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Sunday School is a vital part of any ministry. In it, one is able to experience a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. Here at “Word For Life Says,” I want to help you help others. Below you will find resources to help you prepare for your upcoming lessons and my personal summary notes that I use when teaching. May God bless you!
“Faithful God, Unfaithful People”
Numbers 25:10-13; 1 Samuel 2:30-36
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Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2013 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original tounless properly quoted/cited. I am glad you like to read my personal summary notes that I use when teaching, but as always you are encouraged to do your own studies as well. Blessings!)
The contrast between God and mankind has always shown a marked difference that has separated the two. With too many references to compare of how His holiness, sovereignty, omniscient and omnipotent power; how His self-existence and eternal nature has just always been; and, how He is beyond significantly superior over all, through all, and before all – to sit down and make such a list would take an enormous amount of time and thought. Because of the weight of God and all that He is just generally more than we can even imagine. Although the things listed above are just an over-all generalization of Him, God’s story is so much more.
Even when it comes to the comparison of His faithfulness to that of humanity, His story states that He will always hold to the end of His deal whilst mankind – well, not so much so. When God enters a covenant, He enters in with a follow-through mentality. Whereas, humans are often swayed by circumstance, feelings, fleshly desires and opinions, and ungodly influences that entice one to leave the perimeters of said covenant.
Let’s look deeper into today’s lesson to gain a better understanding of our “Faithful God” compared to “Unfaithful people” and hopefully glean an understanding of how we should respond.
Numbers 25:10-13 “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.”
Through Israel’s history, as it is related in the book of Numbers, God has blessed His people tremendously. When they complained and yearned for the food of Egypt against the manna they had been given, God supplied quail (Num. 11). Much complaining is what the people were known for throughout this book and for much complaining did they suffer, yet, in the end, God still blessed them.
Through a vow they made to God they were given the strength to destroy the Canaanites (Num. 21:1-3). At other times, they also defeated king Sihon (Num. 21:21-32) and king Og (Num. 31:33-35). And when Balak, king of Moab became frightened at the size of the number of God’s people and the scope of how He worked for them, he hired Balaam to curse them (Num. 22-24). It didn’t work and only words of blessings flowed from his mouth for God’s people (Num. 24:3-9) and words of prophecy for their future (Num. 24:15-19).
Later, we find out that Balaam gave the enemy counsel to use the women of Moab to cause Israel to trespass again the LORD (Num. 31:16).
Despite all that God has done for them when we open up at the beginning of chapter 25 in the book of Numbers, there we see God’s people relishing in that very sin that Balaam advised the enemy to use. They are enjoying doing things that were out of the agreement of God. They partook of the forbidden and bowed themselves down to it.
Physically and spiritually they committed harlotry in Moab. Physically, they came to the women of Moab to commit harlotry. And spiritually, they sacrificed to their gods and bowed down to them and joined themselves to them under the enticement of those women (Num. 25:1-3).
In doing so they stirred up the wrath of God (compare 106:28-29) and He demanded actions to be taken “that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel,” (Num. 25:4; read verses 4-6). But, at the end of the day, 24,000 people died in a plague (Num. 25:9).
What stopped the plague from taking even more lives than this was the action of one man whose zeal for the Lord would not put up with sin coming into the camp of God’s people. When they presented a “Midianitish woman” who was found in the actual camp of God’s people, and brought to the attention of Moses and the congregation, Phinehas, a priest of God’s, grabbed a javelin, went to the man’s tent whom she visited when he snuck her into the camp of God’s people to commit these atrocious sins, and “thrust both of them through,” (Num. 25:6-8). “So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.”
God commended the actions of Phinehas. God is for those who are for Him. 2 Chronicles 15:2 says, “The LORD is with you, while ye be with him,” and Phinehas proved that he stood on the Lord’s side. Therefore, being pleased with Phinehas, he not only stopped the plague, but He rewarded Phinehas.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses.” Still recognized as God’s chosen leader for the people of Israel, God relays the blessings He wants to impart to Phinehas, through Moses.
What stood out to God was Phinehas’ passion for God and His ways. God said, “He was zealous for my sake among them.” What that means is he loved God so; he loved God’s word so; he loved God’s law so that he was actually jealous on God’s behalf over the terrible sin that was taking place and had taken away from the honor of God there. He stood in defense of God so much so that he wanted to shut this sin down from amongst the people. Phinehas’ mind, heart, and spirit were fixed on God and he got jealous for God, and God’s jealousy was diverted from consuming “the children of Israel.”
Please Note: Does this mean that we should do what Phinehas did? No, we cannot. But, through the course of our life and down the different avenues we walk and circumstances we encounter, we can stand for God’s truth. He who chooses to stand for truth chooses to stand for everything God believes in and is. You become a supporter of His causes.
That’s what Phinehas was. He was a supporter of the causes of God. He took a stand for God and because of that, God had a special blessing for him: “Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood.”
Phinehas didn’t know it at the time, but by him taking a stand for God, defending God’s ways and laws with zeal against the intruding sin on the camp, he put himself in a position to be blessed by God.
What I really like about this is it shows that Phinehas didn’t do it for a reward. He did it for God alone. He did it because they were in a covenant relationship with Him. Too often, many comb the pages of the Bible to see how they can be blessed by God by doing this or that instead of how they can just do right by God. Anything extra that comes from that is just the product of seeking Him in all sincerity and truth (compare Matthew 6:33). There is a reward for living a life that is pleasing to God. God wanted to bless Phinehas.
“I will give unto him my covenant of peace … even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood.” When he took a stand for God against the sin, he became an instrument of peace between God and His people that day, “and made an atonement for the children of Israel” – thus, the plague was stopped. Now, God is favoring him with His “covenant of peace.”
God said this is “my covenant” that He is extending. God gave him an enduring promise of peace similar to what is seen in Isaiah 54:10. Charles H. Brent is quoted, saying, “Peace comes when there is no cloud between us and God,” (Quote Source: Christian Quotes). We will always have peace with God when there is no reason for shade in our relationship with Him. When we are open, honest, and transparently living for Him, with nothing in the way, we will enjoy the peace that only He can give.
In an article titled, Interruption of Peace, I penned these words:
“Peace is a divine blessing. It’s something that is the right of every child of God to have. Although our outward situations may not favor that sentiment, it’s the inward man that is to stand up in faith, believing every word of God to be true, that fights and upholds the right for that God-given peace.
‘He promises peace to his people,’” (Psalm 85:8).” (WordForLifeSays.com)
The covenant of peace for Phinehas went beyond the absence of enmity with others who might seek revenge or a harmonious relationship with God. Part of his covenant of peace was attached to the “everlasting priesthood.” In his position now as a priest he stood for the honor of God, therefore, God will bless his family to continue to work in the position that gives Him honor through the “priesthood” (compare Psalm 106:30-31).
But, not all priests would be as zealous for God to bring honor to His name as the next portion of our lesson discusses.
1 Samuel 2:30-36 “Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house. And thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel: and there shall not be an old man in thine house for ever. And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart: and all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age. And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die both of them. And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever. And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in thine house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priests’ offices, that I may eat a piece of bread.”
Prior to these verses, Eli received a warning from an unknown prophet because although he was serving in the position of the high priest, his fervency for the Lord could be rated on the low end of the scale. It appears he didn’t have the same concern for the law of God and the fulfilling of his position the way that Phinehas was described as; at least not enough to deal with his sons in the right way. Rather, he was neglectful to his office, his surroundings, and to the truth of the evils his own sons were doing in their positions as priests (see 1 Samuel 2:12-17; 22-25). And, when he did try to speak to them about their wrongs, they refused to listen (vs. 25).
All this was because, they may have served as priests, but regarding his sons, “they knew not the LORD,” (1 Samuel 2:12). They were priests only by title, but not in spirit. So, the man of God spoke and reminded him of where God brought his family from. He reminded him that they were chosen “out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest,” and yet that office has been defiled and treated with disrespect, and Eli himself is accused by the man of God as one who “honourest thy sons above me,” (1 Samuel 27-29).
Because they failed to uphold the faithful requirements of the office where God said, “Indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever,” God now says, “Be it far from me.” In other words, I don’t think so. The covenant that God previously made with the “the house of thy father,” with the Aaronic priesthood, would not extend any longer through this particular line of the family; it would not continue through the “thy house;” the house of Eli.
What do I mean by this line? Aaron had four sons Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar (Numbers 3:2). This was the priest family of the children of Israel (Numbers 3:3). Two of Aaron’s sons were killed, Nadab and Abihu, when they offered profane fire before the Lord (Numbers 3:4) which left the office of the priesthood to be passed onto Eleazar and Ithamar. Phinehas, from our Numbers 25 section of this lesson was from the Eleazar side of the Aaronic priesthood (Numbers 25:7), whereas Eli and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas from the 1 Samuel section of our lesson, were from the Ithamar side. Aaron’s priesthood would continue through the Eleazar side, as previously promised to Phinehas from the Numbers 25 section, and not the Ithamar side for that generation of the priesthood.
When people are unfaithful to God and unfaithful to where He has placed them or for the work He has assigned to them, God removes them from there and takes that privilege away.
“For them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” Regarding this very verse, I once wrote:
“’Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,’ (Ps. 29:1-2). These two verses have been among favorites of mine for many years now. When you think of ‘giving to the Lord’ one realizes just how futile our efforts can be because of His vast greatness. But, something that each of us can give is honor. Not only can we gift it to Him, but it is a gift that He in turns honors.
‘For those who honor Me I will honor.’ Our God is an appreciative God and He believes in rewarding them that diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). If you don’t like the returns you have been getting in life examine what you have given. And let me make myself really clear at this point. I do not want you to see the above statement as to how you can get something from God. These things will happen because it’s what the Bible promises. Instead, I want you to just focus on God because He is God and not what you can get from Him.” (Honor God/WordForLifeSays.com)
But, Eli and his sons chose the opposite path of honoring God and as such, this is what they will also reap. Because they are noted as despising God, they themselves shall be “lightly esteemed.” Inasmuch as they choose to not give God the respect and glory due to His name or this blessed office they were ordained to work and cover, now they will carry the shame of being disdained before all by losing out the wrong way on being partakers of this holy priesthood.
“I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house.” This was some serious talk! As a family, their strength would fail and be taken away. The fact that none shall see the time of old age means that a short life span was going to be part of the repercussions this line of the family would face as a result of the unaddressed sin coming from Eli’s sons.
One of the promises found in Scripture states, “With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation,” (Psalm 91:16; emphasis mine) for those who abide in God; for those who remain faithful to Him. “Long life” is not something this family line will get to enjoy. Their wickedness has forfeited this promise of God and instead they receive judgment and are “cut off.” This falls in line with other portions of Scripture that promise this to the wicked: “But thou, O God shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction: bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in thee,” (Psalm 55:23, emphasis mine; see also Proverbs 10:27).
Instead of blessings, “thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation.” There are several ways people view this portion of Scripture. One is speaking from the idea of Eli’s family being cut off whilst others are appointed in their place. We do see this happening in 1 Kings 2:27 when, “Solomon thrust out Abiathar [who was from the Ithamar side of the family] from being priest unto the LORD; that he might fulfil the word of the LORD, which he spake concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh,” and replacing him with Zadok the priest, from the Eleazar side of the family (1 Kings 2:35, [added note mine]; Ezekiel 40:46). Another reference may be to the event that would soon follow this prophecy when the Ark of the Covenant would be captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:1-10), which would also fulfill the next part of the prophecy to Eli.
“This shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall both die.” The undeniable “sign” would be all the proof to Eli that the prophecy God sent would indeed come true. In one day, he would lose both of his sons. The very sons whom he was accused of honoring before God, God was going to take that crutch from him, and his family would fail. On that infamous day of battle, when the Philistine army fought against Israel and won and captured the Ark of the Covenant, Hophni and Phinehas, Eli’s two sons, died (1 Samuel 4:11).
But for the future of His people, God has a better plan in mind. “I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind.” This “faithful priest” could in the here and now of a time closer to them, and points to Zadok whom Solomon put into office (see notes above), but eventually, at the apex of God’s priesthood plan, Jesus Christ would take office as the long-awaited Messiah in the priesthood that would never change (see Hebrews 7:22-24).
As for Eli’s family, whereas once his sons were taking of parts of the offering that didn’t belong to them out of greed (1 Samuel 2:12-17), now of this family, “every one that is left in thine house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread.” Once they were a family of priests, now they will be a family of beggars.
While mankind can be on or off, hot or cold, as depicted by these different priests in today’s lesson, God is always on for His people. There is never a time when God steps out of the borders of the promise of the covenant He made. There is never a time when God is not faithful to do what He said He would do.
Time and again, God’s people let Him down as a nation, and then in some instances, dealing with particular offices such as the priesthood that was shown in our lesson. Yet, in His mercy and love and faithfulness, He remained in covenant with them. Psalms 106 reads to us a recitation of Israel’s history, particularly their failures in their relationship with God. But, then this is said: “He remembered for them his covenant,” (Psalm 106:45). Mankind might be feeble in remembering their commitment to God, but God is never failing in His commitment to us.
He is a faithful God even when we are unfaithful people. May we take the knowledge of that truth and respond with a renewed, loyal heart toward God.
Standard Print PDF: Faithful God Unfaithful People Sunday School Lesson Summary Standard Print
Below are WordForLifeSays.com activities to support this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Word Search: Faithful God Unfaithful People Word Search Answers: Faithful God Unfaithful People Word Search Answers
Word Scramble: Faithful God Unfaithful People Word Scramble Answers: Faithful God Unfaithful People Word Scramble Answers
Draw the Scene: Faithful God Unfaithful People Draw the Scene
Phinehas Coloring/Activity Sheet: Phinehas Coloring Activity Sheet (With this coloring/activity sheet you can use it as is or have students fill in the name Phinehas with different items such as glueing cereal, mosaic cut up papers, beads, glitter, stickers, or whatever. I used letter beads from the local dollar store to fill in the letters as shown below. Anything goes! Just have fun with it. Enjoy!)
Memory Verse: Faithful God Unfaithful People Memory Verse
How Many Words?: Faithful God Unfaithful People How Many Words
“Eli and His Sons” (Several ideas and printables including a “Point Catcher.” Enjoy!)
“Eli and His Wicked Sons” (With a great “Attention Grabber” opening activity. Enjoy!)
“The Philistines Take the Ark of the Covenant” (This activity, “God Never Rewards Disobedience,” depicts the downfall of Eli’s sons.)
“The Armor of God/ The Cloak of Zeal” (This resource is probably best shared with older students and adults. There is an interesting opening story and you can go down to the “Apply Now” section and read a great illustration on zeal. Enjoy!)
“Faithfulness Hands On Options” (There are several things to explore here on faithfulness. Some point to the faithfulness of God, while others show us the importance of being faithful people. Enjoy!)
“Reflecting God’s Faithfulness” (With several ideas to explore to share with the corresponding age. Enjoy!)
“Faithfulness Shirt Lesson” (Teaches students about faithfulness toward one another. Enjoy!)
“God is Faithful for Toddlers” (Use some of these ideas to express the idea of God’s faithfulness to even the youngest students. Enjoy!)