For today's Sunday School lesson, I brought the picture of a young tree I saw when we went to Paradise Ranch in Clark, Pampanga and shared the suggested activity to begin the lesson.
"President Gordon B.Hinckley told of time when he planted a young tree in his yard but neglected to use supporting stakes to help it grow straight.In time the wind caused the tree to lean badly to one side. President Hinckley realized that if he had tied the tree to stakes, it would have been supported until it was strong enough to resist the wind on it own.(In Conference Report, Oct.1993,77-78;or Ensign,Nov.1993,59)"
We may sometimes be like the young tree,unable to withstand the wind (the temptations of Satan) on our own. In the book of Judges we learn about some of the "stakes" that can support us.
LDS writer Ted L.Gibbons said "Those trees are an effective metaphor for Israel in the Promised Land. There were forces working against her in that environment. She needed anchors to grow up in perfection. Five of those anchors are suggested by the stories in Judges. Four of these stories are given in the lesson. I will add a fifth and try to offer some new insights into those anchors mentioned in the Gospel Doctrine manual".
STAKE #1: A SAFE ENVIRONMENT
Righteous parents have a duty to their children to create an environment in which those children can grow up in Christ, without unreasonable pressure from the world. These Israelite parents seem to have been righteous for a time:
"And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel" (Joshua 2:7).
Have we embraced the counsel of the Lord and his leaders sufficiently to drive out all the enemies of righteousness from our homes? A safe environment is a powerful anchor to the young and growing soul. WE have been commanded to stand in holy places (see D&C45:32; 87:8; 101:22). We must make our homes such places.
STAKE #2: RIGHTEOUS PARENTS
There is a second side to this equation. Children must be willing to follow the righteous example of their parents. Apparently the Israelite children who were born in the Promised Land were not.
"And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that [were] round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger" (Judges 2:12).
"They turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in" (Judges 2:17).
STAKE #3: RIGHTEOUS FRIENDS (ESPECIALLY RIGHTEOUS WOMEN)
The Israelites was in bondage and Barak was commanded to deliver Israel. Barak,however,is willing to go to Sisera if Deborah,the judge will go with him. Deborah is such a true friend that she went with Barak to face Sisera.
True friends inspire us to obey the Lord and give us strength to do what is right. I suggested that class write down the names of their friends and ask themselves (1) if they are like Deborah to these friends and (2) if these friends are like Deborah.
STAKE #4: FAITH IN GOD
When Gideon believed that the Lord truly commanded him to deliver Israel,he went forward with faith. When the Lord commands us to do something,he will help us accomplish it.
STAKE #5: THE POWER OF COVENANTS
As a Nazarite and a member of the house of Israel, Samson made covenants with the Lord. However,he soon broke his Nazarite vow and his covenants as a member of the house of Israel. Because of Samson's violations of his covenants,he lost his physical and spiritual strength, and the Philistines blinded him and bound him.
In the book of Judges the Israelites began to lose spiritual battles,letting themselves be influenced by the Canaanites' wordly practices and false gods. We face similar spiritual battles. We can succeed in these battles as we (1)follow the ways of righteous parents and ancestors,(2)make good friends, (3) increase our faith in the Lord,and (4) keep our covenants.