THE SINS OF THE FATHER

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 4:12-22

“And she named the child Icabod, saying, ‘The glory has departed from Israel!’ because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband.” (I Samuel 4:21)

A verse that deeply troubles me is found in Exodus 34 — “but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:7b). This is precisely what we see in the family of Eli.

Eli at best was a spiritually weak man. Though he was a priest, he failed miserably to bring his sons up in the nurture and admonition of the the Lord. He did not discipline them nor give them spiritual direction. They were described as “worthless men” who did not know the Lord (2:12). They were unfaithful to the Lord and to their wives. They were severely judged by God and died as a result of their sinful lifestyles.

When Eli received the news about the defeat of Israel by the Philistines and about the capture of the ark of the covenant and about the death of his sons, he “fell over backward by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken, for the man was old and heavy” (v. 18). God foretold the judgment that He would bring on Eli’s house — “Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house” (2:31). Indeed, God will by no means clear the guilty. Eli and his sons met tragic deaths.

But the story does not end there. Eli’s daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, gave birth to a son. She died soon after the child’s birth. However, she lived long enough to give her son the name Icabod. Her last words were — “The glory has departed Israel.” The word Icabod means “where is the glory?”

Three generations were affected — Eli died; Hophni and Phinehas were killed; and Phinehas’ son was named “Icabod,” a terrible name for him to bear all his life. Surely this is a sobering warning to fathers. Our spiritual direction for our children (or the lack of it) can affect generations not yet born!

Lord God, I pray for fathers, for they are responsible to give the spiritual leadership to their families. I pray that You help fathers see the tremendous responsibilities they have to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Where fathers are failing, I pray for You to bring conviction upon them, that they would recognize their failures and turn to You in deep repentance. And I pray for mothers whose husbands are failing to provide the spiritual direction for their children. Give these mothers the wisdom and strength to fulfill their duties and the duties of their husbands who are failing as spiritual leaders in their homes.

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