Sunday, June 20, 2010

1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22-36 -- Eli: the father who wouldn't say no

Hannah presents Samuel to Eli the Priest as Hophni and Phinehas look on
Happy Father’s Day! The best man in the world I know is still my Daddy. Daddy has worked all his life in the wood industry. For twenty-seven years as a scaler and yard manager with Bowater Paper, manufacturer of both newsprint and magazine paper. Then when they closed his division and he was laid off around Christmas 1997, his great reputation and relationships with wood producers got him a job in a short time running a chipping machine with a crew. Now he manages a lumber yard in Hodges, S.C., and continues to work well past retirement age.

He is the most compassionate man I know. He is the most giving man I know. He has the most integrity of any man I know. I don’t remember ever seeing alcohol in the refrigerator, though we kept a bottle of whiskey in the back of the cabinet strictly to add to sugar to stop a cough. I don’t remember ever hearing a filthy word come out of his mouth, even when a chainsaw injured him or the chimney caught on fire. And Daddy protected us. Often that protection meant saying no. That is, he told us boys no. If it didn’t look like something that would help us or if it looked like it would hurt us, Daddy had no problem saying no.

Today we will look at a man in Scripture who would not say no to his children, and we will see the trouble it caused for his sons.

Pray and Read:  1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22-36; (4:1-22)

Contextual Notes:
After the nation of Israel was delivered from slavery in Egypt and finally crossed into the Promised Land after forty years, the people settled within their tribal boundaries and were governed by a series of judges. It was a time, the book of Judges tells us, when everyone did what was right in his own eyes, a day much like our own. One of those tribes did not have a land inheritance, those descended from Levi the son of Jacob. They were called Levites and they served as the priests for the nation. Moses and Aaron were of the tribe of Levi, so Aaron was the first high priest and the book of Leviticus describes their service before the Lord.

Several generations later, Eli was the Levitical high priest, and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas ministered with him before the Lord at the Tabernacle. Eli was a good man. He was a good priest and judge. He did his job well. He enjoyed his work serving the Lord. He lived at Shiloh in a tent adjoining the Tabernacle all his life being faithful.

The Bible is about real life. There are few men in the Bible in whose character we cannot find some glaring fault. Eli’s fault was his fathering. He would not tell his boys no. He avoided conflict with his children. He would not discipline them. He did not have a backbone. He would not stop what he knew was wrong and what would harm his sons and the nation of Israel.

Eli made his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas priests though they lacked their father’s character. Their conduct disgraced and shocked the people so much that “they abhorred the offering of the Lord.”

Key Truth: Samuel wrote 1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22-36; 4:1-22 to teach Israel, among other things, the importance of a father.

Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about being a father.

Sermon Points:
  1. Teach your children to respect the Lord (1 Sam. 2:12-17)
  2. Teach your children to obey the Lord (1 Sam. 2:22-26)
  3. Teach your children to honor the Lord  (1 Sam 2:27-36)
Exposition:   Note well,

Hophni and Phineas demand meat
a.   Herbert Lockyer calls Eli the man who lacked parental authority. I put it this way: the father who wouldn’t say No.
b.   Eli warned them of their shameful ways, but he did not rebuke or stop them when he had the authority to do so.
c.   He should have exercised stern authority of a father and rebuked them as a judge. Instead, Eli only mildly reasoned with them, “Why do ye such things?” His sons disregarded such a weak and useless protest because their hearts were cold and callous. They no longer had respect for either the Lord or their father.
d.   ILLUSTRATION: Look, I know what it is like to have a pretty little girl with big blue eyes bat those long eyelashes at you while they say, “Daddy, can we get this video please?” The easy thing is to say yes. You want her to have what she needs and some of what she wants. You want her to be happy. And there are people behind you in the checkout line waiting. But what is on that video? What values would that video put in your child’s head? Is the little girl in the video she wants disrespectful of her parents and a smart aleck? So if we let her have it, and she watches it, we turn around and wonder why our pretty little girl is all the sudden obstinate and disrespectful?
e.   APPLICATION: Are you the kind of father who would rather avoid a conflict, and keep your kids happy than help them learn the right way and the appropriate manner to handle things? Yes, it’s hard work and not enjoyable to discipline or say no to your children sometimes, but we have to do that to help them develop into responsible adults.
Eli falls backward and dies
a.   Although Eli could not change his sons’ hearts, he could have prevented their ministry before the Lord. Instead, “he restrained them not.” He wanted to be kind to them, but it was a false and mistaken kindness. A correction at the right time would have saved them from ruin. Eli didn’t need to be harsh or severe, only firm and decided in the matter of obedience.
b.   APPLICATION: The disobedience that is cute when your little boy is 18 months old is not so cute when he is 15 years old. Are you taking care to train your child and your grandchild right now, so that they learn the virtue of obedience? So that they learn that obeying the Lord is the most important thing? If you do not teach them to obey the Lord, then they won’t care what you tell them to do either. And they won’t have any regard for other authorities, and then they will become the responsibility of the county jail. Are you teaching your children to be obedient to you and that ultimately we all must be obedient to the Lord?
a.   Eli was twice warned that judgment would overtake him and his sons, but the warning was lost on him. He loved his sons, but not enough to take action with them.
b.   What a pitiful sight Eli is as a father. An old man of ninety years, almost blind, waiting to hear the result of the grim battle between the Israelites and the Philistines. How he trembled for his nation, his sons, and the Ark of God. When the news came of the slaughter of the army, his sons, and the capture of the Ark, he fell off his seat, broke his neck, and died too.
c.   APPLICATION: Do you notice what is important this morning? It is great to teach your children manners and etiquette. It is great to get your children involved in team sports. It is good to get your children in church and to Vacation Bible School and Sunday School and children’s programs. It is good to make sure they get a good education. But the most important thing for you to do as a father is to teach them respect, obedience, and honor for the Lord. If you will teach them that one, the others will most likely fall in place.
d.   You may say, “I did all that, and they didn’t do anything but make all the worst decisions.” Neither Eli nor you are responsible for what goes on in your children’s hearts. But what we can do and are responsible before the Lord to do, is to create a home environment where Christ is loved and honored and worshiped. Our children’s life decisions once they leave our home may break our hearts. That is between the Lord and them. Our responsibility is to point them lovingly to the Cross as their saving station and make our homes and lives such that honor and obey Christ as an example to them.
That brings me to the invitation. The best way to be a better Daddy or Granddad is to give your heart to Jesus Christ today and start walking with him. You cannot teach your children the things in this passage if you have no resurrection life in you yourself. If you want to be a better Daddy or Granddaddy today, I want to invite you to come forward to this altar and pray for your family and your children and grandchildren.