Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Sons of Belial

1 Samuel 2:12-16

12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord. 13 The custom of the priests with the people was that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, 14 and he would thrust it into the pan or kettle or cauldron or pot. All that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. 15 Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest's servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give meat for the priest to roast, for he will not accept boiled meat from you but only raw.” 16 And if the man said to him, “Let them burn the fat first, and then take as much as you wish,” he would say, “No, you must give it now, and if not, I will take it by force.” 17 Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt.
18 Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy clothed with a linen ephod. 19 And his mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20 Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May the Lord give you children by this woman for the petition she asked of the Lord.” So then they would return to their home.
21 Indeed the Lord visited Hannah, and she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the young man Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord.
22 Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 23 And he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. 24 No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad. 25 If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.
26 Now the young man Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and also with man.

This passage is a story and yet meant to explain truth. The central idea is that Hannah though a woman without position and Samuel though a child are faithful in carrying out their callings while those with authority abuse their position. In fact, Eli's sons are called sons of Belial. The ESV explains it as worthless men. However, worthless is term we usually use to talk about someone who lacks ambition to earn a living (or lacks common sense to be able to earn a living). But these men were worthless because the simply because they practiced the religion of Israel without any respect or regard for propriety.

This practice of boiling the sacrifice normally is not seen as a command in the books of Moses. Ezekiel 46 talks about the boiled sacrifice but I'm not convinced that the roasting of the meat was all that wrong. It was the contempt for the offering that is disturbing. So today we there are preachers who do not believe the Word of God, that would be a similar practice. In fact I see this passage primarily addressing the lack of piety by religious leaders. If you spend most of your Bible reading in the New Testament you might get the idea that Jesus criticizing the Scribes and Pharisees was something new. Actually there was plenty of prophets in the Old Testament who addressed false religion by way of having hard heart. In other words, it is possible to have a false religion not through a lack of orthodox teaching, but by having a disregard for true religion of the scriptures. You and I might find that we have orthodox system of theology, fairly orthodox praxis, and yet be worthless unless we have been transformed by God.
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