Dead Men Walking

by | Oct 15, 2021 | Faith, Salvation

“So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And [Eli] said, ‘It is the LORD. Let Him do what seems good to Him.'” (1 Samuel 3:18 ESV)

This devotion pairs with this weekend’s Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at

Tom White was twelve years old when he first saw a condemned criminal hung by the neck until dead. His father was the executioner. Being a hangman wasn’t his father’s first calling. It just came with the territory of being the warden of the Travis County Jail in 1894. Later, Tom explains in his biography, “I was raised practically right in the jail. I could look down from my bedroom window and see the doors to some of the cells” (Tom White: Life of a Lawman by Verdon Adams). Tom watched his father deal with these hardened, sometimes violent criminals. And it made him wonder about his father. He knew he was a good man, a kind man, and fair. But sometimes he wondered.

This weekend, on the Lutheran Hour, I’ll be encouraging listeners to read or listen to an audio version of the books of 1 and 2 Samuel. It’s the powerful, memorable story about the unexpected rise and tragic downfall of David of Bethlehem, Israel’s most famous king, second only to his Descendent, Jesus of Nazareth. Samuel’s books are exciting. They are full of colorful characters. And some of these characters show themselves to be a bunch of hardened, condemned criminals. And sometimes, God’s way of dealing with them will make you wonder.

Take Eli, for example. When we hear him speak in the reading for today, Eli is a dead man walking. The LORD his God just sentenced him to death—him and his whole household—because of their crimes. I wonder what Eli’s tone of voice was when he said, “It is the LORD. Let Him do what seems good to Him.” Is he bitter and resentful? Is he dour and depressed? Is he grieving, yet still trusting? We don’t know. But we do know something that Eli couldn’t know, at least not fully. We know that even before God became a Judge and Law-enforcer because of our sin, God was, is, and always will be the loving Father of His eternal Son, Jesus. And we know that God deemed it good—the highest good—to send Jesus to forgive our sins, to suffer our sentence, and then to rise from the dead for us. God deemed this good because He loves us, because He wants to be our Father, your Father and mine.

I invite you to listen to the books of Samuel with me over the next few weeks. And listening, you and I might became like Tom, like children, who wonder at their Father, even as we cling to His loving heart.

Prayer: Dear Father, I am guilty as sin, but You brought me into Your family. I don’t understand all Your ways, but You’ve shown me Your heart in Jesus. So, help me cling to Him in faith. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour.
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights reserved

Reflection Questions:
1. What about the ways of God makes you wonder?
2. We say God is a Father—sometimes strict, but always loving. What does that mean for you?
3. Recall the life of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. When does Jesus clearly show you God’s heart?


Dead Men Walking