Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phineas, served under him as priests of the Most High God. They held a privileged position in God’s Kingdom. But they dishonored the Lord, and used their priestly office to indulge their carnal cravings. We are told, for example, that they gorged themselves on the best parts of the meat offerings the Israelites sacrificed to the Lord, thereby treating His offerings “with contempt.” (I Samuel 2:12-17).
In addition, Hophni and Phineas regularly had sex with the women who served God at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. (I Samuel 2:22). These men, who were charged with the awesome responsibility of leading the Israelites down paths of purity and righteousness, were defiling the sheep they were called to shepherd, dishonoring the Lord’s offerings, and desecrating the Tent of Meeting by fornicating with (and rendering unclean) the women who served at its entrance. And because of their brazen rebellion toward God, He eventually put them to death. (1 Samuel 2:25).
Hophni and Phineas chose to feed their fleshly cravings. And those cravings ultimately consumed them, ruining their ministry, destroying their earthly lives, and resulting in the pronouncement of generational judgment upon their families. (1 Samuel 2:30-33).
As I thought about their appalling behavior, and about how that behavior resulted in the defilement of the Lord’s offerings, of His people, and of His Tent of Meeting, I said to myself: “Well, they deserved the judgment they received!” And then the Holy Spirit gently reminded me that so do I!
Like Eli’s sons, I am now a priest of the Most High. The Bible says that those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are members of a “royal priesthood.” (1 Peter 2:9). And the Apostle Paul adds that we are now the temples of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19). In other words, each of us who are members of God’s royal priesthood are now the locus of the Lord’s presence. Every believer is now the functional equivalent of the Tent of Meeting, where the presence of the Lord once dwelt. His Holy Spirit no longer resides in a temple made of cloth or clay, but in a temple made of flesh.
In short, I am now the Lord’s Tent of Meeting, which means that my hands, my tongue, my ears, and my eyes are the new entrance -- the new door -- to the Lord’s sanctuary. Whatever I do with my hands, whatever I speak with my tongue, whatever I choose to listen to with my ears and wherever I focus my eyes (those windows to my soul) happens in the immediate presence of God, where His glory dwells.
As I meditate on this amazing truth, I am both horrified and humbled! I am horrified at the realization that my behavior is no less abhorrent to God than that of Hophni and Phineas. Like them, I often choose to indulge my flesh, rather than feed my spirit. In so doing, I defile my Father’s house, His temple. At the same time, however, I am humbled at the knowledge that God’s grace is unconditionally available to me, because the blood of Jesus washes away the sacrilegious acts I commit at the entrance to (and even within) the Lord’s Tent of Meeting.
But I do not want to follow in Hophni’s and Phineas’ footsteps. I long to be a priest who honors the Lord by how I conduct myself at the entrance to, and within, His Tent of Meeting. I strive to be a man who hungers after, and desperately pursues, his Lord. I aspire to become a child whose spirit is nourished by every word that comes from His Father, and who overcomes the ravenous appetite of his fleshly nature. My hope and prayer is that the Lord one day will say of me what He said of Samuel -- that I am a “faithful priest, who [does] according to what is in [His] heart and mind,” and that He “will firmly establish [my] house, and [I] will minister before [His] anointed one always.” (1 Samuel 2:35).
Prayer: Father, help me to faithfully fulfill the responsibilities of the priestly office you have given me, by shepherding Your people well and bringing glory to Your Name. Forgive me for the ways in which I have dishonored You and Your new Tent of Meeting. Help me to pursue the things of the Kingdom and to focus on satiating my spiritual appetite with every word that proceeds from Your mouth, rather than the cries of my flesh. Help me to be a faithful priest in Your royal priesthood. And, by Your grace, please grant me the unmerited privilege of ministering before Your Anointed One always. I pray this on my behalf, and on behalf of all my brothers and sisters who are members of Your royal priesthood. Amen!