The book of 1 Samuel gives us a glimpse into the condition of the priesthood in the days of the Judges. God had been silent, as the Word of the Lord was rare (1 Samuel 3:1). When we look at Eli and his worthless sons who ministered as priests, we can certainly see the reason this was the case.
Hannah was a Godly woman. Her husband loved her, but the fact that he also had another wife was contrary to God’s plan for monogamy in marriage. It’s easy to see why in this situation. The ungodly wife tormented Hannah because she was barren. Penninah lorded it over Hannah, since she had borne children – thinking she was blessed and favored by Yahweh – whereas Hannah wasn’t; thus earning derision.
Over time, as the family went up to Shiloh for their yearly sacrifice, Hannah continually prayed for fertility. On one such occasion Eli the priest noticed her pouring out her heart before the altar of God. Eli wasn’t very discerning. He thought Hannah was drunk. After she graciously set him straight, Eli blessed her desires in God’s Name.
Subsequently, Hannah did become pregnant. Since she had vowed before the Lord that this firstfruit of her womb would be dedicated to Yahweh, once she weaned the child she brought him up to Shiloh for him to be raised as a Nazarite, holy to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:11).
Eli’s sons were a piece of work. As 1 Samuel 2:12 informs us:
Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord.
In this corrupt and ungodly condition, they served the Lord. But, how can anyone who doesn’t know God actually serve Him faithfully and from his heart? These men certainly didn’t.
In the animal sacrificial system of the Israelites, the fat of the offering was holy to the Lord. We see this in Leviticus 7:1-5:
“This is the law of the guilt offering. It is most holy. In the place where they kill the burnt offering they shall kill the guilt offering, and its blood shall be thrown against the sides of the altar. And all its fat shall be offered, the fat tail, the fat that covers the entrails, the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. The priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering to the Lord; it is a guilt offering.”
And there was a severe penalty for not obeying this command as shown in Leviticus:22-27:
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, You shall eat no fat, of ox or sheep or goat. The fat of an animal that dies of itself and the fat of one that is torn by beasts may be put to any other use, but on no account shall you eat it. For every person who eats of the fat of an animal of which a food offering may be made to the Lord shall be cut off from his people. Moreover, you shall eat no blood whatever, whether of fowl or of animal, in any of your dwelling places. Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.”
Yet, what did Eli’s sons do? They operated contrary to God’s will. 1 Samuel 2:15-16 outlines this:
Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give meat for the priest to roast, for he will not accept boiled meat from you but only raw.” And if the man said to him, “Let them burn the fat first, and then take as much as you wish,” he would say, “No, you must give it now, and if not, I will take it by force.”
You can be assured that this was not pleasing to Yahweh.
Indeed, Eli knew all about the evil his sons perpetrated as supposed men of God, even to the extent of serious immorality, as 1 Samuel 2:22 describes:
Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting.
The text tells us that Eli spoke to his sons about these actions, but it’s obvious he had neglected to truly raise them in the way of the Lord. His reprimand was tepid at best and had no teeth. As a result, the wickedness in the house of Eli earned God’s wrath, and He determined to put the sons to death (1 Samuel 2:25).
It took a true – unnamed – man of God coming to the temple to declare God’s displeasure upon Eli and his sons and the consequence for how they had scorned Yahweh. He declared the judgment that the sons would both die in a single day. Later, when the Word of the Lord came to Samuel as a youngster and the time of this penalty approached, we see how little it worried Eli. He essentially shrugged it off, saying in 1 Samuel 3:18 when Samuel related what would soon happen:
“It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.”
This impending doom didn’t seem to bother him much. Perhaps, since he was so far from the Lord in his relationship, Eli didn’t really believe Yahweh would carry out His Word.
The parallels to churches and their leaders today shouldn’t be missed. We are in the midst of a great apostasy with people turning from God left and right. This wouldn’t be happening were it not for the congregations being led astray by the pastors and priests in charge of their flocks first heading down this wide road into unbelief.
I personally believe that a significant contributor to this condition is the lack of teaching regarding Bible prophecy. If seminaries and Bible schools taught this 1/3 of the Scripture, and their students – the pastors and priests – took it to heart and conveyed it to their congregations, there might not have been such disdain for the plans and purposes of God. And, let’s be honest. There is contempt for Bible prophecy throughout Christendom.
Church leaders and their followers simply don’t believe what God has said will happen. They are like Eli. They have little regard for the truth of God’s Word and His warnings. Instead, they follow their own inclinations. It has left the church barren and asleep. It also will cause great distress when God acts upon His Word – which He will.
God gave us the forewarnings of Bible prophecy for a reason. We neglect them at our own peril. This deliberate avoidance of God’s prophetic Word will have consequences. It leaves people ignorant and unprepared for what is to come. Some will likely also be left behind when the Rapture occurs, because they never learned the fear of God that serious Bible prophecy teaching can instill.
It’s as Jesus said in Luke 12:15:
“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
This is not our best life now. We should not consider it as such, contrary to the teaching of many prominent pastors. Instead, as Jesus also said a little earlier in Luke 12:5:
“But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!”
Perhaps with this attitude that provides a holy fear of God, many would be spared from eternal torment, but also from the wrath that God will soon unleash upon this unbelieving world. Sadly, I fear that many – being misled – will soon face this most ungodly of times.
We who know and understand the prophetic significance of God’s Word will do well to be watchmen on the wall and attempt to reach others so as to warn them.