Each morning when I sit down with my bible and spend some time with God, I light a candle. The flame is comforting to me, and it flickers in the background as I soak up what He wants to say to me. Some mornings, like this one, the message He gives me are some glaring reminders from an unlikely character....
Let me start by saying, if you haven't read 1 Samuel, I encourage you to do so. Want a picture of how NOT to parent? Take a look at chapter 3. Eli, the high priest, does a wonderful job in demonstrating some vital parent "don'ts". Maybe you have done a few of these. I know I have. Or perhaps there is a circumstance right now you can apply these little nuggets to. If not, store them away for the future. And if your not a parent? Well, there is something in here for you too.
So what are these reminders? I thought you'd never ask!
I thought about saying- here are the 3 parenting lessons I was reminded of-but the truth is, each of these lessons, I realized, can be applied to ourselves and our relationship with God as well as how we parent our children. So let me say instead, here are the 3 lessons I learned from God while reading about Eli, the high priest, and his two sons Hophenas and Phinehas.
Let me give you a little background on the story. Eli, the high priest, had two sons who were priests as well. His sons took advantage of the people of Israel through their position. They used this position to gain possessions and control others. They treated the people, and the offerings they brought to the Lord, with contempt. With this in mind, let's look at how Eli handled the situation....
Don't ignore disobedience.
Eli was aware of what his sons were doing (verse 22). He was aware they were taking more than their share of the people's offerings, that they were showing contempt for the Lord and that they were seducing the women who assisted at the Tabernacle. Eli was aware of what they were doing. That means he wasn't aware of this one act, he was aware of the multiple things those young men had been up to and did nothing.
Ok, I can be guilty of this one at times. No, my boys haven't been showing contempt for the Lord, or seducing women. But...there are days when I am exhausted, and the circumstance isn't "that bad", so I let it slide. I bet you can relate. There have been other days when it just hasn't been "the right time" to discuss their disobedience or the topic is uncomfortable and so I have put off addressing it (but the discussion falls short when brought up later on). As we can see with Hophenas and Phinehas, ignoring their behavior led to more bad behavior. I imagine their disobedience didn't start with big things, like taking the people's offerings, and sleeping with the temple women. It probably started off small, and when those small things were ignored or not addressed properly, it grew to bigger things. And spoiler alert here, things don't end well for Eli or his sons. We can learn from Eli's mistakes and look at our own family and personal circumstances. Perhaps there is a behavior or some disobedience in our children that we are not addressing as we should. Maybe we aren't addressing it at all? And what about our own obedience? As much as we take a look at the behavior of our children, we should also be addressing the behavior in ourselves that we may have been ignoring. If we continue to ignore either, or both of these things, they will continue. They WILL spiral. Often into bigger things. Often into things we will regret. Often into paths that lead away from God. Ignoring disobedient behaviors can take us or our children down destructive paths like the ones Eli's sons took. Lesson here? I think you know it. Address disobedience. Don't ignore it.
Discipline is necessary.
Eli did finally address his sons' behavior. He asked them why they kept sinning. He told them to stop (verse 23-25). But they didn't listen to him and we don't see any evidence that Eli took disciplinary action with them. Perhaps he only scolded them because he knew the law. He knew that those who treated the Lord's word with contempt and disobeyed his commands were to be cut off from the community (Numbers 15:30-31). But no matter the reason, their sinful ways continued and eventually God stepped in and became the disciplinarian. He put an end to their prosperity and an end to their family line in the priesthood. And both Hophenas and Phinehas did not "live out their days" and died on the same day.
This one struck me in the heart. Now, I do discipline, but truly its not one of my strong points. I give in easily, I cave at times. I look at my kids sweet faces and want them to be happy. Tough love is really, well, its tough. But when I'm struggling in the future, I'm going to think about Hophenas and Phinehas. I'm sure they were happy doing the disobedient behaviors they were doing, but * I don't want my kids to be that kind of happy*. Do you? Now, maybe our kids aren't up to the sinful ways of those two young men, but nothing good comes out of disobedience. Nothing good comes out of sin. Nothing good comes out of non-God-honoring behavior. Discipline is necessary. What do our kids learn by not being disciplined? And more importantly, I believe, what are they NOT learning? The same lesson applies to ourselves again. Are we as disciplined in our own walk with the Lord, in our own behavior, as can be? Is there an area in our own life that we are not disciplined in? There is a slippery slope that exists in our own small undisciplined actions that leads us away from that God-honoring life we seek. Small actions that can potentially lead down a path we don't want to go. It is as important to discipline ourselves as it is to discipline our children. Not to mention that the example we set before our children influences them in so many ways.
Don't neglect your family while doing God's work or pursuing your calling.
Was Eli perhaps so focused on his work as high priest that he did not take time to either be active in his sons lives or to discipline as needed? 1 Samuel 3 does not say this. But I have to wonder....sometimes do we pursue a calling or use so much of our time doing God's work (which are good things), that we do not have enough time to be present with our families (not such a good thing)? Are you weighed down by saying "yes" to too many things? Are you so driven towards a goal that your missing life? Are you so focused on your dreams or work for God that your ignoring behavior in your children and yourself? Take a step back for a moment and refocus. Continue to pursue your calling. Continue to do work for God. But in the midst, make sure you have good quality time with your family. Be present. And make sure you carve out time in your day to continue to grow your personal relationship with the Lord. Take time to check your own obedience and discipline when needed. Stay on the straight path. And learn from Eli's mistakes.
If you are seeking to grow more in the area of obedience or want to hear more on what God says about it, check out my 10 day Bible Reading Plan on Obedience below. Take one verse each day. Read it. Write it down. Read the passage/context around it. Meditate on it. Listen. Apply it to your own life.
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Wife. Mother. Writer. Photographer. Child of God. Encouraging others in faith through a lens of grace and seeing beauty in the ashes.
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