What does Eli teach us about faithful service to God?

 

From our daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 1-3
March 28, 2019

In today’s reading, we start the book of Samuel, which opens with an introduction to one of the great prophets and leaders in all the Bible, even though he seemed to meet with failure more often than success.

Overview: Samuel introduced

Samuel was the last of Israel’s judges, eventually anointing Saul after the Israelites rejected his (and God’s) rule and demanded a king. And while his prophecies and warnings seemed to fall on deaf ears for most of his life, he proved to be a faithful servant of God, even from the beginning.

We see Samuel’s faith formed from the very beginning with a godly father and mother who were devoted to serving the Lord in a time when Israel’s spiritual leaders were corrupt and self-serving. Chapter One tells the beautiful story of Hannah appealing to God from the depths of her despair for a child, and the Lord rewarding her not only with a child, but with the gift of prophecy by which she introduces us to the idea of a Messiah, the Lord’s anointed (1 Samuel 2:10.)

Chapter 3 tells the story of God revealing himself to Samuel for the first time, with Samuel awakening twice to an unknown voice in the night before Eli instructs him to wait for a third call, and respond by saying: “Speak Lord, for your servant hears.”

As it turns out, God’s first message to Samuel is that he is now ready to execute judgement on Eli and his sons, because the sons had corrupted the tabernacle worship and its worshipers, and Eli had done nothing to stop them (1 Samuel 2:12-17).

Application:

Is God’s service holy to us?

In today’s reading, we can see that Eli, the current priest, is a man of God who appears to genuinely seek to serve the Lord, and proves to be a righteous influence on Samuel in his upbringing. And yet Eli is condemned for the conduct of his sons, whom he has at least rebuked verbally.

For all his good intentions, Eli failed in his task as high priest, which was to keep the sanctuary of God holy before the people. In allowing his sons to profane the tabernacle and corrupt the worshipers, he failed to follow God’s instructions, even though he may have desired a godly outcome.

The question for us is simple, looking at our own lives: Is our service to God holy in word only, or in word AND deed? Are we willing to make the difficult choices and perform the difficult tasks that are required to truly worship God in spirit and truth? In Eli’s case, refusing to fully discipline his sons and prevent them from continuing their actions overshadowed any good intentions he might have had.

When we see all that God asks of us – even the things that call us to do what is unpopular, difficult, even contrary to our own will – do we say “Speak Lord, for your servant hears?”

Next reading: 1 Samuel 4-8

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