Sermon for Sunday, October 8th, 2023 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[1Sa 2:27-36 ESV] 27 And there came a man of God to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Did I indeed reveal myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt subject to the house of Pharaoh? 28 Did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? I gave to the house of your father all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel. 29 Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’ 30 Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. 31 Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. 32 Then in distress you will look with envious eye on all the prosperity that shall be bestowed on Israel, and there shall not be an old man in your house forever. 33 The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep his eyes out to grieve his heart, and all the descendants of your house shall die by the sword of men. 34 And this that shall come upon your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day. 35 And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever. 36 And everyone who is left in your house shall come to implore him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread and shall say, “Please put me in one of the priests’ places, that I may eat a morsel of bread.”‘”
New Testament reading:
[Eph 4:17-24 ESV] 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!– 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
[Mat 5:27-30 ESV] 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
There is justice in the removal of wickedness.
The people of God demand justice.
Their temple has been defiled by the evil worthless sons of Eli.
Now, the Lord promises to remove the wicked priests and replace them with a faithful priest.
This promise of God comes through a “man of God.”
I. The Man of God. (v. 27)
He is introduced to us only now in this chapter.
And he is an unnamed individual.
The text says:
27 And there came a man of God to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the LORD,
Since he is indeed unnamed, it doesn’t do us much good to speculate who he was. But we can surmise one thing about the man. He was a prophet. This term—“man of God”—is used 71 times in the Old Testament as a designation for a prophet.
So it is that a prophet has come to Eli. Even though times are low in Israel’s history, there is always a remnant of believers. Samuel is being raised up, and here we have even a prophet of God.
And further showing that this “man of God” is a prophet is the fact that he does what a prophet does; he gives a message from God. That message has three parts. First he recounts the history of the priesthood. Then he pronounces God’s judgment upon Eli and his sons and finally he proclaims that God will raise up a faithful priest who “shall go in and out before my anointed forever.”
Let’s look at each of these three in more depth. From the word of God which came to “the man of God” there is the history, the judgment, and the promise of a faithful priest.
II. The History (v. 27-28)
The history is recounted as such:
‘Did I indeed reveal myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt subject to the house of Pharaoh? 28 Did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? I gave to the house of your father all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel.
Now, who is this “father” the “man of God” is speaking of? He is speaking to Eli of a father. It is not his immediate father, but his great-great-great-great grandfather Aaron. It is not actually known how many “greats” there are in between, but Eli is descended from Aaron, the first high priest.
The idea here is clear. God had blessed Aaron, choosing him to be priest. And He had blessed all of Eli’s father’s with that role of being the priest. And this is what he gets in return?
B. Eli’s guilt.
The “man of God” then speaks of Eli’s guilt. This is interesting in both WHOM he is speaking to and WHAT the issue is.
The “man of God” has come to speak to Eli, not to Eli’s evil sons.
And the issue raised is not the sons’ immoral behavior at the temple gate, lying with women, but the fact that the sacrificial system in the temple is not going per God’s commands.
Here is the judgment of God. He says:
29 Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’
So there is that improper sacrificial practice going on, and then there is the honoring of Eli’s sons above God. You see, Eli should have trained his sons right, and he should have stopped their evil behavior. Eli should have removed the wickedness, and focused on God. But by allowing his sons to continue in their evil, Eli broke the first commandment, “you shall have no other God before me.”
The fact that Eli here is guilty, tells us that it is not just the active sinner who sins, but also he sins who allows the sin to occur when he could have stopped it. Eli sinned in not raising his children in knowledge of the Lord, and he sinned in not correcting them when they went astray from the Lord.
Incidentally, I heard recently of a debate between a Christian and a well-known Jew, Dennis Prager. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. He has “Prager Institute” and is active in politics. Well, Prager said sin is only in deed, in action, not in mind. And the Christian rightly took the other position. Sin is not only our actions, but our evil thoughts. And sin is not only that which we DO, it is that which we FAIL to do. Sin is a far bigger problem than many realize. It is not just the criminal who sins, it is all men everywhere.
So even the High Priest Eli sinned in NOT correcting his sons. And he sinned when he honored his children above God. And I saw a meme this week that said, “If you want to get in an argument, say this “I think church is to take preference over children’s sports on Sundays.” That shouldn’t be a controversial statement, but it is. Look at the result of Eli prioritizing his children over GOD. Disaster. God is to our top priority, for us and for our children. If you truly want give what is best to your children, give them the Lord.
So, next, “the man of God” pronounces the judgment of God.
III. The Judgment (v. 30-34)
The judgment is three fold:
1. There will not be an old man in your house.
2. One will be spared to weep his our and to grieve his heart.
3. Hophni and Phinehas shall both die on the same day. This is the removal of wickedness.
This prophecy is fulfilled in chapter 4 when the Philistines capture the ark of the covenant and kill Hophni and Phinehas.
God has declared that wickedness must be removed.
And God then removes that wickedness.
This fact, that wickedness must be removed, is true also in medical science. If you have an infection and it is not removed, it soon effects the whole body. The evil of Hophni and Phinehas is liable to effect all of Israel. For Israel’s sake, the wickedness is removed.
Or think about the garbage collector. Recently on Long Island I found out that they have trash pickup multiple times per week. Do you know why? To keep down the rat population. If if you let the garbage sit, you’ve got problems. You have to remove the evil.
IV. The Promise of a Faithful Priest
Then, there is a final statement that comes from this prophet known only as “the man of God.” He says that in the place of the wicked priests, a faithful priest is promised to come.
A. Samuel, Christ, or both.
Well, who is the this faithful priest? In the context, it seems it is clearly referring to Samuel. God has been raising him up for ministry. And Samuel will replace Eli and his sons as priest.
And in the next chapter we have the Lord’s calling of Samuel.
But the faithful priest, no doubt, ultimately is Jesus Christ. We know that, not only from the New Testament, but also note in our text that it says the faithful priest shall “go in and out before my anointed FOREVER.” Samuel is not priest FOREVER, but Christ is.
The removal of wickedness opens the way for the installing of Christ, the true prophet, Priest, and King. By the way, my new favorite hymn is “All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name” because of those powerful words “Crown Him, Crown Him, Crown Him Lord of All.” Kings are crowned, priests are robed? Ephod’ed.
Eli was guilty of putting his sons first before God. Let us never do that. We are to remove wickedness and crown Christ Lord of God.
B. Jesus’s commandment on the removal of wickedness.
Jesus tells us how important it is to remove wickedness, in his Sermon on the Mount, a part of which we read.
29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
The removal of wickedness. And it is made shocking by speaking in such bodily, physical terms.
Whatever the evil is, it must be removed.
There is justice in the removal of wickedness. We cheer when the criminal is caught. But what if we are the criminal, the sinner?
With the words of Jesus we realize that evil is not only EXTERNAL. It is easy to remove evil that is outside of you. But what about evil that is within?
This is no doubt difficult. Going “cold turkey.” It is “easier said than done.” How can we do this? How can we remove wickedness?
It is God’s will to remove evil. But if he were to have every sinner put to death, there would be no more people, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
So he sent his Son to pay the penalty for the people of God.
We are thus seen as righteous in the sight of God by virtue of the work of Jesus Christ.
But sin remains in us. We are forgiven, but we are sinful. We are simultaneously sinners and saints. And we are called to mortify sin, to kill sin and grow in sanctification. How do we do this? How do we remove wickedness? Or how does God remove wickedness from within his people?
C. Paul’s commandment on the removal of wickedness.
We look then to Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians. There we find valuable insight, advice, even power from the Lord in “removing wickedness.”
He tells us:
22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
We learn that with every “removal of evil” we must replace it with good.
The evil priest is replaced with a faithful priest.
Our sins must not only be removed, but we must replace evil habits with good habits. We must replace our old selves with our new selves, renewed in the image of Christ.
If you just go “Cold Turkey” it leaves a void, constantly pressuring you to return to sin.
You can’t just drop the evil, you must pick up the good.
And, in the opposite way, we can’t just put on the good, without removing the evil. You don’t put a clean shirt on top of a dirty one. They will both be dirty. You must remove the one, and put on the other.
There is something else, something crucial, that Paul tells us about. You see, the removal of evil and the addition of godliness are difficult, impossible tasks for us. So we are blessed to hear of the work of God in us. God creates our new selves in His image with righteousness and holiness. He leads us in our battle with sin. He removes our sin in Christ’s death on the cross, and puts on us robes of righteousness. Indeed in Christ’s death our sins are removed from us as far as the East is from the West.
So we are commanded to remove evil, and the Lord works in us, winning the battle.
I could conclude with success stories, of individual having beaten alcoholism, the bad habit of gossiping, of swearing and bad language, or of countless other sins. And perhaps there is value in that; value in those stories of the Lord working in individuals, removing evil. And those stories are valuable as long as we focus on the Lord’s work. And ultimately that is the focus of the Scriptures; THE REMOVAL OF EVIL IS THE WORK OF THE LORD. Praise be to God, and let us pray that we look to Christ and that the Holy Spirit works in us for the removal of evil, and the renewal of our minds according to the new life in his through Jesus Christ who creates us after the image of God in righteousness and holiness.
Let us pray.