Lessons the Life of Saul (1 Sam 15)

Synopsis of the Sermon

There was a turning point in leadership literature after WWI which shifted the emphasis away from good character to personality traits as the foundation of success.  Dr. Tim Irwin wrote that over and over again what derails otherwise really successful people is a failure of character.

Pastor Rich Nathan began a series called Derailed last week. He began by saying – “the foundation for success in the Bible is the very slow, hard work of acquiring good character. By success I mean long-term success, finishing your life well”.

In looking at the derailed life of Saul, it’s clear that success is not built on gifting. Saul had all the seemingly good qualities from which leaders emerge – good family, tall, handsome, influential, and prophetic gifting (a sign of God’s favor). Initially, people might be attracted to gifting, but over time character becomes really important. People begin to ask “what kind of human being is this leader?”

In Samuel 15, Saul’s life unravels by a failure to wait on God (1 Sam 15:1-11). Making hasty decisions rarely results in great outcomes, and waiting on God requires trust. Saul was also derailed by disobedience to God (1 Sam 15:1). We don’t know what consequences might exist for our sin, but we do know we have a choice at obedience. Saul was also derailed by pride and self-aggrandizement (1 Sam 15:12). Parents play a role in shaping a worldview in children that they’re not the center of the universe. Finally Saul was derailed by phony repentance (1 Sam 15:22-27). Phony repentance is repentance that is only concerned about the consequences of being caught.

In 5 minutes or less, briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon.  What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling?  Explain.

Getting the Conversation Started

These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.

·      What are one or two things from this weekend’s sermon that really stood out to you?

·      Describe a hasty decision you made? What were the outcomes? What would you have done differently?

·      What is the point of waiting on God? What difference does it make in our lives?

Scripture Study

Study Goal: One of the greatest lessons we can learn, and qualities we can possess, is the ability and capacity to wait on God. Being patient for God’s timing and plans, while not making our own hasty and insufficient plans. In this study, we’ll look at the life of Sarai and Abram and the problems that arise from impatience, hastiness, and ultimately a lack of trust in God.

Context: In ancient Israel concubines were considered differently than polygamy (multiple wives). It was also though not contrary to law or customs in Ancient Israel to have multiple wives. Concubines came into the marriage as part of the dowry and though monogamy was mostly practiced because of the economic reasons, polygamy substituted when the wife was barren. Abraham had been promised at least 4x that he would have children and God was make him into a great nation (Gen 12:2-3, Gen 14:14-17, 15:1-5, 15:12-16). Now he was 86 years old, and on Sarai’s prompting, they devise a plan to take matters into their own hands, without seeking the Lord. This is what happens…

Read Gen 16:1-15

16 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”

“Your slave is in your hands, ” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

11 The angel of the Lord also said to her:

“You are now pregnant
and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
for the Lord has heard of your misery.
12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;
his hand will be against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
towardall his brothers. ”

13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me, ” for she said, “I have now seenthe One who sees me.” 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

·      What did Sarai suggest to Abram (2)? What would you have done?

·      Why does she make the suggestion (1) and whom does she blame (2)? Like Sarai, when have you grown impatient enough with God to take matters into your own hands? What was the result of such action(s)?

·      Currently, what desires (even God given ones) do you have that seem deferred?

·      How did Abram proceed (2-4)? Have you ever been the passive voice (or participant) in a decision to go against God? What were the circumstances, and how have you been affected?

·      Why did Hagar despise Sarai (4)[1]? What cultural pressures do you feel are at odds with your decision to follow Jesus? In what ways have you wrestled with living as Christian, in America, in Columbus, in your neighborhood, or in your family? What keeps you from compromising?

·      What did Sarai say to Abram (5)? How did Abram reply (6)? Why is it so easy to blame others for decisions we’ve made (or been apart of)? How does this quality relate to the message this week (on character and integrity)?

·      Why did Hagar run away (6)? Sarai has moved toward acting on her bitter anger – it’s easy to see her as a villain, but from where and from who can one gain perspective? How do you break bitterness, anger, and retribution?

·      Where did the angel find Hagar, and what did he ask her (7-8)? Summarize the angel’s command and encouragement to Hagar (9-12). What name did she assign to God (13)? Why (11, 13)?

·      Hagar is rarely held up as someone to emulate, but what about her character is remarkable? Read Philippians 2:2-4 – How do we grow in this quality? How does humility make us live God-dependent lives?

Ministry Application

Below you’ll see some options for ministry time with your group. We always encourage you to reserve time in your group to pray for one another and wait on the Holy Spirit.

·      What do you need from Jesus in order to embody the truth that your worth is not based on realizing any dreams or ambitions, no matter the perceived value? Ask Him for those things today. Also, be sure to ask the Lord for grace to trust in His timing and to impart a deeper awareness of His love and care for you.

·      Is there something you’re waiting on and your feel like you’re about to compromise, take matters into your own hands – pray with a few others for strength to resist your flesh and lies from the enemy.

  • Perhaps you see a pattern in your life—of blaming others for your mistakes or bad decisions. Maybe you need to confess a particular situation where you’re carrying bitterness and need to receive some prayer. Ask for forgiveness and empowerment to be free from anger.

[1] In ancient Israel, a woman’s honor and place in society came through marriage and parenthood. Sarai was lacking a child and couldn’t wait any longer.