Lesson 21 covers chapters 1-3, and 8 of 1 Samuel (with no mention of chapters 4-7). I don’t know why I continue to be amazed at the way they bulldoze over God’s word in a Sunday school class just to get to the bits and pieces they need to use for their lesson. But I am!
The lesson begins with Eli and his sons Hophni and Phinehas, and then goes into Samuel’s early service to the Lord and his call. It ends with the Israelites’ desire to follow the world and ask for a king rather than follow the Lord.
With each lesson we do in this series I ask myself what is the take away message? If I were a Mormon sitting in this Sunday school class what new thing would I have learned that day about God and His word? The answer is always the same; I would be left wondering if I’m I doing all I can do to be saved.
This lesson is no different. Using the examples of Eli, his sons, Samuel and the Israelites the lesson identifies areas where Mormons can choose to honor themselves, the world, or others rather than the Lord. Some of these areas include: entertainment, Sabbath observance, dating and morality, fasting and Church callings.
As they focus on these trivial things they miss out on what God desires to reveal to them in these chapters. Not to mention what they’re missing out on by skipping over a few chapters just so they can make their point and move on.
For instance some of the cool things they missed out on in this lesson are:
Hannah’s Song of Thanksgiving
I really enjoyed reading Hannah’s heartfelt praises to the Lord in chapter 2:1-10. In these verses there are seven contrasts to her praise 1) Strength and weakness , 2) full and hungry, 3) barren and fertile 4) dead and alive 5) sick and well, 6) poor and rich 7) humbled and exalted.
Her prayer is full of joy as she pours out her heart to God in Thanksgiving for answering her prayers. She trusts in the Lord completely and knows that He’s a righteous judge.
In Chapter 4 the Israelites are at war with the Philistines. When the Israelites saw they were defeated and thought God had abandoned them they tried to manipulate Him into rescuing them by bringing the Ark of the Covenant into their camp. The Israelites didn’t receive the help they were expecting and the Ark of the Covenant fell into the hands of their enemies.
Chapter 5 finds the Ark remaining with in Philistine cities for seven months, during which time the people were plagued with tumors and rodents.
When they took the Ark into their cities they put it next to a statue of their god (Dagon), I found it a little amusing that when they rose the following day the statue seems to be “bowing” before the Ark. Of course they set the statue upright again, but the following day it has its head and hands cut off.
What a testament to God! He’s shown the Philistines that no one is greater than He is. By the end of the chapter the Philistines realize what’s going on and can’t get the Ark out of the city fast enough. In 1 Samuel 5:11 we read:
“So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go again to his own place, that it slay us not, and our people.” For there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city; the hand of God was very heavy there.”
In Chapter 6 the Philistines sought advice from “priests and diviners” as to what they should do with the Ark, and followed their instructions.
How awesome is God, that even those who don’t worship Him fear His judgment?
Chapter 7 is the beginning of Samuel’s ministry. With the Ark being returned to them he implores the Israelites to “return to the Lord”, cast out their false gods and direct their hearts towards Him. If they do these things God promises to deliver them from the Philistines.
In their hurry to get to their next point in the lesson they skip over a real important message in chapters 4-7. It’s a message of God’s faithfulness and sovereignty over Israel.