1 Samuel 23-24

These small group studies through the lives of David and Solomon contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

David’s Wilderness Years 1 Samuel 23-24 Inductive Bible Study

Outline:

  1. David escapes in the wilderness of Ziph (23:13-29)

  2. David spares Saul in the cave (24:1-7)

  3. David converses with Saul (24:8-22)

I. 23:13-29

Discussion Questions

  • Why was David living in the wilderness?
  • How was able to keep escaping Saul’s hand?
  • In what ways was God keeping him safe?
  • How could Jonathan find David when Saul could not?
  • What do you observe from their meeting?
  • What do we learn from Jonathan?
  • Why might the Ziphites have wanted to turn David over to Saul? What insight does this give is into the attitudes of the people David was hiding among?
  • What can we learn from Saul’s relationship with God in verse 21 (nothing, talk is cheap)?
  • What happened in verse 27 when Saul almost caught David?
  • What is your thoughts about this “coincidence?”

Cross-References

  • Proverbs 18:24 – There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11 – Encourage one another and build one another up.
  • Proverbs 17:17 – A friend loves at all times.
  • Proverbs 27:9 – The sweetness of a friend comes from earnest counsel.
  • Matthew 7:21 – Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” shall enter the kingdom of heaven.

Teaching Points

1. David stayed in the wilderness – David was now a fugitive along with anyone who followed him. He couldn’t stay in the cities or towns or Saul would find and kill him. He couldn’t go back to his family or Saul would find and kill him and his family. Living in the wilderness he had to survive the best he could. In the past chapters we discussed that David’s experience as a shepherd helped prepare him for the difficulties he would face later in life. Being a shepherd helped him learn how to survive in the wilderness. It helped him learn how to cope living far from the comforts of home with nothing but nature around him. God may also use the experiences in our life to prepare us for future challenges or opportunities. We would do well to embrace those lessons.

2. God did not deliver him into his hand – Saul continually searched for David. He couldn’t rest until David was dead and the threat to his kingdom was gone. But…there is that little important word again. But God protected David. Saul had a plan. His plan was to kill David. But God also had a plan. His plan was for David to be king. Guess who won? God won and His plan prevailed. This can remind us not to fear man. We should realize that this passage does not mean God will always keep His people from their enemies. What it does mean, is that God’s plan will be accomplished. No one and nothing can thwart it.

Application: This should give us a steady confidence in the Lord. We do not need to be dismayed or even worried about our circumstances. Fear and worry are the opposites of faith. God is bigger. God is stronger than whatever difficulties we face.

3. Jonathan went to David and encouraged him – Jonathan knew the struggles that David was facing. He knew David could be becoming very discouraged. Therefore he did what a good friend should do. He took initiative to seek David out. He went and found him. Then he used the time to encourage David in the Lord. There are so many lessons here about what true friendship is:

  • A true friend cares. People these days are very busy. They are preoccupied and focused on self. With so many millions of people around us, it is easy to insulate ourselves in our own little world. After all, how can we be expected to care about the problems of all of these people. We have enough problems of our own! But Jonathan set us the correct example of true friendship. We should care enough about our friends to sacrifice of ourselves to reach out and help them in their time of need.

  • A true friend takes initiative – Do not wait until your friend asks you for help. A lot of times we don’t ask others for help because we don’t want to burden others. But this doesn’t mean we don’t need help. David would have known it was risky for Jonathan to come. This could have deterred him from asking Jonathan. But Jonathan didn’t wait to be asked. He could see what was happening. And he made an educated guess about how he could help. Do you take initiative to help you friends? Do you volunteer to help them move? Visit them in the hospital? Call them up? Pay them a visit when they be discouraged?

  • A true friend encourages. Friendship is not about competing, bragging, or boasting. Like Jonathan, we should consider how to truly encourage our friends. This requires going deeper than just discussing the weather. Do you think David and Jonathan’s conversation was mostly about the weather? Perhaps crops? The local football team? Jonathan went deeper. They must have communicated on a personal level about personal issues. Do not be afraid to communicate with your friends on a deeper level. Open yourself up and resolve to communicate on a deeper and more meaningful level.

  • A true friend builds up others in the Lord. David and Jonathan’s relationship with the Lord was the key aspect in their friendship. It was the common foundation they had. It should be our desire to encourage our friends in the Lord when we get together. What are some ways we can do this?

4. Ziphites tell Saul where David was – It wasn’t easy for David to keep hiding. Though before the people were very supportive of David, now David was a fugitive. Helping David was a dangerous proposition. Most people cared too much about their own skin to help David. In order to protect themselves they would feed information to Saul about David’s whereabouts.

5. Saul said, “May you blessed of the Lord.” – By listening to Saul talk you would think he was a devout follower of God. Talking about God is a normal part of Saul’s vocabulary. He could talk the jargon of a believer along with the best of them. He knew what to say. Do you think he was being intentionally deceptive about his relationship with God? I don’t think so. I think that Saul was deluded. Part of him thought that there was nothing wrong between him and God. For another example see John 9:24. In this verse we see that the Pharisees’ talk is also very spiritual sounding. But their heart is clearly corrupted. Both Saul and the Pharisees were thankful to God. Saul was thankful that he had a chance to murder David. The Pharisees were praising God for this man’s sin (or what they thought was his sin.) Being able to talk the talk does not guarantee that you are walking the walk. There is a big difference between talking about your relationship with God and actually having a relationship with God. Words are sometimes cheap. We should evaluate our own actions to make sure there is no disconnect.

6. Verse 27-28 – A big “coincidence” saved David. When it seemed like Saul was finally going to catch him, he received a message about an attack on the land and had to turn back. Here is a case where God used the sinful actions of a group of unbelievers to bring about good for His people. Though it seemed like a coincidence it was not. God used this situation to providentially save David from Saul’s hand. God’s arm is long and He is willing to use circumstances or people (even people who do not fear Him) to bring about His plans for us.

II. 24:1-7

Discussion Questions

  • How did Saul keep finding out where David was?
  • What did David’s companions want him to do when Saul came into the cave alone?
  • Why did David refuse?
  • What lessons can we learn from this?
  • What do you learn about David’s leadership? What do you learn about his men?

Cross-References

  • Romans 12:17-21 – Never avenge yourselves. Leave it to the wrath of God
  • Matthew 5:38-39 – Turn the other cheek.
  • 1 Peter 3:9 – Do not repay evil for evil.
  • Proverbs 24:29 – Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me.”
  • Leviticus 19:18 – You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge.
  • Psalm 1:1 – Do not listen to the counsel of the wicked.

Teaching Points

1. Saul is very persistent – In verse 1 we are reminded how persistent Saul is. We generally think of persistence as a good trait. However, we can see that persistence is only as good as the object of our persistence. Persistence is a close cousin of stubbornness. Persist in doing what is right. Desist from doing what is wrong.

2. Verse 4 – God has not actually said everything which people say He has said. David’s companions told him that God had given Saul into his hands and David had the right to do whatever he wanted to Saul. But this was not true. Their statement reflected their own opinion and hope. They probably wanted David to kill Saul so that they would have to run away and hide anymore. David wisely did not listen to their deceitful words and did not take matters into his own hands. From this passage we learn a couple of lessons.

  • Do not immediately believe something just because people say that it is from God. These days a number of believers have made “prophecies” that a comet or asteroid is going to hit the Atlantic ocean in September of 2015. These prophecies have led a number of believers to believe in this event and begin warning other believers. Yet when researched further one can find out that the “prophecy club” which is propagating this sells emergency survival products and the original “witnesses” of these prophecies are very dubious sources. We must be discerning. We must research God’s Word. We have seen even Saul’s talk sounds very spiritual, but it is not. Do not be deceived.

  • Opportunity does not equal permission. David had the opportunity to kill Saul, but he did not have permission to do it. Joseph had the opportunity to sleep with his master’s wife (his family was far away), but he did not have permission. Daniel and his friends had the opportunity to feast on rich foods, but they did not have permission. In today’s world, technology has given us the opportunity to do many things never even dreamed about before. But this doesn’t mean we have permission to do those things. For example, one site has been in the US news lately because it was hacked. That site allows people to find a partner to have an affair with for a fee. Supposedly it guarantees you can find a partner. Hackers recently released all the data of everyone who signed up and I believe there was something like 30 million accounts. Never before in history has there been so much opportunity for sinning in this area. It has never been so easy. But opportunity does not equal permission. Few people would have blamed David for killing Saul. Saul was trying to kill him. David had already shown great patience and self-restraint. Most would argue he was fully justified in killing Saul. It would have practically been self-defense. But God would not have been pleased. And His opinion is worth more than everyone else’s combined.

3. David had a sensitive conscience – He was bothered that he had cut Saul’s robe.

4. David was a good leader – He was able to persuade his men not to do anything against Saul. It is important for leaders to set a good model for their followers. A bad leader may lead his people into great sin. But a good leader can influence those under him to do what is right. We see David using both his actions and his words to influence his men for right. David could have just sat back and said nothing. Then when one of his men rose up and killed Saul (and it probably would have happened,) David could have claimed ignorance and washed his hands of the whole thing. But a leader should not get off so easily. Like it or not, a leader is responsible for those under him.

III. 24:8-22

Discussion Questions

  • What defense does David offer to Saul?
  • What can we learn about David’s resolve not to hurt Saul?
  • What biblical principles was David applying that we can see in verses 9-15?
  • How can we apply these principles in our own lives?
  • How did Saul respond to David?
  • What does verse 20 show about Saul’s understanding of the situation?
  • Was Saul truly repentant? Why not?

Cross-References

  • Matthew 7:12 – Do to others what you want them to do to you.
  • Philippians 2:3 – Do nothing from rivalry or conceit.
  • Romans 12:21 – Overcome evil with good.
  • Luke 6:27 – Love your enemies.
  • Romans 12:14 – Bless those who persecute you.
  • Galatians 6:7-8 – You reap what you sow.
  • 2 Corinthians 7:8-10 – Grief should lead to genuine repentance.

Teaching Points

1. Verse 8 – David still showed respect to Saul, even though Saul was not worthy of respect as a person. His office was worthy of respect. Even if our teachers or parents or any authority are not personally worthy of respect, we should still show respect to them because their office should be respected. I have actually often wondered how I would react if I were to meet Obama face to face. Should I shake his hand? Should I yell out my real feeling about him? Based on this passage, I believe I should show respect for his office even though I have no personal respect for him as an individual.

2. My eye had pity on you – Do not be quick to pass judgment against others. David sets a good example of showing pity instead of hatred or judgment. Jesus often showed pity to the people He served when the Pharisees only showed them contempt. Do you want to be more like Jesus or more like the Pharisees?

3. There is no evil or rebellion in me – David was still showing great self-restraint. He was resolved to let God give him the throne and not take it for himself in his own timing. He could then stand before the whole country and declare truthfully his innocence in the matter. David lived out the verse in 1 Peter 3:16. The whole country could see Saul’s guilt and David’s innocence.

4. The Lord is the Judge – See Romans 12:17-21. Punishing Saul was God’s job not David’s. Saul deserved to be punished. He even deserved to be killed. But it was not David’s position to do it. In the New Testament we are called: priests, ambassadors, witnesses, disciples, lights, sheep, evangelists, and many more. But we are not judges. Let’s leave judgment and condemnation to God.

5. Trust in God – When things seem to unfair, do not lash out at others. Do not take things into your own hand. David resolved to trust in God for his future. We should too. When we trust in God and put our eyes on Him instead of our circumstances, we can truly possess peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:6.)

6. Saul’s response – Saul feels guilty about what he has done. He even seems to regret it. He once again speaks all of the right words. But is he truly repentant? The answer is a resounding no! In chapter 26 Saul is once again hunting David down in order to kill him. True repentance requires more than just feeling guilty. It requires more than only regret and sorrow. True repentance will bring about a change in behavior. But Saul did not change his behavior. Thus for the third time in this passage we can see that words can be cheap. Saul even knew that David would be the future king. He understands God’s plan. But finally he is not able to submit himself to God’s plan.

I also feel sorry for Saul. He had such a great opportunity to serve the Lord. He had so many blessings and so many resources. He knew a lot about God and God’s plan. He knew the truth. He understood God’s law. And part of him even wanted to follow God’s law. But he never truly repented of his sins. He never truly submitted himself to the Lord. Saul is a person who could have given all of the right answers in Sunday School. And yet he is now in hell for eternity. Knowing about God and talking about God is not the same as having a real relationship with God.

How about you? Is your relationship with God real? Are you good at talking about God but bad at obeying Him? Do you truly repent when you sin or just feel sorry about it and do it again? True repentance is tough, but the truly repentant will not be in hell. Many people who feel guilty and sorry will be.

Next: David and the Ark

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