Eli dies, and so does Lazarus (but not for long)….

3 06 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY NINE : 1 Samuel 2 v. 27 – 4 v. 22; John 11 v. 1 – 44; Psalm 64 v. 1 – 10

Prophecy Against the House of Eli – Eli receives a visitor with a stark message : the Lord God is so unhappy that Eli and his sons are  ‘fattening themselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel’, after all that God has done for them, setting them aside as His priests.
Although God had promised that Eli’s family would be ministers in His house for ever, the fact that they have dishonoured God means that God will oversee the end of their service. They will lose strength, and there will be weeping and untimely deaths in the family. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas will perish on the same day, and God will raise up a ‘faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind.’
He will be the new priest to minister always, and all Eli’s family will bow down before him.

The Lord Calls Samuel – this is such a good story. Little boy Samuel hears God call him three times, but thinks it’s old Eli calling him.
‘In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions’
this may be why it takes Eli three times to realise that it may be God calling Samuel – he’s not been used to that happening.
This chapter is about the Lord God introducing Himself to Samuel, for verse seven tells us :
‘Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.’
When Eli finally realises that it’s the Lord calling, he gives Samuel the beautiful phrase, ‘speak, Lord, for your servant is listening’.
When Samuel does say this (the Lord calls Samuel four times in this passage…He has shown as much endurance with Eli as He has shown patience with Samuel).
The message Samuel receives is not a happy one, it tells of the destruction about to fall upon Eli and his family because of his sons wickedness, and Eli’s inability / unwillingness to control them.
Next morning, Eli asks Samuel what message he’d received from the Lord God. Samuel is very reluctant to pass on the bad news, but does, and Eli receives it as a word from the Lord.
Samuel then grows knowing the presence of the Lord and speaking His words – he becomes recognised as a prophet in Israel, and Shiloh, once again, becomes a place where God’s presence is known and God’s word is spoken.

The Philistines Capture the Ark – Israel and the Philistines are in battle, and Israel loses about 4,000 men before returning to camp. The Israelites decide to bring the ark of the covenant to the battle field, to bring God’s presence and sure victory. The ark is brought from Shiloh with Hophni and Phinehas, Eli’s sons. All Israel cheers at the presence of the ark amongst them, and the Philistines wonder what’s going on, and are afraid when they hear that the ark is now amongst the Israelite warriors.

‘The Israelites were trying to use the ark as a magic charm rather than as a focus for obedient living. Trying to use God magically never works.’ (Wesley Study Bible)

The fierce battle which ensues sees Israel defeated, many slaughtered (30,000 soldiers), the ark stolen and Hophni and Phinehas among the dead.

Death of Eli –
On the very day that Hophni and Phinehas died, the news was brought to Eli at Shiloh (Eli has been deeply worried about the safety of the ark). The whole town of Shiloh goes into mourning. Eli (aged 98) asks what’s happened and is told the bad news. At this devastating news, Eli falls off his chair, broke his neck and died. Eli had been priest over Israel for forty years.
And to top it all, Phinehas’ wife was heavily pregnant, and on hearing the terrible news, she goes into labour, but dies in childbirth. The poor baby boy is born orphaned, and has been given the name Ichabod, which means ‘inglorious’, his mother saying before she died : ‘God’s glory has left Israel’.

Davezelenka's 'Raising of Lazarus'


The Death of Lazarus – Lazarus, Mary and Martha have become friends of Jesus, living in Bethany, Mary having anointed Jesus with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair. Mary and Martha send word to Jesus that Lazarus is sick. Jesus, mysteriously, says that Lazarus’ illness will not result in his death, but will rather be used to reveal God’s glory through Him (Jesus), therefore He stayed where He was for another two days.
On the third day, He gets His disciples together and sets off for Bethany (the disciples are worried about heading back into Judea, because the Jews are out to stone Jesus). Jesus alerts them to the fact that Lazarus ‘has fallen asleep’ (He later spells this out in no uncertain terms – ‘Lazarus is dead’), but that He is going to wake him up ‘so that you may believe’.
Thomas speaks courageously, encouraging the others that, although going with Jesus might be walking straight into a disaster, better to go with Him and die together….

with this fear of their own death hanging heavy over the disciples, Jesus is about to show them His power to conquer even death; the raising of Lazarus should give them hope even in the face of death.

Jesus Comforts the Sisters – when they arrive, Jesus discovers that Lazarus has been dead for four days. Many people have gathered, and Martha comes out to meet Jesus. She expresses their disappointment that Jesus hadn’t come sooner:
‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died…..but I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask’. It’s a faith-filled Martha !
When Jesus talks of Lazarus being raised again, Martha assumes it’s the belief in a resurrection at the last day. Jesus, however, utters another of His ‘I am’ sayings:
‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ (and thus this verse is spoken at the start of most of the funerals I’ve ever had the privilege to conduct – what a powerful word)
Martha states her faith and belief in Jesus, that He is the Christ-Messiah, God’s Son.
Mary and many of the crowd also come out to where Jesus is, with Martha. Mary also states her wish that Jesus had come sooner (the same words Martha used…I guess they’d both dwelt on that for several days).
All this weeping moves Jesus, He is affected by their real grief. Jesus weeps too !
‘See how He loved him!’ some said (whilst others snidely mocked His ability to heal a blind man, but now His friend Lazarus….just watch out, you scoffers!!).

Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead – Jesus, deeply moved, stands before the tomb and commands the stone to be taken away (there’s a complaint from Martha that there will be a stench after such a time). Jesus states that it’s time to see the glory of God, so the stone is rolled away.
Jesus thanks Father God for always listening to Him….then shouts, ‘LAZARUS, COME OUT !’
Low and behold, Lazarus appears, wrapped like a mummy; so Jesus commands them to take off his grave clothes and ‘let him go’.

like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, so Lazarus, raised from death, emerges from the grave clothes….and all this is a sign of what will happen to Jesus….commanding power over even death itself.

‘Hear me, O God…protect my life from the threat of the enemy….
the wicked sharpen their tongues like swords….
they encourage each other in evil plans….
But God will shoot them with arrows…He will turn their own tongues against them.
Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in Him;
Let all the upright in heart praise Him!’




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