Lessons from the Darkness

1 Samuel #03: An exposition of 1 Samuel 2:11-36. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, October 30, 2011.

I have a picture on my computer that is a poster.  It is like those motivational posters, the ones with a word and then an uplifting phrase to go along with it.  This one says, “Despair: remember it’s always darkest just before it goes pitch black!”  I have to admit I’m not an optimist.  I never see the glass half full.  I tend to dwell on the negative.  I know what you’re thinking.  “Gee I was going to go see the pastor next week about my problem.  This is a great thing to learn.”  When I say I never see the glass half full I mean in my circumstance.  I’m pretty good at telling you to be encouraged.  I’m just not good about taking my own advice.  Don’t you find it is easy to be discouraged?  When things go from bad to worse don’t you find it easy to pile it on and say, “Of course this is the story of my life.  Nothing ever goes right for me.  I’m not sure what else can go wrong but I’m sure I’ll find out tomorrow.”  When I add to the equation my general suspicion about people and their motives – it get’s bad.  That’s why the book of 1 Samuel is so interesting to me.  The story is set in a bad time.  We are in that period of time when there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.  That time when the nation spiraled through the cycle of the Judges – corruption, judgment, repentance and a cry for deliverance, God was merciful and provided a deliverer and the nation enjoyed peace and prosperity and until they fell into corruption and the whole cycle started over.

Now this was not an endless circle, it was a spiral downward.  With each completion of a cycle they were not at the same point but worse off.  As we approach the middle and last half of 1 Samuel chapter 2 we find just how dark those days were.

Text: 1 Samuel 2:12-36

Hannah has just completed her song of praise to God.
That glorious statement of God’s power and provision.
That there is none holy like the Lord, a rock like no other.
That section ends with Samuel “ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli the priest.”

Samuel God’s gracious answer to Hannah’s prayer is acting in the role of priest with Eli’s oversight and supervision.  If you stop there it sounds pretty good.  But we’re just at the beginning of the story.

Listen as we begin at verse 12 – 2:12-17.
This is incredible!
These men are priests – their father is apparently the high priest.
They service in Shiloh at the house of the Lord.

Note how they are described: “Now the sons of Eli were worthless men.  They did not know God.”  They were priests!  They were responsible for worship and the sacrifices.

Worthless men = Sons of Belial.
Hannah’s prayer 1:16 – “…do not regard your servant as a worthless woman” (daughter of Belial).  Ironic isn’t it?

We find sons of Belial in Judges 19:22 and 20:13 and the awful story about the worthless men in Gibeah violating the Levite’s concubine and the bloodshed that followed.  Paul asks the rhetorical question in 2 Corinthians 6 – “What does Christ have to do with Belial?”  The obvious answer is nothing.  Godliness and ungodliness have no common ground.

1 Samuel 2:13-17 goes on to speak of the corruption of these worthless men.
They were not satisfied with the portion given them by the law of God.
They sought additional provision.
The custom spoken of is an extra-biblical custom of these greedy, corrupt priests.
They were literally and figuratively growing fat on this practice.

But their greed went even further – 2:15-16
Conclusion – 2:17 – thus their sin was very great, they treated the offering of the Lord with contempt.

Do you get the picture here?
Do you see the corruption, the greed, the contempt?

Now look at 2:18-21.
What a contrast.

Here is the principle:

  1. In times of great corruption and moral decay the people of God can rest assured that God is at work and deliverance will come.
  2. In times of great corruption and moral decay the unrighteous can rest assured that justice delayed is not justice denied.  There is coming a day of reckoning.

There was public, scandalous sin at Shiloh.  It was ongoing; it was unchecked.  Nothing was being done about it.  No wonder God’s people were cynical about worship and sacrifice.  If Hophni and Phinehas threaten to destroy God’s people then Hophni and Phinehas will be destroyed to spare God’s people.  It is a work of judgment.  It is a harsh reality and yet at the same time a gracious reality.  God protects his people.

God’s people must always remember he is at work, deliverance will come.

The unrighteous must remember God is not mocked, there is coming a day of reckoning.

One last thing…

Our hope, our confidence, our peace as the people of God rests in the fact that God’s purpose cannot fail!

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