Even though Eli and his family are God’s chosen priests, Eli’s two sons don’t live up to the name.
1 Samuel 2:27-36 (focusing on 27-33)
27 Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Did I not clearly reveal myself to your ancestor’s family when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh? 28 I chose your ancestor out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in my presence. I also gave your ancestor’s family all the food offerings presented by the Israelites. 29 Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?’
30 “Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. 31 The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age, 32 and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age. 33 Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.
34 “‘And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same day. 35 I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always. 36 Then everyone left in your family line will come and bow down before him for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread and plead, “Appoint me to some priestly office so I can have food to eat.”’”
The tribe of Levi, which Eli is descended from, were supposed to be the tribe of priests—the chosen people within the chosen people. And only a few people within that chosen tribe were allowed to hear from God directly by serving him in the temple. They were sort of the very inner circle of Israel.
You’d expect them to be the ones who knew what was going on, right?
So, it’s a bit strange here that Eli the priest is approached by a seemingly random person, whom God uses to scold him. Eli has his heritage backing him up. He’s supposed to be God’s representative before Israel. This prophet who comes to him doesn’t even get named. He is a nobody. The writer of Samuel doesn’t concern himself with delving into this guy’s family tree – it’s his message that’s important.
Being in the inner circle means nothing if their actions don’t show they are obeying God. It’s not family connections that link us to God, but faith.
Jesus himself brings it up later on in John. When the Jews tell him, ‘Abraham is our father,” Jesus answers, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, then you would do what Abraham did.’
And remember Hannah, earlier in Samuel? She was able to give up her son, her own family, to display her faith to God.
With God, family means nothing without faith.
Head: What have you inherited from your family? Do you act like they do?
Heart: Like Eli’s sons, are there things that you should be sacrificing to God that instead are sacrificed to yourself?
Hands: What would it look like to act like children of Abraham?
Prayer: Lord, thank-you that you see us as more than flesh and blood. More important than being part of an earthly family, we are part of a heavenly family in your kingdom. Help us remember that the bonds of faith we have with the Holy Spirit are stronger than the bonds of any earthly relationship. Give us opportunities to live in a way that demonstrates whose children we are. Amen.
A song to listen to: The Love of The Father
Zoe Harland- Creek Road Presbyterian Church- Carina