Text: 1 Samuel 2:12-26
I got a kick when the phrase “…before I go Old Testament on you…” entered into the vocabulary of every 6th grader. (If I remember right it was from Pulp Fiction which I can’t explain why 6th graders would be watching that movie.) The phrase actually captures some of the flavor of these Old Testament stories. Eli’s sons in the space of a few versus: are called worthless, demonstrate their disregard for God and their positions by abusing them and the people they serve, and using their position to procure sex from those who served in the place of worship.
I remember as a kid both at home and in Sunday School a steady diet of these Old Testament stories. Now with my oldest being 6 years old – and her favorite bible story being “The Ten Plagues” – I sometimes have the same thoughts as Ben Myers here. Just what is this little one getting out of this? Samuel was a constant in those Sunday school lessons. First his mother’s piety and Eli stupidity. Then Samuel’s calling by God in that small voice that would doom Eli. It was usually tied together with some type veggie-tales “little guys can do big things to” moral or a stern warning to “obey your parents and respect God.” (Like Mr. Myers’ child thinking about the goat, my Anna always cracks up at the frogs in the plagues. There is something about a swarm of frogs that tickles her funny bone.)
I wonder how many kids of even Christian familes are hearing the old testament stories today? And I am not asking that strictly through a sentimental fog. There is no question that the OT seems rougher and more brutal (excluding the cross of the NT). After growing up, did those stories at that age have an effect on our rougher and vulgar culture today as Ben implies? Or do we not tell those stories to our children (in violation of the old testament directive to speak of them always) because we have lost or never gained the vocabulary to talk about them? Since they end up watching Pulp Fiction anyway, shouldn’t Eli and his worthless son’s get their time? And think for a second about the implied lessons on duty, authority and justice. Justice is the purpose of all authority. The authority that perverts justice loses its mantle. To the extent that a small child will tell a 90 year old the Word of God. Even from a secular point of view those sound like good republican virtues.