Chapter 2 THE PROPHECY OF JUDGMENT
We must now listen to the solemn message of the "man of God". Amongst other things, a "man of God" must have the word of God.
The privileges of Levi (vv.27-28)
"Thus saith the Lord, Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaohs house? And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? and did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel?" This is quite self-explanatory (see, for example, Ex 4.14-16, 28; Deut 18.1). Whilst God bestowed great responsibilities on Aaron and his sons, He also provided for them through the "offerings made by fire of the children of Israel". Now read 1 Corinthians 9.7-14. Note the words, "Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel" (vv.13-14). God commissions His servants, and provides for them. Lets add something else. What a privilege to be chosen by God to serve Him! But what an awesome responsibility!
The preference of Eli (v.29)
"Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?" This is also quite self-explanatory. The priesthood had abused its privileges. The expression, "chiefest of all the offerings of Israel", means "the first of every sacrificial gift of Israel" (Keil and Delitzsch). The priests took that part of the offerings which belonged to God. Centuries later, He had to say, "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me" (Mal 3.8). Whilst the circumstances were slightly different, the result was the same. God did not have first place in the lives of His people. But are we giving Him first place? Do we give Him our best?
Whilst Eli was not personally guilty in the same way as his sons, he was held responsible for their evil conduct (see also 3.13). This makes sobering reading for assembly elders. "A bishop (overseer) must be blameless, as the steward of God" (Tit 1.7). He is responsible for the flock, and should therefore take steps to ensure that Gods Word is taught and obeyed. This is no easy task, and can sometimes bring unpopularity. The work can be particularly difficult when Gods interests clash with family interests. Eli failed here, and so have others.
The prediction of judgment (vv.30-34)
The principle of judgment. "Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed" (v.30). On a technical note, it does seem that we must distinguish between "thy house" (the family of Eli) and "the house of thy father" (the whole priesthood, as in v.27). Since "the priests office shall be theirs (Aarons and his sons) for a perpetual statute" (Ex 29.9), this verse does not mean that the priesthood would cease (see v.35), but that Elis "laxity cost him the priesthood, and he is told that he had forfeited what the Lord intended him to enjoy in that favoured position" (A. McShane). Are we prepared to honour God? Or does He have to say, "If then I be a father, where is mine honour?" (Mal 1.6). Lip service will not do (see Mt 15.8).
The nature of judgment. "Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy fathers house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house" (v.31). The "arm" signifies power and strength (see, for example, Job 22.9; Ps 37.17). Eli had spared his sons, but God would not spare him, or his family. Eli had "sown the wind", and would "reap the whirlwind" (Hos 8.7). The early death of Elis successors is emphasised in vv.31-33. Eli lived long enough to witness the triumph of the Philistines, and the capture of the Ark (v.32). The family of Eli would not be entirely destroyed (v.33), but the surviving priest would "look upon the decay with his eyes, and pine away with grief in consequence" (Keil and Delitzsch). The words, "to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart", evidently refer, not to Eli personally, but to his family. For surviving priests of Elis family see 14.3; 22.20. Ultimately, Solomon dismissed Abiathar (descended from Ithamar through Eli) and gave the high priesthood to Zadok (descended from Eleazar), "that he might fulfil the word of the Lord, which he spake concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh" (1 Kings 2.26-27,35). Eli left a sad legacy to his family. What kind of legacy are we going to leave for the next generation? For the best possible legacy, read 2 Timothy 2.2.
The sign of judgment. "And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die both of them." No comment is necessary (see 4.11). There can be no doubt about the fulfilment of any message which is prefaced by, "Thus saith the Lord" (v.27).
The priest who would come (vv.35-36)
"And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever." Who is this "faithful priest"? It has been suggested that this refers to Samuel. After all, he took the place of Eli at the head of the nation, and acted not only as a prophet, but also as a priest (see, for example 7 9-10,17). It was Samuel who anointed both Saul and David, and his grandson, Heman, "the kings seer in the words of God", was placed by David over the choir in "the house of God" (1 Chr 6.33; 25.4-6). However, Samuels descendants did not follow their father into the priesthood, and it is therefore difficult to say that God gave him "a sure house" as a priest.
The alternative is Zadok. As we have seen, he became high priest in the reign of Solomon, when the priesthood reverted to the family of Eleazar. (Ahimelech and Zadok were joint priests previously - 2 Samuel 8.17 etc.) We can therefore say that he walked before Gods anointed, that is, before Solomon. Zadok actually anointed Solomon! But this prophecy points beyond Solomon. It does say, "And he shall walk before mine anointed for ever"! That is, the Lord Jesus. Ezekiel 40-48 describes the millennial temple and its environs. The priests then will be "the sons of Zadok among the sons of Levi, which come near to the Lord to minister unto him" (Ezek 40.46; 43.19; 44.15; 48.11). (The last two of these references evidently look back to 2 Samuel 15.24-29.) The "anointed" must therefore be the Lord Jesus, who will "have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth" (Ps 72.8). Hannah saw His glory when she said, "He shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed" (v.10).
The prophecy concludes by describing the utter humiliation of the house of Eli. "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in thine house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priests offices, that I may eat a piece of bread" (v.36). No doubt this was fulfilled in the lifetime of Zadok. The very family that demanded the best part of the offerings (vv.12-16) is reduced to begging! "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal 6.7).
To be continued.