Sunday School Lesson 12 June 2016

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Called! God delivers His message through His faithful followers

Bible passage — 1 Samuel 2:11-3:21 — focus on 3:1-10, 17-21

Background

For background on the spiritual situation in 1 Samuel, let’s look at a few verses from the book of Judges.

Read Judges 2 (HCSB)

7 The people worshiped the Lord throughout Joshua’s lifetime and during the lifetimes of the elders who outlived Joshua. They had seen all the Lord’s great works He had done for Israel.

Comment: Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and through the Wilderness and Joshua led them to enter the Promised Land. The generation of Israelites who entered the Promised Land stayed close to God under the leadership of Joshua and his associates. But that soon changed!

Read Judges 2 (HCSB)

10 That whole generation was also gathered to their ancestors. After them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works He had done for Israel.

11 The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. They worshiped the Baals 12(a,b) and abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods from the surrounding peoples and bowed down to them.

Comment: Most religions in ancient times were polytheist. People worshiped many gods. Individual gods were normally were limited, only affecting a few aspects of the world and only certain places.

The Hebrew word for "baal" meant "lord". Here the plural term Baals probably refers various local deities for the various Canaanite communities.

In other parts of the Old Testament, the singular term Baal probably refers to a Canaanite god related to fertility (agricultural), a deity viewed as powerful by the Canaanite peoples.

When people migrated from one place to another, they might take their previous gods with them, but also adopt the gods of the new place and its people. The Israelites were no exception.

For example, as I mentioned last week, the Philistines were likely relatively recent migrants from Greece, but they had apparently adopted the Canaanite culture along with its deities.

Read Judges 3 (HCSB)

5 But they settled among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 6 The Israelites took their daughters as wives for themselves, gave their own daughters to their sons, and worshiped their gods.

Comment: In some areas, the Israelite tribes had been effective in driving out the people who lived in their tribal areas as God commanded them to do–particularly in the southern highlands (Judah, Simeon).

But in other areas–such as the northern hills and Jordan valley. They had not been less successful.

As was common with migrating groups, the Israelites tended to adopt the cultural and religious practices of the previous inhabitants.

Because the Israelites did not conquer the entire Promised Land and because they became "evil in God’s sight", God allowed the people to suffer at the hands of marauders and neighboring countries.

Read Judges 2 (HCSB)

16 The Lord raised up judges, who saved them from the power of their marauders, 17(a) but they did not listen to their judges.

Comment: After a period of suffering and the Israelites crying out to the Lord, He would have mercy on them and provide a leader to deliver them from the trouble. These are the judges.

Read Judges 2 (HCSB)

19 Whenever the judge died, the Israelites would act even more corruptly than their fathers, going after other gods to worship and bow down to them. They did not turn from their evil practices or their obstinate ways.

Comment: This went through several cycles during the period of the judges. The people kept getting worse and worse.

Samuel was born at the end of this tumultuous period.

Today’s Bible Lesson

From last week’s lesson in 1 Samuel, we know that Eli is the priest serving with his sons at Shiloh, the primary worship center for the Israelite people.

Read 1 Samuel 2: 12-14, 17 (HCSB)

12 Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord 13 or for the priests’ share of the sacrifices from the people.

When any man offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged meat fork while the meat was boiling 14 and plunge it into the container or kettle or cauldron or cooking pot.

The priest would claim for himself whatever the meat fork brought up. This is the way they treated all the Israelites who came there to Shiloh.

17 So the servants’ sin was very severe in the presence of the Lord, because they treated the Lord’s offering with contempt.

Comment: Except for solemn ceremonies for holy days like the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), sacrificing at the tabernacle was somewhat like a barbecue. Once the sacrifice was finished, the participants had a feast. The priests and temple attendants could take a share of what was left.

Read 1 Samuel 2: 22-3, 25 (HCSB)

22 Now Eli was very old. He heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they were sleeping with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.

23(a) He said to them. "Why are you doing these things?"…

25b …But they would not listen to their father…

Comment: Eli was the High Priest of the Israelites. That means he was a descendant of Moses’ brother Aaron, the first High Priest. The oldest of his sons was supposed to succeed him in that role.

Although Eli was likely a good man, he had been a weak spiritual leader for Israel and a poor father to his sons.

His sons were evil men, who used their priestly office to their personal advantage.

Read 1 Samuel 2: 26 (HCSB)

26 By contrast, the boy Samuel grew in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men.

Comment: Fortunately, Eli’s apprentice Samuel was much different from Eli’s sons.

Listen for how many times God called Samuel before Eli and Samuel recognized that it was the Lord speaking.

Read 1 Samuel 3: 1-10 (HCSB) — printed in the lesson commentary

1 The boy Samuel served the Lord in Eli’s presence. In those days the word of the Lord was rare and prophetic visions were not widespread.

2 One day Eli, whose eyesight was failing, was lying in his room.

3 Before the lamp of God had gone out, Samuel was lying down in the tabernacle of the Lord, where the ark of God was located.

4 Then the Lord called Samuel, and he answered, "Here I am."

5 He ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me." "I didn’t call," Eli replied. "Go back and lie down." So he went and lay down.

6 Once again the Lord called, "Samuel!" Samuel got up, went to Eli, and said, "Here I am; you called me." "I didn’t call, my son," he replied. "Go back and lie down."

7 Now Samuel had not yet experienced the Lord, because the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

8 Once again, for the third time, the Lord called Samuel. He got up, went to Eli, and said, "Here I am; you called me."

Then Eli understood that the Lord was calling the boy.

9 He told Samuel, "Go and lie down. If He calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.’" So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

10 The Lord came, stood there, and called as before, "Samuel, Samuel!" Samuel responded, "Speak, for Your servant is listening."

Samuel was about 12 years old. One of the jobs he had was to make sure that the candles in the menorah of the tabernacle did not go out over night. So he slept nearby. God called out to him about an hour before sunrise.

Ask — Why did it take three times for Eli to recognize it was the Lord speaking to Samuel?

In the Old Testament times, God spoke in different ways. In addition to the books of the Law (Torah), at times God spoke audibly. But in the time of Samuel, direct revelation from God was rare. This confused Samuel.

God spoke three times to make sure he got through to Samuel. He wanted to be heard by Samuel.

Ask — Why do you think this incident was this recorded in detail in the Old Testament?

In Old Testament times, the scriptures were often read aloud. The Rule of Three is an important device in writing, speech, and humor. Rhetorical triads can convey ideas in a complete, powerful, and memorable way. (There were a couple of triads.) God wanted it to be all three.

Examples.:

  • The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

  • Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

  • Government of the people, by the people, and for the people

  • I came, I saw, I conquered

  • Snap, Crackle, Pop

  • Can I get you anything? Cup of coffee? Doughnut? Toupee? [joke end]

  • Battle for truth, justice, and the American way

  • It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no its superman

  • Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locamotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound

God wanted to get Samuel’s attention, but he also wanted the attention of believers over the centuries.

Ask — How does God speak to us today?

Scripture, prayer, preaching, teaching, spiritual mentors, perhaps direct revelation

Ask — How can we prepare our hearts to hear God’s voice?

Study the read scripture, pray, worship alone and together. We must listen as Samuel does in v. 10.

Ask — Consider a coffee filter. What does it do?

We fill it with ground coffee and run hot water though it. It filters out the coffee grounds, but lets through the good stuff, the Elixir of Life, that jumpstarts our day.

Now consider the Bible. In the say way, any time we hear God’s voice, it must be consistent with the whole of Scripture. As Christians, all of our experiences must be filtered through the Word of God.

Ask — Think about this scripture (1 Samuel 3: 1-10). What was Eli’s role as Samuel’s spiritual mentor?

He took his role as mentor seriously. He was concerned about the growth of Samuel. He was able to recognize that God had a message for Samuel. He did not try to take over the process. He told Samuel what he needed to do to receive the message. Then he got out of the way.

Ask — What was Samuel’s role as mentee?

He gave his mentor attention when he spoke. He listened to what his mentor advised. He did what the mentor suggested. He responded to God with confidence. He grew greatly from the experience.

Ask — What characteristics are important to the role of spiritual mentor? To the role of one being mentored?

Mentor — as above, also tuned in to God through His Word, prayer, and worship.

Mentee — above, also tuned in to God through His Word, prayer, and worship, filtering advice through the Word.

Read 1 Samuel 3: 17-21 (HCSB) — listen for the characteristics of Samuel

7 "What was the message He gave you?" Eli asked. "Don’t hide it from me. May God punish you and do so severely if you hide anything from me that He told you."

18 So Samuel told him everything and did not hide anything from him. Eli responded, "He is the Lord. He will do what He thinks is good."

19 Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and He fulfilled everything Samuel prophesied.

20 All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a confirmed prophet of the Lord.

21 The Lord continued to appear in Shiloh, because there He revealed Himself to Samuel by His word.

Ask — What are the characteristics of Samuel?

Cared about God’s message. Respected Eli and his instructions. Wanted to deliver God’s message fully and accurately. Was open to personal spiritual growth and further messages form God.

Ask — What are the characteristics of Eli’s sons?

Cared nothing for God’s message. Did not respect Eli or his instructions. Was only interested in themselves and "enjoying" the physical things in life.

Eli’s failure to train his sons to fear the Lord resulted in the judgment on his whole family.

Read Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 (HCSB) — gives God’s instructions on how we should teach children

4 Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.

5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart.

7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead.

9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Closing

Ask — What are some concrete ways that we can take to help one another grow?

The memory verse is 1 Samuel 3: 10

10 The Lord came, stood there, and called as before, "Samuel, Samuel!" Samuel responded, "Speak, for Your servant is listening."

Prayer — Let’s be quiet for a few moments and listen to the Lord.

Speak to us Lord, for your servants are listening. Amen

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