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May 10, 2010

No doubt there are more than two kinds of people in the world; I am the kind that finds benefit in a daily reading plan to read the Bible at least once through every year, in addition to whatever portions of Scripture I am studying. And as I read, I am daily convinced of my sin and misery; God’s Word enlightens my mind in the knowledge of Christ; and, on a day particularly well-blessed, my will is renewed. These are elements of effectual calling, as stated in Westminster Shorter Catechism Answer 31. Each day’s reading brings its own convictions, appreciation of God’s faithfulness, light, and sense of appreciation for God’s mercies. If only my attitude would comport to the gratitude I know I owe.

The overarching defect in my attitude is my darkness-borne will to change my circumstances, rather my attitude toward them. The sun just doesn’t shine enough where I live, and where I think I’d like to live, no endocrinologist has yet caught on to how great it would be to live there, and I am assigned to the mortal mercies of that profession. Nor has the benighted population of said prospective paradise petitioned my husband to please come and work there. Fools.

Anyway, last week I was reading 1 Samuel 2, and read and reread and reread and reread v. 25. The verse is packed beyond containment:

“If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the Lord, who will intercede for him?” Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the Lord desired to kill them. (NKJV)

Eli is reproaching his sons Hophni and Phineas in his characteristically obsequious way. He has never disciplined his sons, and they are utterly evil, abusing the tabernacle sacrifices and causing the Lord’s people to transgress. Eli has placed his affection for his sons above his love and duty to God. He mildly attempts to get his sons to understand that their sins are not only against men — which in itself makes them enemies of God — but their abuses betray the office to which God appointed them, and they betray God himself. God deploys his ultimate weapon: withdrawal of his grace. He hardens Hophni and Phineas beyond repentance, and has determined to put them to death. They die with scant mention in a battle with the Philistines (v. 17).

As Matthew Henry notes,

“They had long hardened their hearts, and now God, in a way of righteous judgment, hardened their hearts, and seared their consciences, and withheld from them the grace they had resisted and forfeited. Note, Those that are deaf to the reproofs of wisdom are manifestly marked for ruin.”

This is all very sobering, because I can scarcely count the times in a day that I do not heed the voice of my Father. And yet, miraculously, mercifully, and meaningfully, I have his promise of abiding grace, and even of its increase; “and perseverance therein to the end” (WSC Answer 36).

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