PMT 2014-061b by Don Strickland
1Samuel 2:11-12, 17-18: Then Elkanah went to his home at Ramah. But the boy [Samuel] ministered to the LORD before Eli the priest. Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord. . . . Thus the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD, for the men despised the offering of the LORD. Now Samuel was ministering before the LORD, as a boy wearing a linen ephod.
The above contrast between Samuel and the sons of Eli could not have been made more plain. And God ensures the comparison is made twice. He is drawing attention to it. The last verse in the Book of Judges spoke of this period as a time when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jdg 21:25) The priestly sons, Hophni and Phinehas, had fully bought into the moral anarchy swirling around them. Scripture records only a feeble attempt by their infirm father to correct them – his words were ignored. And thus they are deemed by God as “worthless men”. These words are rendered more literally in the King James as “sons of Belial”. Later usage of the word Belial in the New Testament places it in opposition to Christ (2Co 6.15), and so one commentator equates Belial as the personification of wickedness. These were evil men, as verse 17 affirms.
But while the wicked sons of Eli, the acting priests over Israel and the supposed moral icons for the people, had completely sold themselves to the spirit of the age in which they lived, a young “boy” (the word denotes he was less than 13 years old), Samuel, was “ministering to the Lord” in their midst. While it is true that Samuel ministrations were in the service of Eli and not his sons, Samuel would have seen Hophni and Phinehas’s unrestrained desecration of the Lord’s sacrifices for the sake of their preferences and appetites (1Sm 2.12-16). As Eli, Samuel would have heard of these married men’s immorality with the Temple’s servant girls (1Sm 2.22).
And yet the text says, Samuel “ministered to the Lord.” Samuel was apparently unaffected by (or I could say, “he was protected from”) the gross immoral examples these sons of Belial were setting for him. Samuel’s service to the Lord was commended, and we know this because he is described as ministering to the Lord. Thus Samuel, as a young boy, was placed in the midst of an immoral culture where the religious leaders around him personified wickedness and hypocrisy, or in the case of Eli, was powerless to do anything about it. And the wickedness appeared to be without any firm opposition. It was winning.
Samuel could have followed the moral example of Hophni and Phinehas. His parents weren’t around to stop him. They had gone home. But he didn’t go down that path. A few verses later we read, “Now the boy Samuel was growing in stature and in favor both with the LORD and with men” (1Sm 2:26). How encouraging it is to see a boy placed in such circumstances, and yet not follow the sinful crowd.
We too have been placed in a time and culture that is currently becoming more and more anti-christ. The forces
of Belial are gathering in strength. Violence is rising. Truth is being turned upside down. Let us take courage, as we go to our knees before the loving Father, that we, our children, and grandchildren may be faithful as Samuel proved to be, so that we too may be available to change our world as he eventually did.