(Create a display of items that can become idols: a football, a guitar, a credit card, a family photo, picture of children, money, etc.)
1. What do these items on the table have in common? (These are things that are common in all of our lives, to some extent, that we use and love.)
2. How would you define the word “idol”? (1-An image or representation of a god used as an object of worship. 2-a person or thing that is greatly admired, loved, or revered.)
I would add this definition: Anything or person that is placed above God in our lives.
3. How can each of these things become an idol in our lives?
Anything we put before God has become an idol in our life! In today’s study, we will discuss the importance of putting God first by giving Him the respect He deserves.
In Isaiah 48:11 God says: “I will act for My own sake, indeed, My own, for how can I be defiled? I will not give My glory to another.”
Last week we studied about Samuel’s formal call by God to be His prophet. In 1 Samuel chapter 4 the Philistines killed 4,000 Israelites at Aphek in a resounding victory. So the Israelites decided to take the Ark of the Lord into the next battle with them, thinking with the Ark of the Lord they would be victorious. But they suffered an even greater defeat and 30,000 Israelite soldiers died along with Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas! And if that wasn’t enough, the Ark of the Lord was captured and carried off by the Philistines. When Eli received the news, he fell over backwards out of his chair, broke his neck and died!
The wife of Phinehas was pregnant and when she heard the news, she went into labor, gave birth to a son and then died herself. It was indeed a dark day for the Israelites!
4. In what had the Israelites placed their faith? (The Ark of the Lord, not in the God, whose presence it represented!)
Let’s see what happens to the Ark in the hands of the Philistines, or better yet what happens to the Philistines in the hands of God!
The Holy God! Read 1 Samuel 5:1-5
1. What did the capture of the ark signify for the Israelites?
In the Old Testament, the ark was God’s dwelling place on earth. It is where God met with the High Priest to give instructions for the people. The ark itself was not God, like other nations had man-made idols, but God used the ark to display His power and glory.
2. How would you explain the taking of the Lord’s Supper to someone not familiar with this ordinance?
3. How can its significance be exaggerated?
4. How can its significance be understated?
5. Should people regard the church building or a physical copy of the Bible as sacred?
6. How might such ideas become dangerously exaggerated?
7. How would you explain what happened when the ark was placed in the temple of Dagon?
8. How would you describe to a friend the destructive effect of worshiping a false god instead of the God of the universe?
9. How easy is it for us to be lured into actually worshiping something or someone other than the one true God?
Judgment Experienced! Read 1 Samuel 5:6
1. By placing the arkat the feet of their idol Dagon, they were trying to say their god was superior. What happens when the holy things of God are treated as common?
2. What does the glory of God mean to you?
3. How would you explain the balance between God’s kindness and judgment?
4. The ark was moved to three of the five major cities of the Philistines. By the time it was moved to the third city the people were trembling with fear. Do we have an appropriate fear of the Lord when we are disobedient to His laws?
5. How would you explain the balance between God’s kindness and judgment?
We have seen terrible, horrific acts of violence in our own nation with increasing frequency. It is not for us to say that God is bringing judgment on any particular group of people. The violence that occurred in Orlando, FL this past week should be heartbreaking for all of us. While we don’t agree with the lifestyle of those involved, we are called to act with the love of Christ toward all people. The right to bring judgment on people is God’s and His alone. We also stand as sinners, and while we may try to live a holy life we too fail at times. The Baptist Pastor in California who basically said that we should not feel pity for those people and we should wish more had died was wrong! I am embarrassed that he calls himself a minister of the Gospel. He certainly does not show the love of Christ! We are to pray that somehow those people will hear the Gospel and respond positively by turning to Jesus.
The Philistines cried out to their leaders to send the ark back to the Israelites. So their diviners devised a plan that would determine if their problems were caused by Israel’s God or if it was just a coincidence. A cart pulled by two milk cows which had both just had a calf and had never been yoked to pull a wagon would pull the ark. If they went back to Israel then it was a “God” thing.
Instructions Followed! Read 1 Samuel 6:11-12
Living with God’s judgment and punishment, the plague of tumors for seven months, was long enough!
1. In what ways have you witnessed God display His power in unlikely situations?
2. What about us! We know God desires our obedience, so why do we sometimes choose to disobey? (At times disobedience might seem to be the easy road. Taking a stand against the culture and standing up for God can be a hard choice.)
Sometimes the shiny, sparkling enticement of sin seems to be fun. But it’s a short-lived pleasure that reaps a harvest of sorrow long term.
Worship Offered! Read 1 Samuel 6:13-16
1. What was the people of Israel’s response to having the ark back in their possession?
2. What does our attitude toward the holiness of God reveal to a lost world around us?
3. Do you think the Philistines had a greater reverence for the God of Israel?
4. Read John 4:24. What does it mean to worship God in spirit and truth?
5. Why are both elements of worship important?
6. The Israelites were overjoyed when they saw the ark coming. How do we reflect the joy of salvation in our worship? (Emphasize that God deserves our very best in worship.)
One of the testimonies that believers give to a watching world is the heartfelt and dynamic worship of their Savior, Jesus Christ. Unbelievers’ exposure to true worship of God can plant seeds that have eternal impact on them.
Summarize and Challenge!
1. How can we guard against idols in our lives today? (Carved idols are easy to avoid. Remember that idols are anything or any person whom we place above God in our lives.)
2. If someone were to watch you closely from a distance for one month, what would they say you worship?
3. Think about the ways you worship God. What step could you take to make your worship more joy-filled and meaningful?
There is a hymn written by Julia Cady Cory in 1902 called “We Praise You, O God, Our Redeemer.” The first verse is below:
We praise You, O God, our Redeemer, Creator
In grateful devotion our tribute we bring.
We lay it before You, we kneel and adore You,
We bless Your holy name, glad praises we sing.
Consider closing with the Doxology!