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…
That though it is in the power of every man, more or less, as well as it is his duty, to honour God by his words and actions; yet that this morn especially belongs to those that are in a more eminent station, and have greater advantages and opportunities for doing good than others, by their authority, power, and example
I. I SHALL TREAT OF THE WORDS BY THEMSELVES. "Them that honour me, I will honour." The honour due to Almighty God is founded upon the same reason as His Being. For who can consider the wonderful power and wisdom shining through the works of the visible creation. Who can contemplate His goodness and His mercy, His mercy to the world. Who can consider God's government of the world, and His constant preservation of mankind? Who that considers the equity and perfection of the divine law? Who can reflect upon the preservation of a church? Lastly, who is there that has made any observation of himself, and looked into the circumstances of his life in the various scenes of it, but must own a cause superior to himself, and his obligations to this Almighty Power? Surely there is no need of any other argument than the nature of the thing to induce us to honour our Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor.
1. Religion and the civil interest are closely connected. It was strictly so among the Jews, whose government was a theocracy And the law of the land being then of God's own institution, there was a peculiar providence and blessing that was connected to their obedience by a Divine promise: And by this they were eminently distinguished from other nations. But though it was thus with them after an especial manner, yet the whole world always was, and ever will be, under the government of God's providence. And howsoever the providence of God may vary in its motions, now turning itself this way, and then another; yet there are immovable reasons upon which it always proceeds, and that is religion, and the blessing of God; our honouring of him, and His honouring of us, in conjunction and cooperation. For religion will stand to the world's end, whatever become of particular persons and governments. While mortals engage with mortals only, there is the like force to defend, as to assault, and the success depends upon the greater numbers, the inbred courage of the soldiery, the conduct of the commander, or some fortunate accident; but now when the Divine providence comes to be concerned, it is not what the number, or the courage, or the conduct, nay or accidents, are on the adverse side: because that's all in itself, and becomes all wherever it is. And there it will be, where the honour of God and religion is concerned. There is a vast difference between what is done by Divine providence for our own sakes, and what for the sake of others. If for our own sakes, as it is when grounded upon religion, and the honour we pay to Almighty God, it will then continue, and last as long as the reason lasts upon which it stands. But if it be for other reasons that we succeed in a design, and not for our own sakes, then when the reasons cease our assistance that we had from the Divine providence ceases with it. Thus it was with the haughty Assyrian, who prospered in his invasion of Judea, not as he himself thought, by the wisdom of his own counsel, but as he was the rod of God's anger, and sent by his special commission against the hypocritical nation But that service ended, there was a stop put to his victory, and he soon fell under the like calamity (Isaiah 10:5, etc.) The world is then as the Jewish state was, a kind of theocracy, God is the governor, and religion, as it were, the soul of it: And then it is that God becomes their patron, and His providence their security.
2. As these two are thus to be connected, for religion is to have the preference: "Them that honour me, I will honour." Second causes have this advantage of the first, that they are visible, and so sooner affect us than the Supreme, who is invisible; and therefore mankind have been inclined to direct their endeavours another way. But this is an unpardonable oversight, to begin thus at the wrong end; as if because an artificer uses a pencil and colours in the various figures which he draws, and sets off by his skill to the greatest advantage; that a person should impute all to the instruments the artist uses and applaud their skill, and apply himself to them as the operator, and pass by the painter. Much so do they that apply themselves to the next causes, and to the means to the neglect of Him who is the Supreme Cause. Prayer is somewhere due, for we receive what we cannot of ourselves procure; we live as well as we begin to be, by the like Power; and if we enter upon our affairs under the influence only of our own wisdom and power, we may as well pray to ourselves, as depend upon ourselves; since where our dependence is there are our devotions due. But how ridiculous would he appear that should thus adore himself, and pray to himself?
3. According to the honour we give to God, and the regard shown to religion, we may expect to be honoured by him; such we may expect the event will be. It is an easy thing to conceive that such the event will be, forasmuch as God governs the world, and when we lay things in their proper order there is no reason to think but that prosperity, honour, and success should attend those that honour God, as heat and light do the sun. And yet if we draw near, and view the case as it is often in fact, we shall find it far different from what it is in speculation. If, indeed, this was constantly so, that those that honour God were always honoured by Him with such peculiar marks of favour as distinguished them from others, it would serve as a character by which the good might be known from the bad. But since nothing is more evident from common experience than that all things, generally speaking, come alike to all, then those that do not honour God may fare alike with such as do, end those that do honour Him fare no better than those that do not; and so the force of the argument in the text will be lost. But setting aside, for the present, what may he said in defence of the method of Divine providence in such a seeming promiscuous dispensation of things and the reconcileableness of the proposition in the text to it, as to particular persons, we are to remember what has been already said, that it is more especially to be applied to such persons that are of eminent character in respect of quality, or office, or for the advantages they have and improve to the honour of God, and promoting of religion. And surely such as these will God more especially regard. But if we raise the argument higher, and apply it to nations and communities, it improves in our hands, and we have a noble instance of this truth. It must be granted that God that has a regard to the flowers of the field, the fowls of the air, and the beasts of the earth, is as much more concerned in the good, preservation, and happiness of mankind, as these in their nature exceed the other; but yet because we see not into all the events and circumstances relating to men in this world, and that there is a reserve for them in another, we cannot so settle what relates to them, but that we are forced to suspend, and must acknowledge there are great difficulties, and that must remain so to be, till the whole comes to be disclosed. But now as to men combined together in societies, the case is not so perplexed, for there we may, generally speaking, observe, and perhaps, if a careful history of acts and events were preserved, it would appear that God doth honour those nations which honour Him, and that there is no people among whom, as well by their practice as laws, virtue, and religion have been, and are encouraged, but has a suitable blessing attending it, and the Divine providence eminently appearing in their behalf. There are some vices that in their own nature and apparent consequences root up families, make nations effeminate, and poor-spirited, and render them an easy prey to the bold invader: As was evident in the declining times of the Roman empire, declining in virtue as well as power, and declining in power, because they declined in virtue. But there are other sins that have as bearing an influence in the judgments that befall a nation, and especially a nation in covenant with God, as a church, that deprives them of their best defence, the protection of God, and exposes them to the worst of dangers; and these sins are a profane contempt or neglect of things sacred.
II. TO CONSIDER THE PROPOSITION IN THE TEXT, WITH RELATION TO THE CONTEXT, and to the matter of fact it is subjoined to. Eli being invested with the supreme power and authority, had an opportunity for doing the greatest good, for reforming matters in Church and State, and settling them upon a sure and lasting foundation. In which, how happily soever he succeeded for a time, and so as to have the former part of the text verified in him, "Them that honour me, I will honour"; yet afterwards there followed so great disorders, through the evil practices of his sons, and his indulgence to them, that drew upon him a severe train of judgments. And can such persons whom God hath blessed with gifts and talents above others, or raised by His providence to a state of eminence, think that there is no more required of them in their public station than if they drowsed away their time in some obscure corner, alike unknown and unprofitable to the world? (Luke 12:48.)
(John Williams, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.