************ Sermon on 1 Samuel 2:12-26 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 6, 2000
1 Samuel 2:12-26
"Discipline in the Home"
Topic: Parental Influence
Title: Good and Evil
Max Jukes lived in New York. He did not believe in Christ or in Christian training. He refused to take his children to church, even when they asked to go. He has had 1,026 descendants: 300 were sent to prison for an average term of 13 years; 190 were public prostitutes; 680 were admitted alcoholics. His family, thus far, has cost the state millions of dollars. They have not made a single positive contribution to society.
Jonathan Edwards lived in the same state, at the same time as Jukes. He loved the Lord and saw to it that his children were in church every Sunday, as he served the Lord to the best of his ability. He has had 929 descendants: of these, 430 were ministers; 86 became university professors; 13 became university presidents; 75 authored good books; 7 were elected to the United States Congress; one became Vice-President of the country. His family never cost the state one cent but has contributed immeasurably to American society.
This is now the fifth sermon on marriage and family relationships. As my opening illustration shows, it is important, vitally important, that Christian parents exert a godly influence on their children.
In this evening's Scripture reading we meet the family of Eli. It becomes obvious that Eli did not fully live up to his calling as a godly father.
I The Sin of Eli's Sons
A Eli, as I am sure you realize, was a priest of God and a judge of Israel. He loved and served the Lord. He was a believer. His relationship with God was important to him.
We know that Eli, as a God-fearing parent, gave his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, instruction in the ways of the Lord. They received enough instruction that they were able to follow in their father's foot-steps and join him in the priesthood.
You could say that Hophni and Phinehas had all the benefits of a God-fearing home. They had parents who loved and served the Lord. They received instruction in God's ways. As little children already they heard the great stories of the faith and the commandments of God were drilled into their heads.
B In spite of all this, Scripture tells us that "Eli's sons were wicked men" (vs 12). They profaned the sacrifices and offerings the people made by taking for themselves what belonged to the Lord (vs 13f; vs 29). They flaunted God's commands by openly committing adultery with the women who served as helpers in the Tabernacle (vs 22).
II Eli's Lack of Discipline
A What went wrong? Here is a father, Eli, who loved and served the Lord. What went wrong? Here is a father who taught and trained his children in the ways of God. So what happened?
There is a lesson here for us. You can love the Lord, you can give your children all the benefits of a Christian home – Bible stories, Sunday School lessons, church attendance, Christian education – but that in itself doesn't automatically make you a good father or a good mother or guarantee that your children will turn out.
B What went wrong in Eli's home? Was there a lack of love? Was Eli a cold, unfeeling man who gave his sons no affection? That's not what Scripture says. We are told that Eli loved his sons. In verse 29 Scripture tells us that he "honored" his sons. We would say that he loved his sons deeply. And we all know, I am sure, that love is so important in family relationships. But there was something missing in Eli's love; or, to put it another way, Eli failed to show the right kind of love to his children.
In their great love for their children, Christian parents must provide 3 things: loving support, loving instruction, and loving discipline. In past generations, parents were very strong in giving their kids instruction and discipline but sometimes loving support was lacking. Parents back then didn't worry about their child's self-esteem. Kids back then were not to be praised or built-up lest they get too high an opinion of themselves. Don't forget, children were to be seen but not heard; what they thought and said didn't count for anything. Today we have by and large shifted to the other end of the spectrum. Kids today get lots of loving support, lots of affirmation about how special they are, and parents work at building their feelings of self-worth; but in many homes, instruction and discipline are sadly lacking.
Our love for our children is to be like God's love for us. We can say that God's love for us is supportive. Over and over again He tells us how special we are as creatures made in His image and renewed by the power of Christ. Over and over again He builds up our self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. But at the same time He also instructs us in His ways and disciplines us as His children.
Eli loved his children. He was supportive of his sons and built up their self-esteem. He gave them instruction in God's ways. But he did not discipline them. For this reason we have to say there was something missing in his love. Scripture tells us "he failed to restrain them" (3:12).
C Eli failed to restrain his children. What does this mean? This means he did not discipline his sons for their behavior. When they were younger, he didn't spank them. When they were older, he didn't step in and say "No." Yes, he gave them a speech; but in reality he was doing nothing but blowing air. He should have forgotten the speech and commanded his sons to stop doing what they were doing.
Our text from Proverbs has strong words to say to us about parental discipline:
(Prov 23:13-14) Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. (14) Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.Do you hear that? Parents who don't discipline their children are in danger of sending them to hell! You see, undisciplined children naturally follow the folly of their sinful nature and take the path that heads straight to everlasting death (cf Prov 22:15). Undisciplined children get out of control: in the home, in the school, in the church, and on the playground; they get out of control and that sends them down the road which eventually parts them from Christ. Parents who don't discipline their children are not showing the proper kind of love to their children. Listen to what we read elsewhere in Proverbs:
(Prov 13:24) He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him. We are not talking about a severe discipline, a discipline that beats children and leaves them with bruises and feelings of resentment (cf Eph 6:4). The discipline Proverbs speaks of is firm, tender, constructive, and loving all at the same time.
D Eli did not restrain his sons. It's not that he didn't know. He was warned about the behavior of his sons. The people came and talked to him. He said to his sons, "I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours" (vs 23). The people told him about the shameful behavior of his children. But Eli ignored what they said. In verse 27f we hear a warning given by a prophet of the Lord. But Eli ignored the warning given by the prophet. Finally, in chapter 3 we see that the Lord Himself talked to Eli. But Eli ignored this warning too. Eli did not "restrain his sons." I am sure that Eli, as a God-fearing parent, was cut to the heart about the actions of his sons. I am more than positive he was not happy about it at all. However, he did nothing about it except give a windy speech. He did not restrain his sons by discipline. He ignored the warnings.
E Eli did not restrain his sons. He never disciplined them or said "No" to them; he did not listen to the warnings of others; and finally, he even condoned the wickedness of his sons. He went along with them in their wickedness. It is so sad to read the complaint of God in verse 29:
(1 Sam 2:29) Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?' Did you catch that? Eli joined his sons in eating the parts of the sacrifice that belonged to the Lord.
This is a warning here to all of us. When we don't discipline our children for the wrong they do, the end result is that we often join them in their wickedness.
III Lessons for Us Today
A What are we to do? What is God's leading for parents today? What is God's will for child-rearing?
God's leading is that Christian parents are to give their kids loving support and loving instruction. But you also have to give them loving discipline. Today, many Christian parents, in spite of what Proverbs says, do not believe in spanking their children. Instead, they try to reason with them. That's ludicrous, of course, because a little child is incapable of thinking and reasoning like an adult. Christian parents can't beat their children; we do not believe in any form of abuse; but the Bible does speak clearly about spanking our little ones. Many Christian parents, in spite of what Proverbs says, do not discipline their older children either. Instead, they try the buddy system of parenting. Mom and dad try to be their child's best friend or buddy. Instead of being called mom and dad, parents are called by their first name. It is nice, in fact it is wonderful, to have a close relationship with your son or daughter. But, moms and dads, God doesn't call you to be your child's buddy. He doesn't say that's the kind of relationship parents are to have with their children. Rather, God says parents are to give their children loving discipline. And, it is simply impossible to give this loving discipline if you are a buddy, if you join your son or daughter in all their activities and pretend that they are not under your control.
B Discipline is not easy. It is never simple or easy to follow the Lord's leading in our marriage and home. It requires an investment of energy and time – especially time. But many parents are so busy with work and recreation today that they hardly have time for their children.
Topic: Parental Influence
The amount of total contact parents have with their children has dropped 40% during the last quarter century. In 1965, the average parent had roughly 30 hours of contact with his or her children each week. Today, the average parent has just 17 hours of child contact per week.
But contact still does not mean parenting because much of the contact does not come under what we call "quality time." Of those 17 hours of contact per week, only 3½ minutes worth is spent in "meaningful conversation."
-- Dr. John Robinson, Homemade, February, 1991
Many parents seem unwilling to spend time, let alone quality time, with their children. But time is so important to and for our children. Taking the time to properly raise and discipline our children is the most important thing we can do. There are many young mothers who take only 6 weeks of maternity leave and off they go to work and their children get sent to day-care. But when God tells us to raise and discipline our children, He doesn't mean 6 weeks worth. In 6 weeks we can't give our children the discipline that will carry them through a life time. They need at least 6 years of full-time care from mom or dad.
Again I say, it isn't easy to follow the Lord's leading in marriage and the home. More than one mom has told me that she just hates being trapped at home with the kids, day in and day out, 24 hours of the day. They feel like a prisoner in their own home. And yet let me tell you: nothing that you can do, no money that you can earn, is as important as being home with your children the first 6 years of their life.
C When it comes to the discipline of our children, we have to be willing to do something Eli did not do: we have to be willing and able to listen to the warnings of others.
I remember the time I went to talk to a father about the drinking and driving problem of his son--the young people there called it gravel running. The father denied that there was any problem. I spotted his son's car keys and challenged the father to open the trunk of his son's car. Inside was a couple of whiskey bottles, a 24-pack of beer, and a bunch of empties. "These must belong to one of his friends," said the father. He refused to listen to my warnings.
There are hundreds of grandparents who are just biting their tongues over the way their grandchildren are being raised. They want to say something, they need to say something, but they don't for fear of offending their children. Many couples would be wise to ask for and to listen to the warnings of the grandparents. I dare say that most grandparents would identify a lack of consistent discipline as the number one problem.
Many teachers bite their tongues too. In their classrooms are kids who are out of control. The teachers know these kids don't get discipline at home. They see the kids drifting into trouble. But the parents don't want to listen and some even dare to blame the school or the teacher when the inevitable trouble comes.
D Also, parents need to be examples to their children. Children learn to submit to discipline when they see their parents submitting to the Lord's discipline. As more than one person has put it, "It's impossible for children to grow up if their parents' haven't." In those homes where dad and mom follow God's ways and submit to His will, the children have an example to imitate and to follow.
E Finally, Christian parents need to be willing to be out of step with the world. You see, congregation, it is the world – the godless, immoral, opposed to God world – that says spanking is wrong, that says we should not discipline our children so we don't damage their self-esteem. Children's services of every state and county are filled with godless people who view with horror what God's Word says about child-rearing. But let there be no mistake about it, God's Word says Christian parents are to provide their children with loving discipline.
Parents have a choice: they can choose to discipline their children or they can withhold that discipline. But Christian parents know which way they have to go:
(Prov 23:13-14) Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. (14) Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.Christian parents know they must give their children loving support and loving instruction. But they also know they must give their kids loving discipline, and if they do the Lord will bless their home life. But the opposite is also true. In those homes where children are not disciplined, parents can expect the grief and sorrow of Eli.
Topic: Parental Duties
Subtopic: Discipline of Children
Title: How to Raise a Juvenile Delinquent
The sheriff's office in a Texas city one distributed a list of rules entitled "How to Raise a Juvenile Delinquent in Your Own Home":
1. Begin with infancy to give your child everything he wants. This will ensure his believing that the world owes him a living.
2. Never spank or discipline your child. Instead, try to reason with him and become his friend. This way he will always be out of control.
3. Pick up everything he leaves laying around. This will teach him he can always throw off responsibility on others.
4. Take his part against neighbors, teachers, and policemen. They are all prejudiced against your child. He is a "free spirit" and never wrong.
5. Finally, prepare yourself for a life of grief. You're going to have it.
Moms and dads, let me ask you: do you, will you, follow the Lord's leading in raising your children? Do you, will you, dare to give your child the loving discipline he or she needs and deserves?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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