“But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the LORD to put them to death.”
1 Samuel 2:25b
It strikes me here how straightforward these words are written. Very plainly, “it was the will of the LORD to put them to death.” And then, mere verses later, the Lord tells this father “I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever” (1 Samuel 2:35). Directly after God tells Eli that his family will be cut off, that because of their willful sin his sons will die on the same day, He tells him that He will raise up a priest who will be faithful to the Lord. God speaks of the faithfulness He will show to this man He is preparing to take the role that Eli’s family should have held.
As much as it must have broken his heart, Eli doesn’t argue. Later, in chapter 3, Samuel tells him a word from the Lord that affirms that what God had told Eli would be carried out. In response, Eli says, “It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him” (1 Samuel 3:18b). He doesn’t make excuses for his sons or accuse God of unrighteousness. He doesn’t demand mercy or cast insults at God’s character. He accepts it as the word of the Lord. Not because he doesn’t care, but because he knows that God is sovereign and just.
The writers of the Bible don’t make excuses for God. They don’t try to constantly clarify His character. Instead, they show to whatever extent they can the vast scope of it. How His mercy, justice, grace, righteousness, wrath, faithfulness, and steadfast love intertwine. Because God doesn’t contradict Himself. Ever. He is infinite and holy and unchanging. He will never cease to be exactly who He is.
I think sometimes we have a hard time grasping that God is God. He is in charge. He can rightly do whatever He wants, whenever He wants, and we answer to Him—not the other way around. We go about rebelling and turning our backs on Him, pursuing our own way and ignoring His voice, and then we dare to look at Him pridefully and demand that He show us mercy.
Our thinking gets so twisted. We feel entitled and basically good. But there is darkness at our core. A nature entirely opposed to the glory of God, wanting all the glory for ourselves. He would be right to condemn all of us.
But praise God, He shows grace. He opens our eyes to see truth. When we come in humility, admitting our guilt and sincerely seeking forgiveness at the mercy seat of God, turning away from our life of pride and rebellion, He hears us and is faithful to forgive.
Let us worship God for all that He is and not make excuses for the things that make us uncomfortable or accuse Him for the aspects that are hard to swallow. He is great and holy and worthy of our praise, and we can trust that He is faithful to us even in the times when we don’t understand what He’s doing.
Our God of mercy is also a God of wrath and justice. Which is why His mercy is so sweet and His grace so overwhelmingly extravagant. He is holy. We are sinners. That chasm is impossible for us. It’s a debt we can never pay. That’s why it is so amazing that this infinitely holy God reached down to us and made a way. Jesus. Satisfying the justice and wrath of our holy God so that in Him we could know the riches of the Father’s grace in kindness toward us (Ephesians 2:7).