My country has recently had a Royal Commission into abuse largely perpetrated by priests and other church leaders over many decades.
1 Samuel 2:12-17
12 Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord. 13 Now it was the practice of the priests that, whenever any of the people offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand while the meat was being boiled 14 and would plunge the fork into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot. Whatever the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. 15 But even before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the person who was sacrificing, “Give the priest some meat to roast; he won’t accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.”
16 If the person said to him, “Let the fat be burned first, and then take whatever you want,” the servant would answer, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.”
17 This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt.
The findings from the Royal Commission have been extensive and, in many cases, quite shocking. The Bible reminds us that there is ‘nothing new under the sun’ especially when it comes to the outworking of sin in the human heart.
Here we meet a couple of priests – Phinehas and Hophni – described as scoundrels who had no regard for the Lord, who abuse their positions of authority and power. They are putting themselves before the people they are serving. The sons of Eli are similar to the priests identified in the Royal Commission, and are putting their own gluttony before the forgiveness of sins of the people. There was a provision for them to take an appropriate portion of meat used in the sacrifice, but these goons wanted more than that – they wanted the raw meat to have for themselves – a larger portion to be cooked the way they wanted. And if it wasn’t handed over then it would be taken by force.
Things are not good for Israel at this time. But, in the future, God will raise up another priest – a faithful High Priest, Jesus, who will faithfully carry out his priestly office. Oh, what a contrast Jesus is to these two! Jesus doesn’t just sacrifice meat without regard for the portion he might take, he sacrifices himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He holds nothing back.
Through his sacrifice we are forgiven, and we are free to live lives that reflect that forgiveness of being a son and daughter of a loving, heavenly father. We are also free to serve God and others in the way that Jesus did – sacrificially.
Unfortunately, in some quarters of the church abuses of this type – greed, gluttony and self-service – do occur. This passage reminds us of the root cause – ‘they had no regard for the Lord’. Let’s not get discouraged when abuse of this nature occurs but let’s keep our eyes on Jesus who never abused his position, but poured himself out in the service of others, motivated by love for his Father and his people.
Head: What usually goes through your mind when you hear of cases of abuse perpetrated by church leaders? Are you able to make a connection between the abuse and people ‘not having regard for the Lord’ and continue to love Jesus and his church?
Heart: Do you have trouble trusting that God will provide what you need when you need it, or do you tend to hold things back through lack of trust – be it your time, food, money?
Hands: Is there a practical way you can serve someone today the way Jesus served?
Prayer: Dear Father, it is easy for us to look at Eli’s sons and believe we would never have done the same as them if we were in that position. However, it often doesn’t take much for us to take our eyes off Jesus, and his example of sacrificial service, and start serving ourselves in all manner of ways. We thank-you that Jesus was different from Phinehas and Hophni, as he sacrificed his very self for our sin. We thank you we can serve like him with the help of your Holy Spirit.
A song to listen to: Only a Holy God
Tim Hewlett – Creek Road Presbyterian Church- Carina