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 2:25)
The sons of Eli the priest would not obey their father when he rebuked them for their sin. There are three implications of this text for our lives.
1) It is possible to sin so long and so grievously that the Lord will not grant repentance.
That is why Paul said that after all our pleading and teaching, “God may perhaps grant them repentance” — not, “will grant them repentance” (2 Timothy 2:25). There is a “too late” in the life of sin. As it says of Esau in Hebrews 12:17, “He found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.” He was forsaken; he could not repent.
This does not mean that those who truly repent even after a whole lifetime of sinning cannot be saved. They certainly can be, and will be! God is staggeringly merciful. Remember the thief on the cross. Jesus said to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
2) Sometimes God does not permit a sinning person to do what is right.
“But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.” Listening to the voice of their father was the right thing to do. But they would not. Why? “For it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.”
The reason given for why they did not obey their father was that God had other purposes for them, and had given them up to sinning and death. This shows that there are times when the will of God’s decree is different from the revealed will of God’s command.
3) Sometimes our prayers for God’s revealed will to be done will not be done because God has decreed something different for holy and wise purposes.
I suppose that Eli prayed for his sons to be changed. That is how he should have prayed. But God had decreed that Hophni and Phinehas not obey, but rather be slain.
When something like this happens (which we do not ordinarily know ahead of time) while we are crying out to God for change, the answer of God is not: “I don’t love you.” Rather the answer is: “I have wise and holy purposes in not overcoming this sin and not granting repentance. You do not see these purposes now. Trust me. I know what I am doing. I love you.”