• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

The great danger of priests desecrating God’s temple

png_20240512_120529_0000

Things have continually evolved throughout human history. Older people often talk about the good old days with a nostalgia that suggests that everything deteriorates with time, especially in quality and standards.

One of the things that has changed a lot is the public’s perception of priests or religious leaders. Recent events have shown a decline in the expectations people have of God’s servants in terms of sanctity, piety and purity.

Moral uprightness has dropped many steps down the checklist, and the ability to showcase giftings and supernatural power has been elevated inordinately. Nowadays, it does not matter how a priest behaves, as long as he can put something on display that can draw applause. This is the root of the corruption that now plagues the Church and the desecration of God’s temple. But it is not a new phenomenon. It is only reoccurring.

At the beginning of the book of 1 Samuel, we are introduced to Eli, the high priest of the Tabernacle at Shiloh, and his two sons: Hophni and Phinehas, who were priests.

Chapter 2 describes Eli’s sons as corrupt priests who did not know the Lord and goes on to show how they corrupted the system of offerings at the Tabernacle.

“And the priests’ custom with the people was that when any man offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fleshhook in his hand while the meat was boiling. Then he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot, and the priest would take for himself all that the fleshhook brought up. So, they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there.

“Also, before they burned the fat, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who sacrificed, “Give meat for roasting to the priest, for he will not take boiled meat from you, but raw.” And if the man said to him, “They should really burn the fat first; then you may take as much as your heart desires,” he would then answer him, “No, but you must give it now; and if not, I will take it by force.” Therefore, the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 2:13-17).

Verses 22 to 24 show that the corruption of Eli’s sons degenerated from tampering with the sacrifice to tampering with the women who came to seek God at the Tabernacle. What an abomination! But don’t we hear about it today? Church leaders sleeping with church members?

“Now, Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. So, he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the Lord’s people transgress.”

Eli went on to warn them of God’s wrath of God, but they did not listen. God killed them. They both died miserable deaths. They died the way that priests should not die.

Sadly, many go the way of Hophni and Phinehas, thinking that God’s grace covers them. They forget that God does not change, and His standards and justice system do not change.

The fear of God is gone. They have no limits, no caution. They abuse the liberty they have with God. We must be careful not to turn liberty into licence.

The Bible says “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 2:7). On the contrary, what proceeded from Eli’s sons was corruption.

We put ourselves in danger every time we act as sons and daughters of God, and we take away caution.We say we are people of grace and grace has covered all our sins, so we can misbehave. We think we can do whatever we want, go wherever we want to go, party in clubs, join gangs and have illicit sex.

Some who profess to be Christians, even pastors, have been caught in the act of some sexual immorality that is condemnable even among unbelievers.

That was the case in the Corinthian church, a powerfully gifted church. While they were manifesting spiritual gifts and the power of God, they were also engaging in sexual immorality to the extent that one of them was having an affair with his father’s wife and the church carried on as though everything was fine.

Paul rebuked them in 1 Corinthians chapter 5, telling them that even unbelievers would not condone what they were condoning. “And you are proud and arrogant! And you ought rather to mourn (bow in sorrow and in shame) until the person who has done this [shameful] thing is removed from your fellowship and your midst!” Paul wrote in verse 2.

Hophni and Phinehas lacked a good report. Meanwhile, Hebrews 11 says that the elders obtained a good report. It’s about character. It’s about how we respond to God and how we live up to His rules and standards. A critical qualification of a bishop in Titus chapter 1 is that the bishop must be blameless. That means he should be impeccable. People who have come in contact with him should be able to testify to his good character.

As a priest, you must have the right attitude towards God. You must have the right attitude towards God’s work. You must have the right attitude towards God’s people. Eli’s sons moved from bad behaviourtowards God to bad behaviour towards his offering and then to bad behaviour towards God’s people. Those are the three levels of corruption.

The greatest thing God will show you is mercy, but God will crush you if you play with His people. People are central to God’s work. Remember that Moses’ ministry began because God heard the cry of His people, and He indeed crushed Egypt.

I remember, early this year, God spoke to me and said, “Son, there is a problem with your generation, and you must fix it. You must talk about it.” And, I said, Lord, what is it? He said, “My fear is no longer in the midst of my people.” You know these days; we talk as if we own the world. We make bogus confessions and share testimonies in a way that obscures God.

When God shows mercy on us and we experience a breakthrough, we talk about it as though we got it by our power. When we share the testimony, we talk about how we prayed and fasted for a long time. When we are done, all people can see is what we did. God is obscured. The result is that people praise us and see us as powerful men of God. The glory doesn’t go to God.

May the Lord help us. May His fear return to the Church, so that His wrath does not consume us.

Reverend Ukporhe is the Senior Pastor at Remnant Christian Network, Lagos. Raised in Sokoto, northern Nigeria, he was trained in peculiar firebrand evangelism and was ordained as a pastor in 2001. He has experienced countless and diverse workings of the faithfulness of God over two decades and has developed a passion to see God’s will for Nigeria become a reality. He can be reached on ‪+2348060255604‬.