Lessons From Fathers in the Bible - Eli, the High Priest
This hub is a follow-up to the other hubs I wrote before with the title "Lessons from Fathers in the Bible." As Christian parents, it is very important for us to know the value of discipline in our children's lives. What I would like to discover this time are the lessons we can learn from the life of Eli, the High Priest in relation to the importance of child discipline.
Who is Eli?
Eli was one of the high priests in Shiloh and judges in Israel. He was a faithful servant of the Lord for forty years. He had two sons named Hophni and Phinehas. In addition, he took the boy Samuel, son of Elkanah and Hannah, when he was still a little boy and taught him in the ways of the temple. He did well in serving the community, but he failed to do what he must do as a father in his own home.
Hophni and Phinehas were corrupt and took advantage of their position as sons of Eli. They did not conduct themselves in such a way that pleased the Lord. They treated the meat offered in sacrifice to the Lord with contempt and did evil by sleeping with the women who served at the entrance of the Tabernacle. Eli knew about their wickedness and he rebuked them for their wrong deeds but the two sons did not listen to their father just as they do not show obedience to God.
Then a man of God came to Eli one day. He said that God is displeased with him because he honored his sons more than God by allowing them to fatten themselves with the choice parts of the offerings and sacrifices brought by the people of Israel. Because of this, the man of God said that God will cut off the priestly ministry from the house of Eli and He will cut short the strength of his descendants so that there will not be an old man in his family line. As for Hophni and Phinehas, they will both die on the same day.
This message was later confirmed to Samuel by God. All these things came to pass according to the prophecy. And, as soon as Eli heard the news about the death of Hophni and Phinehas in the battle with the Philistines and the capture of the ark of God, he fell back off his chair, broke his neck and died at the age of 98.
This account is found in 1 Samuel 2:12 - 4:22.
Lessons from the Life of Eli Highlighting the Importance of Discipline
The story of Eli had a very sad ending but it gives us some precious lessons to learn as fathers or mothers. Let me share with you what I have personally learned from this Bible story. I would also be sharing some of Dr. James Dobson's Principles of Discipline as it relates to the points being discussed.
1. A child should be taught discipline early in life.
Nothing was mentioned about how Hophni and Phinehas were raised up by Eli. But to note as to why they didn't listen to their father when he rebuked them tells something about the kind of discipline they were given as children. As Proverbs says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it." If they were trained in the correct disciplines like the ways of the tabernacle (one which they ought to know as sons of the priest), then as grown-ups, they would behave in the right ways.
2. Never overlook disobedience.
Some parents especially mothers may not want their children to experience pain in connection with discipline. However, Proverbs 19:18 instructs parents to "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying."
Part of disciplining our children is the willingness to let them experience a reasonable amount of pain or inconvenience when they behave irresponsibly. If we fail to do this, we will be in deeper heartaches in the future. Dr. James Dobson puts this principle into better words when he said in his book Parenting Isn't for Cowards, "If the strong-willed child is allowed by indulgence to develop "habits" of defiance and disrespect during his early childhood, those characteristics will haunt him and his parents for the next twenty years."
3. The first step in teaching our children to obey God is when we teach them to obey us parents.
In his book The Strong-Willed Child, again Dr. James Dobson says "While yielding to the loving leadership of their parents, children are also learning to yield to the benevolent leadership of God himself."
The parents are the first authority figure that children encounter in their lives. If they will not learn to show respect and obedience towards them, it will be more difficult for them to respect and obey other authority figures outside the home including those in the school, in the community and ultimately God.
Thus, Dr. James Dobson says in his other book that "Two distinct messages must be conveyed to every child during his first forty-eight months: (1) "I love you more than you can possibly understand," and (2) "Because I love you I must teach you to obey me." - Dr. Dobson Answers Your Questions about Raising Children. This is in harmony with what the Bible says when the Lord disciplines his children "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." (Hebrews 12:5-6)
4. We will reap what we sow.
When we fail to dicipline our children according to what is right, we will reap what we sow. As in the case of Eli's sons, the result was fatal. The Lord told Samuel "For I told him (Eli) that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, and he failed to restrain them."(1 Samuel 3:13) Eli knew God's will for him, for after hearing Samuel say this, he said, "He is Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes." (1 Samuel 3:18)
It is a hard truth to accept that there are cases when the children's lives become ruined simply because parents failed to act upon what they knew as the proper discipline of their children. (I am not saying though that the whole blame is to be on the parents. There are cases when parents have done what is needed yet the children still fail to do what is right). Worst is when some parents even condone the mistakes their children are doing. In due time, both parents and children will reap what they sow.
These four points are important lessons on parenting that we should learn. I hope that we can do our part accordingly as parents so that we can raise up children who are well-disciplined and obedient to the ways of the Lord.