Read 2 Samuel 12-17
What a way to begin this section of scripture, “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial”. Do you all know what belial means? NIV uses the word scoundrels, NKJV says they were corrupt. All of these descriptions are true, however the word belial is more of a title than a description of how Eli’s sons were viewed by God. The term “sons of belial” does not mean that Eli was corrupt or a scoundrel, it doesn’t reflect God’s view of Eli. It does, however, describe the character of his sons Phineas and Hophni and they were worthless. Belial means worthless. They were worthless, good for nothing men and the worst part is they served as priests in the temple of the Lord.
These men had no regard for the Lord. They are the pastor’s kids and yet they grew up without ever believing in God. Your parents cannot save you, your parents can be favored in the eyes of God while you can be viewed as worthless. Their position in the community afforded them a lot of opportunities that gave them access to take whatever they wanted.
Hophni and Phineas’ unbelief is what made them morally unworthy. They represent worldly spiritual leadership. When priests and pastors are worldly minded they are worthless in the eyes of God and they behave in a similar way to these two sons.
Verse 13 & 14 describe the proper customs of the sacrifices for this particular feast. Scripture tells us the priest’s servant would, after the fat was burned, take a three pronged fork, reach into whatever pot was being used to cook the meat, and he would lift out a chunk of the meat. Whatever the fork pulled off would be given to the priest and that was his portion.
Let me go into a bit more detail so we can understand better what the sin is. The animal was given over for a sacrifice of peace and was presented to the priest. The priest then placed the animal on the altar. All of the fat was burned up, this portion was strictly reserved for the Lord, the fat was God’s portion. The remaining meat was then boiled and fully cooked. Out of the remaining meat the priest took his portion, a small amount, the remaining meat was given back to the family as a fellowship meal. At this fellowship feast the family was given back a larger amount, because God blesses those who are obedient and faithful to Him.
Vs. 15, Notice in verse 15 Eli’s sons were not giving God his portion first and they were taking more than what God said they could have. Hophni and Phineas would send one of their servants to the sacrifice room with specific instructions to get the best cut of meat from the animal “before” it goes onto the altar. They were taking their portion before the Lord was given his. They were putting themselves before God.
Hophni and Phineas would take the raw meat, and as it says in 15, they wanted roasted meat, not the “sodden” or boiled meat they were told to take according to the laws of Moses. Not only that, but they wanted the fat left on it. We all know that a roast is best with a bit of the fat left on, it melts down as the meat is roasting and that makes the meat delicious. The problem is the law specifically stated that the fat belonged to the Lord and would be burned as an offering only to him.
Vs. 16 The Isrealites knew the law and they could see the priests were not following the customs of sacrifice. If anyone dared to question the process they were shut down real quick. Notice vs. 16 says that even when anyone tried to make sure the Lord’s portion was burned and offered up first they were threatened. The people didn’t care so much that their portion was smaller or handled incorrectly, they did not want the Lord’s portion to be taken from him. Yet, no one gave a real effort to stop the injustice. They complained but that is as far as it went.
God’s devoted people, the people who make the long trek yearly to offer up this peace offering, were being forced to participate with these lawless customs. You see this was not a one time thing. These priests made it their tradition to defile these offerings every year and with every person. This caused the people to abhor the offering of the Lord. In other words they began to loathe giving their sacrifice, they began to hate giving to the Lord, and they dreaded coming to church.
What happened is the pastors’ kids are taking advantage of their position and authority in the church, it is so blatant and common that people begin to dread or even hate to come to church anymore. The Jews were trying their best to serve the Lord, but the corruption of their leadership was blocking them and so they gave in.
Just because church leadership is corrupt it does not give you a free pass to also sin. You are responsible for what you do regardless of what the leadership does. You being obedient to the word of God does not depend on anyone else. The Isrealites sinned because they got to the point where they didn’t see the point in continuing with their sacrifice. They figured it was better to not sacrifice at all than to have it not be properly handled.
Let me put it into a context we might understand better. This is equivalent to you withholding your tithes because you don’t like the way the Pastor handles the money. If the pastor is purposely mishandling the money then he or she is sinning, but you are still required to give a tithe no matter what. Most people, like the Israelites, would just stop sending in their sacrifice. When you do that you are now in sin too. Blaming your disobedience on leadership seems like a good excuse, but it’s not.