Summary: Sermon on 1 Sam 2:12-36 - Ministry of Honour
1 Sam 2:12-36
Ministry of Honour
History is filled with several examples of leaders who failed. In 1985, the 3rd president of Singapore, Devan Nair, resigned alleged due to his alcoholism. In 1999, the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton, faced an impeachment case because of alleged inappropriate sexual relationships. Even Christian leaders have failures. In 1987, Gordon MacDonald, president of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, resigned from his position after admitting to an adulterous relationship between 1984-85.
The OT also records failures of leaders. Have you ever wondered why? I believe that there are important lessons that we can learn from them.
1 Samuel 1-3 notes the birth, youth and calling of Samuel. Samuel’s importance as God’s representative in this period of Israel’s history is close to that of Moses since he, more than any other person, provided for covenant continuity in the transition from the rule of the judges to that of the monarchy.
Today we will be looking at the second half of 1 Samuel chapter 2, which warns us against taking God’s honour lightly. This passage records the sin and failure of Eli and his sons, and the example of Samuel. Let us turn to 1 Sam 2:12-36. Verses 12-36 of chapter 2 in 1st Sam. I will read from v.12-26.
God’s word here clearly teaches us not to take God’s honour lightly, or in other words, we should always honor God with our lives and ministry.
1. (12-21) The contrast between Eli’s sons’ wickedness and Samuel’s faithfulness shows that we should honor God with our lives.
a. (12-17) The problem of Eli’s sons was that they dishonored God by their sins.
We read that they did not know the Lord (v.12). Also, they defiled the sacrifice of God by taking the meat with a fork whilst it was boiling (instead of waiting for the portion they were assigned by God) (v.13-14). On top of this, they also wanted raw meat to roast, not boiled meat (v.15-16) and wanted to take it by force rather than wait for the fat to be burned (which was to be offered to the Lord).
b. (18-21) The reason God blessed Hannah and Samuel was because they honored and served Him.
The Bible suddenly shifts gears and we see Samuel ministering before the Lord (v.18). We are also told of his mother’s faithfulness, making him an ephod (worn by priests), going to temple yearly to make sacrifices (v.19), and as a result, God blessed her with 3 more sons and 2 daughters (v.21a), and blessed Samuel (v.21b).
The contrast here is clear, Eli’s sons’ wickedness is contrasted with Samuel and Hannah’s faithfulness, clearly to teach us what it means to honor and dishonor God.
(We go on to read about Eli’s dealing with his sons. From this we can learn that...)
2. (22-36) The contrast between Eli’s failure and Samuel’s continued growth shows that God blesses obedience and punishes disobedience.
a. (22-25, 29) The problem with Eli is that he favored his sons more than God.
We know from the OT laws in Lev 7 that the Israelites were instructed not to eat any fat from the food offering. In fact, the punishment was that they would be cut off from Israel (Lev 7:25). Also, God allocated certain portions of the offering for the priests, such as breast, right thigh, shoulder, two cheeks and stomach. The rest were to be burned. So Eli’s sons either knowingly or unknowingly disregarded God’s commands, and took whatever meat they wanted, along with the fat.
Eli shared in this sin, as the man of God admonishes him not only of favoring his sons over God, but also for fattening himself up with the choice parts of the offerings (v.29). Also, he did not chasten his sons about the eating of the offering, but rather just the sexual impropriety with the temple servants. This was an abomination, parallel to the condemnation of Canaan pagan practices, and equated with idolatry. Also, they were a stumbling block to the people. Eli’s response pales in comparison to Phinehas in Num 25, where because of the sexual sin between a man of Israel and a Midianite, he speared them both with one blow, for he was jealous for the Lord.
b. (27-34) The consequence of Eli’s dishonor and his sons’ sins would be the death of his sons and the removal of his household as priests.
Hence, God’s punishment was severe. The message from a man of God (2:27) is that these sons’ betrayal of their trust as priests will bring down on them the judgment of the God who brought Israel out of Egypt. Eli’s sons and Eli would eventually die, and their rights, God’s covenant with them would be revoked and they would be stripped of their priestly line forever. This is indeed sad, as the very people you would expect to uphold the standards of the Law were in fact the first to break them. The consequences were devastating and severe, to the point of death. However, in the midst of God’s wrath, we still catch glimpses of God’s grace in the preserving of one of Eli’s descendants and the promise of God that he would raise up a faithful prophet and his descendants to serve Him.