If you’ve ever heard the adage “good help is hard to find” then you can understand the frustration that plagued even the priesthood during Samuel’s day. The frustrating, disappointing and destructive nature of the priests made for a severely troubling season in Israel’s history. In response to that, God will raise up a faithful priest to serve His people.
In verses 11-26, there is a clear contrast that emerges between Samuel and the sons of Eli. While the sons of Eli held the role of priest, it was only Samuel who was functioning in anything resembling the role of priest. This contrast is meant to highlight the absence of a faithful priest, and God’s remedy to this problem.
1. The Destruction of Faithless Priests: v.11-26
These verses chronicle a series of deeply disturbing activities that the sons of Eli are practicing in their role of priests. The text begins by telling us that they don’t even know the Lord (v.12)! This should be utterly shocking to the reader! The very people who are tasked to lead people to God, don’t even know Him. This is crucial because how we think about God deeply influences and impacts how we live our lives. This is seen in how Eli’s sons operate. They alter true worship by taking from the sacrifices what they want. They defile service of God by turning the meeting place of God into a brothel. Further, they refuse to address the sin that is so clearly plaguing them and the nation.
As we consider this abominable practice, we must ask ourselves if we are thinking rightly about God? Further, is this reflected accordingly in how we think, speak, live and act? Do we alter worship to fit our preferences or seek to worship in the manner God has laid out for us? Are we willing to address sin in our lives, or ignore it and the counsel of others around us?
2. The Hope in a Faithful Priest: v.11-26
In contrast to the wicked sons of Eli, we see snippets of Samuel that while it is limited in content, it speaks volumes of his work and God’s remedy to the faithless priesthood of the day. Samuel ministers to the Lord, not for himself. Further, he is growing in stature and favor. Samuel is still a boy, and yet it is clear that God has captured him and will use him for His purposes. Are we endeavoring to minister to the Lord, and not only for ourselves? Are we seeing evidence of growth in our lives?
3. God’s Word of Rejection to Eli’s Household: v.27-36
The final section brings with it the weighty but necessary word of judgment and rejection for Eli’s household. Most of this word from God speaks to the ways that Eli and his house had sinned against the Lord. They failed to remember all that God had done for them. They exploited God’s provision and platform and because of that, the promise was forfeited and their punishment would be banishment from the priesthood. But toward the end of this judgment, there is a word of significant hope because God promises to send a faithful priest. This has both future priests that will lead Israel well and it also has Jesus in view. We know that ultimately the other lines will fail too, but this promise leads us to Jesus. The author of Hebrews captures this well in Hebrews 7, speaking of Jesus as the great High Priest. He is the one who will be sacrificed once and for all, completing all sacrifices and being the perfect offering for all! This is God’s promise of faithful priest fulfilled and completed! This is the great hope that we have and that we look forward to.
In a day and age filled with all kinds of disappointment, discouragement and failure, loved one, fix your eyes on the faithful priest sent by God to serve and mediate for God’s people. This is Jesus, sent and given to us. We would do well to follow and serve that priest.