In our study of 1 Samuel chapter two, we will look at two very different families and God's dealings with them. We recall, from chapter 1, that God heard the cry of an infertile woman and answered her prayer. She has now fulfilled her vow to dedicate the son she bore to the Lord's service.
Then Hannah prayed and said: 'My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.'
After giving up her son to be raised in the Tabernacle in service to the Lord, Hannah sings a song of praise. Even though it must have been hard for the mother to leave her young child, she is joyful in the fact that God has removed her shame. The same is true for us as we can make it through the difficult times in this life by praising God for the deliverance that is sure to come.
'There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.'
Hannah continues to worship by setting God apart in her heart. She recognized that it was only through the creative power of God that she was able to bear the son. No matter what we are going through, we can also worship the only One who has the power to create a solution to our problem.
'Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength.'
Hannah speaks, now, of the fact that she was delivered from the taunting and arrogance of Peninnah. Her reaction to this taunting was to cry out to God and His answer must have surely put an end to it. In the same manner, God hears the cries of the humble and oppressed to this day. If you are one of the oppressors, you should quit it as God is listening to the cries of the one that you are tormenting. As Hannah said, the strength of the humble person calling out to God is much greater than the physical power of the oppressor.
'Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry are hungry no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away. The Lord brings death and makes alive, he brings down to the grave and raises up. The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.'
Hannah declares that prosperity and poverty as well as life and death itself are controlled by God. It is also a reminder that we cannot tell the important things about someone by looking at the exterior. God lifts up the humble and they inherit a place with Him for eternity.
'"For the foundations of the earth are the Lord's; on them he has set the world."'
We often hear the phrase "life's not fair" and that is true. Here, we see that God has the right to do with us and our lives as He sees fit. Hannah reminds us that He has that right because He created everything. As the Creator, He owns everything that He produced and can do with it as He pleases. This is referred to as God's sovereignty. Teaching about God's sovereignty is not popular in our world today as everyone talks of equality but it is still the truth. We do not all become equal until we become one of His children!
'He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.'
Those who trust in God are His children and a good father always protects his children. Hannah was able to testify about this from first hand experience as He silenced the torment that she had been receiving. The wicked (those who do not believe Him) will live apart from God for eternity in darkness. Though they may have a loud voice that the people of this world listen to, it will do them no good in the end.
'It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be broken. The Most High will thunder from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.'
Hannah ends her worship looking forward to the Messiah. She sang about the fact that it is the power of the Christ that overcomes the world. Just as her body did not have the strength on its own to produce the son, we too do not have the power to overcome this world on our own.
Then Elkanah went home to Ramah, but the boy ministered before the Lord under Eli the priest.
Samuel was left under the direction of the priest and Hannah returned home. He would have performed routine duties such as cleaning and carrying things. We do not know what went through his head but it would have to be hard having your mother and father leave you behind.
Eli's sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord.
While Samuel was a servant of God, Eli's sons were not. The Hebrew word that is translated as "scoundrel" is "beliyyaal" and it really means worthless, ungodly, and wicked. They had no concern or respect for the things of God and so they truly were worthless. That may not be popular to say in our world today but, without God, there is nothing that we can do or say that will have any lasting effect. This may sound harsh but the simple fact of the matter is that our lives are to be continual worship of the Lord. If that is not happening, then, we truly have no purpose (are wicked and worthless). This is basically what the entire book of Ecclesiastes is about and the wisest man ever (Solomon) came to that conclusion. It is also important to note that it was not the environment that the sons had grown up in as they had evidently grown up in a godly home. Their problem was not external (their surroundings) but internal (their hearts).
Now it was the practice of the priests that, whenever any of the people offered a sacrifice, the priest's servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand while the meat was being boiled and would plunge the fork into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot. Whatever the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is how they treated all the israelites who came to Shiloh.
Here, we see that the entire priesthood at Shiloh had become corrupt. In Leviticus 7, we see that God gave certain parts of the offering to Aaron and his sons as their portion. Here, we see that the priests did not follow God's instruction but instead had developed their own system of determining their portion. They simply believed that, if God did not stop them from taking a portion, it was acceptable to God. They developed a tradition and it took the place of the very word of God that had been given to them. Even though we do not offer animals as sacrifices, the same type of thing happens today. It is easy to fall into this tradition trap even when it is pointed out that it goes against the revealed word of God.
But even before the fat was burned, the priest's servant would come and say to the person who was sacrificing, 'Give the priest some meat to roast; he won't accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.' If the person said to him, 'Let the fat be burned first, and then take whatever you want,' the servant would answer, 'No, hand it over now; if you don't, I'll take it by force.'
Eli's sons were even more corrupt than the rest of the priesthood as they did not even wait for the meat to be boiled. They were wanting to roast it instead of having boiled meat. The boiling was to remove the fat and the blood which was set aside for God so, by insisting on taking the raw meat, they were taking God's portion. We also see that they had servants to do the dirty work for them and they would even threaten the people if they would not give in to them. The priesthood had become a bunch of lawless thugs preying on the people.
This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord's sight, for they were treating the Lord's offering with contempt.
The actions of the sons of Eli demonstrated that their hearts were not right with God. This reminds us that our faith does not depend on our location but on the state of our hearts. When a person's heart is right, their actions will follow. When their heart is not right, it does not matter how many times you attend a place of worship. Eli's sons were raised at the Tabernacle and were there daily yet they were very far from God.
But Samuel was ministering before the Lord - a boy wearing a linen ephod.
The linen ephod was what was prescribed by God to be worn by the men that were serving Him. Samuel was wearing the garment as prescribed and it reminds us that obedience is an act of love. This is a big contrast between Samuel and Eli's sons. They were concerned with serving their own flesh while he was concerned with the things of God. It is also a good way of determining where we are at in our walk with the Lord. If we, like Eli's sons are busy chasing after the things of this world, we need to examine our hearts. This is what Jesus was talking about when He told His disciples to store up treasures in heaven. He went on to say that no one can serve two masters (see Matthew 6).
Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice.
We see that Samuel was given a robe by his mother each year but he wore the linen ephod when he was ministering in the Tabernacle. We also see that, even though she had given what we would consider the ultimate sacrifice (her son), Hannah continued to go to Shiloh each year. That is a reminder to us that our service to our Lord and Savior is not a one time thing or even a weekly thing. Either Jesus is our Master and we are continually serving Him or we are are slaves to the world and the flesh.
Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, 'May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the Lord.' Then they would go home. And the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.
Each year, Eli would say a blessing (prayer) for Elkanah and Hannah to have more children. They ended up having five children to replace Samuel and we are reminded that, throughout the Bible, the number five is associated with the display of grace.
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.
Eli knew about the things that his sons were doing but it seems that sleeping with the women that served was the last straw. These "women who served" were a group of women that gathered near the bronze laver and prayed. Eli's sons turned them away from prayer to adultery.
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; the report I hear spreading among the Lord's people is not good.
We see that it was becoming well known among the people of Israel that the priesthood was corrupt. In Eli's reaction, we notice the fact that it was the talk of the people that bothered him and not the fact that his sons had no regard for the things of God. Too often we, as Christians, do the same type of thing where we care more about people's opinions than honoring God. This is also a corruption of the priesthood as we are called to be a kingdom of priests.
'If one person sins against another, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the Lord, who will intercede for them?' His sons, however, did not listen to their father's rebuke, for it was the Lord's will to put them to death. And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people.
Eli warned his sons but they refused to listen to him. God had already decided to make an example of them and to use them as a sharp contrast to Samuel. As they were despised as ungodly men, Samuel was recognized as being different. That is what we call being a witness and sharing the gospel with our lives.
Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, 'This is what the Lord says: "Did I not clearly reveal myself to your ancestor's family when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh? I chose your ancestors out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priests, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in my presence. I also gave your ancestor's family all the food offerings presented by the Israelites. 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?"'
A prophet was sent to correct Eli and brings him a message to remind him of his heritage as priests of God. The charge that is presented against Eli is basically idolatry in that he elevated his children above God. We may be quick to condemn him but this same type of thing is rampant in our world today. Eli is reminded that his family was given the privilege of being servants of God and that, with privilege, comes responsibility. The same thing is true for us, as Christians.
'Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: "I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever. But now the Lord declares: Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age, and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age. Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life"'
With failed responsibility comes penalties. The penalty for Eli's family was that they would all die at a young age. This is a reminder to us that we are not guaranteed a tomorrow on this earth.
'"And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phineas, will be a sign to you - they will both die on the same day."'
The Lord was going to make an example of Eli's two sons. With both of them dying on the same day, it would obviously be a judgment from the very hand of God.
'I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always.'
This verse speaks of Zadok who served as priest during the time of David. His family line in the priesthood continued up to the time when Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the temple and sold the priesthood to Menelaus.
'Then everyone left in your family line will come and bow down before him for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread and plead, "Appoint me to some priestly office so I can have food to eat."'
A family of faithful priests were raised up to replace Eli's family. Eli's descendants became basically hired servants of the priests. They were not faithful to their calling and so the calling was removed.