By Luke Johnson | October 17, 2017
Take some time to see how everyone is doing, and to pray for each other.
READ: 1 Samuel 2:1-10
What attributes of God does Hannah talk about? (How does she describe him?)
What does God ‘do’? What kinds of actions does Hannah mention that God performs?
How does Hannah describe God’s authority? What kind of ‘sway’ does he have?
Keep this in mind as we read on!
1 Samuel 4-7 - Active Reading!
LEADER NOTE: This story arc spans multiple chapters, so we’ll explore them as an activity:
- Assign stories to individuals in your group -- or break into groups of 2 or 3 people using the handouts). (Or work through them as a group if you’d rather.)
Each person or group will read through their story and prepare a “report”.
- Use the "story cards" to keep focused on the big picture. (You could even lay them out to see the visual progression of the story.)
- Once all the reports are in, have the groups share about each story using the questions on the handouts.
YHWH: Not some trashy gas station trinket god
Why would God let Israel be defeated again when it meant losing the Ark?
(Do you notice anything about Israel’s interaction with the Ark in ch. 4 that seems strange?)
Israel was treating YHWH like one of the pagan gods -- as a “thing” to be used to their advantage. But God is terrifyingly NOT a “thing” to be manipulated.
Why do you think the Philistines would want to steal the “Ark of the LORD”?
What might they hope to achieve by capturing it?
The gods of the ancient world were tied to the people who worshipped them. If you take a god out of its land and away from its people, it becomes powerless and an object of shame. By placing the Ark in the temple of Dagon, the Philistines are boasting that Dagon is stronger than the god of Israel. (“My dad could beat up your dad!”)
Can you imagine the shock and horror of the Philistines when God continued to work his power even after he had been “captured”?
If you were to make this part of the story into a movie, what genre would you choose?
(Can you put on a deep movie-trailer-voice and try it out?)
Can you think of any similarities between the capture of the Ark and the death of Jesus?
(The god of Israel is “captured” and therefore “defeated.” But from his place of defeat, he triumphs over his enemies. Jesus is captured by his enemies and dies “defeated” on the cross. But his place of defeat becomes his place of triumph.)
Think about all the problems that happen throughout all these stories. Do you notice any patterns? Any similarities between the problems?
Israel’s defeat and the loss of the Ark → Israel’s superstitious interaction with God
Death of Eli’s sons and family → wicked priests who represent holy God irreverently
Punishment of the Philistines → they violated the symbol of God’s presence
Death of 70 Israelites who looked into the Ark → same problem!
God thunders at the Philistines → they dared to interrupt the worship of YHWH
What do you think might be a central theme to all these conflicts?
YHWH is supreme. God’s holiness is overwhelmingly superior to absolutely everything else in existence. God acts for the sake of his own Name. He acts on behalf of his people because his people bear his Name. He wipes out a priestly family for representing him badly. He punishes both Israel and the Philistines for treating him like a junky, hand-made idol. God’s holiness is like a white-hot flame that scorches anything that comes too close. The message is: God is no idol. God is terrifyingly alive.
Have you heard the word idolatry before? Do you know what it means?
Israel often struggled with “idolatry,” getting distracted by the gods of their neighbours.
We don’t have literal “gods” or “idols” to worry about today, but “idolatry” is still all around us. What are some things people often “idolize”? (What kinds of things can call our attention away from God today?)
Do you ever think about how crazy it is that the God of the universe knows who you are and loves you more than your parents or friends ever could? Or that the same God who crushed Pharaoh and Egypt calls you his friend?
Think back to the things Hannah said about God in her prayer: Knowing that God loves you with an unstoppable fierceness, all of Hannah’s words belong to you. Look back on Hannah’s prayer: What do you find there that gives you hope today? (What do you find that reminds you of Jesus?)