Monday, May 8, 2017

May 8

1 Samuel 2:22-4:22; John 5:24-47; Psalm 106:1-12; Proverbs 14:30-31

Today is a story of fathers and sons, which is somewhat ironic as we're fast approaching Mother's Day.  But here we are, nonetheless.  We have good sons and not-so-good sons, good fathers and not-so-good fathers, and we can see the natural outworkings of those choices in relationship.

Eli knows all the sins committed by his sons.  Hophni and Phinehas have treated the Lord cavalierly, not considering his holiness to be most important.  We read yesterday that they've desecrated the holy sacrifices, and today we learn that they compound this sin by sexual immorality with women who should be under their guidance and protection (I Sam. 2:22).  Although Eli remonstrates with his sons, he is not effective in turning their hearts back to the Lord, and the Lord chastises Eli directly for his failure: "Why do you honor your sons more than me?" (I Sam. 2:29)  Eli is complicit in their guilt; God indicates that Eli's efforts to restrain his sons were half-hearted at best.  The death of all three results (I Sam. 4:11, 18).

This passage is sobering for me.  My sons (and daughters) are yet young.  What will I do if they act contrary to God's revealed word when they are grown?  How will I respond?  Will I honor God first and foremost, or will my love for my children cause me to turn a blind eye to their sin?  It's easy for me, with the eldest of our children just entering his teens, to be self-righteously sure that I'll stand firm on the side of truth and holiness, but I know my heart is weak.  And I also know my tendency to be sure that my opinions carry equal weight as God's.  I'm all too quick to condemn for a difference of personality or agenda, backing my position up with "religious" support.  How do I learn to see my children truly, and even so love them deeply - and deeply enough to speak God's sometimes-painful truth?

It's questions like these that make me glad I'm not to that point yet!

So Eli with his sons Hophni and Phinehas - those are the less-than-stellar entries in our sons-and-fathers competition today.  But we see that Eli does yet have a tender regard for God (witness his gentleness with Samuel in chapter 3), and at the very end of his life, it is the loss of the ark that undoes Eli, not the loss of his sons (I Sam. 4:18).  Perhaps Eli has reoriented himself and gotten his priorities back in order.

And then, poor Ichabod.  Orphaned at birth and saddled with an awful name.  A son without a father.

Here's the opposite side of the coin, though - Jesus, who calls himself both "the Son of God" (Jn. 5:25) and "the Son of Man" (vs. 27).  There's a clear intimacy in this passage between Jesus and his Father.  They share life (vs. 26) and purpose/mission (vs. 36).  Jesus is affirmed and confirmed, approved by his Father (vs. 37).  They are united in holding God's name as holy and single-minded in communicating God's will to others. Our winners, ladies and gentlemen!

Now, we know the climax of this story. Jesus, even though he's a good son - because, in fact, he's a good son - will yet die.  Living a godly life is no guarantee of life and prosperity.  But consider the rewards that Jesus reaps because of his obedience!  We are those prizes, those earnings, those gifts.  

Thank you, Jesus for your faithfulness, for the ways you fulfilled God's purposes even at ultimately great cost.  May we strive to be fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, who resemble you and your Father and not Eli and his sons.  Amen.

- Sarah Marsh

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