When raising our children, my dear friend Shell and I used to lovingly call one another “Law” and “Grace” for I felt she was too strict, and she felt I was too lenient. We also thought God brought us together to help us each move more toward the middle.
Tim Keller says that often those who are too strict are so because they are concerned about the praise of man and therefore want perfectly behaved children. Those who are too lenient want the praise of their children. Both are valuing man over God. This was Eli’s great sin and we must take it seriously.
Why did Eli, the priest, permit his sons to continue blaspheming the sacrifices and sleeping with the women working in the Temple? Paige Brown said it was because he valued his sons and their position as priests above God. He talked to them about their sin but did nothing. As Paige says, we can talk all we want to our kids about their screen time, attitudes, or disobedience, but if they have not experienced consequences, they will continue on their destructive path.
We can see from this passage that Eli was complicit, which is why it was the will of God to put all three to death.
What drives everything we do, including parenting, is our hearts. Is God more important than anything else? Paige talked about the first and second table of the Ten Commandments, which are like the first and second greatest commandments.
God was a lightweight in Eli’s heart, and his sons were the heavy weight. Therefore he let them steal, commit adultery…The truth is, if we have no other gods before God, the rest of the commandments will fall into place. Value anyone or anything higher than God, and you will be sinning.
It’s the heart, Stupid.
So often our prayer life is for God to change our circumstances or the circumstances of those we love instead of our hearts. I’ve told this story before, but it so fits here.My grand-daughter Miabelle is 11 (in this picture she is 6 — the eldest, in the middle.)
Two years ago at Christmas when we were sharing a way Jesus had been a light to us, she said:
When I get in a huff and have a bad attitude, I go to my room and ask Jesus to change my heart. He’s been doing it. And then I feel so much better.
Her mother, Annie, said, “It’s pretty amazing how she will come out so different. And Steve, who was 4 then, has started to do it too. He’ll lose his temper, I’ll send him to his room, and he’ll come out saying, “I’m sorry, Mommy.”
How we need to pray for our own hearts, and for the hearts of those we love.
The three talks I am covering that Paige gave are over, though if they put them up again, I’ll let you know. If you are interested in jumping in mid-stream. here’s the link:
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. What do think the world sees as sin today — first table or second?
Monday: Contemptuous Hearts
3. What does Leviticus 7:25 say about the fat of an offering?
4. Read 1 Samuel 2:1-17
A. What was the root problem in the hearts of Eli’s sons? (vs. 1)
B. Describe the fruit of their hearts. (vs. 13-15)
(Paige said this may be the origin of the word “potluck!”)
C. Why does verse 17 say this sin was very great in the Lord’s sight?
The sacrifices of the Old Testament can seem so mysterious to us that we may have trouble understanding the gravity of the sin of the sons. Because these sacrifices were a foreshadowing on the ultimate sacrifice, the Lamb of God, what the sons were doing was apostasy, or the rejection of the sacrifice, the only sin that cannot be forgiven.
A passage that used to terrify me was Hebrews 10:26 which talks about deliberately sinning after receiving knowledge of the truth — all that is left for that person is a raging fire. But this isn’t talking about all sins, but about the sin of apostasy, the sin which Hophni and Phineas were practicing: treating the sacrifice with contempt.
5. Read Hebrews 10:26-31
A. Verse 29 describes a “New Testament” apostate. What does it say?
B. What does it mean to trample the Son of God under foot? To treat as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant?
C. Why can there be no forgiveness if we reject Christ’s sacrifice?
6. How does Hebrews shed light on the gravity of what Hophni and Phineas were doing?
There is forgiveness for all other sins, yet Paige pointed out when we fail to take worship seriously, whether it is in church or in our daily lives, we are regarding the grace of God and the sacrifice far more lightly than we ought.
She also pointed out that those in the greatest positions of responsibility will be judged more severely. I pondered how other fathers, like David, did not restrain their sons but were not judged so severaly. Perhaps it was because Hophni and Phineas had the great responsibility of being priests.
Tuesday: Complicit Heart
I am not a naturally confrontive person, even though I am thankful for the godly people who have confronted me in a spirit of gentleness. Two weeks ago a man at pickleball sat next to me and vented to me about his life, with the F word as his adjective in every sentence. He also sought me out to tell me about a disagreement he had thirty years ago with a man I very much respected who mentored my father. Again, the F word repeatedly. I was grieved for I happened to love the man he was talking about. I was simply silent. But I was upset!
I told my sisters at Bible study that I was troubled by this encounter and they told me I should confront him. I thought, “No — it wouldn’t do any good. He’s not a believer.” But my sisters were insistent.
Because of my sisters and because of Paige’s study, I decided I would earnestly pray for his heart and then talk to him. I prayed he would receive what I planned to say. I prepared a short speech that I hoped was winsome. When I walked up to where he was seated at pickleball he spoke first: “Dee, I owe you an apology. I was so wound up the other day.”
I nearly fell down. But I managed to say, “Thank you.” I didn’t need to say anything else.
God did it. He worked on his heart!
Confrontation is hard — and as a parent, it involves following through with consequences if they do not listen. That’s hard too! But proverbs warns repeatedly it is going to harder in the long run to refuse to discipline your son.
PRAY HERE, EITHER SILENTLY OR WRITE IT DOWN, FOR YOUR HEART AND THE HEARTS OF A FEW OTHERS.
7. Read 1 Samuel 2:22-26
A. What did Eli know according to verse 22?
B. What thoughts do you have about the women who were being used?
C. What did Eli say to his sons?
D. How did they respond and why? Comments?
E. Is there any evidence that Eli did more than talk? Why not, do you think?
F. What contrast is there in verse 26?
8. As a parent, where did you do well and where did you fail? Have you talked to your children about this, especially the failure, to help them break the chain?
Wednesday: Complacent Heart
Paige told about a quiet college student in one of her classes. On a bitterly cold winter night she found her ringing the Salvation Army bell outside a store. Paige said, “Why are you doing this — it’s so cold!”
She found out the student had volunteered to do it every night for a month because she had been studying the most repeated commands in Scripture — and caring for the poor is everywhere.
It isn’t enough to be avoid the sins of commission, we must not be complacent about the sins of omission. Paige said: “Hannah surrendered her son when not commanded, and Eli would not surrender his sons when commanded.”
Eli failed to discipline his sons, so there was a knock on the door.
9. Read 1 Samuel 2:27-29
A. What did God do to make Eli wake up and smell the nastiness?
B. How do the words of the man of God show that Eli was complicit in the sin? (v. 29)
10. Read 1 Samuel 2:30-36
A. What do you learn in verse 30 about those who honor the Lord and those who despise Him?
You may remember, and this actually happened, that Eric Liddell’s masseuse gave him the first part of verse 30 on a note just before he ran his race in the Olympics. Here’s that clip from the film Chariots of Fire:
B. Comments on the above?
C. How does the rest of the man of God’s prophecy fulfil those words about “He who honors me I will honor, but those who dispise me will be disdained?”
11. Paige kept stressing: conviction is not repentance. What did she mean? How does this speak to you?
Thursday: BUT GOD
For those of you who did Romans with Paige, she always talked about how God’s light would come into the darkness with a “But.” The book of Samuel took place in the dark days of Judges, and Eli, Hophni, and Phineas were part of the darkness. Yet in the midst of that darkness there were some shining lights: Ruth, Hannah, and Samuel. Samuel was the last of the Old Testament Judges and the first of its prophets.
7. Read 1 Samuel 2:18-21
A. How is the word “but” signficiant here?
B. What do you learn about Samuel?
8. Paige said that though Samuel was growing up in the presence of the Lord, he did not yet know him. (See 1 Samuel 3:7) What do you think is the difference?
9. Read 1 Samuel 3:1
A. What do you learn about the word of God in those days?
B. Paige said we often think of God’s Word as judgment, but actually, the absence of God’s Word is judgment. Why, do you think?
Paige said “Any word of God that is judgment is also a word of invitation. He is pursuing us to capture us.” The answer is never to flee from the Lord’s presence!
10. In what ways do you feel God is pursuing you now?
A. What did Eli do concerning his sons?
B. What didn’t he do? Why, do you think?
C. What motivates people to take religious positions if they don’t know the Lord?
11. Eli’s physical condition was parallel to his spiritual condition.
A. What do you learn about his physical condition in 1 Samuel 3:2?
B. What do you learn Eli’s physical condition in 1 Samuel 2:29? In 4:18? How does this show he was complicit in his sons’ sin?
So often, especially when we teach children, we tell them to be like David, be like Samuel, be like Mary. But we’re missing it, just like Mr Zuckerman missed it in Charlotte’s Web. When he saw what the spider, Charlotte, had written, he said, “Looks like we have some pig!” Mrs. Zuckerman said, “No, it seems we have some spider!”
We have SOME GOD that can transform hearts.
Friday: A Receptive Heart
11. Read 1 Samuel 3:3-6 and summarize what happened.
12. What does verse 7 say? We have already read that Samuel was growing up in the presence of the Lord. What is the difference between that and knowing the Lord?
13. Read 1 Samuel 3:8-10
A. What does Eli tell Samuel to do?
B. How does the Lord approach Samuel differently this time? Why, do you think?
14. Read 1 Samuel 3:11-21
A. Summarize in a sentence what Samuel was supposed to tell Eli. Why might this have been hard for him?
B. How does Eli respond?
Some say this shows repentance on Eli’s part. Paige said it is more like somebody coming out of a shoot-out with his hands up.
15. What do you think and why?
16. How well do you listen to the Lord? What is the proof of listening to the Lord?
17. What is your application to your life?