Be a Person of Worship…

Please take your Bibles and open with me to 1 Samuel 2:11-26. We are studying the life of Samuel. So far we have looked at Samuel’s birth and dedication, and today we finally begin to observe Samuel’s life at Shiloh under Eli the priest. This passage presents us with a study in contrasts as chapter two contrasts Samuel’s life growing up under Eli with Eli’s own sons. You will notice as we read through the passage, that the focus keeps shifting back and forth between Samuel and Eli’s sons. This is intentional and is a very effective teaching tool to show the differences between two different characters or subjects. 

The Sons of Eli were Switched Off

They were Worthless

Verse 12 has two shocking statements. The first is that Eli’s sons “were worthless men.” In the Hebrew text, there is no verb in this first clause. It simply reads, “The sons of Eli, the sons of Belial.”  The Hebrew literally means “The sons of Eli were equal to the sons of the Devil.” What a shocking comparison. They were sons without substance, children without conscience, and workers without worth. Hophni and Phinehas were “good for nothing sons.” They were switched off to the things of God!

That leads us to the second phrase: “they did not know the Lord.” These were sons of the priest who did not regard, nor respect the things of God. Their lives were spent growing up in the temple, yet they did not grow in their relationship with the Lord. The word for “know” here is not a matter of simple head knowledge or intellectual assent. It is a word that implies fellowship. “To know the Lord” is to have fellowship with the Lord. Eli’s sons did not have fellowship with the Lord.

There is a powerful truth here! God does not have any spiritual grandchildren. He only has children. You cannot enter into a covenantal relationship with God on your parents’ coattails. God deals with individuals. Faith is not passed on genetically! It is only experienced personally. When God’s judgment comes, the faith of the parents is not enough to preserve the children. You must be the switch in your own relationship with God. My friend, you may have wonderful, Godly parents. But one day, when you stand account of the Holy Judge He will not be questioning you based on what your parents did in this life but what you did with your life.

They were Worshipless

Verses 13-15 demonstrate just how perverse the sons of Eli were. They not only did not know the Lord, they despised the worship of the Lord. They violated their priestly office, and they took a portion that was not theirs to take. I say they are worshipless because they took the best parts for themselves and gave God the leftovers. Worship is giving God the best and living on the leftovers. Worship is giving God the firstfruit and living on what remains.

Imagine you were having a new family over to your home for dinner. Would you wait until they arrived, look in the fridge, grab a bit of left-over pot-roast, half a tuna sandwich, some limp lettuce and say, “Here you go?” No, you’d give them the best you had and later live on the leftovers. Here’s the problem with so many lives today! We are taking the best of our time, the best of our talents, the best of our money for ourselves and giving God the leftovers! That is not worship. That is wickedness.

  • We go to church if we have enough time.
  • We give an offering if we have anything left over.
  • We serve the church if we have any energy left.
  • We go to Bible Study if there isn’t a ball game.
  • We feed the hungry if we have fed ourselves

Our self-indulgence is nothing short of idolatry. We worship ourselves and fail to worship God. And what we fail to realize is that when we rob God of our best, we are actually robbing ourselves! It is possible to be religious with a heart that is worshipless! What is your priority today? What is preeminent in your life? Worship, or your wants? Not only did they take what was not theirs to take, they intimidated those who would not go along with their wickedness. Verse 16 says, “If the man said to him, ‘let the fat be burned up first, and then take whatever you want,’ the servant would then answer, ‘No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.’”

The Bible says in verse 17, “The sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight…” Their priorities were wrong. God was dethroned in their life and self was enthroned. This is sin! Where there is sin there will always be a great price to pay. You may not have to pay the price today, but someday you will pay. You say, “but preacher, I’ve been forgiven! I won’t have to pay a price.” If you are playing in sin today, if you are practicing sin today, you will be paying for sin someday. There is a cosmic law in the universe that whatsoever you so, that also shall you reap. When you sow the seeds of the flesh, you will reap destruction. Galatians 6:8 says, “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction…” There is a difference between forgiveness of sins and paying the consequences of your sins.  The smallest seeds of spiritual corruption often lead to a harvest of moral destruction. First, the sons of Eli perverted the sacrifice, then they perverted themselves. 

They pursued Wickedness

Look at how far the sons of Eli had sunk. 2:22, “Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” They were having sex with the servants of God! How profane. How perverse. That is the perilous progression of sin. It begins by putting yourself first in little areas of life and placing God second. But when you become comfortable placing God second in little things, you begin to place yourself first in all things, and then there is nothing you won’t do!

The immorality of the sons of Eli did not stop at their own homes, it extended to the House of God. Their acts were an abomination before God and a desecration of His temple.

They were Warned: By a Parent

And so Eli warned his sons. Verse 23 says, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear spreading among the Lord’s people. If a man sins another man, God may mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who will intercede for him? His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the Lord’s will to put them to death.” It looks like Eli is taking spiritual authority here but look carefully at the text. His warning came, but it came too late. He had tolerated their sin for too long. By the time he finally told them, it was too late.

Eli was a switched-off parent. It is a terrible thing when a parent turns a blind eye to the terrible decisions their children are making. Look at the words in verse 22, “Eli..kept hearing all that his sons were doing.” Report after report came his way but he did nothing. He was switched off. Complacent. Unwilling to act. Not wanting to offend. Too lazy. Too lackadaisical. Too weak. Oh, friends, the payday was approaching. Eli warned his sons that soon they would have to pay for their sin but they did not listen. Verse 26 ends “for it was the Lord’s will to put them to death.” He waited too long.

Parents, it is time for us to wake up, switch on, and speak up to our children. They live in perilous times. They live in perverse times. And if we don’t wake up and speak up, we are going to continue to raise a generation of worthless, worshipless, wicked children. Speak now, before it is too late!

They were warned: By a Prophet

Eli’s sons not only received a warning from a parent, but also from a prophet. Look down in verse 27, “And there came a man of God to Eli and said to him…” What follows is a prophecy of the end of Eli’s family. Payday was coming. Look at verse 29, “Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?”

Eli had begun well. He served the Lord. We don’t know all that he had done, but I am sure there were many spiritual victories in his history. But as the years wore on, he wore down. With the passing of time, spiritual victories passed him by! A good beginning does not guarantee a graceful ending. As we grow older, it is possible that our early spiritual victories will fade into complacency. Eli began worshipping his God but ended up worshipping his children. Eli honored his sons more than he honored his God!

Eli worshipped His children more than his God. I genuinely hope that you love your children, but do not love your children more than your God.

  • Don’t let their activities keep you from adoring God
  • Don’t let their schedules keep you from serving God
  • Don’t let their lives keep you from loving God
  • Don’t let their work keep you from worshipping God
  • Don’t wait until it is too late! Lead them to live lives switched on to God!

If you want to honor your children, then honor God most! It is the greatest gift you can give them. It is the greatest activity you can participate in. It is the greatest event you can engage in. In verse 30, God says through the prophet, “I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out 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 shall be lightly esteemed.”

Did God break His promise? No, Eli the priest and the parent broke His promise. God wanted to bless the household of Eli, but the household of Eli despised God by their behavior. Listen to the devastating words that follow:

  • Verse 31: “I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father’s house.” 
  • Verse 32: “there shall not be an old man in your house forever.”
  • Verse 33: “The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep his eyes out to grieve his heart, and all the descendants of your house shall die by the sword of men.
  • Verse 34: “both of your sons shall die on the same day.”

This is the horror and devastation of sin unchecked in a family. A father that is switched of to the sins of his children, and children that are switched off to the things of God. Now, I can almost anticipate what you are thinking. “Where is the good news? Where is the grace? Where is the gospel in all of this? Where is the love of God?” “Is there no hope? Is there no joy? Are there no answers?” Here is the good news: Even in the darkest days, the grace of God shines brightly upon those who worship Him.

The Son of Elkanah was Switched On

But I want you to look back at 1 Sam. 2:18, “Now, Samuel was ministering before the Lord…”  The small word that begins verse 18 is called a contrasting coordinating conjunction. It is a part of speech that contrasts demonstrate a contrast with the preceding clause. Verse 17 says, “The sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight…Now Samuel was ministering before the LORD…” What was the difference between the sons of Eli and the son of Elkanah? 

  • The sons of Eli had no regard for the Lord BUT Hannah’s son revered the Lord.
  • The sons of Eli were heirs to the wrath of God BUT Hannah’s son was an heir to the promise of God.
  • The sons of Eli were cut off from the presence of God BUT Hannah’s son grew up in the presence of God.

Wherein lies the difference? It is easy to say that worship “begins in your home,” but parents, let me plainly say “worship must begin in your heart!” Worshipping parents generally raise worshipping children. Worshipless parents generally raise worthless kids. The spiritual position of the parent shapes the spiritual condition of the children. Elkanah was switched on. Hannah was switched on. As a result, Samuel was switched on. Eli was switched off. As a result, his children were switched off.  There may not be a direct cause/effect, for some godly parents have godly children, and some godly children come from godless parents. There may not be a direct cause/effect, but there is a causal relationship.

Verse 21 says, “And the young man Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord.” This was a by-product of a father who made holiness his habit. Look back at verse 19, “And his mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year when she we up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.” This family practiced worship! Eli’s sons failed. Elkanah’s son flourished. Eli’s sons would not listen to the voice of their father…(Now) (v. 26) the young man Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor (grace) with the LORD and also with men.”

Fast forward many hundred years… there was another mother and another father who had set apart their son to the Lord. They worshipped in their home. Worship was the rhythm of their life. And each year they went to the temple to offer their worship and they took their son with them. Their practice was to be in the presence of God, and they brought their child with them.

Luke 2:41 says, “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of Passover. And when he was 12 years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives, and when the did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him.

“After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Who were these parents? Mary and Joseph. Who was this boy? Jesus Christ! Young Jesus said to Mary and Joseph, “Why were you looking for me? I’m right where you raised me to be! You’ve taught me to practice the presence of my Father. You’ve taught me the priority of worship. I am practicing what you have been preaching. Why are you amazed?” Parents, don’t just point your children to God. Practice the presence of God in their presence. Don’t just lead them to worship; lead them in worship! Luke 2:51 says, “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.” The Son of God was submissive to His earthly parents because His earthly parents were submissive to their Heavenly Father. Verse 52, “And Jesus grew in wisdom, and in stature, and in favor with God and man.”

The same words said of Samuel were said of our Savior. What a lesson! Parents who participate in regular worship as a family build a family that worships God. Samuel grew to be like the Savior because his family was switched on to the things of God.


  1. When God measures your life, he looks at the overall trajectory and not the individual times. This is good news. He does not simply focus on your flaws, your faults, and your flops. But He also does not focus on your singular success. He measures the full measure of your life. What is the trend? Worship, or worldliness.
  2. The smallest seeds of spiritual corruption often lead to a harvest of moral destruction. Small steps when taken long enough lead to a life-long journey. Sin, when it is full-grown, leads to destruction.
  3. A good beginning does not guarantee a graceful ending. Eli started well. Elkanah started well. Eli finished poorly. Elkanah finished purely. As a result, Eli’s family was destroyed. As a result, Elkanah’s family flourished.
  4. God is still seeking hearts/lives that are fully switched on for Him. Those who do, are blessed. Those who don’t are cursed. The choice is yours.

God blesses the righteous and judges the wicked. You can only be righteous through Jesus Christ. So, if you do not know Jesus this morning, let me encourage you to put your faith in him. Don’t treat God’s offering of his Son with contempt. Confess your sins to Him and receive his righteousness by faith. Don’t put off your decision to trust Christ. God is merciful, but remember, there is a point of no return.

If you do know Christ this morning, remember that God blesses the righteous. So, are you growing in righteousness? Are you progressing in your faith? Are you asking the Holy Spirit to make necessary changes in your life?

Finally, if God blesses the righteous and judges the wicked, as believers we need to be sharing our faith. Apart from Christ, we are all lost. We need to be sharing the gospel with others, that they too may receive God’s gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ.


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