1 Samuel 3:13, “For I have told him, that I will judge his house for ever, for the iniquity which he knoweth: because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.”

God’s people are not exempt from judgment. For those who are truly godly and dear to God, if by their sinful behavior they dishonor God and religion, they open themselves up to being humbled by God here in this world, even though their sin is forgiven and shall not condemn them in the other world. It is necessary for the vindication of God’s name and the promoting of their own good to give some public testimony of his displeasure against sin.

Not only those who are of a profane and vicious spirit, but also the sins of those who are upright and sincere help to bring public rebukes and judgments on themselves and others. God was so displeased with the impatience and hesitancy of Moses and Aaron that he did not allow them to enter Canaan (Deut. 32:51-52). God was so offended with David in the matter of Uriah that he brought a great deal of sorrow upon his family and kingdom. He was so provoked with Solomon for the idolatry of his many wives that he tore away ten parts of the kingdom of Israel out of the hand of his son. And God denounces an awful threatening against the house of Eli for his undue toleration of and responsibility for the wickedness of his sons. Such examples should instruct us to maintain a reverent fear of God and his opinion of sin. We should not think ourselves exempt from his punishment because of our relation to God, but to maintain a holy awe and trembling in our hearts because of his holiness and jealousy, he who is of purer eyes than to look upon sin.

In our text we may notice three things. 1. A severe threatening denounced against the house of Eli, “I have told him;” by the message before sent to him, “that I will judge.” The word ‘judge’ signifies to condemn, punish, or destroy. Here it seems to indicate ‘to punish.’

“His house,” that is, his family or posterity, which is often called a man’s house.

“Forever,” that is, either until they are utterly wasted and consumed, or rather for a long time, as the word forever is often used. This was in part fulfilled when his two sons were slain by the Philistines (1 Sam. 4:11), in part when Saul slew Ahimelech and his family (1 Sam. 22:18), and finally when the priesthood was transferred from the house of Eli and Ithamar to that of Eliezer by Solomon about eighty years after (1 Kings 2:27).

  1. The reason for this threatening is because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them. Their sin was very horrid and remarkable, as is reported in the preceding chapter. Their sins rendered them abominable to God and contemptible to the people. They brought their sacred offices and God’s holy ordinances into contempt. Yet their father did not use the authority which God had given him as a high priest, as a judge or chief magistrate, in punishing them, as by the Law of God he was obliged to do. But was content himself to give them an easy and gentle reproof.
  2. The aggravation of this sin, which is especially taken notice of as the immediate cause of the judgment, was his sons’ iniquity which he knew about. He could not plead ignorant for lack of evidence, for the cry of their wickedness went all over Israel. And God had particularly warned him of it by a messenger sent to him (1 Sam. 2:27 and following). Further, the matter was so notorious that his parental fondness and indulgence of his sons seemed to have clouded his judgment in punishing them suitable to their guilt.

That is the clause in the text that I would particularly take notice of at this time, and from it you may take this doctrine.

DOCTRINE. It is highly offensive to God and shows men to be at risk of God’s judgment when they will not reform what they know to be amiss.

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