Friday, June 29, 2012

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday July 1, 2012

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(Confession and praise precede GOD’s justice)
(1 Samuel 7)

In the First book of Samuel, taking up at chapter 7, we find that, after 20 years of having the “Ark of the LORD” under the care of Eleazar and the men at Kiriath-Jearim, the people of Israel continue to mourn, because they felt that GOD had abandoned them. The Ark had resided at the home of Abinadab, Eleazar’s father, just 10 miles northwest of Jerusalem, since the Philistines returned it after keeping it for seven months (1 Samuel 6:1).
Here Samuel calls all the people together at Mizpah and offered to pray to GOD in intercession for them, once they had demonstrated that they were serious about wanting to return to GOD. They had to first, get rid of all their idol gods, and promise to obey only the LORD, the GOD of Israel. In return for their obedience, Samuel promised, GOD would rescue them from the oppression of the Philistines.
And so they met there at Mizpah in a great ceremony, and they drew water from a well and poured it out to the LORD (perhaps a ritual of purification). Then, they fasted all day and confessed their sins against the LORD. On that day Samuel became the last judge over Israel, and as they celebrated, the Philistines gathered their armies and advanced against the Israelites, probably thinking the Israelites were preparing to engage a “holy war” attack against them. However, the Israelites were actually frightened by the news of the attack, and begged Samuel to pray to GOD that HE might save them.
And so, Samuel took a young lamb and sacrificed it up to the LORD as a burnt offering and petitioned the LORD to help Israel, and the LORD answered him, immediately. As Samuel was sacrificing the offering, the Philistines arrived at Mizpah, but the LORD spoke in a thundering voice from Heaven that threw their army into a state of confusion. While they were in a state of confusion, the Israelites were able to overcome the Philistines and defeat them, chasing them, from Mizpah to Bethcar, slaughtering them, all along the way.
In recognition of the victory, Samuel took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah, and he called it, “Ebernezer”, which means, “the stone of help”. Afterwards, Samuel went on to judge over Israel for the next thirty years. They were able to overcome the Philistines, because Samuel prayed an intercessory prayer that GOD could honor. GOD had, long ago, seen how Samuel honored HIM in his heart, and this prayer was most likely honored for his sake, and not for the sake of the wobbly Israelites, who would shortly show more signs of their spiritual decay and rejection of GOD, by demanding to have a king to rule over them, just as the surrounding pagan nations were governed.
However, for now, peace would remain between Israel and the Amorites for the duration of Samuel’s life, and each year he would travel around a 10-mile radius of Jerusalem, setting up his court, first, in Bethel, then later in Gilgal, and Mizpah to judge and teach the people of Israel. He also heard cases in his hometown of Ramah, where he also built an altar to the LORD.
The Israelites had a GODly leader, who was dedicated to adhering to the rules and standards of GOD, but they rejected, both he and GOD, because they believed that the “self-rule”, and “self-worship” that they saw in the surrounding pagan nations was a better plan. Instead of worshipping the GOD WHO made them in HIS OWN spiritual image, they preferred to worship the many other gods, who were made by the hands of sinful man.
Whenever the leadership in the Christian Church deteriorates spiritually (like the Davidic kings did), through too much socializing with their peers in the world, the church that they preside over, as a result, will become more like the world. It then begins to use worldly ideas, methods, and resources in a fruitless effort to do the work of GOD, “man’s way”. However, human ingenuity can never rise to the level and standard of the Almighty, Sovereign GOD, and, to have success, as it is defined by GOD, we must stay focused on GOD, and follow the ways and Will of GOD completely, just as Samuel did.
Unfortunately, the more successful our churches become financially, the more they seem to move farther and farther away from GOD, becoming blinded by the world’s view of what “success” is. And it is largely because of the “pride” that invariably comes along, in an equal proportion, with the “prosperity” that man achieves. Remember, pride comes naturally to man, but “humility” can only come by finding GOD. And the only way that anyone can find GOD, is by, first, coming to the end of one’s self, and then, in that very same place, one can also find, “humility”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

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