Failing Fathers

1 Samuel 8:3-5 “Samuel’s sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel…and said, ‘Behold, you have grown old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.’”

Observation: Samuel, like Eli before him, produced sons who were not worthy of their father’s inheritance. They were not qualified to fill his shoes, so the people used that as an excuse to ask for a king to be established over them. God, of course, knew the reality and told Samuel, “They have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them” (1 Sam. 3:7).

Application: With Eli we saw the weak attempts he made to correct his sons; with Samuel, there is no mention of how or whether he tried to bring correction.

We also don’t know the core reasons that both prophets’ sons rebelled. It may have been that growing up in a household of privilege had spoiled them. It may have been that the fathers were simply too busy with their work and neglected their more primary responsibility to reproduce godly sons. Or, with Samuel’s sons, it may simply have been their choices, having little to do with what their father taught or didn’t teach.

The result was that the people knew the sons were not qualified to fill their father’s shoes. None of this caught God by surprise; earlier, in Deuteronomy, God had described a time when the people would want a king for themselves.  That realization is wonderfully comforting to me, because it shows that even when my failures are greatest, God is always able to redeem the situation. He can restore; He can make a new way; He can bring good out of my most hopeless messes. I and those I love are never beyond His reach.

Prayer: Father, what a comfort it is to read of another father who, like me, fell  short of Your ideal in raising his family. I am so thankful that You are constantly at work restoring the hearts of the sons and daughters to the father, and the hearts of fathers to their children. Thank You that none of the pain and difficulty is ever wasted; You use it all, like bricks in the hands of a master mason, to make each of us more effective in Your service for the rest of our lives.

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