1 Samuel 4:12-18. (SHILOH.)
1. The highest official position may be held by one who is destitute of the qualities which it demands.
2. Much excellence is sometimes associated with grave defects.
3. Sins of omission have a ruinous effect on others - the family, the Church, the nation.
4. A good man is not spared when he is guilty of disobedience. The judgment of Heaven is impartial. The last hour of his long life has now come, and in it we see the old man -
I. WATCHING WITH ANXIETY FOR THE ARK (ver. 13). Why does his heart tremble? He has truly an affectionate regard for it. But -
1. He has been accessory to its exposure in the battle field.
2. He is doubtful about its safety.
3. He dreads the consequences of its loss. Already he experiences the evil effects of his sin.
II. RECEIVING THE TIDINGS OF DISASTER (vers. 12, 14-17). "Woe upon woe."
1. The defeat of Israel with a great slaughter.
2. The death of his two sons.
3. The capture of the ark. "With the surrender of the earthly throne of his glory the Lord appeared to have abolished his covenant of grace with Israel; for the ark, with the tables of the law and the Capporeth, was the visible pledge of the covenant of grace which Jehovah had made with Israel" (Keil).
III. SMITTEN WITH THE STROKE or DEATH (ver. 18).
1. After long and merciful delay.
2. Directly connected with his sin.
3. "Suddenly, and without remedy." Nevertheless, it was his dismay at the loss of the ark that caused his trembling heart to cease to beat; and his love for the sacred symbol lightens up the gloom of his melancholy end. - D.
And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head.I. THAT USELESS LAMENTATIONS AFTER THE EVENT CANNOT COMPENSATE FOR WEAKNESS OR MISCONDUCT DURING THE EVENT. It is well to repent with bitter tears over bygone follies, errors, and sins, over opportunities lost or wasted. It is unmanly, however, to waste the present in lamentations over the past, or to imagine that any tears can cause those things that have been done to be undone, or those things that have been left undone to be done.
II. THAT THE VENGEANCE OF GOD SOONER OR LATER COMES UPON THE UNWORTHY. Hophni and Phinehas might for a time pursue with impunity their licentious and covetous propensities; but headlong destruction in the end came upon them and theirs. For ill-gotten gains, for ill-gotten power, for ill-gotten pleasures, a clay of reckoning will assuredly come.
III. THAT PARENTAL PARTIALITY IS NOT SUFFICIENT EXCUSE FOR THE CONNIVANCE AT, OR THE PERPETRATION OF, INJUSTICE.
IV. THAT OUTWARD RITUAL, HOWEVER DECENT AND BECOMING IN ITS DUE PLACE, CANNOT COMPENSATE FOR MORAL DEFICIENCIES.
V. THAT IN OUR WORDS AND IN OUR ACTIONS WE SHOULD HAVE A DELICATE CONSIDERATION FOR THE FEELINGS OF OTHERS. The messenger mentioned in the text did this in his communication to Eli. To Eli's question to the messenger, he breaks the sad news gradually and gently to the aged priest, rising by successive steps in his narrative from the lesser woes to the greater.
VI. THAT OUR ERRORS OFTEN DEPRIVE US OF THE POWER OF ENJOYMENT, BUT LEAVE US THE CAPACITY FOR SUFFERING.
VII. THAT WHAT THE SUPERSTITIOUS DENOMINATE PREMONITIONS OF EVIL, ARE REALLY OFTENTIMES ONLY THE PRICKINGS OF THEIR OWN CONSCIENCES. "Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching, for his heart trembled for the ark of God."
(R. Young, M. A.)
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