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Fathers, What Has Happened?

1 Samuel 2:12-17

Being High Priest was a high and noble job.
The High Priest was second in authority to the King.
But Eli lived before there was a King in Israel.

He was known not only as the High Priest, but also as the Judge (or leader) of Israel. He was God's man.

We know about Eli because of his relationship with Samuel.
Samuel was born under extraordinary circumstances.
His mother, Hannah desperately wanted a child.
She came to the temple and prayed that God would bless her with a child.
She promised that if God would answer her prayer she would give him to the Lord to serve him all his life.

When Eli saw her praying at the temple he thought she was drunk!

When he learned the true story he said, "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you
what you have asked of him
(1 Samuel 1:17).

At the appointed time Samuel is given over to Eli.
Samuel could have been about three years old at this time.
Eli raises this child and becomes Samuel's mentor.
Samuel later became the last Judge and the first prophet of Israel.

Eli must have done well in teaching Samuel, but he failed with his own sons.
At the time of our text Hophni and Phinehas are young men.
We read that "Eli's sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord."

God had made provision for the priests to be generously taken care of.
In Deuteronomy 18:1-5 we read that specific parts of a sacrifice were to be given to the priest
for their own consumption.

The priest would wait for the sacrifice to be offered, then as the remaining meat was being boiled
he would stick a fork in and pull a piece out.

But Eli's sons didn't like this practice.
Before the sacrifice was even offered (when the fat was offered to the Lord) the sons of Eli determined
the cut of the meat that they wanted.
They were not content with this boiled meat . . . they wanted something they could cook on the grill.
Since this was before the sacrifice, there may still have been fat on the meat.
So, they were not only ignoring God's commands, they may have been eating that
which was to be sacrificed to God!

This was not the end of the corruption.
Verse 22 tells us that these boys slept with the woman who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.
This was strictly forbidden.

No Israelite was to engage in such temple prostitution. (Deuteronomy 23:17)
This was a practice usually associated with idolatry. (Numbers 25:1-5)

The people were upset with the young men and talked to Eli about them.
God was upset and He also talked to Eli.
Eli talked to his sons and nothing changed.
In time God put the sons to death.

What happened to Eli's sons?
Why did they turn out as they did? Eli must have spent too little time with his sons.

Parents must spend time with their children.
This time is where values are learned and where love is demonstrated.
Eli's situation is not unique.
Many parents are so busy making a living that they spend little time in making a home.
Many parents work 50-60 hours a week.
Some parents must work two jobs to make ends meet.

Many parents are active in their hobbies, their sports, or their clubs.
Some may be so busy in their church.
Nothing should keep us away from the time our children need us.
Nothing should bless us more than our family. I read about a father who told his family that a business meeting was going to prevent him
from going with his family on their vacation.
He urged them to go without him.
He helped plan every detail of their vacation.

The family loaded their car and headed off to their vacation destination.
The father left for his business meeting.
When his meeting ended, he boarded a plane and flew to the place that his family would travel.
He took a cab to a place along the side of the road that his family would be traveling.
And then he waited for them.

When they saw him on the side of the road they almost swerved off the road in their surprise!

When asked why he hadn't told them of his plan, he said,
"I knew the surprise would make this something you would never forget.
I hoped that my actions would communicate two things; that dad was a fun guy
and he would do anything to spend time with us."

That father demonstrated his love in a way that his children would never forget.

Eli and his family spent so much time engaging in temple ritual that they had forgotten
what was really important.
It could have been that Eli went through the the routine of worship without demonstrating
the lasting value of it.

It could explain why Hophni and Phinehas had such disregard for the temple service.
They saw it only as a profession.
They didn't learn the value of serving God.

We know that faith is more caught than taught.
Our children are more persuaded by the life we live than by the words you say.
James urges us to: "Be doers of the word and not hearers only,
thus deceiving yourselves
." (Jas. 1:22) But this can also happen if we spend all our time in religious activity.
If we spend all our time running to church, and never have time to be at our children's activities,
they will resent the church and even Jesus.
They will associate their feelings of loneliness with Christianity.

Parent must consider their relationship with their children a priority.
It is one of our God-given responsibilities to give our best to our children.
Eli knew what his sons were doing.
He was told by the people and he was told by God.
But Eli seemed to have been reluctant to confront them.
He told them that what they were doing was wrong, but that is as far as it went -- he never carried through. He did nothing!

In 1 Samuel 2:29 we read: "Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering
that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves
on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?

We should learn from this that disciplining our children is an act of obedience to the Lord.
We should also learn that leniency is not love -- it is idolatry.

When we don't give needed discipline, we are really putting our desire to be liked by our children
above our responsibility to equip and train our children.

God has given us the responsibility to train our children in the way they should go. Eli must have been either engaging in or approving of their practice of indulgence by eating of this meat himself.
In 1 Samuel 4:18 we read that Eli was a very heavy man.
He was enjoying the good life.

Once we ignore the wrongs in our children's life, it becomes easy for us to rationalize
those behaviors in our own lives.
Whenever we compromise the truth, we weaken it's influence.
If we will not be the strong party in the parent child relationship, we will be the weak party.
Instead of being an influencer, we will be the influenced.

In verse 25 we read: "His sons, however, did not listen to their Father's rebuke,
for it was the Lord's will to put them to death

These words should shake us up.
Discipline must be administered early or our children may become so hardened that their destiny is sealed.

Eli's sons had become so hardened that God had announced their death.
It was too late for them.
What if Eli had gotten involved sooner?
What if he had taken a firmer stand?
Perhaps his sons would have been saved.
Instead, God put them to death.

We may wink at, and excuse reckless living, but God does not.

Our children will test their limits.
When we tell them not to cross a certain line, they will cross it, to see what will happen.
At this point you children are testing our resolve.
This is when we must stand our ground.

We must teach our children that for every choice they make there is a consequence to that choice.
When that happens we must let our children face that consequences.
We must not bail them out. This is not cruel and inhuman treatment -- it is needed discipline.
If Eli had done this, his sons may have had a different life and a different ending.

Some years ago I had a church leader ask me if I would talk to them about their married son.
I had spent much time with this young man and his wife.
He was an alcoholic and had many times seriously abused his wife.
He was their only son.

When they met with me, I told them that I knew what would help their son,
but I didn't think that they would do it.

The father looked straight at me and said that they would do anything to help him.

I said that I knew that they really wanted to help him, but I did not believe
that they would do what I would suggest.
He looked almost unbelieving when I continued to insist that they would not do
what would really help their son.

So, I said, "I know that you want to, but you will not do what is necessary."

He said, "Please, just tell us what we can do, and we will do it!"

I said, "Alright, here it is!
The next time he gets in jail for DUI, let him stay in jail.
The next time he beats his wife and is arrested, don't bail him out.

He looked down at the floor and said: "I can't do that."

Their son continued his horrible life, and ended up like the sons of Eli.
Those were good Christian people.
They had served the Lord all their life.
Even the most religious people can lose their children.

It's possible that your children are grown.
You may feel that you have missed your opportunity.
Maybe you see your child on the road to godless living.
You may feel it is too late for you.

It's never too late to start doing what is right.

In my first pastorate right out of seminary, our chairman of deacons and I were visiting
prospects for our church.
We drove by a very nice home and he told me that his oldest son and his family lived there.

He said that he had been a terrible drunkard when his son was a child
and had lived like that for many years.

Then one day he became Christian and has lived for God.
This was a humble and dedicated Christian.
He was considered by all who knew him as on of God's best.
He told me that He came to God, but his son was still following the path that he had
demonstrated to him when his son was growing up.

Fathers, love your children, and express your love every way that you can!

Show your children how much they mean to you by spending much time with them
and quality time with them.

Preach little to them and pray a lot for them

Show them Christ in your life.
Show them how the love of Christ has changed your life.

Stay at it!

We must share God with our children.
Our children should see that Christ is the center of lives.

We must lead our children to receive Jesus as their personal Saviour, and one day
we can look back and be thankful that we were parents who taught them
the real values of time and eternity.

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at