Stop acting so proud and haughty! Hannah prays when she brings the son, Samuel, she had asked God for to dedicate to the temple. Don’t speak with such arrogance! For the LORD is a God who knows what you have done; he will judge your actions. (1 Samuel 2: 3 NLT)
Hannah might have been speaking to her husband’s more prolific wife, Peninnah, who had taunted Hannah for many years because Hannah was barren and Peninnah had several children. But as the rest of 1 Samuel shows, Hannah could as easily be speaking a warning to the very priest she turns her son Samuel over to, Eli.
Now, Eli was a highly respected priest, but his sons were wicked. They mocked God by eating offerings meant to be sacrificed to Him. They seduced the young women who helped at the entrance to the Tabernacle. The people were so horrified, they complained to Eli, who reminded his sons that their sins were against God and should cease, but to no avail.
As Samuel grew to love God and find favor with Him, Eli and his sons grew fat on the takings from a priestly duty they had turned into a mockery. Finally, God confronts Eli with the pronouncement that his family’s actions have actually cost them the heritage of being the branch of the Levi tribe that will serve as High Priest to God.
But I will honor those who honor me, and I will despise those who think lightly of me, the LORD tells Eli. The time is coming when I will put an end to your family, so it will no longer serve as my priests. All the members of your family will die before their time. None will reach old age. You will watch with envy as I pour out prosperity on the people of Israel. But no members of your family will ever live out their days. Those who survive will live in sadness and grief, and their children will die a violent death. And to prove that what I have said will come true, I will cause your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, to die on the same day! (1 Samuel 2: 30-34 NLT)
To underscore how far from God the people were at this time, in fulfilling His promise to Eli, God also allowed the Ark of the Covenant to be taken from the Israelites by the Philistines! Imagine the Israelites being so far removed from God that they would actually go into battle with the Ark without first consulting God about it.
The story of God’s wrath on Eli and Israel’s loss of the Ark of the Covenant is one of those tales from the Bible that a modern world would sooner ignore than remember. For, how often do we fail to honor God in a given day? Do we give more to ourselves than we do to others? Do we use His name in vain or stand mute as others speak untruths about Him? In our consumer-driven society, do we spend more time caring about our smartphones and flat-screen televisions than we spend about doing what is right according to God?
Luckily for all of us, God came to earth in the form of Christ and sacrificed Himself, drinking the cup of wrath we deserve in order to save us. All we have to do is accept that fact, and the grace of God allows us to be filled with His Holy Spirit. We then begin, a new creation, on a journey that can bring light into a dark world.
But as Eli’s story reminds us, the only ONE who is mighty is GOD. The moment we forget to face life’s challenges and daily schedules without first submitting to the will and power of the LORD is the moment we risk learning humility the hard way, by falling.