1. How many natural disasters can you list in one minute? Write them on your book or note pad. Ready? Go! (Share with the class as a whole after one minute.)
2. Why do natural disasters occur? (Most natural disasters occur simply because we live in a fallen world. Generally speaking, they impact all people to some degree.)
3. How does God provide during such disasters and how does God use them to bring about His will? (God is present with His people in the midst of these disasters. He uses them in a great variety of ways to touch people’s hearts and draw them to Him.)
God’s purpose is always to lead His people back to Him and to seek His favor.
4. How can disasters we’ve seen today lead people back to God? (Sometimes when God is all we have left we realize God is all we ever really needed in the first place.)
Anytime we, as God’s people, encounter a difficult time in our life, whether it is widespread or only affecting me, we should seek God. He will provide direction and strength when we face the storms of life.
In today’s study, we will see how “God provides direction and strength when His people face trying times.”
In Joshua 9:1-27 a people group living in the Promised Land deceived Joshua and all of Israel into making a treaty with them. A key verse in this passage is verses 14 and 15, “Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions, but did not seek the Lord’s counsel. So Joshua established peace with them and made a treaty to let them live and the leaders of the community swore an oath to them.”
By the time Joshua discovered they had been deceived it was too late. But the Gibeonites did become servants to Israel. Some 400 years later while Saul was king of Israel, he decided to eradicate them. He was not totally successful but God brought judgment on Israel for not honoring the treaty Joshua had made with them.
The Cause! Read 2 Samuel 21:1-3
A famine that last one or two years may just be the cycle of nature but one that lasted three years was seen as God’s actions. You may recall Elijah and the three and half year drought God brought on Israel because of the sin of Jezebel.
1. Why did Saul decide to carry out this annihilation of the Gibeonites? (His “zeal for Israel and Judah”.)
2. Is zeal a good or bad characteristic to have? (Zeal is good if it isn’t misplaced zeal. Zeal for God and following His will is always good, but when we go off on our own without checking with God we almost always find ourselves in trouble.)
3. How does a person know if a natural disaster is an act of God’s direct judgment or simply the result of living in a fallen world?
4. What is the difference between a confrontation that leads to condemnation and a confrontation that leads to redemption? (The attitude of the one being confronted.)
5. What’s good about going directly to the person who has been wronged to work toward reconciliation? (Honestly seeking a way to make things right can bring good to both the asker and the answerer. But the solutions can be complicated.)
It is important for us to remember that God defines what is right. Otherwise the strongest or most powerful will prevail, whether right or wrong.
6. What can we learn from David’s approach to this problem?
David wanted to stop the famine. He also could have cared about mistreatment. We should continually ask God how our actions can make situations right for all concerned!
7. Are you willing to do the right thing regardless of the cost?
The Request! Read 2 Samuel 21:4-6
1. Was the request of the Gibeonites appropriate?
2. Why was it important to honor this 400 year old covenant?
3. Why was it still valid? (It wasn’t between two individuals; it was between the Gibeonites and the Israelites.)
4. What factors should be considered when looking for a way to right a social wrong?
5. What role should past promises play in those considerations? (What about the race issue our mistreatment of Native Americans in the past in our nation?)
6. What makes a person act justly even when everyone around refuses to do so? Consider Vice versa?
Summarize verses 7-9.
The Resolution! Read 2 Samuel 21:10-14
1. What did Rizpah do? Why? (According to the customs of that day she could not take the bodies. Part of the disgrace of hanging was that the bodies would not be given an honorable burial.)
2. How long was she out there? (After approximately six months the Gibeonites evidently gave permission for the bodies to be taken and buried.)
3. What did David do? Why?
4. What obstacles did Rizpah have to overcome in the vigil she performed for her sons’ remains?
5. What did you think she hoped to achieve through this vigil?
6. When David learned about Rizpah’s vigil what did he do?
7. Why did David help both sides: Saul’s family and the Gibeonite families?
8. What advice would you give for helping two people who had been enemies for any reason? (Setting aside grievances is often necessary to allow room for respect and healing. If hatred is allowed to continue it festers in the person and destroys them, not the one they hated!)
Summarize and Challenge!
1. How does God want you to right a wrong?
2. How does God want you to prevent a wrong?
Our actions affect others, not just for the present but for generations to come.
Most of us Christians are good at giving right answers. When it comes to actually living according to God’s guidance, we’re not as consistent.
3. How can we make our lives as true as our words?
Read Psalm 37:28
4. What spiritual disciplines can you practice to better understand God’s justice?
5. How will you practice that discipline over the next week/month?
Prayer: Thank God for His provision during trying times and that we will always trust God in difficult situations.