Adapted from a sermon by H.H.
During the Old Testament
era, God established the priesthood so that there would be dedicated people to
minister in His tabernacle during the wilderness years and in the temple during
the settlement period. Their role was to fulfil the ceremonial duties relating
to worship, offering sacrifices and making atonement for the chosen people, and
acting as a mediator between God and man. This was an honorable vocation, and
one not to be taken lightly. In return for faithful service, God offered the
priests a special blessing, with the right to enter into a covenant conferring
life and peace:
was with him, one of life and peace,
And I gave them to him that he might fear Me;
So he feared Me
And was reverent before My name.” (Mal 2:5)
However, if the
priests failed to uphold their part of the covenant, they would reap a curse:
“And now, O
priests, this commandment is for you.
If you will not hear,
And if you will not take it to heart,
To give glory to My name,”
Says the LORD of hosts,
“I will send a
curse upon you,
And I will curse your blessings.
Yes, I have cursed them already,
Because you do not take it to heart.
Behold, I will rebuke your descendants
And spread refuse on your faces,
The refuse of your solemn feasts;
And one will take you away with it.” (Mal 2:1–3)
God illustrated the
dire nature of the curse: He would take dung from the sacrificial animals at
the holy feasts and smear it on the faces of the priests; and He would then
have them removed from His presence.
In this New
Testament era, there is no longer a need for physical priesthood. What we have
today is a spiritual priesthood comprising believers cleansed by the blood of
Jesus and given the privilege of serving God directly (1 Pet 2:5, 9; Rev 1:6;
5; 20:6). Nevertheless, the standards of our eternal God do not change; the
principles of servitude still apply as they did in times past.
Blessings for Those Who Follow
serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If
anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” (Jn 12:26)
Jesus promised a blessing
for those serving God. However, from His words, “If anyone serves Me,” we
understand that it is conditional upon a spirit of willingness. In truth, our
service to God should not be rendered under compulsion.
The Song of Solomon records
three occasions when God says, “Do not stir up or awaken love, until it
pleases” (Song 2:7; 3:5; 8:4). These words tell us that God is waiting for us,
as believers, to be ready and willing to show our love and devotion to Him; He
will not compel us. Indeed, if we feel pressured or obliged to undertake a task
for God, such that we grudgingly do it, our service will not be pleasing to
It is with good reason,
then, that Jesus says if we are to serve Him, we must first follow Him. This
entails self-denial and submission to His will. Whether we find this easy or
difficult to do depends on our level of spiritual cultivation and our
self-regard, in terms of how confident we are in our own gifts and abilities.
Generally speaking, the knowledge, experiences and accomplishments we acquire
over the years will make it harder for us to practice self-denial. When we were
young, we could perhaps accept criticism and were able to forgive and forget;
but do we maintain the same humility with the advancing years? Self-denial for
a worker of God can be a real challenge—one that lasts a lifetime because our
Christian journey entails following and serving Christ for life.
There is a saying: “A person
might work so hard that his face is covered in sweat, while other people’s lips
will be full of criticism.” We may have experienced or witnessed the truth of
this saying ourselves, where we have worked very diligently to take care of
church affairs, but others have not appreciated the effort. In fact, there are
members who simply do not know how to be appreciative. Instead, they come to
church as auditors, constantly finding fault. These are likely to
be the ones who like to
critique the sermon speakers or to complain that the church has no love. It
really is not easy to serve God. But still, there are members in our midst who
continue to serve Him steadfastly, with a heart of self-denial and submission.
These are the workers whom God will surely honor.
Honored by God
Jesus says, “If anyone
serves Me, him My Father will honor.” Normally, it is man’s duty to honor God,
but here we are told that God will show respect to the one who serves Him. How
will He do this?
Numbers 6:22–27 records the
blessing of the high priest for the people of Israel. It is a complete and
perfect blessing containing three strands:
“The LORD bless you and keep
you.” (Num 6:24)
These words confer a
blessing from God, the heavenly Father on high, to His chosen people below.
“The LORD make
His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.” (Num 6:25)
These words bring to mind
the relationship between God and Moses. Moses had the privilege of speaking
with God face to face as a friend (Ex 33:11). After conversing together on
Mount Sinai for forty days and nights, Moses’ face reflected and radiated God’s
divine light. Today, we know that we, too, can commune with God through prayer
and experience His face shining on us.
“The LORD lift
up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Num 6:26)
In the Bible there are many verses that speak
of believers lifting up their faces to God. But in this blessing, God is the
One who will lift up His countenance upon us. When we serve Him, He will honor
us, placing us on high to be with Him, and grant us peace.
Moses Honored by God
Exodus 32 records an
incident where the Israelites made a golden calf, while Moses was on the
mountain receiving the commandments and ordinances from God.
And the LORD said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you
brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.” (Ex 32:7)
These were harsh words God
directed at Moses, the man He honoured. God referred to the Israelites as
“[Moses’] people, whom [he] brought out of the land of Egypt.” It seemed God
was distancing Himself from the chosen people; previously, He had addressed the
people, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of
Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex 20:2).
How did Moses respond?
Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does
Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land
of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?” (Ex 32:11)
Here, Moses reminded God
that the people belonged to Him and He was the One responsible for their
And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it
is a stiff-necked people! Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn
hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”
God wanted to destroy the
Israelites, yet, He was mindful of Moses’ feelings. If Moses had not tried to
intervene, God would have destroyed the sinful people there and then.
Eli Lost God’s Honor
Eli was a loyal priest.
Despite his advanced years, he always remained on duty, sitting by the doorpost
of God’s tabernacle. And each night, he would retire to the priests’ quarters
(1 Sam 1:9; 3:2). At the time, priests started their ministry at the age of
thirty and retired at fifty. But even at retirement, the priests would continue
going to the temple, except their work would be lighter. It would be left to
the younger, stronger, priests to undertake the laborious tasks—for example, to
skin and butcher the oxen and carry the carcasses to be sacrificed at the
Now when he came, there was Eli, sitting on a seat by the wayside
watching, for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into
the city and told it, all the city cried out...Then it happened, when he made
mention of the ark of God, that Eli fell off the seat backward by the side of
the gate; and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy.
And he had judged Israel forty years. (1 Sam 4:13, 18)
Eli was watching and waiting
for news of the ark of God. When he learned of its fate, he immediately fell
backwards and broke his neck. His death marked the end of a generation. All
that he left behind was a grandson by the name of Ichabod, meaning
“inglorious,” for the glory had departed from Israel. What had brought about
such a tragic ending?
The Bible says that Eli’s
two sons had been wicked and corrupt and did not know the Lord (1 Sam 2:12).
This is curious as they had been trained up from a young age for service in the
tabernacle located in Shiloh. They should have been familiar with the laws and
statutes of God. But God had to send a messenger to point out their sins to
Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the LORD:
‘Did I not clearly reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in
Egypt in Pharaoh’s house?...Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering
which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me,
to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?’
” (1 Sam 2:27, 29)
Even though Eli was loyal in
many respects, he lacked true knowledge. He did not honor God or His
sacrifices; he allowed his sons to show disregard for the sacrifices and to
commit adultery with the women at the door of the tabernacle. Eli could have
dealt with his sinful offspring, but he chose not to. For this reason, God
issued a warning through a messenger:
Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: “I said indeed that your
house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.” But now the
LORD says: “Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those
who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming that I
will cut off your arm and the arm of your father’s house, so that there will
not be an old man in your house…Now this shall be a sign to you that will come
upon your two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas: in one day they shall die, both of
them.” (1 Sam 2:30–31, 34)
It was unfortunate that Eli
did not heed this message. God tried again, this time, sending a little child
to speak to him. This child was Samuel.
Then the LORD said to Samuel: “Behold, I will do something in Israel
at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. In that day I will
perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning
to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the
iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not
restrain them.” (1 Sam 3:11–13)
Again, Eli failed to act,
thus bringing a curse upon himself and his two sons. On the same day, all three
were cut off from God.
CONCLUSION: THE LIMITS OF LOGIC
From the contrasting
examples of Moses and Eli, we can see how our service to God can either bring
abundant blessings, or dire consequences. If we are faithful, God will bless us
with life and peace. More wonderfully, He will speak to us face to face and be
attentive to our intercessions and feelings. We will experience His presence in
our lives and feel the light of His countenance shining on all we do.
However, if we are
complacent in our servitude, we will be shamed by God. Our works will be
unfruitful and bring no pleasure to Him. He may punish or warn us through
various means, but if we persist, we will be removed from serving before
Him—the gift of service will be taken from us, and God will no longer abide
Therefore, whether we
receive a blessing or a curse is up to us—it depends on the faithfulness of our
servitude, whether we undertake it with submission and self-denial. Since
priesthood is an honor and a gift (Num 18:7), which brings blessings that the
Lord God does not have to render, let us be thankful and carry out the work
with a willing heart.