This week's Small Group Study (September 9, 2022)
Obedience—The Key to Knowing God’s Will
Disobedience of King Saul (Read 1 Samuel 15.)
1 Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord.
2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.
3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”
4 So Saul summoned the men and mustered them at Telaim—two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand men from Judah.
5 Saul went to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the ravine.
6 Then he said to the Kenites, “Go away, leave the Amalekites so that I do not destroy you along with them; for you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites moved away from the Amalekites.
7 Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt.
8 He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword.
9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.
10 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel:
11 “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.
12 Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.”
13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.”
14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”
15 Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”
16 “Stop!” Samuel said to Saul. “Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.”
“Tell me,” Saul replied.
17 Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel.
18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.’
19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”
20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king.
21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”
22 But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”
24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.
25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.”
26 But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!”
27 As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore.
28 Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you.
29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.”
30 Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.”
31 So Samuel went back with Saul, and Saul worshiped the Lord.
32 Then Samuel said, “Bring me Agag king of the Amalekites.” Agag came to him confidently, thinking, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.”
33 But Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so will your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel put Agag to death before the Lord at Gilgal.
34 Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul.
35 Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord was grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel.
1. What was God’s command to Saul through Samuel?
(To utterly destroy Amalek, its people, and their possessions.)
2. Describe how Saul rationalized his actions (15:7–9).
(He decided that some things were too good to destroy so he spared Agag, the king, and he spared the best of the sheep and cattle.)
3. Was Saul’s repentance sincere?
4. The main principle illustrated is stated in verse 22. What is it?
(Obedience is better than sacrifice.)
5. What are some ways Christians rationalize disobedience today?
Obedience of Paul (Read Acts 9:1–22.)
1. What was God’s command to Paul (here called Saul)?
(Go into the city where he would be told what to do next.)
2. How did he comply?
(He did exactly what God told him to do.)
3. Why was Paul’s obedience so important at this particular time?
(He was demonstrating his changed attitude toward God.)
4. How do you think Paul’s obedience illustrates the truth of the principle in 1 Samuel 15:22?
(Paul did not have to do penance for what he had done in the past. He just had to repent and obey.)
Obedience of Ananias (Read Acts 9:10–22.)
1. What was God’s command to Ananias?
(To find Saul and lay his hands on him so Saul would receive his sight.)
2. What was Ananias’ reaction?
3. How did he finally respond?
4. Why was his obedience so essential at this particular time?
(Ananias was an essential part of God’s plan to use Paul in building the church.)
5. How does his obedience indirectly influence you?
(God used Paul to reveal to mankind the most abundant life ever possible.)
1. How would you have felt in Ananias’ place?
2. What is the most important thing this lesson teaches you about obedience?
3. What specific area of weakness in your life do you need to bring into obedience to Christ?
4. What steps will you take to become obedient in this area?
Leader’s Objective: To help students desire to know God’s will and be completely obedient to Him regardless of their circumstances
The importance of obedience cannot be overemphasized. We are encouraged to discipline our children to save them from spiritual bankruptcy (Proverbs 23:13,14). We are admonished to teach our spiritual children the importance of obedience (2 Timothy 2:2). As a disobedient child becomes a problem, so will the disobedient Christian become a problem to himself, to others, and especially to the Lord if he does not learn to obey in his early Christian experience.
What kinds of problems do you think a disobedient Christian could create?
(Encourage students to read the article, “Living Daily in God’s Will” at the beginning of their book on their own time if they have not already done so.)
(Ask one of the group members to summarize the paragraphs appearing at the opening of this lesson in the student’s book. Note the diagram and discuss it.)
God was displeased with Saul and dissolved his kingship (verses 11,23). Saul called his actions 100 percent obedience (verses 13,20); he also tried to blame the disobedience on his people (verses 15,21). Samuel called it rebellion, arrogance, and rejecting the Word of the Lord (verse 23).
How do you determine whether what you are doing is obedience or merely sacrifice?
How can you keep from falling into this trap?
Paul’s background is found in Philippians 3:4–6: circumcised (physical sign of a Jewish covenant), people of Israel (pride of family), Pharisee (pride of religion), and zealous persecutor of the church (pride of conviction).
We see the transformation of his life in Acts 9: called by God (verse 6), a chosen instrument to be God’s witness (verse 15), sight restored (verses 8,17), filled with the Spirit (verse 17), baptized (verse 18), to preach Christ (verse 20).
It took a lot of faith for Ananias to obey God. Saul was one of the foremost enemies of the church. Ananias was literally taking a chance with his life in contacting Saul. But his obedience resulted in one of the most strategic events in the early church. God changed Saul’s name to Paul, and used him to give us many books of the New Testament. Through Paul, many churches were formed and many people became Christians. Ananias was the link to this chain of events.
Our obedience also has far-reaching results. When we do what God asks— even if the task seems extremely hard at the moment—God blesses our obedience in tremendous ways.
Conclusion and Application
There is a great instrument for finding God’s will. It is so simple that even a child can understand it. Sometimes even the weakest people have used it to achieve mighty things for God. The name of the instrument is obedience.
Perfect obedience can bring perfect happiness when we have perfect confidence in the power we are obeying.