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Monday, October 5, 2015

Prophets, Priests and Kings

Samuel was still the nation's prophet when David became king. But who came next? That's where our next study in prophets, major minor and unknown, takes us:

1.       Kings were ordained by prophets, so let’s start with the first two kings, Saul and David. Do you remember what 3 crimes caused Saul to lose God’s favor? Does God keep count of our sins? Read 1 Samuel 15:22-23, 35. What modern sins might a modern Samuel speak of?

2.       Do you remember what Saul was doing when Samuel anointed him? What was David doing before his anointing? Read 1 Samuel 16:11. How should we be ready to hear God’s call?

3.       Do you remember Saul’s appearance? How does it compare with David’s? Read 1 Samuel 9:1-2, 16:12

4.       We all know the David and Goliath story, but what was David doing before he fought Goliath? Try to answer before reading the next reference.

5.       Read 1 Samuel 16:18-21. How does this square with 1 Samuel 17:17-20? How does it square with traditional images of David as a small boy? Which is more important, what the Bible says, or how we traditionally read it?

History:
·         Giants: Some nationalities did look different from others, even in ancient times. Goliath the giant may just have been from a nation of large people (probably Anakites): Read 2 Samuel 21:15-22, 1 Chronicles 20:5.
·         Supporting the army: Prior to kings with castles and standing armies, soldiers relied on family and friends to feed them. This is why it was hard for Saul to keep his army together, and it’s why David later instituted taxation to maintain his forces. Why might it be helpful to know the historical situation when reading the Old Testament?
·         Political alliances were formed through marriages, and enemies disposed of through war, so Saul marries his daughter to David (not the first one, 1 Samuel 18:18-19, and not without payment and plot 1 Samuel 18: 23-29. Is Saul trying to manipulate God’s plan again? Do we try to manipulate God’s plan?)
This Story:
1.       Saul tries to dispose of David again, but David escapes, with Michal and Jonathan’s help. What was Samuel doing at this time? Read 1 Samuel 19:18-24
2.       Was Saul among the prophets? Does God only use good people? How should we feel if we think God has used us?
3.       Which of these stories do you remember about David during his exile?
a.      Eating bread from the altar 1 Samuel 21:4 How important are religious rules?

b.      Pretending madness 1 Samuel 21:10-13 How important is it not to tell lies?

c.       Leading a tribe of malcontents 1 Samuel 22:1-2 How important is it to respect our leaders?

d.      Hanging out with the Moabites 1 Samuel 22:3-4 How important is it to hate your enemies?

e.       Meeting the prophet Gad 1 Samuel 22:5  Did you remember the name Gad before starting this study?

History: David’s actions make sense, since an opposing king would naturally threaten his tribe. (Strange alliances can be made in war. Does God oppose them? )

This story: After Saul, allied with the Edomites, kills the priests who fed David, Abiathar, son of the priest, joins David’s army –armies often marched with priests. Saul tries to capture David when he rescues and stays in, a walled city – a relatively new concept among the Israelites.

Religion: Note how David inquires of the Lord at every turn (1 Samuel 23:1-4, 9-13, and continuing in 2 Samuel 2:1).

1.       How are his questions different from those of a prophet?
2.       What has the ephod got to do with it? Does God always speak with words?
3.       Where do you think Samuel is at this time? (He dies soon afterward, 1 Samuel 25:1)
4.       As Christians, we have access to the Spirit. To what extent do we or should we inquire of the Lord at every turn?

This Story: David and co escape, while Saul is distracted fighting Philistines again. Afterward David refuses to kill Saul, the Lord’s anointed, (1 Samuel 24:4) when he gets the opportunity.  How willing are we to let our “enemies” go?
History: David’s army protects a rich man’s property—normal behavior for landless soldiers. The rich man insults him, and David’s response (1 Samuel 25:21-22) was normal behavior at the time (tacitly approved in Exodus 21:17). When the rich man dies, David marries his wife—again, normal, even generous behavior at the time.

This Story: Saul attacks David again. David spares Saul’s life and moves into Philistine territory, becoming subject to one of their leaders. The Philistines prepare to attack Saul, and Saul wants God’s advice. Read 1 Samuel 28:3, 5-24.
1.       Why might Saul not be able to find a priest to answer him?
2.       Does the witch of Endor have power?
a.      Do mediums in general have power?
b.      To what extent should we fear them?
History: The Amalekite attack and its consequences progress exactly as expected, historically.
1.       Help from a rebellions Egyptian slave helps David.
2.       Sharing out plunder brings support to the crown.
3.       Leaders such as Saul often committed suicide after military defeat.
4.       Generals might try to take the crown left by a dead king (2 Samuel 3:1)
5.       Generals might kill each other to maintain influence (Abner defects and save the day; Joab kills him.)
6.       Oaths weren’t uncommon. David mourns Abner with an oath. Samuel’s oath didn’t go well, so we’ll look at this:
1.       How is David’s oath-taking different from Saul’s in earlier days? 2 Samuel 3:35, 1 Samuel 14:24
2.       What kind of oaths might be good, and what might be evil?

This Story: No prophets are mentioned during David’s battles, though he continues to “inquire of the Lord” (2 Samuel 5:22-23). Finally conquering Jerusalem, David brings the ark to his city—culturally an important move, centralizing faith and government, but one that’s not achieved without demonstration that God is in charge (2 Samuel 6:6-7).

1.       David’s household gains a prophet. Can you remember his name? Or what his first prophecy is? 2 Samuel 7:1-7 Are a prophet’s answers always true?
2.       What is Nathan’s next famous prophesy? 2 Samuel 12:1-3
3.       David’s multiple wives and multiple sons cause political problems and war, just as in other nations, but the nation of Israel grows more powerful and rich in spite of this, even when Absalom rebels and tries to take over as king. To what extent do you think David’s problems are punishment for sin, and to what extent the natural results of sin and human nature?
a.      What about our national problems?

b.      What about our own lives?
4.       Abiathar reappears with Zadok the priest. Is Zadok a prophet? (2 Samuel 15:27, but it may be a mistranslation).

5.       Finally, Gad reappears with instructions on punishment and plague. 2 Samuel 24:11-13,18-19.
a.       Do you remember why David was being punished? (1 Chronicles 21:1)
b.      Why might one person’s sin affect many? Isn’t that unfair?

c.       Are all censuses sinful? To what extent is the thought behind an action more important than the act?

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