As much as we struggle with grace it seems silly to investigate the Old Testament. We might well be served, we think, to leave off the lessons from the B.C. days so that we can bask in the grace magnifying reality of the Gospel’s or the Epistles of the New Testament. Now, I certainly would not discourage any study of the New Testament for all its glory and grace, but we should not neglect the OT either. Armed with the full revelation of the NT we may be amazed to find just how much grace is in the OT after all. What is more, a good study of the OT will enrich our understanding and appreciation for the NT as we discover the line of life that runs through its pages directly to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
A frightful story of rebuke:
1 Samuel 2:27-36 is an interesting and yet terrifying story. At first glance it seems like one of those texts that we might use to defend an abandonment of the OT. God rebukes Eli, but not with a mere verbal slap in the face. No, His rebuke is a perpetual judgment to Eli’s house – a removal of grace and position that God promised before (see 1 Sam 2:30). This is unprecedented rejection and replacement.
A Type of Grace:
As difficult as this passage is, with some reflection we may begin to see the promise of Grace our souls so desperately need. Hophni and Phinehas had been profaning the worship of the Lord by taking whatever they wanted (the best parts) of the sacrifices of Israel for their own food. They were also molesting the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Their sin was great. Eli tries to point out to them that they are in serious trouble (1 Sam 2:25) but they wouldn’t listen. It seems that Eli’s rebuke comes to late. All Israel complains before Eli confronts his sons, but the private prayers of Hanna did not escape Eli’s sensor. Strange?
Eli’s rebuke is ineffectual, but God’s is not. God cuts off the house of Eli and promises that Hophni and Phinehas would die on the same day as a sign to Eli. However, the judgment does not stop there. Importantly, God goes on to promise another priest – who is a different kind of priest all together. This new priest will evoke great jealousy in Eli’s house and will be the only way of salvation (pictured here through physical sustenance – since Eli’s house had no inheritance) for them.
Samuel is of course the direct fulfillment of this interchange – but surely there is more grace here. Think of the significance of a rejected priesthood that paves the way for a better priest! Think too of the grace of God that centers around worship where the rejected house will have to come through the new priest for life. Surely Christ is ultimate fulfillment of verse 35 – and the sureness of His house is the desperately needed grace that we expect to see in the NT – the city whose builder and maker is God, whose walls cannot be shaken. A true priest that ‘ever lives to make intercession’ !
Flea Presumption, Cling to Christ
This story should indeed awaken a fear of presumption in us all. Like Hophni and Phinehas we can treat church as a contemptible thing, a means to serve our selfishness. Like Eli, we can foster sin in our own house while being ever so vigilant to root it out of others homes. But we have a high priest that is altogether different from the sinful sons of Aaron. One whose house is sure because he ever lives and does according to what is in God’s heart and mind. So like the remnant of Eli’s house coming to implore the new priest for their daily bread – will you not come to the Lord Jesus Christ today? Plead with me, for he is our only hope of salvation, today and forever.