“For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.”
Hophni and Phinehas were priests of the Lord, day after day facing people who in absolute faith and thanksgiving offered sacrifices to the Lord. I would assume how their faith would have been strengthened seeing others pray and praise. To add on, these two priests were the sons of a very pious man who ministered sincerely to the Lord. He could not tolerate a woman being drunk and offers his immediate warning, though he later discovers she was only praying in grief. If a stranger gets a piece of this man’s mind how great a discipline these sons would have been offered at home? The woman whom he assumed to be drunk returned back to the temple and left the long-awaited fruit of her womb under this pious man’s care to make her little boy serve the Lord. How much of God’s righteousness and doctrines would have been imparted to both this little boy and to his own biological sons?
There soon comes a striking contrast which startles us. The next mention of these two priests addresses them to be scoundrels who had no regard for the Lord. They were wicked and their sins grew great in the Lord’s sight. On the other hand, the little boy ministered to the Lord. The aging father rebuked his sons and warned them about the wrath of the Lord. Yet they chose not to pay heed to it and were subjected to the Lord’s punishment while the little boy grew in favour of both God and men, and profited from the learning he received from the Lord. All these can be read in 1 Samuel 1 & 2, The little boy was Samuel, and the old man, Eli.
Not only was Eli’s rebuke insufficient, vain and totally insignificant for the disobedient sons, but also turned out to be a curse for the household. The Lord says to Samuel, “ For I have told him (Eli) that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever.” (1 Samuel 3: 13 & 14). It is indeed sad to note that the word preached did not profit the house of Eli, because Eli did not actively restrain his sons from evildoings all because of the love he had for his sons, which made him honor them more than God (Ref 1 Samuel 2:29).
Knowing the Word is one thing; but accepting the Word with faith, as well as sustaining in faith with our first love for God, is yet another thing. Both Eli and his sons knew very well and were exposed to what God wants of them, yet lost track. While Eli’s sons were totally in a state of numbness on the reverence or faith in the Lord’s warnings, Eli could not sustain his faith due to the reversed priorities which is most likely to happen in all our households. Defiant children yet parents not being able to restrain due to their love for them happens very subtly, that we often fail to realize we are walking the path of Eli. Eli as an individual was living an ideal life but not warning others enough and bringing them back to track, and that fell as an offence on him bringing upon the wrath of God.
Of late, there are a lot of Christians who choose to question the authenticity of God and His ways. The Gospel heard since their childhood no longer holds any meaning and the reality of present life is all that matters. Some blame fellow Christians, some the Church, some the traditions and some even the Lord. Even when similar exposure is provided, there are different reactions and experiences to respond in faith. Are we going to be those who in a fear of losing relationships, and in a feeling of total helplessness stop restraining those moving away from faith? Or do we toss and turn around like the sons of Eli despite having the Word of God preached to us? Or do we persistently persuade with the help of God setting our first love always on Him?
My dear friends, as we meditate upon the verse chosen for this month, let us note that the magic ingredient called “Faith” is essential and needs to be renewed everyday. Romans 10:17 says “So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”. As we begin this month, may we pray for ourselves as well as for others that the Word of God that we hear or share is mixed with faith and sustains till our final breath? May the ends of the earth experience God’s presence in their life. May the journey of faith begin, sustain and be shared.