It is sad to turn from Hanna’s son to Eli’s sons. “His sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.” (1 Samuel 3:13.) The wickedness of Eli’s sons is too well known to make it necessary for us to enter into the details of either the sins or the judgment (See 1 Samuel 3:13). The Lord Himself has summed it all up in the verse just quoted, and He has given us the reason for both sins and judgment: “He restrained them not.” Eli was ninety-eight years old, and at that time remonstrated with his sons, but it was too late, “They hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.” (1 Samuel 2:25.) There is, perhaps, no passage in the Scriptures that should speak more solemnly to the hearts of us parents than this sad story; may we each one heed it, and learn the lesson. Probably two or three good spankings when they were small would have saved those boys, not only from an untimely death, but their souls from hell. It is not the fashion in these days, in some quarters, to spank the children; but how clearly the Scriptures speak: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell” Proverbs 23:13. “He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” Proverbs 13:24. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” Proverbs 22:15. “The rod and reproof give wisdom; but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea he shall give delight unto thy soul.” Proverbs 29:15,17. “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying” Proverbs 19:18. These Scriptures make very clear the will of God in this most important matter. And note these Scriptures call for a really good whipping with a stick that does not stop for the child’s crying.
And we might, in passing, note the urgency of early training. “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it” Proverbs 22:6. What a contrast between Hannah’s son, and Eli’s sons! Little doubt that Samuel’s good and devoted mother used her brief, but precious time when she had her boy, to train him up as he should go. We may well believe that she did not follow Eli’s failure, but “restrained” him and it may be that in his old age Eli had learned his lesson, and when God in His grace entrusted a new little life to the care of this failing father, he seems to have brought up Hanna’s son very differently to the way in which he had brought up his own.
The modern theory of allowing our children to develop their own ways, in “self-expression”, can lead only to sorrow and disaster. How much better to heed the clear Word of God in this most important matter of bringing up our little ones.