servant, not a mocker. He received the word of the Lord with the respect it deserved. This characterized Samuel’s life and ministry. He had the utmost respect for God’s word.
Next, we have the account of Samuel learning to know the voice of the Lord. The Lord came and stood by Samuel and called. Samuel thought it was Eli. Eli was old and mostly blind, and he was very fat, so he needed someone to wait on him, especially at night. Did Eli’s boys do this? No, Samuel did. Samuel’s bed was close by so that he was quickly at the old man’s side, saying, “You called?” Once again, we see how completely different Samuel’s attitude was. He responded immediately to the word of his teacher. He did not mock the old man’s weakness, nor did he complain, nor was he put out by being called upon. Three times the call was repeated, and each time Samuel immediately went to Eli. Finally, Eli realized what was happening and told Samuel to say, “Speak Lord, for your servant hears.”
And with that, the word of the Lord was once again heard in Israel. As a prophet, Samuel’s first job was to let his teacher and mentor know that God had decided to kill his sons and remove his family from their hereditary position. When Samuel had done this, we are told:
1 Samuel 3:19–20 (NKJV): 19So Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the Lord.
And so began the ministry of one of the great men of God in the Bible. He led Israel for many years; he established a school for prophets (preachers), and he anointed Saul and David.
If there is one thing we learn from all this, it is that we must never scoff at the word of the Lord. The Lord gives his word to help us, to strengthen us, to cause us to stand. His word is given for our correction. If we heed His word, we will live. But if we do not heed His word, we can be sure we will eventually be destroyed beyond remedy.
Do not scoff at the idea of sin. Do not mock God and His word. Consider carefully these words from 2 Peter.
2 Peter 3:1–7 (NKJV): 1Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 2that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, 3knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
We must seek the Lord
Eli’s family did not.
The Lord revealed Himself to Samuel.