God’s representative to His people was to be the High Priest; but Eli was not listening. In fact, God had to send a prophet to speak to the high priest to tell him that his sons’ behavior offended God—but they were not listening to God, they were not listening to Eli either. God had to select a young boy name “God Hears” –Samuel- before He actually had someone who would listen to Him.
Eli and His Sons were priests in the Tabernacle of the Most High but theirs was a more self-styled kind of religion. They didn’t want sacrificed, boiled meat; they wanted pre-sacrificed roasted meat. The sons were not content to serve a Holy God and have a wife, they slept around with the ladies who served in the holy place of God. Eli himself became fattened with the food confiscated by his sons that should have only belong to God. The prophet warned Eli, Eli warned his sons, Samuel warned them all but nobody was listening. GOD had only become a symbol to them and a convenience of how to get the life they really wanted. God had been reduced to a Symbol.
But then Israel went to battle with a real enemy- the Philistines. They were getting slaughtered. “Hey, someone go, get the Ark of the Covenant. We’ll show the Philistines Who is on our side!!” It really is hypocritical to call on a God to answer you who you have regularly ignored. The two carrying the Ark- Hophni and Phinehas. They were the “heroes” as the carried their Symbolic God into the Israelite camp. The camp began to shake with cheers as the Philistines quaked with fear. Did they expect real help from the Real God or symbolic morale boost from the God they had relegated to symbolic?! They got neither- the Ark was captured and the sons died in the battle, Eli died hearing the news—God will not honor those who do not honor Him.
The Philistines put the Ark of the Real God in the Temple of their make-believe god, Dagon. The next morning Dagon was found on his stone face before the Ark of the Real God. They had to lift their make-believe god back on his feet. Dagon the next day was found decapitated and hands chopped off again laying in front of the Real God- and the whole town broke out in tumors and rats. Tumors on their bodies and rats in their homes. They moved the Real God to another town- same result. They moved Him to another town—the people broke out in panic as they saw the procession bringing the Ark of the Real God. ENOUGH!
They sent the Ark of the Real God back to His own people! His own people joyfully received back the Ark but 70 of them forgot how REAL He really is because they tried taking a peek inside the Ark of the Covenant and were immediately struck down.
Our God is REAL. He is not to be “dusted off” when the moment seems appropriate. He is not to be ignored except when we could really could use the symbolism of praying to a God that the rest of the time we have ignored. He received more respect from the pagans than from His own People.
Do you serve the Real God where for many God has only become symbolic? God will have His Glory even where His people misrepresent Him. Many in our Society and even Churches have reduced God to a symbolic role—a role GOD will never accept.
Pastor Stephen Willoughby
Pastor Steve grew up in Columbia,South America, where his parents served as missionaries for 25 years. After graduating from Capital Bible Seminary, he was invited to serve as Assistant Pastor at FBCP. He has served in that capacity for twenty years before taking on the position of Senior Pastor.