Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Samuel 2:30 - 2:30

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Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Samuel 2:30 - 2:30


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DISCOURSE: 284

ELI’S UNFAITHFULNESS REPROVED

1Sa_2:30. Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

HOWEVER the promises of God may be expressed, they are never so to be understood, as if they should be fulfilled to us whilst we are in a state of wilful sin: there is always in them an implied condition, that we depart from iniquity, and endeavour faithfully to serve the Lord. To Aaron a promise was made, that the priesthood should be continued in his family, and in that of Eleazar his son: yet for some wickedness of his descendants it was transferred from the family of Eleazar, his eldest son, to that of his younger son, Ithamar, from whom Eli was descended. Again the promise was made, that it should be continued in the line of Eli: but, for a similar reason, it was afterwards taken from Abiathar, his descendant, and given to Zadoc, who was of the elder branch. That the promises were to be understood with such limitations, God himself declares in this address to Eli; wherein he tells Eli, that he had rescinded the promise made to him, and determined to act towards him on the broad basis of equity, precisely as he would towards all mankind: “I said indeed that thy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.”

Here we may see,

I.       What conduct God requires of us—

This will be best learned from a review of the context. Eli being far advanced in age, his sons performed the priestly office in his stead. But they abused their power to such a degree as to “make the offerings of the Lord to be abhorred.” Eli heard of their proceedings, and reproved them for their wickedness: but he neglected to exert that authority with which God had invested him; and manifested more regard for the feelings of his sons, than he did for the honour of his God. This was Eli’s fault, and the occasion of God’s heavy displeasure against him. From hence then we see what God requires of us: he expects us,

1.       To have a supreme regard for his glory—

[The honour of God ought to be dear to every one of us: for though we cannot augment or diminish his essential glory, we may greatly affect the regards of men towards him, and be an occasion of his being either honoured or blasphemed by multitudes around us. In truth, there is not any thing we do, but has considerable influence of this kind. How careful then should we be, and how watchful, not to do any thing which may lower him in the esteem of men! The thought that should be ever uppermost in our minds, is this; “What aspect will such or such conduct have upon religion; and what effect will it produce in advancing or retarding its influence in the world? — — —]

2.       To promote it to the utmost of our power—

[To exemplify religion in our own conduct must be our first labour, and to shew all possible respect to every thing that relates to God. His word, his Sabbath, his name, his Gospel, his cause and interest in the world, must be exceeding high in our estimation. But we must not content ourselves with honouring God in our own persons; we must exert all our influence that he may be honoured by all around us. Some are invested with magisterial power; and they must use it for God, and not bear the sword in vain. To others is committed the ministry of the Gospel; and they must boldly reprove sin of every kind, and commend themselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. To others is parental authority intrusted; and they must not content themselves with gently rebuking the wickedness of their children, but must exert themselves to the uttermost to restrain it. Here was Eli’s defect. He did well to begin with mild reproof: but he should have proceeded to severer measures, when he saw that they were not to be reclaimed by gentler means. In a word, we should be so intent on advancing the honour of God in the world, as to esteem nothing too much to do, nor any thing too great to suffer, for the attainment of our object: relations, interests, or life itself, should be of no account with us in comparison of this [Note: Luk_14:26 with that expression in the verse before the text, “Thou honourest thy sons above me.”].]

Such being the conduct which God requires, let us consider,

II.      In what light he will view it—

He will account himself “honoured” by our observance of it—

[Often does he speak to us to this effect: and in what sense we must understand the expression, has been before explained. Though “our goodness cannot extend to him,” or profit “him,” if he esteem himself glorified by it, it is quite sufficient for us: nor can we have any greater stimulus to exertion than such a consideration as this. To form a just estimate of it, let us only reflect on the zeal which is manifested by all the hosts of heaven to honour God: how do they all vie with each other in their songs of praise! And if an opportunity were afforded them to advance his honour by any offices on earth, how readily would they leave their blest abodes, and fly hither to execute his high commands! They are represented as “doing his commandments, and hearkening to the voice of his word,” to obey the first intimation of his will. Such is the zeal that should animate us; and God will assuredly consider himself as glorified by it: indeed he is glorified, inasmuch as our obedience proclaims to all around us, that he is, in our estimation at least, worthy of all the love that we can manifest, and of all the service that we can render him.]

But where such conduct is wanting, God accounts himself treated with contempt—

[Is there no medium between an honouring of God and a despising of him? I answer, No: if he be not honoured, something else is honoured above him, and the creature is set above the Most High God. It is said of Eli, that he “honoured his sons above God:” and this was considered by God as an instance of direct and absolute contempt. The same is true respecting every act of disobedience, and every neglect of duty; which necessarily implies an attention to our own ease, interest, or pleasure, in preference to the will of God. What a contempt of the Divine Majesty does it argue, when we resist his will! What a contempt of his love and mercy, when we neglect his salvation! What a contempt of his justice, his holiness, and his truth, when we entertain the idea that such conduct can pass with impunity! This is the very construction that God himself puts upon such conduct: “Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God, while he doth say in his heart, Thou, God, wilt not require it?”

If then we, poor, ignorant, guilty creatures, feel so keenly when we are treated with contempt, let us consider how indignantly the Most High God will resent such conduct at our hands.]

He himself has told us,

II.      What notice he will take of it—

He will honour his faithful and obedient servants—

[This he has promised [Note: Joh_12:26.]: and he will perform it. Men may treat them as if they were “the filth of the earth and the offscouring of all things;” (though they cannot help reverencing them in their hearts [Note: Mar_6:20.]:) but God will honour them with the most distinguished tokens of his love. He “will give them a name better than of sons and of daughters,” and will enrich them with the inestimable blessings of grace and peace. Through their whole lives he will admit them to the nearest fellowship with himself: and what will he not do for them in the hour of death? — — — Yet all this falls infinitely short of the glory he will confer upon them in the future world. Read what testimonies of his approbation he will give them before the assembled universe, and with what honours he will invest them at his own right hand [Note: Mat_25:34; Mal_3:17.]: verily they shall never have reason to complain that their fidelity to God has not been adequately rewarded.]

But those who have despised him shall be despised by him—

[Though they may be exalted among men, God will hold them in the utmost contempt. He will not vouchsafe to them so much as one kind look: but, on the contrary, in the hour of their greatest extremity, “he will laugh at their calamity, and mock when their fear cometh.” No consolations will he administer to them in a dying hour; but will rather hide his face from them, and shut his ear at the voice of their cry. And when they stand at his judgment-seat, he will bid them “depart accursed into everlasting fire,” regarding them no more than the chaff that is cast into the oven — — — They will then indeed “be lightly esteemed;” for they will “awake to shame and everlasting contempt.”]

Here then we may see,

1.       What estimate we should form of lukewarm religion—

[That religion is most pleasing to men, which is regulated by the opinions of the world: but that alone is acceptable with God, which is agreeable to the standard of his revealed will. He requires our whole hearts; and looks with utter abhorrence upon the lukewarmness of a Laodicean state [Note: Rev_3:15-16.] — — — Let us then not be contented with serving God in our closets; but let us confess him in the world: and let us not only serve him ourselves, but use all our influence to bring others also to a submission to his will. Yea, if all others should determinately reject his yoke, let us say, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”]

2.       What alone we are to regard as the great object of our desire—

[“The honour that cometh of man” should be no further of any account with us, than it may augment our influence in serving God. It is the honour which cometh of God that alone deserves our concern. To have the witness of his Spirit and the testimony of our own conscience that we are pleasing God, is worthy of our most diligent pursuit. That will comfort us, when all other sources of consolation are cut off. Moreover, the approbation of God will continue, millions of ages after that the breath of man’s applause has vanished away. Let us then act to God, and live for God, and endeavour so to walk with him, that we may enjoy the light of his countenance: for “in his favour is life, and his loving-kindness is better than life itself.”]