Challenge 7 God’s nation

CONTENTS

The story shown in bold is explored in full in the Big Bible Challenge book www.scriptureunion.org.uk/shop

 Stories in this challenge

Samuel listens to God          1 Samuel 3:1–10

King Saul                               1 Samuel 9:15 – 10:1

David and Goliath              1 Samuel 17:41–50

David and Saul                      1 Samuel 24:1–12

King David                             2 Samuel 7:1–13

 

COMMON tips for this and every challenge

  • Always have a Bible in a child-friendly translation available, as you take the Big Bible Challenge. Even when the Bible verses are printed in the Big Bible Challenge book, find them in a Bible as well. This will help the child gain confidence in handling the Bible and become familiar with its size and number of pages.
  • Finding your way around the Bible can be a challenge in itself! Each reading from the Bible is shown in a certain way, like this:

Genesis 2:15–22.

  • Use the Index or Contents page of the Bible to help you find the book (or books) in the Bible for the readings in this challenge. In this example, the book title is ‘Genesis’.
  • Each book of the Bible is in chapters. In this example, the reading is in chapter 2.
  • Each chapter is split into verses. In this example, the verses are 15–22. In most Bibles, the verse numbers are printed very small.
  • Many of the challenges have five readings from the same part of the Bible, so use a bookmark to keep your place and it will be easier to find the Bible reading next time.
  • The Bible consists of many ‘books’ collected together and presented as one. See if you can work out what sort of ‘book’ you are exploring: is it history or is it a letter? Are you reading words spoken by a prophet or written as a song?
  •  Spend time looking at and chatting about the artwork in the Big Bible Challenge. Find out more online in ‘How does the Big Bible Challenge work?’
  • When you have finished this challenge, use the simple evaluation sheet [here: hyperlink]. Find out more online in ‘How does the Big Bible Challenge work?’

 

COMMENCE: your introduction to this part of the Bible

Eli’s story shows us that even faithful servants of God can get things wrong; this is something we see in many Bible characters and also experience in our own lives: no human leader is perfect. When Eli’s sons fail to live by God’s standards, it is the young boy Samuel whom God chooses to speak to Eli and, ultimately, to step into his role as the spiritual guide to the nation.

Samuel was the last of the judges of Israel. Now the people of Israel wanted to have a king like other nations. The move towards kingship is not seen as a completely positive move by the Old Testament writers but, at their best, the kings provided wise and just leadership and a sense of national unity that had been missing under the judges. Saul started well but, through disobedience, eventually forfeited the right to the throne.

In those who will lead his people, God requires character traits of obedience, submission and faithfulness. David demonstrates these qualities, although he will later get things wrong. He is committed to God, has confidence that God will work out his purposes for him and he is prepared to wait patiently without manipulating things for himself. Despite attempts by Saul to kill him, David responded by sparing Saul’s life – just one indication among many that David was walking closely with his God. Finally, David became king, leading to a period of great success for the Israelite nation. At their best, Israel’s kings demonstrate qualities of God’s rule and foreshadow God’s ideal king, Jesus.

 

CONNECT: the five stories in this challenge

There are several ways to explore Challenge 7.

You may prefer to read the stories in date order, as listed:

  • Samuel, a young boy, hears God speaking to him and grows up to become one of the ‘judges’ who leads the people and gives messages from God.
  • The people want a king and God tells Samuel to choose Saul. He starts off as a good king but he stops obeying God.
  • David kills the enemy of God’s people, Goliath, and most people are delighted. But David has made an enemy of King Saul, who is jealous of the young hero.
  • Saul is hunting David down to kill him – but, suddenly, David has the chance to kill Saul. He chooses not to – and Saul admits he is in the wrong.
  • David, now king, is given a very special message from God about the future.

Alternatively, start with the key story ‘David and Goliath’ in the Big Bible Challenge book and then look back to see what led to this event – and forward to see what happened as a direct consequence. David’s fight is one of the best-known stories in the Bible. It is about a young man, David, who was prepared to take on a seemingly impossible challenge. Because God is on his side, the impossible becomes possible. It is a pivotal moment in the story of David – and in the history of the nation. This boy goes on to become the second king of Israel.

You may also like to look ahead to Challenge 9, which includes songs (psalms) written by David. You could look at Psalm 23 alongside Challenge 7 to help your child link the historical character of David, the shepherd king, with one of his most famous writings.

 


CONSIDER: what this challenge means today

Children and adults alike sometimes say or feel, ‘This problem is just too BIG for me!’

There are and will continue to be many huge challenges in life for all of us. The stories in Challenge 7 give us some things to remember as we face those ‘giants’:

  • God knows and cares about every situation in which you find yourself.
  • Even though there is evil and wrong in this world, God is more powerful. The battle against the forces of evil was won through Jesus’ death and resurrection. However, until Jesus returns to this earth, the battle will continue – but being on God’s side is being on the winning side.
  • Trusting God does not mean that you won’t feel scared. Prayer is the powerful tool that lets you tell God how you’re feeling and ask him to work in your situation.

The stories about David in Challenge 7 show God protecting his chosen king. From dodging spears from Saul to being chased across the countryside, God was there with David. In spite of the strong and violent opposition from Saul, David was committed to following God’s ways and not harming the man whom God had chosen as king. This integrity in David’s character was obviously a quality of a great king and of a faithful follower of God.

God protected David, but does that mean we can also have that awareness of God’s protection? The Bible says: ‘I have engraved you on the palms of my hands’ Isaiah 49:16 (NIV); and David wrote in one of his Psalms: ‘I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed’ (Psalm 57:1) (NIV). We can take heart from David’s story and from God’s Word that he is in the midst of our times of trouble, providing his presence and comfort.

 

CLARIFY: issues that may arise from this challenge

‘But I’m only a child’

The stories of Samuel and David, both of whom were only young boys, give a clear picture that age is no barrier when it comes to God choosing people to be part of his plans. It was the young boy Samuel and not the anointed priest Eli who heard the voice of God. It is not our age or our ability but our availability that matters to God. He chose the youngest in Jesse’s family to be the next leader of the nation.

Can I hear the voice of God today like Samuel did?

The Old Testament is filled with examples of God communicating with his people. These include an audible voice to a person, a loud voice from heaven, a burning bush, angels, dreams, visions and more. God is still God and he will communicate with his people in the way he wants to, but some of these ways are much less common today. Hebrews 1:1–2 (CEV) says: “Long ago in many ways and at many times God’s prophets spoke his message to our ancestors. But now at last, God sent his Son to bring his message to us.”  While some people may hear God’s audible voice today, it is more likely that we will hear from God as we read our Bibles, talk with our Christian friends and hear his gentle voice speaking to our minds and hearts as we spend time with him.

Why did Samuel kiss Saul and pour oil over his head?

One of the customs we read about often in the Bible is to ‘anoint’ a person or an object. This ritual, which includes the pouring of oil, is to signify holiness and a setting apart for the work of God. The kiss on the cheek was a greeting used by many and also is a mark of respect in the same way that some Christians today kiss the rings of their church leaders.

 

COMMUNICATE: talk with God

Learning to listen, like any other skill, takes time. Children need to be allowed to explore and to experience a variety of different ways of listening. As they grow, they will begin to show preferences according to their individual characters and personalities. Some children will listen best when still and quiet (although not for long!); others will listen by going for a walk and experiencing God’s creation; and still others will ‘hear’ God speaking through the banging of a drum or clash of a cymbal. As leaders, we need to prepare and plan to help them.

How might you approach listening in quietness and stillness? Whilst not the most natural state for children, it is surprising just how much they can enjoy it and how, with careful preparation and practice, it can become a much-treasured time.

Prepare:

  • a sign for the door that says, ‘Do not disturb: praying and listening’
  • a special area of the room, perhaps using cushions or a special floor cover or lamp-lit corner
  • a focus area or table with appropriate items, objects or pictures relating to your topic or theme
  • some quiet music to accompany this time
  • explain what you are going to do  
  1. Involve your child in the preparations and setting out of the various items.
  2. Remind them, at the start of the quiet time, that God loves to speak to us in different ways and that being still and quiet can help us to listen to God.
  3. Suggest ways in which the child might use the quietness, for instance, ‘You might like to remember the story we heard earlier… look at the pictures on the focus table… think about a special place or people… tell God what you are thinking about…’
  4. Play music as a sign of the start of the quiet time and fade it out at the end. Be aware of a child’s capacity to be quiet: 30 contented seconds is far better than two minutes of suppressed silence.
  5. End the time together with a short prayer, song or an opportunity for your child to talk about their quiet time. Be careful not to pressurise them into a particular response. Remember that the most important response is in their hearts and minds. God sees that, even when we cannot.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the story of Samuel, for Bible Coaches, is not the dramatic way in which God spoke directly to Samuel, but in Eli’s response in that situation. Samuel needed help to recognise God’s voice and to know how to respond. Eli had the experience and wisdom to guide Samuel in such a way that his young charge would come to know God for himself and begin a lifelong process of listening and responding to God in prayer (with long-term and far-reaching implications!). May each of us be Eli’s to our children, encouraging and enabling them to pray: ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’

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