The Bible is known for not glossing over human sin, human evil. If it did, how could it, and portray accurately the state of humanity? An especially sharp depiction of human evil is found in 1 Samuel 2:12-25, when the sons of Eli are presented in contrast to the young Samuel. 1 Samuel 2:12 reads, “The sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.” Notice, first, the contrast: lineage played an important role in biblical life, and in this one line “the sons of Eli” are now, instead, “the sons of Belial.”
Belial is a rich word, used in a number of forms and contexts, almost always negative. In fact, it is related to the Hebrew bl and bli, which mean “no” or “not” or “without.” Belial itself means “worthless, ” “useless, ” and in other places is used in the same way as it was in regard to Eli’s sons; that is, other men were called “sons of Belial” (2 Chron. 13:7, 1 Kings 21:13.) In Proverbs 6:12, it is equated with the wicked. (In other ancient near eastern literature, Belial is seen as another name for Satan himself.) In almost every use in the Bible, it appears as a negative. As human beings, created in the image of God, they were created for a purpose and to have meaning; and yet, according to the Bible, these men were all but worthless, “sons of worthlessness.” What a tragic waste of life. We are either for the Lord, doing something of meaning and purpose for Him, or we are, in the end, worthless. That makes sense, too, considering that our whole existence and purpose for life comes only from Him.
- The Bible makes it clear: there is no middle ground in the great controversy: we are either on one side or the other, Christ’s or Satan’s. Yet, life as we know it doesn’t always unfold with such clear and stark contrasts, does it? Sometimes we aren’t sure just what is the right decision or what is the wrong one; even with moral situations, as well. It’s not always easy to determine what to do. What are some ways we can seek guidance to help us to make right choices when, at times, it’s not so easy to know just what the “right” choice is?
- In what ways have people whom you have looked up to somehow disappointed you? At the same time, in what ways have you perhaps disappointed those who once looked up to you? What have you learned from these incidents about faith, trust, grace, and human frailty?