In his farewell address, Moses told the Hebrews that they stood at the “Y” in the road. “Now if you faithfully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all his commands I am giving you today, the Lord your God will put you far above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come and overtake you, because you obey the Lord your God... all the peoples of the earth will see that you bear the Lord’s name, and they will stand in awe of you” (Deuteronomy 28:1–10, CSB). “But if you do not obey the Lord your God by carefully following all his commands and statutes I am giving you today... The Lord will send against you curses, confusion, and rebuke in everything you do... because of the wickedness of your actions in abandoning me” (Deuteronomy 28:15-20, CSB).
Years later, during the forty years that Eli had been judge and priest in Israel, the Nation of Israel had chosen to move farther and farther away from God. They had stood at the “Y” and chosen the wrong path. God would not be mocked. What He promised to do, He did.
While Samuel was still a kid, God used the Philistines to discipline His chosen people. “Israel went out to meet the Philistines in battle and ... Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who struck down about four thousand men on the battlefield” (1 Samuel 4:1–2, CSB).
Under the leadership of Eli’s two sons, the Israelites had become so pagan that the Ark of the Covenant had become little more than lucky rabbit’s foot. They thought that if they carried the golden box into battle, they would be assured victory. It had worked at Jericho! Right? ... Wrong!
“Israel was defeated, and each man fled to his tent. The slaughter was severe—thirty thousand of the Israelite foot soldiers fell. The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died” (1 Samuel 4:10–11, CSB). When the news reached ninety-eight-year-old Eli (1 Samuel 4:15, CSB), he “fell backward off the chair by the city gate, and since he was old and heavy, his neck broke and he died” (1 Samuel 4:18, CSB).
There’s more. When Eli’s pregnant daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, heard the devastating news, she immediately gave birth and died. In her final breath, she named her son Ichabod. Ichabod means “the glory has departed from Israel” (1 Samuel 4:21, CSB). Poor kid. Who wants to be named Ichabod? Icky!
There were tens of thousands of graves to be dug. A multitude of Israelite children were left fatherless. The Nation’s leaders were dead. And the Lord’s sacred Ark had been captured by the ruthless pagans, the Philistines. God had promised, “If you don’t faithfully follow, I’ll be forced to use the board of education!” Ouch!
But guess what happened next? God raised up Samuel, a young boy. God said, “I will raise up a faithful priest for myself. He will do whatever is in my heart and mind” (1 Samuel 2:35, CSB).
I wonder, is it time for God to raise up a faithful priest who will “do whatever is in His heart and mind?” Is God calling me and you?