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Daring To Discipline

1 Samuel 2:29 Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honorest thy sons above me to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?

Eli, high priest to the people of Israel. Father of two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. A weighty role and responsibility. And yet, sadly, he failed in both arenas.

Eli is accused by God of being in cohorts with his two sons who would take the cooked fat portion of the animal being sacrificed and consume it for themselves. The priests had the duty of burning the fat on the altar and offering it to the Lord. It was strictly forbidden for human consumption. Expulsion from the Israelite nation would be the punishment. This behavior alone would have been enough to anger the Lord, but there was more.

Eli’s sons were described as worthless. Worth nothing. The term connotes a vile person who is an idolater (Deuteronomy 13:13), liar (1 Kings 21:13) and sexually immoral (Judges 19:22). The root of the problem was that Hophni and Phinehas ‘did not know the Lord.’ Their unruly behavior was attributed to their lack of fear and reverence for the Lord. Astounding seeing as they were priests in service to God.

Proverbs 29:19 A son will not be corrected by words; for thou he understands he will not answer.

Eli’s words of warning to his sons were not enough. They had sinned first and foremost against the Lord, but their father’s admonition failed to redirect their actions away from a course of destruction. “Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.” (1 Samuel 2:25). If Eli would not go beyond mere words to bring punishment upon his sons, God would.

However, though the offenses of Eli’s sons were more blatant, Eli himself did not escape blame. As father and high priest he ought to have confronted his sons with more than words. His failure to take action amounts to honoring his sons above the Lord. God forbid that we should be found there. God gave Eli a lengthy discourse regarding the fall of the house of Eli, which had been established some time as far back as when the Israelites were in servitude to the Egyptians. Such an extended calling on Eli’s house and his blatant disobedience, exhibits the ingratitude and lack of seriousness he gave to his position. Godly parents are representatives of God and as such are to teach with all diligence the ways of the Lord to their children.

One night as Eli lay on his mat in the temple, the Lord spoke to the boy Samuel saying, “For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile and he restrained them not.” (1 Samuel 3:13). Within a short space of time Eli, Hophni and Phinehas were dead.

What is the application for our own lives from this story? Eli, in view of his God-appointed position, should have taken the action to restrain his sons once verbal rebuke proved ineffective.

Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.

The propensity of fallen human nature is towards folly. Discipline and instruction together are endorsed in the Bible as the tools used by God to correct His children. As in the case of Eli’s sons, words are not enough. Withholding the rod leads to a child that will shame a mother and give his parents (not to mention his teachers) nothing but grief and trouble.

Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

The education system has abandoned all form of physical punishment in schools. The upshot of that move is that we have a generation of wild, strong-willed, disrespectful and disobedient children. How do schools correct their behavior? Very poorly. Not Biblically. We give them time out on their own. At the school where I am chaplain, school classrooms have little ‘time out tents’.  Children can go into the tent, with toys provided, for time out when they misbehave. We invite then to write a letter of apology. We send them to the principal’s office who will shower them with a barrage of words about their poor behavior. We deny them computer time and other privileges. Or the best one of all, we send them home for the remainder of the day! (Surely this is a reward, rather than a punishment.)

As a primary school chaplain, I see some very nonsensical forms of disciplinary action, none of which appears to have any lasting effect and bring about true remorse and repentance. The same children are doing the same behaviors just a short time later. Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction administered in love for that child, will drive that foolishness from their heart.

Discipline is the expression of the Father’s love for us. God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. Although discipline may seem painful and unpleasant in the moment for the child, it will yield the fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 3:11). Until we can reinstate the teachings of God’s word into the hearts of our children, we will continue to be raising foolish children.

As parents, teachers and school chaplains or whatever our engagement with children may look like, we have a responsibility to uphold God’s Word to the younger generation. We must do the best that we can do within the means that we have. Our hands may be tied with red tape and our disciplinary measures may seem meager, but we continue to give firm, loving correction to those we care for and desire to see be raised into disciplined men and women.

“Heavenly Father, your Word gives clear instruction as to how to raise a younger generation. In these challenging times, I ask for your help, courage and wisdom in how to bring correction to the children that you have entrusted me to care for. Thank you.”

About Jennifer Woodley

Jennifer is an Australian freelance writer who lives in a small rural town in sunny Queensland. She is passionate about encouraging others on their journey with Christ through writing and mentoring. Jennifer is a school chaplain, wife, mother of three adult sons and loving grandma of one adorable grandson. More of her writing can be found at www.inhisname6.com and www.faithwriters.com.

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One comment

  1. Excellent post Jennifer. I agree with you totally in terms of leading and guiding children and providing the proper balance of “discipline and love” which coincidentally if done correctly is “love.”
    Thank you for another fine article based on your wisdom and experience as a Chaplain, mother and grandmother.
    God Bless~

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