As the Book of Judges demonstrated to us the wickedness of many of the rulers of Israel, it is unsurprising, though no less disappointing to see the sad state of the priesthood. When we see Eli the Priest in chapter 1, assume that righteous Hannah is drunk in the Tabernacle rather than praying, we get the first indication that something is wrong. When we are introduced to his wicked sons, Hophni and Phinehas, “worthless men” who “did not know the Lord” (2:12), who take advantage of their positions as priests to satisfy their greed and lusts, who “treated the offering of the Lord with contempt,” we get further indication that the priesthood has become rotten to the core. For this reason God declares that He “will raise up a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind.” (2:35) He also announces His judgment on Eli and his worthless sons, the latter dying in battle, while Eli, old and fat, ignominiously falls out of his chair and breaks his neck at the news that the Ark of the Covenant has been captured by the Philistines.
Throughout the history of the Church the spiritual condition of the people is mirrored in the spiritual condition of those who minister the Word of the Lord to them, and vice versa. Hebrews 13:17 tells us that the spiritual leaders of God’s church will give an account before God for their leadership. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”
Eli and his sons had brought down the things of God just as many ministers do today, and they were judged as many ministers today will be. 1 Timothy 3:2-5 tell us: 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?
Eli took lightly his service to the Lord. His sons disregarded the Lord altogether.
Pray for those you know who serve the Lord in ministry over a local church. Pray that they would not treat lightly the Word of God in their own lives or in their ministry to the Church. Pray that they would be faithful shepherds of Christ’s flock. Pray that their lives would be above reproach, that they would be quick to repent, and that God would be gracious to them in their weakness.