Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling, and honor your sons above Me? (1 Samuel 2:29, NASB)
Hophni and Phinehas were worthless men who did not know the Lord and who regularly abused the sacrificial system in Israel. They commissioned their workers to go to families as they prepared the post-sacrifice meal, having them plunge their three-pronged fork into the boiling pot and take up whatever meat they could. The priests were already guaranteed the breast and right thigh of each sacrifice (Lev. 7:28-36) but Hophni and Phinehas were greedy. They wanted more. Moreover they had their workers demand uncooked meat, a direct violation of God’s law. The fat was first to be burned as an offering to the Lord (Lev. 7:3-4) but these two wicked men would not wait for God’s protocol. And their workers promised harm on any who resisted. Finally we are also told that Hophni and Phinehas, priests serving before the Lord in the tabernacle, had sexual intercourse with the women who served at the entrance to the tabernacle. In other words, these wicked men were careless in handling the holy things of God. Consequently the Lord removed them by death in a later battle with the Philistines. Israel also lost thirty thousand men, including the prized Ark of the Covenant, symbolic of the Lord’s presence with his people.
Men, do not be careless with the holy things of God. What are those holy things? Well, first is your walk with Christ. Don’t take it lightly. Second is the spiritual welfare of your wife and children. And third is your place in the world, your church, and your job. In looking at the lives of Hophni and Phinehas it becomes obvious that this carelessness has at least three characteristics. First is presumption. David asks that God would keep him from presumptuous sins (Psa. 19:13). Hophni and Phinehas were priests. They believed they had the Lord on their side, that they could do as they wished. Men, don’t do it. Just because you have walked with Jesus for many years, just because God has smiled on you by giving you a beautiful wife and children, and a good job, don’t presume on his goodness by living carelessly. Second is denigration. When Eli rebuked his sons for their ungodly behaviour it made no difference at all. We are told that they did not repent because God had decided to put them to death. When your wife challenges some aspect of your behaviour, when a close friend asks, ‘What are you doing in getting close to that woman at work?’ and you blow it off, bad idea! And third, carelessness is evident in accommodation with the world. Lot separated from Abram and moved his tents as far as Sodom (Gen. 13:12). When Chedorlaomer raided Sodom and took Lot away into captivity, we are told that Lot was living in Sodom (Gen. 14:12). And when the two angels came to warn Lot to flee from Sodom we find that he is sitting in the gate (Gen. 19:1), that he is a major player in town. He had accommodated to the culture. A prophet of God came to Eli and rebuked him for honouring his sons before God. How did he do it? Yes, it is true that Eli rebuked his sons but he should have removed them from their priestly office. He had accommodated his sons over the holiness and glory of the Lord. Men, are you accommodating the culture? Are you watching things on television you would never have watched twenty years ago? Do you find filthy language coming out of your mouth, words you have not said for many years, since before you were converted? Are you looking at so-called soft porn, convincing yourself that you can handle it?
Why have you become careless? Three reasons. First, you may take the grace of God for granted, sort of like what Samson did with the woman from Timnah, the prostitute, and Deliah (Judg. 14:1ff, 16:1, 4ff). Samson knew God had raised him for a special purpose but he was careless in carrying out his mission. Yes, God’s grace is greater than our sin, but we are called not to participate in the unfruitful needs of darkness (Eph. 5:11). Second, you may forget the fear of God. To fear God is know that you can be displeasing to him, that you are to dread more than anything his frown, and to desire more than anything his smile. Those who say that God is never displeased or angry with his children are not presenting a balanced explanation of living for Christ Jesus. Teaching and living in this way is the height of carelessness and folly. And third, you may mitigate the glory of God. You are to do all things for the glory of God, to make God look good in all you think, do, and say. You are exceedingly careless when you think you are to do all you can to make yourself look good.
It goes like this, men “” you and your wife have been steadily growing apart over the last several years, not necessarily heated arguments, but surely poor communication and a decline in simply having fun together. Added to this is the frenetic pace of life where she does her own thing and you do yours. Then you are on a business trip, sitting next to a beautiful woman, and you strike up a conversation. As your plane lands and you take the shuttle bus to the hotel you realize she is on the same bus. You continue your conversation. You are in a city far from home. You are feeling lonely. One thing leads to another and you find yourself in unspeakable sin that will ruin your life. You will lose your wife, your children, your Christian witness, and most importantly Christ’s great name will be besmirched. Men, are you handling the holy things of God carelessly?
What happens to the careless man? He can surely expect the chastisement of a loving, holy Father (Rev. 3:19, Heb. 12:9-11). Indeed the way of the transgressor is hard (Prov. 13:15). And you will experience death. God has taken people out very quickly after grievous sin (Num. 16:31-33, Acts 5:1ff, 1 Cor. 11:30), but I mean more than that. You will experience the death of your family and witness. Can you be forgiven? Of course you can, but the consequences are likely to remain for generations. Check out King David’s family after his adultery and the murder of Uriah. The admiration of your children will die. Young believers who considered you a role model will be crushed, some perhaps leaving the faith due to your carelessness. And then you may indeed experience the judgment of God in hell. I am not saying that the true believer can lose his salvation. Scripture is clear on that one (John 10:28-29). But I am saying that adulterers will not enter heaven (1 Cor. 6:9-11), that not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter heaven (Matt. 7:21-23), that those who go on sinning wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth no longer have a sacrifice for sins (Heb. 10:26-31).
Men, are you being careless with the holy things of God? What must you do? First, realize your grave danger. You face the chastisement of a holy God who loves you and who is jealous for his own glory. You face death. You face judgment. May you tremble before God at your carelessness, at what it may cost you! Let’s face it, you battle the flesh daily. You may secretly delight in the attention of another woman. You may allow your mind to run rampant with sensual thoughts that can destroy you. You must tremble before God! And second, consider how you have been careless and repent, not with a mere moral repentance, of promising better things. Instead it must be a true, evangelical repentance where you hate your sin, see the untold danger of it, and cry out to Jesus for mercy and grace. And third, do what I always tell people to do. You must run to Jesus for his holiness. He is your sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30). As you repent you are promised the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Go to Jesus daily. Go to him on Sunday as you hear the Word preached, as you go to the Lord’s Supper, as you lead your family in worship, as you walk throughout the day. Be vigilant. Your adversary, the devil, is a roaring lion, roaming about, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). You are no match for him but Jesus by the Spirit is (1 John 4:5).
Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Al Baker’s sermons are now available on www.sermonaudio.com.
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