1 Samuel 2 vs 27-32: “There came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father.
“Did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? Did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel?
“Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?
“Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever, but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me, for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.
Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house.
“Thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel and there shall not be an old man in thine house for ever.”
Eli was the priest of the Lord. He descended from a branch of the house of Levi which God had chosen to serve Him as priests forever. When we pick up the story, Eli was an old man headed for the sunset of his career.
Sadly, things did not quite work out for him. Eli did not manage to retire with dignity. His family, he was told, would live short lives. They would watch from the stands as God blessed everyone else.
What happened to Eli? What did he do to make God take such a decisive action against him? Two charges stand out clearly from God’s complaint.
As a priest, Eli had not recognised the sanctity of the sacrifices people made to God. In other words, Eli had behaved more like a butcher than a priest.
1 Samuel 2 vs 12-17: “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord.”
The priests custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand.
“He struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither.”
Before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw.
If any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now and if not, I will take it by force.
“Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord.”
Eli had failed to restrain his boys, Hopni and Phineas. These two young men were an evil disgrace in the house of God. They stuffed themselves with meat from the people’s sacrifices.
They slept with women who served in the Lord’s house. Eli just sat at the corner and got fatter by the day. Samuel’s heart was fully devoted to God.
Eli comes across as a man without a dream. He was the priest, he knew the law of God, but he had no passion for his work. He had no dream for his own calling or for the future of the priesthood.
He did not value the Lord’s calling on his life. Eli’s life gives us some useful insights into the terrible consequences of a life or calling that is lived out without a dream, for the dream is the mother of passion.
A dreamless life (five terrible consequences of a dreamless life).
A dreamless life lacks passion and enthusiasm.
A dreamless life is typically a passionless life. When Eli heard the evil report about his sons, his response was typically half-hearted. When God was threatening Eli in 1 Samuel 3 vs 12-14: Eli was not able to visualise the enormity of his sons’ sins.
1 Samuel 3 vs 12-14: “In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house.
“For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knoweth, because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.
“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. He was not able to understand the full meaning of God’s threatened action.
1 Samuel 3 vs 18: “Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. And he said, It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.” This man is so passive, God is threatening to kill him and his response is, “let him do what he thinks best.”
A dreamless life limits us to our five senses.
For a priest of God, it is amazing how Eli was unable to connect with spiritual things. The first time we get acquainted with Eli, he is wandering why Hannah “was drunk” in the temple.
Eli responded according to what he could see or perceive by his physical senses. The woman’s lips were moving, no sound was forthcoming, so Eli thought that Hannah was drunk, yet the woman was in deep intercession.
1 Samuel 2 vs 22-25: “Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel, and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. He said unto them, Why do ye such things?
For I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons, for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the Lord’s people to transgress.
If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him, but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat for him?
Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.”
These are his sons, but twice he attributes his complaint to what he had heard. The boys worked with him in the temple, yet he had no idea, he only heard from God’s people.
A dreamless life leads to preoccupation with the flesh.
God has always loved the sacrifices and worship of his people.
Leviticus 1 vs 13: “But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water, and the priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar, it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.”
It was the broken hearts that people brought to the altar, their admission of guilt and a longing to restore fellowship with God. But not so for Eli and his sons, all they saw was meat.
A dreamless life is a life of resignation
This man believed in fate If we refuse to dream, we make room in our beds for resignation. At the bottom of dreamlessness is the mistaken belief that whatever we do will make no difference.
A dreamless life ends in the death of a generation
1 Samuel 4 vs 16– 22: And the man said unto Eli, I am he that came out of the army, and I fled to day out of the army. And he said, What is there done, my son?
“And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken.
And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy.
And he had judged Israel forty years. And his daughter in law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, near to be delivered, and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken, and that her father in law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and travailed, for her pains came upon her.
“And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her, fear not, for thou hast born a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it. And she named the child Ichabod, saying, when Eli died, he died along with his legacy. (His sons died with him).
“Don’t stop dreaming!…”