Eli put his finger on a central spiritual issue for human beings. Sin is not just a matter of the horizontal (what we do to men). There are judges on earth who can punish men for sins against their fellow men. Man’s central problem is his sin against God.
David in Psalm 51 says, "Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight…." (v. 4). Yes, there was a horizontal aspect to his sin. More grievous, however, was the vertical aspect to his sin. Sometimes you will hear someone justify sinful behavior by saying that it’s a victimless crime. It’s OK as long as no other person gets hurt by it. That is an unbiblical perspective. The real issue from Scripture’s perspective is not merely whether or not our sin grieves man, but how it grieves a holy and just God.
Go back to Eli’s question: "But if a man sin against the LORD who shall entreat for him?" Who will entreat for us?
The witness of the Scriptures is that Eli’s question would not be clearly answered until many years in the future when a man named Jesus of Nazareth would appear on the scene.
John, the desert prophet, would see him and say, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Peter, an eyewitness to the crucifixion and resurrection, would say that Jesus "bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed" (1 Peter 2:24). Paul, the former persecutor of Christ, would say of the Lord’s cross work, "being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him" (Romans 5:9). John, Peter, and Paul are all answering Eli’s question: "But if a man sin against the LORD who shall entreat for him?" The answer is Jesus. He offers entreaty for sinful men on the cross, and he attains for them reconciliation with God.
The cross is the touchstone of the Christian life and the premier model for living out that life, which involves denying self, taking up your own cross daily, and following him (Luke 9:23).
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle