The day had faded, all was night, the mountain they were climbing was erupting fire all around them, it was a fearful sight. They couldn’t go on, weary from a difficult journey, they were almost at the end, but couldn’t find the strength needed to finish. It was at this point that Samwise Gamgee looked at Frodo Baggins, picked him up on his shoulders, and resolved to finish the journey right then and there. Some of you have read this scene in Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings,’ where Sam shows a courageous resolve to finish the journey they’ve begun. It never fails to captivate me each time I read this portion of the book, because the resolve Sam shows is the kind of resolve I yearn to have.
Well as great and courageous as Sam’s resolve is, in light of God’s resolve for His own renown, the resolve of Samwise Gamgee looks microscopic.
In our passage today we’ll see this, that God has a resolve for His renown that is unmatched, and in that resolve God is determined to punish sin and provide a new priest for His people. There are three points for us today: a) 2:27-29 – Eli Rebuked, b) 2:30-34 – Eli Rejected, and c) 2:35-36 – God’s Resolve for His Renown.
a) Eli Rebuked (2:27-29)
Upon entering our text we meet a stranger who is referred to as the ‘man of God.’ The question of ‘Who is he?’ naturally rises, but the passage never tells us his name, or never tells us where he came from. Look at what we do know from this verse. A ‘man of God’ came to Eli with the ‘Word of God’ and rebuked Eli for his actions. Through this man of God, the Word of God invaded the scene and changed everything. You may ask, ‘What actions? Eli didn’t sin, his sons did.’ That is correct. Eli didn’t do what his sons did, but upon hearing about his sons sins he should have disciplined and rebuked them for what they were doing, but he didn’t, and by not disciplining them he allowed their sin to continue defaming God’s glory and hurting God’s people. You may say ‘What could he have done?’ Well, Eli didn’t have the power to stop his sons from committing these sins, but it was in his power to stop them from committing these sins as priests. Eli could have removed them from their position, stripped them of their robes and high position. But he didn’t. Which is why the man of God shows up with the Word of God to rebuke Eli for tolerating sin and preferring his boys over the honor of God.
Learn from Eli Fathers. See how Eli’s bad parenting for refusing to punish his sons, see that it is this lack of punishment that allowed the sins of his sons to grow and ruin them. Do not emulate Eli. Learn from Eli Church. You and I can end up in heinous sin if our top priority in life is to be nice to people, or to never step on toes. You know what this feels like don’t you? Few people enjoy conflict, and because most of us have an allergy to conflict it’s easy for us to slowly start to live in a manner where we never try to offend anyone. If we do this, eventually we’ll have to make a choice, what do we care about more: God’s honor or the feelings of man? Don’t misunderstand me, God is not always for conflict, but God does sometimes leads us straight into conflict. Yes, Hophni and Phinehas were Eli’s sons, but if Eli really loved his boys he would’ve done what was best for them, and what’s best for them is to obey God, no matter what they feel about that or what kind of conflict that brings about. Do not emulate Eli in this.
As the man of God begins to rebuke Eli he recounts all the good things God has done for Aaron and his family. Aaron is the figure being referred to in v27-28 as ‘your father.’ God revealed Himself to Aaron, and chose Aaron’s descendants to be His priests with the people. This is an immense privilege that Eli needs to be reminded of, because it seems he’s forgotten it. So the man of God traces out the grace of God given to Aaron in the past, in an effort to make the sin Eli’s committing in the present appear as heinous as they are. After this the man of God uses a word play to rebuke Eli in v29. He asks Eli why he ‘honored’ or literally ‘gave weight’ to his sons over God by fattening themselves on the choicest parts of the sacrifice. By giving them the fatty part of the sacrifice which was reserved for God alone Eli gave more weight (honor) to his sons and literally made his sons ‘fat.’ You can see the word play in that Eli’s own and his son’s obesity was itself a rebuke of Eli’s sin. This is not a guess, Eli’s own weight contributed to his death in chapter 4:18, but that’s for another time.
b) Eli Rejected (2:30-34)
So we’ve seen Eli rebuked, we will now see Eli rejected. The man of God, in v30-34, gives a blow to Eli’s heart. God had once promised great things to Eli’s house, that they would go in and out before Him as priests in the temple forever, but now, since they’ve rejected Him by their actions, God will reject them in return. God confirms this by stating a general rule of thumb in v30: those who honor or literally ‘give weight’ to God, God will honor or literally ‘give weight’ to them, but those who despise God, God will ‘lightly esteem’ which is to say God will not ‘give weight’ to them. Psalm 18:25-26 shows this well, ‘With the merciful You show Yourself merciful; with the blameless You show Yourself blameless; with the purified You show Yourself pure; and with the crooked You make Yourself seem torturous.’ To Eli’s sons God will seem torturous because they have despised Him and His ways, preferring their own lusts to obedience to God. This judgment upon Eli’s sons is just, it’s deserved. They did not honor God as God, and as a result, God rejects them.
What will this look like? The man of God continues to pronounce God’s judgment on Eli’s family in v31-34 listing five judgments against them:
1) Their power will be broken – v31 ‘God will cut off their strength, and the strength of their father’s house.’ The sons abused their power by intimidating the people, Eli didn’t use his power to stop his sons, therefore God will break the power of Aaron’s priestly line beginning with Eli and his sons.
2) Their lives will be cut short – v31 and v32 both include the judgment that ‘there will not be an old man in your house.’ Now Eli was an old man who should’ve used his wisdom as aged men do, but he didn’t. Therefore God will cut off the wisdom of the aged from this family by no longer allowing any of them to grow old and wise.
3) Their wealth will be reduced to poverty – v32 ‘you will look with an envious eye on all the prosperity bestowed on Israel.’ Eli and his sons lived in the temple, a place of plenty, a place of abundance, but they got used to having much and grew spiritually lazy. Now, for their sin, they will be poor and envious of Israel who will grow rich.
4) Their comfort will be removed – v33 ‘the only one left in their house will weep his eyes out’ probably from seeing his entire family grow poor and, as it says in v33, die by the sword of men. What a troubling and disturbing end for a family, especially for a family of priests. Who were to lead the people of God in the Word of God and the Worship of God, but now are reduced to weeping and death.
5) The death of Hophni and Phinehas – v34, ‘And this shall come upon your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day.’ The ultimate blow to Eli given here. It’s ironic that the very sons Eli didn’t want to hurt by rebuking them for their sin, He will now lose forever because of their sin. The son’s death will serve as a sign to Eli that God will do all these things to his house.
We can’t move on today without asking ourselves the question that rises from this judgment on Eli’s house. Do you have sin in your life that you’re treating lightly? Do you have sin in your life that you’re ok with? Are you like Hophni and Phinehas actively joining in immoral behavior? Or are you like Eli passively giving room for such behavior to grow? Be warned. God does not treat sin lightly. Both Eli’s sons and Eli himself serve as warnings about treating sin lightly. Be reminded of Numbers 32:23, ‘…your sin will find you out.’ Some of you need to hear a few questions: how long are you going wait? How long are you going to pretend? How long are you going to play church before you leave your sin behind and repent? Again, do not emulate Eli’s family here.
c) God’s Resolve for His Renown (2:35-36)
Eli’s house has been rebuked, Eli’s house has been rejected. The final 2 verses to show us one more thing: God’s resolve for His renown.
In spite of the sin of His own priests, v35 says God will raise up a faithful priest who will do according to what is in His heart and mind. God will build this priest a sure house, and he (in the place of Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas) will go in and out before God’s anointed forever. Be aware that God could’ve allowed no priests at all for His people from this point forward, and cut His people off from the temple forever. But God will raise up a new priest. Why? God will not let His glory be thought of lightly. God will not let His glory be trampled on and made a small thing. God’s resolve for the renown of His own name moves Him to replace the faithless priests with a faithful one, and through the ministry of this faithful priest the people of God will give due weight and honor to God, to His ways, to His Word, and to His worship.
Because God is so concerned with His own glory, we learn something of what true Christian faith looks like. The primary passion of all true Christians is a devotion to the glory of God. It’s not enough to merely see the glory of God. We must see it, savor it, enjoy it, relish in it, and take great delight in the array of colors streaming forth from the beauty of our God.
See a thing of magnificence here. The wickedness of sinful ministers, though it often destroys themselves, will not ultimately destroy the ministry. However bad the officers are, the office of priest (pastor) shall continue to the end of the world. If some betray their calling, others will be raised up who are true. God’s work will never fall to the ground due to the sin of His own leaders. v35 predicts the rise of a faithful priest, which is immediately fulfilled in Samuel but looks beyond Samuel’s role as prophet to the priestly ministry of Zadok. Who is Zadok? Zadok became a high priest in David’s reign (2 Sam. 8:17), and worked alongside another high priest, Abiathar. Abiathar was a descendant of Eli, but in 1 Kings 2 Solomon removed Abiathar forever from the priesthood confirming the judgment on Eli’s house. But, though v35 finds a fulfillment in Samuel and then in Zadok it does not stop there.
The author of Hebrews tells us v35 finds it’s ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. Hebrews 4:14-16, ‘Since then we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’ Jesus is ultimately where v35 ends. He is the faithful priest, who will lead the people of God in the worship of God, who doesn’t stand between us and God offering various sacrifices like the Old Testament priests, but who offers Himself up as the perfect sacrifice on our behalf. He is our High Priest who also takes the role of spotless lamb. Because of His priesthood, because of His sacrifice, we’re now encouraged to lay hold of the throne of grace to find help in times of need.
In v36 we see a final word given to Eli concerning his family. They will remain working in the temple, but they’ll be scavenging for work and food forever. Remember Hannah’s prayer? 2:5, 2:7, 2:9? It seems that Hannah’s prayer has been realized in the sin of Eli’s family.
Church, remember two things:
a) God, in His resolve for His renown, makes much of His wrath by punishing sin wherever it’s found. You may be hiding now, but God won’t let you hide forever. Learn from Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas that God hates sin because it defames His glory and hurts His people. Let this text move you to repent and hate the sin in your own life.
b) God, in His resolve for His renown, makes much of His grace by promising in v35, and giving us in His Son a faithful priest. Learn from Jesus that sin can be forgiven, that our wretched garments of depravity can be exchanged for pure robes of white, that He can set the seal of His Spirit on us giving us rich assurance. Let this move you to believe in Him, to believe that His priestly ministry is able to keep you from stumbling and present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy.