Johnny Mays

Painting by Johnny Mays

The following is excerpted from my booklet, “Despising the Lamb: Contempt for Christ in First Samuel

Hophni and Phineas: Priests of Pleasure

When Hannah gave her only son to the Lord, Hophni and Phineas were priests (1 Sam. 1:3).  Scripture says Hophni and Phineas were wicked men (1 Sam. 2:12). They slept with the women who served in the tabernacle (1 Sam. 2:22). But that wasn’t the worst of it. When someone brought a sacrifice, certain parts of the animal were burned first as an offering to the Lord (Lev. 7:3-5, 29-31). But Hophni and Phineas took whatever part of the animal they wanted (1 Sam. 2:15-16).  The Lord responded by saying, “Why, then, do all of you despise My sacrifices…by making yourselves fat with the best part of all the offerings of My people Israel?” (1 Sam. 2:29).

John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus with the words, “Look! The Lamb of God!” (John 1:36). This is what John meant: Every Old Testament sacrifice foreshadowed Jesus’s death. When Hophni and Phineas slaughtered an animal Jesus’s crucifixion was vividly portrayed (Gal. 3:1). They looked on God’s suffering Lamb and despised Him.

Hophni and Phineas’s contempt for the Lamb went beyond thinking little of God’s offerings. The entire bent of their lives rejected the Spirit of those offerings—Christ crucified. They slept around. They took the best of everything. They pleased and fattened themselves. They used their religious stature to serve themselves. All of this self-preferring was done in the face of the sacrifices which poured out their lifeblood day after day. In effect, Hophni and Phineas spat on the Son of God; they mocked and dismissed Christ’s laid down life (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16).

Paul’s Resolve

“Hophni and Phineas” show up in our lives as well. Consider Paul. When he came to Corinth, he feared bodily harm because of his ministry (Acts 18:6, 9-10). The church of Corinth was planted through his long-suffering (Acts 18:11; 1 Cor. 4:15, 9:2). Not surprisingly, the church flourished. The Corinthians were prolific in tongues, prophesy, and healing (1 Cor. 12, 14). The church was financially prosperous and attracted its share of prominent teachers (1 Cor. 9:11-12; 2 Cor. 9:5, 11:5-8). Undoubtedly, Corinth’s growth was due in part to what Paul sacrificed for them. Every harvest comes from seed that has fallen into the ground to die (John 12:24). Even after leaving Paul pastored, instructed, and carried them spiritually (2 Cor. 11:28-29).

Ironically, the more prominent Corinth became, the less regard they had for Paul. While they prospered, he lived on a shoestring (1 Cor. 4:8, 11). Their reputation grew; Paul endured poor treatment and disadvantage as he spread the gospel (1 Cor. 4:10-13). Corinth received much from Paul’s ministry. But the more they benefited the more condescending they became. They viewed their success as proof of God’s favor while seeing Paul as second class.  Here, Hophni and Phineas cast their shadow on Corinth. Paul resolved to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). Because of his likeness to the Lamb the Corinthians looked down on him.

House of the Lamb

When it comes to Hophni and Phineas, pointing fingers is easy.  Ministers fall publicly because they sleep around, get greedy, or use their positions to benefit themselves. But it isn’t only ministers that need to think about the sin of Hophni and Phineas. How often do *we* view Jesus mainly as a means to a better life? We take the best parts of Him for ourselves—forgiveness, financial blessing, healing, etc. But we want no part of His self-sacrificing nature. The cross is mainly something Jesus “did for us.” It has little bearing on our motivations or decisions. Our life is essentially directed by what makes us feel happy, comfortable, and successful. Jesus is more life-coach than Lord. He supports and inspires us as we pursue our own dreams. 

Jesus *died* for us. He wasted Himself to the last drop. His Spirit pours out to calm our emotions, give us understanding, and meet our needs. Can we remain indifferent as He gives Himself so freely? Paul said, “He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15). To live for ourselves in the face of the One who died for all is to despise God’s Lamb and only Son.

The Lord said His offerings were required or commanded for His dwelling (1 Sam. 2:29). Under the old covenant God dwelled in the tabernacle or temple. Now He dwells in His people, the church (Eph. 2:21-22). Christ crucified is the sacrifice God requires for us, His dwelling. We are the house of His Lamb. Don’t we violate Him when we enshrine personal interest? Don’t we fall from purpose when we house self?

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