Tuesday, June 26, 2012

“Samuel Administers Justice” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday July 1, 2012

Purpose: To consider how legal infrastructure helps justice to prevail

Scripture Text: I Samuel 7:3-11, 15-17 (NRSV)

I Samuel 7:3-17
(3)Then Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Astartes from among you. Direct your heart to the LORD, and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” (4)So Israel put away the Baals and the Astartes, and they served the LORD only. (5)Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the LORD for you.” (6)So they gathered at Mizpah, and drew water and poured it out before the LORD. They fasted that day, and said, “We have sinned against the LORD.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah.

(7)When the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it they were afraid of the Philistines. (8)The people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the LORD our God for us, and pray that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.”( 9)So Samuel took a sucking lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the LORD; Samuel cried out to the LORD for Israel, and the LORD answered him. (10)As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel; but the LORD thundered with a mighty voice that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion; and they were routed before Israel. (11)And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as beyond Beth-car. (12)Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”

(13)So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel; the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. (14)The towns that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath; and Israel recovered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. (15)Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.(16)He went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah; and he judged Israel in all these places. (17)Then he would come back to Ramah, for his home was there; he administered justice there to Israel, and built there an altar to the LORD.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

As our journey with these nomadic people continues, we find the establishment of communities and cities. One of the main characters in this transition is named Samuel. Samuel was given by his mother Hannah to the Lord and raised by the priest Eli in the temple at Shiloh. Samuel served as a judge, a prophet, and also acted as a priest, he was the last of the judges and bridged that span of time between the Judges and the kings Saul and David.

Samuel seems to hold many of the same qualities and offices as Moses, and Joshua. After settling in the land that the Lord had given them a government needed to be form for harmony and peace in the different villages and communities. Moses had ordained a method of appointing elders to a place of responsibility in each community. Samuel after his time of service with Eli at Shiloh, learned all that Eli could teach him about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Samuel was a seer, (prophet) as well as a judge that administered justice in several cities.

Our lesson takes place at a time when the land had been settled and the Israelite's were farming the land and ceased to be a nomadic tribe. As they farmed they adopted many of the local traditions including the worship of Baals, an Astarte. (Astartes were carved wooden gods), and were thought to help raise fertile crops. Those that were worshipers of Baal and Astartes were the Philistines, which we now call Palestinians. Just as Moses had said the temptation would be for the children of Israel to adopt the local gods of the Promised Land, one of the reasons God would have preferred that they would have destroyed them as they took possession of the land.

It is amazing how religious we can get when we sense destruction and death. The people of Israel saw this large army being formed and now all of a sudden they sought the help of the God that had brought them from Egypt to Canaan.

Samuel's advice was pretty straight forward, if they wanted God's help they would have to give up these gods they were worshiping and had in their homes. It appears to be the same as what we require today, it required genuine repentance, stop serving Baal and Astartes and start serving the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Samuel performs a purification ceremony with water and also sacrificed a lamb. These were both acts of a priest, so he was not only a prophet and a judge but also a priest. These acts were a foretaste of Jesus role as a redeemer, judge and great high priest. Because the people listened and obeyed what Samuel commanded, they were saved from destruction. Now you would think this lesson would last longer than a generation, but it didn't. Time and time again God being a gracious and loving God, forgave and redeemed the children of Israel. Some only see a God of wrath and judgment in the Old Testament stories, I see a God that loves and forgives time and time again. God is always willing to step in and offer his love and care to all of us, it is but a cry away. As verse 7 says. “Direct your heart to the LORD, and serve him only, and he will deliver you.”

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