Yea, before they burnt the fat, the priest's servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have boiled flesh of thee, but raw. And if the man said unto him, They will surely burn the fat first, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would say, Nay, but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force. And the sin of the young men was very great before Jehovah; for the men despised the offering of Jehovah. But Samuel ministered before Jehovah, being a child, girded with a linen ephod. (1Samuel 2:15-18)
The actions of the priesthood at the advent of Samuel were causing the thank offerings (worship) of the Lord to be despised by the people. They took the fat for themselves. The fat belonged to the Lord alone and was never to be consumed by the people, but was to be burned in the fire. Keil and Delitzsch tells us that the Hebrew is in the emphatic, meaning that their behavior was giving occasion for the enemies of God to blaspheme (see 2 Samuel 2:14). Of all the sins that Hophni and Phinehas committed, including sleeping around with the women in the congregation, this was the greatest.
Cause For Blasphemy
The people came to make an offering to the Lord, but what they found were a group of self-serving thieves who were stealing something that God had reserved for Himself alone. This caused the people to detest coming to worship at all, because it was all about Hophni and Phinehas. No doubt God heard the people grumbling and felt the ill feeling that these vile men were causing in the people. They were intercepting something that God alone deserved and took it for themselves.
Today we don't have priests that walk around with three pronged forks taking the fat out of the peoples flesh pans by force; we have elevated a band of singers and musicians to the power of a priesthood intercepting the glory that belongs to God alone. This is the reality in an era of electrified, entertainment driven worship. Leonard Ravenhill once said that "entertainment is the Devil's substitute for joy." The word "entertain" means to provide a person with enjoyment and amusement. Can you see the subtle counterfeit of God's joy?
There was a time when mostly of what was played on the contemporary Christian radio was referred to as "Christian entertainment." There was no argument about it. We all just knew it was true. what happens when that music makes the jump to the worship meeting? Does it cease to be entertainment? Selah.
Understand that unless the sight and sound is pleasing to the senses, many if not most, simply cannot "worship." Men and women approach many modern gatherings looking for a happy feeling or a sense of the presence of God and when they feel it they often praise the so-called worship team. All the while they have no real sense that mainly what has happened is that they have been entertained. Have you ever wondered why this type of phenomena has prospered in modern times?
Traditional Vs. Contemporary
Today, many churches have adopted a "traditional" service and a "contemporary" service in order to stifle much of the conflict caused by modern so-called praise and worship. Traditional services usually employ the old hymns and the contemporary services the newer radio play, often Christian entertainment-based songs. That is not to say that all old hymns are good and all new songs are bad. The issue is the focus. Many songs pretend to be God centered, but are really man's entertainment. We have to know the difference.
As a musician myself, I can say with a great deal of confidence that few musicians want to play the old hymns. Why? You simply cannot stab the three pronged fork into the boiling pot: it comes up empty, every time. It is a hard saying, but I must say, it is because we cannot get our groove on singing and playing them. They do not entertain us. We cannot dance to them. The glory must go to God alone. Consider how well this line would fair in modern entertainment based worship:
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
my richest Gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride
By now some readers are shaking their heads in half-hearted agreement. But there is no willingness to adopt change. for the same reason Christians will agree that Television is generally a bad thing, but will go back home and keep watching shows that they know do not glorify God; there is a same unwillingness to agree with the situation and turn from it. What is it? People are simply addicted to entertainment and modern worship is often the most sterile form of it.
Lessons From Hophni and Phinehas
These men used the things of God as a means to their own ends. They were sexually immoral and spiritually bankrupt, but they kept on in the service of God. When the people heard and saw their deeds they despised the worship of God. They no longer wanted to participate. You will notice from the context of our passage that God was never once angry at the people for reacting the way they did. In fact, in Isaiah chapter 1 He tells the people that He Himself can't stand the peoples hypocritical worship. Soon the only people left are the people pleased by the same spirit that these two men were of. Not even God was there.
For all that Hophni and Phinehas did, they neither heard God's voice-nor felt conviction. They refused to listen while Eli refused to correct them. He was content to allow the worship (thank offering) of the Lord to be despised. His sons took that which belonged to God alone and Eli overlooked it. God could not remodel this type of worship; He had to totally destroy it. He had to physically demonstrate to the people that He had left the building- carried out on the shoulders of Hophni and Phinehas into the enemies camp. All the while they deceived themselves into thinking God was still among them to fight for them. It was a rude awakening, but nothing else would have changed their minds about it.
God's answer to Ichabod
But Samuel ministered before Jehovah, being a child, girded with a linen ephod (I Samuel 2:18).
As today, so then, God knew that these mens day was coming. He had already raised up replacements. He was angry, but not without means. He knew that a man named Samuel and then David would set things right again. But what about Hophni and Phinehas? What about those that fornicated with them in the assembly? What about the people that struggled to worship God- even after these men were dead? Did they ever regain their desire to assemble and worship? We are not told. Sometimes the deception is so great and the wounds so deep that only time and grace can heal it. In "time" the presence and authority of God did return and the people did rejoice. No more three pronged hooks in the boiling pot... no more taking the glory (fat) by force; but a man to lead a generation after God's own heart.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon