"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Raising the Standard: Responsibility Is Using All My Energies To Fulfill The Expectation Of Those Who Are Counting On Me

Personal note: I was really tempted to skip this key point... and was uncomfortable, as a person with self control issues with the topic. But though the lesson of this key point involves gluttony... and can serve up all the conviction of my own failing in this area... the key point needs to be made. I am responsible as a Christian for using all of my abilities to fulfill responsibilities and expectations of those who rely on me. The lesson of discipline is one I have been learning for several years now. It is doubtless a lesson easier learned as a youth than as an adult. But irrespective of upbringing... the lesson of Eli also serves up a question of right thinking and perspective... self indulgent in his appetite, he missed the opportunity to mature in discipline and to mentor his sons... Lord free me from the bondage of self perception that I may walk in Your way, as I walk out my days of this world, shutting the door by which Satan can enter into my life and the lives of those for whom I am responsible. Amen
How Does Scripture Illustrate Responsibility In Fulfilling Expectations? The high priest's heart pounded as he grasped the gate post and eased his heavy body onto a seat. His failing eyes stared intently down the winding road. Beyond the horizon a desperate battle was being fought, but he was concerned about something of far greater importance.
He recalled the bitter rebuke that a man of God had given him. He was accused of utterly failing in the discipline of his sons. Others had also warned him concerning this. He had tried to do something about it, but he knew it had been a feeble effort. But now an even greater danger alarmed him. The men in that battle were in a desperate situation. Their lives and futures depended on victory, and they needed to know that God was on their side. The priest knew that the nation was looking to him and to his two sons for spiritual leadership, but he was old and he knew that his sons were in no condition to assume such an important responsibility. Because of these crucial circumstances, he had consented to a very dangerous plan. He allowed his sons to take their nation's most sacred treasure, the Ark of the Covenant, into battle. The Ark would reassure the people of God's presence and urge them on to victory. But the consequences of its loss were grave to consider. If the battle were lost, the treasure would be captured and the nation would grieve over that more than losing the battle. In the distance he heard a commotion. A runner had returned from the battle. The old priest leaned forward on his seat and searched the runners face for an expression. He saw grief and despair in the messenger as he listened to the details. Horrified, he learned that the battle had been lost, 30,000 men had been killed, his two suns were dead and their nation's most sacred treasure had been captured. At this last news, Eli jerked and trembled. His huge body fell backward. He hit the ground with a heavy thud and lay lifeless. His neck was broken. The consequences of that day were more far-reaching than he had imagined. The nation that conquered them scorned their God, and His own nation decided to have a king rule over them like other nations. Thus, they rejected God's direct leadership. But why had Eli the priest failed? Why had his sons become gluttonous and immoral? The answer is found in a failure - a lack of discipline in his life. He had a problem of self control in the area of eating. As his sons grew up, they were acutely aware of this weakness. Eli's lack of self control in this area of his life opened the way for Satan to defeat his sons in related areas of self control. The discipline and training for leadership, which would have saved their lives and the nations future, were never given. (from 1 Samuel 4:1-18)
The high priest Eli took office during a period in history which has come to be known as "Israels Dark Ages." The nation's leaders were disorganized and even the institution of the priesthood seems to have been confused.
Eli was a descendant of Aaron's younger son Ithamar and not of the chosen priesthood of the line of Eleazar. It appears the line of Eleazar could produce no qualified man for the position of priest. As a result, Eli was chosen as high priest and received the responsibility of judge as well. Because of these circumstances it is safe to assume that at age 58, he was an extremely capable man and no doubt impressed the leaders with his zeal for the Lord. But with honor comes responsibility. Eli's chief responsibility would have been to train his sons to succeed him as high priest, a duty that he failed to perform. Years later, the 98 year old Eli, unable to perform his duties, could not allow either of his sons, Hophni or Phinehas to replace him.
Lack of Discipline Makes a Mockery of God's Character
Eli had failed as a father. He was grieved daily with reports of his sons' irreverent activity as priests. The sacrificial system - designed to teach God's character of righteousness, justice, grace and mercy - was being grossly distorted by both his sons. In the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 7:29-34), the Lord had provided for the priest in a practical way. Whenever a man came to sacrifice an animal to the Lord as a peace offering, the right thigh and breast were to nourish the officiating priest. The sons of Eli were not content with what the Lord had provided and refused to limit their tastes to the portion that God allowed. Hophni and Phinehas even demanded the fat on the meat which belonged to the Lord and was forbidden for any Israelite to eat (Leviticus 3:16). This gluttony was literally stealing from the Lord Himself. In addition they introduced to tabernacle worship the shocking "sacred" prostitution common at the surrounding Canaanite shrines. Since the priests did not correctly teach the Law of God and the history of Israel, the nation was unable to benefit from their past failures. When they lost four thousand men in battle against the Philistines, they should have immediately realized the significance of the defeat. With an understanding of their nation's history they would have interpreted this as God's reproof. Rather than crying out to God in repentance, they increased their wickedness by treating the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord in the manner of a pagan idol and marched it into battle. Ignorance cost them the very presence of the glory of God and the lives of 30,000 additional men.
Why Did Eli Lose The Respect Of His Sons?
Because Eli did not learn to control his weight, he lost the respect of his sons and was unable to teach them self control. 1 Samuel 4:18 states that he was old and heavy. As young men, Hophni and Phinehas never learned to control their appetites. They were gluttonous and sensual (1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22) The Mosaic Law taught that children of the third and fourth generations would be influenced by the iniquity of their fathers (cf. Exodus 20:5; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9).
Why Didn't Eli Discipline His Sons?
It is likely that Eli's awareness of his own problem caused him to be weak and unwilling to deal with a similar problem in his sons' lives. The Law of God specifically explained the disciplinary action with Eli, as priest and judge, should have known. In Deuteronomy 21:18-21, clear steps of action are given. First, the father is instructed to confront his stubborn and rebellious child with his wrongdoings. After refusing to obey, the child was to be brought before the elders of the city. The Lord's judgement on Aaron's two sons when they rebelled against their father in performing the tabernacle ceremonies was a sobering example from which Eli should have learned. (Leviticus 10:1-2).
What Were The Consequences Of Eli's Negligence?
The immediate consequences of Eli's negligence were the death of his sons, disrespect for the priesthood, and the departure of the glory of the Lord from Israel. There were other long range consequences. A man of God predicted that more of Eli's descendants would live past their prime and that they would be replaced by a more faithful priest (1 Samuel 2:31-32). The prediction was partially fulfilled when Soloman deposed Eli's descendant Abaithar, from the high priesthood. The complete fulfillment is mentioned in the prophecy of Ezekiel where descendants of Zadok, rather than Eli, are to be honored in the future kingdom of God (Ezekiel 44:15-16). Because he refused to discipline his own life and also his sons, Eli realized he was personally responsible for the spiritual decline of the nation he had served and judged for 40 years. He died with a broken and grieving spirit.
How Does The Woodcock Illustrate Responsibility In Fulfilling Expectations?
The woodcock carefully led her family in search along the surface of the marshland. The ground was too dry for the probings of her bill to find the food she needed for her young. Changing direction, she searched under the leaves of a nearby wooded area. This effort yielded some grub worms, but there weren't enough. The woodcock is used to eating it's weight in food every 24 hours - how could she make provision for her young? The ground was parched and the worms, their major source of nourishment, had burrowed too deep for the young family's bills to reach. It was time to demonstrate to her young the highly creative technique of getting worms when other means fail. In preparation for this unusual procedure, the mother woodcock deliberately flattened out on the ground. Next, she spread out her wings. In this position, she beat the ground by rapidly flapping her wings against the earth. Then she began to pause momentarily, listening intently before resuming this unusual effort. In a short time the woodcock family was enjoying its meal. Each young chick was busily finding worms along the parched surface in the very place where their earlier efforts had been fruitless. What had made the difference? Earth worms instinctively know that if they are deep within the ground when a hard rain falls, they will drown unless they can quickly get to the surface for air. Because of this danger, the body of the worm is very sensitive to vibrations from the surface. When the woodcock flutters wings against the ground from above, the beating sounds like raindrops to the worms and they burrow upward toward the surface. As the worms come within reach, the woodcock pierces the ground with its bill and pulls them out. The woodcock chicks observed an important aspect of responsibility by the example of their mother, using all her energies to fulfill the needs of her young.

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