1 Samuel 1 to 1 Samuel 4.
Hey all, we’re going to go through 4 chapters today and trace the life of a man and his two sons. Eli the man, and his two sons, Hophni and Phineas. The setting, the story, the events, the behavior are exactly what happens today. The Bible is right, and more right than you can possibly know. We will also culminate in contrasting this man with another man in the Bible… because there was another man, called Jesse, who had a son called David. Fathers and sons. More people are like Eli today than like Jesse. Jesse was a godly, faithful man… so much so, and so rare in his day, just like these days… that the Bible says he “went among men as an old man in the days of Saul”. What a compliment, and what a damning thing to say of the men of Israel. Just like, what a damning thing to say of the men of Christianity today. There are many biological men, but not many actual godly men worth their salt today. The times of the Judges and Saul were exactly like the days we face today, the religion back then is just like Christianity today. So we can learn, heed and obey. Because this is a severe story, both incredibly relevant and incredibly serious.
At the end of Judges, we read that every man did that which was right in his own eyes. That’s Christianity today? Everyone’s doing as they see fit. There is no authority, there is no singularity of anything… do what you want. Why did they do like they did? Because the Bible says there was no king in Israel. When you have a king, you have authority, and power to exercise authority, and that kingdom falls under the king’s authority. Today in Christianity there is no king… there is no KING James Bible, everyone has their own word of God, their own interpretation, their own way. Authority has been torn down, and now everyone pulls to his or her own way. And thus Christianity is a mess, just like God’s nation, Israel, was a mess. God’s “people” have always tended to be the worst of the worst. But most of God’s people aren’t actually God’s people, they bear the name, but they are spiritual bastards, because Hophni and Phineas, although men of God by name, the Bible says they were sons of Belial. Belial means devil. They were children not of God, but of Satan. There you go! They probably would’ve had you fooled, because they attended prayer meetings, they were the spiritual guides of the day, but hey, God had finished with them long before the Philistine swords cut them in two.
Anyway, here we go.
There was a man called Eli. He was a priest, and he had two sons, Hophni and Phineas, who were priests also. They worked in the tabernacle, in the service and worship of God. They had a privileged God given role which had been given to their father, and his father’s father… it was in the family line. What a precious privilege to be able to do God’s work. Today we are going to translate this to what modern day looks like… the Bible is useless to you if it’s not relevant and practical. They were in the tabernacle, and the tabernacle equivalent today is church. So they grew up in church, and they were involved in doing church, doing religion, in doing the Lord’s work. Lots of people do the Lord’s work, or so they claim, today. If it was modern day, they’d be pastors and pastors kids. It’s quite a big deal, its quite a calling, because God is God, souls are at stake, the name of Jesus Christ is at stake, so you’d think there would be some holiness, character, reverence, and respect wouldn’t you?
Well anyway, the story actually starts with a woman called Hannah. She was a godly, virtuous woman, with a wonderful heart turned to God. But she was barren. How typical is this. The actual godly person going through tough times, she badly wanted a kid, but nope, God made her wait. She didn’t appear to be blessed, barrenness back then was associated with God not blessing you. So it was quite a damning review. But God sees the heart, and although to the external viewer it’d appear she had done something wrong to deserve this, or she wasn’t really worthy of God’s blessing… God was actually doing a much greater work. He was trying her faith, he was growing her in him, because when Samuel, her firstborn son came along, as a result of the fiery trials she went through… she had grown so much in the faith, and today God let’s bad things happen to good people, and it seems unfair, it seems that it pays to be wicked, but in the longterm, God uses the trials and tribulations of current life to work future and eternal glory and blessedness. There are barren Christians out there doing their level best to honor God, and it doesn’t appear to be paying off, their lives don’t seem to be amounting to anything! But the Bible says let patience have her perfect work.
Anyway, so we go on. Hannah didn’t go into the temple. Why didn’t she? Because something was going on inside the temple, something she didn’t want to be part of. The Bible commanded the people of Israel to go to the temple to offer their sacrifices and get to God. Just like we should go to church to hear God’s word and worship God. But you can worship God and pray with or without being at chruch. And you cant go to a church where Hophni and Phineas are in command. Jesus says come out f rom among them and be ye separate all ye that bear the vessels of the Lord. Jesus went into the temple in his day and overthrew the table and took a whip and drove all the filth out the temple. The fact is, the temple as a haven of sin, which made it a bit of a problem and a stumbling block for Israel (which is why God was so severe on this wicked family, because they were dragging his name and the lives of people who saw the filth and hypocrisy through the mud). How typical of Christianity today… the people doing most damage to the name of Christ aren’t the people who just live wickedly, they’re the Christians that live wickedly. No wonder the Bible says judgement MUST FIRST begin at he house of God. No wonder the Bible says in 2 Chronicles 7:14 – If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. The people that need the gospel the most, and who need to repent and obey the most, are actually the “Christians”. Hannah got physically as close as she could, because she wanted to obey God, but she didn’t want to interact with Hophni and Phineas. Because these guys… what were they doing? They were adulterers, they were fornicators, they were sexually FILTHY. They were evil, wicked men. And she wasn’t like the women that lay with Hophni and Phineas, she wasn’t going to be part of it. Because she was a rare woman, a Proverbs 31 woman, not a Proverbs 7 woman. Hannah had come to pray and worship God, she hadn’t come to sleep around with some wicked priests of “God”.
And so we are first introduced to Eli. And this is SO typical of an Eli kind of person. Eli was your garden variety “good” man. He doesn’t seem that bad at face value, he was so lukewarm, just “there”. But actually, he was where the rot started. The first introduction to Eli will teach us something about an Eli kind of Christian. Hannah was there pouring her heart out to God. And Eli was watching her. Typical Eli, they’re a viewer, not a doer. Remember when Elisha went with Elijah over Jordan, and the chariot caught up Elijah? Well there were a whole heap of prophets watching them the whole way, but none went and picked up the mantle. They were viewers, not doers. Eli was watching someone else actually praying to God, and actually living the Christian life… Hannah. But wait for it… then Eli does what? He thinks she’s drunk. An Eli kind of Christian is someone who has lost all spiritual potency. No salt, no light… and thus “good for nothing”. Eli was good for nothing, just as Jesus said, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men… as his life and testimony forever was. But we are building up to the almost delicious irony of Eli’s life. He accused Hannah of being drunk, and told her to put away the wine from her. Just imagine this priest, sitting there all high and mighty, and telling some peasant woman with great moral indignation what she needs to do from his high and mighty position in life. This great priest of God, judge of Israel, really putting her in her place. Stop being so drunk Hannah, sober up! She incurred the great and mighty moral indignation from Eli. But wait just a minute…
We at this point it the story are yet to be introduced to Eli’s two sons. But now we are as we read along. And we read they were sons of Belial, they were wicked, so wicked that the men of Israel abhorred going to the tabernacle. Because they were adulterers, fornicators, they stole the sacrifices, they defiled the holy offerings of the temple. Well, well, and here’s Eli telling a godly woman off, whom he has absolutely zero perception on, who is obeying God and God is hearing her, but Eli the priest is busy telling her off… while doing nothing about his son’s wickedness. What delicious hypocrisy. And a typical Eli Christian is a fake Christian who is indignant against a real Christian actually living and DOING the word. It’s unbelievable how accurate the Bible is. Any real saved person has experienced this. You obey God’s word and the fake Christians around you will tell you off, they’re quick to jump down your throat (not even knowing what’s really going on), but they turn a blind eye to actual wickedness, usually in their own backyard. But wow, they’ll load you up with their moral indignation, they’re so much more loving, understanding, holy and righteous than an actual Christian standing on God’s word. Hannah was the barren one, Eli had inherited a great privilege and blessing… so it may have looked like Eli was the one in tune with God. But Hannah didn’t know God had stopped talking to Eli. So bad was Eli’s relationship to God, that he didn’t speak to Eli anymore. God spoke to a child over Eli. God used other people, it was a man of God that came to the temple one day and declared what God was doing it, who said WHY have you honored your sons above me? But here we are, Eli sitting at the temple and Hannah experiences the rebuke of someone who has the name, but isn’t actually in the game. Things were definitely not as they seemed. Well Eli, what you said was right, it is good not to be drunk, but Hannah was not drunk, she was praying to God and living it out, her son … was Samuel… who was not like Hophni and Phineas, Eli’s sons. Well Eli, you were quick to (wrongly) point out error in someone else and jump on your high horse and speak into Hannah’s life, but meanwhile you were doing this, your sons were in bed with women. Wake up Eli. How typical of an Eli Christian, they are actually quite self righteous types, but they have completely and utterly missed the boat. Eli was so far off the truth, the priest of God, was more out of touch with God and more of a stranger to truth than anyone else in Israel. How often we see men in the Lord’s work, and yet their own house is not in order, their own backyard is full of abominations while they’re busy trying to set someone else’s backyard (which is fine) in order. The real Christians generally experience the hypocritical moral indignation of the fake Christians. A fake Christian telling a real Christian off… part of God testing a real Christian’s faith, just as Hannah’s was.
Eli had two sons who were adulterers, fornicators, thieves… all under the auspieces of the priesthood. And God was done with them. While they were living and breathing God was already finished with them. It’s a serious thing to do what they did, to live as they did. They had their chance, and a good long chance, just as Eli did. But Eli, we are told, did not restrain his sons, he did not intervene, he did not ACT. He weakly protested at their wickedness, but they didn’t hear him. An Eli Christian has absolutely no power to affect other peopel’s lives. Their word is meaningless. Look at Lot, he warned his sons in law that fire and brimstone was about to rain down on Sodom… and look what the Bible says… he seemed as one that mocked. They thought Lot was having a laugh, Lot being serious came off to his sons in law as him joking. Think they could take his word seriously? When the angels came to Sodom… where was his wife? She was out enjoying her social life in Sodom, probably gossiping, and having sister time with the women of Sodom. Lot made a bad choice of wife quite clearly, even when they left, his wife looked back, she didn’t want to go, she loved it there! Eli had no power to change events, he was an old man biologically, but he wasn’t a wise man who people listened to, and whose word people valued. At this point, we will look to another man in the Bible, a man called Jesse. Because he was a younger man at the point we are introduced to him… but the Bible says in 1 Samuel 17:12 – “… and the man went among men for an old man in the days of Saul.” What does this mean? Think about it. There weren’t many good men in Israel, Jesse was a godly, just man, and he may not have been liked, but he was like an old man… in the sense of he was wise, people listened, his word had power, he had a testimony and witness.. he had wisdom. Age doesn’t mean you’re wise, it should, but it doesn’t. You can be a silly old man, and you can have a wise young man. Wisdom is not proportional to age, it’s proportional to whether you have the Spirit of God. Samuel was a child who had more wisdom than Eli, a man MUCH older than he was… for he was a child and Eli was old. Yet God spoke to Samuel, not to Eli! What a damning, DAMNING indictment on Eli’s life, for God to not speak to him, but speak to a child instead.
Jesse had a son called David (among 8 sons). Eli had two sons called Hophni and Phineas. Chalk and cheese isn’t it. They were different men, different fathers, made of different stuff. Eli was a priest, a judge, Jesse wasn’t. Yet Jesse was a godly man, and Eli wasn’t. Jesse couldn’t “get saved” for David, neither could Eli for his sons. But they had different offspring, because they were different men, who had different walk with God, and did life differently. They raised their kids differently. Jesse’s son was a keeper of sheep who obeyed his father, whom his father could trust, who respected his father, who’s father’s word had power in his life who raised his child to be able to save sheep from a bear and from a lion. Meanwhile Eli had sons who slept around with women, who cheated on their wives, who disregarded God… David had such confidence in God that he slew Goliath, Eli’s sons had such contempt for God that they stole God’s sacrifices, they blasphemed God’s name with their wicked lives and deeds. Jesse and Eli… they were different men, thus they were different fathers, and they had different sons. Eli’s family line got terminated. God cancelled their privilege in the priesthood, their great family blessing was turned into a perpetual curse, Eli’s heritage was forfeited completely and forever. All because he didn’t intervene in his son’s life, because he didn’t make their sin HIS business. Because it was, he was priest and father. It was his business, it was his duty… not a recommendation, not a good idea… it was his JOB to raise his children for God, with God consciousness, in the fear of the Lord. But he didn’t. He had no issue telling Hannah off, but wasn’t quite so strong with his wicked sons. God is no respecter of persons, but Eli was… and his story stops at him and his sons. Jesse’s story goes to David… which goes to Jesus, because Jesus came through David’s line. Obeying God does count and does last.
Hophni and Phineas did all the God stuff, but they were the worst, wicked people in Israel. They caused a nation to hate God, they caused a nation to hate… ABHOR… coming to the tabernacle to worship God and offer their sacrifices. They should not have done this, but they did it. It is their story. And it’s recorded in the Bible, 1 Samuel 1 to 1 Samuel 4. One of their wives had a son, and she died after giving birth, but not before naming the child. She called him Ichabod… which means “the glory has departed”. God departed from Eli and his family. That wife, whom was cheated upon repeatedly, who had a wicked godless husband… she knew what happened. God was long gone. He, as he said, had found someone else that would obey him and hear him. God had found Samuel, God had honored Hannah’s prayer… the very prayer that Eli the priest was giving his self righteous hypocritical moral indignation against was what God would honour and produce a son in an actual godly parent’s life through whom the new priest and word of God would come. Eli really should’ve sorted out his own house. But the time for obeying God came, and it went. The bottom line is, it is too late. The Bible says remember thy Creator in thy youth. Because you get one youth, that is your chance to honour God. When you are old, you can’t get it back. He had his chance to parent for God, but it went… he couldn’t get it back, nor could he reverse it. He had to obey God then and there. Look at the children of Israel, God told them to go into the promised land, but they refused in unbelief. Then God said, ok, you’re not going in. Game over… but then they actually tried going in, and failed. Their window to obey God closed, and God turned it over to the next generation. Eli had years to parent for God, but that season of time ended, and it was too late. That’s why … now is the time, today is the day of salvation. Because as Jesus said, night comes, when no man can work. When your day, your day of grace, is over… and the night falls… it will be too late to obey God and do right. Eli won’t get a chance to parent right, he won’t get another chance to obey God, he won’t get another chance to grab his son’s and KICK them out the temple… which is what he should’ve done. Because they were his sons, he did not honour God. And he lost EVERYTHING. Read it for yourself, it’s all in 1 Samuel 1 to 4… in God’s eternal word, which is the… truth.
Somehow we get it in our minds that God doesn’t mean what he says. But he always has, and always will. Unlike us, he honours his word. He’ll bless you for the word’s sake, to honour his word. After all, we are only even forgiven for his Son’s sake. You and I weren’t forgiven because of us, we were forgiven because Jesus pleased God, and for Jesus’ sake, we are in turn forgiven through him. Life is only in Jesus Christ. The only true life you will ever get is through Christ, there is life in no other… truth in no other. Somehow we don’t think it really matters and that God’s sovereignty will override all our decisions, somehow we think that grace is a blank cheque to live in sin and yet still be blessed by God. Somehow we think that that Bible applies to everyone else, but I’m a special case. Somehow we get all these lies in our head… but the Lord God is the same now as he was back then. He doesn’t change. It’s just as serious now as it was back then. This story is recorded as warning, because there are many Eli’s, there are many Hophni’s and there are many Phineas’s… God is warning us today. God speaks THROUGH his word, and he speaks today, and that voice, just like wisdom in Proverbs, she utters her voice, she cries out… but who will hear and heed?