Purpose in this lesson: to emphasize that David followed God in spite of stress and uncertainty. His quality of accepting responsibility powerfully contributed to David being "a man after God's own heart."
Please note the picture of King Saul is the picture of an increasingly paranoid man. A paranoid man with power is dangerous! King Saul trusted no one!
Help your class realize that paranoia opposes the qualities that God wishes to characterize His people. Paranoia often leads to an ungodly imagination.
Especially note the different forms of stress on David. Two things quickly reveal a person's character and values: (1) his or her use of power, and (2) his or her response to personal distress. As a successful person in King Saul's administration, David had power, then he lost power when a paranoid King Saul wanted to kill him, and then he regained an inferior power when the distressed followed him.
Commonly a person's character is revealed by the manner he or she handles power and handles distress. It is especially demanding to lose power and then regain power.
The author of 1 Samuel pictured David this time in David's life as a desperate man under numerous stresses. The author used David's stress to provide insights into David's character. He helped us understand why God valued David.
In determining context in any scripture, it is essential to seek an understanding of the author's objective in his written statement. Making a statement say what we wish it to say is without justification. Every scripture means what the inspired author meant when he wrote it. The author used David's stresses to provide insight into David's character.
If the related events are in chronological sequence, a lonely, desperate, abandoned David fled to an enemy's city (Gath of the Philistines) searching for security. All he found was danger. In the ingenious ploy of insanity, David narrowly escaped Achish's imprisonment.
The author of a Biblical book does not always write chronologically. He seeks to make a point as he recorded happenings. The visit to Gath illustrated David's desperation and his loneliness. It is easy in a circumstance of desperation and loneliness to become your own god.
He fled from Gath to reside in a cave. What effects would you experience if you totally changed your daily lifestyle? David went from the prosperity of the King's table and the prestige of a leader in King Saul's military to the frugal existence of a hunted man living in a cave. It is difficult to imagine the dramatic change in his lifestyle! Some would conclude God had abandoned them!
There is a significant contrast between living in a city and living in a cave. We would regard existence in such a city as primitive, but we would regard existence in a cave as less than primitive. Loss of lifestyle powerfully influences many people's faith in God and self-image. Often people say, "How could God let this happen to me?"
In 1 Samuel 22:1-5 the author likely condensed the happenings of a lengthy period into a few, brief details. A fleeing David tried going to a city "to get lost." It did not work! Now David tried going where no one lived to exist alone. It would take time for searching people to know where David was in hiding. If your view is a massive group suddenly, instantly joined forces with David, you likely need to change that view. The exodus to his leadership probably occurred a few people at a time.
Help your class understand that these five verses are a summation of happenings rather than a full account of all that happened. The events involved time enough (1) for a gathering of people to occur and (2) for two trips to Moab (one to seek asylum for David's parents; one to transport his parents to Moab).
From one view the champion of the common man was sought by other common people. That surely may be correct. Also consider another view. The man who had been surrounded by the elite was surrounded by the disgruntled. Whereas he had been a leader of valiant men, now he was the leader of discontented men. Whereas he had led men who were equipped with good weapons, he now led men who were poorly equipped. Remember, he fled without a weapon! Whereas he had led men who were military men, it is unlikely that many of these men were military men--maybe primarily common people, farmers and herdsmen?
Both views are possible. It would be quite demanding to provide leadership for a demoralized group. It is always easier to pull down than it is to build up. It takes less effort to complain than it takes to encourage.
Samuel told the people long before they recognized King Saul as King that they would pay a heavy price to support a king--the loss of sons and daughters in the king's service, the loss of fields and orchards to support the king's servants, the loss of harvests, the loss of work animals, the loss of flocks, and generally the loss of the freedom they experienced (on some occasions). Perhaps the people fleeing to David were destroyed by such losses to the King. Perhaps they, like David, were victims of injustice.
It is possible that these were the people "who fell through the cracks" as Israel transitioned to leadership through an earthly king. In the past, God did through judges what Saul sought to accomplish as a king.
The men who came to David were in debt and bitter of soul. They do not sound happy! Would you prefer to be among (and lead) a group with purpose, a future, and rejoicing in victories or a group who lost purpose, had no future, and came to you in a sense of hopeless defeat? These men were quite willing for David to be their leader. It says much about David's character that he influenced these men rather than allowing them to form his attitudes.
David's influence through the encouragement of the demoralized is a powerful tribute to his character. Such encouragement is easy to talk about but hard to practice.
Among this group were David's parents. No one connected to David was safe from angry King Saul's paranoia. David solicited and received from the King of Moab the opportunity for David's parents to live in his land under his protection until David knew "what God will do for me." Remember, Jesse (David's father) was the grandson of Ruth the Moabitess (Ruth 4:17).
Help your class think about (1) the danger David's parents faced and (2) how a possible danger to your parents would affect you as an adult child. Stress at this time David had no idea of (1) where God was going or (2) how God would use him to get there.
The prophet Gad came to David instructing David to leave his defensible place and return to the territory of Judah. It is possible David's stronghold was located in a region dominated by the Philistines. God's prophet instructed David to return to a region controlled by King Saul. To us, moving closer to Saul would not make sense. Yet, David complied with Gad's instruction. He moved from a stronghold to a forest.
It takes an enormous trust in God to follow an instruction that, in current circumstances, does not make sense to you.
The next recorded incident demonstrates the paranoia of King Saul. He was at home in Gibeah surrounded by trusted men. He questioned their loyalty, all of whom are either his servants or Benjamites! In our words, the King said, "What has David given you? Did he give you your positions? Why did none of you tell me my son plotted against me (likely a reference to the new moon incident)? You knew an ambush was planned for me, and you said nothing?"
Help your class see the King's paranoia in the manner that he treated those who showed him great loyalty.
At that juncture, Doeg the Edomite declared what he witnessed at Nob. He related how Ahimelech assisted David.
Perhaps this was a significant opportunity for Doeg. Since he was not an Israelite, he would not have to contend with the feelings and emotions toward Israelite priests that the Benjamites contended with. This could indicate he was a "godless man." Perhaps it could indicate that he resented what happened to him at Nob. Whatever his motivation, this was a significant opportunity for Doeg to ingratiate himself to King Saul.
Upon hearing Doeg's report, Saul had Ahimelech and the other priests at Nob come to him. He declared they sided with David to conspire against him. Ahimelech said that was not true. He had done nothing that he would have refused to do in the past. It was customary for him to inquire of the Lord for David. Was not David a part of Saul's inner circle? Was he not loyal to Saul? Had not Saul honored him? Was he not the King's son-in-law? How could Ahimelech possibly know Saul and David were enemies?
There was no justification for Saul's questioning Ahimelech's loyalty.
King Saul pronounced the sentence of death on the priests and ordered his personal guards to kill them immediately. The guards (Israelites) refused to kill God's priests. Then King Saul ordered his servant, Doeg the Edomite, to kill the priests. He immediately seized his opportunity and killed 85 priests. He further took men to Nob and slaughtered everything--men, women, infants, children, and livestock. Interestingly, the man who failed to inflict such destruction on the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15) inflicted it on a city of his own people! What he refused to do as an act of faith, King Saul did as an act of paranoia!
Saul's sentence of death was an expression of his paranoia, not an expression of just cause. Had Saul done to the Amalakites what he did to Nob, God would not have withdrawn His spirit from Saul. Doeg's execution of the people in Nob provided him opportunity number two to ingratiate himself to King Saul.
One person, Abiathar, escaped Nob's destruction, fled to David, and reported the incident. Note a characteristic of David you will see frequently. David assumed responsibility: "It is my fault! I feared Doeg would tell King Saul!"
State the ways David could have justified himself by sharing blame. It was not David's fault King Saul was angry and paranoid. It was not David's fault that Doeg lacked integrity and used opportunity to advance himself. However, also note what David clearly understood: if he had not gone to Nob, the deaths would not have occurred.
This will be as individual as the experiences of each member of the class. Listen and let them declare lessons.
In the discussion, these incidents can serve as a focus: (1) David's radical change in lifestyle as he was reduced to living in a cave; (2) the effect it would have on David to see his parents afraid; (3) David providing leadership for a discontented group; (4) the deaths of the priests and the people at Nob.
Link to Student Guide Lesson 6
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