The good, the bad, and the church: I Samuel 2
By Dr Bob Dellinger
Today’s reading: I Samuel 1-3.
It seems that nothing hurts the world’s view of Christians as much as the bad behavior of some of those who profess to believe. It’s an active topic of discussion, even among bloggers. Apparently the problem was just as bad in Old Testament times. The priest, Eli’s, sons were taking advantage of their religious position for personal gain and sexual exploitation.
Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear spreading among the LORD’s people.” I Samuel 2: 22-24
They were behaving wickedly. All the people were talking about it, and the news was spreading. There’s no doubt that their bad example hindered the worship of the LORD. One only wonders how people in positions of spiritual leadership could so abuse their privilege. There are no excuses, only questions.
- Were they wolves masquerading as sheep, dressed as spiritual leaders but having no heart for God? The answer to this question is yes, for the Bible says “they had no regard for the LORD.”
- Why would their father allow them to continue serving? Why would God allow them to continue? Eli did warn them, but God condemns him for failing to restrain them. God planned to administer capital punishment to them, but he was waiting for the proper time.
At the same time that Eli’s sons were profaning their spiritual service, God was raising up a devoted spiritual leader named Samuel. His mother had dedicated him to God’s service before his birth. He grew up serving in the tabernacle alongside Eli, but his actions were righteous in contrast to the wickedness of his elders. Samuel heard God speaking, demonstrating his close relationship with God. In contrast to Eli’s wicked sons, Samuel clung to God’s words “so that none of them fell to the ground.” As he grew in years he also grew in favor with God and men, a phrase mirrored in the life of Jesus, and became Israel’s prophet, priest, and leader.
The church still struggles today under the terrible example of leaders and members who behave badly. It also thrives under the servant leadership of pastors and members who devote themselves to the LORD. What makes the difference between these good and bad “Christians?” The verses of today’s reading reveal some reasons, but this list is not complete:
- Samuel’s mother dedicated him to God and saw the process through. Eli abandoned his sons to their wickedness until it was too late.
- Samuel devoted himself to God’s word. Eli’s sons devoted themselves to personal gain and pleasure.
- Samuel knew the LORD so well that he heard him. Eli’s sons had no regard for the LORD or his word. They were not godly, and many who call themselves Christian today are not born again, have not received the Holy Spirit, do not know God’s word and do not practice God’s ways.
Image by batigolix on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0