Conflict and Crisis: the Judges

Conflict and Crisis: the Judges

Scripture: 1 Samuel 2:1, Judges 4:1-24, Hebrews 11:32
Date: 01/26/2016  Lesson: 4
"We are either for the Lord, doing something of meaning and purpose for Him, or we are, in the end, worthless. That makes sense, too, considering that our whole existence and purpose for life comes only from Him."

Lessons from Job (5 Part Series)

Lessons from Job (5 Part Series)
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Good morning, friends. I'd like to welcome you all to Sabbath School Study Hour. And our friends joining us across the country and around the world, a very warm, special welcome to each of you as well. Thank you for taking the time to join us as we study God's Word together. Also, a warm welcome to the Granite Bay church members and the visitors who are with us today.

We are glad that you're here. And we're going to continue our study dealing with the Great Controversy theme. Today we find ourselves in lesson #4 talking about conflict and crisis during the time period of the Judges. But we'd like to let you know, before we get to our study, about a free offer that we have at Amazing Facts. It's a book entitled the flesh and the Spirit.

We'll be happy to send that to anybody in North America who calls and asks for it. The number to call is -788-3966 and you can ask for offer #792. That phone number again is 866-788-3966. Ask for offer #792 - a book entitled the flesh and the spirit. Well, before we get to our study this morning, we have a real treat for you.

We have a group of musicians - grace symphony - that is joining us here and they're going to be bringing us two musical items before we get to our study. We'd like to invite them to come out at this time. Why are you standing gazing? Ye men of Galilee the Savior will descend in the same manner in which you saw him ascend go to every nation tell of his return soon he will descend like a thief in the midnight prepare hold on to the faith never ever let go though the heavens may fall or tortured only 'cause of God hold on, not long from now we'll see the Lord in the clouds coming back to take all the saints and the redeemed hallelujah, hallelujah on high we will see him with his mighty angels our loved ones that have gone before us will rise up to meet him what a great reunion hallelujah, hallelujah on high we will see him with his mighty angels our loved ones that have gone before us will rise up to meet him what a great reunion what a great reunion what a great reunion hallelujah, hallelujah. Amen! He didn't bring us this far to leave us. He didn't teach us to swim to let us drown.

He didn't build his home in us to move away. He didn't lift us up to let us down. He didn't bring us this far to leave us. He didn't teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn't build his home in us to move away.

He didn't lift us up to let us down. There are some promises in the letter written a long, long time ago they're not getting old they're getting better because he still wants us to know he didn't bring us this far to leave us. He didn't teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn't build his home in us to move away. He didn't lift us up to let us down.

Never use the word 'if' he claim the promises to everyone of them every spoken word he says because you are everything to me. He didn't bring us this far to leave us. He didn't teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn't build his home in us to move away. He didn't lift us up to let us down.

He didn't bring us this far to leave us. He didn't teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn't build his home in us to move away. He didn't lift us up to let us down. He didn't lift us up to let us down.

He didn't lift us up to let us down. He didn't lift us up to let us down. Amen! Before we get to our study this morning, I would like to invite you just to bow your heads as we have a word of prayer. Dear Father in Heaven, we thank you for the Scriptures. We thank you for the stories that we find in the Bible that bring instruction, encouragement, and strengthen our faith as we see you're dealing with, at times, some rather stiff-necked individuals.

But Lord, we ask your blessing as we study together. May we see a clearer picture of the Great Controversy and how you have dealt with us and with mankind through the centuries, for we ask this in Jesus' Name, amen. Amen. As mentioned a little earlier, our lesson today is lesson #4 entitled conflict and crisis. We're talking about that time period of the Judges.

Now, during that time period, in Israel, I think the general feeling of the nation at the time can be summarized by what we read in Judges chapter 17, verse 6, which says, 'every man did that which was right in his own eyes. It was a time where different families, different tribes, different groups were reaching their own conclusions as to what true worship really was all about - whether they would follow the God who had delivered them from Egypt, or whether they were going to follow the Gods of the nations surrounding them. Now, in our study for this past week, we have looked at several deliverers in Israel and how God used them and how that illustrates the theme of the Great Controversy during this time period of the Judges. We do have a memory text, which comes from 1 Samuel 2 and verse 1. If you have your Bibles you can turn to that or you can read it right out of your Sabbath school lesson quarterly.

It is the prayer that hannah prayed after she received a child the Lord had given her, Samuel. Our memory text - 1 Samuel 2, verse 1 says, "and hannah prayed and said: 'my heart rejoices in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord.'" - Now in the Bible a horn often is associated with deliverance and victory. Then she goes on - "'I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.'" That summarizes the attitude that hannah had and how the Lord blessed her because of that humble spirit when she asked for a child. So the time of the Judges was a chaotic period of sacred history. God's people did evil in the sight of the Lord and the Lord sold them into the hands of an oppressor.

The people cried unto the Lord and the Lord raised up different deliverers who brought peace to the land; however, that only lasted until the same cycle returned. So it was a lesson that kept repeating time and time again. Oppressors would come against Israel. They would realize the folly of their ways. They would cry out to the Lord for deliverance.

God would raise up a deliverer. There would be peace for several years and then it seemed like they went back into idolatry. Now in this week, we're going to be looking at several deliverers that God raised up during this time period. We're going to be looking at deborah, who was one of the Judges in Israel. We'll be also looking at the story of gideon who was a deliverer when the children of Israel faced impossible odds.

We're also going to look at Samson who was a judge in Israel - very interesting character. And then we'll be looking, briefly, at the story of Ruth and then finish up with the story of Samuel. So it is a lot of material to cover in this week's lesson. So we'll just touch on the high points of these various deliverers, asking the question, 'what do these experiences teach us about the Great Controversy between good and evil?' So we're going to begin with deborah and we're going to get a little bit of background with reference to who she was and what she did. So deborah was a prophetess who appeared in the list of Judges of Israel around 1125 bc.

According to Judges chapter 4, she lived near the town of bethel and was consulted there by the Israelites from various tribes who wished to have their disputes settled. She commanded barak - we're going to talk more about him in just a minute - to lead the Israelites in battle against sisera and, at his insistence, she accompanied him in battle. The result was a crushing defeat for sisera and the canaanite forces at the battle of keshon, and the liberation of Israel from canaanite oppression. So deborah was a prophetess in Israel. She was also a judge.

She was the one that summoned barak to go up against the forces of canaan. Who was barak? The name barak means lightning. He was from the tribe of naphtali and was summoned by the prophet deborah to lead Israel in battle against sisera. He was the commander in chief of the confederate canaanite forces. He agreed, on condition, that deborah accompany him in battle.

The details of his victory, when a sudden downpour flooded the river keshon and immobilized sisera's 900 chariots is depicted in The Song of deborah that's recorded in Judges chapter 5. But before we read that, we also want to note that in Hebrews chapter 11, verse 32, barak is listed amongst the heroes of faith. Now how God delivered Israel from their enemies is sort of described in The Song that deborah sang and we read it in Judges chapter 5, verses 19 through 21 - just a portion of that - she says, "the Kings came and fought, then the Kings of canaan fought in taanach, by the waters of megiddo; they took no spoils of silver. They fought from the heavens; the stars from their courses fought against sisera. The torrent of keshon swept them away, the ancient torrent, the torrent of keshon.

" - And then I like this last phrase in verse 21 - "o my soul, March on in strength!" Isn't that a great description? God delivered his people and the message is March on in strength. Now who was sisera? Sisera was the commander of the army of jabin. Jabin was the King of hazar, a town further north, close to the sea of Galilee. And for twenty years he cruelly oppressed the Israelites. Sisera suffered a crushing defeat against deborah and barak and fled on foot to the tent of jael, the wife of heber the kenite where he was deceptively killed - and we'll look at that in just a minute.

Thus, deborah's prophecy that the slaying of sisera would be done by a woman was fulfilled. In Judges chapter 4, verse 17 we find out what happened to sisera. It says, "however, sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of jael," - this is after the flood came and destroyed the chariots of the canaanite forces. The Israelites were driving them south and sisera fled up north to make his way to hazar, and on the way he came to the tent of jael. Jael was not an Israelite and yet she recognized the true God, as we see in the story, she was - "the wife of heber the kenite; for there was peace between jabin king of hazar and the house of heber the kenite.

..then jael, heber's wife, took a tent peg and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went down into the ground; for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died." So jael's claim to fame - she was the one that actually killed sisera and she was not even an Israelite. So in the story we see a prophetess play an important role in providing leadership for barak and the deliverance of Israel, and then a woman putting to death sisera, the general of the canaanite forces. So, a little bit of the story, just to kind of give you the background. We have deborah the prophet - the Lord comes and speaks to her and says it's time that deliverance comes from the canaanites.

And so she speaks to barak and barak said, 'well, I'll only go if you go with me.' And she agrees. And so barak - you can see there in the map - he gathers his forces together just south of the sea of Galilee - and the Israelites March towards mount tabor as being the rally point for the forces of Israel. You have the canaanites under sisera and they are Marching east and they gather in the area of megiddo and they March up against the forces of Israel. Well, it's at that time that the Lord rains down from heaven with thunder and lightning and the river keshon floods its banks. The 900 chariots of sisera are bogged down in the mud and the Lord brings a great deliverance for Israel during that time.

So in the story, we can see this Great Controversy where God comes to the deliverance of his people and there are some interesting connections, or parallels, you might say, between this experience of Israel and God's people at the end of time. If you have your Bibles, turn with me to the book of Revelation. This is actually a reference that we find in our lesson quarterly. Revelation chapter 12 and we again see God's people at the end of time vastly outnumbered by the enemy, and yet God has a plan to deliver them. Now remember the story that we just looked at of deborah, she was a prophetess and she provided guidance for God's people and God delivered them when they were obedient.

We see a similar thing arranged here in Revelation chapter 12. So let's look in Revelation chapter 12, beginning in verse . These are familiar verses to us. It says, "now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child." Now, in Bible prophecy, who does this woman represent in Revelation chapter 12? Represents the church. And now who is the dragon? The dragon is satan - or the devil - and who would be the male child in this passage? That represents Jesus.

And then verse 14 says, "but the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent." Now the time, times, and half a time, that's representing the years of papal supremacy when those who refused to acknowledge papal rulership faced terrible persecution. But God provided for them. Many found safety in the mountains of northern italy in the waldensian area. But then it goes on, in verse 15, it says, "so the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood." - Verse 16 says, "but the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Now here's the point I want you to, in a particular way, note: verse 17, it says, "and the dragon was enraged with the woman," - the church - "and he went to make war with the" - remnant or - "the rest of her offspring," - those living at the end of time.

Notice the two characteristics that are given, of God's people at the end - those "who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Now, in order for barak to gain the victory over sisera, he had to keep the commandments of God. God's people at the end of time, in order for them to have victory over their enemies, they need to keep God's commandments. You see, at the end of time, according to Revelation chapter , there is a death decree that is passed against God's followers. If God's people are to endure and be faithful, they need to be keeping his commandments because God comes to their deliverance. It's also interesting to note that God's people at the end of time have the testimony of Jesus.

According to Revelation chapter 10 - 19, verse 10 - what is the testimony of Jesus? It is the Spirit of prophecy. So God's people at the end of time, just like Israel during the days of barak and deborah, God's people at the end will be guided by the Spirit of prophecy. So the counsel given to us (the church) today is the counsel that came to Israel of old: keep God's commandments. Heed the instruction that comes from the prophet and God will give deliverance. That's an important lesson for us to remember.

So, in that story, we see God coming to the defense and the rescue of his people. Now we're going to take a look at another deliverer that God raised up who also came to the defense of God's people, that God used in a mighty way. On Monday, the lesson is all about gideon, that great champion of the old testament, and it begins by asking a question right at the beginning of Monday's lesson. It says, according to Judges chapter 6, verse 1 and Judges 6:10, what was happening in Israel during this time? Well, in Judges chapter 6, verse 10, it tells you what was happening. It said - the Lord said - ".

..the Lord your God; fear not the Gods of the amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice." So Israel ended up following these pagan deities from these various nations that surrounded them and, as a result, they came under some degree of affliction by the various nations that surrounded them. During the time of gideon, it was the midianites that came up against Israel. In our lesson on Monday we read: "after deborah, the land enjoyed peace for the next forty years. But soon Israel went back into the hands of oppressors. This time, it was the midianites who, with their allies, would enter Israel and destroy all of the newly planted crops and steal their livestock.

Israel became greatly impoverished and cried out to the Lord. They finally realized that their fashionable Gods were of no use. So God, now, raises up a deliverer, gideon, that liberates these people." What do we know about gideon? Let's look at the story of gideon. The word 'gideon' means 'hewer or smiter' - that's what the name means. He was from the tribe of manasseh and he delivered Israel from the midianites some forty years after deborah.

Gideon was called by God while threshing wheat in a winepress, secretly, for fear of the midianite raids. After being called, he destroyed his father's baal and asheroth images, signifying protest against the idolatrous practice in Israel. At God's command, gideon reduced his army from 32,000 to just 300 men and made a sudden night attack, which led to complete victory over the midianites. Now we're going to go back and just review the story, briefly, about gideon. Gideon, if you look at the map, was from the town or the city of ophrah, and it was there, while threshing wheat in a winepress - the reason he was doing it in a wine press - he was trying to do it without anybody seeing because he was afraid of the midianites coming and taking away the wheat.

And while he was threshing wheat, "...the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, 'the Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor. And gideon said, '...if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, did not the Lord bring us out of Egypt?'" And then, the angel of the Lord, which is Christ, the messenger of the covenant - they're not saying Jesus is an angel, but 'the angel' means 'messenger'. And in the old testament, Jesus sometimes is described as the angel of the Lord, and he said to gideon, the Lord is with you and you will deliver Israel from the hands of the midianites. And gideon said, 'well, if I'm to do this, I need to have a sign. So he asked the angel of the Lord, he said, 'would you wait here while I go prepare a present? And then, if I return and you're still here, then I know, yes, this is what God wants me to do.

' The angel of the Lord said, 'yes, I will wait.' So gideon went back home and he prepared a goat and he made some unleavened bread and he made a broth and he brought it out to where the angel of the Lord was, and the angel of the Lord said, 'well, take the food and put it on a rock' - which was there - and gideon did that and then the angel of the Lord reached for it and touched the rock with his staff and, immediately, flames sprung up from the rock and consumed the food. Suddenly gideon realized that this just wasn't any angel, but he was standing in the presence of God. And he cried out and he said, 'oh, Lord God.' And then Christ said to him, 'do not be afraid for I will be with you.' And so gideon, after that, goes back to his home town and that same night the Lord speaks to gideon and says, 'you need to destroy the altar of baal that your father had established there in the town and also cut down the wooden image that had been made to asherah, one of the deities of the pagan nations. And so, during the night, gideon and ten other men got up and they destroyed the altar of baal. They cut down that wooden statue and, according to what God had told gideon, he made an altar and he used the wood from the statue, placed that on the altar, and he presented the sacrifice.

In the morning, the men from the town came and they wanted to know who destroyed the altar of baal, and they finally found out that it was gideon. So they went to gideon's father and said, 'give us gideon so we can put him to death because he destroyed the altar of baal.' But gideon's father answered very wisely and said, 'let baal fight for himself. If he is the God, you don't have to defend him, he can defend himself.' Right around this time period then, the midianites, with the amalekites, gathered together to come up against Israel. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon gideon and he sounded the trumpet and he sent out a message to the tribes nearby him and he called for all the men to come. And 32,000 men from the tribes nearby came to gideon and they gathered together in the area of - let's see - close to megiddo is where they're first assembled - and then they begin to March down south and they met with some additional men that came and joined and finally camped close to the town of harod.

There was a spring there and that's where the forces of gideon gathered. Just a little further were the midianite army, 'as the sand of the sea', the Bible says - like grasshoppers they're just gathered there together. And then the Lord said to gideon, 'I can't give you the victory because there are too many men with you.' Now they were vastly outnumbered with 32,000 and still, God said, 'this is too many.' And so gideon said, 'those who are afraid, they can go home.' And 22,000 of the 32,000 went home and he was left with 10,000. And still, the Lord said, 'this is too many. I can't give midian into your hands lest Israel say, 'my own hand' - or arm - 'has delivered me.

' And so God said there was going to be a test and all of the men, the 10,000, were brought down to the river to drink. Those who scooped the water with their hand and lifted up their hand to their mouth and drank, they were set aside from the rest who got down on their hands and knees and drank directly from the river. And finally gideon ended up with 300 men. And then, that night, God spoke to gideon and he said, 'take your servant and go down into the camp of the midianites. Go up to a tent.

' And so he did so. Now just prior to this, after the 32,000 came, gideon wanted to make sure that God was calling him to lead the army into battle, and so he put out the fleece and the fleece was wet in the morning - the ground was dry - and then he said, 'Lord, let's do it one more time.' He put out the fleece again and the ground was dry - the ground was wet and the fleece was dry - and know God wanted to lead him in this, but that night he went down to the camp of midian and he was listening as two of the midianite army soldiers were talking one to another and the one said, 'I had a dream last night and in the dream this loaf of barley rolled down to the camp of the midianites and knocked down a tent.' And the other interpreted the dream and said, this means that the sword of gideon is coming against us and that God will deliver us into their hands.' Well that reassured gideon that, yes, God was leading. So he went back to the camp of Israel - he had 300 men - he divided them up into three groups, gave each man a trumpet and a torch and a clay pitcher and he commanded that they were to surround the camp on three sides. And then, at gideon's signal, they were to blow the trumpets, break the clay pitcher, revealing the flaming torch - and that's exactly what happened. And when the midianites suddenly heard the sound of the trumpets and they saw the torches and they heard the cry of the sword of the Lord and of gideon, the midianites and the amalekites were filled with fear and they began fighting one upon another and gideon was able to drive them all the way out of Israel and really brought a time period of peace for Israel from the midianites.

Well after gideon had gained this great victory, the children of Israel came to him and said, 'we want you to be our king.' But he refused to become king for he recognized that God was the King of Israel - it wasn't to be a man. Now a few other little things about this battle that might be of interest: it says that the defeat of the midianites was decisive and Israel had peace during the remainder of gideon's life. After the deliverance, gideon was asked to establish a Kingship in Israel, but he refused, thus emphasizing the fact that Israel's ideal government was a theocracy and not a monarchy. Hebrews chapter 11, verse 32, gives gideon a place amongst the heroes of faith, for he trusted God rather than a large army. Now there can be no question that one of the crucial components of gideon's strength was his own sense of unimportance and weakness.

He recognized his deliverance - or his dependence upon God for deliverance. And that's an important lesson for us, the church, to recognize today: our secret of victory is our dependence upon God. Turn in your Bibles, if you would, to Matthew chapter 16 - Matthew chapter 16 - and we'll look at the warfare that the church is to be engaged in and the secret of the strength of the church in these last days. Matthew chapter 16 and we'll begin reading there in verse 13 - Matthew chapter 16, beginning here in verse 13 - it says, "when Jesus came into the coasts of caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, 'whom do men say that I The Son of man am?'" So Jesus enters into this region and he asked his disciples, 'who do the people say that I am?' Why do you supposed Jesus asked that question? Didn't Jesus know what the people thought of him? Yes he did, but he wanted the disciples to think about it so he asked them, 'who do the people say that I am?' And they responded and said, "...some say that thou art John the baptist:" - by this time John the baptist had been beheaded by herod, but some of the people looked at Jesus and said, 'this is John the baptist resurrected from the dead.' Others said, 'no, he is Elijah.' And the reason they said Jesus was Elijah is because of the prophecy that you find in the book of Malachi that says, 'behold, I send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.' And people looked at Jesus and said, 'this is Elijah that is come down from heaven.' Others said, 'no, he is Jeremiah' or 'he's just one of the prophets.' But then verse : Jesus said to them, "but who do you say that I am?" Now here's the key: the people said that Jesus was either Jeremiah or John the baptist or one of the prophets or Elijah, but Jesus said to the disciples, 'who do you think I am?' And Simon Peter - verse 16 - answered and said, 'you are the Christ, The Son of the living God.' That's the secret of victory for the church - the fact that Jesus is the Christ. Now the word 'Christ' means 'the anointed'.

It's the deliverer - it's the promised redeemer - the one who would come and deliver his people. Jesus is our Christ. He is our deliverer. He is our gideon. He is the one that will bring victory to his people.

But notice, Jesus goes on, in verse 17, "Jesus answered and said to him" - speaking to Peter - "blessed art thou, Simon barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my father which is in heaven." For a person to come to a correct understanding of who Jesus is, it's really the moving of the Holy Spirit upon that person's heart. You see, Jesus must be more than just an intellectual understanding that, yes, he is the Christ - he's The Son of God. He came 2,000 years ago. He died for our sins on the cross. To really experience victory, we need to see Jesus and experience Jesus as our personal Savior - our personal deliverer - the one who has come to give us personal victory.

And that's not something that you can just read about, that is the moving of the Holy Spirit upon a person's heart. Jesus said, 'except he be born again' - speaking to nicodemus - 'you cannot see the Kingdom of heaven.' It is the moving of the Holy Spirit upon the heart. It is genuine conversion. But then Jesus goes on in verse 18 and he said, "and I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it." Now I hope we all understand that Peter is not the rock upon which the church is built. The word 'Peter' means 'pebble' or 'stone'.

But the statement that Peter had just made, that Jesus is the Christ, well that's the foundation upon which the church is built. Peter never acknowledged to be the foundation of the church. Actually, when Peter preached and when he wrote in 1 and 2 Peter, he spoke of Jesus being the cornerstone - being the foundation of the church. But then Jesus goes on in verse 19 and here, in particular, is the point I want us to note: verse 18 he says that the gates of hell - the last part of verse 18 - Jesus said, "upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Now the 'it' in the verse is the church. The fact that Jesus is our Christ - Jesus is our deliverer - that empowers the church to be victorious in the battle against sin.

Instead of the church being on the defense and trembling at the presence of the devil, the church is to be Marching forward. Notice, it's not the devil breaking down the gates of the church in this verse, but it is the church breaking down the gates of the devil. In other words, the church, recognizing that Jesus is the Christ, receiving him as our personal deliverer - our Savior - being obedient to his commands, the church is able to go forward entering into satan's stronghold and setting sin's captives free because Jesus is the Christ. The good news is we're on the winning team. Jesus is our deliverer.

He will see us through. And that's the church today. We learn this lesson by looking at Israel of old and seeing how God raised up deliverers who brought deliverance to them. God wants to bring deliverance to us. Now on Tuesday, we're going to be looking just briefly at quite a colorful character - Samson - strongest man who ever lived.

And it's very unusual that God would use Samson, it seems, with all of his flaws and all of his selfishness, to be a deliverer, but he was a deliverer of God's people. Now beginning at the top of the lesson on Tuesday, it says that the battle lines between good and evil are blurred in the story of Samson. His life starts with an impression - with an impressive fashion with an announcement from the angel of the Lord that he is to be a nazarite from birth. And it seemed that things were good thus far. God, indeed, had a special plan for Samson.

Unfortunately, things did not work out as well as they could have because of Samson's hard heartedness and selfishness. So let's learn just a little bit here, about Samson. Samson was The Son of miNoah, whose wife, like Sarah, hannah and elizabeth, was barren. His birth, like that of Isaac and John the baptist, was announced by an angel. He was to be a nazarite, meaning separated or consecrated to God from his birth.

Samson's parents lived in a place called zorah, on the border between dan and judah. Samson possessed unusual strength, with which he performed heroic deeds of extraordinary valor. If his moral character had been equal to his strength, God could have used him to a much greater degree than he did for the deliverance of Israel. You see, God had greater plans for Samson, but Samson didn't always follow God's plan. Samson moved against the philistines in a number of ways, each in angry responses to personal slights.

First - you can read the account in Judges - he killed thirty men and took their clothes back to his wedding feast to pay a debt. Then he destroyed their crops when his wife was given to his best man. Then Samson killed many in revenge for the philistines killing his wife and her father. When the philistines tried to avenge that action, he killed a thousand with a donkey's jawbone. Finally, he pulled down their temple and killed three thousand for blinding him.

It almost sounds like a soap opera - one thing happens and then Samson takes revenge and then something else happens - and you wonder, 'Samson, if you would have just followed God from the beginning, how different things could have ended up.' And yet, we still see God, at the end of Samson's life, when he humbles himself and he cries out to God, God hears his prayer. In spite of Samson's grave failures, the new testament lists him among the great heroes of faith in Hebrews chapter 11, verse 32, possibly because he finally realized his total dependence on God and called upon him in his last act of valor. The story of Samson not only gives us a picture of a chosen instrument of God whose selfishness and passion made it impossible for him to fulfill his full calling, but it also provides a picture of God's mercy. When Samson turned back to God with all of his heart, God heard and God answered. So from the story of Samson we begin to realize that even though we make mistakes and we don't always do things the way God intends for us to do, God does not abandon us.

He is rich in mercy and, if we but turn to him, he will be able to even take those bad situations and, by his grace, often turn them around for ultimate good. So God is a merciful God and we see that in the story of Israel. How many times did Israel go and worship these pagan Gods that surrounded them and yet, when they turned to God with sincerity, God received them and God raised up a deliverer. In the book Patriarchs and Prophets, on page 563, we have this quote: "just as he" - speaking of Samson - "was entering upon manhood - the time when he must execute his divine mission - the time above all others, when he should have been true to God, Samson connected himself with the enemies of Israel." So instead of being faithful to God, he gave in to the pressures of those nations surrounding him. And then there is a question that we have in the middle of the lesson on Tuesday, it says, 'how is it possible that God used Samson's weaknesses for women as an occasion to move against the philistines?' Now we can read in Judges chapter 14 - and maybe I'll just read this portion to you - Judges 14 from 1 through to verse 4 it says, "and Samson went down to timnath, and saw a woman in timnath of the daughters of the philistines.

And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, 'I have seen a woman in timnath of the daughters of the philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife." Now God had given strict instructions to the Israelites that they were not to take wives of the pagan nations around them for these wives would lead them into idolatry. And yet, Samson ignored that counsel. He wanted this woman as a wife - verse 3 - "then his father and his mother said unto him, 'is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised philistines?' And Samson said to his father, 'get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.'" Now, notice verse 4: "but his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the philistines: for at that time the philistines had dominion over Israel." So even though it was not God's ideal or God's purpose that Samson follow this course, God was still able to work out his will in the end. But how much better it would have been if Samson would have followed God from the very beginning. What a greater deliverance he might have been able to bring.

Now, on Wednesday, we look at the story of Ruth. Now we don't think of Ruth as being a deliverer in the sense of gideon or barak or deborah, and yet, we do see in the story of Ruth, in her family, a conflict - we see the struggle between good and evil. The Great Controversy is illustrated in the story of Ruth. Beginning on Wednesday's lesson it says, "rather than talking about vast enemy armies that threaten God's people, the story of Ruth speaks about something smaller - a family almost dying out. Instead, though, at the end, being revived and strengthened by God's mercy.

So what do we know about the story of Ruth? Now Ruth, she was a moabite who lived in the time of the Judges - about 1230 b.c. In her own land, Ruth had married the eldest son of elimelech and naomi, Israelites from Bethlehem-judah, who had come to moab during a famine. Naomi was widowed and then her two sons died without heirs. After this she determined to return to her native country, whereupon Ruth announced that she intended to accompany her, adopting both her nation and her God. Only by death would they be separated.

And here we find in Ruth chapter , verse 16 - this familiar verse - "and Ruth said, entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for wither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge:" - notice the last part - "thy people shall be my people and thy God my God:" now, if you look at the map, you can kind of get an idea of the distance traveled: you have Bethlehem and then just above it you have Jerusalem. Naomi and her family were from Bethlehem and they traveled up, probably the northern part of the dead sea, and then they had to travel all the way down to the area occupied by moab and they were there for a period of time. Her husband passed away - her sons passed away - she didn't have any children and so now she's going back. She hears that the famine has lessened in Israel and she's going to go back to her home town and Ruth follows and says, 'I'm going to go with you; your people will be my people and your God will be my God.' Now, during the barley harvest - they all go back to Bethlehem - during the barley harvest in Bethlehem, Ruth went to glean in the fields of boaz, a wealthy relative of elimelech. Boaz noticed her and gave her his protection in acknowledgment of her loyalty to naomi.

After boaz redeemed a plot of land which belonged to elimelech, he married Ruth and their first child, obed, was given to naomi to continue the name of elimelech. Obed was the grandfather of David, through whose family the lineage of Jesus was born. So here we find, in the lineage of Jesus, someone who was not even an Israelite - Ruth that came from moab. So right there we can learn this important lesSon of God's mercy - not only for his chosen people - for Israel - but God extends mercy, even for those who come from the enemy of God's people. In other words, God has faithful people who are outside of the family, so to speak, but he will call them and they will come.

Now in the lesson it says that it is no surprise that the land of judah suffered from a famine during that time. That was because the Israelites had apostatized and gone after these pagan deities. This was a sign that the people of the covenant had forsaken their God. And then we see, in this story here of Ruth, her commitment for her to come with naomi and to allow her God - Ruth wanted to come with naomi - to allow naomi's God to be her God. And that's the lesson that I think we can really take from here in this conflict idea.

Turn in your Bibles to Revelation chapter 18. And here we find God's church at the end of time with a message that has to go to all the world - Revelation chapter 18 and we're going to begin here in verse 1 - Revelation chapter 18, beginning in verse 1 - it says, "and after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great authority; and the earth was illuminated with his glory." Now in Bible prophecy, an angel here, represents a messenger or a message that has to go to all the world. It represents God's people at the end of time. Verse 2 says, "and he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, 'Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!" Verse 3 says, "for all the nations have drunk the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the Kings of the earth have committed fornication with her and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury." So here is a message that has to go to all the world before Jesus comes: 'Babylon is fallen, is fallen.' But I want you to notice verse 4: it says, "and I heard another voice from heaven" - this is the voice of God - the voice of Jesus speaking - "saying, 'come out of her, my people...lest you share in her sins and lest you receive of her plagues.'" Now, just like in the time of Israel, God had faithful men and women who were outside of the nation of Israel. At times, they were even amongst the enemy of God's people, yet their hearts were loyal and sincere and God called them into the family of Israel.

So, likewise, at the end of time. God has got faithful men and women in Babylon - Babylon represents religious corruption at the end of time. The time will come when God will call his faithful people to come out of religious apostasy and to make their stand with God's commandment-keeping people. So it's important for us to realize that our mission as a church is to share the good news - the three angels' messages - with the world because God is going to call his people to come out of religious confusion. The problem with Israel was they thought that they were this privileged group of people and that they were superior to all the nations around them.

They didn't realize that God raised up Israel for the very purpose of bringing and proclaiming and preaching the coming of the Messiah - the first coming of Jesus. So likewise today, the church has been raised up by God to prepare the world for the second coming of Christ. And then, on Thursday, we just get a quick glimpse of another Bible character during the time of the Judges, Samuel. Now what does the beginning of the book of Samuel have to do with the Great Controversy theme? There is no obvious threat to the created order and there are no vast armies at the border. The attack of evil is more subtle, but no less real, as we'll see in the story of Samuel.

So let's just kind of get a little bit of a more clear idea of Samuel. Samuel or, at least his mother hannah - her name was 'grace'. She was the favorite of the two wives of elkanah, an ephraimite of levitical stock, who lived in the town of ramah. The other wife, penina, mocked her because she had no children. She prayed and vowed that if God would give her a son, she would devote him to God as a nazarite.

A year after this vow she bore a son an named him Samuel. Then, at the appropriate time, she did just as she had promised, and he served as a priest before God. She brought Samuel a robe every year when she came up to shiloh to worship. She later became the mother of three sons and two daughters. Now what about Samuel himself? While still a boy he experienced the prophetic call at a time - and the time was established - as time went on, he was established as a prophet and a judge in Israel.

In his old age, his leadership was challenged by the tribal elders who wanted a king in Israel. He was told by God to anoint Saul as the first king in Israel and then, later, after the apostasy of Saul, was directed to anoint David as king. Samuel Marked a transition point in the history of God's people, from that of a theocracy, to that of a monarchy. He died at the age of 112 years and was buried in ramah around 1017 bc. Now, with reference to Israel wanting to have a king - 1 Samuel chapter 8, verse 4 - we read, "then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at ramah, and said to him, 'look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways.

Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.' But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, 'give us a king to judge us.' So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, 'heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.'" So despite the fact that Israel had the wonderful privilege and blessing of having God be their king, they didn't want God as the King, they wanted to have a king like all the pagan nations around them, and this grieved the heart of Samuel. Nevertheless, Samuel was that transitional person from the time of a theocracy to becoming a nation of Kings. The monarchy was established during this time. But there were a few real challenges.

Early on, in the life of Samuel, because of eli, who was the priest - in the book Patriarchs and Prophets on page 575, we have this quote, speaking of eli, "but although he (eli) had been appointed to govern the people, he did not rule his own household. Eli was an indulgent father. Loving peace and ease, he did not exercise his authority to correct the evil habits and passions of his children. Rather than contend with them or punish them, he would submit to their will and give their own way. As a result, there was great apostasy.

" You can read about The Sons of eli and the wicked things that they did. This finally led to a battle with the philistines when the ark of the covenant was actually taken away from Israel and the ark was, for a period of time, over there in the land of the philistines. "Yet, in contrast to eli's wicked sons, we have the story of a small boy dressed as a priest who, like Jesus, speaking of Samuel, grew in stature and favor with both the Lord and with man." So Samuel was an important person, during that time, to direct Israel's attention back to the true God who was the one who could bring genuine deliverance from their enemies. So Samuel Marked this transitional point in the history of God's people. He was the last of the Judges and a key figure in the developing Great Controversy.

His stable influence guided the people during a critical time of Israel's history. So in these stories that we looked at during our lesson for this week, we can see how the Great Controversy was played out in a very real scenario with the nation of Israel. Israel would abandon their true worship of God and would follow after these pagan deities that surrounded them. As a result, famine would come or an army would come and occupy the land and they would suffer at their hand. Finally, they would realize the cause for all of these terrible things was because they had left God and they turned and they cried out to God and God would raise up a deliverer to come and guide them.

And it seemed that worked for a period of time, but then Israel kept slipping back into the old ways of seeking to follow these pagan deities. Now, could it be today that we follow the same course of Israel from time to time? I just think of our own personal lives. Are there times in our life where we have neglected our commitment and our connection with God, only to find ourselves in trouble, crying out to God for deliverance? God, in his mercy, comes and delivers us, but then it seems like things go back the way that they were and, again, we have to experience that revival and say, 'Lord, please deliver me from my enemy' - which, of course, is the devil - 'deliver me from sin.' And that experience that Israel had is an experience that each of us, I think, have in our own experience, but God wants us to stay consistent with him, not to have this up and down kind of spiritual experience, but he wants us to be devoted and faithful, trusting in him. I think Samuel is set forth as a great example for us Christians to follow. From his early years all the way to his old years, he was faithful to his God.

And whenever he faced opposition or trials or difficulties, the first thing he did was to turn to God in prayer. When the elders of Israel came, when they wanted a king, the first thing Samuel did was he prayed to the Lord. He talked to the Lord about the problem - 'what do I do?' We need to have that same attitude of prayer - that whatever the circumstance might be that we face, our first instinct is to turn to God in prayer and say, 'Lord, what do you want me to do? How can I be faithful to you and follow the leading that you have given?' Now on Friday, at the end of our lesson, there's just a quick summary. It says "we are either the Lord's, doing something meaningful and of purpose for him, or we, in the end, are worthless." Two choices. And, of course, that makes sense, considering that our whole existence and purpose in life comes only from him.

So all of us face a similar choice. We're all part of this Great Controversy between the forces of good and the forces of evil. And every one of us, in our own lives, every day, we make a choice: whose side are we going to be on? Are we going to be on the side of God or are we going to be on the side of the enemy? How do we respond and react when we face trials and difficulties in our life? Do we realize that this is an opportunity for us to seek the Lord for deliverance, or do we try to battle these things on our own? The lesson that we learn from Judges is God's way is indeed the best way. Well, friends, we're out of time, but I would like to just remind you of a free offer that we have. It's a book entitled the flesh and the Spirit and we'll be happy to send this to anybody who calls and asks.

The number again is 866-788-3966 and you can ask for offer #792. Again, that number is 866-788-3966. Ask for offer #792 and we'll be happy to send that to anybody here in North America. And for those of you who are outside of North America, you can read this book for free online at the Amazing Facts website. And I hope that you plan to join us next week as we continue our study in God's Word.

So what is the brightest light in the world? Naturally you'd say the sun, but we're talking about the brightest man-made light in the world. It's the light that shines out of the roof of that pyramid-shaped hotel in las vegas called the luxor. There in the cap of that hotel, there's a room that contains 39 washing-machine-sized xenon bulbs and each of those bulbs requires about 7,000 watts. Altogether they produce about 40 billion candle power of light. Can you imagine getting that electric bill at the luxor hotel every month? That light is so bright that planes can see it 250 miles away.

They're shooting light ten miles up into space, meaning that if you happen to be floating by, you could read a newspaper up there. And, as you might have guessed, that bright light has become the world's best bug attractor, bringing in moths and bats and owls, creating its own ecosystem there at night above the hotel. But the sad thing about the brightest light in the world is, especially when the night air is clear - without any particles - the light doesn't hit anything and it's invisible. It shoots up into empty space. The brightest light in the world illuminates nothing.

You know, the Bible tells us that there's another great wasted light, and that's the light of God's Word. It says, in psalm 119, verse , "thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." And yet, so many people are walking in darkness. Furthermore, Jesus said if you do have that light, make sure you don't put it under a bushel, but you let it shine and illuminate the lives of others. Jesus said, in Matthew chapter , set your light up on a hill, like a city, so that all might see it. Light only benefits others when it reflects off of something.

God wants our lights to illuminate the lives of others. So are you glowing for God? Remember, Jesus said, 'let there be light.' In six days God created the heavens and the earth. For thousands of years man has worshiped God on the seventh day of the week. Now, each week, millions of people worship on the first day. What happened? Why did God create a day of rest? Does it really matter what day we worship? Who was behind this great shift? Discover the truth behind God's law and how it was changed.

Visit Sabbathtruth.com. For life-changing Christian resources, visit afbookstore.com or call 1-800-538-7275.

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