1 Samuel 2:30
Why the LORD God of Israel said, I said indeed that your house, and the house of your father, should walk before me for ever…
The worthlessness of rank or hereditary position without corresponding wisdom or virtue is a commonplace of moral reflection. But it is startling to find how strongly it is affirmed in Holy Writ of those who hold high office in the house of God. The priesthood in Israel was hereditary, though in point of fact the regularity of the succession was often broken; but such hereditary office was never meant to protect unworthy men like the sons of Eli. Their position was forfeited by their misconduct, and their priestly functions were transferred to other hands. The principle is for all time, and for general application. Does one reach and occupy a high station in the Church? No matter what his line of "holy orders" may be, or who laid hands of ordination on his head, or what functions he is held competent to perform, he must be judged by this test - Does he honour God in his office, or honour and serve himself? Does he so live and act as to commend and glorify Christ? And the same test must be applied to the man professing himself a Christian who occupies a throne on the earth, or who holds high dignity in the state, or who has power as a writer or an orator over the minds of men, or who as a capitalist has great means and opportunities of usefulness. Does he in his station glorify God? If not, his rank, or office, or grand position avails him nothing.
I. THE PIOUS DIVINELY HONOURED. To honour God; think what this implies. To know him truly, to reverence and love him. In vain any verbal or formal homage without the honour rendered by the heart (see Matthew 15:8). He whose heart cleaves to God will show it in his daily conduct. He will be careful to consult God's word for direction, and observe his statutes. He will openly respect God's ordinances, and give cheerfully for their maintenance, and for the furtherance of righteous and charitable objects. He will honour the Lord with his substance, and with the first fruits of all his increase. He will worship God with his family, and teach his children "the fear of the Lord." In his place or station he will make it his aim, and hold it his chief end, to glorify God. And, without any vaunting or ostentation, he will show his colours - avow his faith and hope openly. The boy king, Edward VI., showed his colours when he sat - alas I for how short a time - on the English throne. So did Sir Matthew Hale on the bench, and Robert Boyle in the Royal Society, and William Wilberforce in the highest circles of political life. So did Dr. Arnold among the boys at Rugby, and Dr. Abercrombie and Sir James Simpson among their patients in Edinburgh; Samuel Budgett in his counting house at Bristol, and General Havelock among his troops in India. These men were not in what are called religious offices; but, in such offices or positions as Providence assigned to them, they bore themselves as religious, God fearing men. And others there are in places and callings more obscure who are quite as worthy of esteem; those who, in houses of business among scoffing companions, in servants' halls, in workshops, in barrack rooms, in ships' forecastles, meekly but firmly honour the Lord, and ennoble a lowly calling by fidelity to conscience and to God. The Lord sees and remembers all who honour him. Nay, he honours them; but after his own manner, not after the fashion of the world. He honours faithful servants in this world by giving them more work to do. He honours true witnesses by extending the range for their testimony. Sometimes he honours those with whom he is well pleased by appointing them to suffer for his cause. St. Paul evidently deemed this a high honour. Witness his words to the Philippians: "Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in his name, but also to suffer for his sake." Some he calls away in early years out of the world, but they leave behind a fragrant honoured name, and they go to "glory, honour, and immortality" in a better land. It is right to value the good opinion of our fellow men; but there are always drawbacks and dangers in connection with honour which comes from man. In seeking it one is tempted to tarnish his simplicity of character, and weaken his self-respect. There is a risk of envying more successful, or exulting over less successful competitors for distinction. But it need never be so in seeking "the honour which comes from God only." We seek it best not when we push ourselves forward, but when we deny ourselves, honour him, and by love serve the brethren. And then in our utmost success we have no ground of self-glorying, for all is of grace. Nor is there room for grudging or envying. With the Lord there is grace enough to help all who would serve him, and glory enough to reward all who serve him faithfully.
II. THE IMPIOUS DESPISED. "And they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed." Despise the Lord God Almighty! Amazing insolence of the human heart, yet not infrequent. The sons of Eli openly slighted Jehovah by their rapacity in the priest's office, and their profaning the precincts of his house with their debauchery. Long after this, priests of Judah are reproved by the prophet Malachi for despising the name of the Lord of hosts, making his table contemptible by laying on it polluted bread, and dishonouring his altar by offering maimed animals in sacrifice. The warning then, in the first instance, is to those who bear themselves profanely or carelessly in sacred offices, and in familiar contact with religious service. But the sin is one which soon spreads among the people Ezekiel charged the people of Jerusalem with having "despised God's holy things, and profaned his sabbaths" (1 Samuel 22:8). This sin is a common thing in Christendom. Men do not in terms deny God's existence, but make light of him; never read his word with any seriousness; never pray unless they are ill or afraid; count Church service and instruction a weariness. The base gods of the heathen receive more respect and consideration from their votaries. Allah has far more reverence from the Moslem than the great God of heaven and earth obtains from multitudes who pass as Christians. They live as if he had no right to command them, and no power to judge them. They lift their own will and pleasure to the throne, and despise the Lord of hosts. With what result? They shall be lightly esteemed. Even in this world, and this life, the ungodly miss the best distinctions. They are not the men who gather about them the highest confidence or most lasting influence and esteem. After they leave the world, a few are remembered who had rare force of character or an unusually eventful career; but how the rest are forgotten! A few natural tears from their nearest kindred, a few inquiries among friends about the amount and disposal of their property, a decorous silence about themselves on the principle that nothing but what is good should be said of the dead, and so their memory perishes. But all is not over. A terrible hereafter awaits the despisers of the Lord. "As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image." The clear alternative in this text is one that cannot be evaded. One may try to assume a negative attitude, and allege that he remains in a state of suspense, and does not find the recognition of a Divine Being to be an imperative necessity; but this is practically to despise the Lord - making light of his word, and pronouncing his very existence to be a matter of doubtful truth and of secondary importance. Reject not wisdom's counsel; despise not her reproof. "Today, if ye will hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts." - F.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.
WEB: "Therefore Yahweh, the God of Israel, says, 'I said indeed that your house, and the house of your father, should walk before me forever.' But now Yahweh says, 'Be it far from me; for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.