Superstition is Not Devotion


A man of Benjamin ran from the battle line and came to Shiloh the same day, with his clothes torn and with dirt on his head. When he arrived, Eli was sitting on his seat by the road watching, for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city and told the news, all the city cried out. When Eli heard the sound of the outcry, he said, “What is this uproar?” Then the man hurried and came and told Eli. Now Eli was ninety-eight years old and his eyes were set so that he could not see. And the man said to Eli, “I am he who has come from the battle; I fled from the battle today.” And he said, “How did it go, my son?” He who brought the news answered and said, “Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has also been a great defeat among the people. Your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.” As soon as he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years.

Now his daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant, about to give birth. And when she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed and gave birth, for her pains came upon her. And about the time of her death the women attending her said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have borne a son.” But she did not answer or pay attention. And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” 1 Samuel 4:12-22.

After years of going through the motions of being religious, the Israelites have a crisis. So they think they can bring out the ark of God, and it will work it’s magic and win the victory for them. But God has other plans. His people have not hit the bottom yet.

Far into the future, we know things will one day be far worse than this, and that Israel will be taken into captivity. But God wants them to avoid this, and sends obstacles to decline. He sends faithful men to turn them around, and call them back to God’s law.

America is in decline. We don’t know how far, but we are like Israel during the time of the judges. We do what seems right in our own eyes. We have stopped advancing the kingdom, and we’re just hoarding our blessings. We insulate ourselves from the outside world, but not too much. We are like them more than we like to admit. We seem to think that electing the right people is a substitute to bringing people into the kingdom by conversion. Our crosses and bumper stickers will not be our lucky charms to protect us from the enemy.

Restoring the Word of the Lord


Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was.

Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. 1 Samuel 3:1-5.

The Word of the Lord was rare. That is because God needs somebody to talk to, and Eli was no longer on speaking terms with God. This was still in the time of the judges, where there were few people seeking the Lord.

We do not really know how old Samuel is at this point. He is sometimes depicted as a little boy, somewhere between 5 and 10. Some show him a little older. Whichever it was, let it suffice to say he was certainly not an adult.

Jesus said that the kingdom of God was made up of children, trusting and obedient. The dissembling, equivocating, excuse-making adults are to become like them if they are to enter in.

Like Eli, most of us are deaf to the word of the Lord. I am not talking about Bible reading. I am talking about receiving the living word that God speaks to us personally. He still does that. If you don’t believe He does, then that is why you don’t hear from him.

It’s Never Too Late to Fail


Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. And he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad. If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death. 1 Samuel 2:22-25.

Leadership is a big responsibility. Eli probably had good intentions, but all he did was scold his sons for despising the Lord’s offering and seducing women in the presence of God. One of the sons was even named after the Phinehas of Numbers 25, whose zeal for the Lord was so great that when a man went to his tent with a Moabitess , Phinehas took a spear and impaled them both while they were together.

Leaders who wink at sin in their homes and oppose it with a slack hand risk becoming a cautionary tale. Just because you served the Lord in the past does not mean you can coast on past virtue. God desires repentance when we sin, and faithfulness afterward.

She Asked for a Son

As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:12-20.

Hannah is one of Elkanah’s two wives, and it’s bad enough that she has been unable to bear children. But wife number one can, and taunts her about it. Elkanah tries to make it up to her, but she wants a son so bad be she promises to give him to the Lord after he is weaned.

The priest, Eli, sees her praying, but mistakes her earnestness and mistakes it for drunkenness. When she tells him she is not drunk but troubled, he blesses her and essentially assures her that her request, though he doesn’t know what it is, will be granted. That’s good enough no for her, and she goes away happy.

Are we willing to be undignified before the Lord? Would our prayer ever be mistaken for drunkenness? In the book of Acts, when the Holy Spirit comes upon the believers in Jerusalem, the people I town suppose they are drunk. And Paul tells us not to be drunk with wine, but with the spirit. Apparently it is something we can do if we want to.

She Asked for a Son

As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:12-20.

Hannah is one of Elkanah’s two wives, and it’s bad enough that she has been unable to bear children. But wife number one can, and taunts her about it. Elkanah tries to make it up to her, but she wants a son so bad be she promises to give him to the Lord after he is weaned.

The priest, Eli, sees her praying, but mistakes her earnestness and mistakes it for drunkenness. When she tells him she is not drunk but troubled, he blesses her and essentially assures her that her request, though he doesn’t know what it is, will be granted. That’s good enough no for her, and she goes away happy.

Are we willing to be undignified before the Lord? Would our prayer ever be mistaken for drunkenness? In the book of Acts, when the Holy Spirit comes upon the believers in Jerusalem, the people I town suppose they are drunk. And Paul tells us not to be drunk with wine, but with the spirit. Apparently it is something we can do if we want to.