1 Samuel 2: Lessons from Hannah’s Praises and the Sins of Eli’s Sons on True Worship

Introduction: During the time of the Judges, Israel drifted into sin because the priesthood had fallen into sin (Jdgs. 21:25). Before God would restore Israel’s civic leadership, He first had to restore the priesthood. Spiritual revival must precede any attempt at physical or civic restoration or it will fail in the long term. Samuel brought the restoration of the priesthood. Jesus later brought this chance at spiritual restoration to everyone. Both Hannah and later Mary celebrated the restoration of their time despite having endured terrible personal hardships. From Hannah’s song of praise and the virtue of Samuel in comparison to the counterfeit priesthood under Eli, God reveals seven lessons about true worship. True worship includes (1) thanksgiving; (2) humility; (3) self-denial; (4) faithfulness; (5) purity; (6) repentance; and (7) service.

First, Hannah had just given away her only son Samuel. Yet, she still sang a song of thanksgiving. From this, God reveals that true worship includes singing His praises, even in your times of sorrow. Second, after praising God for what He did for her, Hannah praised God in humility for His sovereign power over all. From this, God reveals that true worship is manifested by trusting in His sovereign will and acting with humility. Third, unlike Samuel, the sons of Eli used God’s gifts to indulge themselves. From their sins, God reveals that true worship includes self-denial for Him. Fourth, in contrast to the wicked family of Eli, Samuel, Hannah, and Elkanah remained faithful in serving God. From their holy example, God reveals that true worship is manifested through maintaining a faithful heart toward Him. Fifth, the sons of Eli blasphemed God through horrible sexual sins. From their sins, God reveals that true worship includes being pure and set apart for His use. Sixth, the greatest of Eli’s sons’ sins was in failing to repent. Because Eli’s sons would not repent, God ultimately judged them. From this, God reveals that true worship includes repentance when you sin. Finally, God promised to raise up a new priesthood. This foreshadowed Samuel in the short term and Jesus in the long term. With Jesus as your High Priest, you can become part of His royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). You can show your living worship by serving Him with works of love (Jam. 2:17).

1. Thanksgiving: Praise God For Everything, Even in Your Sorrow. 1 Sam. 2:1-2.

  • Hannah’s song of thanksgiving. Hannah had just given away her only son (1 Sam. 1:28). While most would weep in sorrow, she sang a song of praise: “Then Hannah prayed and said, ‘My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord, my mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation. There is no one holy like the Lord, indeed, there is no one besides You, nor is there any rock like our God.” (1 Sam. 2:1-2). Her song in times of sorrow is recorded for your instruction (Ro. 15:5; 2 Tim. 3:16). If you have suffered a loss or illness, “in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18). “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” (Eph. 5:20).

Praise God as your rock and refuge in times of trouble1

Despite giving up her son, God filled Hannah with joy2

  • Hannah’s power was perfected when she exalted the Lord. Hannah prayed “my horn is exalted in the Lord . . .” (1 Sam. 2:1). In the Bible, horns symbolize power, strength, and refuge (Dt. 33:17; Ps. 18:2; 75:4-5, 10; 89:17; 92:10; Lk. 1:69; Lam. 2:3; 1 Kgs. 1:50; 2:28). Hannah also revealed that God was her “rock”, another reference to her strength (1 Sam 2:2). Moses revealed that God was also the “rock” of Israel (Dt. 32:30-31). Jesus can also be your rock (the rejected “chief cornerstone”) and your strength when you submit Him (Ps. 118:22; Matt. 21:42; Mk. 12:10; Lk. 20:17; Acts 4:11; Ro. 9:33). In her submission to God, He gave her the power to speak “boldly against my enemies. . .” (1 Sam. 2:1). Have you submitted to Jesus to let Him be your strength?

  • Mary’s similar song of thanksgiving. Centuries later, Mary gave a similar song of praise after her virgin birth to the Messiah Jesus: “And Mary said: ‘My soul exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him.” (Lk. 1:46-50). God wants you to follow the examples of Hannah and Mary to sing your own song of praises.

  • God is unique and comparable to no one. Hannah praised God as being unique in His holiness: “There is no one holy like the Lord,. . .” (1 Sam. 2:2). Moses made a similar claim in his song of deliverance after God defeated Pharaoh’s army: “Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?” (Ex. 15:11). As one commentator notes: “This shows a classic form of Hebrew poetry - repetitive parallelism. To say the LORD is holy is to say He is completely set apart; that He is unique, and not like any other. When she continued in the same verse and said, ‘For there is none besides You,’ she said the same thing as ‘There is none holy like the LORD,’ only saying it in different words. When she said, ‘Nor is there any rock like our God,’ she again says the same thing in different words. . . . In this, Hebrew poetry does not rhyme words by sound as much as it rhymes ideas. The ideas of the three lines of 1 Samuel 2:2 all rhyme together, having different words yet ‘sounding’ the same.” (David Guzik on 1 Samuel 2). If you feel that no one can understand or help you, God is unique and can always help you in your struggles.

2. Humility: Praise God with Humility Before His Sovereign Power. 1 Sam. 2:3-10.

  • Hannah’s praise for God’s sovereignty. After praising God for what He did for her, Hannah praised God’s sovereign power over all: “Boast no more so very proudly, do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and with Him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are shattered, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry cease to hunger. Even the barren gives birth to seven, but she who has many children languishes. The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts. He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honor; for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and He set the world on them. He keeps the feet of His godly ones, but the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; for not by might shall a man prevail. 10 Those who contend with the Lord will be shattered; against them He will thunder in the heavens, the Lord will judge the ends of the earth; and He will give strength to His king, and will exalt the horn of His anointed.” (1 Sam. 2:3-10). Hannah knew that God was sovereign in first closing and then opening her womb (1 Sam. 1:6). Thus, she praised Him even though He allowed her affliction. Will you praise God even if He allows you to suffer for His purposes?

God is sovereign, and no one can prevent His Word from being fulfilled3

  • Mary also glorified God’s sovereignty and power. Hannah’s song provided the inspiration for Mary’s song of praise after learning of her divine pregnancy: “He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel, His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” (Lk. 1:51-55). Hannah’s song and Mary’s song were meant to inspire. What praise is in your song?

  • God’s use of the humble to transform society. God’s use of women of faith to transform first Israel and then the world shows that He is not sexiest. One commentator notes: “Hannah’s worship provides great insight into the role of women in worship in the Old Testament times. Her role is not a public or official one, yet she continues to have great spiritual impact on saints down through the ages. Conversely, Eli’s official status and public visibility does nothing for his spiritual life or the spiritual lives of his sons. Hannah, in her silent suffering, and in her quiet and unseen ministry to Samuel, has a great and lasting impact on her times and ours as well. Hannah’s prayer of petition, which expresses her vow to God, is silent, but the result of her prayer has national significance. Her prayer of praise is a part of Holy Scripture and the source of great instruction, comfort, and encouragement. While she had no official leadership position and her ministry was private, she still had great spiritual impact. Let those men or women who wish prominence, visibility, position, and status learn from the way God used Hannah and her ministry.” (Robert L. (Bob) Deffinbaugh “2. The Son and the Psalm of Hannah (1 Samuel 1:1-2:10)”).4 If you feel like you are powerless and rejected by others (like the women in the Old Testament), have faith that God can use you. Conversely, if you have power, don’t assume that you are more important to God.

  • Show your gratitude through humility in your walk. Hannah’s prayer included a prophetic warning against being prideful. This is a warning both to His enemies and to you when He blesses you: “Boast no more so very proudly, do not let arrogance come out of your mouth . . .” (2 Sam. 2:3). Humility is a theme that runs throughout the Bible. “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.” (Prov. 8:13). “Do not lift up your horn on high, do not speak with insolent pride.” (Ps. 75:5). “They pour forth words, they speak arrogantly; all who do wickedness vaunt themselves.” (Ps. 94:4). “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12; Lk. 14:11; 18:14). “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,” (1 Pet. 5:6). “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (Ja. 4:10). “Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (Ja. 2:5). Do you boast about your accomplishments? Or, do you give the glory to God and serve Him when He blesses you with success?

  • Praise God in your suffering because your suffering is likely for His greater good. Just as God allowed Hannah to suffer for His greater good, He also allows you to suffer for His greater good as well. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Ro. 8:28). Just as Hannah praised God in her suffering, so should you. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (Ja. 1:2-3). The only exception to this rule is if you have brought suffering upon yourself because of your sins. Yet, even in the case of sin, your suffering serves God’s greater purpose if it brings you to repentance. If you are suffering, sing God’s praises as a witness. If you complain to others, what kind of a witness are you?

  • Praise God for knowing your secret needs and providing for you. Hannah also praised God for knowing her needs and providing for her: “for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and with Him actions are weighed.” (1 Sam. 2:3). God knows every hidden thought of you and those who might try to harm you: “. . . for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men,” (1 Kgs. 8:39(b)). “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” (1 Cor. 2:11(a)). “The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, searching all the innermost parts of his being.” (Prov. 20:27). “Does He not see my ways and number all my steps?” (Job 31:4). “And they prayed and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, . . .’” (Acts 1:24(a)). Even when all seems lost, do you trust that God knows your secret needs and will provide for you?

  • Praise God for protecting you from your enemies. Hannah further praised God for using His sovereign power to protect her from her tormentor. When God is with you, you also never need to fear your enemies. “He keeps the feet of His godly ones,. . .” (1 Sam. 2:9). “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.” (Ps. 91:11). “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; . . .” (Is. 54:17(a)). “For You have girded me with strength for battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.” (Ps. 18:39). “Their sword will enter their own heart, and their bows will be broken.” (Ps. 37:15). “He who vindicates Me is near; who will contend with Me? Let us stand up to each other; who has a case against Me? Let him draw near to Me. Behold, the Lord GOD helps Me; who is he who condemns Me? Behold, they will all wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them.” (Is. 50:8-9). When you are under attack, do you turn to God to fight for you? Or, do you retaliate against your enemies?

  • Praise God as the source of all your wealth. Hannah also prayed in gratitude to God as the source of her family wealth: “The Lord makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts.” (2 Sam. 2:7). Always remember that it is He who has given you the power to create wealth: “But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (Dt. 8:18). “It is the blessing of the LORD that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.” (Prov. 10:22). Praising Him for your wealth will keep you from taking credit for it: “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’” (Dt. 8:17). If you accept that your wealth comes from God, are you using His blessings for His Kingdom or yours?

  • Praise God when He restores you from any affliction, disease, or sadness. Hannah’s song of praise also reveals that God can restore you when you are humble: “ . . . but those who were hungry cease to hunger. Even the barren gives birth to seven, . . .” (1 Sam. 2:5). When He restores you, you should also praise Him: “He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children. Praise the LORD!” (Ps. 113:9). “Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child; break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed; for the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous than the sons of the married woman,’ says the LORD.” (Is. 54:1). Jesus’ blood can heal you of any infirmity: “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” (Is. 53:5). If Jesus has healed you from an affliction, addiction, or disease, are you still praising Him as a witness to others?

  • Also praise Jesus Christ for your salvation. The book of Judges concluded with a statement that Israel lacked the guidance of a moral king (Jdgs. 21:25; 17:6). Hannah prophetically praised God for the promise of a future anointed king: “He will give strength to His king, and will exalt the horn of His anointed.” (1 Sam. 2:10). His power would also bring salvation: “The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.” (1 Sam. 2:6). Centuries later, the father of John the Baptist, Zecharias, connected Hannah’s prayer to Jesus: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant--” (Lk. 1:68-69). Faith in Jesus brings salvation: “and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” (Rev. 1:18). “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;” (Matt. 25:31-32). If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you also can rejoice in your salvation: “I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Is. 61:10). “And my soul shall rejoice in the LORD; it shall exult in His salvation.” (Ps. 35:9). As a witness, are you praising Jesus for your salvation? Or, have you taken Him for granted?

3. Self-Denial: True Worship Includes Denying Yourself for God. 1 Sam. 2:11-17.

  • The Eli’s sons’ sins of self-indulgence. The Bible then provides a contrast between the true future Spirit-led priesthood under Samuel and the counterfeit priesthood under Eli and his sons. Unlike Samuel, the sons of Eli used God’s gifts to indulge themselves: “11 Then Elkanah went to his home at Ramah. But the boy ministered to the Lord before Eli the priest. 12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord 13 and the custom of the priests with the people. When any man was offering a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand. 14 Then he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. Thus they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. 15 Also, before they burned the fat, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, ‘Give the priest meat for roasting, as he will not take boiled meat from you, only raw.’ 16 If the man said to him, ‘They must surely burn the fat first, and then take as much as you desire,’ then he would say, ‘No, but you shall give it to me now; and if not, I will take it by force.’ 17 Thus the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for the men despised the offering of the Lord.” (1 Sam. 2:11-17). The NASB states that the sons of Eli were “worthless.” The actual Hebrew term is literally translated in the King James Bible as the “sons of Belial.” This was in reference to the Canaanite pagan god. Unlike the worthless sons of Eli who ministered only to themselves, Samuel continually ministered to God. This is evidenced by the fact that the next chapter begins with this same statement. “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli. . . .” (1 Sam. 3:1). Today, many claim to serve God. Yet, like Eli’s sons, they really use God’s gifts to glorify and enrich themselves.

  • Claiming to serve God without “knowing” Him. The sins of Eli’s sons included claiming to represent God without really knowing Him: “they did not know the Lord. . .” (1 Sam. 2:12). During the time of the judges (which ended with the house of Eli), many of the priests claimed to serve God without really knowing Him: “All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.” (Jdgs. 2:10). Jeremiah later decried the leaders of his day for this same problem: ‘“They bend their tongue like their bow; lies and not truth prevail in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know Me,’ declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:3). To some who claim to perform miracles in Jesus’ name without following after Him, Jesus also warns that He will tell them that He never knew them: “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matt. 7:23). When you help others or do good things, first seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit through prayer and by reading the Word.

  • Misusing God’s gifts. The second sin of Eli’s sons was stealing or misusing God’s gifts. They took the sacrificial offerings for themselves (1 Sam. 2:13-14). They further took it in its “raw” form. (1 Sam. 2:15). This suggested that the priests did not take the food because they had gone hungry. Instead, they wanted to take the meat in a form that would be easiest to resell. This would allow them to profit off of people’s offerings. These offerings in fact belonged to God (e.g., Lev. 3:3, 14; 7:29). Today, there are some in the ministry who have grown extremely wealthy through the gifts that God has given. A minister or priest should always lead a humble lifestyle. If a minister or priest leads a life filled with conspicuous consumption, he or she may stumble others.

  • Refusing to deny yourself for God The sons also consumed the fat of the offerings that belonged to God alone (1 Sam. 2:15-16). Under God’s sacrificial laws, all of the sacrificial fat from an animal sacrifice had to be given to Him (e.g., Lev. 3:3, 9, 14, 16-17; 4:8; 7:3; 9:10, 19; 17:5). “[A]ll fat is the Lord’s.” (Lev. 3:16). Any priest who ate the fat was to be “cut-off” from the Lord (Lev. 7:25). Any believer in Christ is part of His holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). Thus, these instructions apply to us. The fat was a pleasure and a delicacy because it was considered the best tasting part of the animal. The person seeking peace was to give up the best pleasures in life for God. Christ says that those who want to follow Him as His disciples need to “deny” themselves: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:25-26). “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Lk. 14:28-33). “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” (Jo. 12:25-26). Is there anything in your life that you have given up for God? If the answer is nothing, pray for God to reveal what should be cut out of your life.

  • Despising the things of God. Eli’s sons also “despised” the offerings to God (1 Sam. 2:17). Under the Law, the Jews were judged if they failed to obey the directions of the priests (Dt. 17:12). “Thus the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord. . .” (1 Sam. 2:17). Because they abused their status as God’s representatives, God judged the entire house of Eli: “For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them.” (1 Sam. 3:13). If Christ is your Lord and Savior, you are also His ambassador (2 Cor. 5:20). You are also a member of His holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). Are you doing anything that might misrepresent God to the nonbelievers around you?

4. Faithfulness: True Worship is Manifested With a Faithful Heart. 1 Sam. 2:18-21.

  • The faithfulness of Samuel, Hannah, and Elkanah. In contrast to the wicked family of Eli, Samuel, Hannah, and Elkanah remained faithful in serving God: “18 Now Samuel was ministering before the Lord, as a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19 And his mother would make him a little robe and bring it to him from year to year when she would come up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.” (1 Sam. 2:18-19). This was the second time that God stressed Samuel’s faithfulness in ministering to Him (1 Sam. 2:11). The next chapter would also begin with this statement (1 Sam. 3:1). The description of him “as a boy wearing a linen ephod” also symbolized his pure love for God (1 Sam. 2:18). The priests wore an ephod or breast piece to remind them of their love for God and His people (Ex. 28:31; 29:5). When David was walking with God, he was described as wearing a “linen ephod” (2 Sam. 6:14; 1 Chron. 15:27). Hannah and Elkanah also showed their faithfulness by continuing to provide for Samuel and by continuing to make yearly sacrifices of gratitude to God (1 Sam. 2:19). Hannah and Elkanah could have claimed that they gave enough when they gave Samuel away. Instead, they gladly continued to give to God. Is your faithfulness and generosity an example to others?

Samuel faithfully served God as a boy5

Samuel faithfully served because he loved God6

  • God’s faithfulness to bless Hannah for her sacrifice. Although Eli’s family was not walking with God or properly representing Him, God still used Eli to bless Hannah and Elkanah for their sacrifice and for their faithfulness: “20 Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, ‘May the Lord give you children from this woman in place of the one she dedicated to the Lord.’ And they went to their own home. 21 The Lord visited Hannah; and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew before the Lord.” (1 Sam. 2:20-21). God blessed Hannah five times for her sacrifice with three boys and two daughters. Centuries later, God through an angel also blessed Mary for her sacrifice in having to put up with the shame of carrying what others presumed was an illegitimate child. “And coming in, he said to her, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”’ (Lk. 1:28). God is always faithful to those who serve Him.

  • God will also remember your sacrifices for Him. God will always remember your sacrifices for Him when you serve with the right motives: “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” (Heb. 6:10). “Thus says the LORD, ‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for your work will be rewarded,’ declares the LORD, ‘And they will return from the land of the enemy.”’ (Jer. 31:16). You will be blessed each time you serve God by helping the poor secretly: “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” (Matt. 10:42; Mk. 9:41). “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his good deed.” (Prov. 19:17). Have you given God any reasons to bless you?

5. Purity: True Worship Includes Being Pure and Set Apart for His Use. 1 Sam. 2:22-25.

  • The sexual sins of Eli’s sons. The sons of Eli represented a counterfeit priesthood because they failed to repent when their father confronted them over their sexual sins: “22 Now Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 23 He said to them, ‘Why do you do such things, the evil things that I hear from all these people? 24 No, my sons; for the report is not good which I hear the Lord’s people circulating. 25 If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?’ But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for the Lord desired to put them to death.” (1 Sam. 2:22-25). To assist repentant women who were vulnerable yet ready to make a sacrifice, God assigned holy women the important role of serving these women at the doorway of the tent of meeting to the Tabernacle: “. . . from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.” (Ex. 38:8). The sons of Eli abused the women who faithfully served at the doorway of the tent of meeting by forcing them to have sex (1 Sam. 2:22). The doorway of the tent of meeting was also a sacred place where God spoke to the priests, who in turn ministered to the people (Ex. 29:42). While Eli apparently tolerated their other sins, this sin was egregious enough to him to cause him to confront them. “It was bad enough what they themselves did; but the greater sin of Eli’s sons was in how they hurt other people.” (David Guzik on 1 Sam. 2).7

Eli’s sons were corrupt, and they used their positions to abuse women8

Eli failed to raise his children to fear the Lord by hating evil9

  • The priests’ sins were punishable by death. Phinehas was a married man at the time he forced the female temple servants into sex (1 Sam. 4:19). We assume the same was true for his brother as well. Adultery violated God’s Seventh Commandment (Ex. 20:14; Dt. 5:18). Under the Law, the sin of adultery was punishable by death (Lev. 20:10; Dt. 22:22). They also violated the Third Commandment by blaspheming God’s holy name (Ex. 20:7; Dt. 5:11). The punishment for that was also death (Lev. 24:16; Nu. 15:30). The priests needed a mediator. Yet, at that time, they did not have one.

  • Give thanks that Jesus serves as your mediator for your sins against God the Father. Unlike the sons of Eli, you have a mediator for your sins against God the Father. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;” (1 Jo. 2:1). “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Tim. 2:5). Is your life a testament to your gratitude for the price He paid for you?

  • Show your gratitude by living a holy life. Hannah correctly observed that no one is comparable to God’s holiness (1 Sam. 2:2). Yet, God still wants you to try to live by His holy example out of gratitude: “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.’” (Lev. 19:2; 1 Pet. 1:16). “You shall be blameless before the LORD your God.” (Dt. 18:13). “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48). “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;” (Eph. 5:1). “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love” (Eph. 1:4). Is your life a holy testament to your gratitude toward God?

6. Repentance: True Worship Includes Repenting of Your Sins. 1 Sam. 2:26-34.

  • God’s judgment upon the house of Eli. Eli’s sons were not disqualified from representing God because of their sins. Everyone is a sinner in God’s eyes (Ecc. 7:20; Ro. 3:23). Their greatest sin was in failing to repent. Because Eli’s sons would not repent, God ultimately judged them: “26 Now the boy Samuel was growing in stature and in favor both with the Lord and with men. 27 Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘Did I not indeed reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in bondage to Pharaoh’s house? 28 Did I not choose them from all the tribes of Israel to be My priests, to go up to My altar, to burn incense, to carry an ephod before Me; and did I not give to the house of your father all the fire offerings of the sons of Israel? 29 Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling, and honor your sons above Me, by making yourselves fat with the choicest of every offering of My people Israel?’ 30 Therefore the Lord God of Israel declares, ‘I did indeed say that your house and the house of your father should walk 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 will be lightly esteemed. 31 Behold, the days are coming when I will break your strength and the strength of your father’s house so that there will not be an old man in your house. 32 You will see the distress of My dwelling, in spite of all the good that I do for Israel; and an old man will not be in your house forever. 33 Yet I will not cut off every man of yours from My altar so that your eyes will fail from weeping and your soul grieve, and all the increase of your house will die in the prime of life. 34 This will be the sign to you which will come concerning your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas: on the same day both of them will die.” (1 Sam. 2:26-34). While the Jews were camped in front of Mount Horeb, God appointed the tribe of Levi the privilege of forever serving as the priests for the nation of Israel: “This is that which is consecrated to Aaron and that which is consecrated to his sons from the offerings by fire to the LORD, in that day when he presented them to serve as priests to the LORD. These the LORD had commanded to be given them from the sons of Israel in the day that He anointed them. It is their due forever throughout their generations.” (Lev. 7:35-36). “and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel.” (Nu. 25:13). Because the priests of the house of Eli could not atone for their sins against God, He had to judge them: “For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them. Therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.” (1 Sam. 3:13-14). King Solomon later removed a priest named Abiathar to fulfill this same prophecy: “So Solomon dismissed Abiathar from being priest to the LORD, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD, which He had spoken concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh.” (1 Kgs. 2:27). The house of Eli lacked wisdom because they did not fear God (Prov. 1:7; 9:10; Ps. 111:10). Fearing God is defined as “hating evil.” (Prov. 8:13). Do you fear God by hating evil? Or, do you tolerate evil in your life?

  • Those who know the truth yet openly continue to sin will bear the greater judgment. Like the sons of Eli, those who know the sacrifice that Christ made for them yet continue to sin bear the greater judgment: “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.” (Heb. 10:26-27). Is there any area of your life where you are in open rebellion?

  • God can revoke the gift of ministry if abused. Like the house of Eli, God can remove any person who abuses the privilege of ministry. God also judged the two eldest sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, when they offered “strange fire” to Him, possibly while drunk (Lev. 10:1-3). He also later judged the leaders of Israel for misusing their God-given authority: “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep. So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I will deliver My flock from their mouth, so that they will not be food for them.’” (Ezek. 34:10). If you have been given the privilege to minister or lead, be careful not to abuse that right.

7. Service: Show Your Worship by Serving Under Jesus Your High Priest. 1 Sam. 2:35-36.

  • God’s promise to restore the priesthood with a Spirit-led leader. As a punishment for an unholy priesthood that was consumed with greed, God came up with a just and fitting punishment. The house of Eli would become a house of beggars. “35 But I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed always. 36 Everyone who is left in your house will come and bow down to him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread and say, ‘Please assign me to one of the priest’s offices so that I may eat a piece of bread.” (1 Sam. 2:35-36). God’s judgment upon the counterfeit priesthood under Eli cleared the way for the restoration of a Spirit-led priesthood under Samuel. Likewise, after God judged Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu, He showed His faithfulness to His covenant by replacing them with Aaron’s younger sons, Eleazar and Ithamar (Nu. 3:4; 26:60-61). God’s judgment serves to cleanse sin so that restoration can occur.

God rebuked Eli, but Eli failed to repent10

  • The fulfillment of God’s promise to restore the priesthood through Jesus. Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of God's promise to raise up a faithful priesthood. “For it is attested of Him, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’” (Heb. 7:17). Unlike the many sinful high priests who led Israel, our High Priest is perfect and without sin. “26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens;” (Heb. 7:26). Unlike the Jews who could only become priests if they were born into the tribe of Levi, you automatically become a priest for Jesus when you believe in Him. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” (1 Pet. 2:9). Jesus has called all believers to serve Him as a priest through His Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20). Are you living a life worthy of His calling?