Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord. (1 Samuel 2:12)
Teaching Children To Know The Lord
The high priest filled an important role in the worship of the Israelites as a precursor to the role of Jesus to the church. To have no high priest would be as meaningless as the gospel without Christ. The high priest came from the tribe of Levi and none other. Aaron, the brother of Moses, was the first of a long succession of high priests. The function and role of a high priest were a central point of the relationship between God and man. The first qualification to be chosen as high priest was to be of the tribe of Levi. The role of the high priests assumed the man to be holy and deeply devoted to the word of God.
Eli, the high priest, was of the line of Ithamar, Aaron’s fourth son. The office of the high priest remained in the family until Solomon’s time before changing to Eleazar’s family. Little is known about Eli. It was during his priesthood that God called Samuel to be the judge of the people of Israel. Eli saw the mother of Samuel praying and thought she was drunk. She was imploring the Lord for a son who granted her desire. Eli blesses Hannah, who will later bring the young lad, Samuel, to Eli to serve in the ministry.
The role of the high priest was a significant part of the religious landscape of Israel. Tragically, Eli failed as a father to his very wicked sons. The Holy Spirit says the sons of Levi were very corrupt. They would take sacrifices of the people for themselves by force. The sin of the young men was very great before the Lord. Serving as priests, they abhorred the offering of God. Incredibly, their sins had a greater magnification in the eyes of the Lord. Eli knew his sons were seducing the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle. Priests of God engaging in sexual immorality at the door of the house of God. The sons of Eli were vile, and he did nothing about it. On one occasion, he talked them to death, to no avail.
When Eli was ninety-eight, the Philistines captured the ark of God. During the battle, when the ark was taken, the two sons of Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas, were killed. A servant told Eli what had happened to his sons, but when he heard about the ark being captured, he fell backward, broke his neck, and died. His daughter-in-law was about to give birth to a son, and when she heard of the capture of the ark and the death of Eli, Hophni, and her husband, Phinehas, she gave birth and died. She named the child Ichabod because the glory had departed from Israel, and the Philistines had taken the ark of God.
The story of Eli and his sons begins at an earlier place. Their wickedness and immorality were rooted in a single statement made by the Holy Spirit. The sons of Eli were corrupt, and they did not know the Lord. Somewhere, Eli, the high priest, failed to teach his own sons to know the Lord. Of all the sons who should have known about the Lord, the sons of Eli should have known the Lord. It is important to know how the Holy Spirit expresses the failure of Eli. It does not say Eli’s sons did not know God’s commandments. They did not know the Lord.
Commandment keeping cannot be done if someone does not first know the Lord. As a father, Eli failed to instruct his sons to have a personal relationship with God. Hophni and Phinehas grew up in the presence of God’s spokesman, and these two boys never got the lessons. The failure of Eli is the failure of many fathers who look good on Sunday and Wednesday but never teach their children to know God. Too many families live on the edge of Christianity with the failed belief that association breeds relationships. Going to church will not make a man a Christian. Keeping commandments does not create a devoted heart. Knowing the Lord is where it must begin; if a child does not know the Lord, he will fail.
There are many parents like Eli today. They bring their children to church, and as long as they get them under the water and baptized, glory be to God. The home life is anything but knowing God. What the children see and hear from the parents is not God, and the parents wonder why their children grow up without God. Eli was the high priest, and his sons were so corrupt that God killed them. As a parent, Eli did not restrain his sons but talked to them and talked to them and never made an effort to correct them. The sins of Hophni and Phinehas rest upon their shoulders but so will Eli bear the guilt of failing to teach his children to know God. Do your children know God? Really know God?