Monday, August 13, 2012

Eli, the Worst Priest Ever?

Brief: Choose to have a good relationship with God over other people.

(Printable Student Sheet)

Intro Question
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever heard of a pastor or priest doing?

We hear about pastors and priests doing a lot of things they shouldn’t, from stealing money from the church to abusing kids. Those things should never be done, especially by someone who says they are serving God by being a pastor or priest.

The priest in our story today didn’t do anything as bad as abusing children, but he still wasn’t someone you’d want to have as your pastor.

You remember that we’ve been reading about Hannah and about how badly she wanted a child.

Scripture: 1 Samuel 1:9-17; 2:12-35

1 Samuel 1:9-17: Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if You will only look on Your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget Your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”

15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him.”

What wrong assumption does Eli make about Hannah? (That she’s drunk instead of praying.)

And when Hannah tells him about how sad she is and that she was praying, does Eli apologize or ask her what’s wrong? (No.)

What does he do? (He says he hopes God grants her prayer.)

To me, that kind of sounds like he just wants to get rid of her instead of really helping her with her problem. It’s like he’s saying, “Well, I hope God grants your prayer, whatever it was. Now, go away.”

That’s not being a very good pastor to Hannah, is it? But the really bad thing Eli does comes next.

1 Samuel 2:12-35: Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord13 Now it was the practice of the priests that, whenever any of the people offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand while the meat was being boiled 14 and would plunge the fork into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot. Whatever the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. 15 But even before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the person who was sacrificing, “Give the priest some meat to roast; he won’t accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.”

16 If the person said to him, “Let the fat be burned first, and then take whatever you want,” the servant would answer, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.”

17 This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt.

18 But Samuel was ministering before the Lord—a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19 Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. 20 Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the Lord.” Then they would go home. 21 And the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.

22 Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 23 So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. 24 No, my sons; the report I hear spreading among the Lord’s people is not good. 25 If one person sins against another, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the Lord, who will intercede for them?” His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the Lord’s will to put them to death.
26 And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people.

27 Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Did I not clearly reveal Myself to your ancestor’s family when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh? 28 I chose your ancestor out of all the tribes of Israel to be My priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in My presence. I also gave your ancestor’s family all the food offerings presented by the Israelites. 29 Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for My dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than Me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by My people Israel?’

30 “Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before Me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from Me! Those who honor Me I will honor, but those who despise Me will be disdained. 31 The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age, 32 and you will see distress in My dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age. 33 Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at My altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.

34 “‘And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same day. 35 I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before My anointed one always.

What wrong thing did Eli do?

If you were the head priest and your children were priests under you, but they were cheating people and taking advantage of them, what would you do? Would you simply yell at them like Eli did?

What Eli should have done is fire his two sons, and not let them be priests anymore, since they didn’t listen to him. But instead, Eli let his kids do what they wanted instead of Eli doing what God wanted and making the two sons stop. Eli chose his sons over God.

Let me ask you a question: Have you ever chosen a person over God? Have you ever done something that another person wanted you to do, even though you knew God wouldn’t want you to do it?

Have you ever felt like you should talk to someone about the wrong things they were doing, but then didn’t because you didn’t want to make them mad at you?

That’s what Eli did. He didn’t want his sons to get mad at him if he fired them, so he kept letting them do whatever they wanted. He chose to have a good relationship with his sons instead of having a good relationship with God.

If you’ve ever chosen someone else over God or done something wrong just because someone else wanted you to, remember that God gave Eli a lot of chances. God didn’t punish Eli right away. He warned him first.

And God gives us a lot of chances too. Just because we’ve messed up before doesn’t mean we can’t stop and do things right from now on. If Eli had taken that chance and decided to do the right thing, everything would have been fine. He could’ve kept being priest, and God wouldn’t have punished him and his family like that.

But Eli didn’t take the chances God gave him. We can. We can always change and decide from this moment on to always choose God first and do what He wants us to do rather than other people and what they want us to do.

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