Seek Godís Guidance

Explore the Bible Series

September 28, 2008

 

Background Passage: I Samuel 8:1-12:25

Lesson Passage: I Samuel 8:4-6; 10:20-24; 12:13-15, 20-23

 

Introduction: This is a lengthy and weighty Sunday school Lesson.Our passage introduces us to the Benjamite Saul, and it traces his rise to the throne of Israel.I find Saul a puzzling character.At first, it seems that Saul will make an outstanding monarch. The early portion of his story indicates that he did not seek a position of honor or power.Furthermore, he seemed to evidence a genuine humility as Samuel revealed Godís plan, and, while Saul was somewhat reluctant to assert his royal prerogative, he did rise to the defense of Jabesh-gilead. Soon after Samuel anointed Saul, the new king received an unusual outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and he spoke as a prophet.Indeed, the text reveals that God transformed this manís heart, a transformation that made Saul a new man. Sadly, the passage of time revealed another side to this important leader.

 

In time, Saul underwent a strange, tragic transformation.He became proud, willful, and insensitive.Envy and jealousy consumed him, and he became a murderous, vengeful shell of the man who ascended the throne of Israel.He desecrated the Lordís worship, murdered priests, and plotted Davidís assassination. Eventually, a spirit of evil overtook this once promising national leader, and he died at his own hand in a battle with the Philistines. His enemies mutilated his body and placed his armor in the temple of one of their pagan gods.It seems legitimate for Christians to reflect of the theological significance of Saulís life.

 

Generally, I believe the Bible teaches that believers cannot truly fall away from the transforming grace of God.However, we must balance this important doctrine with the Bible sober warnings about the danger of apostasy.These warnings mean something!Whatever conclusions we may draw from Saulís experience, this much seems clear.Great privilege and gifts do not necessarily reveal a regenerate heart.Moreover, a good record, in oneís youth, does not necessarily predict faithfulness in old age.Good company, like the faithful counsel of Samuel, does not ensure perseverance in faith.In the end, Saul did not continue in the faith the obedience of the Lord, and he came to a shameful end, one of the saddest stories in the Bible.

 

Contrast Saul with faithful Samuel.Throughout his life, Samuel sought the Lord, and he continually followed Godís guidance.When others failed around him, Samuel remained steadfast. When the Lordís word made Samuel unpopular with the crowds, this devoted man stood his ground.May the Lord help all of us to maintain our faithfulness and obedience to Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson Outline:

 

 

I.                   Israelís Demand for a King (8:1-22)

A.    The moral failure of Samuelís sons (vv. 1-3): Several years must have passed between the victory at Ebenezer and the choice of Saul to govern Israel.As the prophet grew older, he apparently delegated some of his work to Joel and Abijah.These greedy, unjust sons did not walk in their fatherís footsteps, and their wickedness persuaded Israelís elders that the nation needed a king.

B.     Samuelís reluctance to chose a king (vv. 4-18)

1.      the eldersí plea (vv. 4-5):The request of the elders betrayed their motive for desiring a king; that is, they wanted to assimilate with the pagan inhabitants of Canaan, just as many had compromised with the idolatry of the land.

2.      Samuelís prayer (vv. 6-9): The prophetís first impulse was to take this problem to the Lord in prayer.Apparently, Samuel felt that the people had rejected him, but the Lord assured the old man that Israel had not abandoned Samuel; she had rejected God as her king.Furthermore, the Lord pointed out that Israel had followed this path of rejection for many years, since the time of the Exodus. The nationís rejection of Samuel mirrored their refusal to follow the counsel of the Lord.

3.      Samuelís warning to Israel (vv. 10-18): According to Godís direction, Samuel cautioned the people about the dangers of appointing a king.In time, the monarchs would abuse their power and take advantage of the people.The kings would demand the growth of a military complex, confiscate the resources of the land, require high taxes, and dominate the lives of the choice people.Finally, the tyranny would grow so great that the subjects would cry to God for relief from the oppression; however, when they prayed, the Lord would not listen.

C.     Godís answer to Israelís request (vv. 19-22): The people refused to listen to Samuelís counsel, and the Lord told the prophet to obey the voice of the nation.

 

II.                The Selection of Saul to Rule Israel (9:1-10:16)

A.    The background of Saul (9:1-2): The future king came from an impressive, wealthy family of the Tribe of Benjamin.The tribal land was located on the west side of the Jordan River, between Ephraim and Judah.Though it had the smallest land allotment, the Benjamites enjoyed a reputation as fierce warriors.The Bible describes Saul as a tall, strikingly handsome man.

B.     Saulís meeting with Samuel (9: 3-27): On the human side, this meeting seems like an unusual coincidence.Kish, Saulís father, had lost some donkeys, and he sent his son to find the wayward livestock.Saul and a servant traveled through much of the land of Benjamin and finally arrived in Zuph (location uncertain).The two travelers heard about a great prophet, and they reasoned that perhaps this man could help them locate the donkeys and assist the men on their return journey.As they entered a city of Zuph the men encountered several women, and Saul received directions to Samuel as the women drew water.As Saul approached the prophet, God told Samuel that this was the man who would become king of Israel.Samuel showed great kindness to Saul, providing a sumptuous meal and a safe place to lodge for the night. On the next day, Samuel revealed to Saul Godís plan to make the Benjamite king of Israel.

C.     Saul anointed king (10:1-13): Samuel anointed Saul with oil, and told the new king of a series of signs that would confirm his monarchy.

1.      Assurance about the safety of Kishís livestock (v. 2): Two men would meet Saul near Rachelís tomb, near Zelzah, and the men would affirm the safety of the donkeys.

2.      Meeting with three men of Tabor (vv. 3-4):Three travelers would meet Saul, and the men would give the new king bread.

3.      Meeting with the prophets of Gibeath-elohim (vv. 5-13): Finally, Samuel told Saul to go to Gibeath-elohim, where a group of prophets would greet Saul and his servant.The Spirit of the Lord would come upon Saul, and he would prophecy with the seers of the Lord.

D.    Saulís return to his fatherís household (10:14-16): Upon his return to Kish, Saulís uncle inquired about the young manís journey.Saul recalled the story of seeking the donkeys, but he did not tell his uncle about the remarkable events of the previous few days.

 

III.             The Early Days of Saulís Reign (10:1-11:15)

A.    Proclamation of Saulís kingship (10:17-26): Samuel assembled Israel at Mizpah and scolded the people, once again for their short-sighted desire for a king.Nonetheless, the prophet cast lots over the various tribes publicly to identify Saul as the new monarch.Saul, perhaps driven by genuine humility, hid among the baggage as Samuel presented the reluctant monarch to the people.After proclaiming Saul as king, Samuel composed a book to impress upon the people their responsibility to King Saul.Most of the people followed Saulís leadership, including many valiant men of war; however, a group of rebellious men refused to honor the king.

B.     The Saulís defeat of the Ammonites (11:1-15): Saul returned to his duties as the son of Kish, but soon duty would press him into action.The Ammonites, long-time enemies of Israel, threatened the people of Jabesh-Gilead, in the tribe of Gad.Jabesh wanted the fertile region of Gilead, and they wanted to disgrace the Jews by gouging out their right eyes. Saul, upon receiving news of the aggression of Jabesh, raised an army and, by Godís strength, defeated the Ammonites.After the decisive battle, Israel assembled at Gilgal, and, again, Samuel reaffirmed the monarchy of Saul.

 

IV.             Samuelís Final Address (12:1-25)

A.    Samuelís innocence as the prophet of the Lord (vv. 1-5): Samuel, aware of the spiritual failures of recent leaders of Israel (Hophni, Phinehas, Joel, and Abijah), reaffirmed his innocence as a servant of God.He had avoided the greed, fraud, and injustice and oppression of others.

B.     Samuelís final censure of Israel (vv. 6-25):After establishing his innocence, Samuel recounted the long history of Israelís disobedience to God, dating back to the Exodus.He scolded their people because of their insistence on a king, and the Lord sent a thunderstorm to strike fear in the hearts of Israel.The storm startled the crowd, and they repented of their sin.Furthermore, they asked Samuel to intercede for them to still the Lordís wrath.Samuel pledged to continue to pray and instruct the people in the way of the Lord.