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THE REPROBATION OF THE SONS OF ELI,
AND THE SALVATION OF SAMUEL

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, January 29, 2012

“Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord”
(I Samuel 2:12).

“Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him. And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child. Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth” (I Samuel 3:7-10).


I almost titled this sermon, “The Outsider and the Church Kids.” Young Samuel was the outsider coming into the Tabernacle. The “church kids,” who had been there a long time, were Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli the priest. You may think I am too hard on church kids. But remember, George Barna’s research shows that 88% of all young people raised in church leave before the age of twenty-five, “never to return.” Since only 1 out of 10 church kids remain after they become independent, I think it is perfectly correct to compare them to Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli who “knew not the Lord.” And it is perfectly correct to compare Samuel to a young person who comes into the church from the world, gets saved, and serves the Lord faithfully for the rest of his life. So this sermon will contrast the saved outsider with the unconverted “church kids.” If you are a new person, coming into the church from the world, you will want to listen carefully to this sermon. If you are an unsaved “church kid” – who has been in the church for a long time – this sermon ought to be a warning to you – although I think that most of you probably won’t hear it, because it seems that you have already been given up by God.

That was what happened to Phinehas and Hophni, the sons of Eli. Their father had made them priests in the Tabernacle. But they were unconverted men. The Bible says, “The sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord” (I Samuel 2:12). Dr. McGee said, “Eli’s boys were ‘sons of Belial,’ meaning sons of the devil. They were not saved. Here they were, sons of the high priest, hanging around the tabernacle and actually ministering there!” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, volume II, p. 127; note on I Samuel 2:12).

Never forget that young people raised in the church still need to be converted. Eli’s sons had no personal experience or fellowship with God. They never thought seriously about God. The Bible says, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts” (Psalm 10:4) – in all his thoughts there is no room for God! That’s the way Hophni and Phinehas were. “They knew not the Lord” – and they were not even interested in knowing the Lord! There was no room for God in their thoughts. They were in the Tabernacle. Their father knew the Lord. But his two sons were lost men, unsaved men, “sons of Belial [who] knew not the Lord.” They were carnal men who thought only about taking what they could get, and they were sexually impure as well (I Samuel 2:22). In all their thoughts there was no room for God. When their father Eli tried to correct them, “they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them” (I Samuel 2:25). God had given them plenty of time to repent, but now God gave up on them,

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind...” (Romans 1:28).

You can only go on so long rejecting the Holy Spirit. God said, “My spirit shall not always strive with man” (Genesis 6:3). There will come a time when God will give up on you. Then you will not listen to the preaching and repent. “They hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.”

I am speaking now about “church kids,” young people who have grown up in the church without being converted. What I say also applies to young people who come into the church, but quickly become just like these church kids. I saw a photograph of young people like this not long ago. Some of them were raised in the church. Others came in from outside, but became like the church kids. Beware of who you copy! It isn’t enough to come to church and carry a Scofield Bible. You have to stay away from young people in the church who do not know the Lord! You have to “come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (II Corinthians 6:17). Samuel was there in the Tabernacle with Hophni and Phinehas, but he had no fellowship with them. Even though they were there in the Tabernacle together, there is no record of Samuel even talking with them! If he did, it must have only been a few brief words at most. Stay away from worldly church kids! “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.”

Now a word to unconverted church kids. Do you have any room for God in your thoughts? Do you think about God when you are alone? Remember, it is only when you are alone that it counts. Yes, you may talk about God when you are in church. But do you think seriously about God when you are alone? Do you ever feel guilty when you are alone – knowing that God has seen your sins? Or are you like Hophni and Phinehas, never thinking seriously about God?

Tonight I will preach on the conversion of Adoniram Judson (1788-1850), the first missionary to Burma (Click here to read this sermon). His father was a minister. He was raised in the church. But God was unreal to him. All he ever thought about was his father’s God. He had no awareness of God himself, until he was alone one night, far from home. He was like Jacob. Alone one night, out in the desert, God suddenly became real to him. And Jacob said, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid” (Genesis 28:16-17).

When I was 15 years old I ran from my grandmother’s open grave, far away up a hill. I fell on the ground, panting and sweating, and sobbing. And God came down, and I was deeply conscious of His awful presence. I could have said with Jacob, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And [I] was afraid.” I was not converted then. But I was conscious of the God of Jacob. Do you ever think about the great and terrible God of Jacob when you are alone? Do you ever feel guilty when you are alone – knowing that Jacob’s fearful God has seen your sins? If you have never felt anything like that about God, how can you be converted? The Bible says, “He that cometh to God must believe that he is” – that He really exists! (Hebrews 11:6). And I am not talking about a sweet little “Sunday School” God. Oh, no! “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). Like Moses, you must become aware of “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God” (Exodus 3:6). Only as you sense the reality of God when you are alone, and are afraid to look upon Him, will you become truly awakened and convinced of your sin. Luther said,

If you would be converted, it is necessary that you become terrified, that is, that you have an alarmed conscience (What Luther Says, Concordia Publishing House, 1994 edition, p. 343; note on Psalm 51:13).

That is what happened to young Adoniram Judson when he was alone in the darkness. Midnight thoughts of death, and his rotting corpse, and eternity, filled his mind with horror. Do not put such thoughts out of your mind. Cultivate such thoughts. Dwell on them. Let these thoughts frighten you, and shake you, alarm and terrify you. Without ever having any thoughts like that you will never find peace with God through the Blood-sacrifice of Christ!

But Hophni and Phinehas never felt such conviction. They “were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord.” “Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.”

How different it was with young Samuel! He was not a “church kid.” His mother left him with Eli at the Tabernacle. He was a sensitive child, far from home. It was late at night when God called to him.

“And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see; And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep; That the Lord called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I”
       (I Samuel 3:2-4).

There in the growing darkness of the Tabernacle, as the lamp of God flickered and began to go out, and Samuel was on his bed, God called to him. The pre-incarnate Christ “came, and stood, and called” (I Samuel 3:10). And Samuel was converted, and at last knew the Lord himself, “for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel” (I Samuel 3:21). Listen to the words Mr. Griffith sang before this sermon.

Speak, Lord, in the stillness,
   While I wait on Thee;
Make my heart to listen,
   In expectancy.

Speak, O blessed Master,
   In this quiet hour;
Let me see Thy face, Lord,
   Feel Thy touch of power.

Speak, Thy servant heareth,
   Be not silent, Lord;
I am waiting on Thee
   For the quickening Word.
(“Speak, Lord, in the Stillness” by E. May Grimes, 1868-1927;
     altered by the Pastor).

Oh, young people, God is real! Christ is real! Oh, how we pray that you will not remain a son or daughter of Belial! How we pray that you will experience “night terrors,” as did Jacob and Adoniram Judson – as we shall see in this evening’s sermon. How we pray that you will be made to think deeply about your death, about eternity, about the fearful God of Jacob and Moses! How we pray that you will feel some of the existential “night terrors” that they felt, that you will be convicted of your sin in the face of God’s judgment! How we pray that such awful thoughts will move you to seek for Jesus, who alone can cleanse your sins by His precious Blood! How we pray that you will be enabled to say,

Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,
   Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,
   Jesus, I come to Thee...

Out of my shameful failure and loss,
   Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the glorious gain of Thy Cross,
   Jesus, I come to Thee...

Out of the fear and dread of the tomb,
   Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the joy and light of Thy home,
   Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of the depths of ruin untold,
   Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,
Ever Thy glorious face to behold,
   Jesus, I come to Thee.
(“Jesus, I Come” by William T. Sleeper, 1819-1904).

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: I Samuel 3:1-10.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Speak, Lord, in the Stillness” (by E. May Grimes, 1868-1927;
altered by the Pastor).