While the Israelites were gathered to confirm Saul as their king, Samuel reproved them for ingratitude and exhorted them to follow the Lord. When threatened by a Philistine attack, Saul disobeyed the Lord by offering a sacrifice instead of waiting for Samuel to do it. Jonathan and Saul led the Israelites to victory in battle against the Philistines. Saul again disobeyed the Lord by not fulfilling His command to destroy the Amalekites and all of their animals, and the Lord rejected Saul as the king of Israel.
Before class, write the following question on the board: What are some reasons people might use to try to justify their disobedience to the Lord’s commandments?
Begin the lesson by inviting students to respond to the question on the board. (You may need to explain that in this context, justify means to rationalize or excuse.) Ask a student to write the class’s responses on the board.
Invite students as they study 1 Samuel 12–15 to look for principles that can help them overcome the temptation to try to justify disobeying the Lord’s commandments.
Summarize 1 Samuel 12 by explaining that while the Israelites were gathered to confirm Saul as their king, the prophet Samuel spoke of his ministry among them and testified that the Lord was the true leader of Israel.
Invite a student to read 1 Samuel 12:14–15, 25 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the warning Samuel gave as he spoke to the Israelites.
What warning did Samuel give?
Explain that students will see the importance of this warning as they read about Saul’s choices in the chapters that follow.
Summarize 1 Samuel 13:1–4 by explaining that a group of Israelite soldiers under the command of Saul’s son Jonathan attacked a group of Philistine soldiers stationed in Israelite territory. Knowing this attack would lead to war with the Philistines, Saul gathered additional soldiers.
Invite a student to read 1 Samuel 13:5–8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how some Israelites responded when the Philistine army advanced.
How did some Israelites respond when they recognized the dangerous situation they were in?
Based on the description of the Philistine army in verse 5, why do you think the Israelites were so afraid?
Help students understand 1 Samuel 13:8 by explaining that the prophet Samuel had previously told Saul that he was to go to Gilgal and wait seven days for Samuel to come and offer sacrifices to the Lord (see 1 Samuel 10:8). This sacrifice would be a way to seek the Lord’s blessings before the Israelite army went into battle. It would also help the soldiers dedicate themselves to the Lord and strengthen their faith. It was important for Saul to wait for Samuel because Saul was not authorized to perform the sacrifice.
If you had been in Saul’s situation, would you have performed the sacrifice or would you have waited for the prophet Samuel as instructed?
Invite a student to read 1 Samuel 13:9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Saul did in these critical circumstances.
What did Saul do?
Invite a student to read 1 Samuel 13:10–12 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened soon after Saul performed the sacrifice.
What happened soon after Saul performed the sacrifice?
What reasons did Saul give to try to justify his disobedience to the Lord’s commandments?
Write the following phrase on the board: Even though we may try to justify our disobedience to the Lord’s commandments …
Invite a student to read 1 Samuel 13:13–14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a consequence of Saul’s disobedience.
What was the consequence of Saul’s disobedience? (He would lose the honor of having the kingship continue through his posterity.)
Based on what we learn from Saul’s experience, how would you complete the statement on the board? (Write students’ responses on the board. The following is one way to complete the statement: Even though we may try to justify our disobedience to the Lord’s commandments, He will hold us accountable.)
How might understanding this truth help someone overcome the temptation to try to justify disobeying the Lord’s commandments?
Summarize 1 Samuel 13:15–23 by explaining that Samuel left Saul, and the Philistines sent raiding troops to destroy the land and torment the Israelites.
Invite a student to read the following summary of 1 Samuel 14:
Trusting in the Lord, Jonathan and his servant courageously attacked a group of Philistine soldiers. This act, combined with an earthquake that followed, caused confusion and panic in the Philistine army. Saul’s army then attacked the panicked Philistines and defeated them.
During this battle, Saul demanded a fast and forbade his soldiers from eating in a misguided effort to get help from the Lord and prevail over his enemies. Jonathan was unaware of this command and ate some honey while pursuing the Philistines. Later in the day, when Saul sought revelation from the Lord about whether to attack the Philistines during the night, no answer came. Saul concluded that the Lord did not answer because someone in the army had sinned. He gathered the people together and swore an oath that whoever had eaten earlier in the day would be put to death, even if it had been his own son Jonathan. When he learned that Jonathan had eaten some honey, Saul said Jonathan must die.
Do you think Jonathan should have been put to death? Why?
What are some things this account teaches us about Saul’s character during this time?
Invite a student to read 1 Samuel 14:45 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the people responded to Jonathan’s death sentence.
What reason did the people give for preserving Jonathan’s life?
Write the following statement on the board: Because I (keep this commandment), it is okay if I (do not keep this commandment).
Explain that sometimes we might be tempted to try to justify our disobedience to some commandments because we are obedient to others. Invite students to give examples of how someone might fill in the blanks of the statement on the board. (It may help to give students an example such as “Because I pray and read my scriptures daily, it is okay if I do not attend my church meetings.”)
Invite students to look for truths in 1 Samuel 15 that can help them overcome the temptation to try to justify disobedience in this way.
Explain that 1 Samuel 15 records that the Lord gave Saul a second chance to prove his obedience. He commanded Saul to destroy all the Amalekites and their livestock. The Amalekites were a murderous people and were enemies of the Lord (see Deuteronomy 25:17–19).
Invite a student to read 1 Samuel 15:7–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for whether Saul obeyed the Lord.
How would you describe Saul’s obedience to the Lord’s command to destroy all the Amalekites and their livestock?
Summarize 1 Samuel 15:10–12 by explaining that the Lord told Samuel that Saul had turned back from following Him and had disobeyed His commandments. Samuel was grieved and visited Saul.
Invite three students to come to the front of the class. Assign one student to read Saul’s statements recorded in 1 Samuel 15:13–23, another student to read Samuel’s statements, and the third student to perform the role of narrator. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Saul said about what he had done and what Samuel taught him. Interrupt the reading at appropriate places to ask the following questions.
After verse 13 ask:
What did Saul say he had done?
After verse 15 ask:
How did Saul try to justify the fact that he and his soldiers had been only partially obedient to the Lord’s commandment? How is his situation like the examples we discussed earlier of obeying some commandments while disobeying others?
After verse 17 ask:
How had Saul changed since he was anointed as king? How can a lack of humility influence an individual’s obedience to the Lord?
After verse 21 ask:
Even after being rebuked by Samuel, what did Saul do? (He would not acknowledge his fault and continued to try to justify his disobedience.)
After verse 23 is read, instruct the students who helped with the reading to return to their seats. Then ask:
In verse 22, what did Samuel teach was more important than making animal sacrifices? (Obeying the Lord.)
Based on this, how would you state a principle concerning the greatest offering we can give to the Lord? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following principle: The greatest offering we can give to the Lord is our complete obedience to Him. Consider writing this truth on the board.)
How can understanding this truth help us if we are tempted to try to justify our disobedience to some commandments because of our obedience to other commandments?
What experiences have you had that have helped you see the importance of striving to obey the Lord completely?
Ask students to review 1 Samuel 15:24 and look for the explanation Saul gave for disobeying the Lord.
Why did Saul say he had disobeyed the Lord?
What principle can we learn from Saul’s mistake? (One principle students may identify is seeking to please others rather than the Lord can lead us to disobey His commandments. Consider writing this principle on the board.)
What are some examples of this principle in our day?
Summarize the remainder of 1 Samuel 15 by explaining that Samuel told Saul that the kingdom would be taken from him and given to someone else. Samuel also followed the commandment to kill the king of the Amalekites.
Briefly review and testify of the truths students have identified throughout the lesson. Invite students to respond to the following question in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:
What is a specific way I will apply what I have learned today?
Encourage students to apply what they wrote.
Explain that you will give students several clues that relate to scripture mastery passages they have learned. After each clue, students are to locate in their scriptures the scripture mastery passage associated with it. (A clue can be a key word, an example from everyday life, or anything else related to the passage.) With each clue, record the time it takes for the entire class to find the correct passage. Repeat this activity with several different scripture mastery passages.