1 Samuel 2:27-4:22
A prophet came to the priest, Eli, and delivered a devastating prophecy against him and his descendants because they had taken liberties during their priestly office and dishonoured the Lord. The Lord declared: ‘Those who honour me I will honour but those who despise me will be distained’ (v.30). This counters some people’s ‘once saved, always saved’ philosophy. If we start dishonouring the Lord and turn our back on him, he can take back his promises.
The prophet predicted that Eli’s two unfaithful sons would die on the same day. God would instead ‘raise up for him a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind’ (v.35).
A prophecy like this was a rare occurrence in those days: ‘the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions’ (v.1). Many people still think this is the case today. They mistakenly think that miracles, works of healing and speaking in tongues were just for the early church at Pentecost and no-one exhibits supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit these days. They are attending the wrong church. They need to find one where the gifts of the Spirit are demonstrated at every public gathering and bring the gifts the Spirit has blessed them with to bear fruit.
The Lord called Samuel at night, while he was lying down in the temple of the Lord at Shiloh, where the ark of the Covenant was. Sometimes we don’t recognise the voice of God. He can try to get his message across to us via multiple channels such as dreams, visions, other people, the internet or books. Sometimes, we need to go to our quiet place of prayer and say: ‘Speak Lord, for your servant is listening’ (v.10). I often pray to God that he makes it clearly obvious what I should do as I might not notice subtle hints. The Lord told Samuel what he was about to do to Eli’s family – because Eli had failed to restrain his contemptible sons. Samuel was reluctant to relay the message about God’s upcoming wrath to Eli but the old priest insisted on hearing it. Eli had already come to terms with his fate: ‘He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes’ (v.18). Eli could have tried to change God’s mind, as the people of Nineveh did in the book of Jonah by wearing sackcloth and repenting, but he probably couldn’t have persuaded his sons to change from their evil ways.
The Lord stayed with Samuel as he grew up and all Israel recognised him as a prophet of the Lord (v.20).
The Philistines fought against the Israelites and defeated them. Israel’s tribes were being run by ‘elders’ and they decided to bring the ark of the Covenant from Shiloh and take it into battle with them. (4:3). Eli’s two sons accompanied it. At first, the Philistine army was intimidated by the great shout from the Israelites that shook the ground as the ark entered the camp. However, the Philistines were determined not to be slaves of the Israelites and they girded their loins and fought. They thoroughly defeated Israel, killed Eli’s two sons and captured the ark of God. For the Israelites, this was a total disaster. God can sometimes give ‘ungodly people’ victories to teach his people a lesson.
When the ninety-eight-year-old, blind Eli was told about the loss of the ark, he fell backwards off his chair and died. His pregnant daughter-in-law then heard about Eli’s death and the death of her husband, went into premature labour, gave birth, and also died. The baby boy was called ‘Ichabod’ meaning ‘where is the glory?’ for ‘the Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured’ (v.22).
What a mess. All due to priests and their families not giving sufficient honour to God.
Lazarus was terminally ill. He was the brother of Mary and Martha. They were all beloved friends of Jesus. This Mary ‘was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair’ (v.2). John may have been referring to the event in Luke (7:36-38) when a woman ‘who lived a sinful life’ poured perfume on Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair, in the house of Simon the Pharisee. Mary (of Bethany) appears to do the same thing later in John’s gospel (John 12:3). Was Mary (of Bethany) the same sinful woman mentioned in Luke and she wiped Jesus’ feet on two separate occasions with her hair? According to Pope St. Gregory this lady may also be none other than Mary Magdalene: “She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary [of Bethany], we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark” (Homilies on the Gospels).
I like to believe in this connection: ‘St. Mary Magdalene, the repentant sinner, who found both forgiveness and friendship with our Lord, who stood faithfully at the foot of the cross, and who saw the risen Lord, is a powerful example for each believer‘ https://catholicstraightanswers.com/who-was-mary-magdalene-was-she-a-prostitute-who-repented/
In the Eastern Orthodox church, Mary of Bethany is considered to be a different person from Mary Magdalene so you can take your pick as to which theory to believe. Jesus prophesied that Lazarus’s sickness would be for God’s glory (v.5). He did not rush off to heal Lazarus. He stayed where we was for two more days. Jesus finally headed off to see him despite the risk to his personal safety (the Jews had previously tried to stone him in Judea). Jesus knew he would be safe from all attacks and was determined to carry on working until the end (the ‘twelfth hour of daylight’ (11:9)) i.e. until the designated time and place for him to die.
Thomas bravely rallied the other disciples to travel with Jesus even though he thought it was a suicide mission (v.16).
By the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead in the tomb for four days.
Jesus told Martha that he was ‘the resurrection and the life’ and ‘whoever lives and believes in me will never die’ (v.26).
Martha declared her belief and faith in Jesus, that he was ‘the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world’ (v.27). Her sister, Mary, was called to join them and Jesus wept when he saw her and her friends weeping.
Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb even though he would have been badly decomposing after four days. God loves a challenge. It would have been too easy to resurrect Lazarus immediately after he died. It was an even more spectacular miracle to reverse the process of decomposition, resurrect him and allow him to walk out of his own tomb.
Jesus said: ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go’ (v.44). We can walk out of our own tomb when we die with Jesus through our baptism. He resurrects us as a new creation, an adopted child of God clad in a spotless white robe, shining with eternal life. As baptized Christians we have all shed our grave clothes and been set free. We need not fear death as we have been granted eternal life. Through speaking in tongues, we demonstrate that the Holy Spirit, who raised both Lazarus and Jesus from the dead, lives within us and he will also give eternal life to our mortal bodies.
King David asked God to hear him, to protect his life from threats and hide him from the wicked.
Evildoers conspired against him, shooting at him from ambush and hiding their cunning traps.
However, God will come to the rescue when we cry out to him. He will strike down the evildoers with arrows and bring them to ruin by turning their own tongues against them.
When the wicked are publicly humiliated and defeated, all mankind will fear the Lord and proclaim his works. We should all praise and rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in the shelter of his mighty wings.
Image: © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro