There’s a virus on the march, and it’s killing people, world economies and my travel plans.
The President, the Governor and my wife – all very important people – have told me to stay put for two weeks. It’s a voluntary quarantine, and I’m kind of OK with that.
As long as I can keep going to the gym. And the bank. And the grocery store. I’d also like to get together with our small group, find a church that’s still meeting on Sunday, and slip into Disney World now that the lines are shorter.
Now that we’ve all been forced into a no-compromise, no-kidding situation, can we spend some time focusing on some key issues?
I’d like to try something for a few days. This will be an on-line Bible study. I’d invite you to join me in a once-a-day look at some incredibly important principles lived out for us in the pages of 1-2 Samuel.
Today, we’re looking at the temptation we all have to compromise.
You know the rules. You hear what it takes to survive.
And immediately, there’s an excuse why the rules don’t apply to us.
Eli the priest is a major player in the Old Testament, in part because one of my favorite bands from the 1970’s wrote a song called, “Eli’s Coming.”
No, forget that.
Eli is important because he was Israel’s national leader for a season. His resume wasn’t pretty. The Ark of the Covenant was stolen on his watch.
His sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were wicked to the core. And they were priests! They were in charge of all things holy, but were instead living very unholy lives.
Need proof? Here’s just one issue:
Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. – 1 Samuel 2:22.
They also no regard for the offerings at the Tabernacle.
In short, they were into sex and money. Funny how things haven’t changed all that much in the past 3,000 years.
Here’s how some of the offerings worked. People would bring an animal to be sacrificed and give some of the meat to the priests of the Temple. The meat was dropped into a cauldron of boiling water and the priest would stab a fork into the cauldron and pull up his share.
Boiled meat. One stab. That was the rule.
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.” – 1 Samuel 2:12-15
At some point along the way, Hophni and Phinehas got tired of the rules. They developed a taste for grilled steak. They broke the rules, flaunted their lifestyle, and assumed their actions would never catch up with them. It happened little by little, but in time, a sea of small choices would drown them both on the same day. Compromise killed them.
Eli fell for it, too. The day his sons died in battle, a man came to tell the old priest the bad news. See if you can spot the evidence of Eli’s compromises.
The man who brought the news replied, “Israel fled before the Philistines, and the army has suffered heavy losses. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.”
When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man and heavy. – 1 Samuel 4:17-18.
He was heavy.
The smell of grilled sirloin was too much for a man who lived in a boiled-meat culture. One give-in choice at a time, Eli had made his excuses, compromised “just this once” and gotten himself heavy.
That may not be noticeable in our culture, but in Eli’s day, an overweight man was a rarity. Eli’s culture that had an incredibly healthy diet of fruits, grains, vegetables, very little meat and absolutely no doughnuts. People walked and worked outside. They were thin and fit, those ancient Israelis. Everyone who’d seen Eli and his sons knew they were breaking the rules. One glance was all it took.
So is that it? It’s just a message that compromise might put a few pounds on you?
Not by a long shot.
Because Eli did not stop his sons from all their unethical actions, a lot of people died. A lot of people had their lives uprooted. The Ark of the Covenant was stolen.
The history behind all of this lies in a terrible battle with the Philistines. Hophni and Phinehas treated the Ark of the Covenant like a good-luck charm and discovered too late that God didn’t agree with their actions.
The Philistines killed 4,000 Israelites on the first day of battle and a stunning 30,000 the next day.
That means tens of thousands of families did without husbands, fathers, brothers and friends.
It means the entire Israeli way of life, from their national pride to their national economy, was in the toilet.
The compromise of one person never simply hurts one person.
See a man sentenced to prison? Thousands of tax payers will have to pay for his incarceration.
See a pastor removed from his church for an unethical action? Hundreds of people will have to deal with the stain on that church’s reputation for years to come. Some of the churches will never recover.
See a Wall Street criminal who gets rich from unethical actions? Thousands of retirement accounts will pay for his wrongdoing.
See people ignoring the warnings about the latest virus sweeping across the land? They could infect thousands, kill hundreds and cause all of us to lose even more money than we’ve lost already.
God has put all kinds of rules around us for our own good. These rules govern everything from our physical well-being to our financial stability. There are God-given rules for sexual activity. There are God-given rules for obeying our elected leaders.
As surely as referees watch over sporting events, the Bible watches over the way we live.
Compromise whispers in our ear all the reasons the rules don’t apply to us.
So be careful with this. Be careful with the rules for living in a coronavirus environment. Be careful with all of it. Sooner or later, compromise will be unveiled for the enemy it is.
Remember how Paul put it to yet another generation of compromise-prone people?
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:7-9.
While you wait this difficult season out, get into the Bible. Grab a couple of bookmarks and just get started. Put one bookmark in the Old Testament and another in the New. If you like, start with 1 Samuel and one of the Gospels. It doesn’t really matter what you read … just get back to the Bible. You’ll find instructions for how to live waiting on every page. Don’t waste this time … invest in discovering God’s truth!
And by all means, don’t let compromise talk you out of it.