Lighthouse Leader Study Guide
Date: February 26, 2017
Series: The kings & the King: A Study of 1 Samuel
1 Samuel 11-12
This Week’s Printable Resources:
Overview of this Lesson
This week we look at two complimentary aspects of God’s character–the fear of the Lord and mercy. Few of us understand the fear of the Lord, and even less can say they have truly experienced the fear of the Lord. Yet, this concept is referenced throughout the Old Testament and twice in the New Testament. Spurgeon notes this parallel well when he states,
“Let your hope always be in God’s mercy, whatever may be the result of your self-examination. These two things should always go together: “Lord, search me, and try me, and know my ways;” “yet, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee, and that my hope is fixed upon thee, and I do not doubt that thou art able to keep that which I have committed to thee.” There, you see, is the fear of the Lord, but there is also hope in his mercy; and these two streams run side by side in the life of the man in whom God takes pleasure.”
We cannot fully appreciate God’s mercy until we understand the fear of the Lord. Psalm 111:10 tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”
This week’s lesson will truly be a companion to the weekend message. The sermon will emphasize God’s mercy, and the Lighthouse lesson will emphasize an understanding of the fear of the Lord. May God use this week to help identify areas of strong, habitual sin in the lives of our people, and show them the path to freedom as we seek to understand the fear of the Lord and plead for His mercy each and every morning.
Memory Verse for This Week
And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. 21And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 22 For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself.” – 1 Samuel 12:20-22
This Week’s Core Virtue
Peace (Philippians 4:6-7): I am free from anxiety because things are right between God, myself and others.
|This Week’s Take Home Truth
“Even in the middle of sinfully disastrous consequences, no one is outside the reach of God’s mercy and grace.”
- When you were afraid as a little child, what was one thing that brought you comfort?
- How would you respond to someone who refers to the Lord as “the man upstairs” or some similar reference?
- Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?
Make sure you ask this question this week. It gives people the opportunity to discuss questions or issues that come up beyond the written questions. People’s responses can often lead into one of the questions in the “Digging Deeper” section. Also, some weeks this question will result in a lot of discussion, other weeks, not so much.
Read the Text (1 Samuel 11-12)
It’s morning in Israel as King Saul takes over as the new monarch. He is given the opportunity in 1 Samuel 11 to demonstrate his military prowess and leadership, quickly bringing Israel a decisive victory over a hated enemy. With his approval rating soaring and the people confident of Saul’s leadership, Samuel is ready to turn over the authority of political leadership to Saul. In a moving farewell address, Samuel takes the opportunity to remind Israel of their sinful state and call them to repentance. What we witness is the terror that falls on the people as they experience the fear of the Lord, but also the merciful presence of the Lord who is ready to forgive if they will turn from their sinful ways. Read 1 Samuel 11-12.
In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions. Remember, if you are hearing from everyone in your group, chances are you won’t have to time to discuss every question. You may start with one that catches your attention so you don’t run out of time. For example, it’s not odd to start with Question #6, then go to Question #5 and if you have time come back to Question #4.
- What happens in 1 Samuel 12 that causes Israel to fear the Lord? Why would this event terrorize the people?
The event itself that brings great fear upon the people is described in 1 Samuel 12:18, in which the Lord sent a thunderstorm. A strong thunderstorm by itself can be frightening, but this was no ordinary thunderstorm. The narrator is sure to point out that the storm hit during the wheat harvest, which is May-June in Israel. This is the start of the dry season. It would be unusual for a storm of this nature to hit during this time of year.
But what brought true terror upon the people was the obvious presence of the Lord and the fear this created in the people. In v. 19 it is clear that the people so feared the Lord that they pleaded with Samuel to begin praying for them lest they die!
- How would you describe the fear of the Lord?
Few Christians today really understand or appreciate the fear of the Lord. We can use all kinds of descriptions to help us understand God—awe for His character, His holiness, His eternality, His sovereignty over the affairs of mankind—but these words get lost in the smallness of our mind.
The truth is, the mind of man is limited in its scope and understanding. By our very nature, man makes God smaller in our mind’s eye and we allow ourselves to get larger and larger. Bottom line, when things are going well, we don’t see a need for God. That is how mankind thinks.
Yet, from time-to-time, God interrupts our normal, routine life with the pure power and enormousness of His reality. We are awestruck by the power of God.
To see the world and to see ourselves through God’s eyes is to begin to understand and fear the Lord.
Proverbs 2:1-5 tells us,
My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
2 making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3 yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
4 if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
When we search God’s Word and let His Spirit focus our human eyes to see things as God sees them, we will begin to know and understand the fear of the Lord.
- How does the fear of the Lord cause us to hate?
Hate is not a word we often associate with God. In our mind’s eye, to hate something implies evil and bias. Yet the Bible clearly tells us that an effect of understanding the fear of the Lord is to learn to hate. But what are we to hate?
Proverbs 8:13 tells us, “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way; And the perverse mouth I hate.”
When we learn to see evil as the Lord sees evil, we will learn to hate evil. Evil is rooted in pride and arrogance. Show me a man who has learned to be comfortable in the presence of evil, to tolerate sin in his life, and I will show you a man who does not understand the fear of the Lord.
Proverbs 16:6 says, “By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.
In short, the fear of the Lord is both a positive and negative influence in our life: understanding the fear of the Lord teaches us to love wisdom and to love the things God loves, and it also teaches us to hate evil and to hate the things God hates.
- As we seek to understand the fear of the Lord, what should we pray is the outcome of our quest?
As we turn back to our text this week, we see what God desires for His people—obedience.
As the people tremble in the midst of the storm, Samuel tells them,
“Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. …
24 Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. 25 But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.”
–1 Samuel 12:20-21; 24-25
The Lord seeks obedience and faithfulness from His people. Verse 24 rings with Micah 6:8, which states,
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
When we see disobedience among the people of God, we know they have no fear of the God. They walk in arrogance and stubbornness.
Yet, when the storms of life it us hard, we tremble in the fear of the Lord.
- How do I discover the fear of the Lord if I have never understood it before?
Like all things in life concerning our Lord, we can only learn about Him through His word and through daily communion with Him.
The psalmist writes,
11 Teach me Your way, O LORD;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
12 I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.
13 For great is Your mercy toward me,
And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
14 O God, the proud have risen against me,
And a mob of violent men have sought my life,
And have not set You before them.
15 But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious,
Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.
16 Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me!
Give Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your maidservant.
17 Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.
- What is the fruit of understanding and knowing the fear of the Lord?
As we have seen, it is impossible for a child of God to know and understand the fear of the Lord and at the same time walk in willful disobedience. The fear of the Lord is the antidote to disobedience.
Do you struggle with habitual sin in your life? Pray and ask the Lord to show and teach you the fear of the Lord. When you are in the midst of the storm, don’t run, but pray! Ask the Lord,
Father, teach me the fear of the Lord. I surrender my own clever ideas that I would add to Your wisdom. Help me to love what You love—wisdom. Help me to hate what You hate—evil. Take away my tolerance of evil that I might be a reformer, that I might be sent “into” the world and not merely take up space “in” the world. Amen.
These questions are given to prompt both reflection and learning on a personal level, and should likely be completed individually and apart from your regular group time.
- Looking back at this week’s teaching and study, what’s the most important thing to remember?
- Is there an area of your life you would consider habitual sin? How would the fear of the Lord and God’s abundant mercy help you gain victory over this stronghold of sin? Take some time and prayerfully confess your sin to the Lord and ask Him to mercifully grant you victory.
The Terror of the Lord
By A.W. Tozer
A truth fully taught in the Scriptures and verified in personal experience by countless numbers of holy men and women through the centuries might be condensed thus into a religious axiom: No one can know the true grace of God who has not first known the fear of God.
The first announcement of God’s redemptive intention toward mankind was made to a man and a woman hiding in mortal fear from the presence of the Lord. The Law of God was given to a man trembling in terror amid fire and smoke, and quaking at the voice of thunder and the sound of the divine trumpet. When Zacharias’ tongue was loosened by the mysterious operation of God, “fear came on all that dwelt round about” (Luke 1:65). Even the famous annunciation, “on earth peace, good will toward men” (2:14), was given to shepherds who were “sore afraid” (2:9) by reason of the sudden overwhelming presence of the heavenly host (see Luke 2:9–14).
We have but to read the Scriptures with our eyes open and we can see this truth running like a strong cable from Genesis to Revelation. The presence of the divine always brought fear to the hearts of sinful men. Always there was about any manifestation of God something that dismayed the onlookers, that daunted and overawed them, that struck them with a terror more than natural. This terror had no relation to mere fear of bodily harm. It was a dread consternation experienced far in toward the center and core of the nature, much farther in than that fear experienced as a normal result of the instinct for physical self-preservation.
I do not believe that any lasting good can come from religious activities that do not root in this quality of creature-fear. The animal in us is very strong and altogether self-confident. Until it has been defeated God will not show Himself to the eyes of our faith. Until we have been gripped by that nameless terror which results when an unholy creature is suddenly confronted by that One who is the holiest of all, we are not likely to be much affected by the doctrine of love and grace as it is declared by the New Testament evangel. The love of God affects a carnal heart not at all; or if at all, then adversely, for the knowledge that God loves us may simply confirm us in our self-righteousness.
The effort of liberal and borderline modernists to woo men to God by presenting the soft side of religion is an unqualified evil because it ignores the very reason for our alienation from God in the first place. Until a man has gotten into trouble with his heart he is not likely to get out of trouble with God. Cain and Abel are two solemn examples of this truth. Cain brought a present to One whom he assumed to be pleased with him. Abel brought a sacrifice to One whom he knew could not accept him as he was. His trembling heart told him to find a place to hide. Cain’s heart did not tremble. Cain was well satisfied with himself, so he sought no hiding place. The fear of God would have served Cain well in that critical moment, for it would have changed the whole character of his offering and altered the entire course of his life for the better.
As indispensable as is the terror of the Lord, we must always keep in mind that it cannot be induced by threats made in the name of the Lord. Hell and judgment are realities, and they must be preached in their biblical context as fully as the Bible teaches them, no more and no less; but they cannot induce that mysterious thing we call the fear of the Lord. Such fear is a supernatural thing, having no relation to threats of punishment. It has about it a mysterious quality, often without much intellectual content; it is a feeling rather than an idea; it is the deep reaction of a fallen creature in the presence of the holy Being the stunned heart knows is God. The Holy Spirit alone can induce this emotion in the human breast. All effort on our part to superinduce it is wasted, or worse.
Because the fear of God is a supernatural thing it can never be raised by repeated warnings about war or communism or depressions. The current trick of frightening people into accepting Christ by threatening them with atom bombs and guided missiles is not scriptural, neither is it effective. By shooting off firecrackers in the face of a flock of goats you could conceivably succeed in herding them into a sheepfold; but all the natural fear in the world cannot make a sheep out of a goat. And neither can fear of a Russian invasion turn impenitent men into lovers of God and righteousness. It just does not work that way.
Whence then does true fear of God arise? From the knowledge of our own sinfulness and a sense of the presence of God. Isaiah had an acute experience both of his personal uncleanness and of the awesome presence of Jehovah: the two were more than he could stand. On his face he cried out a confession of his own sinfulness, made all the more intolerable because his eyes had seen the King, even the Lord of Hosts.
A congregation will feel this mysterious terror of God when the minister and the leaders of the church are filled with the Spirit. When Moses came down from the mount with his face shining, the children of Israel were afraid with a fear born out of that supernatural sight. Moses did not need to threaten them. He had only to appear before them with that light on his face.
A.W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous. (Camp Hill, PA.: WingSpread, 1986), 39–42.