Lighthouse Leader Study Guide
Date: February 12, 2017
Series: The kings & the King: A Study of 1 Samuel
1 Samuel 8:1-22
This Week’s Printable Resources:
- Lighthouse Discussion Guide (pdf)
- Lighthouse Leader Study Guide (pdf)
- How to Determine God’s Will (pdf)
Overview of this Lesson
This week we look at the contrast between Israel in revival, turning to God in 1 Samuel 7, and Israel in rejection, turning from God. The initial application of this week’s lesson is fairly easy to identify, but there is also an underlying reality that is much more difficult to grapple with as the people of God.
One the one hand, it was God’s will that Israel have a king and be led by a man of his choosing; on the other hand, Israel sinned by asking for a king. How can this be? As we will see, it scratches at the deeply held motivations of man vs the inscrutable, sovereign will of God.
If you are like me, I come away from reading a passage of Scripture like 1 Samuel 8 wishing I could better understand the will of God. How can we know the will of God? How can we pray the will of God? How can we be so certain God is leading us only to discover later that God is leading us into disaster, not success? Why?
The truth is, we will never know all the answers on this side of Heaven’s door. Even if we did know all the answers, we would never understand all the reasons God moves in the way He moves.
As we study this week’s lesson, we will see a people who are in a way fulfilling God’s will written centuries earlier by going against God’s will. We will focus on what the Lord focuses on when he speaks to Samuel in Chapter 8–the motivations of man. We will see that even though Israel was not wrong in asking for a king, the Lord knew their inner motivation, and this was indeed sinful.
How can we avoid making a similar mistake in our life? How can we live with complete trust and faith in God and not look for solutions to our problems that make sense to us and our neighbors, but in truth reveal a heart of sin?
Memory Verse for This Week
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” – 1 Samuel 8:4-5
This Week’s Core Practice
Worship (Psalm 95:1-7): I worship God for who He is and what He has done for me.
|This Week’s Take Home Truth
“Resisting God’s authority and running after the world’s acceptance will eventually lead to a dangerous dead-end, namely, the full effect of your sin. The better road? Submission to God and satisfaction in God.”
- When you struggle with a decision in life, where or to whom do you turn for guidance and direction?
- What would cause you to reject the advice of someone else when it comes to a major decision you must make?
- 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 8:1-22)
Following a time of genuine revival, Israel again turns away from the Lord. In 1 Samuel 8, Israel rejects the Lord as their King and instead demands that God place a man over them to be their king. Their motives are suspect, as they note in their request that one of the reasons they desire a king is to be “like all the other nations.” Read 1 Samuel 8:1-22.
1 Samuel 8 (ESV)
Israel Demands a King
1 When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. 3 Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 9 Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
Samuel’s Warning Against Kings
10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
The Lord Grant’s Israel’s Request
19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 21 And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. 22 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”
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.
- As a group, quickly summarize what is happening in 1 Samuel 8.
In summary, Israel is approaching a time of transition. Samuel has judged Israel for many years, and he is now getting old. Looking to step back in his responsibilities, Samuel appoints his two sons as judges over Israel (v. 1). Unfortunately, Samuel’s sons walked in the ways of Eli and his sons (they were corrupt), not in Samuel’s ways.
Consequently, the people took the opportunity to ask for a change in government. The leaders of Israel asked Samuel to appoint a king over them. Samuel heard this as a rejection of his leadership (v. 6), but the Lord clarified that it was not Samuel the people were rejecting, but the Lord (v. 7). Moreover, Israel was simply acting in accordance with their character as a people. Since the day they left Egypt, they had proven to be an unfaithful, idolatrous people (v. 8).
In spite of his explicit warnings about the nature of kings and how kings would rule (vs. 10-18), the people rejected the Lord and his servant Samuel and insisted Samuel appoint a king over them so they could be like their neighbors (vs. 19-20). The Lord granted the request of the people and agreed to appoint a king over Israel.
- Was Israel wrong to ask for a king?
This is somewhat of a trick question. Clearly, the text from 1 Samuel 8 depicts Israel’s request (demand?) for a king in a negative light. And yet, by 1 Samuel 10, even Samuel seems to be enthusiastically supporting the decision (10:24).
Moreover, in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, the Lord tells Israel that they will ask for a king “like all the nations that are around me,” and he will grant this request, but it would be a man “whom the Lord your God will choose” (v. 15). So, requesting a king and seeing a king appointed were not against the will of the Lord, as long as they let God choose the man and to do so in His timing.
In short, it is not the request of a king that is wrong, it is their motive in asking for a king. As the following chapters will show, Israel wanted to place their trust in a man, a physical king, not in the Lord. This is what the Lord means when He indicates in v. 7 that the people have rejected Him from being king over them. Israel’s demand for a king was a rejection of the Lord as King.
- How does Israel’s actions in 1 Samuel 8 parallel and contrast with their actions in previous chapters?
It’s important to note that what we see in 1 Samuel 8 is consistent with a pattern Israel has followed for centuries. They experience defeat (chapter 4), turn to the Lord in repentance and revival (chapter 7), then slowly turn away from the Lord and depend again on their own instincts and desires (chapter 8). Rinse and repeat. This is the cycle of sin/revival that Israel followed throughout the times of the judges, which lasted more than 400 years following their departure from Egypt.
- Are there any parallels between the actions of Israel and our own behavior?
Yes. All of mankind is afflicted with the same illness–pride. When things get tough, we look for solutions, and the solutions we most depend on are of our own invention.
As Dale Ralph Davis notes, we tend to assess our problems mechanically rather than spiritually, and our first impulse is to assume there is something wrong with our techniques. We look to fine tune our techniques and make simple adjustments rather than seek repentance. Davis hammers home the point when he observes, “How easy for even energetic evangelicals to look for a new gimmick rather than cry out for a new heart.”
Here’s the irony for many Christians: we trust God with our eternal salvation, but we do not trust Him with our day-to-day lives. We accept we have no control over eternity (only God does), but we falsely believe we can control our lives today. We want the eternal insurance policy, but we don’t want God’s interference in our lives today.
When things get tough and life spirals out of control, we are quick to pray, “Lord, help me,” but then we outline for God how He can help us. We want God’s help with the outcome, but we want to control the methods. In Israel’s case, they believed they needed a king; in our case, we need help fixing our marriage, or fixing problems with our kids, or fixing a troubling problem at work, or dealing with a life-threatening illness, and we want to outline for God how to do this these so they fit best within our ideal life.
Many times, the fine tuning and simple adjustments we ask God to make in our lives are completely logical and reasonable, but they are completely godless.
The Lord places us in times of trials to sanctify us and conform us into the image of Christ, but we aren’t looking for sanctification, we are just looking for the problem to go away. Rather than fasting and praying in repentance, for “we have sinned against the Lord,” (v. 7:6) and seek others to intercede on our behalf (v. 7:8), we go to the Lord in prayer and we say, “here’s what we need… we need you to do this” (v. 8:5-6).
In so doing, we are not seeking God’s deliverance (and trust Him with the method) as much as we are asking God to manipulate the situation so we can find deliverance using our own self-prescribed methods.
- Does God answer prayers that are not in our best interest?
Clearly the answer is yes. This touches at the mystery of God’s will. This is where the line between God’s sovereign will and man’s free will can get murky. Was it God’s sovereign will for Israel to be ruled by a king? Yes (Deut. 17). Was Israel sinning when they asked for a king? Yes (1 Samuel 8:8).
There is a quote that I often find myself thinking about when we see tragedy and trial hit: “There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers.” This quote is attributed to St. Teresa of Avila who lived in the 16th Century. Think of the truth that is found in those simple words.
Yes, there are many times when God does grant our requests for things that are not in our best interest, but in so doing, the Lord underlines our own sinfulness and self-reliance. Like Israel, God says, “grant them their request,” when we come to Him with what are in truth foolish, self-centered prayer requests.
- In what areas are Christians today guilty of trying to “be like all the other nations?”
As we are learning during our study of 1 Samuel, the specifics may change as we watch Israel during this time in their nation’s history, but many of the traps they fall into are still relevant to us today.
God’s purpose for Israel was for them to be a special people, set apart for God, distinct from the people around them (Exodus 19:5-6).
God’s purpose for us is for us to be a special people, set apart for God, distinct from the people around us (1 Peter 2:9).
Still, like Israel, we struggle with this unique designation. We bristle at being holy people. At our core, we don’t want to stand out as a peculiar people (Titus 2:11-14). We want to be like our friends and neighbors. We want to fit in, to go with the crowd.
This is increasingly difficult to do in our culture today. During our parent’s generation, the culture was more aligned with Christian values and morality. Sex outside of marriage was deeply frowned upon. Television and the movies self-censored and maintained a high level of decency when it came to what they would show or portray on the screen. Businesses were closed on Sundays, and school and community calendars were governed by the church more than anything else. To live as a Christian (whether you were truly a Christian or simply embraced Christian culture) in the early-1960s and before was easier.
Today, in post-Christian America, those who hold to biblical standards of decency and right and wrong stick out. When was the last time you heard someone tell you they haven’t seen a movie or television program because it is R-rated? When was the last time someone told you they can’t go to the grocery store on Sunday because that is the Lord’s day?
These are just small examples to demonstrate that the line of distinction between Christians and the culture today is very, very thin. The truth is, there are very few things that a Christian today would openly tell their friends, neighbors and co-workers that they cannot do (or must do) because of their faith in God. These are the times in which we live.
To express belief in some divine “ought to” or “ought not” is anathema to our culture. Unto us has been bequeathed our own godhood. We are indeed gods in our own eyes. I determine what is right and wrong for myself. You determine what is right and wrong for yourself. Far be it from me (very far be it from me!) to try and tell you what is right or wrong. To do so is insensitive at best, hateful at worst.
What’s the point? Is it to compel us to stop going to the grocery store on Sundays? No, it is to illustrate that in our heart, we are not much different than the Israelites of 1 Samuel, and we are at risk of committing the same sin they committed–looking to the world for guidance rather than trusting in the Lord and His word by faith and faith alone. Like Israel, we are called to be a special people, holy, set apart. Are we living this way today?
- How can we discern God’s will for our lives?
There are several excellent books written on this topic. Here are some I can recommend:
- Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur
- Can I Know God’s Will? by R.C. Sproul
- The Mystery of God’s Will by Charles Swindoll
I’ve included a chapter from Swindoll’s book, The Mystery of God’s Will in this lesson guide. If you plan on digging into this question, it would be helpful for you to read this chapter. Here are the summary points:
I’ve heard some Christians say that they pray only once and then they trust God. To pray more than once, they say, is to doubt. I question that. What about Paul, who prayed three times that the thorn in the flesh would be taken from him? Maybe he didn’t pray beyond the third time, but he did pray three times, fervently. I don’t find anywhere in Scripture that praying more than once is disobedience or doubt. We need to think reflectively, sensibly. God has given us a brain and His Spirit to work in harmony and in concert.
God wants us to understand what His will is. He isn’t playing games with us; He isn’t playing hide and seek with us. “No, no, no, wrong place, keep looking. You’re getting warmer.” He wants us to know His will. Though He remains “silent as light,” He is engaged in directing our steps. He has created us to do His will. To help us do that, He has given us some guidelines.
To help me remember them, I’ve come up with an ultra-simple plan. I’ve used the first five letters of the alphabet: A-B-C-D-E. Frankly, I go through these five myself when I try to read God’s mysterious lips.
A: An accepting frame of mind. I call this a “can-do” spirit.
B: Biblical investigation.
C: The clarification and conviction from the Holy Spirit.
D: Determine if peace is occurring.
E: Expect struggles and surprises as you experience the results.
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?
- Before you make requests of God this week, how could you go about seeking His perspective on what is best for you?
 Dale Ralph Davis, Focus on the Bible Commentary – 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart, (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2000), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 86.