1Sam. 2:34 The fate of your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you—both of them shall die on the same day.
1Sam. 2:35 I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed one forever.
1Sam. 2:36 Everyone who is left in your family shall come to implore him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread, and shall say, Please put me in one of the priest’s places, that I may eat a morsel of bread.’”
Eli's sons, the priests were unfaithful servants. God had established a covenant between them and himself, that they and their descendants would be his priests. These men were to be above reproach, serving the people and serving God. However, greed and selfishness overcame them and they saw the ministry as a way in which to become wealthy. They began stealing from God. When people brought in their offerings they would look over the sacrifices and they would take the best meats for themselves. They didn't even follow God's laws regarding the treatment of that meat, but instead brazenly took it from the people before they could even give it to God.
And God was not pleased. Eli's sons had broken the covenant with God and they would no longer be allowed to serve as priests; not only Hophni and Phinehas but all of their descendants. They would be replaced by a faithful servant, one who would not be self-centered but who would do what was in God's heart and mind. This would be a priest who would understand the mission and heart of God because he would not be going through the motions of service, but instead would understand his role as one who would personally be an intercessor between the people and God, going in and out before the anointed one. This was the responsibility of the faithful priest.
In the meantime Eli's descendants would still be trying to make a living off of their "service." They would beg to receive a position in the priestly service so that they could make some money. They saw the tasks to be done and saw it simply as employment and not the calling which Samuel, the faithful servant, had received.
Sadly this story could be repeated today. The priestly scandals of the Roman Catholic Church have scarred Christianity. Television commentators blame poor church attendance these days on the public lack of confidence and trust in the priesthood. I believe this may be partially true and the story doesn't end with the Roman Catholic Church. Unfortunately all across Christianity there are those who have gone into ministry and seen it as a form of employment. Often I hear comments about how I want to help people -- but infrequently do I hear that people want to be ministers out of their overwhelming love for God.
Somehow we have turned church and worship into a consumer affair. Have priests given up their priestly function, to know the heart and mind of God and convey that to the people, because of the consumeristic desires of those in their pews? Has church and worship become focused on the consumers and not on God? And why is this? Maybe it's because there is the thought that if we give people what they want, they will put more in the offering plates. Sadly there are those in ministry around the world who have gotten really rich by what they've done. They build lavish facilities and offices that make people shake their heads in wonder. Did my sacrifice really go to God or to make the priest rich?
And God was not pleased. God continues to search for those who will be his faithful servants, those who will know his heart and mind. He wants his servants to fall deeply in love with him and minister before him, going in and out before the anointed one forever! This is joyful, satisfying and faithful ministry.
Lord, may those whom you've called to ministry seek you today with all their hearts as they lead their congregations into worship. Amen.