God the Parent, Part 2

Photo by Jimmy Chan from Pexels

 

1 Samuel 8:4-20, 11:14-15
Psalm 138
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

 

Last week’s story ended with the death of Eli (chapter 4). The next three chapters recount what happened to the Philistines when they carried the Ark of the Covenant to their place of worship. They set it next to their god Dagon. The next morning, Dagon was found prostrate before the Ark. The people developed hemorrhoids and sent the Ark to another town where hemorrhoids also developed.

I doubt that very many kids learned this in Sunday school classes. It all about the power of God. Certainly, the kids did not hear details of the reparations the Philistines made when they sent the Ark back to Israel: five solid gold hemorrhoids and many gold mice.

When the Ark arrived at Beth-shemesh, the people made sacrifices to God, but also touched and looked into the Ark. Seventy men died as a result. (Actually, verse 19 reads: [The Lord] struck at the men of Beth-shemesh because they looked into the Ark of the Lord; He struck down seventy men among the people fifty thousand menJSB The 50,000 is unclear in the Hebrew and is ignored in most translations. If Beth-shemesh lost 70 men, there would have been few left in the village.)

Chapter 7 shows Samuel leading the people against a renewed attack by the Philistines, but he did it in a way Eli’s sons never considered—he prayed to God. The victory ended the last Philistine threat.

In today’s reading, we first learn of Samuel’s sons, two just like Eli. And just like Eli’s sons, Samuel’s boys did not follow in his ways; they were bent on gain, they accepted bribes, and they subverted justiceJSB We are not told what efforts Samuel used to correct the boys, but they did not work.

Notice, there is no mention of God’s plan for the boys, unlike Eli’s. Considering that the sons receive three short verses of attention, it should not be a surprise that we read nothing more about them. In fact, they are only mentioned to set the stage for crowning Saul as the king to replace God the King.

What happened to God the Parent?

The people were tired of his leadership and wanted what all the other countries had—a king. Remember in the history of the Hebrews after Moses led them out of Egypt and Joshua led them into the Promised Land that God governed the people through men in the Joshua mold—men who came to be called Judges. Samuel was such a judge.

While the people complained, God said to Samuel, it is not you that they have rejected; it is Me they have rejected as their kingJSB God agreed to a king, but only after He had Samuel explain to the people what kings do.

Some people argue that God was mad at the people so gave them a terrible king, but that loses focus on God of Creation. He and His Son planned for all these events. God selected Saul as the setup for King David, the forerunner of Jesus. God was not complaining that the people rejected Him, He knew humans are always conflicted with the desire to go-it-alone and the wish for strong leadership.

As fathers must do when their children reach a certain age, God the Parent turned loose the reins and let them seek their way. Yet, He did so with the safety net in place, His Son at the ready to follow David and take on the sources of sin and death.

If your children do stupid, or even deadly things, take solace in knowing that God is the Perfect Parent who weeps for them as much as you do.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

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.

Why?

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