1. When you are looking for someone to hire to do a particular job what qualities do you look for in that person? (A person who will do the job exactly as I want it done. They may have their own idea of how to do it but I have reasons for doing it the way I want it done.)
2. When God seeks someone to fulfill a task or role, what qualities does He desire? (Willingness to work, integrity, teachable, humility, faithfulness, obedience.)
3. The Israelites asked for a king. Did they get what they asked for? (Yes! King Saul led them into military battles and won many victories over their enemies. Read 1 Sam. 14:47-48.)
4. When someone mentions King Saul’s name what are the first thoughts that come to your mind, successful warrior king or utter failure?
Saul’s son, Jonathan was a great hero of Israel. In a remarkable Israelite victory over the Philistines near Michmash, Jonathan proved to be a great warrior, almost singlehandedly striking panic into the hearts of the Philistines. His complete confidence was in the Lord, evidenced by his bold declaration: “Nothing can keep the Lord from saving whether by many or by few.” (1 Sam. 14:6) Would that Saul had that faith and character.
God entrusted Saul with leading the Israelite people. However, just as Saul ascended quickly to the throne, he also descended quickly because of his disobedient actions.
The Amalekites had been the proverbial “thorn in the side” of Israel ever since they came out of Egypt. They now threatened to divide the western half of Israel right in the middle so that the north and south would find it difficult banding together in battle against the Amalekites.
Read 1 Samuel 15:1-6 to set the situation.
Note: Some might question why everything—men, women, children, animals—had to be destroyed. The Amalekites, nomadic tribesmen and descendants of Esau, had been enemies of Israel since the time of the exodus from Egypt. They had continued to wage war with the people of Israel using barbaric methods. God had been patient with the Amalekites for a long time while they continued to reject Him. Their promised punishment had finally come due. Any of them left would be like a person keeping back a little sin in their lives; it would always be a hindrance to moving forward with God.
Saul’s Disobedience! Read 1 Samuel 15:7-9
1. What compromises did Saul make?
2. Keeping the best animals after the battle was won seems like a smart idea, so why was it wrong? (God had commanded Saul to destroy everything and everyone! Saul thought he knew what was best, not God.)
3. What makes settling for partial obedience so tempting?
4. In what ways could a believer keep the “best” back for themselves in his or her obedience to God? (Tithes, time, total effort in a task, etc.)
5. Is partial obedience really obedience? Why? Or Why not? (Some might argue a little obedience is better than no obedience at all. For the Israelites, destroying “all the worthless and unwanted things” required no great sacrifice on their part. Saul decided that they could pick and choose what they wanted to obey.)
Partial obedience is disobedience!
Samuel’s Confrontation! Read 1 Samuel 15:10-11
1. What do we learn about Samuel from these verses? (Samuel’s heart was broken by Saul’s disobedience. He laid his burden before the Lord all night, perhaps because he knew what he would have to do in the morning.)
2. When has your heart been broken because of another’s disobedience? What did you do?
Read 1 Samuel 15:12-15
3. What do you find astonishing here about Saul’s actions? (See 1 Sam. 10:21-22. What had happened to Saul?)
4. When Saul said he had followed God commands, what was Samuel’s response?
5. How did Saul attempt to justify his disobedience? (He tried to blame it on the troops first. Then he tried to justify his disobedience by saying he kept the best animals to sacrifice them to God.)
6. In what ways do we try to justify our disobedience? (Sometimes our disobedience is simply an unplanned wandering down a slippery slope away from God. Other times it is a deliberate choice toward disobedience. Both are wrong.)
7. What makes confronting someone about his or her disobedience a challenge?
8. What risks are involved when confronting someone?
9. What risks are involved when we don’t confront someone?
10. When we see a fellow believer choosing disobedience, how can we approach that person redemptively, showing them grace? (God did not appoint us a judge or critic over each other. We should be models of God’s grace in approaching someone living in disobedience. That person must know, beyond question, that we love them unconditionally, that we have their best interest at heart and desire only God’s best for them!)
1 John 1:9 was written to believers! God’s desire is that everyone repent and turn to Him in obedience—that should be our goal in all our conversations and actions.
Read 1 Samuel 15:16-21
God’s Rejection! Read 1 Samuel 15:22-23
Greed is a terrible taskmaster!
1. How does accepting partial obedience or religious practice as a substitute for full obedience show disrespect for God? (We either ignore what God says or we simply think we know best and either is deadly spiritually.)
2. The original language of verse 22 could be translated “obedience surpasses sacrifice”. Why does God want our obedience more than our sacrifices? (The greatest evidence of our obedience to God is a life lived by His commands. Your tithe on Sunday doesn’t cover your disobedience Monday through Saturday!)
3. What is the connection between disobedience and idolatry?
4. What was the result of Saul’s disobedience? (God had rejected Saul as king.)
5. How does our disobedience contribute to our being set aside by God? (We did nothing to earn our salvation, and we cannot lose it. Yet our disobedience can result in our being removed from useful service to God. We discard our usefulness through our disobedience.)
People who struggle with repeated, ongoing disobedience against God and His people should evaluate whether they ever really made a true commitment to God in the first place. Read 1 John 3:9 and 5:18. The best translation is those who continue a life of sin. We all sin but those who belong to God will turn in repentance when we do sin and claim 1 John 1:9, which, by the way is written to believers.
Summarize and Challenge!
First Samuel 15:22-23 essentially summarizes chapter 15. God expects our obedience rather than our partially obeying and offering sacrifices as a substitute.
1. How do we know what God wants us to do? (Study His Word.)
2. What are some ways we can choose to fully obey God?
3. Review your life, looking for areas of partial obedience. What actions do you need to take to complete your obedience to God?
4. How can we encourage each other toward complete obedience to God in every area of life? (Sometimes we are more inclined to criticism than encouragement in our relationships. Let’s be each other’s best cheerleaders—praying, encouraging, and lifting each other up so we are all stronger in pursuing total obedience to God.)
Personal Challenge: Evaluate your words, thoughts, and actions this week. Ask yourself if God is getting your best. Make total obedience to Him your goal in every situation!