Monday, June 22, 2009

A Tale of three fathers: Eli

With Father's day just having passed, many would question my reasoning for devoting any blogs at all to the subject of fathers. Many of my fellow writers would say that I should have written all this BEFORE the actual day instead of after it is passed. I, as you can see, am not a normal writer (or preacher, for that matter). It is my intention to do what my English teachers used to call "a compare and contrast" piece. This will be done in three or four different blog posts. Hopefully, by the time we're done, we'll all have learned some things.
Three of the most famous Father's in the Holy Scriptures (Bible) are Abraham, Job, and Eli. I'm not going to rate them in this writing, though I admit that the temptation is there. What we discover about these men and their "fathering style" could very well change us, our families, and even the world at large. With that in mind, let's begin with Eli.
After the famous flight from Egypt, wondering around in the wilderness, and the taking of the land; but before the famous first three kings of Israel (Saul, David, and Solomon), Israel was a true theocracy. They were guided by the principles of the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and were ruled by a series of judges. These judges were not a monarchy. Indeed, there were many time periods in which there was no judge.
Inevitably, Israel would fall into sin. Then they would cry to God in repentance and ask to be delivered from the hands of the enemy. God would then raise up a judge that would, in most cases, call them to task for their actions, remind them of their vow to God,and follow God's leading to rid the Israelites of their enemies. Then, in most cases, the judge would rule until he died. Then they would be without a judge again.
During the time just before the last and greatest of the judges (Samuel), there arose a high priest of special significance: Eli. We first hear of him through the story of Hannah.( 1Samuel 1-2:11) He is the one who rebuked the mourning Hannah for being drunk, when he found her crying her prayers to God, with her lips moving but not speaking out loud. When she responded that she was not drunk, but was petitioning God for a child, he famously told her "...the God of Israel grant thy petition...".
He was charged by God through this same woman to raise the child that God had given her (Samuel). What is really remarkable about this is the very first verse AFTER the very young Samuel was safely tucked away in Eli's house:
"Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial, they knew not the Lord..." The next few verses go on to describe in detail just how bad these young men were! What a rebuke of Eli's fathering of these boys. (Actually they were at least 30 years old, as this was the youngest age that a man could take on priestly duties, according to the law.) He, who had ascended to the highest level of the priesthood, who was supposedly the holiest man in all of Israel, was a lousy father.
What happened? Did he get so caught up in rising to the top of his profession that he spent little time with his children? It's possible. Many a man of God, in this day and age, get so focused on their ministry that they forget that their primary ministry is their family. This is why so many PK's (preachers kids) go so wild.
Was Eli more concerned with the reputation that he had, than the family God had gifted him with? This is also possible. Many a preachers kid gets aggravated at their parents because of this. They have to act a certain way, speak a certain way, etc, not so much because these things are the right things to do (though much of it may be), but because they must carry themselves in a way that honor's daddy's office as a man of God.
Was there no bite to daddy's bark? This is also possible. Verses 2:22-25 tell the story of Eli confronting his sons with their sins. Yet, they received no punishment and did no repenting. Why did not Eli, who was not only their Father but their BOSS as the high priest, forcefully remove them from their "ministries"? He apparently was one of those fathers that told his children "you shouldn't do that. God doesn't like that.", yet he never applied the board of education to the seat of learning.
Whatever he did wrong, his sons were NOT godly men. Eli was apparently a much better father figure for Samuel than he had been for his sons, as Samuel turned out to be a much better man. What were the results of his lack of foresight in raising his sons?
1) The sins that he allowed to fester in his sons actually caused many Israelites to turn from God (2: 17) When we allow sin to fester in our family or ourselves, we open the door for that sin to cause many more sins in generations to come and families near our own. Indeed, I know of one family that gave God lip service, but were mean as rattlesnakes and as manipulative as a politician. The results? Their children went deep into drugs, alcohol, and sexual immorality. The grandchildren were worse than the children, even delving into homosexuality, lesbianism, and even witchcraft. Only God knows how bad the next generation will be. Many families have been deeply scarred due to the wrongs of this one couple and their ungodly parenting style.
2) Judgement was brought by God against the family and the nation (verses 2: 27- 36 and 4: 2-22). When we started, as a society, to move away from the God given instructions (the Bible) for child rearing, how we should act, how we should live, etc, we began to spread an unholy cancer in our country! God is not mocked. Our sins are finding us out. Our families are shambles because of it. Our schools teach lies because of it. Our churches are only shells of what they once were. Our entertainment is unspeakably ungodly. Our government is extremely corrupt. Our economy is on the brink of ruin because of it and we have the gall to call ourselves a christian nation! It started in the home- with Mom's and Dad's who "wanted something better" for their children, but were deceived into doing things to get those things that never would've been done in generations past. All because we left our Godly foundations.
As the men of God for this hour, WE need to stand up and shout the truth from the rooftops. It is time for personal, familial, community wide, church wide, and country wide REPENTANCE! If we, who are called by his name, will humble ourselves, repent, pray, and turn back to God's book and God's ways; he has promised that he will hear from heaven and heal our land. It has to begin with us. In our homes. On our jobs. In all that we do, "seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."
God bless you all. Until next time, to quote The Steeles famous song, lets guard the gate "For the sake of my children."