Read 1 Samuel 2.
He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
but the wicked will be silenced
in the place of darkness.
- 1 Samuel 2:9 -
We start with the prayer of Hannah. She's singing praises to the Lord for providing her a son she asked for... before she leaves him to stay with Eli in the temple. I can't imagine how hard that must've been for her, but it's obvious through her prayer that the Lord has made His way clear and given her so much peace.
However, immediately after reading Hannah's prayer, we're told about Eli's two sons, who are also priests in the temple. These dudes are bad mamma-jamma's. They're taking more than they're supposed to from people's sacrifices for themselves, and even sleeping around... and The Lord is not pleased. In fact, he sends someone to tell Eli! "A man of God came to Eli and said to him" (v.27) that The Lord has numbered Eli's days, and the days of his sons. He reminded Eli of the way he had provided for his ancestors, and how he had picked Eli's ancestor to be his priest. He questioned why Eli had let his sons continue on in the way they had. He told Eli that good will still come to the people of Israel, but not to Eli... that Eli had lost his favor, and that he was going to raise up a new priest "who will do according to what is in my heart and mind" (v.35).
Our God is a jealous God. We're going to see a lot of this in 1 Samuel (as we often do in the Old Testament). It's hard for me to read this, because I have a sensitive heart when it comes to God's good discipline and justice. Being the big softie that I am, I want to look for Jesus's kindness and ultimate salvation for us, even though his death on the cross hasn't come yet. But you know what's crazy about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit? They have always been. They will always be. They're in Genesis 1 – in verse 26, God said, "Let us make mankind in our image..." And they are here in 1 Samuel as well. We just have to look closely to see them working together.
You know when a surgeon goes in and cuts away a tumor? When he or she removes what is diseased, what is broken, to let the good cells grow and multiply? When we hear stories of incredible surgeries where whole sections of someone's brain or major organ is removed, and with time and healing and hard work, their lives are saved and for the better because of it?
The trinity does this kind of work, too. Pruning away our pride and shame, God does surgery on our hearts and minds so that they can be better fixed on Him and less fixed on the fleeting, unsatisfying things of this world. In a new life with Christ, the posture of our hearts begin to change, and our desire shifts from wanting more of the world to wanting more of Him. The surgery, the pruning process... it's never easy. Laying down our pride, our fear, the nature of our flesh, is uncomfortable work and the work is never "done". But when we chip away at those sections of our hearts, God fills those spaces with His peace, His joy, His compassion, creating the fruits of the Spirit rise up in us. He fills our minds with His truth, giving us His holy armor for our daily battle against sin.
So even though I don't love hearing about how Eli and his sons have turned away from the Lord, I do recognize that he's doing work here – hard work. He's calling them back in His own perfect way and putting them on a path where they can be filled with the humility and satisfaction that only comes from God. And he's also working on quite the side project... raising up a young boy named Samuel, who will do great things only because He loves the Lord and is obedient to His call.