Sin is not something to be played with. In our pride we think we can handle it and it won’t get a hold on us. But sin has invisible hooks that can drag us down and take us places we never intended to go.
Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. – unknown
We see an example of this in today’s Old Testament reading. Eli’s two sons, both priests, were stealing the sacrifices and sleeping with women in the doorway of the tabernacle. How could that happen? And, more importantly, could it happen to us?
1 Samuel 1-3
Sin’s Invisible Hooks
1 Samuel 1-3:
Multiple Wives: Provocation & Ridicule
There’s so much in these 3 chapters! First once again, there’s the multiple wives issue. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating, God never presents it as a good thing. He always shows the conflicts and problems that resulted.
¹ Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
4 And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the Lord had closed her womb. 6 And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7 So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.
It appears Hannah was Elhanah’s favorite. That may have provoked Peninnah to jealousy (not an excuse, by the way). In any case, she ridiculed Hannah because of her barrenness. Elhanah may have been a little provoked and frustrated himself. And he, certainly, doesn’t seem to understand Hannah’s longing for a son.
“Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” (1.8).
This was never the way God intended marriage to be.
11 Then she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”
In the midst of it all, God heard the prayer of His humble servant, Hannah, and gave her a son. Notice how this faithful woman kept her vow to the Lord:
“Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her … and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh.. And the child was young … For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD.” So they worshiped the LORD there” (vv.24-28).
Her son, by the way, was Samuel. He would become the first Prophet mentioned more than just in passing and would greatly influence the nation and God’s people. We will read more of his story as we continue through the Old Testament.
God’s Judgment on Willful, Unrepentant Sin
Next there’s the sad story of Eli and his two ungodly sons in chapters 2 & 3. All three were priests. Eli knew that his sons were stealing the part of the sacrifices that belonged to God and sleeping with women who came to the tabernacle, yet he failed to deal decisively with them. The boys themselves had so hardened their hearts through their sin and disobedience that “the Lord desired to kill them” (1 Sam 2.25) and God added His judicial hardening to their willful hardening by removing His restraining grace.
Romans 1 explains it this way:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (emphasis added)
There is enough of God’s truth revealed through creation to make us all responsible for our actions. It’s not that we don’t know the truth, rather we choose to suppress it.
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
This is sometimes called the downward spiral of sin. These two priests, not only had the truth revealed through general revelation (creation, including our consciences), but they knew God’s law. Yet their hearts were darkened by their own sin and then “God gave them up” (removed some of His restraining grace).
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
If we continue down that path of disobedience, God will remove even more of His restraining grace.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (emphasis added).
Finally, He will give us over to our own sinful cravings as He did with Eli’s sons.
Sin’s Invisible Hooks
How did these two priests end up where they did? How did it start? What compromises did they make in their thoughts and attitudes along the way? How did they end up sleeping with women in the tabernacle? And can that kind of thing happen to us? Continue reading