Eli's sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the LORD. Now it was the practice of the priests that, whenever any of the people offered a sacrifice, the priest's servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand while the meat was being boiled and would plunge the fork into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot. Whatever the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. But even before the fat was burned, the priest's servant would come and say to the person who was sacrificing, "Give the priest some meat to roast; he won't accept boiled meat from you, but only raw." If the person said to him, "Let the fat be burned first, and then take whatever you want," the servant would answer, "No, hand it over now; if you don't, I'll take it by force." This sin of the young men was very great in the LORD's sight, for they were treating the LORD's offering with contempt. (1 Samuel 2:12-17 NIV)
This is a bit difficult to understand if we don’t understand a little bit about offerings to God. There is a concept we see throughout the Old and New Testaments. God does not need anything from us. God created everything. God still holds everything together. God owns everything.
The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it…(Psalms 24:1 NIV)
When we bring an offering to God, then, we are not giving God anything He needs. We are doing something we need. We are recognizing that God gives us everything. We are remembering the goodness of God. We are reminding ourselves of our relationship with God and our rightful position with God. When we give gifts to God, it is an act of worship.
With all this in mind, then, we should bring God the very best of what we have. We should offer God the best that we have. God deserves our very best. The story of Cain and Abel reminds us of this. Abel brought God his very best and God received this offering as acceptable. Cain brought his leftovers and it was not acceptable to God. The same is true for us.
Eli’s sons were training to be priests. They were the next generation of priests. Priests lived off the offerings of the other tribes of Israel. They would bring in the first fruits of their harvest, the best of their crops, to God. They brought in a tithe (10%) of those crops. The priests, then, were supposed to take a tithe of this tithe and the very best of the best to burn up on the altar before God. Eli’s sons did not. They took the best for themselves. They were stealing from God.
But Samuel was ministering before the LORD--a boy wearing a linen ephod. Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. (1 Samuel 2:18-19 NIV)
Samuel, however, was the exact opposite. He was not of the bloodline of Eli, yet he was learning how to be an excellent priest. His mom would make priestly garments for her son and bring them to him each year as he learned how and practiced being a good priest. This is why the LORD had so much to say to Samuel throughout his lifetime.
Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. A third time the LORD called, "Samuel!" And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. (1 Samuel 3:7-8 NIV)
Samuel learned that the LORD was speaking to him. Eli’s sons never seemed to get the message. Yet the LORD was speaking to them as well.
Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the LORD. (1 Samuel 2:21 NIV)
How about you? Is the LORD speaking to you?