Theme: Biographical – Great Prophets
Jesus greatly admired the prophets. Their suffering as God’s servants was great and exemplary (Matt. 5:12; 23:37). Paul equated their mistreatment to that suffered by Jesus (1 Thess. 2:15). They are mentioned honorably, though not by name, among those exhibiting genuine faith (Heb. 11:32ff).
This week’s reading returns to the category of “Biography,” and, like last time when we read of “Notable Kings,” this week will focus on a number of people rather than a single individual. All of the prophets are worthy of our attention, but we will limit ourselves to four; Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, and Jeremiah. Isaiah would have been another very likely candidate, but when we read about Hezekiah as one of the notable kings, we read about Isaiah’s role in interceding along with the king for the people because of Assyria’s threat. You may recall that one king we did not read about at that time was Ahab due to his close connection with Elijah, about whom we will read this week.
It is interesting that we know more biographical information about the non-writing prophets (Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, etc.) but less of their message, while the opposite is true of the writing prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.). Also interesting is that the three previous subjects of reading in this biographical category are also all identified as prophets: Abraham (Gen. 20:7), Moses (Deut. 18:15), and David (Acts 2:30).
Readings and Introductory Comments:
1 Samuel 3:1-21; 7:3-17; 12:1-25; 15:10-35; 16:1-13
Though Samuel most certainly functioned as a prophet, he also served as a judge (Israel’s final judge) and also carried out priestly duties. The time of his service was most critical. The nation was transitioning from the time of the judges to that of the monarchy. Instability and opposition threatened the nation. Saul’s reign as the first king ended horribly, but David would redeem the nation.
Samuel is recalled by name in later generations as a truly great man of God (Psa. 99:6; Jer. 15:1; Heb. 11:32). Our readings are selected from many covering the events of his life.
1 Kings 17:1-24; 18:1-46; 19:1-21; 2 Kings 2:1-14
Elijah the Tishbite is such an imposing figure during the monarchy of the Northern Kingdom. It is no mere coincidence that this great man’s life corresponds to the rule of Israel’s most wicked king, Ahab.
When the New Testament searches for an example of earnest and effective prayer, it turns to Elijah (James 5:17-18). Two incidents from his career which we will not be reading are that of Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21:1-24) and his encounter with King Ahaziah (2 Kings 1:1-17).
2 Kings 2:15-25; 4:1-44; 5:1-15
Elisha, given a unique opportunity, requested a double portion of the spirit of his mentor and friend, Elijah (2 Kings 2:9). His ministry as prophet truly matched that of Elijah’s. Worthy of note is that the greatest concentration of miraculous events in the Old Testament (apart from the time of the Exodus) surrounds the life and prophetic career of Elisha.
Jeremiah 1:1-10; 13:1-11; 20:1-6; 25:1-14; 36:1-32
The longest book of the Bible, after Psalms, is Jeremiah. We know more biographical information about this prophet than any other and more than most other Old Testament figures. Our readings must be especially selective.
Jeremiah had quite a lengthy career as a prophet and served during the terrible time of Judah’s downfall, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the beginning of the Babylonian captivity. Our readings will sample some of the biographical information about the man, one of the “acted out” prophecies in which God called him to participate, and a couple of incidents among many of the persecutions he endured.
1 Samuel 3:1-21
- How did young Samuel respond to God’s call to him in the night? (v. 10)
- What did all Israel know about Samuel? (v. 20)
1 Samuel 7:3-17
- What monument did Samuel erect and what did he call it? (v. 12)
1 Samuel 12:1-25
- What was Samuel’s charge to the people? (v. 24)
1 Samuel 15:10-35
- In what does God delight? (v. 22)
- How did Samuel refer to God in v. 29?
1 Samuel 16:1-13
- What’s the difference between how men look at men and how God does? (v. 7)
1 Kings 17:1-24
- How did Elijah describe his relationship to God? (v. 1)
- How was the widow’s obedience rewarded? (v. 16)
1 Kings 18:1-46
- What was Elijah’s challenge to the people? (v. 21)
1 Kings 19:1-21
- In what form did Elijah hear God? (v. 12) Where did Elijah not hear God? (v. 11)
2 Kings 2:1-14
- How did Elijah and Elisha cross the Jordan? (v. 8)
- By what means did Elijah go to heaven? (v. 11)
2 Kings 2:15-25
- For how long did the search for Elijah continue (v. 17)
2 Kings 4:1-44
- How as the widow of the prophet able to pay off her debt? (v. 7)
- What reward was given the woman of Shunem for her hospitality? (v. 16)
2 Kings 5:1-15
- Who informed Naaman of the prophet in Israel who could heal leprosy? (vv. 2-3)
- From when did God say He’d know Jeremiah? (v. 5)
- What had God put in Jeremiah’s mouth? (v. 9)
- What did God instruct Jeremiah to hide? Where? For how long? (vv. 4, 6)
- Who had Jeremiah beaten and put into stocks? (v. 2) Who was he?
- Into whose hands did Jeremiah prophesy that Judah would fall? (v. 9)
- For how long did Jeremiah say they would serve Babylon? (v. 11)
- What did king Jehoiakim do with the scroll written by Jeremiah? (v. 23)
- What did God tell Jeremiah to do in response? (v. 28)
- Did God protect his prophets from mistreatment? Should we expect to be so protected?
- What traits exhibited by these prophets do you most admire?
- Do God’s people (in this case the prophets) always have the upper hand in the affairs of men? Should we anticipate such to be true today?
- What can we learn about overcoming discouragement from Elijah’s experience? (see 1 Kings 19)
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:11-12)