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A Question Of Honor 1 Samuel 2

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1 Samuel 2:11-36

Stephen Caswell © 2000

Illustration Of Eric Liddel

Perhaps you have seen the movie Chariots of Fire. The film tells the story of two athletes, Eric Liddel and Harold Abrahams. Eric had trained hard to compete in the 1924 Olympic Games. He was also a faithful Christian, who readily shared his faith and took every opportunity to do so. After the time trials he was chosen to run in the 100 yard race at the Games. He sailed for France, as the games were to be held in Paris. Eric had to a struggle for some time with the fact that the final for the 100 yard race final was to be run on Sunday. What would he do? He had trained long and hard for this event and now it was to be run on the day that he held as sacred, the Lord's day.

Which love was the greatest in his life? His love for running or His love for Christ? This was a conflict between the two, what would he do? The Prince of Wales tried to coerce him to run on Sunday, and to put King and country before God. Well he put God first and didn't run on Sunday. Then the Lord opened up a way for him to run in the 400 yards event that was run on a different day. Before the 400 yard race the American coach gave Eric a piece of paper with a verse written on it. He who honors Me, him I will honor. Eric Liddel went on to win the gold medal. This conflict revealed that Eric honoured Jesus Christ more than anything else. 

Tonight I want to look at the subject of Honour. In the passage we are looking at tonight the key verse is verse 30. For those that honour me I will honour, and those that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. What does it mean to honour someone? The word honour means to glorify, to promote, make great. Those who honour God will be honored by God. This principle is seen over and over again in the Book of Samuel. God honoured the priests and kings who honoured Him and He lightly esteemed those who despised Him. Tonight the contrast between Eli's house and Elkanah's house is very clear. There are two main points.

I.   To Despise The Lord                   &                   II.  To Honour The Lord

Firstly To Despise The Lord

Eli's sons didn't honour the Lord. They despised the Lord. The word despise means to disdain, to scorn or hold in contempt.

a. Ignorance 1 Samuel 2:12 Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord.

Firstly we find that Hophni and Phinehas were ignorant about the Lord. They didn't know Him. They were priests and their father was high priest in the Lord's house at Shiloh. They would have learned about the Lord through the Law. They knew what God had done for Israel in the past. They served in the tabernacle and represented the people before God. Yet for all this, they didn't know the Lord. How tragic when a servant of the Lord and a high priest at that fails to win his own sons to the Lord! With such a privileged position as this they should have come to know their God. But they didn't grab such a wonderful opportunity.

There is a warning here for us too. Just because we have Christian parents and have always gone to Church doesn't guarantee our salvation. It's not enough to know about the Lord. We must personally know the Lord ourselves. We must be born again into God's family if we want to inherit eternal life. Jesus said to the five foolish virgins, I don't know you.

b. Iniquity

Secondly we find that they were very wicked. Verse 12 tells us that they were corrupt. The King James Version calls them Sons of Belial. The word belial means wicked, ungodly, evil. These sons of Eli were selfish, for they put their own desires ahead of the Word of God and the needs of the people; they were overbearing and they were lustful. These kind of people are described well in Phil 3:18-19: For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. When people don't know the Lord the natural thing for them to do is sin. They indulge in all kinds of sinful pleasures. Two specific sins are recorded here.  

1. Irreverence

1 Samuel 2:13-17 And the priests’ custom with the people was that when any man offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fleshhook in his hand while the meat was boiling. Then he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; and the priest would take for himself all that the fleshhook brought up. So they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. Also, before they burned the fat, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who sacrificed, Give meat for roasting to the priest, for he will not take boiled meat from you, but raw.  And if the man said to him, They should really burn the fat first; then you may take as much as your heart desires, he would then answer him, No, but you must give it now; and if not, I will take it by force. Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord.


Firstly Eli's sons took for themselves the best portions of the sacrifice rather than allowing the worshiper to give them a portion. They were greedy and motivated by physical appetites. They had no interest whatsoever in spiritual things. Their god was their belly.

Secondly Eli's sons took what belonged to the Lord. They came and took a portion of the sacrifice before it had been offered to God on the altar. This was a clear violation of the Law. The sacrifice was offered to God first. Then the people and the priest could have a portion.  

Thirdly through their sin they caused Israel to despise the offerings to the Lord. Their sin removed the joy Israel received as they worshipped God. What an indictment against the Lord's priests. Of all people the priests should have enhanced the people's worship of God.


2. Immorality

1 Samuel 2:22 Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.


Eli's sons also committed adultery with the women of Israel who came to worship. Sexual immorality was sinful for all the people. But it was even worse when the priests engaged in it. The Law commanded the offenders to be stoned for this sin. The priesthood was to be an example for the nation to follow. Holiness To The Lord was written on their hats. But here they are actively involved in the sinful practices of their pagan neighbors. To add to this they defiled the sanctuary by committing adultery there. Instead of being concerned with the spiritual well being of the nation they were obsessed with their own physical appetites. They didn't honour the Lord or glorify Him. They despised the Lord and brought shame on His name. Although Eli's sons had great privileges tragically they didn't know the Lord!

The Sin Ravaged Life


When Leonardo da Vinci was painting his masterpiece, The Last Supper, he selected as the person to sit for the character of the Christ a young man, Pietri Bandinelli by name, connected with the Milan Cathedral as chorister. Years passed before the great picture was completed, and when one character only--that of Judas Iscariot--was wanting, the great painter noticed a man in the streets of Rome whom he selected as his model. With shoulders far bent toward the ground, having an expression of cold, hardened, evil, saturnine, the man seemed to afford the opportunities of a model terribly true to the artist's conception of Judas.

When in the studio, the profligate began to look around, as if recalling incidents of years gone by. Finally, he turned and with a look half-sad, yet one which told how hard it was to realize the change which had taken place, he said, Maestro, I was in this studio twenty-five years ago. I, then, sat for Christ. How tragic it is when we neglect spiritual privileges.


How did God respond to the wickedness of Hophni and Phinehas? Did He allow them to get away with this? Or did He judge them? God responded with indignation and judgment.

c. Indignation

1 Samuel 2:29-34 Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people? Therefore the Lord God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the Lord says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.


Behold, the days are coming that I will cut off your arm and the arm of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. And you will see an enemy in My dwelling place, despite all the good which God does for Israel. And there shall not be an old man in your house forever. But any of your men whom I do not cut off from My altar shall consume your eyes and grieve your heart. And all the descendants of your house shall die in the flower of their age. Now this shall be a sign to you that will come upon your two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas: in one day they shall die, both of them.


Palacio Valdes said Nothing in the world annoys a man more than not being taken seriously.

This is what it means to lightly esteem someone. God treats very lightly those who despise Him. God sent a man of God to pronounce judgment. He reminded Eli of his Holy Calling. He condemned his sons for defiling themselves through sin. He accused Eli of honoring his wicked sons more than God. Because of this, he said that God would remove them from the priesthood. They would suddenly be cut off because of their sin. Their entire family would be removed from service. The Lord would replace them with faithful priests. This was fulfilled through Samuel and then the family of Zadok. Eventually this was fulfilled through the Lord Jesus Christ, a High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. God lightly esteemed the house of Eli because of their sin. He didn't consider them worthy of respect. So God removed them and their entire family from service. God requires His children to honor Him.




You might say but how does this apply to me? It applies to all of us. Spiritual privileges such as Christian parents and a Christian home don't guarantee that we will be saved. Personal faith in Jesus Christ is the only thing that will save us from the punishment of sin and the power of sin. Only reliance upon Christ enables us to live a life that honors God. Do you know Jesus Christ? If you don't know Him how can you live a life to please God? You can't! In fact you are heading for God's judgment. Can I encourage you to make the most of your Christian upbringing. Take God's Word to heart. Listen to your parents and accept their instruction and correction. Through all of this know the Lord yourself and honor Him.


Secondly To Honour The Lord

The family of Elkanah honored the Lord. In fact Hannah dedicated her son to God's service before he was born. She wanted him to grow up to be a servant of God.

a. He Grew Up In God's House

1 Sam 2:18 But Samuel ministered before the Lord, even as a child, wearing a linen ephod.


Firstly, Samuel served the Lord from His Childhood. The Bible tells us that he ministered to the Lord even as a child. He wore a linen ephod in accordance with God's Law. Verse 21 tells us that Samuel grew before the Lord. God watched over his development with keen interest. While Samuel was young he came to know the Lord and love Him. In fact the Lord spoke to Samuel while he was serving in the temple in his youth. How important it is to embrace spiritual things while we are young.


2 Timothy 3:14-15 affirms this: But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. If we ignore God's Word our hearts will harden to it. Then we are in danger of going astray as Eli's sons did. Obey God's Word while you are young!

b. He Grew In God's Favour

1 Sam 2:26 And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the Lord and men.


Not only did Samuel grow physically, he also developed socially and spiritually. Verse 26 tells us that Samuel was respected by God and man. The people recognized that Samuel honoured the Lord and respected him for this. God also honoured Samuel for his upright life. Luke 2:52 says this about Jesus: And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Samuel did not go along with the wicked behavior of Eli's sons. It wouldn't have been easy taking a stand against them as they were adults and he was only a child. I am sure that Eli's sons ridiculed Samuel and enticed him to sin, but he didn't listen to them. This indicates that Samuel's parents had trained him well unlike Eli with his sons. 3:12-13 In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them.

c. He Grew In God's Word

1 Samuel 3:19-20 So Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the Lord.

As Samuel grew in the ways of the Lord he became a great man of God. God was able to reveal things to Samuel because he obeyed Him. Samuel was faithful to declare what God told him. Even when it was difficult like the judgment upon Eli's house. The Lord also spoke through him to the nation. Samuel called the people back to God. Israel recognized that Samuel was the Lord's prophet because he spoke the truth. His prophecies didn't fail because God honoured him. Every pronouncement he gave came true. Samuel was a true prophet of God. Samuel had honoured the Lord and received God's honour in return.

Honored by Association

In the town of Stepanavan, Armenia, I met a woman whom everyone called Palasan's wife. She had her own name, of course, but townspeople called her by her husband's name to show her great honor. When the devastating 1988 earthquake struck Armenia, it was nearly noon, and Palasan was at work. He rushed to the elementary school where his son was a student. The facade was already crumbling, but he entered the building and began pushing children outside to safety. After Palasan had managed to help twenty-eight children out, an aftershock hit that completely collapsed the school building and killed him. So the people of Stepanavan honor his memory and his young widow by calling her Palasan's wife. Sometimes a person's greatest honor is not who they are but to whom they are related. The highest honor of any believer is to be called a disciple of Jesus Christ, who laid down his life for all people.


Samuel is the exact opposite of Eli's sons. He took advantage of his spiritual privileges. He served God faithfully from his youth. He came to know the Lord while he was young and heard the Lord speaking to him. Unlike Eli's family Samuel honored God in everything. Samuel grew in stature and in favour with God and man. That is a wonderful testimony of a young man. The same thing is said of Jesus Christ. Will you serve the Lord from your youth before sin hardens your heart? Will you grow in God's favour? Will you grow in God's Word so that the Lord can you use you mightily? Will you honour the Lord more than anything else? I trust you will, because then God can bless both you and others through you!


Tonight we have seen two families. One chose to honour the Lord and the other despised Him. God honoured Samuel's family because they honoured Him, but God judged Eli's because they despised Him. What will you do in your life? In this matter of honour, what will you do? Will you honour God or man? Will you put Jesus Christ first in your life and bring honour to Him? Will you allow God to honour you? Or will you honour man and be judged?

Benediction  1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

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