|Volume 24 Number 5 May 2022
Johnny O. Trail
The Bible contains many valuable lessons for its readers. In addition to providing a pathway that leads to eternal life, it contains information about successfully raising children. Sometimes the most powerful examples are negative ones, and the book of 1 Samuel contains a lesson regarding Eli and his unwillingness to chasten his wicked sons.
Eli was the one who instructed Samuel to be a servant of the tabernacle and receive instructions from God. While God’s Word generally portrays Eli in a positive manner, it treats Eli’s sons differently. First Samuel 3:12-13 says, “In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them” (NKJV).
Eli was culpable in the behaviors of his children because as the text says, “He did not restrain them.” That is, he never rebuked them for their lewd behavior. Every parent would do well to take note of how Eli failed in raising his sons.
Eli was unwilling to correct his sons because he honored them more than he did God. First Samuel 2:29 says, “Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?” This is a powerful lesson to anyone who places human relationships above fellowship with Jehovah. The Shema (ancient, daily Jewish prayer taken from Deuteronomy 6:4-5) called upon Israelites to love God above all else and then to instruct their children from His precepts.
In a modern context, it has often been said that one cannot be a friend to his child and be a parent, too. Sometimes parents must discipline children in a manner uncharacteristic of a friend. Really, a parent who seeks to discipline and teach about the consequences of evil is the best friend a child can have. Too often, parents are critical of adults who seek to correct the behaviors of their children. Instead of parents taking appropriate measures to correct their children, they blame the adults who try to instruct or to direct their children toward responsible adulthood.
Eli lost his two sons due to his unwillingness to “restrain them.” First Samuel 2:34 reads, “Now this shall be a sign to you that will come upon your two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas: in one day they shall die, both of them.” Similarly, many parents lose their children spiritually at or near adulthood because of their unwillingness to restrain them. Though physical death may also occur in some circumstances, spiritual atrophy and eternal loss are more serious.
Eli’s unwillingness to “restrain” his sons led to a national catastrophe for the nation of Israel. Several men died in battle against the Philistines, and the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the enemy. First Samuel 4:10-11 records, “So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent. There was a very great slaughter, and there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. Also, the ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.”
Consequently, any time children are not disciplined by parents, the entire society suffers. Under the Old Testament Law, a rebellious and disobedient child was to be taken before the elders of the city and stoned for his sinful behavior. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 says, “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city. And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear.”
This was done in such a public setting because disruptive, rebellious children can endanger an entire nation. Good Christian parents teach their children to be godly people who contribute in a positive manner to the church and to the world in which they live. Conversely, children who never learn discipline create problems in schools and in the nation in which they live. We are reaping the fruits of children who were not raised by parents who cared for them properly – physically or spiritually.
Eli perished, too, when he heard about the death of his sons. First Samuel 4:17-18 notes, “So the messenger answered and said, ‘Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has been a great slaughter among the people. Also, your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead; and the ark of God has been captured.’ Then it happened, when he made mention of the ark of God, that Eli fell off the seat backward by the side of the gate; and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.” This sad account of a father underscores the sadness parents feel when a child strays from the straight and narrow. However, in the case of Eli, he contributed to their demise by his lack of action as a parent.
As children of God, our role as parents is to lead our children, with whom we are blessed, to establish and to maintain fellowship with Him. This is our greatest responsibility as parents, and we need to prayerfully seek God’s blessings and directions in this endeavor. May we never be guilty of apathy when it comes to raising our children!
How to Erode Our Faith
Water movement is one cause of soil erosion, which may result from flooding, rainwater runoff or melting snow. The water takes soil from one place (e.g., a riverbank or a mountain top) and deposits it somewhere else (e.g., a delta). As the soil gets moved from one place to another, some areas lose soil while other places are built up. Erosion may result in fertile soil being washed downstream. Farmers and gardeners living upstream need to replace their soil, while people downstream benefit from the erosion upstream. Water movement is not the only cause for erosion, for wind also does its part, too. In either case, soil does not do anything to cause or to prevent erosion. Soil is affected by weather and does not have any control over whether it gets moved or stays in place.
Our faith also can either grow, or it can erode away. We often read and hear about ways to grow our faith. We may even start to engage in activities that help our faith. However, we can also engage in activities that result in the erosion of our faith. How often do we think about sabotaging our faith? What kind of activities cause our faith to erode away?
Not Paying Attention to God’s Word – The writer of Hebrews penned, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away…how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation…” (Hebrews 2:1, 3a NKJV). If we do not give the utmost attention to God’s teaching, then, we will not be grounded in the faith, and we will drift away from our Lord.
Not Attending Church Services – The same penman encouraged, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). The writer warned about drifting away and encouraged the readers to assemble with one another. When we neglect the assembly, we cut ourselves off from our greatest support system – our brethren.
Not Letting Sin Bother You – Listen again to the writer of Hebrews, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26-27). It is one thing to fall short and to sin, but it is another matter altogether for one to sin and it not bother him anymore. We must not commit sins without regard for what God thinks about it.
When we fail to safeguard our hearts and minds, the cares, worries and ways of the world steal away our faith. All we have to do for our faith to erode away is nothing. Just live as if God does not care about our manner of living and our faith will erode completely away.