Scripture Reading: I Samuel 2:22-36
“Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. And he said to them, ‘Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people.'” (I Samuel 2:22,23)
The story of Eli and his sons has a tragic ending as we will see. The sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were described as “worthless men” (v. 12). They too were priests but they “treated the offering of the Lord with contempt” (v. 17). They were adulterers who would not listen to the voice of their father (v. 25). They were adults but the problem goes back long before this time. They did not honor their father.
What can we learn from Eli? He was a failure as a father. Although he was a priest, he was spiritually weak. He did not even recognize prayer when he saw it (1:13). God sent a messenger to warn Eli (vs. 27-36). The messenger reported to Eli what God said concerning him — “Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded, and honor your sons above Me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of My people Israel?” (v. 29). It seems that Eli participated in some way in the sins of his sons.
Eli failed to discipline his sons. He did little more than to tell them what he had heard about them (vs. 22-25). He did not exercise tough love. Eli’s sons were guilty of serious offenses but he did very little about it. In fact, he honored his sons above the Lord (v. 29).
Two things stand out to me. First is the importance of providing discipline for our children. Failing to discipline our children is so unloving — “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastens every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:5,6). It seems that Eli had a pattern of neglecting discipline for his sons.
Second is the responsibility we have to ensure that our children have every opportunity to know the gospel of Jesus Christ — “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Although Eli was a priest, he failed miserably in the spiritual nurturing of his sons. He set a poor example before them and he neglected to nurture his sons spiritually.
Heavenly Father, I pray for fathers today. I pray that you grant us wisdom to raise our children to love and serve You. I pray that you enable us to love our children enough to discipline them when they need it. I pray that You enable me to set a godly example before my children and grandchildren. Let them see Jesus in me.
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