Every now and again our house needs a good deep cleaning. Some folks call this a "spring cleaning." Perhaps you can imagine, but with six small children we not only need to do a spring cleaning, but we have to do a summer cleaning, an autumn cleaning, and winter cleaning too! In fact, we find ourselves wanting to do this sort of deep clean almost on a monthly basis. The source of our frustration is usually piled up in toys in kids rooms. This is when the kids, or often my wife and I, will begin to sort through stuff. We take out the toys that are broken or have dead batteries. We remove the ones that have lost the ability to keep attention. Sometimes there are duplicates that need to be removed. The primary goal though is simply to get things back where they belong. Most people experience this same need; the need to simply clean house and just start over with a clean slate. Maybe it's the garage that needs cleaning, or the basement, or perhaps just the kitchen cabinets. Whatever the case may be, we all know the need to clean house and put things back in order.
The first few chapters of 1 Samuel record God cleaning house in Israel, specifically at Shiloh. Corruption in the Lord's house had reached the priesthood and action needed to be taken. I want to make a couple of observations about the way in which God cleans house:
Notice that God is merciful. He is gracious in the patience that he shows to the corrupt sons of Eli. God did not take immediate action the moment they sinned, but rather he allowed their sin to stack up against them, all while he is allowing them opportunity after opportunity to turn away from their sin and turn towards the Lord. God gave them ample warning through the word of their Father, Eli (1 Sam. 2:22-25). Understand that God is a God of mercy and patience, but eventually, when his mercy and patience are ignored, he will bring judgment, just as he did to the house of Eli in 1 Samuel 4.
Now there is a word about the judgment that God exacts. God's judgment is fierce and it is effective. God will bring judgment and you can believe that it will be of great effect and impact. Notice that not only are both sons of Eli killed in battle in a single day, but Eli is then killed and his daughter-in-law, Phinehas's wife, also dies during childbirth. The entire family is effected by this great act of judgment. Not just the family though, but the entirety of the people of God impacted when the ark of the covenant is captured by the Philistines. The glory of the Lord had departed.
Finally, I want you to notice how God's judgment upon his own people is the best thing for his people. Ultimately 34,000 Israelites died in two consecutive battles against the Philistines (1 Samuel 4), but God was cleaning house. The corrupt priests serving in the house of the Lord had to go. God was raising up Samuel to take their place. This would be in the best interest of the people, but it would be a fatally painful transition. A clean bedroom is in the best interest of my children, but it is often a painful transition; sometimes even requiring judgment.
Last week, as nearly 10,000 messengers from the 47,000 Southern Baptist churches convened in Dallas, Tx, we were all keenly aware of the house cleaning that God has been doing in the SBC. Certain voices that are expected to be heard each year were not heard. Professors that we are accustomed to greeting at seminary booths in the exhibit hall were not there to greet us. God has been cleaning house in our convention and it is painful, but we trust God. The