A Word for Eli
When the High Priest finally returned to the circle, having changed out of his official garments, I met him and said, “May I speak with you privately, your Excellency?”
“Yes, of course,” Eli replied, and we walked a short distance from the stone circle.
“God has a very special mission for you during this captivity,” I began. “He will give you another son to train in the ways of Yahweh. This son will be an anointed one from his birth, but he must learn the laws of God so that he can judge the people when he is mature. God will entrust him to your care, because you know His word better than anyone else in Israel. Encourage him to listen to the voice of Yahweh, for He will begin to speak directly and clearly to your son while he is yet young.”
“When will my son be born?” Eli asked.
“He will be born next year at Sukkoth,” I told him, “but you will not know him for another five years while your faith is tested.”
“You are speaking mysteries again,” Eli responded. “If my wife gives birth to a child, shall I not see him? Will I be gone from home?”
“That is not how it will happen,” I said. “You will have a son that is born supernaturally by divine intervention. He will be conceived through prayer 59 and he will be a man of prayer. But like all godly men, he will need to be trained in the word in order to be qualified as a judge in Israel, and there is no better man on earth than you for this mission.”
“Will God not look upon my other sons favorably?” Eli asked anxiously.
“God has another purpose for them,” I replied evasively. “They will not have opportunity to judge Israel, nor even to take your place as High Priest, for you will outlive them.”
“Then may I live to a very great age,” Eli said. “But how will this all turn out? What shall I do while being subject to Philistine rule?”
“Your main duty is to teach Israel the laws of God and to turn the hearts of the people from their idolatry. You well know the laws of tribulation which were given through Moses. You know that God vowed to bring judgment upon Israel if they violated His covenant. You also know the terms by which God said He would remember His covenant with Israel. The hearts of the people will not turn from their wicked ways so easily, for God will not open their eyes until the time of their captivity nears its end.”
“Ah, but it is a forty-year captivity!” Eli said with despair in his voice. “By that time, if I yet live, I will be nearly a hundred years of age. Are you saying that Israel will remain in idolatry until then?”
“Not all will worship idols, but many will persist,” I replied. “During this time, your most important duty before God will be to prepare for the future. Train His anointed one to lead Israel out of captivity and to prepare him for his ministry as a judge in Israel after Israel has been set free. Your main calling in life, other than as the High Priest of Israel, will be to prepare one child, a very special faithful priest, who will someday bring freedom back to Israel.”
“What shall I teach him?” Eli asked.
“What is the color of the thread in the tassel of your robe?” I asked.
“Blue,” he replied. “It represents the law, and when I look upon it, I am reminded of the commandments of God.” 60
“Then teach the law to this child,” I said, “and cause him to remember it always, for many Israelites even now have forgotten the law of God and have put it away. But why is the thread the color of the sky?”
“Because the law is spiritual,” Eli said, “and it comes from heaven above. If the law had been given by men, it might be a red thread.”
“Then teach the child the true meaning of sacrifices and offerings, which he will witness each day in the tabernacle,” I said.
“What do you mean?” Eli asked, looking puzzled.
“There are blood sacrifices and bloodless offerings,” I replied. “You are aware that blood is for atonement for sin and that bloodless offerings are shelem offerings to make shalom with God. Blood covers sin and justifies sinners; but shelem reconciles enemies by making peace with God and coming into agreement with Him.”
“I am aware of that,” Eli said.
“The people of Israel must identify with the blood sacrifices in order to obtain justification,” I continued. “You can sacrifice on their behalf as a nation, but it does not apply to them as individuals until they sprinkle the blood upon the altar of their own heart. That is done by faith alone, for one must believe in its validity and effectiveness for the blood to justify any man.”
“I see,” Eli said. “The law about constructing altars, then, is a spiritual law about the altar of one’s heart.” 61
“Yes, indeed,” I replied. “If a man tries to shape the stones of his own heart, he will only pollute his altar. He must use stones shaped by God alone. Such heart altars will then be acceptable places where the blood can be sprinkled to justify sinners. What you do as a priest in offering blood sacrifices is only an outward act that is designed to teach men a spiritual principle. The outward act has no merit with God apart from the condition of one’s heart.”
“Is that why the sacrifices in Shiloh have not prevented the coming captivity—or even the previous captivities?” Eli asked.
“You have arrived at the truth and the heart of the matter,” I said, pleased that he had seen this by revelation. “Teach this to the child being entrusted to you, so that he will become a faithful priest.”
“Do such offerings appease God’s wrath?” Eli asked again.
“The Canaanites must appease their gods,” I replied, “because they worship gods who do not love them. The God of Israel is different. He does not need to be appeased. He is a Father seeking children in His image and likeness, children who think like Him and agree with His ways and His laws. Fathers are responsible for their children. So even though fathers discipline their children when they do wrong, such discipline is designed to correct them and form them in his image.”
“Is not each man responsible for his own development?” Eli asked.
“On an earthly level, yes,” I said, “but ultimately, a father is the one with authority, and so he is held responsible and accountable. Yet God has seen fit to allow men to try to become godly by the power of their own strength. The divine purpose is to show men’s deficiency through failure, so that we have no confidence in the flesh. We are fully dependent upon God’s intervention to bring us into His image and likeness.”
“So why must we continually offer daily sacrifices in the tabernacle? Are these, too, meant to fail?”
“Have they not already failed?” I asked. “How many captivities will it take to prove their failure? They will continue to fail until the land has been emptied of its inhabitants. The blood of bulls and goats can never remove sin. 62 It will require a greater sacrifice to succeed, one where God Himself will provide a Lamb once for all. When that final Sacrifice is made, all animal sacrifice will no longer be required.”
“Sacrifice will cease?” Eli asked incredulously.
“Yes, all of your animal sacrifices can only cover sin for a season. They can never remove sin. That is why they must be continued twice daily, showing their ineffectiveness. But you should know this from the ceremonies that you perform once a year on the Yom Kippur. 63 The blood of the first goat is sprinkled on the mercy seat to kaphar sin. The second goat, however, removes sin. It takes two goats to finish the work. Your daily sacrifices are an extension of the first goat, for they serve to cover sin. A greater work is yet to come, whereby sin is removed from the hearts of men.”
“I have seen by observation,” Eli said thoughtfully, “that the hearts of men retain iniquity in spite of their sincerity in offering sacrifice. For this reason, they must return again and again. But why does not the second goat remove our sin each year?”
“The second goat,” I said, “is prophetic of a future time when the God of Israel intervenes directly in the affairs of men. Only He can remove iniquity from the hearts of men by the power of His Spirit. The Spirit of God is seen often even today, but the day will come when the Spirit will be poured out as rain from heaven, and it will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.”
“Will the Spirit be poured out upon God’s enemies as well?” Eli asked.
“Who are God’s enemies?” I responded. “How does the law distinguish His enemies from His friends?”
“Moses said that if Israel rebelled against God, then He would become hostile toward them 64 and become their enemy,” Eli admitted.
“All have sinned,” I said, “and so all of us, whether Israelites or not, are condemned by the law as God’s enemies. Conversely, when we turn to God and come into agreement with Him, we become His friends. The law applies equally to all men. So also the promises of God apply to all men equally, for God intends to pour out His Spirit upon the entire earth and not just upon the land of Israel.”
“I suppose, then, the shelem offerings can benefit all men equally,” Eli said thoughtfully, “even as the offerings of blood atone for the souls of all who have blood in their veins.”
“Yes,” I responded, “and the day will come when the God of Israel will again be called the God of the whole earth.” 65
“Thank-you for shedding light on these things,” Eli said. “There is much that I do not understand, but at least I am beginning to see the limitations of the present form of sacrifice. Without knowing of something greater yet to come, it is impossible to see the inadequacies of what we do today. Will you come again to give me further revelation that will help me fulfill this calling?” Eli asked.
“Perhaps,” I said. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from or where it is going; so is everyone who is begotten by the ruach of God. 66 I do not know how the God of Israel will lead me in the future, nor where His breath will blow. I can only follow the wind from the breath of His mouth. Yet I do know that from time to time a man of God will be sent to you with important instructions. Be careful to take heed to that man of God.”
“I will,” Eli said.
“Good, then let us return to the Council,” I said. With that, we walked back to the stone circle.
- 1 Samuel 1:10-17
- Numbers 15:38-40
- Exodus 20:24-26
- Hebrews 10:4
- Leviticus 16:7-22
- Leviticus 26:40-42
- Isaiah 54:5
- John 3:8