There were so many things about these two fathers that were the same. Both were religious leaders. Both had sons whom they hoped would follow in their steps. Both were deeply disappointed as their sons grew up and turned their backs on the life and teaching of their dads and rebelled against all God taught them to be. But there was one huge difference between these two men. One was rejected by God because of his failure to bring his sons up right and to restrain them in their evil lives. The other was blessed by God and by the people who knew him. Even when he asked the people to tell him of any wrongs he had done that he might make them right before he died they couldn’t think of any thing he had done wrong.
Who were these two men and what was the difference between them? Their names were Eli and Samuel and their story is told in the Old
Testament book of I Samuel. Their story began with Hannah coming into the tabernacle to pray. She prayed earnestly that she might have a son and even promised that if God gave her a son she would pledge her son to the Lord all the days of his life. Eli was the priest at the time. He thought Hannah was drunk and approached her to tell her to change her way of life. When she told him of her prayers for a son and her promise to God if he gave her a son. He promised her that she would have a son and she did. That son was Samuel. When she weaned him she brought him to the house of God and he was brought up there under the care of Eli. It is amazing how poorly Eli had acted as a parent to his own sons and how well he did in bringing up Samuel.
While Samuel was still a boy God spoke to him to tell him that he had rejected Eli as priest and that his time was limited. Samuel was to take the office of priest and judge of the people. The reason God rejected Eli was the evil behavior of his sons. They stole from the people and committed immoral acts in the house of God. Eli didn’t restrain them in their evil life. He called them in and asked them why they did what they did but did nothing to stop them. It seems to even be indicated that Eli took of the things they stole, eating from the meat that they had taken unlawfully from the people.
Years later when Eli was long dead and his sons had died in battle, Samuel’s sons had followed the same route as Eli’s. The people of Israel asked Samuel to appoint a king to reign over them like the nations about them. They pointed to Samuel’s sons and their wickedness as one of the reasons they wanted a king. But God never says anything negative about Samuel in the bringing up of his sons. God told Samuel it wasn’t him that the people rejected but God himself.
We aren’t judged on how our children live but on how we bring them up and how we react to their behavior. If we justify their wrong actions instead of correcting them we are like Eli but if we correct them and try to bring them back to the right way we are like Samuel. We aren’t ever responsible for the actions of another person when they are adults and have the maturity or capacity to make decisions of right and wrong for themselves. We are responsible for our actions, our attitudes and our efforts.