In I Samuel 3, we read the account of the young lad, Samuel, whom his mother had dedicated to the service of God under the tutelage of the priest, Eli.
Being an old man and nearly blind, Eli must have slept in his own quarters, but Samuel slept in the Tent of Meeting where the Ark of God was...he chose to be close to God! In this presence, God began speaking to the boy, who didn't yet recognize God's voice. God called to him several times, but each time Samuel mistook the Voice for Eli's and ran to find out what he wanted.
Eli, who had had better days, recognized at last that the Voice he had not heard for a long time was calling to Samuel. "When you hear the Voice again, say, 'Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.'"
Samuel obeyed, and God repeated to him what He had told Eli years before: The priest's family would die and their blood line in the tribe of Levi and the priesthood would be no more. Samuel told Eli all God said, and Eli remembered!
We must go back to review when those fateful words were first spoken to Eli in chapter 2:22 and forward. It says Eli had heard that his sons from the line of Levi, Phineas and Hophni, whom God says were sons of Belial (the devil), ministered as priests. Yet they were committing adultery with women who served at the door of the holy Tent of Meeting. These two unholy men treated the holy things of God and their appointed office with disdain. Worse, Eli let them get away with it!
Eli questioned his sons, based on hearsay from the people. "The report I hear is not good" he said. "Why do you do these things? If a man sins against another, there is forgiveness, but if he sins against God, who can intercede for him?" The boys chose not to listen to their father. They desecrated the office of the priest and were leading Israel into sin. Eli did nothing more to stop them and the sinning continued. The Lord wanted to put them to death
Then a man of God came to Eli and said,
"Did I not indeed reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in bondage to Pharaoh's house? Did I not choose them from all the tribes of Israel to be My priests, to go up to My altar, to burn incense, to carry an ephod before Me, and did I not give to the house of your father all the fire offerings of the sons of Israel?"
"Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling, and honor your sons above Me, by making yourselves fat with the choicest of every offering of My people Israel?"
In other words, the sons had desecrated the office of the priesthood in very visible, wicked ways. Yet the people continued faithfully to make sacrifices as prescribed by God, only to have them eaten by the wicked, rebellious sons of Eli. They were handling holy objects with unholy, filthy hands and Eli let them get away with it! In fact, he must have eaten holy food right along with them!
The man of God continued:
"I (God) did indeed say that your house and the house of your father should walk before Me forever...those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming when I will break your strength and the strength of your father's house so that there will not be an old man in your house...this will be the sign to you which will come concerning your two sons, Hophni and Phineas: on the same day both of them will die. But I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed always."
Eli's failure to walk in the ways of God and to revere the holiness of the Tent of Meeting and office of the priesthood revoked the Levitical promise in their lives going forward. Even so, our failure to honor and walk according to God's word changes prophecies given to us, too, though we walk in the presumption that God will fulfill them anyway.
When God proclaimed His judgment against Eli, He said: "My heart...My soul." He did not speak legalistically, but from the depths of His affection. God longed for holiness in His servants. He looked for love and for obedience. Hebrews 4 says it well: "Israel failed to enter God's rest because of disobedience."
Obedience is the route to Heaven and God's blessings on earth. Jesus said, "I am the Way..." In our own capacities, we don't know how to get to Heaven, although we start with salvation. The route is hidden from our eyes, but no matter what road blocks and rough terrain we encounter along the way, we do have a roadmap, God's Word, and a guide, the indwelling Holy Spirit, to bring us to our goal.
What a contrast here! We see Eli's own sons, unconverted, wicked adulterers who used the sacred office of priest to feed and indulge themselves. Then there is Samuel, who loved sleeping in God's presence. served under Eli's tutelage, and grew in favor with God and the people.
It isn't in the outward, but the heart that a person's true motivation originates. Wicked boys, no matter their heritage, used the priesthood to cause the people to sin and question God to Eli. On the other hand, Samuel was young and innocent, but was drawn to God, who Himself said, "..those who honor Me I will honor." And God did honor the boy by speaking with him and declaring what He was going to do about the sons of Eli and Eli's own lack of honor for God by not dealing with their sins.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!
It is a wonderful thing to rest in the arms of the loving God!
Each person makes that choice for himself...A choice with eternal consequence!!