Then the LORD said to Samuel: “Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them. And therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”
So Samuel lay down until morning, and opened the doors of the house of the LORD. And Samuel was afraid to tell Eli the vision. Then Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son!” He answered, “Here I am.”
And he said, “What is the word that the LORD spoke to you? Please do not hide it from me. God do so to you, and more also, if you hide anything from me of all the things that He said to you.” Then Samuel told him everything, and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the LORD. Let Him do what seems good to Him.”
There are two perspectives to consider when looking at this passage of scripture. The first perspective is the viewpoint of Samuel… the young servant that has just received a prophetic word from God. The second perspective is the viewpoint of Eli… the old priest that is the subject of the prophetic judgment.
I have to imagine that this was a bitter sweet experience for Samuel. It is an incredibly sweet experience to hear our Father speak to us. It overwhelms our heart and reminds us how much our Father loves us and is always there with us. However, the message from God is one of judgment against the man that Samuel is serving under. Eli’s role in Samuel’s life was much like that of an earthly father.
For Samuel to share with Eli the message that God had given him had to be a difficult experience. There are those with hard hearts (like Jonah) who are happy to proclaim God’s judgment. However, for most people, being a messenger of judgment to another person is a difficult task to carry out. Anyone doing the work of God (priests, prophets, pastors, disciples, evangelists, servants, etc…) have a responsibility to deliver the message of God in its entirety. Anything less is to mis-represent God. Samuel probably had a sleepless night with the excitement of hearing from God combined with the responsibility of delivering this message of judgment to Eli.
Samuel has a role in this passage of delivering God’s truth regardless of the circumstances. Samuel’s life is filled with examples of speaking God’s truth. There is a great comfort in simply sharing God’s truth. Whether it is the truth in a message of judgment like we see in this passage or the truth in presenting the gospel of Jesus dying on the cross, being buried, and rising again to pay the price for our sins… there is joy and comfort in sharing the truths of our Father in Heaven.
From Eli’s perspective, this is a message of final judgment. When you look at just this passage, this seems to be a harsh judgment against Eli. However, a previous message of judgment had been delivered to Eli in 1 Samuel 2:27-36 by a “man of God”. In that message, God asks “Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?’” (1 Samuel 2:29). This message delivered by Samuel is not a new message to Eli. It was not a revelation to Eli, but instead it was a confirmation of a previous message (likely multiple previous warnings and messages) that Eli had received. Hebrews 10:26 tells us “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins”.
Eli had neglected his responsibility as a father to restrain his sons as children while raising them. Eli had neglected his responsibility as the high priest (their “boss”) to restrain his sons as priests under his supervision. Eli witnessed the sins of his sons with his own eyes in addition to hearing the reports of their transgressions from others. Yet, Eli did not put a stop to their sinful lifestyle. It is sad enough to see one who rejects God in order to pursue their fleshly desires. It is all the more disheartening when we see someone who God has placed in a prevalent role of representing Him, then they choose to reject Him in order to pursue their own fleshly desires. The result of this, we are told in 1 Samuel 2:25, was that they “(made) the LORD’s people transgress.” Being in a position of leadership (priest, father, etc.) and causing others to transgress is something that God cannot and will not tolerate. It will always lead to judgment.
Now, God declares “that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.” It is too late. All of the warnings had been disregarded. Eli seems to accept this as he declares “It is the LORD. Let Him do what seems good to Him.” It is difficult to tell if this is a godly response on Eli’s part or simply “giving up”. The simple fact is: there is nothing left for him to do. He recognizes the truth of God’s word. Eli has failed to faithfully serve God in his role as a father and a high priest. Now the fruit (in this case, bad fruit) of Eli’s service (in this case, inadequate and failing uphold God’s word) is coming to fruition. Their is no escaping the truth of God’s word.
Eli’s service, and his house as a whole, comes to an end. Samuel’s service to God is just beginning. Their is always a work to be done. God only desires a faithful servant to proclaim His truths. In our world today, there is a great lack of God’s truth. Individuals are quick to serve their own desires and to concern themselves with the opinion of others. However, individuals are slow to concern themselves with the affairs of God and God’s opinion. We are obligated to enforce the truth of God’s word in our own lives and our own families before we set out to enforce it in those around us.
“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” (Psalm 25:5)
“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.” (Luke 16:10)
“His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:21)
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)