As I read through 1 Samuel, I notice a pattern, or, better yet, the contrast between fathers and sons.
Eli was a godly man, but his sons Hophni and Phinehas did not follow in their father’s footsteps. Unlike Eli, they were “corrupt” and “did not know the Lord” (1 Sam 2:12). They turned God’s sacrifices into occasions for sin. So God replaced Eli’s sons with Samuel.
Samuel was a godly man whose birth was an answer to prayer. Samuel appointed his sons Joel and Abijah as judges over Israel, but they did not follow in their father’s footsteps, but instead took bribes and perverted justice (1 Sam 8:3). So the people wanted to replace Samuel with a king.
God chose Saul to be king. Saul seems to have started as a godly man, but he quickly descended into sin and rebellion, so God rejected him as king. Saul had a son named Jonathan. Like the other sons in 1 Samuel, he didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps either. Only this time, that was a good thing! Instead of rebelling against God like his father, Jonathan chose to be faithful. Even when God replaced Saul’s son with David, Jonathan remained faithful. Although Jonathan should have been Israel’s next king, he acknowledged David’s right to the throne. In fact, instead of being bitter or angry or resentful, he loved David.
Fathers influence their children but cannot cause them to either follow or rebel against the Lord. Ultimately, godliness is a choice that every son must make for himself. Eli and Samuel’s sons chose to be ungodly, while Saul’s son chose to be godly.
No matter what your earthly father was like, you have a choice to be faithful to your heavenly Father.