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Lesson 7: Abiathar: The Priest *

Introduction: What do you do when you have a problem? How do you decide what to do when you lack good information? What if the matter is complicated by the people around you acting unreasonably or dishonestly? Life is not always fair. God's servants face these kinds of problems. This week our study looks at the actions of several of God's people who are faced with an unfair situation. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn to help us deal with the problems of life!

  1. David's Visit

    1. Read 1 Samuel 20:1 and 1 Samuel 21:1. David is a fighting man who is on the run because he fears King Saul will kill him. Why would the High Priest tremble to see one fighting man instead of several? (David was not just a fighting man, he was a commander of at least a 1,000 soldiers. ( 1 Samuel 18:13.) Ahimelech obviously knows David and believes that something is wrong.)

    2. Read 1 Samuel 21:2-3. What is David's response to the High Priest? (David is on a secret mission! He will join up with his men, but in the mean-time he is hungry.)

      1. Why would the King send David on a secret mission without enough food?

    3. Let's skip ahead and read 1 Samuel 21:8-9. Not only is David missing food for his secret mission, he is missing a weapon! If you were the High Priest, would you be doubtful?

      1. Recall that David is going to shortly join up with his men. Wouldn't they have plenty of swords?

    4. Read 1 Samuel 21:4-6 and Leviticus 24:8-9. Is it proper for David to be eating the consecrated bread? (Read Matthew 12:3-4. No. This was reserved for the priests.)

    5. Let's step back for a moment. Is David's story true? (No. None of it is true.)

      1. Is it proper to lie in such a circumstance?

      2. Read 1 Samuel 20:4-8. Was David in the habit of lying to preserve his life?

        1. Is the assumption in the last question correct? Did David need to lie to preserve his life?(Neither lie seems necessary for what David has in mind. If anything, I suppose the lie is to help the High Priest or Jonathan.)

    6. Re-read 1 Samuel 21:9. Imagine you are David, holding the sword of Goliath. What should be going through your mind? (Now there was a time when his life was really in jeopardy.)

      1. What lesson should that history lesson have taught David about lying as a solution to a tough situation? (Last week Uriah was a reminder to David of what it meant to be devoted to God and the army. This week Goliath's sword was a reminder to David of what it meant to trust God to overcome the worst kind of situation - without relying on your own deviousness.)

    7. Let's revisit what Jesus said by reading Matthew 12:1-8. Is Jesus commending what David did? (Jesus does not endorse the lie. However, He does seem to endorse the eating of the consecrated bread.)

      1. What is Jesus' point? God's law is not absolute? Certain situations demand an exception? (No. Jesus asks us to look beyond the rule and find why it is we have the rule. Both the sanctuary system and the Sabbath direct our attention to the God who created us and then saved us. Jesus was the God to whom these rules pointed. We must not let the point get trumped by the rule.)

    8. Read 1 Samuel 21:7. Now we have a new fact that makes the plot thicken! What problem has now arisen? (David's dishonest conduct with the High Priest will now be known! The priest's conduct will also be known.)

      1. How do you think Doeg pronounces his name? Dog? Last week it was a Hittite. This week an Edomite. With all of the foreigners running around David is finding it hard to sin without someone blowing the whistle on him!

  2. Rage

    1. Read 1 Samuel 22:1-2. How would you describe David's followers? (Malcontents and family! Other than the family, these were not regular citizens.)

    2. Read 1 Samuel 22:7-8. Does King Saul have a legitimate gripe?

      1. Is Saul right that people gravitate to David for money? That he will give debtors the property of others? (Samuel had already told King Saul that his kingdom would be passed to another. (1 Samuel 15) Saul knows this is God's will, not the promise of property.)

    3. Read 1 Samuel 22:9-10. Is "Dog" a rat? (Doeg did not run to King Saul right away. It was only when Saul was pleading with his supporters to tell him about plots against him that Doeg told the King about David and the priest.)

    4. Read 1 Samuel 22:11. You and your entire family of priests have been summoned to see the King. What are your thoughts?

      1. Would you have been reviewing those inconsistencies in David's story?

    1. Read 1 Samuel 22:12-13. What would you answer if you were Ahimelech?

    2. Read 1 Samuel 22:14-15. Is this a good answer? (Yes. Intent is required for a conspiracy. Ahimelech said we had absolutely no intent to commit treason against the King.)

      1. Do you blame David for putting this priest in this position? Should he have anticipated this? (Yes. David had two reasons to lie. He lied to get the priest to do something he might not otherwise have done. He may have also lied to protect the priest.)

        1. Did David have an obligation to fully inform Ahimelech of his situation so that Ahimelech could evaluate the risk and decide what to do? (Of course. Who is David to evaluate the risk for another person? This is pure pride and deception.)

    3. Read 1 Samuel 22:16-17. What does the reaction of the guards who heard the entire exchange tell us? (They thought the priests had a good explanation. They thought that King Saul was out of control. He was mentally unbalanced. The guards knew that these were God's men, and they would give them the benefit of any doubt.)

      1. What reason does Saul have to give such an order?

      2. If the contest is between Saul and David to be king, who is better qualified? (David might have put the priests in great danger by his dishonesty, but Saul makes the executive decision to execute them.)

    4. Read 1 Samuel 22:18-19. What does this tell us about Doeg? (He did not hold God's priests in such high regard. Note that Doeg is an Edomite. Edomites were the descendants of Esau. Genesis 36:9. Perhaps, like Uriah, he saw the opportunity to be promoted - from head shepherd to head of the King's guard.)

      1. What influence on Doeg's actions, if any, is the fact that he made the report that caused King Saul to pronounce the death penalty? (Read Deuteronomy 17:6-7. Saul is obviously not following this rule because he has only one witness. However, the idea that the witness must stand behind his testimony may have been a factor in Doeg's decision to do this evil deed.)

  1. Abiathar the Survivor

    1. Read 1 Samuel 22:20. Only one priest survived. Is this the direction you would run if you were Abiathar?

    2. Read 1 Samuel 22:21-22. If David knew this, why did he not warn the priests or do something else to help protect them?

      1. Would it be fair to leave this to God? (David's lie set this whole sequence of events in motion. David did not let God do the heavy lifting when he approached the priests. It seems a bit presumptuous to make a mess, and then walk away as if you had no responsibility. They can trust God, but you do not have to.)

    3. Read 1 Samuel 22:23. Would you trust David after what just happened? (I would not trust David if his interests conflicted with my interests. But, David explains to Abiathar that their interests are the same. Apparently, that convinced Abiathar.)

    4. Abiathar stayed with David and performed the role of a priest when David was on the run and later when David became King. With the passage of time, David and Abiathar became old men. In his later years, Abiathar faced a very difficult challenge. Read 1 Kings 1:5-7. King David was old, but he was still alive. What would you do if you were Abiathar?

      1. Should Abiathar have consulted with King David?

        1. Why would he not consult David? (This was his chance to help make a king!)

    5. King David intervened and Solomon became king instead of Adonijah. However, Adonijah later made a request that King Solomon understood to be a step towards revolting against his authority. Read 1 Kings 2:22. How did King Solomon now view Abiathar? (As one who was still a rebel.)

    6. Read 1 Kings 2:25-27. Compare King Solomon with King Saul on the issue of priests and rebellion? (Solomon does not act like he is crazy. This time, the priest Abiathar really had been a part of the opposition team.)

    7. Friend, our study shows that unfair things happen to God's servants. The sins of dishonesty, intrigue, and rage can victimize any of us. Our best course is to seek God's will and trust Him. Fighting fire with fire is not the right answer. Will you determine today to trust God and not yourself?

  2. Next week: Joab: David's Weak Strongman.
* 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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