Lighthouse Leader Study Guide
Date: January 15, 2017
Series: The kings & the King: A Study of 1 Samuel
1 Samuel 2:12-3:21
This Week’s Printable Resources:
- The Compass for the Week of January 15, 2017 (pdf)
- Study Notes for 1 Samuel 2:12-3:21 (pdf)
- Lighthouse Discussion Guide (pdf)
- Lighthouse Leader Study Guide (pdf)
Overview of this Lesson
Last week we saw the example of the godly mother, Hannah. Stricken with depression and bitterness over her inability to conceive and have a child, Hannah serves as an example to us today of someone who surrendered her deepest need to the Lord and found true lasting peace and joy in the Lord. God granted Hannah’s prayerful request for a boy, and out of obedience to her vow, Hannah responded by giving her little boy back to the Lord to serve Him all the days of his life. In short, Hannah honored the Lord and gave back to Him the child He had given her. As a result of her faithful obedience, God blessed Hannah and her husband Elkanah with five more children.
In contrast, we see the example this week of the high priest Eli and his family. The Bible leaves no doubt about the home life of Eli. His sons, Hophni and Phinehas are described as evil, wicked men. They are self-serving and use their position as priests before the Lord to prey upon the women who come to the tabernacle to worship and serve the Lord. This is an ugly picture of life within the house of the Lord when evil men show complete disregard for the Lord and His people, and prove to be shepherds who feed upon the flock rather than protect and care for the people of God. Eli and his sons dishonor God and despise His ways, and God brings judgement upon Eli’s entire family. In fact, the Bible tells us it “pleases God” to judge Eli and his wicked family.
In this lesson, we will focus on this contrast and what we can learn about family life. There are clear reasons that God judges Eli’s family, and if you think Eli’s sons are the only problem, think again. What we see in this week’s text is the fruit of a father who is both passive and indulgent when it comes to leading his family. The challenge for us as we reflect on this week’s text is to observe the characteristics of a dysfunctional family and take steps to put our own family on the road to being a family that honors God in all that it does and says.
Memory Verse for This Week
Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: ‘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. – 1 Samuel 2:30
This Week’s Core Practice
Authenticity (John 13:33-34): I know and understand biblical truths and transfer these truths into everyday life. Who I am on the inside and outside is a pure reflection of Christ and His Word.
|This Week’s Take Home Truth
“When we honor the Lord, He will honor us and it will impact the one’s we influence. When we fail to honor the Lord, He will judge us and the one’s we influence will pay a price.“
- What sins are particularly abhorrent when committed by Christian leaders?
- To what extent do you think parents should be held accountable when their children break the law?
- Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?
Make sure you ask this question this week. It gives people the opportunity to discuss questions or issues that come up beyond the written questions. People’s responses can often lead into one of the questions in the “Digging Deeper” section. Also, some weeks this question will result in a lot of discussion, other weeks, not so much.
Read the Text (1 Samuel 2:12-3:21)
The darkness of Israel’s spiritual depravity during the times of the Judges is highlighted by this week’s text, in which we see the indulgence of the high priest, Eli, and the evil committed by his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. Yet, in the background, God is preparing young Samuel. The Bible shows a clear contrast between the humility and godliness of Samuel and the self-indulgence and evil of Eli’s family. Read 1 Samuel 2:12-3:21.
In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions. Remember, if you are hearing from everyone in your group, chances are you won’t have to time to discuss every question. You may start with one that catches your attention so you don’t run out of time. For example, it’s not odd to start with Question #6, then go to Question #5 and if you have time come back to Question #4.
- Describe the condition of the priesthood in general and Eli’s sons specifically (vs. 2:12-17).
As we noted last week, 1 Samuel opens to a dark time in Israel’s history. Spiritually, the people are dead, and their religious leaders, the priests, are no different.
While we get a specific picture of the high priest, Eli, and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, it is clear that the priesthood as a whole is corrupt. 1 Samuel 3:1 tells us the word of the Lord was rare in those days, and there was no widespread revelation.
As the lens of Scripture focuses in on Eli and his family specifically, we see a grossly immoral and evil picture. Eli’s sons, who served as priests before the Lord at the tabernacle in Shiloh, were widely known to be men who disregarded the Lord and instead fulfilled their own desires and lusts. The Hebrew is verse 2:12 calls them the “sons of Belial,” which means they were corrupt, wicked scoundrels and troublemakers. This same word is also used as a name for Satan himself, who stands as the very embodiment of wickedness and lawlessness. Later, through an unnamed prophet, the Lord will reveal to Eli that he and his sons looked upon the Lord with contempt literally scoffed at “the Lord’s” offering (v. 29).
- What is the root cause of Hophni & Phinehas’ evil?
The opening verse in this section, verse 12, tell us Hophni and Phinehas did not know the Lord. In our terminology today, they were lost, unconverted, unbelievers.
Keep in mind that these men had grown up in the home of a priest. They had been taught the word of God and the ways of God. They knew what was right in God’s eyes, but they deliberately choose to walk away from the Lord and follow their own perverted, selfish desires.
This opens the door to some insight into the kind of home Eli led as a father.
- Describe what we can know about Eli as a father from this passage of Scripture.
In a word, Eli was a passive and indulgent father. Consider the following:
- Eli heard everything his sons did, including their immoral behavior with the women who came to worship at the tabernacle (v. 22).
- Eli knew that the people were disgusted with the conduct of his sons and the reputation they had among the people (v. 23).
- Eli had lost the respect of his sons to the point that when he warned them, they disregarded what he had to say (v. 25).
These are all clear symptoms of a passive father who only engages with his children in response to negative reports. We see these same symptoms today, don’t we? Fathers and mothers who are too busy or to distracted to stay involved in their children’s’ lives. Yet, if the child gets in trouble or a bad report card shows failing grades, then the parent becomes involved, and it’s typically in the form of warnings and threats. “If you don’t do this…” or “I’m sick and tired of getting called by the school because…”
Parents who are responders in times of trouble yet ignore their kids when they are “good” create a toxic environment within their family. Just like Eli’s sons, the children of a passive parent soon learn how to sneak around their Mom and/or Dad and get away with things.
The Gospel in 1 Samuel
NOTE: some in your group may question the wording of 2:25 – “If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.”
What does it mean that it was the will of the Lord to put them to death? There are essentially two understandings of this verse. The first is that God in His sovereignty pre-ordained these men to death, that they were doomed because they were lost, and lost because God did not choose them for salvation. This understanding emphasizes God’s sovereignty. Here is a brief paragraph by Gordon Keddie arguing for this point of view:
Here is the key to understanding the case of Hophni and Phinehas, except that we are told the deeper purpose of God for that depraved pair: they ‘did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the Lord’s will to put them to death’ (2:25). We are given a glimpse of the other side of God’s secret will–his purpose to condemn the reprobate lost. Again, we cannot read the heart. We see human wickedness but cannot tell what God’s purpose is towards its perpetrators. After all, he saves sinners. Every believer knows he was lost and wicked, when the Lord saved him. But with Hophni and Phinehas, God drew back the veil and showed us his otherwise secret will. He meant to put these fellows to death. And there can be no doubt that a lost eternity is in view. Hophni and Phinehas were reprobates–not in the everyday sense of the incorrigible rascal for whom we feel a sneaking affection, but in the biblical and theological sense of the adokimos, the irrevocably committed sinner who is reprobate before God (Romans 1:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5-7; 2 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1:16).
The other understanding argues that this is an example the God’s justice, which is a part of His character. Let me share with you this brief paragraph from The Apologetics Study Bible:
Did God prevent Hophni and Phinehas from repenting in order to do away with them? It was the wicked inclinations of these two sons of Eli that kept them from repenting. Their obstinacy required that the Lord, who hates and punishes sin, would bring fatal retribution upon them. The Hebrew phrase translated as “the Lord intended” literally means “the Lord was pleased.” While the Lord takes no pleasure in the death of those who sin (see Ezk 18:32; 33:11; 2 Pt 3:9), at the same time He delights in bringing justice to the order of human society. Justice is a central trait in God’s character (Ex 34:7; Ps 33:5), and its implementation brings satisfaction to him. Some of the same considerations that apply to the Lord’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (Ex 4:21) apply here.
Here is where I land: I believe this is an example of the judgment of God described in Romans 1:18-32, where God gives man over to his perpetual sin. Clearly, Hophni and Phinehas were unconverted, evil men, yet as priests who grew up in the community of Israel, they knew the truth about God. Yet, the Bible calls them “The Sons of Belial,” which is the same word used for Satan himself. God’s character demands justice. This is the purpose of our Lord Jesus’ atoning death on the cross of Calvary. By His character, God cannot overlook the sinfulness of mankind. Our sin demands a price be paid.
What you see in verse 25 is really a precursor of the gospel itself. Eli asks the question, “who can intercede between God and man when man sins against the Lord?” This is BC, Before Christ. Today, we know the answer to Eli’s question. The Lord Jesus mediates between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5). Consequently, it was “the will of the Lord” to put Him (Jesus Christ) to death as a payment for our sins (Isaiah 53:10). If it wasn’t for our Lord’s sacrificial death on the cross, we would be in the same place as Hophni and Phinehas. We are all sons (and daughters) of Belial, evil men and women who despise the Lord. But when we place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ and believe in Him and Him alone as the only way to approach God, we are looked upon with favor by God, not as sons of Belial, but as sons of God, beloved children who honor God through our faith in Jesus Christ.
- What does it mean to indulge our children?
To be indulgent is the other side of the coin of a passive parent. A passive parent simply doesn’t want to engage with their children because it’s too much work; an indulgent parent falsely believes their child can do no wrong, and even when they hear of wrongdoing, they don’t believe their children are capable of this kind of behavior.
Do you think we have indulgent parents today? Just ask any teacher to answer that question. One of the most difficult tasks a teacher has is to visit with a parent about the behavior of their child in the classroom. Some parents hear the criticism well and are on the side of the teacher, many, however, become angry with the teacher and completely ignore the possibility that their child is in the wrong.
When we see wrongdoing or misbehavior in our children, we must lovingly correct them.
- How can we avoid becoming a parent like Eli?
Parenting is hard work. In fact, it’s probably a lot more difficult than what many of us bargain for when we first begin to picture ourselves as a Mom or a Dad. It’s a lifetime commitment that is filled with the highest mountain peaks of joy and the lowest valleys of despair. Nothing can weigh more heavily upon a man or woman than to have a child who is struggling socially, physically, emotionally, or intellectually.
What adds insult to injury is when we begin to turn away from our role as a Mom or Dad. It happens. We get tired, we get overwhelmed, we get discouraged, and our own sense of self-preservation kicks in. Marriage relationships begin to struggle, work becomes an escape, and kids are left to fend for themselves.
To avoid falling into this destructive pattern, we must work to stay actively engaged with our family. Gary Chapman provides seven characteristics of an active, loving father. I believe you can apply these to both a mother and father, and taken as a whole they provide a picture that is the exact opposite of what we see illustrated in the family of Eli.
- A loving parent will be active in his/her parenting. This means that you will not be a passive parent simply responding to your children’s overtures. Rather, you will actively seek to be involved in your children’s lives. You will initiate such involvement.
- A loving parent will make time to be with his children. Time is a scarce commodity for most dads. Look at your schedule. How much time do you spend each week in the presence of your children? Do you schedule time to be with your children? Or do they simply get the leftovers?
- A loving parent engages his/her children in conversation. Two-way conversation is the vehicle whereby we get to know our children and let them know us. Asking questions about their thoughts, feelings, and desires and telling our own is a crucial way to build intimacy with children.
- A loving parent plays with his/her children. This can be the fun part of parenting. What do you do with your children that evokes laughter and pleasure? What games have you played in the last month? What are you doing to have fun together?
- A loving parent teaches his/her values. Values are strongly held beliefs by which we order our lives. Do you value hard work, honesty, kindness? What else do you believe to be important in life? How are you seeking to teach your values to your children?
- A loving parent provides for and protects his/her children. This is the most basic level of parenting: providing food, clothing, and shelter and seeking to protect them from people or forces that would destroy life.
- A loving parent loves his children unconditionally. Unconditional love is the kind of love that says “I love you no matter what.” Conditional love is based upon the child’s performance: making good grades, playing sports well, cleaning up his room, being obedient, etc. Children need unconditional love.
Ask your group if there are any qualities that they would add to this list.
- How would you characterize a healthy, functional family?
Use the article at the end of this week’s lesson to guide your discussion. Specifically, the author of the article (June Hunt) provides four characteristics of a healthy family:
The Cultivating Family
- Structure and discipline are maintained by parents
- Individual responsibility is required
- Love and obedience to God are developed
- Children are secure
Result: Family relationships are balanced.
Remedy: “There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you” (Deuteronomy 12:7).
This article also provides some excellent insight on how to recognize a dysfunctional family and how to recognize whether or not you as a parent are the problem. She also provides a bible-based road to recovery that someone can use to bring transformation and restoration to a hurting, dysfunctional home life.
I’ve provided this complete article as a separate handout that is available at the Info Center and online at http://myffc.co/dysfuncfamily.
These questions are given to prompt both reflection and learning on a personal level, and should likely be completed individually and apart from your regular group time.
- What blessings have you taken for granted for which you want to praise God?
- How can you begin now to teach your family the proper fear of God?
 Gordon J. Keddie, Welwyn Commentary Series – Dawn of a kingdom: The message of 1 Samuel, (Auburn, MA: Evangelical Press, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 45.
 Robert D. Bergen, “Notes on 1 Samuel,” in The Apologetics Study Bible: Understanding Why You Believe, ed. Ted Cabal, (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 410.
 Gary Chapman, The Family You’ve Always Wanted: Five Ways You Can Make It Happen (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009).