In I Samuel we find a man named Eli, the Judge and High Priest for the ancient nation of Israel who angered God because he put the livelihood of his corrupt sons above his love and loyalty for the Lord. The Lord was displeased because Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas used their father’s office to run rackets, and morally corrupt the Lord’s people while Eli did nothing to stop them, but benefited from their ill-gotten gain.
Eli’s sons held no regard for the holiness of their priestly duties but, instead, perverted their priestly offices. Their father, Eli, would hear about the stealing, the adultery, and the extortion rackets that they openly practiced before the Tabernacle of the Lord but did not want to remove his sons from their positions although they were expressly violating the law of the Lord. Instead, he would give them petty words of rebuke with no consequences leaving them to not take their father seriously.
The sad part of this true story is the fact that Eli, himself, did not personally participate in any of these wicked activities, by many accounts he seemed to be a decent man who even trained and mentored young Samuel who later became a great prophet and Judge over the nation of Israel. Yet, he stood idly by while his sons caused the nation to sin against the Lord with their corrupt and perverted behavior. Eli was very old, in fact, the Bible says that he was 98 years old and was almost completely blind, therefore, he depended on his sons to perform most of his duties as High Priest and Judge or national Leader of the nation of Israel.
Yet, Eli was not completely innocent in all of this drama as we will see in our text. We pick up the story (as translated from the King James version Bible) in I Samuel 2:29-30 and 3:11-14,
(29)”Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?”
(30)”Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.”
(11)”And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle.”
(12)”In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end.”
(13)”For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.”
(14)”And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever.”
We discover from these verses that Eli seemed to have been profiting from the il-gotten gain of his sons while looking the other way, so to speak. Furthermore, his problem was not so much due to his personal unrighteousness but the unrighteousness that he overlooked although he still had the authority to both restrain and remove his sons from sinning before the Lord.
Eli’s sons were not his biggest problem. Although they were a big problem in his life, Eli’s biggest problem was the fact that he no longer loved and honored the Lord above anyone else. Being High Priest He knew this was one of the main commandments of God, yet he no longer put the Lord first. And this is where corruption comes into our lives, when we move the barriers to things that dishonor the Lord and allow our temples to be tarnished by the corruption of the world.
Had Eli looked back at his forefather Abraham, he would have seen that God expects His servants not to put anything including their own children above Him. Had this corruption been done by some other men who were not kin or close to him he probably would have not only had them removed from their priestly positions but might have had them put to death for corrupting the Tabernacle. But Eli was more partial to his children than to his God which was dangerous for him as well as for his sons. Therefore, the Lord was angry with Eli and decided to curse his entire linage.
All of Eli’s descendants would no longer have the chief offices among the priests of the Lord but would have to beg for smaller positions just to feed their families. Moreover, as if that was not enough, each male born in his family line would die young and never reach old age; Eli became the last male to live to a ripe old age. It does not pay to handle God’s business corruptly.
Lessons From Eli’s Failures.
What can we learn from Eli’s failures?
First, we should honor and love the Lord above our most dearest loved-ones and friends. We should not allow anyone who we have authority over, dishonor God in our homes, in our businesses, and definitely in our churches. If we see corruption of the Lord’s business, we should quickly address it and seek to stop this corruption at every turn. This is a serious matter in the eyes of the Lord.
The second thing that we can gather from Eli’s story is that we should try to remain impartial in our judgment in the work of God. If someone that we are close to is speaking things that are not based on the Bible, we should correct them. If someone that we are close to wants us to participate in sinful behavior, we should reject the behavior and distance ourselves from them until they repent.
The third thing that we can get from this story is that we would be weak leaders if we fail to take the necessary actions to correct corruption in the House of the Lord or in our own house or space that we control. The Apostle Paul gave us an example in I Corinthians chapter 5 when he corrected the young man that slept with his father’s wife. He instructed the church, at that time, to put the young man out and turn him over to Satan until he repented of his sins. Tradition says that the young man did, in fact, repent and was restored to full fellowship with the church.
Finally, the fourth thing that we must gather from this story involving Eli’s sons is that God will judge corruption even if we do not. God expects the leaders among His people to not allow His church or ministry or Bible study to become jaded and perverted with corruption. But if our leaders don’t do anything, God will do something and it will be devastating. Furthermore, when God steps in to discipline His church and His people, their blood will be on the hands of the leaders that did not speak up.
In conclusion, we must uphold our love and respect for the things of God above anything or anyone else. We, also must keep in mind that power corrupts. Where we have the power and authority to do so, we must take a stand against sinful corruption and be led by the Holy Spirit in all that we do. We have to guard our eyes, our minds, and our spirits from the perversion of sin. When we fall we must, like the young man that Paul had to deal with, get up and be restored to our fellowship with God and with his people. And, I might add, if we are in a corrupt church or ministry where we do not have the authority, we must prayerfully leave and go somewhere where we can serve God in Spirit and in Truth. A-men