How to Avoid a Home Like Eli’s

1 Samuel 2:22-36

The story of Eli is the saga of a careless father and toothless leader. It is the sober account of the tragic consequences of failing to seek true conversion and sound character in those who are closest to you. Scripture places Eli before us as a man divinely chosen and privileged by God, yet one fatal flaw destroyed many faithful works, including causing obscurity in his lineage.

Eli’s conduct with his sons is chiefly in view here (vv.22-26). Scripture mentions the age of Eli to perhaps make us aware of the infirmities that come with old age. Although Eli was “very old” (v.22), his age was no excuse or justification for his failure to lead. To the profanity and greed described in verses 12-17 is added immorality. Not just any immorality, but sexual sin with women who were supposed to be dedicated to religious services (v.22; Ex.38:8). Whether this was some type of cultic prostitution practiced in Canannite religions or simply fornication is unimportant. The point is that the depth of their sin was willful, flagrant, and appalling.

Where did Eli fail? How did he sin against the Lord? What was the root of his sin?

  • His sin was rooted in his depth of his character.
  • His sin was a reflection of his moral weakness and light esteem of God.

After a long time of forbearance, here we discover that special privileges bestowed by God’s favor involve serious responsibility. When a person does not carry out that responsibility in faithfulness, the effects are devastating. God reminded him of a grace spurned and abused (vv.28-29). Eli’s punishment would consist of:

  • The depriving of strength (v.31)
  • The shortening of life (vv.32-33)
  • The loss of prosperity and the infliction of misery (vv.33-34)

The fulfillment of the death of Eli’s two sons is recorded in 1 Samuel 4:17-22. It is one of the saddest in the record of Holy Scripture. In later years, Saul killed one of Eli’s descendants (1 Sam.22:17-20); and later Solomon replaced Eli’s family with the family of Zadok (1 Kin.2:26-27, 35). In 1 Samuel 2:35, the “faithful priest” refers immediately to Samuel, but ultimately to the Lord Jesus Christ (Cf. Heb.3:1ff).

Eli’s story reveals the consequences of our lack of parental forethought, prayer, and wisdom. Often our severe tones of asserting authority, our lack of discipline to check wrong tendencies, and our avoidance of the essential truths of the Gospel inflame a silent resistance to true religion in the heart. We must keep dealing with matters of the heart with our children. The power of early habit plays an important role in the formation of character, and it is likely that if a child is trained up in the way he should go, he will not depart from it when he is old (Prov.22:6). Prayer, the Word of God, and example are the best tools to do this essential work.

Never Forget

As I reflect on my life as a believer, I have some pretty discouraging memories of faith! I look back and see times of doubt, times where my tongue was used to slander, times where I hurt people who are dear to me in the faith…sin, sin, sin. Of course, I do see progress as well. It’s not all ugly memories. Yet, sometimes I want to just leave the past in the past and move forward. The Devil wants to use these shameful memories to discourage and condemn me.

But, what does God want me to do with my ugly memories? He doesn’t give me the gift of forgetting.

God had Israel celebrate many feasts and at least two were feasts of remembrance:

  • The Passover Feast was a feast to remember God’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt.
  • The Feast of Tabernacles was to celebrate God’s provision of shelter for His people in the wilderness.

These feasts were not about Israel; they were about God and what He had done. Generation after generation remembered these events. These feasts proclaim: “remember what God has done.”

I believe that’s what God wants us to do with our memories of faith, both the seemingly good and bad memories. We are to look at the bad memories and thank God for delivering us, forgiving us, and providing for us. He gets the glory for sanctifying us and maturing us to where we are now. We are to look at the good memories and not think about how great our faith is, but how great our God is. He is using the victories and the defeats to both encourage us to strive on and humble us on the journey.

So, don’t let Satan use your memories of failures in your walk of faith to drive you to despair. Instead, may those memories drive you back to the Savior who continues to love you, despite of you.

Making Memories Deliberately

Whether we intend to or not, our family lives are creating memories that will live long in the hearts of each member. I remember the cool model car my father gave me for Christmas that we never built. I also remember the first computer he gave me (a Radio Shack TRS-80), that we spent hours on together.

My father and I had an interesting conversation a couple of years ago about raising children. I don’t recall what I said to him, but his response surprised me. He said he didn’t think much of what he did in raising my sister and me was done with intentionality.

Don’t get me wrong. My father is and was a thoughtful man. However, he just didn’t put much thinking into raising us.

I believe our heavenly Father would have us be as intentional as we can in raising our kids, which includes making memories.

Noel Piper wrote, “Traditions (memories) are a lot like heirlooms. Both probably have come to us through our families. Some you love; you can’t imagine life without them. Some you’re stuck with; you don’t know what to do with them.”

This comes from a book I highly recommend you read if you want to think more deeply (and better yet, more scripturally) about making memories with your family: Treasuring God in our Traditions.

Mrs. Piper suggests there are two kinds of memories or traditions that we give our families: The “Everyday” ones and the “Especially” ones.

The “Everyday” ones “give shape and order to our everyday lives,” she says. These range from the predictable devotions or prayer times, to the things we say in certain situations. One instance of the latter in our family is that we often say, “Love you more,” whenever we are leaving one another.

The “Especially” traditions or memory makers are just what it sounds like: special occasions that occur less regularly, like Christmas, Easter, or even birthdays (or adoption days).

Both kinds of traditions should be shaped by parents to provide meaning and stability. If we don’t intentionally infuse our daily family interactions with the Gospel, we will miss out on precious opportunities to model the Christian walk for our children. If we do Christmas without much regard to the Gospel story it represents, then our children will have a large hole in their minds about the true specialness of Christmas. Making memories with the goal of bringing glory to God and displaying His goodness to our children will provide you with joy in honoring our Lord and demonstrate the centrality of Christ in your life to your children.

Best Ever

It’s summer, it’s hot, and the kids are home from school. The big question in many families is: What are we doing for vacation? I remember as a child, vacation meant long car rides to a destination with my siblings as I crammed into the station wagon…the 70’s version of a minivan but way smaller. My mom would pack the ice chest with enough food to feed an army, my dad would make sure the car had a full tank of gas and was ready for the road. Why did we travel this way? Because it was the budget friendly way to travel with 5 kids. I don’t think it was the intention of my parents to “make memories” but in their ordinary, everyday parenting, they created long-lasting memories.

Once I had my own family, I wanted to be intentional about making memories with my children. One special memory that my now adult children still call the BEST VACATION EVER was our Disney cruise. Disney World is pretty amazing but the cruise takes it to the ultimate. However, beyond the obvious Disney experience, one of the best and long-lasting memories of this trip was not about the trip at all.

Managing my “teacher salary” budget to afford such an adventure taught us three life principles about money. First, deciding to spend it now or later requires wisdom (Prov.21:5, 20). Second, investing in the future requires planning and patience (Luke 14:28; Prov.13:11). Finally, it’s important not to take your eyes off the goal and squander money (Luke 12:15; Prov.6:6-8).

Giving your family the best possible experiences and memories doesn’t have to be extravagant or cost a fortune. What is does require is remembering God owns it all, being a good steward of what He has provided, and wisdom and patience to live with God’s will and timing.