God’s People, part 42: Eli & Sons

Read 1 Samuel 2:12-36

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.” (Matthew 7:13 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Steinway-and-SonsPart 42: Eli & Sons. There is nothing quite like an exquisitely made, top of the line, grand piano. The sounds that come from such an instrument are enough to inspire, strike fear, haunt, elicit grief, elicit love, elicit anxiety, and stir the heartstrings within the being a of a person. For instance, one is horrified by the skeletal dancing on the fingers down the “ivory” keys in a song like Franz Liszt’s arrangement of Danse Macabre, and one is moved by the overwhelming beauty of Beethoven’s reflective “Moonlight Sonata.”

There is no doubt that such songs would not carry the same effect on cheaply made piano, or on a Yamaha keyboard. There is nothing like a quality piano. One of the best makers of pianos is Steinway & Sons. There impeccable design and attention to detail make for an instrument of no parallel. The company was formed by a German immigrant, Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, who changed his name to Henry Steinway upon arrival in America. Between him and his sons, the business grew and expanded and made an incredible name for itself.

Unfortunately, this is not a devotion about Steinway & Sons, or about the history of the piano empire they built; rather, this is a devotion about Eli & Sons and the brand they never ended up building. Eli was God’s high priest and was appointed to that position to lead others in worshiping God and living in a godly fashion. Not only that, but he was also the second to last judge of Israel, preceding Samuel.

Eli, himself, was not the most discerning of individuals. When Hannah came to the tabernacle to pray to God in order to request that she be allowed to bear a child, Eli was quick to think she was drunk and tried to send her away. With that said, he did bless her when he heard that she was merely there to pray and wished that God grant her the request she made.

Eli also was able to point Samuel, as we will soon see in the next devotion, to realize that it was the Lord that was calling him. So, like most human beings, Eli was wishy-washy at best. He was definitely someone worthy of leadership and someone who was attuned to God; however, he did not always reamin attuned and was often quick to make rash judgments. What’s more, he wanted his family to reamins the judges of Israel. Yet, his sons (who were also priests) were corrupt and would steal meat and goods that were meant to be sacrificed to the Lord.  They ended up ruining the family name as well as the people’s confidence in them to lead.

As such, they brought on themselves their own destruction and the Bible says that God rejected Eli’s household. To Eli’s credit, though, he called his own sons out for being disgraceful and, when push came to shove, Eli did mentor Samuel and knew that God was calling him to be the leader his sons never would be. In the end, despite his flaws, Eli served the Lord and gave Israel their next judge and leader: Samuel. This is the same Samuel who would eventually find, annoint, and advise the greatest King in Israel’s history: the shepherd boy and songwriter, David.

As can be seen, God knows our imperfections and works in us, through us, and even in spite of us when need be. The question for us is not whether we will be perfect, for will never will. The question for us is this: will we, despite our imperfections choose to serve the Lord as faithfully as we can? Or will we, like Eli’s sons, choose our own twisted and corrupt path? One way is a redemptive, grace-filled path, and the other is the path that leads to destruction. One path is narrow and hard to find, while the other is broad and wide and chosen by many. The choice is ours. Choose wisely.

“Sartre was only half-right. Both heaven and hell are other people. The difference is how you treat them.” – Rev. Todd R. Lattig

Lord, I recognize that I can either be an ambassador to heaven or an agent of hell. Steer me and correct me when I stray off of the narrow road so that I may walk The Way that leads to the Kingdom of Heaven.

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