God the Parent, Part 1


1 Samuel 3:1-10(11-20)
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Mark 2:23-3:6


Eli, a faithful servant of God, failed to be a proper father to his sons. If we look at chapter 2 we will read, Now Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they paid no heed to the LordJSB The Tabernacle was set up in Shiloh, and Eli’s sons took a portion of the sacrifices every day for their use. Then they began to demand raw meat before the sacrifices were made.

In contrast, Samuel was engaged in the service of the Lord as an attendant….Young Samuel meanwhile grew up in the service of the LordJSB

In chapter 2:22, Eli tried to get his sons to stop. He failed, and we are told, the Lord was resolved that they should die. Young Samuel, meanwhile, grew in esteem and favor both with God and with menJSB

It is important to understand this story in the whole. Eli’s sons ignored God while Samuel loved and served God. The key to understanding is the importance of remaining faithful to God, not the notion that God decided he did not like Eli’s sons.

Why did God resolve that the boys should die? They turned away from God. There can be no life apart from God. We are born into a dying world. We are under attack mentally, emotionally, and physically from conception to death. We have no chance—zero—of not dying. The only question is: will we die with God or without Him? The boys chose the latter way.

In today’s reading, Samuel has grown to teen years, if not adulthood. Eli has Samuel sleep with him in the Tabernacle. (The Bible calls it the Temple, but it was the tent.) We are told, In those days the word of the Lord was rare; prophecy was not widespreadJSB Even Eli took some time to figure out that God was speaking.

Why three times? It is a number of perfection, often found in the scriptures. It is important to note two things about the calls. Only Samuel heard the voice, and he responded at once. The first two times, never having heard God before, he assumed it was Eli. Please don’t imagine that God was upset by that. It was just part of the process. There was certainly no blame on Samuel. It was Eli who was a little slow.

Notice something else. Eli responded to God even though he did not hear the call. God’s only problem with Eli was how he treated his sons. In fact, when Eli forced Samuel to tell him the message from God, Eli said, He is the Lord; He will do what He deems rightJSB

Moving into the next chapter, we read that the Philistines defeated Israel in battle and Eli’s two sons took the Ark of the Covenant to the battlefield. That filled the hearts of Israel and put fear into the hearts of the Philistines. The next battle left 10,000 Israelites dead, and the army routed.


Two reasons. God did not order the Ark to be moved; Eli’s sons moved it anyway. The Philistines killed the sons and captured the Ark. Israel without God cannot win.

One more point. The message God gave Samuel came to pass. I declare to him that I sentence his house to endless punishment for the iniquity he knew aboutJSB The endless punishment did not take long; both sons died. The curse appears to have ended, for the wife of Phinehas gave birth to a son, Ichabod, when hearing of the defeat. She then died as well, but Phinehas seems to have lived, though he is not mentioned again.

The language of the Old Testament often seems harsh, but it is simply stating God’s position in the harshest language possible. Eli lived a short time suffering the loss of sons he might have saved.

What does that say about how we should do our parenting? Some would say we must be hard on kids, beat them senseless if need be. But look at how God disciplined Eli, who was the child in this case. The two sons were incidental to the whole story. They chose to live without God and received the reward for that choice.

The story is about Eli. God did not kill him, beat him, throw him out, write him out of the will. God still spoke to Eli, still reminded him of his duties, and punished him for his failure.

Most importantly, He did not give up on Eli.

As long as a child has breath, don’t give up. Stay close. Continue to show love, even as you enforce harsh penalties.


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Wind Blows Wherever It Pleases


Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalm 29
Romans 8:12-17
John 3:1-17


In reading this passage in John, the image of the wind struck me. Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit, often called wind in the Scriptures. In today’s reading, the wind/Spirit must enter a person for that person to come close to God.

To get a better understanding of the role of the Wind, let us consider every Evangelical’s favorite verse: Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born againNIV The key word is again—anothen in Greek. The word is from the root ano, meaning upward, above, brim, high, up.

To say that a person must be born anothen is to say born from above or from the beginning. The Message has it: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom. The Amplified Bible reads: I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless a person is born again [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified], he cannot [ever] see and experience the kingdom of God.

The ancient Greek has 36 words which can be used to mean again. John chose this one because of its stress on coming from above, that is, from God. It is Nicodemus who brings in the sense of rebirth. How can anyone who is already old be born? NJB That is the kind of question we would expect Peter to ask. It is a good question on the physical level.

But Jesus was not talking about physical birth. He tells Nicodemus, you are right, the physical birth has already occurred. The word John used is sarkikos—flesh. From sarkikos comes sarkikos. Jesus goes on: what is born from the Spirit is spiritCJB Notice the capital S. The Holy Spirit of God places the spirit in humans.

The spirit first came into humans at creation. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living beingNIV The Breath of God is equated with the Holy Spirit, and with the wind.

Jesus said, The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the SpiritNIV Jesus did not choose the image of the wind by accident. The Scriptures frequently used the wind to describe the work of the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus knew that very well.

But what does Jesus mean when he says, The wind blows wherever it pleases? That sounds hit or miss. Did Jesus mean some would be lucky in God’s game of darts?

One of the early Church Fathers, John Chrysostom, wrote in the late Fourth Century: Although he says “it blows where it pleases,” he does not say this as if the wind had any power of choice. He is simply declaring that its natural motion is powerful and cannot be hindered…. For no one can hold the wind; it moves where it pleases. And so, whether it is the laws of nature or the limits of bodily generation or anything else like this—they have no ability to restrain the operations of the Spirit. ACCS

In our best human understanding, the power of the Spirit is similar to the power of the wind.

Bede the Venerable (early Eighth-Century England) added: The Spirit comes to the saints [and] goes from the saints, so that they may be refreshed from time to time by the frequently recurring light of the return of him whom they are not capable of having alwaysACCS

I’ll close with verses 16-18 as paraphrased by Eugene Peterson. This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to himMSG


Read my earlier comments on this theme here.


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence