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Sabbath School Lessons on Background Characters in the Old Testament
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 4: Jonathan: Born for Greatness *
Introduction: How many times do we look at sickness and death and
say, "That is not fair?" Our sense of justice is offended when the
virtuous die and the worthless live. When the injustice involves you
and your life goals, it is that much harder to accept. How should we
react when we faithfully serve God, but get passed over for
promotion? How should we react when our life goals are swallowed up
in illness or problems that are not of our making? Let's dive into
our Bible study and see what we can learn from the life of Jonathan!
- Fearless For God
- Read 1 Samuel 13:5 and 1 Samuel 13:19-22. Who had the
technological advantage in the coming battle? (It was not
even close. The Philistines not only had chariots, the
latest military weapon, they had metal weapons and armor.
The Israelites had wood.)
- Who had the numerical advantage? (The Philistines
were "as numerous as the sand on the seashore."
That is not an exact number, but it sounds like an
- Read 1 Samuel 13:6-7 and 1 Samuel 13:15. What is your
military analysis of the situation? Is it simply
impossible for the Israelites to win?
- Would you leave if you were one of the 600 who would
be fighting "the sand?"
- Read 1 Samuel 14:6-7. What would you have said if you
were Jonathan's armor bearer? ("What! Are you nuts?")
- Would you be concerned that Jonathan said "perhaps"
the Lord will help us?
- What do we learn about Jonathan's faith?
(Incredible! He says the numeric and technological
advantage of the Philistines means nothing if God is
- Is Jonathan presumptuous? (No. He says "Perhaps the
Lord will act in our behalf." This is not a
statement of doubt, this is simply an acknowledgment
that God knows best.)
- Read 1 Samuel 14:8-10. Is Jonathan now being
presumptuous? (If he is, God does not seem to mind. It
certainly is far better than being fearful and running
- Should we give God choices like this to determine
- Read 1 Samuel 14:11-12. Abstract faith is one thing.
Faith in action is another. How would you rate Jonathan's
- Read 1 Samuel 14:13-16. How is the courage and faith of
Jonathan and his armor-bearer, matched by the hand of
God? (Jonathan moves forward in faith and God sends a
panic among the Philistines.)
- Is Jonathan worthy to be the King of Israel?
- Read 1 Samuel 14:19-23. What is the result of the faith
and courage of one man who decided to step forward in
faith? (God's people win what seemed, from a human point
to view, to be an impossible victory.)
- Did the numerical and technological advantage of the
Philistines make any difference?
- What lesson does God have in mind for you and me?
- Do you want to be a Jonathan? Or one of those
men who hid and then jumped out to fight only
when things seemed to be going their way?
- Friends and Rivals
- Read 1 Samuel 19:11-12 Who constitute the cast of
characters here? (Saul is the King. David is the "King in
waiting." Michal is David's wife and King Saul's
- What is Saul's attitude towards David?
- Read 1 Samuel 20:1. Since Jonathan is King Saul's son,
Jonathan and David are potentially rivals to the throne.
What does David want to know from Jonathan? (He is
looking for "insider information.")
- Other than information, what is David demanding?
(Justice. He wants to know what the charges are
against him that the King would want to kill him.)
- Read 1 Samuel 20:2. Does Jonathan have any inside
information on this subject? (He says that he normally
does, but here we know that he is wrong.)
- Read 1 Samuel 20:3. Why theory does David suggest as to
why Jonathan is wrong about the plans of King Saul?
- What level of trust does David have in Jonathan?
- If you were Jonathan, what might cross your mind?
- On this question of what Jonathan stood to gain by
David's death, skip ahead and read 1 Samuel 20:30-31. What does this tell us about the character of
- How do you treat your friends when only one of
you can have the advantage?
- Read Philippians 2:3-4 and 1 Samuel 20:4. Is Jonathan
following God's advice about friendship? (Definitely.)
- Notice that Philippians 2:4 tells us it is okay to
look to our own interests. Is Jonathan looking out
for his own interests?
- In the previous story, we saw a Jonathan who, in
cooperation with God, lead his country to a great
victory. Is David any better qualified to be King
- Read 1 Samuel 20:5-11. Why does Jonathan ask David to go
into the field with him? (Jonathan is concerned about
others learning about what David and he are planning.
Surely those around Jonathan were loyal to him and they
might not be as generous towards David as is Jonathan.
Instead, they might have the same attitude as King Saul.)
- In 1 Samuel 16 we find that God told Samuel to anoint
David to be the next King of Israel. Do you think that
David has shared that with Jonathan?
- If you think he had (and I think he had), how would
you feel if you were Jonathan?
- Has God failed to reward your great faith in the
battle against the Philistines?
- Do you think that as a little boy, Jonathan talked
with his father, King Saul, about the day when
Jonathan would be king?
- Do you think that Jonathan dreamed about the
day he would be king? Or, do you think that
Jonathan was just a shy fellow who did not want
to be a leader? (The attack on the Philistines
shows that Jonathan was a motivated, courageous
- Read 1 Samuel 20:12-16. Recall that I just asked you if
Jonathan was looking out for his own interests? Now that
you have read more of the story, what is your answer to
that question? (Jonathan apparently understood that God
was going to make David the King. He knew that would put
both himself and his family in danger - because as
"rivals" to the throne, David's friends would want to
destroy him and his family. He extracted from David a
promise of protection. He was looking out for his
- Read 1 Samuel 20:17. What made David and Jonathan such
perfect friends? (Read Mark 12:29-31. Jonathan perfectly
fulfilled the command to love. Indeed, Jonathan loved God
and David more than he loved himself.)
- Read 1 Samuel 23:15-18. How does Jonathan see his future?
(He will be second to future King David.)
- Read 1 Samuel 31:1-6. Why did God give Jonathan such a
great victory in the earlier fight against the
Philistines and then allow him to be defeated here?
- Why could not Jonathan live and be second to David
as they had agreed?
- Read 1 Samuel 31:8-10. Why did the Philistines put Saul's
armor in their temple and mount Saul's body and the
bodies of his sons to the city wall? (They were showing
the victory of their gods over the God of Israel.)
- Can you explain Jonathan's fate?
- Read Hebrews 11:32-38. Is life always fair for those who
follow God? (No. Some, like David, conquered. Some, like
Jonathan, were treated badly.)
- Why does God not always intervene to make life fair?
(Read Hebrews 11:39-40. God has something much
better, much more fair in mind for us!)
- Friend, how about you? Will you remain faithful and
fearless regardless how things turn out in life?
* Copr. 2010, 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.