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Samuel is considered the last of the Judges and the first of the prophets who was chosen by God to succeed Eli because his sons had become corrupt beyond hope and he turned the people away from their gross idolatry and led them to final victory over the Philistines (what Samson should have done). He took the country from loosely associated tribes led by local judges to a unified nation led by kings. When he became old, however, he sons (like those of Eli) were also far short of their father’s integrity and the people demanded a king for powerful armies “such as all the other nations have.” They still could not see the connection between their successes or failures and being faithful to God. God even warned them that death and taxes would become the norm, and yet they still wanted the idol symbols of human power. Here is a prophesy likely of Saul’s massacre of the priests at Nob (with Abiathar a descendant of Eli as the only survivor as per v.33 who as David’s faithful priest was banished by Solomon to permit only Zadok to be the only high priest, as per Ezek 44:15, all the way into the millennial temple, which further fed the 2/10 tribe Israel / Judah divide with differing pastoral loyalties) as well of Christ as the ultimate priest and king. “A heart at peace give life to the body.”

Like the Sanhedrin, the sins of Eli’s sons were intentional as they “made themselves contemptible.” They both acted arrogantly in full knowledge that what they did was wrong with utter contempt for God and His Law. Even the unintentional sin of a priest could be atoned for by a sacrifice as per Leviticus 4:3-12, but there was no sacrifice for any person’s willful violation of the spirit of God’s laws. It is said that Jesus removed all sin, but likewise He does not wash clean the consequences of intentional sin against the Spirit. “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 31-32) Abraham was not only elderly but a liar, Jacob (meaning deceiver) was anxious and a cheat, Leah was unattractive, Joseph was physically abused, Moses had a speech impediment and was disobedient, Noah got drunk, Gideon was underprivileged, Samson was codependent, Rahab was depraved, David was an adulterous murderer, Elijah was afraid and suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed, Jonah was unwilling, Peter was impulsive (and guilty of denial), Zacchaeus was unpopular, Thomas was doubtful, Timothy was timid, and Paul was overweight and of poor health. The Bible contains quit a collection of misfits and even though they were sometimes chastised, they never lost their intimate relationship with God. God had a use for each of them (without “fixing” them with self-help philosophy or letting their sinful nature get in the way) that justified them. This was not the case for Eli’s sons, “the guilt of Eli's house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.”

Too often I hear sermons on “raising the bar” of expectations for Christians. The phrase “raising the bar” brings fear into the heart of sailors as it refers to the raising of the sand bar at the mouth of a river that makes the trip to the open ocean all the more dangerous. The phrase likewise brings fear into the heart of any true believer because it only increases the divide between the Shepard and His sheep. Judas “raised the bar” for himself too high to be saved just like religious leaders often hypocritically attack the behavior of others without looking within – too often sermons talk about “them” instead of “us” or “me” when talking about sin. Everything we naturally might do, feel, and think must be given up, so that “none can boast.” Evangelistic focus, IMHO, should thusly be more on lowering the bar. Even though Samuel and Eli’s sons were raised in positions of privilege, their lives strongly contrasted. Only one honored God and was honored by Him. Samuel’s first message of divine judgment was on the very house of Eli (most prophets were not popular in their own time) – how rare it would be to hear a sermon of divine judgment on one’s very own congregation. “But envy rots the bones.”

Christ said in Luke 18:13 that only those who believe they have a poor relationship with Him actually have a right one. Christ suggested we should always pray, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” Just as Christ ascended from Bethany in which his sufferings first began, those that would go to heaven must ascend from the house of sufferings and sorrows. Jesus bids that all bear their cross in the way of duty in Luke 14:27. Satan, however, always accepts us the way we are, never asks us to work or grow, and we never have to ask. The only problem is that members of his household end up dead, like a plant or animal without proper care, in much the same way that helping a butterfly past the natural struggle out of its cocoon will only keep it from ever flying (without the blood being pushed out into the wings). “Faith is not what today is so often called a ‘mystical experience,’ something that can apparently be induced by the proper breathing exercises or by prolonged exposure to Bach (not to mention drugs). It can be attained only through despair, through suffering, through a painful and ceaseless struggle.” - Peter F. Drucker

The Israeli army superstitiously assumed that taking the ark would guarantee success, but instead their forces are crushed (but not routed), their priests killed, and the ark lost and placed before the Philistine idol (which later falls to the ground and loses it head and later hands before the ark while the nearby people are stricken with tumors). God’s chosen constantly suffer loses while never being defeated (the Canaanites, for example, no longer exist) because it was always God and not religious relics that counted. Recent excavation suggest that Shiloh was destroyed around 1050 BC, possibly by a Philistine raid after the battle in v. 4:3 (also see Jeremiah 7:12) as punishment for their sins. Eli’s dying daughter-in-law saw the defeat, priestly deaths, and the lose of the ark as total ruin, but these events were in fact only purging judgments that ended a dark era and ushered in a new age of hope. We should remember the battle of Aphek whenever things may look their darkest – God may be preparing a great work in and through us. Also remember, though, that life for the Israelites was made worse by their self-serving worship and prayer. Prayer and worship, when done only to elevate ourselves, can make things worse. It is an awful thing to trifle with God. “We have sinned, even as our fathers did.”

Christ made it clear that it is belief that brings life and sin that condemns and kills. Christ mentions in 5:29 the first and second resurrections of Revelation. Revelation 20:5 says, “The rest of the dead live not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.” Those that experience the FIRST resurrection and live a thousand years with Christ are exempt from the second death (the lake of fire). The numbering of resurrections is because there will be a second one when those from the Pit (whom Jesus will later preach to when gone for three days after His crucifixion), including Satan (locked there for the millennium), will live on Earth again. The OT similarly tells that all will end up in Sheol (which Christ describes with a great divide between two judgments) with a potential salvation in a “world to come” (that some Jews believe will be ruled by David as the King of Kings). There are three kinds of life: 1) the natural life of soul and body, 2) the spiritual life of God and soul, and 3) the eternal life of the communal body and God. Those that hear the voice of the son of God shall wake from the dust, from sin, and receive eternal life in the body of Christ.

Jesus adds to His witness the testimony of John the Baptist because after the Cain / Abel murder investigation, God degreed that only the testimony of two or more should be believed, but Christ had no need of John’s testimony as He already had the greatest testimony of the Father (and His own works). Christ is saying in v 5:41 (and 43) that He acted through neither self-interest nor vanity (as our salvation adds nothing to Him and our destruction takes nothing away), He only spoke through His love for our salvation. On the other hand, Christ adds in v 5:42 (and 44) that the Jews were just the opposite with neither love nor zeal for God but that incorrigible ignorance and malicious jealously filled their hearts – condemned not by Jesus, but by the Law. It appears the Lord shut these Jews up as they went away without replying. The Pharisees were like the Philistines who accepted Yahweh but would not submit to Him. “Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare his praise?”

Escaped slave, Frederick Douglass, wrote the following about the nineteenth century American Christian church, “Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest, possible difference--so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as a class-leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path of salvation. He who sells my sister, for purposes of prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity. He who proclaims it a religious duty to read the Bible denies me the right of learning to read the name of the God who made me. We see the thief preaching against theft, and the adulterer against adultery.”

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