Asking Questions Exemplified
Several weeks ago, I highlighted Bob Tiede’s work, which focuses on the value of asking questions.
Here is an ideal example of that focused model at work in message preparation based on I Kings 18 . . . .
Questions we might want to consider or discuss as we think about this text:
√ How would we compare and contrast the prophet Elijah and Obadiah? That is, in what ways are they similar – as far as we can tell from the text? In what ways are they different?
√ How do we know this from the text? [It might help us to make a list or table of their similarities and differences.]
√ What do we notice about the pattern of similarities and differences?
√ Can we learn anything from this pattern, do we think? What?
√ Are either, or both, of these figures models for us in any way?
What way, or ways? Why?
√ Is one of the men more of a model than the other, would we say, or does it “depend”?
What does it depend on?
√ What, according to Obadiah, are his concerns?
Do those concerns seem “reasonable” to us?
Or, unreasonable? Why?
√ Does Obadiah’s speech tell us anything else about how Obadiah sees things (e.g., the world, Elijah, God)?
What does it tell us?
√ [More personal] In what ways do we share Obadiah’s view of things, do we think?
How do we feel about that?
√ How does Elijah’s declaration in verse 15 respond to Obadiah’s concerns?
√ Would we describe this as a courageous declaration?
Why, or why not?
√ [More theoretical, maybe]
How are courage and faith related, do we think?
How do they seem to be related in this story?
√ [More personal] Do we think of ourselves as courageous?
√ As having faith? How do those qualities seem to be related in our own lives?
How do we feel about that? Why?
√ When Elijah meets Ahab, the two men accuse one another of being “the bringer-of-destruction” on Israel. Why?
√ [More theoretical, and also more personal]
We are probably meant to agree with the text, and Elijah, that Ahab is the bringer-of-destruction on Israel. √
Do we? Why, or why not?
√ What difference do our answers here make for us?
[That is, if we pay attention to how we think about this, do we notice any effects our thinking has on our practice?]
√ Why is this story in the Bible, do we think?
√ What can we learn from this story, do we think?
Why do we think that?
AND THE “MORE”
You. might want to read the previous post(s) on this passage. As you read the Bible study notes, ask yourself this question — What is being done that makes the read and written examination so interesting. There is a technique being employed in the “expository commentary,” which is fascinating. The technique is reproducible IF you go analytical and see and understand what is being done!
Just Three Examples:
- #1) “The national persistence in wrongdoing is underscored with the report of the rebuilding of the accursed Canaanite city of Jericho. From the perspective of our text, people do the wrong thing, suffer for it, and keep doing it anyway.”
- #2) “This is the context for the sudden appearance of Elijah the Tishbite (1 Kings 17). The prophet announces the drought, then hides – at YHWH’s command – first by the wadi Cherith, to be fed by ravens, and then at the home of the widow of Zarephath. The widow of Zarephath will benefit from the arrangement.”
- #3) “Obadiah responds with a long speech, verses 9-14. In which he repeats Elijah’s instructions twice, word for word, and mentions his chances of being killed four times.
In the above three examples of the commentary ( and throughout it), there is a characterization of the content. That is, there is not only a presentation of the content, but an appraisement, a portrayal, a characterization of the content. The characterization of the content is not found stated in the passage, but is are descriptive, summarization-sketches, and/or evaluative.
In one way, it is not expository since it is not found stated in the passage, but yet — it is expository. It is “feasible or defeasible.” In all cases, it could be argued, but yet it is probably agreed to as “accurate exposition.”
#1) Nowhere in the passage is it stated that there was “a national persistence in wrongdoing,” or that the pattern was “do wrong, suffer, and keep doing it.” Most would agree that such descriptions and/or sketches are “expositorily accurate,” but are not in any way found stated in the passage.
I could characterize that content a different way . . . .
i.e. — The pagan leaders of the day dragged God’s people down to the place where they not only become comfortable with the sinful practices of their leaders, but follow their leaders down a dark road. Who suffers? — primarily God’s people, far more than the leadership, but that suffering doesn’t cause them to question or revolt against their national leaders — They have become ignorantly convinced and comfortable.
That is a different take on the content, which focuses more on the leadership, far more than the people.
I could even sketch it in a way that I think would be inaccurate. . . .
i.e. — God’s people are forced to live within a pagan system that their leaders have constructed and, like many believers today, find themselves paralyzed by the fears which always accompany cultural changes — a “cancel cultural” movement. They were “the powerless populace” of their day.
That characterization, sketch, is defeasible — it could be argued!
#2) Notice the statement — “The widow of Zarephath will benefit from the arrangement.” Again, that is an interesting observation – or way to characterize what is happening — though not stated in the passage. I know some would say that is accurate, and I would agree. But it is not “purist exposition.”
Nevertheless, I could also say-expand . . .
Little does she know that her being at the well that day, at a time when Elijah appears, that she would be asked to give, and then, and then only would she be given — she would become the beneficiary of an arrangement. In fact, she didn’t even know that there would be an “arrangement” — that Elijah would stay around, no less benefit as well from her benefit — “she, he, and her house did eat many days.” She never dreamed of the day ending like this. Her day was seen as ending in the kitchen, over a small fire, as she baked her last cake. Her “dream” was of death, not life — no less abundance, no less taking care of a prophet of God.
I could even sketch it in a way that I think would be inaccurate (defeasible). . . .
This widow has lost all hope of anything changing — but maybe hoping that something will happen to prevent or avoid their fate they were facing. Looking for some smattering of hope, even in the most unthought or bizarre of way. When someone like Elijah asks her to do what seems bizarre, she goes with the flow — why not — not much to lose — so she slowly moves along that path to see where it might or will lead . . . .
#3) The passage does not say “long speech,” and it could even be argued whether it is a “long speech.” Many “speeches” in Scripture are much longer, and most “speeches” are probably not recorded in their fullness.
Nevertheless, as I read that statement, I thought — What a good way to characterize it! It is expositorily helpful. And then to observationally “numerate” — “twice” & “four times” — and also state — “word for word” — is really masterful!
While those observations are all accurate — the observations lead somewhere — they make a feasible argument.
The passage does not say that Obadiah was attempting to make it clear to Elijah that he was faithful — that he believed that Elijah would have had some questions about whether or not he was actually a faithful servant of Jehovah — because he was working in the Ahab’s palace. Obadiah is justifying his position in the palace — and even in his joint search for fodder with Ahab — by stating that he was facing death were he found out as to what he was actually doing to protect the prophets. Obadiah is not sure if Elijah knows that he is hiding and feeding God’s prophets. Therefore, Obadiah also includes this in his speech. Obadiah wanted to make sure that Elijah saw him as a faithful and devoted servant to the Lord.
Observationally pointing out Obadiah’s “twice and four times” — also supports the evaluative sketch. Twice repeating Elijah’s words — “go tell thy Lord — “word for word” gives the “expository right” to say that Obadiah was arguing his deep fears and reluctance, yet willingness as a faithful servant of Jehovah. However, Obadiah would rather not die over this — having Elijah not show up! After all, others are relying on Obadiah for their lives.
Again, I could easily sketch it in a way that I think would be inaccurate — defeasible — arguable.
Nevertheless, “sketches” or “characterizations” of the content are worth identifying and deconstructing in order to . . .
- “replicate” the legitimate expositorily process
- understand how we can and do develop sermonic content
- draw feasible biblical conclusions when dealing with “stories“ 
Biblical stories require doing exactly this. The biblical lessons are drawn out of the narrative!
The “story” content is leading somewhere, making a feasible argument!
- also, understand the “expositional danger.”