Tuesday, September 4, 2012

God Will Not Tolerate being Second Best - Youth Bible Study on 1 Samuel 4-5

Brief: God deserves to be first in our lives.

(Printable Student Sheet)

Intro Question
What is the most important thing in your life?

We’ve been reading about how Hannah prayed for a child, and God gave her Samuel. In thanks, Hannah gave Samuel back to God. She gave him to Eli the priest so that Samuel could learn how to serve God. But Eli wasn’t a very good priest, and Eli’s sons were even worse. God repeatedly warned Eli what would happen to him and his sons if they didn’t do what was right. Here’s one of the prophecies that God gave Eli.

Scripture: 1 Samuel 2:30-34; 4:1-18; 5:1-5

1 Samuel 2:30-34: “Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before Me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from Me! Those who honor Me I will honor, but those who despise Me will be disdained. 31 The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age, 32 and you will see distress in My dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age. 33 Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at My altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.

34 “‘And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same day.

God told Eli before that He would kill Eli and his sons as a punishment. Now God is about to do that because Eli and his sons haven’t changed their ways.

1 Samuel 4:1-18; 5:1-5: And Samuel’s word came to all Israel.

Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines. The Israelites camped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines at Aphek. The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield. When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh, so that He may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.”

So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of the Lord Almighty, Who is enthroned between the cherubim. And Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

When the ark of the Lord’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, “What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?”

When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp,the Philistines were afraid. “A god has come into the camp,” they said. “Oh no! Nothing like this has happened before. We’re doomed! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? They are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. Be strong, Philistines! Be men, or you will be subject to the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Be men, and fight!”

10 So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11 The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

12 That same day a Benjamite ran from the battle line and went to Shiloh with his clothes torn and dust on his head. 13 When he arrived, there was Eli sitting on his chair by the side of the road, watching, because his heart feared for the ark of God. When the man entered the town and told what had happened, the whole town sent up a cry.

14 Eli heard the outcry and asked, “What is the meaning of this uproar?”

The man hurried over to Eli, 15 who was ninety-eight years old and whose eyes had failed so that he could not see. 16 He told Eli, “I have just come from the battle line; I fled from it this very day.”

Eli asked, “What happened, my son?”

17 The man who brought the news replied, “Israel fled before the Philistines, and the army has suffered heavy losses. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.”

18 When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and he was heavy. He had led Israel forty years.

After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained.That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor any others who enter Dagon’s temple at Ashdod step on the threshold.

What happened to the statue of the god, Dagon? Why and how?

The Philistines worshipped a false god named Dagon. They set the ark of the covenant, the chest that had God’s Ten Commandments in it, next to the statue of this false god. And God knocked it down. The next day, the people put the statue of Dagon back up, and God knocked it down again and destroyed it.

Here’s the point: God will not tolerate being second best or being put on the same level as something else. The Philistines tried to put Dagon on the same level as God. Eli the priest put his sons above God because he let his sons do whatever they wanted instead of listening to God and punishing them. And God destroyed them both. He destroyed the fake god, and He destroyed Eli and his sons.

God will not be second best. God will not be on the same level as something else. God has to be first. Think about those things that you said were most important in your life. I’m sure all of those things are good things, but God says that He has to be first. He has to be most important.

And it makes sense for God to be most important, doesn’t it? God is the one who made us. God is the one who saved us and will let us live forever through Jesus’ death on the cross. We would have nothing without God. We wouldn’t even be alive to enjoy those other things that are important to us if God hadn’t made us. God deserves to be first in our lives. He deserves to be most important. He’s God.

So, I wonder, what are some things that we can do to make God first in our lives? (Suggestions include praying every morning to give God your day, reading your Bible more, stopping anything that God wouldn’t be pleased with and living for Him, etc.)

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