Samuel, the Ark, and the Philistines Object Lesson

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Focus Scripture: 1 Samuel 3-6

Materials: a “lucky” item, like a rabbit’s foot, or a ball cap

{The Bible Atlas and Companion is a fantastic resource. It has beautiful maps; and for this lesson there is a map and a picture of the ark of the covenant.}

Geography: Shiloh, Ebenezer, Ashdod, Gath, Ekron, Beth Shemesh

Background: During the years of the judges, there was great sin and darkness. Once Joshua died there was no leadership, no king, and no government. Each tribe did it’s own thing. The people fell into gross idolatry and gross immorality to the point that “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” BUT God did not forget His promise to Abraham and He was at work through a young Moabite lady named Ruth. Through Ruth, God would bring about a king and THE King.

The Israelites had the tabernacle where the priests and levites ministered to God. But even there, God’s voice was silent because of the amount of sin in the land.

Object Lesson for Samuel:

{Hold up the “lucky” item. I used a baseball cap. Ask:}

  • If I take this item to a ballgame, that means my team will win, right? [Allow for answers]
  • If I forget to take it, then my team will lose. Is this right? [Allow for answers]
  • Why do people throw coins into a water fountain? [Allow for answers]
  • During St. Patrick’s Day, what is the object that will, supposedly, bring you good luck? [4 leaf clover]
  • What IS “good luck”? [Allow for answers]
  • Can objects bring about good luck? [Allow for answers]

Many people enjoy having “Lucky” items, or things that they think might bring them good luck. People want to win ball games. They want situations to turn out good results.

{Ask:}

  • If you use a certain bat and then you get many hits during a game or season using that bat, is it really the BAT that allowed you to be successful? [Allow for answers]
  • What is the ark of the covenant? [When the Israelites received the directions from God through Moses to build the tabernacle, there were also directions on what to put IN the tabernacle. Furniture, candles, curtains, etc. The ark of the covenant was to be built as the place where God would sit. The Mercy Seat. There were very specific rules as to who could carry the ark and how it was to be moved. The priests knew if anyone touched the ark, he would be killed. The ark was placed in the Holy of Holies and only the High Priest was to enter the room once per year.]
  • What is a prophecy? [A prediction about a future event; usually calls for people to repent]
  • What is a prophet? [A person who receives prophecies from God; a person who prays to God in order to save/spare the lives of others]

Bible Lesson for Samuel:

{As you tell the events, have the map nearby so you can follow the ark as it moves.}

During the time of the Judges, a father and mother had a baby. That baby was Samuel. Samuel was raised in the temple and served the Lord.

When Samuel was a boy, “The word of the Lord was rare.” In fact, when Samuel heard the Lord’s voice, he thought it was Eli.

Samuel heard a voice say, “Samuel! Samuel!” After three times of going to Eli to ask what he wanted, Eli told Samuel that it must be the Lord speaking to him. Eli told Samuel to tell the voice, “Speak, for your servant hears.

The next Samuel heard the voice, he responded, and Samuel received his first prophecy from the Lord. God told Samuel that He was going to take the priesthood away from the family of Eli because of the evil doings of Eli’s sons. The next morning Eli asked Samuel about what God had told him. Samuel told him.

Israel and the Philistines went to war at Ebenezar. Israel lost about 4,000 men and wondered why they had been defeated. Israel was defeated. They went into the tabernacle and some priests (Hophni and Phinehas, Eli’s sons) brought the ark of the covenant out of the Holy of Holies so they could take it to battle with them.

The army of Israel took the ark of the covenant into battle with them hoping they would win, like maybe God was a good luck charm. It didn’t work. In fact, not only did the army lose 30,000 men, but the ark of the covenant was captured by the enemy! During the battle Eli’s two sons were killed. When Eli heard about his sons’ deaths and that the ark had been captured, the he fell backwards, broke his neck, and died. Therefore the prophecy of Samuel came true.

{Follow the ark as it travels.}

The Philistines took the ark to the town of Ashdod. They put it into a temple that was for a grain god called Dagon. They went to bed. In the morning, the statue of Dagon was on its face in front of the ark. The people righted the statue. The next morning, the statue was on its face again and the hands and head had been broken off. The Lord was against the people and they had tumors grow on them and diseases.

The ark was moved to Gath. The people there were struck with destruction and tumors, too. Then they sent the ark to Ekron. The people there wanted nothing to do with the ark, so they decided to send it back to Israel.

They built a new wagon, yoked two mother cows to it, put the ark on the cart and sent it down the road.

Life Application of Samuel:

God is not someone to trifle with. He takes sin seriously. The Hebrew people were being defeated because they were disobedient to God. He was allowing them to have consequences for their actions. If everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes, then why should God help them? Relationships are formed between two persons. Our relationship with God is between us and God, you and Him. If we listen to God as Samuel did, then God will speak and bless. If we only consider God on our terms, then He’s not going to work “magic” for us.

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