Eric Liddell was the son of missionaries in China. He went to school in London and then university in Edinburg. He was known as a follower of Jesus and a great athlete. He used his athletic ability to reach people for Jesus. He was on a fast track for the Olympics in the 100 meters, only to discover that heats would be run on a Sunday. He didn’t believe in competing on a Sunday, so he trained for the 400 meters instead, since that race would be held on a weekday. On the morning of the race, the team masseur handed him a slip of paper that reminded Liddell that “he who honors me, I will honor.” While not an exact quote from the Bible, it was inspiration.
You may remember that story from the movie “Chariots of Fire” and you may also remember that Liddell won the race. After the Olympics, he returned to China where he lived until his death in a Japanese internment camp in 1945. While the story fictionalized some of the process, and didn’t spend a lot of time on his life after the Olympics, it should inspire all of us to remember that honoring God should come first in our lives. Eli, the prophet who raised Samuel, had sons who not only weren’t honoring God as priests, they were actively dishonoring God and refused correction. A prophet spoke to Eli about this: “Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.” (1 Samuel 2:30)
The sons of Eli not only didn’t pay reverence to God, they used their capacity as priests to intimidate the people who were trying to worship Him. They would take more than the prescribed portion of the sacrifice for themselves. They slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. (This was before the Temple was built, of course.) In short, Hophni and Phineas were some of the worst examples of humanity around, and Eli couldn’t control them. Oh, he tried. He spoke to them and let them know that they were a disgrace, but they just laughed in his face. The full prophecy speaks to the upcoming death of the two sons, who probably would have laughed in the prophet’s face if they had heard the proclamation. They didn’t care about others and they certainly didn’t care about God. They used their “job” as a chance to fleece the flock, and they were proud of their actions.
You can read forward in the story if you don’t know what happens. The two sons of Eli laughed at any criticism. They didn’t understand their need to honor God. There are many among us today who behave the same way. Many are outside the church. They flaunt their sin and the natural reaction those of us who seek to honor God seems to be to attack their life choices. The only sin people who don’t know Jesus are accountable for is their failure to believe. We need to show these people the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. We can’t expect people who don’t know God to honor Him. We should be able to expect God’s people to honor Him in their life choices. Instead, we have many preachers who fleece the flock; we have many Christians who engage in sinful behavior and seek to justify themselves in front of others rather than honoring God; we ourselves stray from God’s plan to do things in our own stubborn way. We see that missionaries, like Liddell, have had to suffer because they put God first and we aren’t going to have any of that. So we indulge ourselves in getting rich, gaining power, or any kind of excess and baptize it by reminding people that God wants us to have the good life. He doesn’t. God wants us to honor Him at all times. Stay true to His word and follow Him.
Lord, let me be willing to honor You not matter what the cost.