Eli: Trouble in the Home
October 12th, 1980 @ 7:30 PM
ELI: TROUBLE IN THE HOME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 2:12-17
10-12-80 7:30 p.m.
It is a joy for us who are in this sanctuary of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, to welcome the uncounted thousands of you who are listening to this hour on KRLD, the great radio station of the Southwest, and on KCBI, the Sonshine Station of our Center of Biblical Studies. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, bringing the message entitled Eli: Trouble in the Home.
In the morning hour, we are for now a full three years, delivering a series of messages on the “Great Doctrines of the Bible.” And it is divided into fifteen sections. We are in the first section entitled: Bibliology. And the sermon next Sunday morning will be entitled, The Self-Revelation of God.
The evening hour is given to messages on the problems of human life. And next Sunday night at seven o’clock the title of the message is David: Sexual Drives. And the message tonight, as announced, Eli: Trouble in the Home. Will you turn in your Bible with me to 1 Samuel, and we shall read together a passage out of the second chapter.
The story of the background of the message tonight is woven in the first four chapters of 1 Samuel. We are introduced to the sons of Eli in chapter 1 verse 3, “And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord with Eli, were there in Shiloh where the tabernacle was cast” [1 Samuel 1:3].
Now chapter 2. We are going to read from verses 12 through 17, 1 Samuel 2:12-17. Now all of us out loud together:
Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord.
And the priests’ custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand;
And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither.
Also before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw.
And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force.
Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord: for men abhorred the offering of the Lord.
[1 Samuel 2:12-17]
Now I will scan the rest of the chapters of these young men. In verse 22 it says, “Eli was very old,” he was over ninety years of age, “and he heard all that his sons did unto Israel; and how . . .” [1 Samuel 2:22], and this is the unspeakable thing that those young men did. As you are aware, the Lord used the hand, the sword of Israel, to punish, to bring judgment upon the Canaanites. And that was because they were sodden in iniquitous worship. They worshipped God with prostitution and with intercourse with animals. It was unspeakable. Now, in the twenty-second verse, “these young men lay with the women that,” it is translated here, “assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation” [1 Samuel 2:22]. The actual Hebrew word is “did service.”
Apparently what happened was those young priests, Hophni and Phinehas, themselves, led Israel into the worship of Jehovah by prostitution; an unthinkable and unspeakable thing. So Eli said to them:
Why do you such things? I hear of your evil dealings.
Nay, my sons; it is no good report that I hear: you make the people of the Lord to transgress.
And if the man sins against another man, why, a man could judge him: but if a man sins against God, who can entreat for him? But they did not hearken unto the voice of their father.
[1 Samuel 2:23-25]
Now the continuation of the story: two times, one through a prophet [1 Samuel 2:27-36], and one through the little boy Samuel, the Lord sends word to Eli [1 Samuel 3:11-18], concerning those two sons and what they were doing, leading Israel into that awesome compromise iniquity. Then God finally says, “In one day I will perform against you the things that I have spoken. You will die and thy sons will die on that same day because your sons made themselves vile, and you restrained them not” [1 Samuel 3:12-13].
And then the rest of the story is the destruction of the house of Eli, God refused him, and Zadok, another descendant of Aaron became high priest before the Lord [1 Samuel 2:27-35; 1 Chronicles 6:4-8] and the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain in a day, in one day [1 Samuel 4:11]. This is the background of the message tonight; Trouble in the Home.
As I prepared for the sermon over a long period of time, I was overwhelmed with the vast amount of literature on the problems that people have in their homes. And the message tonight necessarily has to confine itself to just one small element of those troubles and maybe in days to come, in future months, I can preach a series that might encompass some of the things else that afflict us in our domestic life.
But tonight, following this word of Eli in the Bible, we will take just one section, just one piece of trouble in the home, and that concerns the rearing of children. God held Eli responsible for those two sons. And God judged Eli because he did not restrain them. That’s a biblical word here, but God also judged Hophni and Phinehas. Eli was judged by the Lord God: his family was forever taken out of the priesthood and it was given into the hands of Zadok and his descendants [1 Samuel 2:30-36; 1 Chronicles 6:4-8]. But God also judged Hophni and Phinehas: they lost their lives [1 Samuel 4:11].
It is no such thing before God that in our trouble we always point to somebody else. The juvenile will point to the policeman, “He, he did it.” And the judge will point to the parents, “They’re responsible.” And the parents will point to the neighborhood, “It was the gang that did it.” And everybody has a tendency to point to somebody else. Actually, God holds each one of us responsible. He did Eli. He did Hophni and Phinehas. He visited judgment upon them.
So we look at this biblical outline of the rearing of children, the responsibility in the home. My first observation about—and remember all of this is against the background of Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas—my first observation is this, namely, that children are largely molded and shaped when they are very young, not when they’re older. When they’re young, intellectually they are. I read this week in my studying, that eighty percent of the working vocabulary that every man uses, he learns before he is six years of age, eighty percent of it.
Our children are inquisitive. Their minds are open and malleable, and that’s the time they are to be taught, when they’re very young. A little girl said to her daddy, “Daddy, why don’t the stars fall down?” Well, that’s a good question, I never had thought about that. “Why don’t the stars fall down?” Well, the daddy took advantage of it to say, “Well, sweetheart, God holds the stars in their places. God keeps them safely, and God also guards and keeps us.”
Teaching that child, it’s exactly like a sculptor, with a big huge piece of marble, and it’s tap, tap here and tap, tap there and a little over there, until finally, the beautiful figure emerges formed under the hand of the sculptor, the artist. A child is like that. Its mind is open and inquisitive and malleable, and what we do in those early years shapes the child intellectually.
The same thing is true regarding the responses of the child toward life. One of the things that I studied in reading these books of psychology, the fears of life that so guide us and so overwhelm us in all of our afterlife; we’re born; the psychologists say, with only two, there are only two congenital fears. Number one: there is an innate fear of falling. The child is born with it. Number two: there is also a congenital response to a loud noise and nothing other but those two. Every other fear we experience in life is learned. We develop it by the process of experiences in growing up. That’s an astonishing thing to me!
A third thing about the youth in his learning, those formative years: the control of his emotions is almost wholly the product of how he is controlled when he is very young. All of those emotions that we experience, I’ll just take one; anger. The child immediately will express anger, get red in the face, holler and cry to high heaven and then all of its life, it enters life like that. And that has to be directed and shaped, and it is done so when the child is very, very young.
For example, every psychologist that I have read has said it is a terrible mistake to give the child what he wants when he’s in a tantrum. He learns that in tantrums, in violence, he gets what he wants. Don’t do that, the psychologist will say, but give the child what he wants when he is beautiful in his asking or in his disposition. Then he learns that to be nice, to be gracious, to be cooperative is the way to get things in life.
Then of course, it is in youth that we, it is in the formative days, it is in childhood that we form those tremendous responses to God. That beautiful song that pretty girl sang a moment go, that Wilkins child, “Jesus loves me, this I know,” that is a reflection of childhood. I can’t remember when I didn’t know that song, far back as memory can go.
The Roman Catholic church says, and they say it with good credence, let me have a child six years, until he’s six years old, and then you can have him the rest of his life, but you’ll never change him and you’ll never get the Roman Catholic doctrine out of him. That is a true thing. Those impressions we have in childhood are everlasting. They mold us and they make us.
Now we come to the tremendous judgment of God on Eli, because of his refusal to discipline his two boys [1 Samuel 3:12-13]. In the Book of Proverbs there is so much that is said about the discipline of the child.
- In Proverbs 3:12: “For whom the Lord loveth He correcteth: even as the father the son in whom he delighteth.”
- Proverbs 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” We have a saying out of that, “Spare the rod, and spoil the child.” Or another saying, “A pat on the back is a wonderful thing for a boy, if it’s low enough.” “He that spareth the rod hateth his child.”
- Here again, in Proverb’s 19:18: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”
- And here again in Proverbs 22:6—this one you know—”Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
- And again Proverbs 29:17: “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest: yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.”
Discipline, the discipline of the child is all important if the child is to have a worthy place in life.
Now that’s what we’re going to discuss mainly tonight , the discipline in the home. Number one: there has to be a figure or figures of authority in the home. There has to be. God made it that way, and that authoritarian figure is father and mother. The Bible says we are to honor the king [1 Peter 2:17]. We are to be patriotic. The same Word of God more emphatically says, we are to honor our father and our mother [Exodus 20:12]. We are to honor our parents. There is an authoritarian figure in the home and that is father and mother, and they have the right of discipline in the home.
Now that isn’t easy. It is not easy to contradict and interdict these whom you love the most. They respond sometimes in anger, sometimes in hatred, sometimes in bitterness and in misunderstanding. In a thousand ways are children responsive to discipline in the home, but the parents have that obligation, and if you will do it, the child someday will thank you for it.
Now let’s look at that discipline in the home, the number one all important thing about discipline in the home is that little word “no.” N-O, no. To say “no” and to stay by it. Nor can the father say “no” and the mother “yes,” and the mother “yes” and the father say “no,” they have to do it together. If they don’t, the child early in life will learn to play one against the other. Why is it so important that the child be disciplined with a “no”?
There are two reasons for it and the number one is this, the child, if he has any hope for security, inward security in his later life, must learn that there are limits to life, limits beyond which you cannot go. If he does not learn there are limits to life, when he gets out of the home and is an adult, he is lost and forever insecure. He must learn early in life that there are things beyond which you cannot do and cannot go.
It’s like a mother sobbing about her daughter who was in such terrible, terrible, terrible iniquity and sin and wrong and trouble. She cried saying, “We gave her everything. Everything she wanted, we gave her. Wherever she wanted to go, we allowed it. The child, we don’t understand. It must be the school’s fault or somebody else’s fault.” That was a self-disclosure in itself.
When the child was given everything that the child wanted, allowed to go anywhere the child wanted, the child never learned that there were limits in life beyond which, if you go, it brings disaster and sorrow and indescribable suffering. There’s an insecurity in the child that will never find surcease unless the youngster learns from parents that there are limits beyond which you cannot go.
All right, a second thing: the vital importance of the discipline of the child in that everlasting “No,” and that is impulse control. All of us are born with a seething spirit to get ”Mine!”—to keep, to trample other people’s rights. Just watch a child in itself: unbridled, undisciplined, and there’s hardly any limit to its greed and its wanting. It will look upon the world as its own kingdom and the parents as castle servants. And if a child is not taught and controlled in those areas of impulse, the child is a moral cripple the rest of his life. He never learns that you cannot seize and possess and get and express, and there’s no limit to the outreach of a volatile spirit. The child has to be taught, has to be trained that the impulses we have in life must be controlled.
Now I have three “don’ts” and three “dos” about that “No” in the disciplining of a child in the home. First, the three “nos” about that discipline; first, the three “don’ts” about that discipline of “no” in the home. Now, the first “don’t” about that “no.” When you say no, the first don’t is: don’t have a multitude of rigid standards. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Have a few, have some, and then stick with them until death. There are some things that you can’t do. Now don’t have a multitude of those things. But there are some things you cannot do and explain that to the youngster, and he knows it, and he understands it, and you stay by it. There are some things you cannot do. Now that’s the first thing.
All right, the second “don’t.” Don’t everlastingly say no. When you do, if you say “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,” finally you know “No, no, no” doesn’t mean anything at all. It’s just all “No, no, no, no, no.” Don’t do that. Don’t do that. If you say “No, no, no” to everything, why, when the big time comes you’ve lost your no, no, no, no. Use your big guns for a big “No!”
I remember a deacon’s meeting we had and the deacons were talking about a situation here in the church. And several of the deacons said, “Well, the pastor has the coercive authority to attend to that. Well, the pastor ought to do that.” And I remember big Charlie Roberts who is in heaven, he got up and he said, “You know, coercive authority is like money, the less you use it the more of it you’ve got.” And that is the Lord’s truth! When it comes to “No, no, no,” don’t use it on little old inconsequential things. Make it a big thing if you’re going to use it. All right, that’s the second “don’t.”
The third “don’t” about the that “no” is this: don’t criticize all the time. Don’t. Don’t criticize. Criticism ultimately does nothing other than to create a bad feeling. Just criticize, criticize, find fault. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. I remember reading of a fellow who came up to the pastor and he said, “You know, I am a one-talent man. One talent I have. My talent is to find fault. My talent is to criticize. My talent is to show the other fellow how he’s wrong. My talent is to criticize. I’ve got one talent.”
And the pastor said to that critter, he said, “You know what, if I were you I would do the same thing with my one talent as that guy did in the Bible, I’d bury it [Matthew 25:24-25]. I’d bury it.” Don’t criticize in the home, just criticize, criticize. Don’t do it. That’s my third “don’t.”
All right, now my three “do’s.” My first “do” is this: when you are disciplining that child, talk to him, talk to him. Get him to tell you his feelings. I have learned in long, long years of watching children and young people, the tears of a child are just as real and as poignant as the tears of an adult. And the heartache and the heartbreak of a teenager is just as poignant as the heartbreak of an adult. Talk to the child and listen to the child. Take time to listen to him, get him to tell you his feelings.
I had the craziest thing; you know, I was preparing this sermon, and because I’m preaching at night, when I get through with the morning sermon, I go home, and immediately I go to my study and prepare for the night sermon. So after the sermon this morning I went home, and while Mrs. C was preparing dinner, why, I was in the study getting ready for tonight. So while I was in the study getting ready for my sermon tonight, why, in walks Paul Daniel our grandson.
And he came over there by my chair at my study desk, and he begins with the rigmarole about the First Baptist Academy from here to kingdom come, and on and on and on, on and on and on. Well, I just kept on studying. I just kept on studying. Man, I got to preach tonight. I got kept on studying.
Finally, he put his hand on my shoulder and he shook me and he said, “Grandaddy, listen to me. Listen to me.” Well, there wasn’t anything for me to do but to put my sermon down and listen to what Paul Daniel had to say about his teacher and about the class there.
Well, it was a rebuke to me. I should have done that without his grabbing me and shaking me. I should have said, “Son, man, that’s great what you’re doing. That’s just marvelous.” Listen to them. Listen to them. The things that concern them may be so trivial to us, but they are big to them. And if you’ll talk to them and let them talk to you, finally, when the big thing comes they’ll confide in you. It will be a matter of life and death, some of those decisions they make one of these days. Isn’t that the strangest thing how God made life? Practically all of the tremendous decisions we make in life, we make when we are young. Encourage that boy or that girl to confide in you, tell you how they feel. Listen to them. Let them talk to you.
All right, number two: reward more than punish. Punish seldom, never, if you can get out of it, but reward often. Commend them and reward them. Here again, at noon today, Paul Daniel our little grandson presented a report card from the academy, he had six “A’s” on it. Well, his grandmother had said to him, “Son for every “A” I’ll give you a dollar. I’ll give you a dollar.” So she got $6 and gave it to the boy. That was for making six “A’s” in the academy.
Then she turns to me and says, “And grandaddy is going to give you $6, too.” Well, that was news to me. I said, “I give him $6?”
“Yeah,” she says, “and you, you are going to give him $6 also.” Now, doesn’t that beat anything you ever heard of in your life?
Well, I was remembering my sermon here. So I dutifully went and got $6 and gave it to the little boy for making six “A’s.” And then I turned that over in my mind since noon today, and that’s just what God wants us to do. Instead of beating the child and punishing the child and everlastingly interdicting the child, turn the thing around and say “Man, that’s great. We’re so proud of you,” and in keeping with the age of the child, reward the youngster. It will be an amazing thing, an amazing thing, how he’ll respond.
All right, the third “do.” If you love that youngster, there’s no discipline in the world that is harsh or cruel, but if you don’t love the youngster, no matter what the discipline, it is looked upon as being harsh and cruel. If you love the child, it is the easiest thing in the world to guide the youngster into a beautiful and marvelous response, if he knows you love him, if you’re with him, if you’re his friend.
I came across something in my study, it was entitled, “The Inaccessible Boy.” “The Inaccessible Boy.” In one of our big cities was a tough little boy, a tough one. And this man who had sought after the lad and sought to reach him for God, why, why, he was seated by his side, this tough inaccessible boy as they called him. And so he’s trying to get the young fellow to go to Sunday school.
So the big man says to the little ruffian, he says to him, he says, “You know, we have candy and cookies. Won’t you come to Sunday school?” And the boy said, “No.” And the father said, “Well, son, you know, we have games and recreation and all kinds of things, won’t you come to Sunday school?” And the boy said, “No.” And the father said, “Well, son, you know, we have books and shows and pictures and all kinds of things, won’t you come to Sunday school?” And the boy said, “No.” And the dad said, “Well, son, we have choir and we have music and we just have the best time if the world, won’t you come to Sunday school?” And the boy said, “No.” And the man discouraged got up to walk away and as he turned to walk away, the boy said to him, “Wait, mister.” He said, “Say, mister, are you going to be there?” And the man said, “Yes, sir. I’m going to be there.” And the boy replied, “Then I’ll be there, too.”
You can lead the boy to Sunday school or to the saloon; either way if you love him he’ll follow you. It’s that plain. It’s that simple. When the boy feels or the girl that you love him or love her, you just have an entree into the heart of the child that is wide as the world is wide. I must close, our time’s already gone.
There’s one last thing, one last thing, and that is this, the example that we have, that we set, that we live before the child, is all, all important. They learn by looking at you, by looking at us. In the airport at New York City sometime ago, the plane was delayed. We were going across the ocean to Europe and the plane was delayed. And while I was there on the same plane the governor of Maryland was placing his daughter to go for the summer in Europe.
So he was a fine, good looking, handsome, brilliant man, this governor of the state of Maryland, and so I visited with him a long time. I enjoyed talking to him. Well, when he found out that I was a minister, why, he just opened his heart to me and began to talk about many, many things. And one of the things that he told me was this: he’s a Methodist, and the last Sunday, last Sunday talking to me, the Sunday before, why, they had had communion in the Methodist church.
And in keeping with the way the Methodists do, why, they come and kneel and receive the bread and the communion cup from the hands of the officiating minister. So he said, Sunday, why, he went down and knelt, and his boy knelt by his side. And he said he noticed that when his boy knelt by his side, the boy took off all of his jewelry, his rings and his watch and a tie pin, everything. He took off all of his jewelry, and he put it in his pocket and so knelt there to receive the elements of the Holy Supper.
And then the governor said to me, “Did you know that all of my life, my mother did that. Whenever she went forward in the Methodist church to receive the elements of the Lord’s Supper, she always took off all of her jewelry and just knelt there before the Lord.” Now the governor said to me, “I never said anything to my boy about it.” He said, “It never occurred to me about my mother doing that,” but he said, “when I saw my boy do it, it made a profound impression upon me, because he had seen my mother do that all the days of his life.” That is childhood and that is young manhood. Unconsciously, they are the best imitators you ever knew in your life. They are just like you.
Now I cannot close without the incorrigible child, the difficult child. What do you do? In humility of mind, we ought to give them back to God. Psalm 127:3 says: “Children are a heritage of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is His reward.” They belong to God. So if you have an incorrigible child, an undisciplined child, one that breaks your heart, in humility of mind, give the child back to God, and it’s between God and the child. Isn’t that exactly what the father in the prodigal son’s story did? After he’d done his best and the boy was obstreperous, undisciplined, the father commended him to God and let the boy go [Luke 15:11-32]. Just pray for him.
I saw that in my neighbor right down the street. J. Howard Williams grew up in this church. He was the executive secretary of the State of Texas, and then president of our seminary in Fort Worth. He lived right there, down one block from us, J. Howard Williams. I was talking with him one day, and he was telling me about his boy Dan. Dan was sixteen years of age. “And that boy,” Dr. Williams said to me, “that boy found fault with everything in the home. Nothing pleased him. He found fault with his mother. He found fault with his brother and sisters. He found fault with me. He was just unhappy.”
“And finally,” Dr. Williams said, “I said to the son, ‘Son, you just don’t like us anymore, and nothing pleases you anymore, and you’re breaking the heart of your mother. You just are not happy anymore. Now, son, you just take your things and you go where you can be happy.’” Well, the boy was astonished, but he gathered up his things, sixteen years old and left the house, and left the home. He found it was a different world out there, when he had to face it by himself. And Dr. Williams said after the passing of several days, the boy came back home and said, “Dad, I want to come back home. I’ve been wrong. My spirit hasn’t been right, but Dad, I have learned my lesson, and I’m a changed son, and I want to come back home.”
And Dr. Williams said to me the boy had a new birth and a new heart and a new life in that experience. Sometimes you have to do just that. “Lord, we’ve done our best with the child and we haven’t succeeded. We give the child to You. You take, You keep, You change, Lord, it’s just You.” And it may be that the prodigal will come back a different kind of a lad than when he went away. God has marvelous ways of changing.
Last man I saw here before coming to church came by our house. That man was as vile and evil as any man you ever saw. I baptized him. He’s a model of a man now: a model father, a model husband, a model Christian. He’s a great representative of Christ. You wouldn’t have known him a little while ago. God can do it. God is able and if we trust Him for it, in His time, in His elective purpose, He brings these beautiful and wonderful things to pass. All things are possible to him that believeth [Mark 9:23]. Just stay with the Lord. Now may we stand.
Our Lord in heaven, with infinite gladness we read in God’s Book the promises, “I will be with you. I will see you through” [Hebrews 13:5]. There are many parents who know what it is to bow in broken heartedness and cry. There are many, many of our people who pray daily for children who seemingly are so indifferent, lost and bound up in the world, but wonderful Savior, there is hope and promise in Thee, and we cling and claim to that promise. God will do that better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40]. He answers prayer.
While our people are quiet before the Lord and praying for you, what a glorious day, and what a glorious night, and what a marvelous moment to give yourself to Jesus, “I want God to have me and I’m coming.” A family you, coming into the church; a couple you, down one of those aisles, or just one somebody you, “Today, pastor, I have decided for God” [Romans 10:8-13]. In the balcony round, down the stairway, in the press of people on this lower floor into the aisle, “We’re on the way, pastor, I’m coming.” Our deacons are here, our ministers are here, our people lovingly praying for you, make the decision now. And our Lord, we shall thank Thee and praise Thee for Thy sweet response in Thy precious name, amen. In a moment when we sing, having made that decision come, come. May angels attend you and God bless you as you come, while we sing, while we make appeal.