Explore the Bible Study: Worthy

4:44 PM

Christians grieve when we see churches or Bibles burned, or crosses trampled underfoot. And well we should; symbols are not meaningless. People have deep emotional ties to symbols that they believe in, and an attack on those symbols can provoke the deepest heartache and even rage. But we must be careful not to misplace our trust and worship any symbol or person, or anything over God. This is the lesson the Israelites had to learn and that we need to learn as we study this week's Explore the Bible study: Worthy.

This week's teaching helps are based on passages beyond the scope of the Explore the Bible suggested text. The following passages will be highlighted:
  • 1 Samuel 4:1-3; 10-11 
  • 1 Samuel 5:1-12
  • 1 Samuel 6:13-16
This progression allows you to focus on (1) The misplaced worship of the Israelites; (2) The misdirected worship of the Philistines; (3) The refocused worship of the Israelites.

Below are some teaching ideas you might consider using:

LOOK UP: Getting Focused on the text
  • Display: United States Flag
  • Ask (Once most adults arrive): Does anyone know what June 14 and the United States Flag have in common? (It’s Flag Day)
  • Explain (From timeanddate.com): Flag day commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States. It became an official event in August 1949, when President Harry Truman signed the legislation and proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day.
  • Discuss: Why is the United States flag so important? What does it represent? In what ways do we honor the United States flag? (the way we display it; the way we fold it; it can’t touch the ground; it should never be dipped to any person or thing; etc.) In what ways is the United States flag dishonored today? How do you feel when you see the flag being treated dishonorably? How would you feel if our country was overthrown and the flag no longer flew over our nation’s capital?
  • Identify: What are some symbols of the Christian faith? (Bible, cross, church buildings, etc.)
  • Ask: How do we feel when these are disrespected?
LOOK IN: Unpacking the text

For 1 Samuel 4:1-3; 1 Samuel 4:10-11
  • What was wrong with what the Israelite’s did? Were they displaying superstition, or genuine faith in God?
  • If something is considered holy or consecrated, does it mean that it has magical powers? Why then was the ark so important?
  • How were they dishonoring God through their actions? (They didn’t seek God at all. They assumed the ark would somehow give them power just because they had a special relationship with God.)
  • Imagine you are an Israelite who has just witnessed this. What would you be thinking? Would you blame God? Would you become bitter toward God?
  • In what ways do we sometimes treat symbols of our Christian faith as superstitious items that contain magical powers?
Optional Activity:List or call out the following and ask: How can these Christian symbols, persons, or promises from God become more important than God Himself? How do we know when we are acting preemptively or treating something as a “magic formula” instead of seeking and depending on God? - Baptism; Lord’s Supper; Bible; Pastor or Christian Leader; Church Building; God’s grace; Certain prayer mantras such as “asking something in Jesus’ name.”
  • When we act presumptively, superstitiously, take advantage of, or leave God out of our decisions do we blame Him when things don’t go the way we think they should? Why or why not? What is wrong with this kind of thinking?
For 1 Samuel 5:1-12
  • What did setting the ark of God in the temple of Dagon imply for the Philistines? (That their god had overcome Yahweh of Israel.)
  • Identify all the ways God demonstrated His power to the Philistines in these passages. 
  • Why did God demonstrate His power to the Philistines and not for the Israelites?
  • What was the message God was sending to the Philistines through this incident? (It implied that, although they had beaten the Israelite army, the Israelite God was still superior to their god. Even their god, bowed before the God of Israel!)
  • What was their response to what took place? (They instituted another superstition. Since Dagon’s head and hands had broken off at the threshold of the temple, they decided that the threshold was now especially holy, and that they should jump over it when going in or out.)
  • Why didn’t the Philistines bow down and acknowledge God as their God?
  • If you had been asked the question in 1 Samuel 5:8, how would have responded?
For 1 Samuel 6:13-16
  • How would you summarize the response of the Israelites upon seeing the ark returned?
  • Did they worship the ark of the Lord with their offering, or did they worship the Lord?
  • Why do you suppose God allowed the Philistine kings to observe their worship?
Video Option: Read Philippians 2:10. State: May the words of this song remind us of the truth in this passage and remind us that we are to focus on worshiping God and God alone.

LOOK OUT: Responding to the text
How you answer the following questions will be an indicator as to whether you place more trust in symbols than you do in God. Consider whether you need to repent and refocus your worship toward God.
  • Do you grieve more when a symbol of our country or heritage is destroyed or desecrated, or when you observe symbols of our faith being destroyed or desecrated?
  • Do you depend on symbols, mantras, or other leaders for your faith more than you do on Christ and His faithfulness?
  • Have you relegated what is considered holy symbols of worship to the level of superstitious objects?
  • Do you substitute other items or activities in place of the worship God desires from you?
  • Do you truly grieve when Christ is dishonored?

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