A Contrast in Character(s)

A Contrast in Character(s) The kings & the King: A Study of 1 Samuel

Lighthouse Leader Study Guide

Date: March 5, 2017

Series: The kings & the King: A Study of 1 Samuel

1 Samuel 13-14

This Week’s Printable Resources:

Overview of this Lesson

This week we see firsthand the tipping point of Saul’s life. While he started out good, his life takes a strong turn downward starting in 1 Samuel 13. The trials of life soon reveal a flawed character in Saul, and the writer of 1 Samuel is careful to give us several examples. In contrast, the writer presents Saul’s son, Jonathan, as an example of a man of character.

Godly character is the product of testing and time. The Lord uses trials in our lives to both reveal flaws in our character while strengthening and proving our character. As we will see from this week’s lesson, godly character is the result of God’s sanctification in our life as we spend time in the presence of the Lord and his Word. This is the key to understand when it comes to character: salvation is a complete work of God, but the Bible is clear that sanctification is a working partnership between our own will and the Holy Spirit’s work. The Apostle Paul makes clear that godliness takes discipline, much like we would discipline or train our body as an athlete (1 Timothy 4:7).

The point to focus on during this lesson is to help your group see how trials both reveal the flaws in our character and are used by God to strengthen our character. When trials come, we need to be on the watch to see the flaws that are exposed (we’ll see this in Saul’s life this week) as well as praying to God to use these times of trial to strengthen our character.

Memory Verse for This Week

Then the people said to Saul, “Shall Jonathan die, who has worked this great salvation in Israel? Far from it! As the LORD lives, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” So the people ransomed Jonathan, so that he did not die. – 1 Samuel 14:45

This Week’s Core Practice

Authenticity (John 13:33-34): I know and understand biblical truths and transfer these truths into everyday life. Who I am on the inside and outside is a pure reflection of Christ and His Word.

This Week’s Take Home Truth

Trust in God’s character is a key building block
in the development of obedient conduct.”


  1. Have you ever seen two family members who are completely opposite from one another? What do you think made them so different?
  2. If you could choose one quality from your mother or father that you would like to think describes you, what would it be?
  3. 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 13-14)

This week’s text is the tipping point in Saul’s life. He is now serving as king, and the trials of life begin to reveal his true character. While Saul proves to be an unworthy leader and king because of his poor character, Saul’s son proves to be a godly leader and great warrior because of his strong character. This father and son duo serve as a stark contrast in character. Read 1 Samuel 13-14.

LEADER NOTE: This is a very long passage of scripture. For the lesson, we will primarily focus on 1 Samuel 13:1-14 and 1 Samuel 14:1-46. You may want to simply read the relevant passages as you work through the questions rather than read the entire two chapters.

1 Samuel 13:1-14

Saul Fights the Philistines

1 Saul lived for one year and then became king, and when he had reigned for two years over Israel, 2 Saul chose three thousand men of Israel. Two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. The rest of the people he sent home, every man to his tent. 3 Jonathan defeated the garrison of the Philistines that was at Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, “Let the Hebrews hear.” 4 And all Israel heard it said that Saul had defeated the garrison of the Philistines, and also that Israel had become a stench to the Philistines. And the people were called out to join Saul at Gilgal.

5 And the Philistines mustered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude. They came up and encamped in Michmash, to the east of Beth-aven. 6 When the men of Israel saw that they were in trouble (for the people were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns, 7 and some Hebrews crossed the fords of the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.

Saul’s Unlawful Sacrifice

8 He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. 9 So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. 10 As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. 11 Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, 12 I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” 13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”

1 Samuel 14:1-15; 45

Jonathan Defeats the Philistines

1 One day Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.” But he did not tell his father. 2 Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah in the pomegranate cave at Migron. The people who were with him were about six hundred men, 3 including Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, son of Phinehas, son of Eli, the priest of the Lord in Shiloh, wearing an ephod. And the people did not know that Jonathan had gone. 4 Within the passes, by which Jonathan sought to go over to the Philistine garrison, there was a rocky crag on the one side and a rocky crag on the other side. The name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. 5 The one crag rose on the north in front of Michmash, and the other on the south in front of Geba.

6 Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.” 7 And his armor-bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.” 8 Then Jonathan said, “Behold, we will cross over to the men, and we will show ourselves to them. 9 If they say to us, ‘Wait until we come to you,’ then we will stand still in our place, and we will not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up, for the Lord has given them into our hand. And this shall be the sign to us.” 11 So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. And the Philistines said, “Look, Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden themselves.” 12 And the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor-bearer and said, “Come up to us, and we will show you a thing.” And Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Come up after me, for the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.” 13 Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, and his armor-bearer after him. And they fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer killed them after him. 14 And that first strike, which Jonathan and his armor-bearer made, killed about twenty men within as it were half a furrow’s length in an acre of land. 15 And there was a panic in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and even the raiders trembled, the earth quaked, and it became a very great panic.

45 Then the people said to Saul, “Shall Jonathan die, who has worked this great salvation in Israel? Far from it! As the Lord lives, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” So the people ransomed Jonathan, so that he did not die. 46 Then Saul went up from pursuing the Philistines, and the Philistines went to their own place.


Digging Deeper

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.

  1. What can we learn about Saul’s character from 1 Samuel 13:1-14?

Take some time as a group to list off the character qualities of Saul as described in 1 Samuel 13-14. We will focus just on the first 15 verses of Chapter 13. It is clear that the writer’s intention here is to identify for us the true character of Saul. With point after point the writer demonstrates for us that Saul was a man of godless character. Here are some things to point out:

  • Poor leadership decisions (13:2). Recall that Saul had raised a large army of 330,000 men to fight against the Ammonites (cf. 11:8). As Chapter 13 begins, we see Saul demobilizing his army even though the Philistines still threatened Israel. As we see in this chapter, a weak military invites aggression, and Saul’s poor decision to demobilize at this time opens the door to a significant threat from the Philistines.
  • A need to look big in the eyes of people (13:3). Saul’s son Jonathan wins a victory over the Philistines, and Saul immediately sounds the trumpet of victory letting all of Israel know what a great thing Saul had accomplished. Unfortunately, Saul wasn’t the one who gained the victory, it was Jonathan, but Saul takes the credit.
  • Given to exaggeration (13:3-4). As is often the case with men and women of poor character, they are given to gross exaggeration, especially when describing their own accomplishments. Poor character and low self-esteem go hand-in-hand. In this case, the victory was over a Philistine garrison, a small, but fortified outpost with a handful (6-12) soldiers. It was by no means a great military victory. Yet, Saul responds by making it sound like he had defeated the entire Philistine army when in truth, all he did was to enflame the Philistines against Israel. Saul presented it as a death blow when it was nothing more than a bee sting.
  • Instill fear and cowardliness in people rather than courage (13:6-7). Because of the qualities we have already seen in Saul (poor decisions, exaggeration, and self aggrandizement), the people did not have confidence in Saul’s leadership. As a result, rather than instilling confidence and courage in the people, he instilled fear and cowardliness. The people trembled with fear and hid in caves. They couldn’t trust Saul to make wise leadership decisions, and they certainly didn’t want to endanger their lives and the lives of their families by placing themselves in the hands of a fool.
  • Impatience (13:8-9). Men and women of poor character quickly lose patience and make rash decisions. In this case, Saul grew tired of waiting on Samuel to make the sacrifice and offering, so he took things in his own hands and made the offering himself. This one decision cost him the kingdom. At root here is not just Saul’s impatience, but his impatience displayed his lack of faith. Unbelief always shows as impatience. As we lose faith in God’s word, we seek to take things into our own hands. Few things give evidence of our strong faith than one’s ability to wait upon the Lord, especially when circumstances are putting pressure on us to act.
  • Blame shifting (13:11-12). When Samuel confronts Saul about his impatience and his unlawful decision to offer the sacrifice (Saul was not a priest), Saul immediately shifts the blame to everyone but himself. It was Samuel’s fault for being late, the Philistines were threatening, the people were deserting him, so he “felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering” himself.
  1. What can we learn about Jonathan’s character from 1 Samuel 14:1-14; 45?

Just as the writer identifies for us the godless character of Saul, he also helps us see the godly character of Jonathan, Saul’s son. In many ways, Jonathan is the complete opposite of Saul.[1] Here are some of the qualities the writer identifies for us concerning Jonathan:

  • A man of courage (14:6a). Jonathan continually displays great courage on the battlefield and gains many victories for Israel over the Philistines.
  • A man of faith and trust in the Lord (14:6b). Jonathan’s confidence is not in his own military skills or strength, but in the Lord. “For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few.”
  • A man who instills confidence in his followers (14:7). Unlike Saul’s leadership, which caused both fear and cowardliness among the people, Jonathan has both the trust and confidence of those following him. They know he is a man who walks with God and in whom the presence of the Lord is strong.
  • A man of wisdom and discernment (14:9-10). Because Jonathan walks with God and God’s presence is with him, he knows God will communicate His will clearly to him and guide him even in making decisions about whether or not to attack the Philistines.
  • A man who earns the loyalty of his followers (14:45). The remainder of 1 Samuel 14 tells the story of Saul’s foolish oath in which he makes the people swear they will not eat until they gain victory over the Philistines. Unaware of the oath, Jonathan eats some honey. When Saul learns that someone has broken the oath, he vows to put the person to death. By casting lots, he quickly learns that his son Jonathan is the guilty party, and ready to carry out his threat, he condemns Jonathan to death. But the people rise up in Jonathan’s defense. He has proven himself to be a godly man and a great man worthy of their respect. They clearly recognize God’s hand on his life and that through Jonathan, God has delivered Israel in many great battles. Hearing the will of the people (remember, he wants to be popular), Saul backs away from his decision and moves on.

Jonathan is one of a few men in the Bible of whom very little is said in a negative context. (The other two most prominent men would be Joseph and Daniel.) He is often held in contrast to his father, Saul, of whom the Bible is clear was a man of low character.[2]

  1. How would you describe godly character?

Fortunately, we don’t have to look very far to find how the Bible describes men and women of godly character. It is found in Psalm 15:

Psalm 15 (ESV)

A Psalm of David.

1 O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right

              and speaks truth in his heart;

3 who does not slander with his tongue

              and does no evil to his neighbor,

            nor takes up a reproach against his friend;

4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,

              but who honors those who fear the Lord;

            who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

5 who does not put out his money at interest

              and does not take a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things shall never be moved.

7.  How is godly character formed within us?

In answering a question like this, we always are at risk of making life sound like a formula: do this, do this, and you will have godly character (2+2=4). While these are certainly principles we can seek to follow in our own life, godly sanctification is a lifelong process that only reaches its conclusion when we pass from this life into the next and stand before our precious Lord and Savior.

With that understanding, here are two principles that the Holy Spirit uses in forming godly character within God’s people:

  • Godly character is the result of being in the presence of God. It’s a simple understanding: we cannot be like Jesus unless we are with Jesus. How do we be with Jesus? By spending time daily in His word and through fellowship with His people (the church).
  • Godly character is forged by the trials and sufferings of life. Are you praying for godly character in yourself and your family? Then expect trials. Both Paul and James make this clear. Paul says it mostly clearly in Romans 5:3-4: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
  1. What danger do we as people have when trying to judge a person’s character?

Character is an inner quality that is not revealed at first. Saul looked like a king on the outside. He looked like a man of strength and character. It wasn’t until trials started that his true character was revealed.

Godly character is revealed through life’s circumstances and trials. Moreover, godly character determines how we respond within life’s circumstances and times of trials.

Finally, one’s spiritual condition is the real thermometer of one’s character. It is impossible to be far from God spiritually yet display godly character. (NOTE: be sure to not interpret a good natured personality from godly character. While many people are good natured (nice to be with, gentle, not a trouble-maker) this does not mean they have godly character. As with any other person, the true test of their character will shine through when they are stressed and experiencing difficulty.)

Concluding Thoughts

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.

  1. Looking back at this week’s teaching and study, what’s the most important thing to remember?
  1. Has this lesson revealed to you an area where your character is weak and you need to change? Make this a matter of prayer this week. If there is a Bible verse that speaks to this character flaw, write it down and post it in a prominent place and review it daily.


[1] It is interesting to see insight we learn about parenting in 1 Samuel. Hannah was a godly mother who served as a faithful, godly witness to Samuel during his young life, even though he grew up under Eli, his mother visited him regularly and faithfully. Samuel was a godly man of great character, yet his sons were godless and men of disrepute. Saul was a godless man of zero character, yet his son Jonathan is a man of great godly character and strength.

If there is a lesson here, it is that godly parents can raise ungodly offspring, and ungodly parents can raise godly offspring. We are each responsible before God for our position in Him. Coming from a godly home does not assure us of our salvation and God’s blessing any more than coming from a broken and dysfunctional condemns us to a similar life of dysfunction.

[2] While it is the purpose of this week’s lesson to contrast Saul’s godless character with Jonathan’s godly character, there is also an interesting comparison and contrast between the two “Sauls” of the Bible—Saul of the Old Testament and Saul of the New Testament. Saul of the Old Testament started out good and ended badly; Saul of the New Testament (the Apostle Paul) started out badly and ended good.

By |2017-04-06T14:48:01-05:00March 2nd, 2017|Weekly Resources|0 Comments

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