At Mountain Lake Church, we recently wrapped up a teaching series called Family Tree in which we took a hard look at the modern family, why we’re dysfunctional, and God’s intended design for each member of the family unit. So, when I was reading my bible today, I took special notice of this particular story. It’s found in 1 Samuel chapters 2 and 3.
Eli, and his 2 sons, Phinehas and Hophni, served as priests in the Temple. But, chapter 2 points out some glaring issues regarding the actions and character of Eli’s sons:
“Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord or for their duties as priests.”
In fact, these boys were seducing the girls who worked the Temple gates and they were improperly handling the sacrifices people were offering to God. They apparently had little or no regard for their position, their reputation, or standing before God.
Eli certainly knew what was going on. He heard the stories. He saw the attitude of his sons. (Isn’t it true that most us, as parents, have some inkling as to what kind of people their kids are, even if we tend to paint a rosier picture than what the truth really is?)
“Now Eli was very old, but he was aware of what his sons were doing to the people of Israel. He knew, for instance, that his sons were seducing the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle. Eli said to them, “I have been hearing reports from all the people about the wicked things you are doing. Why do you keep sinning? You must stop, my sons! The reports I hear among the Lord’s people are not good. If someone sins against another person, God can mediate for the guilty party. But if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede?”
Eli knew. He saw. He heard. But, he didn’t do anything about the behavior of his sons. Eli could have removed his sons from leadership. He could have taken away their privileges. He could have punished them in some way to stop their disrespect of God, the Temple, and him. But, he didn’t. Instead, he abdicated his role as a parent and did nothing.
I know parents like Eli, don’t you? Men and women who plead with their kids to behave but never follow through with proper consequences. Men and women who are more likely to apologize on behalf of their poorly behaved children or teenagers rather than hold them to a higher standard of living. I’ll confess that I’m tempted to be one of those parents from time to time….to overlook disrespect because I know my kids are tired or to excuse poor work ethic because their schedule is full…..but then I’m reminded of the rest of the story in 1 Samuel chapter 3:
“Then the Lord said to Samuel, “I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family, from beginning to end. I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them.” (emphasis mine)
Punishment did indeed come for Phinehas and Hophni, except it didn’t come from Eli. It was handed down directly from God. What’s more, they aren’t the only ones who paid a price. Eli was held responsible for failing to discipline his children. In fact, Eli’s entire family was eventually destroyed.
Sounds severe, doesn’t it? Yes, it does! Especially to my overlooking excusing way of viewing bad behavior. There are many mighty lessons to learn about parenting in this short passage, but the one I’m gleaning today is that God holds parents responsible for disciplining their children.
If you are a parent, let me encourage you. Act with love and grace toward your kids. Support and protect them. But, do not fail to correct them. If you allow their unwise actions and attitudes to go unchecked, they – and you – might pay a painful price.