grace

Feared - 1 Samuel 12:12-22

1.      What is it that strikes the greatest fear in you? Or of what are you most afraid? (For me it has to be snakes!)

There are almost countless phobias. I saw a list of 200 this week, everything from fear of the navel to fear of heaven to fear of beards.

Some fears are healthy while some are destructive. In the Old Testament we find many passages talking about the fear of God.

2.      What does it mean to fear God in the Biblical sense? (The Holman Bible Dictionary has the following on the subject: “The fear of God is not to be understood as the dread that comes out of fear of punishment, but as the reverential regard and the awe that comes out of recognition and submission to the divine. It is the revelation of God’s will to which the believer submits in obedience.” “Fear protected Israel from taking God for granted or from presuming on His grace. Fear called to covenant obedience.”   This fear of God will accomplish the same in the life of a believer!)

 

Every time we read about someone in Scripture who has an encounter with God they are filled with this reverential fear and awe that spawns confession, repentance and obedience!

In today’s study, we’ll discuss God’s character and the place fear has in our relationship with Him.

 

Since last week’s study, Saul has been anointed king; he has been received by the people as king, delivered Jabesh-Gilead from the hands of the Ammonites, and finally Saul’s confirmation as king. Today’s Scripture text is part of Samuel’s final public speech, and his longest recorded speech.

The Covenant Revisited! Read 1 Samuel 12:12-15

 

1.      What caused the people to demand a king? (They were under attack by the Ammonites and they thought they needed a king to lead them into battle. In 1 Sam. 8:19-20 the people state that they want a king so they will be like the other nations surrounding them.)

The ultimate end here is evident! When we apply this principle to our lives we realize that when we want to become like the world around us we forsake God for our own selfish desires. We drift further away from God and His will for our lives.

2.      In whom were the Israelites placing their trust? (Their earthly king not God their ultimate King. They had rejected God as their King.)

3.      What three directives do we find in these four verses? (“Fear the Lord, worship the Lord and obey the Lord.”)

4.      How does obeying these directives show trust in God?

5.      What would happen if they did not follow these three directives? (God’s judgment would fall upon them.)

6.      How would having a king change the relationship between God and His people?

7.      How would it be different?

8.      How would it be the same?

9.      How do you see God at work in your life despite the times when you have failed to follow Him?

It is important for us to remember the fact that even though our circumstances may be different from that of other Christians in other places, the core of our identity and of what God expects of us remains the same!

 

Note: The last phrase in verse 15 is difficult to interpret. However, the Leader’s Guide states the following concerning this phrase: “The old Greek version says, “and against your king,” and in this case the old Greek could be correct. Samuel makes the same point in verse 25. If the Israelites failed to keep the Sinai Covenant, having a king would make no difference. Both king and people would be destroyed for their sin.”

 

A Sign Delivered! Read 1 Samuel 12:16-18

 

1.      How did God demonstrate His power before the people? (God sent a thunderstorm.)

2.      Why would a thunderstorm at this time be considered an act of God? (This was the dry season in Israel. It was very rare to have rain during harvest time. Also the fact that Samuel prayed to God and it happened just as Samuel said is another indication that it is an act of God and not a happenstance.)

Because of the thunderstorm, the people realized they had offended God, and they “greatly feared” Him. This fear produced both reverence and unease in the people.

3.      Is fear of God a positive or negative thing? (Fear of God can involve many things—terror, honor, submission, dread, astonishment, and awe. People who are enemies of God might feel terror in their fear because of His unlimited knowledge and power, for God is consistent in His judgement based on His righteous character. For believers, the same “fear” is used to describe the proper attitude toward God. But this carries the ideas of respect, reverence, or awe. Christ has satisfied God’s wrath once and for all, so we do not fear condemnation, but we are still accountable to a holy God.)

4.      What does the “fear of the Lord” look like on a daily basis in the life of a Christina?

 

God’s Mercy and Grace! Read 1 Samuel 12:19-22

 

It isn’t necessarily a sin to have a king but when we trust the king rather than God to deliver us we have sinned.

1.      Samuel warned the people to turn away from “worthless things that can’t profit or deliver you” (v. 21). What “worthless things” do people follow after today, hoping that these things can deliver them? (Anything that receives higher priority than God in our lives becomes a “worthless thing”. Our possessions, our jobs, our education, our skills—these may enrich our lives, but they can never deliver us.)

In turning from worthless things, Samuel called on the people to follow and worship God. In the end, only our relationship with God remains. We should invest wisely in that relationship.

2.      How can we avoid succumbing to the fear of the unknown?

3.      What did the people beg Samuel to do?

4.      What words of hope did Samuel offer the people? (Even though the Israelites had sinned in asking for a king, they could still choose to follow God and to worship Him. Samuel promised the people God would not abandon them.)

God is unchanged, still full of mercy and grace today. We can count on His faithfulness to His promises.

 

5.      How would you describe the balance between God’s judgment and His grace?

6.      When can God’s judgment and His grace complement each other?

7.      When do we see both working simultaneously?

8.      What hope do you find for yourself in verse 22? (God will not abandon you. He will work on you until the day He calls you home so that you can be the person of God He designed you to be. It may be painful at times but it is all for our good and His glory!)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Samuel called the Israelite people to have a healthy, reverential fear of God. He encouraged them to avoid being scared or having an unhealthy fear of God. Samuel reassured the Israelites that, despite their sins, God would graciously continue to lead His people if they would obey Him. The same is true for us; God is ever-faithful and deserves our reverent fear.

 

Identify the sins that come between you and God. Spend time in prayer, asking God to forgive you and empower you to live a god-honoring life.
If you have never placed your trust in Jesus, review the information on the inside front cover of you guide, or talk to the pastor or some other leader.

We honor God and show our gratitude in the way we live. Hebrews 13:15 reminds us that our lives should be “a sacrifice of praise to Him.

Father, may we approach worship this week with fresh eyes—with an attitude of respect, reverence, and awe!

 

Converted - Acts 9:1-25

1.      How would you define the word “convert”? (Cause to change in form, character or function.”)

2.      What is the difference between “reform” and “transform”? (Reform—Make changes in something or someone in order to improve it. Transform—make a through or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of.)

When we come to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior our lives are transformed, our old nature dies and our new nature is a transformed nature to be like Jesus. Everything is changed! We aren’t simply reforming our old nature; we have a new nature brought about by the indwelling Holy Spirit!

3.      Who would you be most surprised to see accept Jesus as Lord?

In today’s Scripture passage we see Saul’s personal conversion from perhaps the most zealous opponent of Christianity to the most passionate follower of Jesus in the early church. The Christian community was shocked and a little leery of him, and for good reason.

4.      What other dramatic conversions can you recall from Scripture? (Matthew, Zacchaeus, the woman at the well, blind Bartimaeus.)

The Confrontation! Read Acts 9:1-6

 

Note that Saul recognized the power of what was happening, but he was unsure about with whom he was speaking.

Damascus lays claim to being the oldest continuously occupied city in the world. Christians evidently had fled there when the persecution began in Jerusalem, just as they had to Samaria.

 

1.      How did Jesus literally stop Saul in his tracks? (Saul saw a brilliant light in the middle of the day, a light brighter than the sun. Acts 26:13 Paul testifies before Agrippa.)

2.      How did Saul respond? (With reverence and respect.)

3.      Twice Jesus indicated Saul was persecuting Him. Do you think this shocked Saul?

4.      What does Jesus telling Saul that He was the One he was persecuting indicate about Jesus’ relationship with His followers? (This shows the close personal connection Jesus has with His bride, the church. He takes any persecution as a personal attack against Himself. How do you feel when your children or grandchildren are hurting?)

5.      How would you characterize the confrontation between Jesus and Saul?

6.      Why do you think Jesus chose such a dramatic way to confront Saul? (Notice we don’t find any two encounters with Jesus being the same. He speaks to each of us individually and personally. Jesus knows exactly what we need individually.)

Reflect on your personal encounter with Jesus. Some people may feel that they have to be in a place like Saul, far away from God, before they truly “understand” grace. This can lessen the influence of those who have experienced a godly home built upon biblical principles. Any salvation experience is a testimony of the power of God; all lost people, regardless of circumstance, are in need of salvation. (Maddox Perkins, for example. It takes the same amount of grace for him as it did for Saul.)

 

The Companions! Read Acts 9:7-9

 

1.      Why do you think Jesus appeared to Saul when he was traveling with companions, rather than when he was alone? (Saul’s companions, aware of a sound but not of what was said, led him to Damascus since he was unable to see. It appears the audible voice was intended for Saul alone. Saul’s companions were eyewitnesses to an encounter of some type. The fact that they shared the experience helped to authenticate it historically.)

2.      How was Saul changed by his encounter with God? (There was a certain amount of humility now that didn’t exist before. He had to rely on others to get him to Damascus. In an instant, Saul had changed from a powerful man on his way to arrest others, to a helpless individual who had to be led by his companions.)

 

3.      How do you think his companions might have responded to the change?

Before meeting Jesus, Saul was spiritually blind but physically sighted. Now he was physically blind but spiritually sighted!

 

Read Acts 9:10-14

 

The Commission! Read Acts 9:15-20

 

1.      Do you think you might have been hesitant like Ananias?

2.      Jesus called Saul His “chosen instrument”, what does it mean to be chosen by God as His instrument? (God chose Saul to carry the gospel to gentiles, kings, and Israelites. His commissioning message included suffering. God uses all kinds of people in His kingdom work and does so in different ways. Notice how He used Saul’s traveling companions, Ananias and Saul, himself.)

3.      Is there anyone you know whom you would call a “chosen instrument” for God? (All Christians are God’s “chosen instruments”. Each of us has a specific Spiritual Gift and a mission to complete. Your calling is no less significant than that of Saul’s. His may be more visible to the world but as he was obedient so we are to be obedient to God’s call in our lives.)

4.      Saul’s conversion experience is recounted twice more in the book of Acts. If Saul were to share his testimony with our class, what points do you think he would include?

Not all testimonies are as dramatic as Saul’s, but a dramatic change occurs any time Jesus moves in a life!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Could Saul still have chosen to stubbornly reject Jesus? (Yes! But God knew Saul’s heart and, I believe Saul was doing what he thought was God’s will as he persecuted Christians. When he realized Jesus was God’s Son and had died for the sins of the world Saul had no problem being totally committed to follow Jesus from then on.)

2.      Saul and his traveling companions experienced an unforgettable road trip on the way to Damascus. How can you make sure you’re being God’s messenger as you travel the road of life? (If you’ve accepted Christ as your personal Savior, the next step is to share Jesus with others. All believers can share Jesus with others based on their personal experiences with Him. All testimonies are based on personal experience and all are valid. Think about how your life was before Christ, how you came to Christ, and how you’re continuing to serve Him.)

 

We simply need to proclaim the truth of Acts 4:12—“There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people and we must be saved by it.”

 

3.      How is your conversion different from Saul’s conversion?

4.      In what ways was your conversion similar to Saul’s?

 

We are all saved by grace through faith!

 

Pray for someone with whom you can share your own personal testimony this week!