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Two Kinds of Service

Devotions

In recent days it seems as if news headlines are filled with stories about church leaders whose behavior has shocked believers and unbelievers alike. Unfortunately, these kinds of failures are not new. Today’s text contrasts the scandal caused by Eli’s sons with the simple obedience of Samuel, who “was ministering before the Lord—a boy wearing a linen ephod” (v. 18). Eli, a priest, was aware of what his sons were doing, treating each sacrifice as if it were their personal possession, and sleeping with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting (vv. 12–16, 22).

Eli confronted his sons, but it was too little too late. The rebuke of the unnamed prophet in verse 27 suggests that Eli was complicit in their behavior. Eli did not confront them until he was “very old” (v. 22). He also seems to have profited from their sins (v. 29). Today we might call this sort of complicity “enabling.” God’s decision to send Eli a prophet in an age when “the word of the Lord was rare” further highlighted the gravity of their sin (1 Sam. 3:1).

The chilling statement of verse 25 that Eli’s sons refused to listen to their father’s rebuke because “it was the Lord’s will to put them to death” is a solemn reminder of how seriously God takes sin. We are much more nonchalant about it. We often miss the point of the Bible’s assertion that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). We mistake this diagnosis as permission, instead of allowing it to show us our need for a righteousness that can come only through faith in Christ.

>> Luke 2:52 is very similar to today’s key verse, 1 Samuel 2:26. It says that Jesus also “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Jesus is more than just an example of admirable behavior; He is the solution to our sin. Trust Him today.

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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