It was a lovely evening in the late summer. The community park was full of children, parents, grandparents, dogs and lovers. Kids were everywhere, hanging on the jungle gyms, soaring in the swings and sliding down pretzel slides. Voices filled the park with laughter and screams of frightful delight. All of a sudden, my ears tingled with the sound of “Daddy.” I turned as the word “Daddy” rang again in my ears. Alyson, our youngest child, had tripped and fallen, scraping her knees. In crumpled pain, she had called out for me. Miraculously, her voice, among all the others, caused a tingling and ringing in my ears that alerted me to her needful presence.
Eli was the priest at Shiloh and the mentor for the boy, Samuel. Hannah, Samuel’s mother, had brought her son to Eli to raise and to train in the priesthood in response to God’s gift to her of a child. By the time you get to the 3rd chapter in 1 Samuel, Eli was already an old man. He was somewhat inept and the father of two scoundrel priests: Hophni and Phinehas.
Eli’s two sons were abusing the power of their priestly role in the sacrificial liturgy. After an animal was slaughtered and the blood properly handled, it was usual for the fatty portions of meat to be separated and burned as an offering. Next, the lean meat was boiled. The temple liturgy concluded with a communal meal. The priest, who presided over the sacrifice, received compensation by using a three-pronged fork to remove the first portion of the boiled meat. However, no priest would ever pre-select raw meat. This would insure that God received the purest and choicest selections.
Hophni and Phinehas completely ignored this cultic taboo. Instead, they selected portions from the raw meat prior to the sacrifice and lean meat before it was boiled. This was a direct offense to God. The old prophet Eli confronted his sons and demanded that they stop. “But they would not listen to the voice of their father” (1 Samuel 2:25). There was no tingling or ringing in the ears of Hophni and Phinehas. The writer of 1 Samuel notes that something is coming to an end. The voice of the Lord, according to the writer, was rare and there were few visions in the land. Eli’s sons have corrupted the priesthood and made a mockery of God’s sacrifice. Now Eli is losing power, getting older, becoming more inept, losing his eyesight and slowly going spiritually deaf.
Have your ears rang with the power of God’s talk alerting you to something new?
Eli, however, is still faithful to God’s voice and verdict even when it predicts the end for him and his sons. Eli’s ears tingle and ring as he hears God say, “Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever” (1 Samuel 3:14).
In contrast to Eli’s ending, we have Samuel’s beginning. He is growing, gaining power, young, strong, becoming wiser, perfecting his eyesight and learning to use his spiritual ears. One day as Samuel is lying down in the temple, he hears a voice call out his name. He thinks it is Eli and goes to him. Eli says that he did not call Samuel so he returns to his bed. This happens once again, followed by a third time. Finally, Eli, who still has some sense in his spiritual eyes and ears, perceives that it is God calling. He gives Samuel specific instructions on how to answer God. God speaks to Samuel and tells him that he is about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of anyone who hears of it tingle(1 Sam. 3:11).
Samuel’s ears are still tingling and ringing when he tells Eli what God said. At first, he is afraid to tell Eli for his ears will tingle and ring too. God has announced the end of Eli and his sons’ priesthood and the start of something new. There is to be a new beginning that God decides to initiate. It is not based on any authority in the temple or in the politics of Israel, but only on the free decision and wonderful power of God. There will be destruction prior to creation; death before life and endings prior to beginnings. There is a reversal: Samuel, the boy, now judges his old mentor Eli, and teaches him about God. No wonder the ears of Samuel and Eli tingle and ring with the voice of God.
When was the last time that your ears tingled with the voice of God? Have your ears rang with the power of God’s talk alerting you to something new? May this New Year bring new sounds of hope and renewal in your life!