Lighthouse Leader Study Guide
Date: May 21, 2017
Series: The kings & the King: A Study of 1 Samuel
1 Samuel 30-31
This Week’s Printable Resources:
Announcements: This is the final week of our Spring 2017 Lighthouse semester. Starting next week, we will be on Summer break until the start of our Fall Semester in September.
Overview of this Lesson
1 Samuel started by introducing us to a godly, righteous man named Elkanah. Through Elkanah and his wife Hannah, God brought forth Samuel, the last and greatest judge to rule in Israel.
1 Samuel ends with a small group of defeated men standing over the grave of Israel’s fallen king, buried under a tamarisk tree near the town of Jabesh-gilead.
We have learned much during our journey through 1 Samuel. The raw, human emotion is palatable. We’ve wept with Hannah as she prayed for a child while enduring the mocking and humiliation of her rival, Peninnah. We experienced the thrill of seeing Samuel called to serve the Lord as a young boy and then tremble as the Lord brings judgment upon the house of Eli and his wicked sons. We’ve watched Israel reject the Lord as their King and then rejoiced at the anointing of Saul as their king. We experienced David’s battlefield triumph over the giant Goliath only to see him enter a long, lonely journey on the run from a jealous King Saul determined to kill David.
This week, we will see the final contrast drawn between David and Saul. The Bible will underscore for us why David was a man after God’s own heart and Saul was not. More importantly, the contrast between David and Saul gives us a mirror to look into as we judge and evaluate our own life’s choices in light of the clear teaching of Scripture. Are we living a life that reflect the values of David, or are we living a life that more accurately reflects the values of Saul?
Memory Verse for This Week
“And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.” – 1 Samuel 30:6
This Week’s Core Practice
Prayer (Psalm 66:16-20): I pray to God to know Him, to lay my request before Him and to find direction for my daily life.
|This Week’s Take Home Truth
Trust = Vertical first. Horizontal second. Essentially, it’s all about relationship.”
1. How do you encourage yourself when you are down?
2. Why do people tend to turn to the Lord during times of national defeat and tragedy?
3. Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?
Make sure you ask this question this week. It gives people the opportunity to discuss questions or issues that come up beyond the written questions. People’s responses can often lead into one of the questions in the “Digging Deeper” section. Also, some weeks this question will result in a lot of discussion, other weeks, not so much.
Read the Text (1 Samuel 30-31)
This week we bring to a conclusion our study of 1 Samuel. The book ends in a cemetery near Jabesh, with a small group of loyal subjects paying homage to a fallen king. Israel is a defeated nation. Their cities are now occupied by the Philistines and the nation is at its lowest point in a generation. While the scene is both mournful and tragic, it is not without hope. With the sun setting on Saul’s life and Israel’s future, a young man in Ziklag is strengthening himself in the Lord. For over a decade, the Lord has been preparing David to lead His people under the authority and direction of the Lord. 1 Samuel ends in defeat, but it also ends with an expectation of the coming once and future king. Read 1 Samuel 30-31.
1 Samuel 30
David’s Wives Are Captured
1 Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire 2 and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way. 3 And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. 4 Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep. 5 David’s two wives also had been taken captive, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 6 And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.
7 And David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “Bring me the ephod.” So Abiathar brought the ephod to David. 8 And David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?” He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue.” 9 So David set out, and the six hundred men who were with him, and they came to the brook Besor, where those who were left behind stayed. 10 But David pursued, he and four hundred men. Two hundred stayed behind, who were too exhausted to cross the brook Besor.
David Defeats the Amelikites
11 They found an Egyptian in the open country and brought him to David. And they gave him bread and he ate. They gave him water to drink, 12 and they gave him a piece of a cake of figs and two clusters of raisins. And when he had eaten, his spirit revived, for he had not eaten bread or drunk water for three days and three nights. 13 And David said to him, “To whom do you belong? And where are you from?” He said, “I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite, and my master left me behind because I fell sick three days ago. 14 We had made a raid against the Negeb of the Cherethites and against that which belongs to Judah and against the Negeb of Caleb, and we burned Ziklag with fire.” 15 And David said to him, “Will you take me down to this band?” And he said, “Swear to me by God that you will not kill me or deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will take you down to this band.” 16 And when he had taken him down, behold, they were spread abroad over all the land, eating and drinking and dancing, because of all the great spoil they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah. 17 And David struck them down from twilight until the evening of the next day, and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men, who mounted camels and fled. 18 David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives. 19 Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken. David brought back all. 20 David also captured all the flocks and herds, and the people drove the livestock before him, and said, “This is David’s spoil.”
21 Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow David, and who had been left at the brook Besor. And they went out to meet David and to meet the people who were with him. And when David came near to the people he greeted them. 22 Then all the wicked and worthless fellows among the men who had gone with David said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may lead away his wife and children, and depart.” 23 But David said, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hand the band that came against us. 24 Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” 25 And he made it a statute and a rule for Israel from that day forward to this day.
26 When David came to Ziklag, he sent part of the spoil to his friends, the elders of Judah, saying, “Here is a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of the Lord.” 27 It was for those in Bethel, in Ramoth of the Negeb, in Jattir, 28 in Aroer, in Siphmoth, in Eshtemoa, 29 in Racal, in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, in the cities of the Kenites, 30 in Hormah, in Bor-ashan, in Athach, 31 in Hebron, for all the places where David and his men had roamed.
1 Samuel 31
The Death of Saul
1 Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel, and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 And the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul. 3 The battle pressed hard against Saul, and the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by the archers. 4 Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me.” But his armor-bearer would not, for he feared greatly. Therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. 5 And when his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. 6 Thus Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together. 7 And when the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley and those beyond the Jordan saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their cities and fled. And the Philistines came and lived in them.
8 The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 So they cut off his head and stripped off his armor and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. 10 They put his armor in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. 11 But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all the valiant men arose and went all night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. 13 And they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted seven days.
In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions. Remember, if you are hearing from everyone in your group, chances are you won’t have to time to discuss every question. You may start with one that catches your attention so you don’t run out of time. For example, it’s not odd to start with Question #6, then go to Question #5 and if you have time come back to Question #4.
4. What is happening to David in 1 Samuel 30-31?
The stories told of a man who suddenly realizes a lion is watching his every move. He knows he can’t outrun the lion, so he slowly walks toward a cliff overlooking a river below. He dives off the cliff to escape the lion and lands safely in the river. As he swims to the river bank, he sees an alligator slide into the water and start swimming towards him. He lets the current carry him toward a water fall a few hundred feet down stream, and as he is about to go over the water fall, he grabs a branch hanging over the water and pulls his way to the edge of the water.
Thankful to be free from the lion and the alligator, the men heads toward his home. As he opens the door and sits down at his table, breathing a sigh of relief to finally be in the safety of his own home, a snake emerges from under the table and bites the man on the ankle. This poor guy is having a bad day!
If that little story sounds ridiculous, recognize that this is the kind of day David has been experiencing for a long time. Just when he thinks he is free from Saul’s deadly reach, something else happens that puts him right back in harms way. As one commentator put it, if David had written Psalm 30:5 during this time in his life, he would have written, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning…then disaster strikes in the afternoon.”
David and his 600 men are heading home after being drafted into the Philistine army. David was faced with the impossible situation of being forced to fight against his own countrymen as an ally of the Philistines, or once again face the never-ending pursuit of Saul and his army determined to kill him. Providentially, God intervened, and David and his men are discharged from the Philistine army prior to the start of the battle against Israel. They begin the trek from Jezreel back to their home in Ziklag, a journey of about 80 miles, or three-days. They arrive in Ziklag tired and hungry, but grateful to be home and to see their families.
This is where things go from bad to worse. Unfortunately, the Amalekites took advantage of David’s absence from Ziklag and raided the city, destroyed their homes, took their wives and children hostage and took all of their food and belongings. David’s men are so distraught that they start talking among themselves of killing David. So now, David has Saul hunting for him, his two wives have been taken hostage, and his own men are ready to mutiny and stone him to death. David is overwhelmed with trouble.
What does David do?
1 Samuel 30:6 tells us that “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” You can learn a lot about someone by observing what they do and where they turn in times of trouble. At this darkest of dark hours in David’s life, he did not turn to a witch in Endor or to his own schemes, David turned to the Lord and to Abiathar the priest.
Again, the Lord providentially leads David and he runs down the Amalekites, completely destroys them, and recovers all of the families and possessions that belong to him and his men. The Bible makes the point of telling us that nothing was missing. Not a single item.
5. What does it mean when the Bible says “David strengthened himself in the Lord” in 1 Samuel 30:6?
As we stated above, we can learn a lot about someone by observing what they do and where they turn in times of trouble. David strengthened himself in the Lord His God. To begin to understand what this means, we must keep two things in mind:
- David had a personal relationship with the Lord. The text tells us David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. David knew the Lord. He wasn’t just a great shepherd, to David the Lord was “my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). We can “know the Lord” without having a personal, vital faith in the Lord.
- David rested in the promises of the Lord. Unlike in 1 Samuel 27 when David convinced himself he was a dead man, we see a confidence and trust in the Lord re-emerging in David after the tragedy at Ziklag. Yes he is tired. Yes his men want to kill him. Yes his two wives have been taken captive. But instead of taking matters into his own hands, David calls for Abiathar the priest in order to inquire of the Lord. No more running or scheming. David is determined to seek the Lord and obediently follow His divine direction.
6. What is happening to Saul in 1 Samuel 31?
As we have seen since the start of 1 Samuel 16, the Bible narrator has been drawing a stark contrast between David and Saul. David is not perfect, but in his human imperfection, his heart beats after God. Saul is not perfect, but instead of listening to and following God, Saul leans on his own understanding, thus magnifying his own human imperfections.
1 Samuel 31 is the end of the road for Saul. As expected, the Philistines launch their attack, and quickly overwhelm the Israeli army. As Saul, his sons, and his army attempt to retreat, Saul’s three older sons are killed on the battlefield (including Jonathan), and Saul is mortally wounded.
Aware that if he falls into enemy hands alive he will be mocked, humiliated and tortured, Saul first asks his armor bearer to kill him, but when the armor bearer refuses, Saul falls on his sword and ends his own life.
When the Philistines come upon the dead bodies of Saul and his sons, they cut off Saul’s head to take as a trophy, strip them of their armor and their clothing, and hang their bodies on the city wall in Beth-shem. It is a disgraceful, tragic end to Saul and three of his sons and Saul’s armor bearer.
The book of 1 Samuel ends with a small band of loyal men from the town of Jabesh Gilead recovering Saul’s decomposing body, burning off his flesh, and burying his bones in a small cemetery near the village of Jabesh.
7. What conclusions should we draw from the experience of David and Saul in 1 Samuel 30-31?
The Bible has gone to great lengths to draw a clear contrast for us between David and Saul. Why was Saul unacceptable to God and David was ideal?
There are many reasons, but here are a two we want to highlight here:
- David’s passion and zeal was for the Lord and Saul’s passion and zeal was for himself. From our first introduction to David in his now famous battle with Goliath of Gath, David is more concerned about protecting and defending the honor of the Lord God of Israel than he is about his own safety or the petty concerns of his brothers. Saul, on the other hand, has demonstrated over and over that he is self-absorbed, jealous, unpredictable, and more concerned about his own public image than with listening to his prophetic mentor, Samuel, and honoring the word of the Lord.
- David listens to the Lord’s counsel, whether through the prophet or the priest, and he is quick to obey. Saul disregard’s the Lord’s counsel and is quick to do as he pleases. In the end, this was Saul’s undoing. When Saul openly rejected the Lord in favor of doing what seemed right to him, the Lord rejected Saul.
8. What can we learn about God’s justice/judgment from the life of Saul?
God’s justice or judgment is a topic many of us like to skip over. We much prefer a god as depicted in The Shack who is non-judgmental and indifferent to the sin of mankind. This is not the God of the Bible, however. Throughout both the Old and New Testament, God is the God of justice/judgment. Judgment is essential to his character.
Sometimes, we like to acknowledge God’s justice, but believe we will be judged someday in the distant future, a “day of judgment” in which God will make right all the wrongs of this world.
But as we see in the life of Saul, God’s judgment often becomes a reality in the present life. The Apostle Paul underscores this reality in Romans 1 when he notes three times that “God gave them over” to their perverse beliefs.
Saul’s tragic death was not some abstract, unfortunate event, but, as the writer of 1 Samuel eloquently demonstrates, was the result of a lifetime of self-imposed decisions to walk away from the Lord. In New Testament terms, Saul choose to walk on the broad path rather than take the narrow path.
We all suffer in this life because of the sins we commit, but, when we see the gospel from a perspective of God’s judgment and sins consequences, the gospel offers real hope and peace not only for tomorrow, but for today. By rightly relating to God to God today (a vertical relationship), we prepare for him to loving him in eternity.
If we learn nothing else from the life of Saul, we need to understand this: the way we die is related to the way we live. As C. S. Lewis states, “we have no greater or more urgent task in this life than to learn how to die well.”
9. As a group, share what have been some of the most impactful lessons learned during our study of 1 Samuel.
These questions are given to prompt both reflection and learning on a personal level, and should likely be completed individually and apart from your regular group time.
10. Looking back at this week’s teaching and study, what’s the most important thing to remember?
11. How has the Lord spoken to you personally through this study of 1 Samuel?
12. Take a minute to write out up to three life lessons you have learned through this study. Place these in your Bible, journal, or another safe place where you can review and reflect on these life lessons from time-to-time.