From its foundations through the present day, the world has been replete with people who seem to be spiritually minded, but the reality of their lives just hasn’t connected with the truth of their words. An example from the Bible would be Eli.
Eli seemed to have it right. He was a priest, after all. He reprimands his wicked sons (1 Sam 2:22-25); he guides Samuel to listen to the voice of God (1 Sam 3:8-9); he submissively receives the word of the Lord through Samuel (1 Sam 3:18); and he is concerned about the ark of the covenant when it is taken out to battle (1 Sam 3:13, 18).
But despite his outward appearance of serving properly in the priesthood, Eli did not truly live out his words. Because of this, judgment was passed upon him and his family line. (1 Sam 2:27-36) If Eli were a righteous man, the judgments would be pronounced upon his sons, perhaps, but not upon Eli and his whole house. While Eli might have rebuked his sons with his words, 1 Sam 2:29 and 1 Sam 4:18 both point to the fact that he thoroughly enjoyed the physical profits of their sin. He didn’t want to give up his hefty meals any more than they did. He was as corrupt as they.
So, what does this have to do with us? Much, I believe.
On a daily basis I am confronted with the truth and reality of how my words and my actions do not line up. I talk about sacrifice, but do I live it? I speak of surrender, but do I show it?
The beautiful thing about it all is that there is hope. As I read through the entirety of God’s Word, I find many, many, many individuals who stumbled in the fleshing out of their words and beliefs. I see Abraham who connived to help God fulfill His promises. I see David who got cocky and prideful on multiple occasions. I see Peter who couldn’t help but put his foot in his mouth and Thomas who struggled greatly with doubt. And, I see their God and mine lovingly discipline each one and draw them back into a right relationship with Him.
Notice: not judgment as with Eli and his family. Discipline.
Neither words sounds like great fun, but oh how I prefer discipline over judgment. Oh how I want to be corrected for my failings, not stand in judgment because of them!
So, how do we ensure that we receive discipline instead of judgment? By looking at our hearts.
Eli held an office passed down to him from generation to generation, all the way back to Aaron. But, it was not a passion of his heart; it was merely a job. He performed the duties, but held no honor for God in his heart. He spoke the church words, but they had no real meaning for him. He knew the truth, but the truth was not in his heart. He did not know God. I believe he had plenty of opportunity to know God, but he chose instead to walk through his days simply performing his job – badly, I might add.
Where are our hearts? We will make mistakes. We will falter. But, like David, even in the midst of our faltering we can be growing closer to the heart of God. We can be His. We can refuse to be like Eli, simply paying lip service to Him, performing a job, and fooling others with our church talk. We can instead acknowledge that we are struggling children who still need to learn.
So what will it be? Who will you be? I encourage you to hunger for Him and desire to live more than lip service to His commands. Discipline is much more pleasant than judgment. This I guarantee.