AS A priest and judge of Israel, Eli held the highest and most responsible position among the people of God. He had the spirit of the average thinking person and he loved peace. Since being exalted to the office of high priest, as many would say today, "he had arrived." His was the highest position in the land. He could say, "I'll eat, drink, and enjoy the advantages I have. The eyes of all Israel are on me. I am their leader. I give the orders. What I do is all right. My children are the children of the high priest. Let them be the leaders of other children. Let them speak and let other children look up to them. The nation wants it that way. They want us to lead them."
Thus Eli relaxed. His life's ambition had been realized. But let's not forget that Eli was also a religious man.
Eli had two sons and, as is typical of fathers, he was proud of them. In those days and in that country sons were an indication of Cod's blessings.
I suppose as he looked at the two little boys God had blessed him with, Eli said to himself, "Someday you will be God's high priests in my place. What honor! What blessing! My house hold leading Israel for the years to come."
Eli's two sons were named Hophni and Phinehas. They were sweet little boys. Whatever they did, Eli thought was clever. He was far from a stern or demanding or commanding parent. If they did something wrong, Eli would say in his easygoing way, "Now, boys, you be good." And that was all there was to it. Be cause they learned that they could get away with about anything they wanted to, Eli's boys did not learn reverence to parents or to God. Life was easy; they didn't have to work for a living.
"Instead of regarding the education of his sons as one of the most important of his responsibilities, he treated the matter as of little consequence."— Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 575. His thought was, everything will work out all right. Just give it time. And that was all the devil needed—time.
"He indulged his children in whatever they desired."— Ibid. Whatever a little whimper or cry could cause their father to supply was provided for his spoiled sons.
As a result, Eli "neglected the work of fitting them for the service of God and the duties of life" (ibid.). Yet this was what he most wanted them to do—serve in the work of God. Easygoing Eli failed his sons and now the sons failed their father. They became indifferent to spiritual things. The sacrifices and offerings were meaningless to them. They saw only the meat, food, and personal profit, and not the Saviour toward which the services pointed. Life was a carnival for them and the sanctuary became only a means of satisfying their desires.
The people were so ill-treated that many stopped coming to the temple. The spirituality of the nation declined. This was not only the fault of the sons of Eli but, of course, can be traced back to easygoing Eli. He wasn't the father he should have been. "God held Eli, as a priest and judge of Israel, accountable for the moral and religious standing of his people, and in a special sense for the character of his sons."— Ibid., p. 578.
Because of Eli's position, all Israel looked to him as an example to follow. "His family life was imitated throughout Israel. The baleful results of his negligent, ease-loving ways were seen in thousands of homes that were molded by his example."— Ibid., p. 579. What a tragedy! It leads us seriously to consider the question, What do our members see in our ministry?
Eventually all the evil of the sons of Eli was brought to his attention, and if he had acted as a high priest should, he would have removed his sons from the positions they held. "Dreading thus to bring public disgrace and condemnation upon them, he sustained them in the most sacred positions of trust. He still permitted them to mingle their corruption with holy service of God."— Ibid., p. 577. Thus Eli put his own family's honor before the honor of God.
Sins and wrong tendencies are never to be tolerated. When we do, the devil gets a foothold. These things must be snipped in the bud. Sometimes we say the children are too young to be punished; wait until they become older. Thus wrong habits are left to strengthen until they become second nature to the child while he is becoming older.
By his easygoing and lax ways, Eli caused the ruination of his own sons and led thousands of his countrymen astray. It took Samuel twenty years to bring Israel to the place where God could again bless them—twenty years to undo the poor example of Eli, the easygoing high priest.
What about our own families? Have we been like Eli? Whether they are youth or adults, are they as spiritually-minded as you would like them to be? Don't think that time can change the situation. Eli's sons were perhaps fifty years of age when they died. They took the ark of God to battle without asking God whether they should go or not. Because they led their people wrongly, thirty thousand Israelites died on the battlefield. Thirty thousand deaths were attributed to Hophni and Phinehas. Thousands stopped coming to the sanctuary.
When Eli learned that the ark had been taken, he recognized that the glory of Jehovah had departed from Israel. What a rebuke it would be to a high priest to realize this had happened under his tenure of office. The thought that it was his sin that caused it was more than he could bear and his strength gave way. He died. (See Patriarchs and Prophets, page 585.)
Applying this experience to the homes and service of our ministers today we should particularly note the following:
1. "Many are indifferent and do not know where their children are or what they are doing. Parents, above everything take care of your children upon the Sabbath. Do not suffer them to violate God's holy day by playing in the house or out-of-doors. You may just as well break the Sabbath yourselves as to let your children do it, and when you suffer your children to wander about and suffer them to play upon the Sabbath, God looks upon you as Sabbathbreakers."— Child Guidance, p. 533.
2. We are always quoting the Holy Scriptures. Never should Scripture be quoted in a jest or paraphrased to point a witty saying. Children will pick it up and become indifferent to Scripture. Every word of God is pure. (See Child Guidance, pages 538, 539.)
3. "The house of God is often desecrated, and the Sabbath violated by Sabbath-believers' children. In some cases they are even allowed to run about the house, play, talk and manifest their evil tempers in the very meetings where the saints should worship God in the beauty of holiness. . . . This is enough to bring God's displeasure and shut His presence from our assemblies."— Ibid., p. 540.
4. "Your child should be taught to obey. ... If this standard is maintained, a word from you will have some weight when your child is restless in the house of God."—Ibid., p. 544.
5. "No man can bring into the church an influence that he does not exert in his home. . . . Let there be peace in the home, and there will be peace in the church. . . . Quarrels will cease. True Christian courtesy will be seen among church members." — Ibid., p. 549.
6. "If you have failed in your duty to your families, confess your sins before God. Gather your children about you and acknowledge your neglect. Tell them that you desire to bring about a reformation in the home, and ask them to help you to make the home what it ought to be. . . . Pray with them; and ask God to spare their lives, and to help them to prepare for a home in His kingdom."— Ibid., p. 557.
Maybe there are some like Eli who recognize that there needs to be a reformation in their homes before it can start in their churches. This is a good time to think of these things as we are looking for revival and reformation. It should start with the ministry; however, no revival can come or last unless it starts and is practiced in the home.