Bible Ballistics: BBs #776 Close But Yet So Far???
We talked recently about recognizing God’s truth, and I’d like us to revisit that thought with a bit of a twist.
“Have ye not known?
have ye not heard?
hath it not been told you
from the beginning?
have ye not understood
from the foundations of the earth?” Isaiah 40:21
Isaiah called his people to examine themselves and see what they had done with the truths of God. That question is still pertinent for us today, in fact possibly even more urgent than it was back then, for we have spent so much time diminishing the import of The Word of God, perverting what God has said, and changing the truth for lies of convenience. In fact, we have done the same thing that Israel had done during Isaiah’s day.
“Woe unto them
that call evil good,
and good evil;
that put darkness
that put bitter
21 Woe unto them
that are wise
in their own eyes,
in their own sight!
22 Woe unto them
that are mighty
to drink wine,
and men of strength
to mingle strong drink:
23 Which justify the wicked
and take away the righteousness
of the righteous from him!” Isaiah 5:20-23
Woe is a strong word from God, and we need to be paying attention, whether we are genuine believers or those who claim the name of One they don’t know. We find one of the most important warnings to both in the story of Samuel and Eli (the high priest). If you remember, Samuel was the young son of answered prayer that Hannah received from God. She then gave him back to God for HIS service; when he was weaned, she took him to Eli as a servant of the tabernacle (the temple wasn’t built at the time)! Without listing all of the scriptures in this story, let’s peruse some of the highlights and see the danger of not walking “close” to our Lord, and thinking disobedience and neglect are OK.
she spake in her heart; only her lips moved,
but her voice was not heard:
therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.
14 And Eli said unto her,
How long wilt thou be drunken?
put away thy wine from thee.” 1 Samuel 1:13-14
This portion of the story is important to understand the outcome; Eli rebuked Hannah because he thought she was ‘drunk’, yet she was only deeply in tune with God in prayer for a child. Eli missed what was going on, and Hannah had to correct him, and then he blessed her for her obvious devotion to seek God for her needs. God did answer her prayer and when the time came, she returned the child Samuel to serve God for a lifetime. It would seem that Eli judged her by the standard of his sons. In time God spoke to Samuel and called him into his service with a message of “woe” to Eli, and the reason makes what happened with Hannah, most ironic, puzzling, and very insightful as a lesson we should learn from.
“And she said,
Oh my lord,
as thy soul liveth, my lord,
I am the woman that stood by thee here,
praying unto the LORD.
27 For this child I prayed;
and the LORD hath given me my petition
which I asked of him:
28 Therefore also
I have lent him to the LORD;
as long as he liveth
he shall be lent to the LORD.
And he worshipped the LORD there.” 1 Samuel 1:26-28
Hannah came to worship, as Samuel began his service to God, and when God called him personally, he replied in obedience to a hard task. Yet Eli, on the other hand, was unwilling to correct his sons, who were reprobate before God, and he knew what they were doing!
“Now Eli was very old,
and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel;
and how they lay with the women that
assembled at the door of the
tabernacle of the congregation
23 And he said unto them,
Why do ye such things?
for I hear of your evil dealings
by all this people.
24 Nay, my sons;
for it is no good report that I hear:
ye make the LORD’S people
25 If one man sin against another,
the judge shall judge him:
but if a man sin against the LORD,
who shall intreat for him?
Notwithstanding they hearkened not
unto the voice of their father,
because the LORD would slay them.
26 And the child Samuel grew on,
and was in favour both with the LORD,
and also with men.” 1 Samuel 2:22-26
Eli understood the principles of ‘obedient leadership’ but apparently not enough to deal with his own sons’ immoral and wicked behavior. The New Testament confirms the call of obedience for all.
“And that servant,
which knew his lord’s will,
and prepared not himself,
neither did according to his will,
shall be beaten with many stripes.
48 But he that knew not,
and did commit things worthy of stripes,
shall be beaten with few stripes.
For unto whomsoever much is given,
of him shall be much required:
and to whom men have committed much,
of him they will ask the more.
49 I am come to send fire on the earth;
and what will I,
if it be already kindled?” Luke 12:47-49
be not many masters,
knowing that we shall receive
the greater condemnation.” James 3:1
Eli had been given the title, the privilege, and the responsibility for the spiritual welfare of Israel, yet he didn’t even take care of the spiritual welfare of his own family. Now, don’t misunderstand—we can instruct, train, and set a good example before our children and family, but as adults, each person is responsible for his/her own choices. In fact, scripture says even children are accountable.
“Even a child is known by his doings,
whether his work be pure,
and whether it be right.” Proverbs 20:11
But Eli was not just a parent, he was the high priest, and his sons were also priests by Gods’ call to the sons of Aaron, as spiritual leaders to Israel. But Eli apparently did not take his responsibility seriously enough, and was allowing his sons to behave immorally, with complete disregard to the import of God’s instructions for the sacrificial system and its use in building a relationship to God, and yet he did nothing! God’s Word settles it!
“So then every one of us
shall give account
of himself to God.” Romans 14:12
God gave Samuel a heavy load for his first commission, and he proved faithful, for God had already been preparing Eli for the coming accounting!
“Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith,
I said indeed that thy house,
and the house of thy father,
should walk before me for ever:
but now the LORD saith,
Be it far from me;
for them that honour me
I will honour,
and they that despise me
shall be lightly esteemed.
31 Behold, the days come,
that I will cut off thine arm,
and the arm of thy father’s house,
that there shall not be an old man
in thine house.
32 And thou shalt see an enemy
in my habitation,
in all the wealth
which God shall give Israel:
and there shall not be an old man
in thine house for ever.
33 And the man of thine,
whom I shall not cut off from mine altar,
shall be to consume thine eyes,
and to grieve thine heart:
and all the increase of thine house
shall die in the flower of their age.
34 And this shall be a sign unto thee,
that shall come upon thy two sons,
on Hophni and Phinehas;
in one day they shall die
both of them.
35 And I will raise me up a faithful priest,
that shall do according to that
which is in mine heart
and in my mind:
and I will build him a sure house;
and he shall walk before mine anointed
for ever.” 1 Samuel 2:30-35
A previous prophet gave a warning to Eli, then God sent Samuel—I think not only for Eli, but for Samuel to know that he was being called by God to lead Israel back to Himself, to restore truth and God’s presence before them.
“Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD,
neither was the word of the LORD
yet revealed unto him…
…..8 And the LORD called Samuel
again the third time.
And he arose and went to Eli,
and said, Here am I;
for thou didst call me.
And Eli perceived that the LORD
had called the child.
9 Therefore Eli said unto Samuel,
Go, lie down:
and it shall be,
if he call thee,
that thou shalt say,
for thy servant heareth.
So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 And the LORD came, and stood, and called
as at other times,
Then Samuel answered,
Speak; for thy servant heareth.
11 And the LORD said to Samuel,
Behold, I will do a thing in Israel,
at which both the ears
of every one that heareth it
12 In that day
I will perform against Eli all things
which I have spoken
concerning his house:
when I begin,
I will also make an end.
13 For I have told him
that I will judge his house for ever
for the iniquity which he knoweth;
because his sons
made themselves vile,
and he restrained them not.
14 And therefore I have sworn
unto the house of Eli,
that the iniquity of Eli’s house
shall not be purged
for ever.” 1 Samuel 3:8-14
What a heavy load for a young boy, but God reminds us of the sufficiency of HIS provision.
“I know both how to be abased,
and I know how to abound:
and in all things
I am instructed both to be full
and to be hungry,
both to abound
and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things
which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:12-13
While Samuel’s task was a difficult one, he pressed on with respect for Eli, and regard for the message of God. We can learn a lot from these two men of God—one drew near to God as He heard His voice—the other had allowed his own permissiveness toward his children to cause him to fail his God! Yet, I do believe God allowed him to ‘redeem’ some of the time he had wasted, to have a second chance with Samuel—a chance to make a difference in this young boy’s life—and it would seem that he used it wisely and set an example of humble submission to the judgment of God! How about you and me? How do we respond to the call of God, and/or his judgment and discipline? Samuel revealed the truth of God to Eli—I believe with a broken heart, but a humble, submissive heart that spoke the truth in love!
“And Samuel told him every whit,
and hid nothing from him.
And he said,
It is the LORD:
let him do what seemeth him good.
19 And Samuel grew,
and the LORD was with him,
and did let none of his words
fall to the ground.
20 And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba
knew that Samuel was established
to be a prophet of the LORD.
21 And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh:
for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel
by the word of the LORD.” I Samuel 4:18-21
So, my question for each of us today is, are we so compromised that we have missed the task that Jesus has called us to, or are you one who talks about the master but doesn’t know HIM personally? The choice is yours, and truly there is a test. Are you walking in God’s “way”—Jesus (See John 14:6)? Or are you choosing to go your own way as Eli’s sons did. Or maybe you’re a parent who has failed to correct and lead your children to know and do God’s truth. There is a word for each of us if we will but heed the message God is speaking to our hearts.
“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man,
but the end thereof
are the ways of death.” Proverbs 16:25
“So then every one of us shall give account
of himself to God.” Romans 14:12
Will your account be that of one drawn close to the Father, or have you walked so far away that you have lost sight of God and His truth, or never really known HIM? I join with Joshua even today! How about you?
“And if it seem evil unto you
to serve the LORD,
choose you this day
whom ye will serve;
whether the gods
which your fathers served
that were on the other side of the flood,
or the gods of the Amorites,
in whose land ye dwell:
but as for me and my house,
we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15
Paul sums it up concisely:
“That we henceforth be no more children,
tossed to and fro,
and carried about
with every wind of doctrine,
by the sleight of men,
and cunning craftiness,
whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love,
may grow up into him in all things,
which is the head, even Christ:” Ephesians 4:14-15
Amen and Amen!!!