Eli was a great preacher, a fine priest. As the high priest, he was responsible, once each year, to enter the Most Holy Place and offer an atoning sacrifice on behalf of the nation. No one else had that privilege. He judged, he instructed the people in matters of worship, he gave counsel, he devoted his entire life to serving in the tabernacle of God and ministering to the needs of His people. But he was a passive, inactive father who indulged his sons. Those boys of his were a piece of work!
According to the Law of Moses, they were to burn the fat as an offering and take whatever didn’t burn from the altar. In this way, they were to receive only what the Lord provided. Eli’s worthless sons defied God’s instructions and reserved the choicest cuts of meat for their dinner table.
Along with their audacious disrespect for the sacrifices of God, they were perverse men who took sexual advantage of the women who came to worship. And they did so without shame, right there in the house of God. And Eli knew it! You would think that a genuine man of God like Eli would be outraged. Remember, he also served as lsrael’s judge, meaning that his responsibility was to carry out justice on behalf of God. These sons of shameless lust should have been carried to the edge of town and stoned to death. Instead, they receive a mild scolding. How pathetic is that?
God has preserved fascinating stories for us to leave us with enduring lessons. Fathers in particular need to take heed. It has been my observation that Eli’s paralysis of leadership is not uncommon . . . even among those in ministry. As a father whose vocation is service to the Lord, I have made it my intentional mission to avoid the failure of Eli. I urge you to do the same.
To avoid his fate, each one of us today must recognize that our family could very easily end up like Eli’s. Yes, any family can come unraveled—an elder’s family, a pastor’s family, a missionary family whose father walks with God and pours his heart into a church—rich, poor, healthy, strained. And that includes your family.
Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.