Eli was a priest whose sons were very wicked. Although they were also priests and should have set a good example for Israel, they were fornicating with the women who served in the Tabernacle. They were also insisting upon bigger and better portions of meat for the priests, and if people refused to give it, then they would take it by force.
Eli warned his sons of the seriousness of their actions, but they did not listen.
Now Eli neither did nor approved of what his sons did. Yet when God sent a man of God, to Eli, he rebuked Eli and his whole house. Disaster would befall them all.
Why did God destroy all of Eliís house? Why not simply destroy his sons? They were the wicked ones, and Eli warned them of their iniquity. Why does God hold Eli personally responsible?
God said, ďWhy do you scorn My sacrifices and My offerings that I commanded, and honor your sons above Me? . . . Those who honor Me, I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.Ē
God also said in the next chapter, ďI am about to punish Eliís house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.Ē
The seriousness of the trespasses of Eliís sons should not be under-emphasized. They were not simply making the rash mistakes of youth. They were blaspheming against God and against His holy house.
Therefore when Eli spoke to his sons, that was good in itself. But he should have gone much further. Once he saw that they would not repent, he should have removed them from the priesthood. He should have put an end to their blasphemy.
But he did not. He honored his sons more than God because he allowed his sons to continue committing their heinous and awful crimes. A rebuke from a father is good, but it needs to be followed by consequences if they will not listen.
This is a tough lesson for us. It is difficult to discipline our children in a God-pleasing manner. It is not exactly the same as with Eli. But there are many similar situations.
Perhaps what makes this most difficult is that our culture tells us that we should love our children no matter what. That is true in itself. But sometimes loving them means disciplining them. What our culture means is that you should never condemn your children. For example, if your child begins having sex outside of marriage as Eliís sons did, we are told that children are going to do these things and we cannot stop them, so just teach them to use condoms. But that is not a Christian response. In Christian love, we need to tell our children of the utter seriousness of their sins. If they will not repent, there must be consequences.
We cannot exactly remove people from the priesthood. But we have something similar. All Christians are priests in their holy Baptism. Excommunication serves as a warning that, because a person is no longer living in their Baptismal repentance, they have, in effect, forfeited their status as priests before God. Unless they repent, there will be eternal punishment.
But we do not want to go as far as excommunication. We want a nice solution that will hurt no oneís feelings. Truly we should not leap quickly to excommunication. Better to lead a person to repentance. Sometimes, we need to give them time to consider and repent. But eventually, these things need to be done. The soul that has wandered into paths of destruction must be warned with all sternness and seriousness.
Eli failed to do this, and his family was wiped out. Although we live under the grace of Christ in our Baptism, we have no less a serious charge to remove iniquity from our midst if it threatens to poison our congregation. We cannot remove all iniquity, or we would be saints in Paradise. But where sin is impenitent and public, we have a solemn duty to do something about it.
Because the church has not always been diligent, sexual immorality runs rampant in many American congregations. There is much fornication out there. There is much greed and gluttony. We cannot be responsible for everyone. But we must stand up against sin where we can. People may call us judgmental or unloving. So be it.
Where we have failed to stand up against sin, let us also repent.
For we have the holy house of God. Let us not profane it by tolerating blasphemy in our midst. We have the sacrifice of God given in the Sacrament for us to eat and drink. Let us not pervert that holy Meal by allowing the leaven of sin to pollute us. We are clothed as a holy priesthood by Godís anointing in Baptism. Let us not act as worthless sons of iniquity, as Eliís sons did, and so make a mockery of this priesthood.
Most of all, we have a faithful Priest who never failed. We have One who offered the purest sacrifice of all, then gave away the benefits of the sacrifice freely. He did not seek His own comfort or greedy desire. He selflessly laid down all that He had and all that He was for us.
Where we have failed, He paid the price. Where we have sinned, He paid the penalty. Godís curse and retribution against the blasphemy lurking in our hearts fell upon Him.
Now we are privileged to live and serve Him forever in His house. Now we receive His benefits and serve under Him, our great High Priest.
God keep us in this grace and privilege, so that we never treat it as a license to sin. May we never grow calloused against sin, so that we tolerate its presence as if it is no big deal. Instead, may we diligently purge out the old leaven of sin from our lives and from our congregation, God giving us the strength to do what we by ours cannot.
In His Name and to His glory. Amen.
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