Eli groaned as he rolled out of bed. “Oh, how did I ever let myself get so out of shape? And how did I ever live to be so old?”
He walked over to the large kettle and held his hand next to it, then, he placed his hand on it. “I see those sons of mine let the fire go out, again.”
He picked up the three-pronged fork lying on the table and stabbed through the layer of fat floating on the surface. The fork struck something firm just before Eli’s hand got wet. He gave the handle a slight twist before he raised his breakfast out of the kettle. A strip of meat about the size of his forearm clung to the prongs. “Ah, yes. This will make a fine first meal of the day. I hope the boys left me enough wine to wash this down with.”
After the meat was gone Eli took his seat at the entrance to the Tabernacle. People came from all around to offer their sacrifices and prayers to the Lord God of Israel here. It was his job to ensure only those clean enough could enter past the doorway. A short line was awaiting him already. He let a man in with a bull to sacrifice. He recognized the man who’d been in a week earlier. He was pronounced clean of his rash and was allowed in to pray. A young woman approached. There was no way she’d be granted permission to pass.
She looked directly into his eyes. “Are your sons here? I’m in need of their services.”
Eli leaned back. “I’m afraid they’re still sleeping. If you need someone to lift a petition up for you I can handle that for you.”
She pulled her bottom lip into her mouth as she looked over Eli’s shoulder. “Um…I need their personal help in a private matter. You see my husband and I are wanting another child. Nine months after I was here before I gave birth to a girl. I need them to get me pregnant again, please.”
Tears blurred Eli’s vision. “NO! NO! What you’re saying is not good. This is not what we’re here for. It is the LORD’s work we must do. You have crossed the line.”
She stepped back. “But, they’re the ones who said it was okay.”
Eli pointed behind her. “Be gone! The LORD’s house is not to be used for such purposes.”
After she left Eli cradled his head in his hands as the tears flowed. “Dear LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob I’m so sorry I failed You so miserably. I never realized how selfish I was being when they were young. I wish there was some way to go back and raise them all over. I…oh…please forgive me.”
When Eli lifted his head he wiped the tears from his eyes. A woman on the other side of the doorway was kneeling and rocking. He studied her for a few moments. Her mouth was moving, but, no words were audible. “Woman, have you no decency? It isn’t even mid-day and you’re already drunk. Get rid of your wine, for heaven’s sake.”
The woman took in a quick breath as she wiped her tears away. “No, my lord, don’t take me for a wicked woman. I’ve been pouring my heart out to God. That’s all.”
Eli tilted his head back as his thoughts formed a prayer. Dear LORD, forgive me for being so quick to judge another.
He looked back at her. “The LORD grant you your petition, my daughter.”
She stayed on her knees as she bowed her face to the ground. “Thank you, sir.”
A few years later Eli smiled as he saw Elkanah approach with his family for their annual sacrifice. “I forgot you had two wives, my friend. It looks like you’re all well.” The second wife approached the priest with a young boy walking next to her. “I don’t know if you remember me, but, I dedicated this son to the LORD before he was even conceived. He will be staying here with you to serve the LORD for his entire life. His name is Samuel.”
God does grant second chances.
Eli is my example here. As Israel’s priest he was responsible to rear the next generation of priests. He failed miserably with his two sons. It isn’t a big surprise when you remember this was during the time of the book of Judges.
A recurring verse covering that period of time is: “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Eli likely just went with the flow of his society.
By the time Samuel came on the scene Eli’s boys were too far gone to be talked back to a place of decency. Their selfishness was their guiding light, not God’s directives.
The Bible says Eli tried to talk to them, but, they simply wouldn’t listen. The regrets must have stacked to the ceiling for the old man.
A ‘chance encounter’ with a barren woman near the entrance to God’s house of worship set in motion the advent of Eli’s second chance to make amends for his misgivings.
Eli didn’t know God was answering his prayer when He answered this woman’s prayer, too. He could now raise a new leader of God’s people. One who would usher in a new era by God’s directive.
God is still granting second chances. Even to you now.
God knows how hard you strove for success while your kids were young. No, you’ll never get those years back.
But, you can mentor a young person along the path God has set for them. There are too many starving souls desiring guidance for you to stay on the sidelines in this fight for the future.
God didn’t teach those lessons to you in vain. Pass on your mistakes and successes to raise up the next great leader.
Samuel didn’t have priestly blood, but, he made a great priest.
I’ll see you later. Wade