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The Great Failure
Introduction: The Sheepfold.
The entire purpose of Israel is be a people ready to meet God (Exodus 3:12). This is the exact same purpose of the Church (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus asked Peter to prepare the sheep for the same reason (John 21:16). We must prepare ourselves before God or any of his servants come (Exodus 19:10-11, Amos 4:12). Only when we are prepared can we receive his representatives or instructions. Only when we are ready will he tell us what to do. Only when the sheep are strong in the word will we be able to work with him or with his servants.
The Christian witness is keeping all that God gave us and presenting it to the world. We are to do this whether unbelievers want it or not. Whether they believe or not is irrelevant, because ready or not, they will eventually meet God. Of course this assumes we are ready to meet God first. If we are not ready, what happens?
The lesson is from Israel during the transition of the tribes into the Israelite nation. In the Bible this period begins at the end of the Judges and covers the first part of 1 Samuel. It was a very important step towards readying Israel for God and his servant David. (If everything had been prepared, perhaps Jesus would have come a thousand years earlier.)
Throughout the period of Judges, Israel’s leaders had been tribal leaders. There were no national heroes. Some were rebels. Many had no religious training. Most only had regional influence, and what influence they had was temporary.
Israel was at a low spiritual point and had picked up idolatrous habits from the nations around them. The worst part was many may have even forgotten they were Israelites. The Levites and priests barely had any influence. And since the tribes did not support them, they were unable to fulfill their function as teachers.
God sent three individuals in rapid succession (almost at the same time) to prepare Israel for the next step. He was either going to be king, or he was going to send them a leader. These three individuals were Eli, Samuel and Samson.
It was unfortunate that Eli, though he knew better neglected to act on what he knew. Eli’s long life (98 years) coincided with several other judges (Jephthah, Izban, Elon, and Abdon). And some time in Izban’s period, Eli also became a judge. Given this long period, there should have been plenty of opportunity for Eli to join or work with any of these judges. The Bible makes no mention of this. Eli may have neglected all his responsibilities like he neglected his sons’ training.
Eli was unfortunate, but it was disastrous that Samson did not receive proper spiritual training as a child.
The forty year Philistine oppression fixes the time period for these three people (Judges 13:1). Eli judged Israel forty years (1 Samuel 4:18) and died before the oppression ended. There followed twenty years before Samuel’s reform (1 Samuel 6:1, 7:2-3). The Philistine oppression ended after Samuel’s reform (1 Samuel 6:10-14). Samson judged Israel twenty years (Judges 16:31). He began the deliverance of Israel (Judges 13:5). This places Samson some time after the defeat of Israel and the return of the ark. Samson’s judgeship ended just as Samuel ended the oppression (see diagram).
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