Summary: This is about being a spiritual example.
I remember when Mark McGwire broke into Major League Baseball in 1987. I was 13 when that happened. And I was enamored with his power at the plate. He was only a rookie then, and he hit some mammoth home runs. My dad used to pitch to me in the backyard, and I would imitate Mark McGwire’s batting stance. Somehow I thought that standing like Mark McGwire I could hit the ball like him. Over my rather lacklustrious Little League baseball career I imitated the stances of Mark McGwire, Don Mattingly, Kirby Puckett, George Brett and others.
These very successful baseball players offered help to my career. Unfortunately it never got me anywhere.
When I was little, my dad was my role model. I wanted to dress like him. I wanted to shave like him. I wanted to be just like dad. I remember standing next to him in church and placing my feet on the tiles in the same way he had his.
When I was in kindergarten there was this one kid who wanted to be like his grandpa. He wanted to shave just like grandpa, but the problem is that at the age of 5 or 6 he had no whiskers. He went into the bathroom and pulled out his grandpa’s razor and proceeded to shave the only hair on his face. That’s right, he shaved his eyebrows off.
We can all look back on our lives and see people who have been role models for us. Perhaps the person who was your role model didn’t even know it.
A lot of times we are role models for others, and we don’t even know it. That was one thing that struck me when I was a children’s pastor. A lot of the kids looked up to me in a way that was at times uncomfortable for me.
Has there ever been a time when a role model disappointed you? I don’t want to give undue attention to professional athletes or celebrities, but that is something that most of us can relate to. Think of the comic genius of John Belushi. He was one of the biggest comedians in the late 1970s. It came as a great shock to many when he died of cocaine and heroine overdose in 1982. Many young comics had patterned their careers after his. He was an icon, and yet he was a tragic figure.
There were two leaders in ancient Israel who can serve as role models. Their lives crossed paths when one was winding down his life and the other was an unknown boy who would soon be thrust into the national limelight. They are Eli and Samuel.
Turn with me to I Samuel 3.
Read I Samuel 3:1-20.
Eli as a role model
No doubt Eli was a role model for Samuel. Samuel probably came to the temple about the age of 3. In the passage we just read he was probably about 12. For almost a decade he had lived and worked closely with Eli. Eli was probably a father figure for him.
Eli had been the priest for years. He had blessed Samuel’s mother, when she was praying because she couldn’t have children. He had originally scolded her for being drunk in the temple because she was praying silently, but her lips were moving. When he found out she was sober, he blessed her.
He took young Samuel under his wing and nurtured him in the work of the temple. Likely it was rather menial work of opening doors and such. Nonetheless, he offered Samuel a place in the work of the Lord. I sure that Samuel looked up to Eli with a sense of awe. We see in our passage that Eli was a very patient man. Samuel came and woke him up three times in the middle of the night. I’m not one who likes to have my sleep disturbed. When the kids come in the middle of the night my first reaction is, “Go back to bed.” After the second time, we would expect Eli to be upset at least a little, but he is very patient with his young understudy.
Eli had some issues though. Even though he was a good priest for the people of Israel, he had problems with his sons. To say that his sons were bad men would be an understatement. Chapter 2 verse 12 says, “Now the sons of Eli were worthless men.” That is quite a blunt statement. Tell us how you really feel. It continues, “They did not know the Lord.” They robbed the Lord of the offerings that were rightfully his. They had affairs with the women who worked at the entrance of the temple.
Now Eli wasn’t participating in the wrong they were doing. He didn’t act to restrain them, however. Verse 13 offers us the explanation, “And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.” (Emphasis added.) Eli was fully aware of what was going on. He was weak when it came to disciplining his own family.