As we celebrate another Father’s day, I am honoured to be given the opportunity to speak on the topic, A Tale of two Fathers. Interestingly enough, we cannot begin the discussion on the two fathers without first examining the role of a mother in the lives of these two men.
Hannah was a woman who desired to have a child but for a long time in her marriage, she was unable to get pregnant. The desperation led her to the temple one day where she prayed, pouring her heart out to God in prayer. At about this time, the High Priest, Eli was in the temple and while observing her, assumed she was drunk, since all he could see was her mouth moving with no sound. He came to her and scolded her for being drunk but was soon corrected when Hannah told him why she was in the temple and what she was doing. Having heard this, Eli blessed her and she went away comforted in the knowledge that her prayer has been answered.
Not long afterwards, Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy, who was named Samuel. In her prayer to God for the child, she had vowed to give up the child to the service of God, which she did as soon as the child was old enough to be left alone. Through Hannah therefore, the two fathers in this story were brought together.
The first time Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas were mentioned was in 1 Samuel 2:12. They were described as scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord or for their duties as priests. They contravened the law of the Lord especially as regards the portion of meat that was meant for the priests. Rather than wait for the appropriate portions to be allocated to them, the demanded upfront for the meat even before it is offered as a sacrifice. If people tried to insist on doing the right thing, Eli’s sons would threaten to take the meat by force (1 Sam 2:15-17)
As if this was not enough, Eli’s sons were known to seduce the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle. Eli knew of their misbehaviour but did very little to correct them. On occasion, he made attempt to castigate them but they did not listen to him. God eventually sent a prophet to tell Eli what He was going to do to his family. God also confirmed this by speaking to Samuel about what He was going to do. The actions of Eli’s sons eventually led to their deaths as well as the death of their father.
Samuel grew to be a prophet honoured and well respected among the people. The first mention of his sons was in 1 Samuel 8. By this time, he was old and had appointed his sons Joel and Abijah to be judges over Israel. They were in no way comparable to Eli’s sons, however, they had a weakness; they were greedy for money. This greed led them to accept bribes from the people to pervert the course of justice. They did not follow the path of their father, who was a man of integrity. Eventually, the leaders of Israel approached Samuel and demanding the Samuel appoint a king for them because according to them, his sons were not like him.
So we have two Fathers whose sons did not follow in their fathers’ footsteps. Their actions also had consequences although in varying degrees. Saul’s children had total disregard for God, while in the case of Samuel, it was a case of moral failure.
Once important lesson we can learn from these two fathers is that we cannot afford to overlook negative behaviour from our children. There should be a balance between discipline and love. We should not only live a life of example but we should train our children to follow suit.
Our ultimate example of fatherhood is God Himself. He is willing and able to give us anything and everything we need. In the same vein however, He will discipline us when we go astray and the effects can be so painful and life changing. The sooner we repent and return, the better for us. He expects us to discipline our children and teach them the way to go.