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2006 Bible Study Notes
2007 Bible Study Notes
The Word of Our Testimony

Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

 Jan 8 , 2007                          Strongholds                 Kathleen Maples

1Sa 4:1 And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek.

The word "Philistine" means foreigners who dwell in villages...and just as I began to wonder what that meant, spiritually speaking, the word "Strongholds" was whispered to my heart. Oh, I thank God for His willingness to teach me His Word. I really do. I need Him so much. Without HIM, folks, all the Bible Dictionaries and resources in my electronic library and man's wisdom can't teach me very much at all. My Strong's Hebrew Definitions gives one of the meanings of Israel as "He will rule as God" (H3478 if you want to look it up yourself, and I encourage you to do so). The children of God are coming under attack by their enemy, and are not winning in this battle. He will either defend them from their enemies or He will allow them to be defeated if they have sinned and forsaken Him. The Philistines were pitched, or camped at Aphek, and that means a rapid torrent; strength. The enemy come in like a flood, and overwhelmed Israel because a weak and sinful priesthood had let the hedge down.

1Sa 4:3 And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us today before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.

This is a people that have been living under a corrupt priesthood for over a generation, because Eli and his sons had been more concerned with themselves than God or judging righteously. God has pronounced judgment against this corrupt and slothful priesthood. Because of the sins of Eli and his sons, the people considered the House of God a burdensome thing. The priest was a taker, and he took more than his portion, and allowed his sons to profane the holiness of God by committing adultery right in the door of the tabernacle. When Israel loses this battle, and four thousand men are killed, they return back to camp and complain because the Lord had not helped them achieve victory. What they should have done is went to prayer and repented before God at how they had been mistreating Him.

If you read the first three chapters preceding this one, you will see that there were still some godly people in Israel that loved God. They went up to sacrifice before God yearly, in Shiloh, which means "He that is to be sent". Hannah went up, too, grieving and praying because she wanted a child, and prayed before the Lord. Eli, who was supposed to be the Lord's priest and judge of the people, watched her through carnal eyes, with some contempt, because he accused her of being drunk. That's kind of hypocritical when you consider the way his two sons behaved.

Eli had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. Hophni means pugilist. I had never heard that word before so I looked it up and it means someone who is brutal, heavy handed, especially with their fists, and prone to violence. Phinehas means "mouth of brass". Brass is similar in appearance to gold, but is a mixture of three metals, and of little value in comparison to gold, which is solid, and pure, and of more substance. That reminds me of the Scripture in 2 Cor 11:4 where Paul is warning people about how the devil can masquerade as an angel of light. Here comes Hannah and her husband to worship and you have a violent, lustful and dishonest men there in the stead of the priesthood of God. When you determine to present yourself to God and seek His face, there will be evil present to try to hinder you, to assault your mind with violent lies, or accusations, and if that doesn't work, he will try to masquerade as the voice of the Lord, to sidetrack a genuine seeker of God.

In her grief, Hannah roused herself and went to pray. Eli, the lazy, complacent priest, who doesn't even know God, is sitting at the threshold of the temple. He hasn't entered in. But Hannah goes in and prays, out of the depths of her heart, without sound. But Eli watches her with arrogance, assuming she's drunk. He is so out of touch with God, he doesn't even recognize genuine prayer and worship when he sees it. He even accuses her and she with meekness corrects him, and asks him not to think her a daughter of Belial, or worthless.

1Sa 2:22 Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

1Sa 2:23 And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people.

1Sa 2:24 Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD'S people to transgress.

Of course, his sons did not listen to him. He had no kind of authority over them, nor did he have their respect. They likely viewed him as an accessory to their crimes against God. Before judgment comes, God always warns. He is so merciful. In spite of the fact that His Word was written by earlier generations, such as Moses, and Joshua, and the judges of Israel, and in spite of the fact God required every priest or ruler to know the law, and minister to Him, and then the people, Eli was laying down badly on the job. He knew the Word, but did not even attempt to obey it. God sends a man of God to Eli with a warning. He told him you were chosen to offer up incense, and minister before me, and to have the burnt offerings but you have not accepted that, you have despised and trampled on my sacrifice, and offering, and honored your sons more than me. You and your sons are feeding off the people, taking more than is your due, robbing me of what is mine, setting a bad example before the people, and have done things your own way. The people, seeing how the sons of Eli did, began to dread coming to the temple,with their sacrifices, they lost their fear of God, and dedication to God, because they were being led by fleshly leaders who were in it for themselves. Eli's sons despised everything the Lord stood for. Why else would He say this:

1Sa 2:30 Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me forever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

God told him judgment was coming, and they would be cut off. Eli's sons were as good as dead men. Before this happened, the Lord set about establishing Samuel, who was only a child, as prophet of Israel. The Lord kept this child Hannah entrusted to Him,in spite of the fact that Samuel was being raised up under a corrupt priest, with a corrupted theology, and misplaced priorities. God kept him. Oh, that gives me hope for my children. He can keep our children from the wicked one and the corruption in our society and in our schools. We must trust them to His capable hands, and cover them with prayer.

When the Philistines rise up against Israel, and kill 4000 men, the people are so spiritually blind, in the face of their defeat, they go get the ark of the covenant. The ark was very sacred. It contained the Testimony, the Commandments of the Living God. It contained the promises, and was symbolic of the presence of Almighty God among His people. There was the mercy seat where Moses met with God, above the ark, framed by cherubim. It was a holy thing. It was powerful. The Word of God is powerful, but we cannot handle it lightly. We cannot carry it around like a magic wand and make it do our bidding. Israel considered the ark as power, not the God behind it. They take the testimony of God and in their flesh shout and get excited, loudly enough the Philistines in their camp heard, and feared. They'd heard about the ark. They knew it meant God was in the camp. But they didn't run. They strengthened themselves, and went against Israel again, and this time, they killed thirty thousand, including Eli's two sons. You have brutal, dishonest and lustful men carrying the ark into battle and it's a dangerous thing to do. People who handle the Word of God lightly and with tolerated sin in their lives who are leading others astray as well, would do well to take heed to these Scriptures which were written for our learning. God does not change. (Heb 13:8) He will not change His Word for anyone.

1Sa 4:13 And when he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching: for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city, and told it, all the city cried out.

The enemy took the ark, they took the testimony of God from the people of God. Eli was afraid for the ark. He knew judgment had been pronounced. Interesting, it doesn't say he was afraid for his sons. In verse 15 it says Eli was 98 years old and couldn't see. When we tolerate sin, and won't obey the Word, God will take away the light and we won't be able to understand. We will be left in spiritual darkness. If we do not want to retain the knowledge revealed to us about God and who He is, and reverence Him for who He is, he will let us have the darkness. What a horrifying thought.

The messenger comes to Eli, says the enemy has stolen the ark of the testimony (Covenant). Your sons are dead. Eli falls and dies with a broken neck. The shock must have caused something like a massive heart attack or something. I don't know. But, when the enemy succeeds in stealing the promises, and the revelation of God from us, we are in deep trouble. The glory of God was gone. The Word was gone. All the promises of God had been stolen from these people by their enemy.

1Sa 5:1 And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod.

1Sa 5:2 When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon.

Ashdod means "strong fortress, or stronghold." It was one of the cities of the Philistines, supposed to belong to Judah, but the tribe of Judah never took possession of it when entering the promised land. They allowed it to remain unclaimed, so their enemy flourished there. When we refuse to deal with things in our lives that the Lord has convicted us about, that will be an area the devil will exploit and use as a foothold to war against us. If left alone, and not dealt with, it can become a stronghold.

Dagon was an idol that had the body of a fish, and the head and hands of a man. He corresponds to a female idol named Atargatis, a Syrian goddess with a woman's body and fish's tail-this is where the mermaid come from. The more I dig into the Word of God, I can't help but see how many of the cartoons I've allowed my kids to watch that were put out by Disney are full of idolatry. Greek mythology, and their idols, along with those of the middle and far east. They are full of sorcery, and magic and I don't feel comfortable allowing my kids to watch this stuff anymore. I mean, it's like the more little ones are exposed to this stuff, the more it prepares their minds to accept the lies of the devil and the world. It entertains, and yet somehow pollutes their mind with things that appear harmless but are spoken against by the Word of God.

1Sa 5:3 And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again.

If you are a believer, struggling with sin in your heart and life, this is your answer. When I saw this, it made me want to shout! I've read this many times, but people, we are to be the temple of the Holy Ghost and when we bring the Word of God, the Testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ into our temples, He knocks down the idols. He puts them down. But, oh, it gets better. Remember, the enemy had come in like a flood on His people. But He promised in Isa 59:19 to raise a standard against him when this happened. The Standard, is the Word of God which worketh effectually (very effectively) in us that believe. (1Th_2:13)

When the Philistines come into Dagon's temple, he's flat on his face before the ark of the Lord. See? The idol has to bow to the presence and Word of God. The Bible says every knee will bow, every tongue confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father. So the Philistines come in and set their idol back upright, and the next day put the fear of God into them.

1Sa 5:4 And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him.

HALLELUJAH! When you take the Word of God and you pick it up and start reading it, storing it up in your heart, everything that is in your heart that is unlike Him will be dethroned. If it doesn't want to go quietly, He will kill it. He will cut its head off so it can't argue and deceive you. He will cut its hands off so it can no longer hold you bound. Whom the Son hath made free is free indeed! Praise the Lord! Paul tells us the Word of God is quick, (alive) and sharper than any two edged sword. It cuts deep, exposes the heart and everything that is in there. It separates and divides us from the things that are unlike God. It is like a scalpel in the hands of a Master Surgeon, cutting out that which is cancerous and detrimental to the health and life of the believer. Glory to God!

1Sa 5:5 Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagon's house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day.

You know, a minister in our church drives a truck, and on one of his trips up north, in a hotel room, he went to get the Bible out of the drawer placed there by the Gideons. He said there was a sticker on it, a warning sticker that read, "Warning, literal belief in this book is hazardous to your health. This is a work of fiction and not to be taken literally." There was a lot of other lies on that sticker, claiming the Bible advocates bestiality, homosexuality, and murder and mayhem, and gross human rights violations. Human rights? What about God's rights? This is His world. He made it. He owns it. He sustains it. Just the fact that men are bold enough to make such claims, and take it a step further placing a sticker on the only Truth in this dark world and branding it a lie tells me that the world has no fear of God before their eyes. When men begin to shake their fist in the face of God, and call His Holy Word a lie, judgment cannot be far off. Everything of value here in this world that men claim as their own was placed here by HIM. He put the gold in the ground, the oil in the ground, He did it all. He created the life in the oceans, the animals and plants that sustain life on this planet. Somehow, although I know plants give off oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, I believe the oxygen that sustains life on this planet comes from God HIMSELF. You hear about the rain forests being cut down, and if men's logic were true, with a decrease in trees, and vegetation because of people developing the land, and an increase of human population, which is at historically high levels now, people would be struggling for oxygen, because if the only breathable air comes from trees and plants, we'd be using more with less supply and the effects would be obvious. But it's not like that, is it? We are told in Acts 17 that in HIM we move and live and have our being. Man doesn't want to give God credit for much of anything although we only exist because of His grace and great love. He breathes the breath of life into man and causes him to live. He rains on the unjust and the just. His mercies are new every morning. I know what they say about opinions, but it's my opinion that if they want to put a warning sticker on a Bible here is what it should say:

                                Caution: Handle with Care and Respect.

This is the LIVING WORD OF THE LIVING GOD for YOU. Here you will find food for the hungry soul, living water for the thirsty, instruction, correction, righteousness, LIGHT in this dark world, direction and guidance for your path, power to break addictions and fear. You 'll find freedom from emotional pain, hate and bitterness and the purpose for your life. You will find the sound mind and fulfillment you long for, with generous helpings of peace and calm. You will find security, stability, salvation, protection, spiritual blessings, power, authority, eternal life, hope, history to teach you what happens when this Book is discarded and not kept and how dangerous that is. In here you will find knowledge of eternal life and what it means to you. You will find comfort for your wounded heart and soul, strength, and joy will be given you as you discover the truth of how greatly you are loved and cherished by your Maker. HE has high hopes for you and offers all this to you. His Word is absolutely trustworthy, it never changes, it has no respect of persons, and is forever settled in heaven. It will teach your children how to have secure, peaceful and productive lives. It can govern society by wise laws and ordinances on how we are to treat and care for one another. You will find information on the adversary of your soul, and revelation he has been defeated. Those who trust this Book are safe from him. (1 Joh 5:18) It contains eternal treasure.

Okay, I got carried away. That would be a lot to put on a warning sticker. But His Word is so powerful. So good. This Book is a Treasure Map. It contains priceless treasure for any who want to lay hold of it. It contains wisdom for the unwise, hope for the hopeless, life for the spiritually dead, strength for the weak, and instructions on how to receive an eternal inheritance in the glory of the Home of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is an instruction manual and history book on how, why and by Whom you were created and explains how much He loves you and wants to adopt you into His family. It reveals many of the provisions He has made for those who will receive and accept Him into their life. It's also an instruction manual on how to raise and teach children so they can be happy, successful and productive human beings. It will show you how to have a successful marriage, how to serve each other, it teaches good work ethics, and how to govern societies with integrity, successfully and it teaches spiritual warfare. It also contains information that will help the military be more prepared for war. It includes examples of what goes wrong when men discard and refuse to listen to what this Book has to say. This Book can heal the sick, open blinded eyes, raise the dead from spiritual death to life in Christ. It can heal broken hearts, calm troubled souls, give you a sound mind, and break depression and mental torment. It has no respect of persons, and It can forever change your life for the better. It is alive, and powerfully active in the lives of those who open it and dive in. It will clean, cure, and heal whatever is wrong in your heart and mind. It will cut out the cancer of sin, and hate, and pain and bitterness. It will break addictions, without need of men's counsel and rehab. It will reach through you to the deepest, most inner part of your being, and divide the good from the bad, and divide the dark from the light, and cast out what is bad and dark. It will separate you from sin, and misery. It will give you peace and security and protection for you and your children and your land, when heeded. It will expose your own heart to you and given free course to work in you, prepare you to meet the Lord face to face. It will keep you from destruction. It is the Living Word of God, and endures forever. It will never die. It will instruct, correct, guide, and protect those who heed the instructions found therein.

When you eat this book daily, with prayer and meditation, and it will revolutionize your life. Believe it, practice it, study it, and learn from Its riches of wisdom. Speak it. Teach it to your children. Store it your heart and mind, and pray for understanding how it applies to you personally.

This Book will also judge you when you die, so you must know what is in here while you live. This Book contains the map and instructions on how to obtain untold wealth, and eternal life in the glorious presence of Jesus Christ, who is Lord of ALL. We WILL bow before Him one day, it's best to do it now, don't wait until it's too late.

2Co 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

2Co 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;)

We do walk around and live in our human flesh. But human flesh has carnal tendencies that are enmity or hostile against God. We are in a warfare, but we are not to contend with flesh. We do not fight this war with our flesh and natural human resources. Sounds confusing, doesn't it? How can you fight if you can't use your strength? We have to use God's. How? Through exercising faith in speaking His Word that we know is true, praying to Him to move like He said He would in His Word. If we don't read His Word and pray for understanding how will we know what He said? We have the Holy Ghost available to teach us what the Word of God is saying and how it applies to our situations and lives. We have exceeding great and precious promises of God that will and have defeated the work of the devil. We just have to know what the Word says and believe it and pray it to pass. I know there is more to it than that, but I know this is part of the warfare. I don't profess to fully understand spiritual warfare, I don't. There is so much I don't know, it's why I keep running back to the Word to learn more. I can't get enough.

2Co 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

The Lord told the disciples, and disciple means 'learner' who continues in the Word, that whatever they would bind on earth He would bind in Heaven. Whatever they loose on earth, He would loose in Heaven. He said He gave them the keys to the kingdom. (Matt 16:19)

The only thing I know that is unbreakable is the Word of God. You can have wrong thoughts in your head that you know are wrong, yet torment you, and you can take the Word of God, dig for the promises, build your faith, and you can take the Scripture and bind these wrong thoughts and cast them down as vain imaginations. Every carnal thought that would lift itself up above the Word of God, or against knowing what God said do, cast it down. You can bind it and make those thoughts prisoners of the Word of God. By faith, you speak it out loud. These thoughts will lose their power and grip. Nothing can stand against the Word of God and survive.

Isa 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

When we take time to consider who the Lord is, remember His mighty works, His astounding love for us, His awe-inspiring wrath upon the enemies of Israel, His amazing power to deliver an entire nation of people from bondage in one night, that should build our confidence in Him to solve our problems as we commit them to Him. If your mind only occasionally strays to thoughts of the Lord, and you don't meditate on His Word, or dig in and pray for understanding of His Word, then you have no defense against the lies of the enemy or the errors in many pulpits being taught today as truth.

Psa 119:92 Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction.

Psa 119:49 Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.

Psa 119:50 This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.

Psa 119:51 The proud have had me greatly in derision: yet have I not declined from thy law.

Psa 119:52 I remembered thy judgments of old, O LORD; and have comforted myself.

Psa 119:165 Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

When we face trials, pressure and hard situations, it can be hard to maintain that wonderful feeling you get in the House of God among His people, when you are worshiping and praising and feeling His presence all around you. When His Word is coming forth from His minister in purity under the anointing, and you are drawing strength, and being stirred and excited, it's a wonderful thing. But when you get on the job, or in your home, or wherever you are dealing with stress and wicked spirits controlling those around you, and you are faced with persecution, or mockery, or gossiping tongues, or you are dealing with too many bills and not enough money, when things look bad, or when the doctor calls and the news isn't good, and you are so afflicted with problems, and troubles that you can't smile or rejoice, and you don't feel like praying or worshiping, there is a substance so strong that it can hold you up no matter what comes against you. I remember seeing an interview on one of the cable news channels in early 2005 and a man in one of the countries devastated by the Asian Tsunami was talking to the reporter, and explaining that he was on th beach that day. He and his wife were missionaries and ran an orphanage there. When he saw the wave coming, he immediately gathered the children, and his wife, and they got in this boat and headed toward the wave. He knew they couldn't outrun it. He prayed for the Lord to help him, and the boat road that Tsunami, and not one was lost. The Christians that lived on the island were in the hills at their little church, worshiping, and were spared. They lost their homes, but not their lives. Yet 250,000 people in several different countries perished. Muhammad couldn't save them. No idol could save them. But GOD is an ever present help in trouble. He loves and watches over His own. Granted, He has allowed many to give their lives for the Gospel. But His Word is what will hold us up when calamity hits, if we have taken time to prayerfully store it up inside, we will have provision to draw on when we need it. Without it, we would faint, and give up.

When things come against us, when people are used and manipulated around us by the enemy trying to provoke us to misbehave or lash out in anger, and thus, reproach God, the promise we believe in the Word of God will sustain us, remind us of who we are, where we are going, and how the adversary will fight against that, the Word serves to keep things in their right perspective. We can look back on the promises in His Word through our struggles and find comfort and hope. It is a solid foundation.

Heb 6:17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:

Heb 6:18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

Heb 6:19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;

His Word does not change. He confirms it, preserves it, and brings it to pass. Because we know this, we can have a consolation, when in trouble, we flee to His Word, laying a solid grip on the promises He made us therein. That is the hope that anchors our soul.

Hold fast your confidence and don't look back. There is nothing worth going back to. Had Israel went back to Egypt, they would have been slaughtered by an angry, vengeful crowd. They had no idea of the depths of God's mercy in not letting them return. You can't go back and forget about God once you have known Him. Your life will never be the same as it was before. There is nothing to go back to but a mad devil who will destroy you to get back at God.

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And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32