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Lesson 12: Dying Like a Seed *

Introduction: The ad campaign for the Commonwealth of Virginia is "Virginia is for lovers." That may be true, but I would add "Virginia is for thinkers." Why? Many years ago some states of the United States decided that they would allow citizens to designate what was on their car license plates. California decided to go for "snob appeal," and charged hundreds of dollars for "custom" plates. Virginia, in contrast, let anyone have a custom plate for a fee of $20.00. The result was that Virginia had a huge revenue flow from this decision (much more than California, even though California is a more populous state). Hundreds of thousands of cars registered in Virginia had custom plates. If you lived in Virginia, what would you put on your license plates? It appears to me that one of the most popular decisions is to have your initials and the number 1. For example, "BNC 1." A lot of people think they are number 1. Our lesson this week suggests another custom plate: "BNC last." I've never seen a plate like that. Let's plunge into our lesson and find out what is going on!

  1. What Would Jesus Do?

    1. Read Philippians 2:5. We see the popular slogan, "What would Jesus do." This seems a variation on that: "What would Jesus think?" Is that how you understand this text?

      1. Once we figure out how Jesus would think, what attitude He would have, what is required of us? (The Bible says our attitude should be the same as that of Jesus.)

    2. Read Philippians 2:6-7. Our text says that Jesus, who "being in the very nature God," decided to making "Himself nothing" by becoming like us. Can that attitude be translated into our life?

      1. Would we have to become like a dog or cat (or a bug) to translate that concept to our life?

      2. Or, is there a more direct comparison: are we commanded not to "grasp" "equality with God?"

        1. Read Genesis 3:1-5. How long do you think Satan contemplated the temptation that he would use on humans?

          1. What is this temptation? (To become like God! We have no reason to believe we should be equal to God, but apparently this is a huge weakness in humans. In this problem area we should have the same attitude as Jesus.)

          2. In the abstract, how hard can that be? Jesus was God! We are not.

    3. Read Philippians 2:8. Once Jesus became a human, did He lower Himself even more? (He humbled Himself to the point of dying for others.)

      1. Do we now have a point of reference that we can follow? (We obviously started out "low" in comparison to God. But, we can do precisely what Jesus did as when He was a human.)

      2. What do you think it means to die for others? Terrorists die for their cause. Is this the same concept? (Hardly. Terrorists die to kill others. Christians give up their life to allow others to live eternally.)

      3. Let's turn next to some Bible stories to see how this principle should, as a practical matter, be applied in our life.

  2. What Should Saul Do?

    1. Read 1 Samuel 13:1-4. What is the background for our story? (King Saul seems to have sent most of his army home. However, his son, Jonathan, continues a military campaign against the Philistines. The Philistines get annoyed, and decide to take care of the problem. Saul recalls the troops and the two countries brace for all-out war.)

    2. Read 1 Samuel 13:5-7. What was the assessment of the average Israelite soldier about the relative strength of the two nations? (The Israelites had no chance. They were running away or hiding.)

      1. If you were King Saul, what would you do? What would you want to do?

    3. Read 1 Samuel 13:8-9, 12. Pretend you are the "lawyer" for Saul. What argument would you make on his behalf? (I was on time and in a crisis situation. Samuel was late. He did not keep his appointment with me or with the country. God is central to my life. I do not want to go to war without seeking God's favor. My situation is critical, my troops are deserting. Someone has to step in and fix the problem since Samuel is falling down on his job - which is to invoke God's blessing. God made me the King, and I am going to lead.)

      1. What do you think about this argument? Is Saul doing something that you would do?

      2. Based on what we studied last week, what is wrong with Saul's approach? (He did not wait on God!)

    4. When it comes to making lawyers' arguments, you generally find you have more than one - and they disagree. Let's look at the other side of this argument. Read 1 Samuel 10:8. What would Samuel's lawyer argue? (Samuel was not late. Saul was told to wait "seven days until I come." The seventh day was not yet finished and Samuel had not yet come.)

    5. A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory of the Old and New Testaments suggests that Samuel deliberately waited until the seventh day to come to "put the constitutional character of the king to the test." What do you think this means?(What the commentary is talking about when it says "constitutional character," is the idea of separation of church and state. Saul (representative of the state) was invading the province of Samuel (the prophet of God). Instead of waiting on God, instead of waiting on God's prophet, Saul took matters into his own hands.)

      1. What does this have to do with Eve's temptation and our lesson theme about self-sacrifice?(Eve wanted to "occupy" part of God's "space" - just like King Saul. He thought he could be both King and Prophet. When we want to make ourselves first, we occupy part of God's space.)

      2. Wait a minute! Didn't we start out saying that we should be like Jesus? What is this argument about crowding God? Occupying His space? I thought we were supposed to act as if we were inhabiting God's space! Agree?

    6. Look at 1 Samuel 10:8 again. What was the last thing that Samuel was going to do for Saul? (Tell him what he was to do.)

      1. Was Samuel crossing the separation between church and state and infringing on Saul's turf? (The so-called separation of church and state is not a Biblical concept as it is most commonly applied in the United States today. In the Biblical model, it means the state cannot tread on the church. This fits perfectly with the idea that man should not assume to be God. Israel was led by God. Saul was not to move forward without instructions from God.)

      2. Are you able to apply this instruction to your life? Things are falling apart and God wants you to wait on Him? Do you have sympathy for Saul?

    7. Read 1 Samuel 13:13-15. What was Saul's error? (When we are told that we should have an attitude like Jesus - to give up ourselves for others - this attitude does not include the right to disobey God and start making executive decisions contrary to His will. When we do that, we invade God's space and make ourselves "number 1.")

      1. What was the result of Saul's error? (We cannot do great things for God if we are not going to follow instructions.)

  3. What Did Jonathan Do?

    1. Get the picture: The Philistines have 3,000 chariots with two soldiers in each. They have foot soldiers "as numerous as the sand on the seashore." ( 1 Samuel 13:5) Saul, after most of his soldiers have run away or hidden, has 600 left. ( 1 Samuel 13:15.) Worse, no one but Saul and his son, Jonathan, have metal weapons. (See 1 Samuel 13:19-22). Saul just got rebuked and fired. What a mess! What would you do if you were an Israelite?

      1. What would you do if you were the King's son?

    2. Let's find out what Jonathan did. Read 1 Samuel 14:1-6. How would you compare the attitude of Jonathan with the attitude of Saul?

      1. Jonathan has just proposed to his armor-bearer that the two of them should climb up the cliff towards the Philistine outpost with the possibility that they will attack the Philistine army. Just the two of them. What would you say if you were Jonathan's armor-bearer? (Read 1 Samuel 14:7. Would you say we have two crazy guys? Or, two faith-filled guys?)

    3. Read 1 Samuel 14:8-10. Let's analyze this a moment. Did Jonathan just sit on a rock and await his fate? (No.)

      1. How did Jonathan approach the same goal that his father, Saul, had so badly approached? (Jonathan came up with a plan of action which depended entirely upon God's approval.)

    4. Read 1 Samuel 14:11-12. Has God approved? Is Jonathan putting God to the test? Isn't he forcing God's hand when he decides to create this test? (They have an immediate problem. They need an immediate solution. If God is going to act for them, He must act soon. I think what Jonathan proposes primarily depends on God's will. Jonathan is not invading God's space.)

    5. Read 1 Samuel 14:13-15, 20. Compare how Eve, Saul and Jonathan approached their tasks in life. How does this square with the idea of dying to self? (Both Eve and Saul decided that they would take some of what belonged to God. Terrible results followed. Jonathan depended wholly on God to do great things - and great things followed.)

    6. Friend, will you follow Jesus' example by putting obedience to God first? It means you are expendable. Jonathan never became king. Instead, he died in battle with his father, Saul. ( 1 Samuel 31:1-2.) Jonathan gave up his life on earth to satisfy God's plan to make David King.

  4. Next week: Christ in the Crucible.
* Copr. 2007, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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