May 12 - 18
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Prov. 22:6; plus, as time permits, read the daily Bible texts in context.
MEMORY TEXT: "Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right" (Proverbs 20:11).
KEY THOUGHT: Biblical history testifies to the impact children can exert, for good or evil. In turn, the influence that adults have on impressionable young minds makes all the difference in determining what kind of adults children become. How crucial, then, that children be given the right training.
JESUS IDENTIFIED WITH CHILDREN. Unlike Adam and Eve, Jesus was born a dependent infant. His earthly parents honored Heaven's trust in them; Joseph and Mary provided an environment for Jesus to flourish. "And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52, RSV). As an adult, Jesus constantly ministered to the needs of children. Once a child Himself, He knew what children experienced and was therefore able to relate to the young ones brought to Him.
Such is the kingdom of heaven. When the Hebrew mothers brought their babes to be blessed by Christ, the disciples tried to send them away. But Jesus, checking His disciples, said, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:14). Something about children made them examples of what's needed to be in the kingdom of heaven. Thus, this week we learn from children what, perhaps, adults could never teach us.
One of the most enlightening parts of this story is the contrast between the character of Samuel, son of Hannah, and the characters of Phinehas and Hophni, the sons of Eli (Eli was a leader in Israel).
"And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men" (1 Sam. 2:26). "Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord" (1 Sam. 2:12, NKJV).
What was the sin of Eli's two sons? See 1 Sam. 2:12-17, 22.
Eli's sons used their office as priests to indulge their lusts and passions. Though Scripture records Eli rebuking them (1 Sam. 2:22-25), his disciplinary measures came way too late (see Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 575-579). The Lord warned Eli that a great punishment would come upon him and his house because of his sons. In fact, the first prophecy given to young Samuel occurred when the Lord told him that He would "perform against Eli all I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end" (1 Sam. 3:12, NKJV).
What does the fact that the Lord punished Eli for the sins of his children say about how seriously the Lord takes parental responsibility?
Are wayward children always the fault of bad parenting? Explain whichever answer you give with reasons why.
|Hannah worked very hard to give young Samuel good training; she succeeded where Eli obviously failed (we're told nothing about Eli's wife). Scripture gives a hint about what might have been one of Eli's mistakes. After Eli had been told that the Philistines took the ark of the covenant and killed his two sons, Scripture says that at the "mention of the ark of God" (1 Sam. 4:18), Eli keeled over and died. In other wordshe seemed to show more concern about the ark than the death of his own sons! Though God needs to come first, even before family, could Eli have been too busy serving God that he neglected his own sons?|
|Samuel grew up to be a great man of God. Yet he also didn't do too well with his children (see 1 Sam. 8:1-3). What lessons can parents learn from these unfortunate stories?|
No matter how often the story of David and Goliath is told to children, there's an adult lesson there, not just about faith but about prejudging those whom we might deem unsuitable for certain tasks.
What were the objections that these people gave about David's plans to battle Goliath?
His eldest brother Eliab: 1 Sam. 17:28 _________________________________________________
King Saul: 1 Sam. 17:33 _____________________________________________________________
Goliath: 1 Sam. 17:42-44 ______________________________________________________
On the surface, the objections didn't seem totally unreasonable. The problem, however, was that when we deal with issues of faith and God, we shouldn't be limited by reason alone. Reason would have said that David was unsuitable to take on such a task. Yet the God we serve is a God whose wisdom, might, and power extend far beyond the limits of human reason. Thus, we shouldn't be surprised when through Him people are able to perform tasks that reason would say are impossible.
What other examples in Scripture tell of someone who accomplished great things, despite his or her youth and supposed inexperience?
|The year was 1762, and a boy had just turned five. That morning he received his first violin. When the father's friends came over to play their violins together, the child wanted to join in. "No, son," said his father, "you cannot possibly play with us until you at least have had some lessons." Tearfully, the child left but was called back after one of the friends, Mr. Schachtner, persuaded the father to let the child play. "OK," said the father, "just play softly so no one hears you." After a few minutes all the violins were silenced, except the child's; everyone listened in astonishment. How could this childwith no lessons or experience!play such complicated music so beautifully? Mr. Mozart was, indeed, shocked at young Wolfgang's musical ability. Thus, even with secular things, we need to be careful about prejudging youth and inexperience.|
|Consider Ellen White: sickly, a girl, little education, and barely out of her teens! Yet called to the prophetic ministry. In what ways does her experience parallel what David experienced with Goliath?|
"He [Elisha] went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, 'Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!'" (2 Kings 2:23, RSV).
Elisha had dedicated his life to the spiritual needs of his nation. Yet, as he was entering upon this mission, a number of youth came out of Bethel to mock him. Their words about him going "up" showed that they knew something of the ascension of Elijah, a solemn and sacred event (it's not every day someone is translated without seeing death!). With Elijah gone, they turned their taunts to Elisha, derisively calling upon him also to make his ascent.
Their behavior can be traced to two sources:
The devil. "The young men were inspired by Satan, who was seeking to do what he could to counteract the effect of the solemn event that had occurred and that could not but leave a deep impression upon the people of the land."The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 856.
The parents. "Elijah had been translated to heaven, and his mantle had fallen upon Elisha. Then wicked youth, who had learned from their parents to despise the man of God, followed Elisha, and mockingly cried, 'Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head."Early Writings, pp. 247, 248.
How did Elisha respond to their taunts? Did he pray for them? Did he turn his cheek? Did he try encouraging them to repent? 2 Kings 2:24.
"The awful judgment that came upon them was of God. After this, Elisha had no further trouble in his mission. For fifty years he passed in and out of the gate of Bethel, and went to and fro from city to city, passing through crowds of the worst and rudest of idle, dissolute youth, but no one ever mocked him or made light of his qualifications as the prophet of the Most High. This one instance of terrible severity in the commencement of his career was sufficient to command respect through his whole life."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 44.
|However harsh their judgment might seem, however much about their tragic fate we still might not understand, this story can serve as a powerful warning against those who scorn holiness or who mock those called of God. In what ways can we, even today, be guilty of the same sin?|
Naaman, a great military leader, is afflicted with a loathsome disease for which he can find no cure. Along comes a "little maid," a child taken captive by his victorious armies, who knows where he can get help. "If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy" (2 Kings 5:3, NKJV). Look at the incredible confidence this child displayed in the power of her God, even after she had been taken away as a captive by the invading Syrians, a calamity that could have easily caused her to doubt the power, and even the existence, of the God she served.
Were risks involved in the "little maid's" advice? Suppose after humbling himself to where he sought help from a "foreign" God, he weren't healed? How might Naaman have responded?
Not only did the Little Maid witness to Naaman and his cohorts, but she remains a symbol today of those who keep faithful and positive in spite of extreme adversity:
"A marauding band from Syria had swooped down upon her helpless nation, and she, through no fault of her own, had been one of the victims. She had been carried away into a strange land. Thus she had been robbed in a single day of her home, of her father and mother, of her brothers and sisters, of every outward possession that heretofore had enriched her life. And to crown all, she had been robbed of her freedom. . . . But though she had been robbed of every outward possession, there were some treasures to which she still clung. There are values, thank God, that physical force and violence cannot touch. Life can do harsh and horrible things to us. . . . But she also knew through her experience another and a finer fact; she knew that there are treasures of which no force however great and however cruel can rob us."Covis G. Chappell, Feminine Faces (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1974), pp. 91, 92. See also Prophets and Kings, pp. 244-250. [In the chapter "Naaman".]
|Somehow, even amid adversity, this child, not even named in Scripture, adhered to the faith she had been raised on. Though little detail is given, what factors could have played a role in shaping her so that, despite outward circumstances, she not only kept her faith but witnessed in a powerful way for that faith? What are we doing so that our children could do the same? Could we do the same?|
"Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him" (2 Kings 23:25, RSV).
Though Josiah was only eight years old when he began to reign, the Hebrew nation never had a king quite like him. Almost the whole account of his 31-year rule, as depicted in 2 Kings, deals with his attempt to eradicate pagan influence and restore the true worship of God. Second Kings 23:3 states that the king made a covenant with the Lord to "keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes."
What does the people's reaction to Josiah's pledge (vs. 3) teach about the great influence that leaders have on the spirituality of those they lead?
|Even a quick read in 2 Kings 23 about the reforms Josiah instituted can be sobering. Look at the pagan customs that had so infiltrated the nation, at every level! There were articles for the worship of pagan gods in the temple its elf (vs. 4); there were priests who burned incense to pagan gods, including the sun and moon and stars (vs. 5). How could the chosen nation, with such clear warnings, have fallen into such blatant apostasy? Do you think this apostasy happened all at once, or slowly? Can you see this same happening in our church today? And are we just as blind to it?|
According to  Kings 22, the "book of the law" inspired Josiah to institute radical change. When the book of the law was first read to him, Josiah "tore his clothes" (vs. 11). Obviously, what the Lord had commanded in the book of the law was not, he saw, being practiced by the people, and therefore calamity awaited. Thus, using the Word of God as his basis, he instituted radical reforms through the whole nation. No doubt, many people, particularly those who were accustomed to pagan worship, did not like what was happening. Yet, that opposition didn't stop Josiah from doing what was right, no matter the outcome.
In the end, Josiah's reforms failed to avert catastrophe. He was even told beforehand that they wouldn't (2 Kings 22:18-20). Nevertheless, this reality didn't stop him from initiating reform. What lessons can we learn about obeying God, whatever the outcome?
FURTHER STUDY: Read the following familiar passage:
"At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying. 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And calling to him a child he put him in the midst of them, and said, 'Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven'" (Matt. 18:1-4, RSV).
SUMMARY: Parents can take their children from the cradle to the Cross, but no further. At the Cross, each individual has to make his or her own choice. This weeks lesson shows the power of parents in creating influences that can impact what, finally, must always be a personal decision.
Tania was starting her first assignment as a missionary nurse. She would help reopen a mission hospital and train midwives and health care workers.
A pastor and his wife also had been assigned to serve in the area, where most of the people are Adventists. The only pastor serving the area was old and lacked transportation to visit all the churches.
Tania surveyed the mission. Except for the church, the mission lay in ruins. One home had been made livable for the missionaries.
People had heard that a nurse was coming and were waiting for treatment. Tania began treating malaria, tropical sores, and diarrhea with the few supplies she had. There was so much to do, and every night she fell into bed exhausted but satisfied.
One night she awoke to the sound of breaking glass. Someone was breaking their windows! The pastor took his flashlight and went to the door to see what he could do. "We want you!" some men shouted. Instinctively Tania knew that this was not a medical emergency. Frightened, she stumbled in the dark toward the pastor's room.
The mob beat down the door, and when the pastor tried to calm the angry men, they began beating him. The women cowered in the bedroom praying and crying as the pastor suffered blow after blow. Some men ran into the bedroom and began hitting Tania and the pastor's wife. Would they kill them-or worse? Tania could do nothing but pray. The mob tore up the rooms looking for valuables. One man accused the missionaries of being government spies.
When the invaders finally left, Tania and the pastor's wife lay still, listening for sounds. They could hear the pastor's groans as he stumbled toward the bedroom. He had been severely beaten, but in the darkness there was little they could do. Together they waited for the dawn.
As dawn lighted the sky, Tania treated the pastor's injuries. He needed a doctor, but the mission was 13 hours by car from the nearest city. They had no way to contact the outside world, and the pastor needed help. But Tania did not want to leave. She had been there only 10 days, but she had seen the immense needs of the people. "There's so much to do here," she said. "We can't quit!"
The missionaries heard someone outside. It was the old pastor. He had heard the mob's shouts and had tried to come and help them, but the mob would not let him through. He feared that they had been killed.
(continued next week)
Tania Batista is studying at Newbold College and plans to return to the mission field. Charlotte Ishkanian is editor of Mission.
Produced by the Office of Mission
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