There seems to be two “lines” with God. The first line is one that most theologians, pastors, and teachers will talk about. It is the line we cross when we sin (rebel) against God and/or people. This rebellion takes us out of favor with God (and people) so that we are not welcome in God’s presence. We need to trust that God wants to forgive and reconcile with us. He sent His Son to pay any price or penalty that we owe for our rebellion. When we believe this and are willing to confess it, then it is safe to turn back to God (repent) and walk back to God (be baptized) – crossing back over that first line and being reconciled with Him. When we cross over the first line to the bad side, God waits patiently for us to come back. God goes to great lengths to get us back. God wants us to experience everything God intended for our lives. God wants us to enjoy a Garden Walk. This is the picture surrounding the first line.
The second line, however, is one that many of us do not like to talk about. It is a much more ominous and final line. This is the line that people cross so that God says, “Enough! I’m done with you.” The people of Noah’s day all crossed that line. So did the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Pharaoh crossed that line, so God hardened his heart to show he was not a god at all. And, in the stories we are reading this week, Eli’s sons crossed this second line as well.
And the LORD said to Samuel: "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family--from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, 'The guilt of Eli's house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.'" (1 Samuel 3:11-14 NIV)
This was the first prophetic message that God gave to Samuel. Samuel was still a young boy. He had never received direct instruction from the LORD prior to this. Every instruction he had received came through Eli the priest. Eli was raising Samuel. Eli was like a father to Samuel. God told Samuel to prophesy against Eli. Samuel had to choose between his relationship with Eli and his relationship with God. What a tough calling. I wonder how I would respond to such an instruction from God.
Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the LORD. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, but Eli called him and said, "Samuel, my son." Samuel answered, "Here I am." "What was it he said to you?" Eli asked. "Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you." So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, "He is the LORD; let him do what is good in his eyes." The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel's words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD. (1 Samuel 3:15-20 NIV)
How about you? How would you respond? How do you respond?