By Gboyega Omolayo
From the second to the fourth chapter of 1 Samuel, we read of a part of the story of Israel that packs a lot of lessons for the Church in these end times. There were a number of players in these chapters, the key ones being Eli (who was the high priest and a prophet), his two sons Hophni and Phinehas (who by virtue of birth, according to Mosaic law, served at the tabernacle of God), Samuel (who later became the high priest and a prophet of God also), the children of Israel and the philistines (Israel’s enemy). For the purpose of this write up, we can compare the trio of Eli and his two sons as ministers of God in the new testament or leaders in the Church and consider Israel as the Church at large (all believers), The Philistines as the kingdom of darkness with who we contend under the New Testament (Ephesians 6:12).
The sons of Eli were misbehaving very badly at God’s tabernacle. They treated the things of God with so much irreverence, they did just like the undisciplined people of the world would do today when they are put in position of authority over the affairs of men (they become corrupt out of selfishness and greed). While it was an established order under the Mosaic laws that people who worked in God’s house would feed from there, there was a procedure for this. There were portions of people’s offerings that went to God in sacrifice, the primary thing in God’s tabernacle was service to God and it was to be attended to first. When the parts for God’s sacrifice are taken out and offered then the portions for those who served at the tabernacle were given them. Hophni and Phinehas however disregarded this, they disrupted the order of God’s service and when people tried to restrain them, they forcefully had their way, claiming that ‘God’s anointed should not be touched’ (1 Samuel 2:12-17). As though this was not enough, they grew wilder and started sleeping with the women who assisted in the performance of service to God at the tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:22).
Eli, rather than do what the law of Moses said to do to those who committed fornication/adultery chose rather to try and persuade his sons to turn from their evil ways. Though he noted that his sons’ ways were evil, that they were by their conducts causing God’s people to sin and that there was only one consequence for their actions except they turned (God’s judgment), God told him in the 29th verse of 1 Samuel 2 that he honored his sons more than Him (God) and that Eli himself was a beneficiary of some of his sons’ evil. This speaks volumes, but we would not be going into it at the moment but rather draw other lessons from the events.
Over the next verses and chapter, God ‘touched His anointed’ by Himself, He judged Eli and the judgment extended to his generations after him. The consequence of the sons’ evil on Eli and his entire generation was very grievous. Without doubt the judgment also affected God’s people (Israel) who were precious to Him. After the judgment was passed, the fulfillment was recorded and we see that though the priests and the high priest started and continued in evil, when they were judged it affected the whole of Israel! Israel went to battle against the Philistines twice at this time and were roundly defeated the two times. Not only did they lose thirty four thousand of their soldiers, the Ark of Covenant was captured and taken away. In New Testament manner of speaking, the glory of God (His presence and works of His Spirit) departed from His people. The Israelites thereafter were God’s people only by name, God’s help that made them special and different had been temporarily removed from them by God Himself. As for the Ark of Covenant that was taken by the Philistines, God preserved His Glory and honor, He did not need men to fight for His glory, He dealt with the Philistines so hard that they eventually sent the Ark away with entreaties to God for mercy. God will always give a good account of Himself; it is man that suffers when God’s glory departs. The presence of God’s Glory with His people is for the people’s benefit, God will always remain God.
It is not enough for believers under the New Testament to live outside God’s will because ministers and leaders in the Church are doing wrong. God holds everyone accountable for their wrongdoings, notwithstanding what leadership does. The judgment of the leaders will be more terrible than that of the believers no doubt, but each believer will answer for his/her own failings.
The Israelites that took after the evil of Hophni and Phinehas knew that what they were indulging in was against the laws of God. The fact that leaders chose to run afoul of God’s law does not mean the Church at large will be excused for running afoul of it. Our consciences do not excuse us when we indulge in wrong things, they accuse us and we know. Most of the time when we claim men are ‘judging’ us, our consciences have actually judged us first. Whatever we hear that sounds like ‘judgment’ is simply an echo of what our hearts already told us. When we do wrong, we are wrong and being God’s people does not make that right! If God’s word points it to us, it’s not judging us but rather telling us to repent so we do not come to judgment. 1 John 3:20-21 says for if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. In other words, if our hearts condemn us for running afoul of God’s word, we should not be under the illusion that we are not wrong before God and should immediately correct our ways so as to stay in fellowship with Him. Otherwise, there sure will be consequences if we persist, whether or not our leaders are indulging in the same wrongs or not.
There is no way the wrong doings of leaders in the Church would not affect the whole Church. Firstly it emboldens believers to do the same wrongs the leaders are caught in. This is natural, it happened in Israel during Eli’s time and would happen now if permitted. Secondly when God’s glory and power is withdrawn/suspended, it does not only affect the leaders, it affects the entire Church. What can believers do, you may ask? There is a lot believers can do. God’s expectation is that believers should stick to His word and continue in it and He has made this easy in the New Testament, each believer is in dwelt by the Holy Spirit. You can chose to be obedient to the word of God irrespective of what others do. Not only this, the believer should also promote obedience to God’s word by living it and not failing to preach/teach it whenever there is the opportunity. Even when other believers who would rather follow the lusts of their flesh say you are ‘judging’ them, you do not stop doing and saying the right things because you owe it to God as a duty. Lastly, believers should pray for the Church always, that the will of God be done among leadership and the entire body of Christ.
It is God’s will that leaders obey and promote His word for the people to follow. It is the believer’s duty therefore to ask God to do whatever is necessary to ensure that both leadership and the entire Church are doing what God expects of them. This is important because except it is so, God’s judgment comes and it affects everyone. We know that God is just, He will not allow the righteous to be destroyed with the wicked (Genesis 18:23) but of what benefit will it be if you are the only believer following God’s word? The entire body will be weak and because you are in that body, you will end up being affected by the weakness of others also. You only need to look around you today to see this playing out.
Samuel followed God after Eli passed but this did not take away from the fact that the Ark of the Covenant was taken away from Israel for a period and everybody missed out on the benefits of its presence. The responsibility of seeking God to ensure that His glory is restored rests on all believers and it is very expedient in the days in which we live when the Church is the weakest it has been in decades (and this is not negative confession, it is as bad as when apostle Paul referred to believers in Galatia as having been bewitched – Galatians 3:1). The crises and the scandals that riddle the Church today speaks for itself, the waning impact of the Church on the society as shown by prevalent unrighteousness that is also impacting the Church speaks too.
There is a wake-up call to all believers at this time. I dare say that believers that got born again in the millennia hardly know the Church in great glory. A lot is happening within it which ought not to be and a lot is not happening which ought to be. God’s power and glory that should be strongly manifested in her is not as is supposed to. If we will take up the challenge in our own personal lives, return to the straight and narrow way of God’s word and prayers for God’s will to be done and His glory returned in its fullness, God will hear and He knows exactly what to do. He waits on us to make adjustments and to pray, will you?
Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all (1 Timothy 4:15).
Gboyega Omolayo is a writer and minister in Church@Allen, Allen, Texas. You can read more from him at: http://truthfoundations.blogspot.com.