Lesson 9 | Sabbath, 28 August 2021
“The Lord had, through His prophets, foretold that Israel would be governed by a king; but it does not follow that this form of government was best for them or according to His will. He permitted the people to follow their own choice, because they refused to be guided by His counsel. Hosea declares that God gave them a king in His anger. Hosea 13:11. When men choose to have their own way, without seeking counsel from God, or in opposition to His revealed will, He often grants their desires, in order that, through the bitter experience that follows, they may be led to realize their folly and to repent of their sin. Human pride and wisdom will prove a dangerous guide. That which the heart desires contrary to the will of God will in the end be found a curse rather than a blessing.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 605,606.
The people’s choice
1. What did the people of Israel propose to Gideon? Did he consent to their suggestion? What was revealed in their request and in Gideon’s reply?
Judges 8:22, 23. Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. 23And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you.
“The people of Israel, in their gratitude at deliverance from the Midianites, proposed to Gideon that he should become their king, and that the throne should be confirmed to his descendants. This proposition was in direct violation of the principles of the theocracy. God was the king of Israel, and for them to place a man upon the throne would be a rejection of their Divine Sovereign. Gideon recognized this fact; his answer shows how true and noble were his motives. ‘I will not rule over you,’ he declared; ‘neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you.’” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 555.
2. Unlike Gideon, what did Abimelech do arbitrarily and with force? How did this usurper’s life end after he reigned over Israel for three years? At that time, what ideas did the people have about a monarchy?
Judges 9:1-2, 6, 22, 53, 54. Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem unto his mother’s brethren, and communed with them, and with all the family of the house of his mother’s father, saying,2Speak, I pray you, in the ears of all the men of Shechem,Whether is better for you, either that all the sons of Jerubbaal, which are threescore and ten persons, reign over you, or that one reign over you?remember also that I am your bone and your flesh…. 6And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem…. 22When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel,… 53a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to brake his skull. 54Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died.
“Abimelech was successful in his schemes, and was accepted, at first by the Shechemites, and afterward by the people generally, as the ruler of Israel. But while thus exalted to the highest position in the gift of the nation, he was utterly unworthy of the trust. His birth was ignoble, his character vicious. The higher and nobler qualities–virtue, integrity, and truth–he had never cherished. He possessed a strong will and indomitable perseverance, and thus, by the most unscrupulous measures, he accomplished his purposes….
“Had the Israelites preserved a clear perception of right and wrong, they would have seen the fallacy of Abimelech’s reasoning, and the injustice of his claims. They would have seen that he was filled with envy, and actuated by a base ambition to exalt himself by the ruin of his brethren. Those who are controlled by policy rather than by principle are not to be trusted. They will pervert the truth, conceal facts, and construe the words of others to mean that which was never intended. They will employ flattering words, while the poison of asps is under their tongue. He who does not earnestly seek the divine guidance will be deceived by their smooth words and their artful plans.” –Signs of the Times, August 4, 1881.
3. What request did the elders of Israel present to Samuel one day? What did this show about their understanding and appreciation of the government that God intended for His people?
1 Samuel 8:1, 4, 5. And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that … 4all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, 5And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
“The dissatisfied longing for worldly power and display, is as difficult to cure now as in the days of Samuel. Christians seek to build as worldlings build, to dress as worldlings dress, to imitate the customs and practices of those who worship only the god of this world. The instructions of God’s Word, the counsels and reproofs of His servants, and even warnings sent directly from His throne, seem powerless to subdue this unworthy ambition. When the heart is estranged from God, almost any pretext is sufficient to justify a disregard of His authority. The promptings of pride and self-love are gratified at whatever expense to the cause of God.” –(Signs of the Times, July 13, 1882)Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 1013.
4. How did Samuel feel when he heard this request? What did the Lord say to him? Whom were they really rejecting in presenting such a petition?
1Samuel 8:6-8. But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. 7And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. 8According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.
“The unconsecrated and world-loving are ever ready to criticize and condemn those who have stood fearlessly for God and the right. If a defect is seen in one whom the Lord has entrusted with great responsibilities, then all his former devotion is forgotten, and an effort is made to silence his voice and destroy his influence. But let these self-constituted judges remember that the Lord reads the heart. They cannot hide its secrets from His searching gaze. God declares that He will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing.
“The most useful men are seldom appreciated. Those who have labored most actively and unselfishly for their fellow man, and who have been instrumental in achieving the greatest results, are often repaid with ingratitude and neglect. When such men find themselves set aside, their counsels slighted and despised, they may feel that they are suffering great injustice. But let them learn from the example of Samuel not to justify or vindicate themselves, unless the Spirit of God unmistakably prompts to such a course. Those who despise and reject the faithful servant of God, not merely show contempt for the man, but for the Master who sent him. It is God’s words, His reproofs and counsel, that are set at naught; His authority that is rejected.” –(Signs of the Times, July 13, 1882) Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 1013.
Warnings against a monarchy
5. What did Samuel explain clearly to them so that they would understand what such a change of government would lead to, including many disadvantages they would experience in rejecting God’s government in favor of an earthly monarchy?
1 Samuel 8:10-17. And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king. 11And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. 12And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. 13And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. 14And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. 15And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. 16And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your asses, and put them to his work. 17He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
“He [Samuel] faithfully set before them the burdens that would be laid upon them, and showed the contrast between such a state of oppression and their present comparatively free and prosperous condition. Their king would imitate the pomp and luxury of other monarchs, to support which, grievous exactions upon their persons and property would be necessary. The goodliest of their young men he would require for his service. They would be made charioteers and horsemen and runners before him. They must fill the ranks of his army, and they would be required to till his fields, to reap his harvests, and to manufacture implements of war for his service. The daughters of Israel would be for confectioners and bakers for the royal household…. Besides all this, the king would require a tenth of all their income, the profits of their labor, or the products of the soil. ‘Ye shall be his servants,’ concluded the prophet. ‘And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day.’ However burdensome its exactions should be found, when once a monarchy was established, they could not set it aside at pleasure.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 606.
6. Did the elders take to heart the dangers and disadvantages of a monarchy, and then reconsider their request? Why were they not interested in listening to the voice of the Lord and accepting His administration?
1 Samuel 8:19-22. Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; 20That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. 21And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord. 22And the Lord said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.
“The Israelites did not realize that to be in this respect unlike other nations was a special privilege and blessing. God had separated the Israelites from every other people, to make them His own peculiar treasure. But they, disregarding this high honor, eagerly desired to imitate the example of the heathen! And still the longing to conform to worldly practices and customs exists among the professed people of God. As they depart from the Lord they become ambitious for the gains and honors of the world. Christians are constantly seeking to imitate the practices of those who worship the god of this world. Many urge that by uniting with worldlings and conforming to their customs they might exert a stronger influence over the ungodly. But all who pursue this course thereby separate from the Source of their strength. Becoming the friends of the world, they are the enemies of God. For the sake of earthly distinction they sacrifice the unspeakable honor to which God has called them, of showing forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 607.
Israel’s first king
7. What command of the Lord did Samuel obey? Whom did he anoint as the first king?
1 Samuel 9:27; 10:1, 6. And as they were going down to the end of the city, Samuel said to Saul, Bid the servant pass on before us, (and he passed on,) but stand thou still a while, that I may show thee the word of God.10:1Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?… 6And the spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.
“At the gate of the city Saul was met by the prophet himself. God had revealed to Samuel that at that time the chosen king of Israel would present himself before him. As they now stood face to face, the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! this same shall reign over My people.’…
“Samuel conducted the stranger to the place of assembly, where the principal men of the town were gathered. Among them, at the prophet’s direction, the place of honor was given to Saul, and at the feast the choicest portion was set before him. The services over, Samuel took his guest to his own home, and there upon the housetop he communed with him, setting forth the great principles on which the government of Israel had been established, and thus seeking to prepare him, in some measure, for his high station.
“When Saul departed, early next morning, the prophet went forth with him. Having passed through the town, he directed the servant to go forward. Then he bade Saul stand still to receive a message sent him from God…. As evidence that this was done by divine authority, he foretold the incidents that would occur on the homeward journey and assured Saul that he would be qualified by the Spirit of God for the station awaiting him.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 609, 610.
For additional study
“And the Lord said unto Samuel: ‘Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken Me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.’ The prophet was reproved for grieving at the conduct of the people toward himself as an individual. They had not manifested disrespect for him, but for the authority of God, who had appointed the rulers of His people. Those who despise and reject the faithful servant of God show contempt, not merely for the man, but for the Master who sent him. It is God’s words, His reproofs and counsel, that are set at nought; it is His authority that is rejected.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 605.
of the Good Samaritan Department
To all brothers, sisters, friends, and acquaintances around the world: Warm, cordial greetings to you!
The work of the Good Samaritan Department owes its growth to Christian cooperation, sacrifice, and a spirit of self-denial on the part of all who are sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit.
The sacred Word warns us that, in the last days of this world, life will be very difficult in the social, religious, and economic realms.
The apostle James summarizes in a few words the purpose of the activities of the Good Samaritan: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27.
Orphans, widows, the elderly, and the sick compose the most fragile portions of society. Without the help of those who are healthy, strong, and financially blessed, the world’s victims would suffer abandonment and a very sad fate.
In the time of the prophet Elijah, as a consequence of Israel’s repeated transgressions, there was a long period of drought that caused great difficulty not only for the people but also for God’s prophet. But then he received a message of hope: “And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.” 1 Kings 17:8, 9.
Who was the widow of Zarephath? “This woman was not an Israelite. She had never had the privileges and blessings that the chosen people of God had enjoyed; but she was a believer in the true God and had walked in all the light that was shining on her pathway. And now, when there was no safety for Elijah in the land of Israel, God sent him to this woman to find an asylum in her home.
“‘So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand….
“The widow said, ‘As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse:’… 1 Kings 17:10-12.
“In this poverty-stricken home the famine pressed sore, and the pitifully meager fare seemed about to fail. The coming of Elijah on the very day when the widow feared that she must give up the struggle to sustain life tested to the utmost her faith in the power of the living God to provide for her necessities. But even in her dire extremity she bore witness to her faith by a compliance with the request of the stranger who was asking her to share her last morsel with him.
“In response to Elijah’s request for food and drink, the widow said, ‘As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake,…
“The widow had hitherto treated all strangers with kindness and liberality. Now, regardless of the suffering that might result to herself and child, and trusting in the God of Israel to supply her every need, she met this supreme test of hospitality by doing ‘according to the saying of Elijah.’” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 129, 130.
This moment was crucial for the future of the widow. If she had denied hospitality to the man of God, with her son she would have eaten her last loaf of bread and awaited death. Sometimes there are circumstances that we cannot put off. How many times have we said, “No, not today; maybe another time.”
But the widow of Zarephath shared her last loaf with Elijah, and in exchange for that she saved her life and that of her son. God has promised great blessings to all who in difficult moments give sympathy and assistance to those in need. He has not changed. His power today is just as strong as it was in the time of Elijah.
How did the story end? “And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.” 1 Kings 17:15.
If, as it was for the widow, today were our last, would we honor the servant of God? If we had a little faith, like a mustard seed, surely we would fulfill the will of God!
“God cannot use men who, in time of peril, when the strength, courage, and influence of all are needed, are afraid to take a firm stand for the right.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 142.
Dear friend, brother, and sister, you and I represent the widow who ministered to Elijah. Even if we have almost nothing, the Lord wants to choose us to carry out a special task. Provide for the needs of the prophet–God’s needy people. Are we ready to give and sacrifice something? Next Sabbath the special offering for the Good Samaritan Department will be gathered. God will bless each sacrifice. Whatever we give, even if it is small, will be sufficient with God’s blessing to nourish the servant of God and ourselves for a long time.
– Stefano La Corte
General Conference Good Samaritan Department Leader