Sr. High Bible Study: 1 Samuel 5:1-6:12
Use an illustration from your own experience that captures this sentiment.
“In the summer of 2006, I had the privilege to travel to Montreal, Quebec in Canada. I was there for two weeks with a group of college students. One of my favorite days, we rode the bus to St. Andrew’s Basilica. You would not believe the magnitude of this place. In front of the Basilica, there were about 150 steps leading up to the base of the church. These steps were divided into three sections. On the outside were the regular concrete steps that everyone used and the middle section was made of wooden steps. The wooden steps were used by certain devoted groups of believers. The people would get on their hands and knees and go one step at a time saying prayer at each step, all the way until they reached the top of the staircase. I saw people of all ages on these steps. I even saw a lady with a walker ease her way to the base of the staircase, only to fold up the walker, get on her hands and knees and begin her long trek up the steps. My mind raced with reasons why anyone would find it necessary to put themselves through this kind of agony. What was the point of it all? My mind rested on one thought. Humiliation. As a sign of repentance these people were willing to humiliate themselves by going up these steps one at a time, day after day. What they failed to realize is that God does not wait until we are exulted to use us. He uses us through our humiliation. We worship God most when we are feeling worthless not worthy.”
Father in this time, show us the sovereignty of your will for this world. Show us our place in building your kingdom. Show us where we truly stand in light of you. Use your word to penetrate hearts, tear down preconceptions, and most importantly Lord, change our lives. We thank you for the one you sent as the word made flesh to dwell among us. We pray in his name, Amen.
1 Samuel begins with the birth and calling of Samuel. In Chapter 4, we are told that the Israelites are locked in a battle with the Philistine’s. The Israelites are getting beat pretty badly. The reason for their failure in battle is disobedience. They could no longer call upon the name of Yahweh because of their sin, and they could no longer receive his help in battle. But the Israelites are desperate. They go and bring the Ark of the Lord onto the battlefield hoping that Yahweh will protect them. Look at chapter 4:5-9. When the Philistines hear about the ark, they are petrified yet somehow they work up enough courage and go into battle. Now look to 4:10-11. The next few passages tell of the news returning to Eli, Samuel’s father. The message goes from bad to worse. Look at verse 17-18. Eli’s main concern was for the Ark. Later when a pregnant woman hears the news she is so grief stricken that she immediately goes into labor and dies because she is “overcome with labor pains.” You see in the Jewish mind-set the Ark of the Lord was the presence of Yahweh. If they lost the Ark they essentially lost Yahweh.
This is the ultimate humiliation for Israel. The God that brought them out of Egypt and into the promised land has seemingly been defeated and taken away into captivity. Without their God the Israelites were worthless. They were a small nation. It was only a matter of time before they were overrun by imposing forces. But was their God really defeated, or were they the only ones that tasted defeat? Let’s look at chapter 5.
Commentary and Text – 1 Samuel 5:1-5
* The Philistines carried the Ark of the Lord into the temple of Dagon. Dagon was the Philistian God of War and the Ark was offered to him as a sacrifice for his apparent victory.
* It says when morning came, the people of Ashdod found Dagon fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord. It’s interesting to note that the people had to pick up Dagon and put him back in his place. Their God could win battles, but apparently could not lift his own face out of the dirt!!
* The next morning, the people of Ashdod entered the temple only to find Dagon fallen again with his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord. This time, though, his head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained. So what’s the big deal with that? In that time, when kings were captured they were often executed in this grisly manner. The loss of their hands was symbolic of their loss of power and the loss of their head was symbolic of their loss of authority. Not only had Dagon fallen on his face in the presence of God, but now he had been ritually executed as a fallen king by an overpowering invading force.
Commentary and Text – 1 Samuel 5:6-12
* The text continues by stating that the Philistines began to be afflicted with tumors. Death and destruction quickly began to spread throughout the cities.
Use an illustration from your own experience that captures this sentiment.
“It’s funny how fast things can spread. I was recently talking with a couple of friends that had traveled down to Louisiana to help with the Hurricane Relief Effort. Well, apparently all of them contracted poison ivy. One of my friends was actually hospitalized twice because his rash was so unbearable. After he got better, I asked him about it. He started talking about how it had spread in his apartment through things he’d touched. He said it started with an itchy neck and pretty much just spread all over his body. Well, as he was telling me this I began to itch around my neck. As he described the rash on his ankles, my legs begin to tingle. By the time we finished with the conversation, I was itching all over. It was ridiculous. You know, I bet when word got out about these tumors, people went crazy. Look what the text says. When they moved the ark from Ashdod, the entire city of Gath was thrown into a great panic. Not only were they being stricken with physical illness, but it terrified them psychologically and for good reason.”
* This greatly frightened the Philistines and they began asking some of their religious leaders what to do with the Ark of the Lord. They decided to move the Ark from Ashdod to Gath to Ekron.
* If you look at where the Ark travels it looks very similar to how a military campaign would look with a real army. Yahweh begins by desecrating the temple in Ashdod. Then travel south to Gath, only then to make his way back north to Ekron, all the while leaving a path of destruction in his wake.
Commentary – 1 Samuel 6:1-9
* The text says that the ark of the Lord remained in the Philistine territory for seven months. In the Old Testament, the number seven signified completeness. Not that the number is purely symbolic, there’s no reason to think that the ark wasn’t there for seven months. But in this context of judgment, the number seven can carry the notion of completion while still being historically accurate.
* The Philistine leaders decide to make a guilt offering for the God of Israel. Five gold tumors and five gold rats are fashioned and placed in a box beside the ark. The ark is then placed on a new cart with two cows that have calved and never been yoked. This is significant. Cows usually do not pull yokes right out of the womb. They have to be trained to carry the yoke and work together to pull the cart straight. The Philistine’s idea is actually a good one. If two cows can work together and pull the cart straight down the road, even though they’ve never done it before and their calves are crying for their attention, then the Philistines will know that it really was the God of Israel that caused their affliction. And if not, well then I guess they just needed to start eating their vegetables or something because it was obviously not the work of Yahweh.
Commentary – 1 Samuel 6:10-12
* The Philistines put their plan into action. They load up the cart and turn it loose down the road. Look at the statement the narrator makes. Read V 12. Not only did the ark make it back home, but the cows never turned to the right or to the left. They went perfectly up the road.
* So we see here, the ark of the Lord, the depicted as Yahweh himself, returning home victorious in battle. He marches into town being pulled by his mighty war cows with the spoils of victory filling his chariot.
Although Israel was defeated by its opponent, God uses this humiliating experience as a chance to exalt himself. This story ends with the humiliation of both Israel and the Philistines. They are both defeated by their enemy but only one is restored with the presence of God. It is important to realize that God does not always use us when we are exalted. He often times uses us when we are humiliated. We should not feel helpless in our faith whenever we are humiliated, that is when we should feel the most useful. We should not fear humiliation.
Give an experience that illustrates a time that you willingly endured humiliation for a greater cause.
It’s the same way in our walk with God. Humiliation will happen in your life. We should not be surprised when it does. So what kind of things can we do? We can associate with people that maybe we would never want to be seen with otherwise. We could sacrifice our schedule to do something for someone else. When someone humiliates us we could not retaliate to save our reputations. The best example that God has given us in this world is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ came to earth to do battle for us. But when he needed his followers the most, they were defeated. He was dragged off, and to his captors, he was a humiliated prisoner of war. But something glorious happened. Something that his captors did not expect. The humiliation that was endured on the cross soon turned to exultation. Christ arose on the third day and returned to his throne victorious. We are his spoils of victory. He has destroyed his enemy and has left him devastated. Humiliation and exultation. Are you willing to be humiliated for God? Are you willing to exalt God in every humiliating situation?
End with Prayer