Let’s continue with our topic from yesterday. If you recall, I discussed the possibility that we tolerate sinful behavior in our homes to the point that, in my opinion, turns from loving tolerance to the harboring of sin. Of course, we have a perfect example of this in the priest Eli and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. “Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord.” (1 Samuel 2:12)
These two certainly had control of the house. In fact, everyone knew it and even spoke to Eli about it. He did talk to his boys, but they wouldn’t listen. Eli would have well known what he was supposed to do after that.
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 “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, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil one from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
The Lord intervened in the situation and told Eli what was to happen – that he would tear the temple from Eli and kill both sons on the same day. That, in fact, is what happened. Out of all this, the Lord raised up Samuel, one of the greats in biblical history.
Let’s not reject these instructions from the Lord outright simply because of the stoning. How about if we simply have it in our mind that God requires us to throw someone out. Permanently. Let’s say that there needs to be a point where punishment has real teeth and lasting consequences.
Eli couldn’t bear the thought of that, apparently, because he did nothing of real consequence to stop his sons from harming the home. I would imagine that God intervened directly in Eli’s case because the behavior also affected the temple. Even so, we could expect severe consequences when we refuse to confront sin. God has spoken directly to us through his Word, so we all are on notice.
Perhaps we would be wise to pay real attention to the lesson of Eli. In the midst of this bible passage, we hear little Samuel’s obedient voice, “Here, I am, Lord.” (Can’t you just hear that hymn in your mind right now?) We allow that part to overshadow the difficult part that sandwiches the little boy in the temple. We also see the same thing with David. He knew what must be done to Absalom, but he failed to do it and suffered greatly as a result.
Is this same thing happening to us today? Do we have members of our households who are living a sinful life and destroying the very fabric of family that a home is supposed to protect? Indeed, I think we are.
I wonder what excuses Eli came up with to justify his refusal to do the hard thing. Do you suppose he once said, “Boys will be boys.”? Do you suppose he prayed for them? Do you suppose he wrote their names on prayer cards at church? Do you suppose he started making other lame excuses to himself even though he knew there was a very serious problem? Do you suppose he started avoiding his friends and other family because of his boys? I wonder what he said when they confronted him about his boys. I’ll bet he may even have gotten angry at those who reminded Eli what needed to be done. I’ll bet Eli may have blamed THOSE people instead! I’ll bet Eli’s world got smaller and smaller the longer this problem went and grew.
Did you grow up in a dysfunctional family? Then you know what I’m talking about. Perhaps you live in one now. Perhaps you were a victim. Maybe you were the problem. In any case, we all know that there is far too much destruction. In reality, there is far more than God intends. He has given us clear instruction in our passage above. First and foremost, the majority of the problem would disappear if people feared that punishment was real, severe, and imminent. Trust me, I behaved much better under these conditions. If that didn’t work, then the problem would be removed permanently from the rest of the family so that s/he wouldn’t ruin it for everyone else.
Before we come up with a million reasons why we can’t do the drastic thing, let’s settle on the thought that we need to do something drastic. If we don’t, we will end up with a mess like Eli did – one in which God intervened directly. Don’t think that can’t happen to you or me? Don’t kid yourself.
Tomorrow, we’ll examine another passage from Jesus himself on how to deal with problem people. Stay tuned.
Father, stir us to search the scriptures for answers to our everyday lives. Your word is as valid today as it was thousands of years ago. Show us how to apply your wisdom. Amen.
Copyright © 2018 Scott Powers