You Are Enough

When I was in seminary pursuing my Master’s degree, I remember signing up for courses one semester and, shortly after signing up for courses, going on staff at a church in the area. At that point I was working full time, third shift at a grocery store, Going to school full-time during the day, and was now starting a full-time paid ministry position at a church. I put in my notice at the grocery store. The next semester came. There was one class that I couldn’t stay caught up in. I had overcommitted myself. There was this temptation. I could cheat and get a good grade or I could withdraw from the class with the instructor’s approval. It was pride that led me to overcommit in the first place. Pride would draw me into sin. I withdrew from the class.

A recognition of who God is inspires meekness. When we fail to recognize who God is, we think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. While genuine meekness leads to joy and peace by the mercies of God. Pride leads to frustration, discouragement, and worry. Apparently, it also leads people to overcommit and be tempted to cheat in life.

I mentioned this last week, but I want to explore the idea in more depth. There is a great lie in our culture, “You are enough.” Some people will say this in order to insist that God loves us without our needing to be great. That is not the lie. God really does love people despite their insufficiencies. In that sense, people really don’t need to be greater than they are. What I need to address is the tendency we have to think that we are sufficient of ourselves to live and breathe and act- this is an accepted lone wolf, rebel, vigilante type of pride. I saw a quote this week, “The hardest walk you can make is alone. But it’s the walk that will make you stronger.” This idea captures perfectly the mentality of this world. We are not enough. We need to hear this truth just as people in their wretched condition have always needed to hear this truth. This has a great deal to do with the joy and peace that we experience on this earth.

1 Samuel 2:12-20

Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord or for the priests’ share of the sacrifices from the people. When any man offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged meat fork while the meat was boiling and plunge it into the container or kettle or cauldron or cooking pot. The priest would claim for himself whatever the meat fork brought up. This is the way they treated all the Israelites who came there to Shiloh. Even before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give the priest some meat to roast, because he won’t accept boiled meat from you — only raw.” If that man said to him, “The fat must be burned first; then you can take whatever you want for yourself,” the servant would reply, “No, I insist that you hand it over right now. If you don’t, I’ll take it by force!” So the servants’ sin was very severe in the presence of the Lord, because they treated the Lord’s offering with contempt.

The boy Samuel served in the Lord’s presence and wore a linen ephod. Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife: “May the Lord give you children by this woman in place of the one she has given to the Lord.” Then they would go home.

Wickedness

As we read verses 12-20, we see that Eli’s sons were wicked men because they had no regard for the Lord or for the priests’ share of the sacrifices from the people. They were embezzlers who used their positions for personal gain. There is something to be said about the relationship between wickedness and pride. Eli’s sons were interested in self-gain. They believed that they knew what was best. They did not follow the instructions given by God but developed their own way of receiving the offerings. They did not listen when others pointed out that the way they were doing things was contrary to the word of God. These ritual laws can be found in Exodus 23:18, Exodus 29:13, and Leviticus 3:3-5. Eli’s sons were clearly not following the instructions given for the offerings. This is pride.

In this, we learn that God cares about obedience. In fact, later in 1 Samuel, Samuel would speak the word of the Lord to Saul,

“Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices

as much as in obeying the Lord?

Look: to obey is better than sacrifice,

to pay attention is better than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is like the sin of divination,

and defiance is like wickedness and idolatry.

Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,

He has rejected you as king” (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

Human pride can be defined this way, “the quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance.” Pride is the opposite of meekness. Eli’s sons were full of this type of pride. Pride led them to think less of others, to invent new, profitable ways of doing things, and to disobey the Lord. Pride, when cultivated, leads to wickedness before God.

There are a few ways that our pride gets the better of us in this life.

    1. We always think we know what is best.
      1. Whether it is because of tradition, being raised a certain way, or because we are good at administration, we usually think so highly of ourselves that we are unwilling to listen to other ways of doing things. We are slaves to our own nature, our own thinking, and our own reasoning.
    2. We support the things that obviously profit us.
      1. Often, no matter what God has instructed, we ask ourselves what we have to gain by doing a certain thing. Churches ask how doing something will increase attendance or giving. Parents ask how doing a certain thing will improve the behavior of their children. We ask how we might make more money or be more financially secure. We ask how we might gain more influence by doing or saying a certain thing. We are consequentialists and pragmatists. God simply desires our obedience.
    3. We have a tendency to do things our own way.
      1. We often complain when things are not in line with the way we think they ought to be. One generation condemns another because it is different. Even in a local church, people choose teachers who will teach the things they want to hear, not necessarily the instruction of the Lord. God desires that things be done His way and He has given some plain instruction.

This means that there is wickedness in the world that has come from pride according to God’s standard. The pride of Eli’s sons in this story has obviously led to much frustration because Eli’s sons have sought their own way rather than obedience to God. The community felt oppressed. Eli was shamed. Those people who wanted to live holy lives were inhibited from obeying Christ because of Eli’s sons.

The actions of two people frustrated the whole community. Disobedience affects more than just those who are disobedient. I remember dating a girl in high school. She was terrible for me. I not only did damage to myself, but the relationship negatively impacted both my family and her’s. The things we do, especially giving in to our pride, affects not only us, but also those around us.

Pride leads to disobedience leads to dissatisfaction.

Wellness

In contrast to this, Samuel served in the Lord’s presence as a boy and he wore a linen ephod. An ephod was a garment worn by the priests and is here representative of Samuel’s earlier dedication to the Lord for the Lord’s service. Samuel embraced his service to the Lord before Eli as a priest in training. Samuel only saw his mother once every year, when they came to present their annual sacrifices. This is the picture we receive of a humble servant. It is interesting that we receive this example from a young boy and not an adult. It causes me to think of something Jesus said as He taught.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’

Then He called a child to Him and had him stand among them. ‘I assure you,’ He said, ‘unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child — this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one child like this in My name welcomes Me.

But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me — it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea!’” (Matthew 18:1-6).

Children are our greatest examples of what it means to have faith, humility, and a servant’s heart. As we observe them, we find that they are also more joyful. They don’t have to prove themselves because they are loved. They don’t have to earn that love, and they know it. They want to please their parents. As we become adults, something changes in us. There is a pride that comes with adulthood that we must overcome. Jesus taught that we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven if we are not converted and if we do not become like children. Notice, here, that we are the recipients of conversion. We don’t convert ourselves. We are converted and become like children. It is a work that God is doing in His people as He transforms the whole person through Christ and by His Holy Spirit; through faith and by grace. It is the difference between the pride of Eli’s sons, which led to sin and wickedness, and the humility of the boy, Samuel. What does it mean to have a healthy faith? We are converted and become like children. Do we want to experience joy and peace and contentment in Christ? We trust in Christ who converts and leads us to become like children- humble, meek, entirely dependent on Christ (which we are even if we don’t recognize it or live like it). We are really not enough.

Humility leads to obedience leads to satisfaction.

1 Samuel 2:30-35

“Therefore, this is the declaration of the Lord, the God of Israel:

‘Although I said

your family and your ancestral house

would walk before Me forever,

the Lord now says, “No longer!”

I will honor those who honor Me,

but those who despise Me will be disgraced.

“‘Look, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your ancestral family, so that none in your family will reach old age. You will see distress in the place of worship, in spite of all that is good in Israel, and no one in your family will ever again reach old age. Any man from your family I do not cut off from My altar will bring grief and sadness to you. All your descendants will die violently. This will be the sign that will come to you concerning your two sons Hophni and Phinehas: both of them will die on the same day.

Then I will raise up a faithful priest for Myself. He will do whatever is in My heart and mind. I will establish a lasting dynasty for him, and he will walk before My anointed one for all time.

Wages

Has God changed? In this part of the story, He declares to Eli, “Although I said your family and your ancestral house would walk before Me forever, the Lord now says, ‘No longer!’”

In 1 Chronicles 24:3 and Exodus 6:23, we read that Eli’s descendant, Ahimelech, is listed as a descendant of Ithamar, who was Aaron’s son. Eli was, then, a direct descendant of Aaron. In Numbers 25:10-13, God makes this promise:

The Lord spoke to Moses, “Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the Israelites because he was zealous among them with My zeal, so that I did not destroy the Israelites in My zeal. Therefore declare: I grant him My covenant of peace. It will be a covenant of perpetual priesthood for him and his future descendants, because he was zealous for his God and made atonement for the Israelites.”

God did say that Aaron’s descendants, specifically through the line of Eleazar and then Phinehas (not Eli’s son), would maintain a perpetual priesthood for Phinehas and his future descendants. In 1 Samuel, God says, “No longer!” Has God gone back on His word? Has He denied Himself? Has He changed? Is God not a keeper of promises?

Luke 1:5 says this, “In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah’s division named Zechariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.” Elizabeth was Mary’s (that’s Jesus’ human mother) relative (Luke 1:36). This means that Mary is in the lineage of Aaron, Eleazar, and then Phinehas. Jesus was not only in David’s kingly line, but also descended from the Levites (the priestly tribe).

After Eli’s sons sinned and God removed Eli’s family from the priesthood, giving the role of priest and prophet to Samuel (who was at this time a boy). Samuel’s father was part of the tribe of Levi (1 Chronicles 6:16-30). God was keeping His promise in the short term through Samuel. His promise would be fulfilled eternally in Jesus Christ, Mary’s son. He would not fulfill His promise through Eli’s descendants.

God always completes His work and He always accomplishes what He sets forth to accomplish. At the same time, we are responsible for our sin and for what we do in our pridefulness. We are slaves to our unrighteous nature. Because we are unrighteous, we choose sin and wickedness. The wage of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

In our pride, when we come making the assumption that we are enough and that we are sufficient, we actually earn death. Everyone is this way. Remember, we are the ones who must be converted. We taste what death is like as we experience the anxiety, the sadness, the depression, the worry, and the stress that comes with human pride, which leads to sin.

The wage of sin is death.

Providence

God continues to speak to Eli through the man of God, “Then I will raise up a faithful priest for Myself. He will do whatever is in My heart and mind. I will establish a lasting dynasty for him, and he will walk before My anointed one for all time.”

Of course, God was referring to Samuel. God was raising Samuel up. God was providing that Samuel would be a faithful priest for Him. God was giving Samuel a heart to do whatever was in His heart and mind. God would establish a lasting dynasty through Samuel (who was also a descendent in the tribe of Levi) instead of through Eli’s sons. God was working all things together for His glory in keeping His promises, which He also made for His glory.

Samuel did not earn this. Hannah, his mother, did not earn this. This is simply the providence of God in fulfilling His own plan and accomplishing His own purpose. It is true that in our unrighteousness we earn death. The gift of God, according to His own good pleasure, is eternal life (Romans 6:23).

In this, the nation of Israel serves as the physical picture of God’s eternal and holistic work of redemption. We see the physical picture of God’s redemptive work as we read every story in the Old Testament. This is the reason God worked history together like He did before Christ came. We need a physical picture of His redemptive work so that we can understand what He is doing. Anyone who says the Old Testament is unimportant and who does not pay attention to the story in the Old Testament cannot understand what God is doing in salvation. The good news is this: we don’t have to understand how salvation works to be saved. Personally, I want to know what is going on. Those who are saved by grace, I believe, will long to understand who God is and what He is doing. We cannot forsake the Old Testament.

Without the Old Testament, there is no understanding of who Christ is. For instance, if a descendant of Aaron is always to serve as priest and there is always a merely human descendent serving as priest, then there is always sin and God never reconciles the world to Himself. If, however, God Himself is the fulfillment of this promise, then God is the forever priest according to His own promise and His people can be reconciled to Him.

Jesus is one with God and is God (John 1). Jesus fulfilled the whole Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17), even down to being born into the lineage of David and of Aaron. He is both the king and the priest who will reign forever, reconciling His people to Himself and being their king. God provides all things, including salvation in Christ, the eternal priest, by grace.

By our own providence, we drive ourselves and others into anxiety, stress, worry, competition, worthlessness, depression, and so on. This is a taste of the death that we earn by our sin. By the providence of God, as He gives us the faith of children, we get to experience joy, happiness, peace, and contentment. This is a taste of the life that is given as a gift by God. The only thing I can call us to in response to this text is simple surrender to Christ. Will we be converted and become like children? Will we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord? Will we accept the gift of eternal life?

The gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus.

 

Pride leads to disobedience leads to dissatisfaction.

Humility leads to obedience leads to satisfaction.

The wage of sin is death.

The gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus.

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