One of the biggest memes currently floating around is basically “forget 2020”. The gist of it is that it was such an upsetting year (politically, culturally, environmentally, health-wise, etc.) that we should just put it behind us. Is that, though, what we should do?
Eli was not the head priest that he was called to be. Earlier in 1 Samuel 2, we read that his sons took their place as priests as a license to do as they wished. Their practices regarding the sacrifices and toward the women serving in the temple are noted. We can safely assume that if they were willing to do that, the undocumented part of the lives wasn’t any better.
Eli’s admonishment of his sons was weak at best. He did not utilize his authority nor exercise his responsibility to “de-frock” (as we would call it today). Eli wasn’t evaluated based upon his sons’ behavior, but based upon how he practiced his role as head priest. There is a strong inference to make that it was the combination of Eli’s lack of effective action and his sons’ ongoing behavior that the family would be doomed going forward, as they were mentioned together (in 1 Samuel 2) in the resulting consequence.
To be clear, the character of God, and the Scriptures bear out, that God would have restored Eli’s family had they repented (concluded with action, not just words). Instead, as Eli’s response to Samuel shows, they (as a family) took a fatalistic view. “The Lord wills it.”
The relationship between Eli and God (and probably Eli’s sons and God) seems less of a friend and more of a taskmaster. What is even more telling is something we read in 1 Samuel 1; Eli is more than will to correct the perceived behaviors of others (Samuel’s mother). Eli’s sons, as priests, are left alone without consequences.
Ananias also received bad news from God. He was to go to the man who lead the uprooting, exiling, and even killing of other followers of The Way (the name of the sect prior to being called Christian). Ananias viewed it as a death sentence.
Ananias’ response was quite different to Eli’s. Ananias was scared. While we could interpret it as a “fatalistic” (i.e., if I die, it’s God’s will), that does not really appear to be Ananias’ heart. Ananias was obedient and trusting that God had a plan. Ananias trusted that he would survive the “enemy” encounter, for God did not send him to die (he believed). That’s not fatalism.
Ananias chose to face reality. Ananias chose to walk ahead in faith, trust, and love. He made this decision while knowing the past.
Looking back at 2020 and looking toward 2021, we can either be Eli or Ananias.
The “Joy of the Lord” is part of the mature Christian walk. How could those be expressed through Eli and Ananias?
Why is “facing reality” as much a part of looking back and looking forward, as faith, hope, and love are?
Facing reality often includes facing change. What changes are you facing in 2021, and how will you live them out faithfully before God?
God, as we look to the future, while not forgetting the past, help us to be faithful and trusting people. Deepen our understanding of what it means to live out your will in our lives. Amen.