Honour and Shame
1 Samuel 2:30
Why the LORD God of Israel said, I said indeed that your house, and the house of your father, should walk before me for ever…

There could not be a move forcible illustration of the truth of these words than the sad story of which they form a part. Outwardly, we see nothing to blame in the personal conduct of Eli. He had never lived above his office. That God had delight in burnt offerings and sacrifice, he had impressed on himself, and these things were the summit of his estimate. He had never learned that there are things better than sacrifice, and more acceptable than the fat of rams. An amiable heart, a fine conservative feeling for all that was enjoined by God, these had kept him steady and made him respected: but alas it now appears, Mass there was no more than these. He knew not that in order to do good, a man must live above, not up to his outward duties: that influence on others is found, not where life is raised up to the routine of duty, but where that routine of duty is quickened and inspired by a life led in higher places and guided by nobler motives. He who dwells in the circumference of his life gains no sympathy from those who dwell in its centre. And none are so keen as the young to discover where central principle is wanting; none so ductile, to be drawn after, where another leads. The father reposed in the public esteem. He lived and acted as was expected of him They knew that their father's piety was just conformity to what he saw around him: was just amiableness, propriety, acquiescence in that which he found among the servants of God in his tabernacle. And when with the passions and feelings of youth, they began to do likewise, they too find what all under the same circumstances have found. The result in this case was natural, and speedily followed. Eli, falling among the decent and the religious, knowing his duties, and having inherited perhaps a feeling of their sacred nature, did what was expected of him: his sons, falling among the unprincipled and profligate, being taught to look on their sacred duties as decent forms merely, did what was expected of them: ran riot with their ungodly companions; being destitute of leading principle, drifted onward from bad to worse; openly disgraced the solemn service of the sanctuary by their greediness and by their sensuality. The sad history ends as God had forewarned them it would — and even more terribly in its details than it had pleased Him to disclose. Most characteristic and instructive is every step of the narration: instructive, to the effect produced on a people by the long endurance of such a system as that which we have now been tracing. To what must a people have been degraded, who could look on that ark thus accompanied, and greet its arrival with shouts of triumph? And now rapidly gathers in the dark and disgraceful catastrophe. Yes, and it is thus that all glory departs — from men, from families, from nations — by leaving out God from life, and lightly esteeming Him. Turn for an instant to another example, of a very different kind, and notice the central. There never was a religious man, who gave more lamentable instances of forgetting his God and falling into sin, than did David. But when David fell, he rose again. He never indeed lost the changing consequences of his sin; it rained his peace, it broke up his family, it embittered his death bed; but it did not overwhelm him utterly. And why? Because he set the Lord ever before him, in the realities of his inward life. And therefore the one was honoured, and the other was disgraced. And now from these ancient examples, written down for our learning, let us turn to ourselves and fit them to our instruction. These are days of all but universal external accord in the great verities of our Christian faith. It is rather creditable than otherwise to maintain them: it is what society expects of men and of families, to conform to a certain amount of religious charity. And the consequence is, that such a history as this needs applying, and, its lessons enforcing on men's minds, more perhaps than at any previous period. There is among us, it is to be feared, a vast amount of this same untoward and blameless decency, this uniform respect for the usages and ordinance of religion, subsisting without a living personal apprehension of and honour of God in the character in which He has revealed himself, and in which we profess to have received and to be serving Him. Let us set before ourselves the consequences of such a state in the individual, in the family, in the community. Do we not at once see, that it contains necessity the elements of decay and of downward progress? And corresponding to this progress will be, as we might expect, yet another, and in another direction. As Israel became acted an by the system which prevailed under Eli, superstition succeeded to the fear of God. Now superstition is the refuge of the conscience when it has lost the sense of God's personal presence. You may measure by its prevalence, the absence of God from men's hearts. And another result will not fail to follow, from the mere decent conservation of religion among a people: a depreciation of Truth, as truth: a refusal to entertain solemn questions reaching to our very truthfulness and genuineness as men and Christians, and falling back on expediency as a principle. I might point out many more mischiefs resulting from such a view of religion as that which I have been today impugning. I might follow the young, as its result not only into superstition, which I have done — but into even darker and more awful consequences: I might show how much of the lax belief and growing unbelief of our day is owing to this want of living reality in our religious men and religious families: but I rather hasten to what I conceive ought to be our great practical lesson from this awful history and subject. And that practical lesson is beyond all question this: that the inward reality of religion is the one thing needful, far, far above those outward expressions of it which however necessary as its accompaniments, may and often do exist willful it. "Them that honour me I will honour."

(H. Alford, B. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

WEB: "Therefore Yahweh, the God of Israel, says, 'I said indeed that your house, and the house of your father, should walk before me forever.' But now Yahweh says, 'Be it far from me; for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

Honour and Dishonour
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