Daily Thought for: 2nd April

ELI—THE PRIEST 

1 Samuel 1. 1-3, 10-28; 2. 20, 21; 4. 11-22

There is dignity about Eli (his name means ‘exalted’) that is often overlooked as we fasten upon his failures. His personal piety and his lifetime service in the tabernacle in Shiloh in the closing days of the judges period make him a testimony in a day of immorality and idolatry. His misjudgment of Hannah as drunken reflects what he was accustomed to see. Yet he immediately regrets his harsh words of rebuke and he echoes the priestly blessing, Num. 6. 22-27. There is no doubt that his words must have contributed to that quiet assurance of Hannah so that she ‘did eat and her countenance was no more sad’. 

Four years later, the child Samuel is presented to the Lord for service in the tabernacle. The three bullocks, the ephah of flour and the bottle of wine show the appreciation in the hearts of Hannah and Elkanah of the goodness of the Lord in answering their cry for a son. Yet, we can only guess what it meant to a mother to say, ‘As long as he liveth he shall be lent (RV granted) to the Lord’. Eli’s response shows his character, ‘And he worshipped the Lord there’. Eli knew the wickedness of his sons, their unsuitability for priestly office and even the inevitability of divine judgment yet, without protest, or the least hint of jealousy, he accepts the one God had chosen to replace him and his house. This shows his priestly care for the maintenance of divine things. His family failure would leave the prophet, Samuel, instead of a priest to anoint a David. 

The last recorded blessing from Eli is given to Elkanah and Hannah, 2. 20, even as the divine judgment is about to be passed on Eli’s sons. Hannah’s three sons and two daughters are the positive evidence of the truth of the divine statement, ‘them that honour me I will honour’, 2. 30. Eli deserves credit for recognizing divine principle in the lives of his people even though he knew there was failure in his own home. 

Eli’s priestly concern for the ark is expressed in the words, ‘His heart trembled for the ark of God’, and its loss brought about his death. He knew, as did his daughter-in-law, that indeed the Glory had departed from Israel. 

 

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