Explore the Bible Study: Blinded

7:00 AM

What do we do when we encounter situations where someone's ambition turns ugly and selfish? Many times we become the recipients of their paranoia, manipulation, and compromise. We can experience this in a work environment, in family relationships, and even in churches. Misplaced and perverted personal ambition blinds us and leads us to do unimaginable things. It creates an environment in which others become victims of, or embrace the evil pursuits of, those who are leading them. This is our focus in this week's Explore the Bible Study: Blinded, as we look at 1 Samuel 22:6-19.

Typo Last Week: It's amazing what one misplaced finger on a keyboard will do to a Scripture reference! Many of you may have wondered what the Matthew 22:29 reference had to do with Jonathan. The reference was supposed to be Matthew 22:39 (The Great Commandment).

Ideas for Guiding the Study of 1 Samuel 22:6-19

The narrative last week ended with David and Jonathan saying goodbye, yet still affirming the strong friendship between them. If you had been David, you might have given up at this point because he knew Saul was plotting to kill him. You might have determined that the prophet Samuel must have been wrong when he anointed him as the next king.  But David did not lose hope; nor did he pursue the throne. He chose to trust God and endure whatever he might face while allowing God’s timing to play out. He honored the position king Saul held and tried to avoid confrontation, but this was not the case for Saul.

LOOK UP: Getting focused on the text.
  • Display (As the group gathers): Is ambition bad?
  • Video Option (Once most of the group has arrived). Introduce: We are going to discuss in a moment your thoughts regarding the question, Is ambition bad? But before we do, take a look at how one of our former Olympians in gymnastics, Shawn Johnson, had to deal with personal ambition when it became destructive for her. Identify the ways personal ambition took her to places emotionally and spiritually that were not healthy.

  • How did personal ambition become unhealthy for Shawn?
  • Is ambition bad?
  • When does personal ambition become destructive?
  • In what ways can personal ambition be destructive?
  • How do you respond when you observe someone allowing their personal ambitions to destroy them?
  • Transition: Today we want to build a profile of one who is consumed by selfish ambition and evaluate if we are tempted to be more like Saul or like David.
LOOK IN: Unpacking the text.

1 Samuel 22:6-8

Explain: We see Saul sitting under a tree at a high place, which may well have been a sight for pagan worship. Saul is surrounded by his servants with his sword in hand.
  • Does this picture of Saul with sword in hand indicate anything about Saul’s level of paranoia? (He may have thought he needed it for protection; he may have wanted it nearby so he could throw it at the person who disagreed with him; or he might have used it as a tool of intimidation for his servants.)
Ask: How did he manipulate those around him in these passages?
  • He manipulated them with fears of losing everything.
  • He manipulated them by promoting a prejudicial view of David – They were of the tribe of Benjamin and David was of the tribe of Judah.
  • He manipulated them with false accusations about their loyalty.
  • He manipulated them with self-pity by complaining that no one had informed him of Jonathan’s covenant with David (although obviously somebody did tell him).
  • He manipulated them with lies about David - He claimed that David was waiting in ambush to assassinate him, when in fact David had never threatened him at all.
  • Ask: Have you ever observed others who were able to manipulate the circumstances in order to further their ambitions? How did you feel about what was going on? How did you respond?
  • Reflect: Have you ever been tempted to use Saul’s tactics in order to further your ambitions? What do you need to do in order to correct this type of behavior?
  • Transition: This manipulative speech prompted a response from Doeg the Edomite.
1 Samuel 21:1-9 and 1 Samuel 22:9-10 (Two People Read)
  • What did Doeg leave out of the account he told Saul?
  • Why do you suppose he didn’t give Saul all the details?
  • What did Doeg’s story lead Saul to assume? (Ahimelech was a partisan of David and was joining in a plot to overthrow Saul)
  • (In PSG, p. 107) How do anger, jealousy, or envy cause you to judge others irrationally?
  • State: Saul was holding greedily onto his power and was filled with self-pity and suspicion. In this frame of mind, he attracted people as bad as himself. Doeg, through flattery, manipulation, and half-truths, made himself a hero in Saul’s eyes.
1 Samuel 22:11-19
  • What were the consequences of Ahimelech’s innocent help?
  • Why did Saul refuse to believe Ahimelech? Do you think he really wanted to know the truth?
  • Have you ever been in a situation where someone accused you falsely in order to promote their selfish agenda?
  • Have you ever been asked to do something immoral or unethical in order to promote the selfish ambition of another person? How did you respond?
  • Notice how the guards refused to respond to Saul’s order. How would you have responded?
  • Contextualize (to our life): We have all probably encountered leaders like Saul. They aren’t just leaders of countries or politicians but they might be leaders of a company, supervisors, spouses, or church leaders. They exhibit many of the characteristics of Saul. But, there have been those who finally took a stand against them either risking their lives or their careers, depending on the circumstances, by saying “no.”
  • Challenge: When you are confronted with a leader or someone close to you who exhibits this kind of behavior, be willing to say “no, I can’t do what you have asked me to do."
  • Transition: Sadly, Saul did find someone to do his dirty work. It was Doeg, the person who set up Ahimilech to begin with. Now let’s see how David responded when he heard the news.
1 Samuel 22:20-23
  • How would you characterize David’s response when he heard the news? (He took responsibility for the actions that led to this tragedy.)
  • Read: Psalm 52. (David's response to Doeg's actions)
  • What insights do you gain about unchecked ambition from David’s response?
LOOK OUT: Responding to the text.
  • So far we don’t see any specific acknowledgement from Saul or Jonathan that they knew David was the one anointed by Samuel to be the next king, but there were suspicions. This is evident by Jonathan giving David his royal clothing and weapons (1 Samuel 18:4).  At the end of last week’s passage, Saul rebukes Jonathan for his friendship, stating that, “every day Jesse’s son lives on earth you and your kingship are not secure.” (20:31). In later chapters it is apparent that Saul and Jonathan conceded that David was going to be next king – See 1 Samuel 23:16-17; 24:20.
  • One would think that this realization would cause Saul to rethink his ambitious pursuits. Saul’s blind ambition not only led him to act immorally and irrationally toward his people, his family, and his greatest supporter, David, it also led him to completely rebel against his God! Saul had become a bitter deceitful man in his pursuit of ambition and power.
  • Saul could have responded differently. He could have submitted Himself to God, backed off, accepted responsibility for his sins, and acknowledged David as the anointed one of God. Had he done so, Israel could have had peace instead of civil war, and David could have served as Saul’s military commander until he became king.
  • Respond: Have you had a boss whose selfish ambition distorted his view of people and who resorted to manipulation in order to get what he wanted? Was he willing to destroy anyone who got in his way? Was he willing to cross all moral boundaries in order to get what he wanted? What can you learn from this study that could help you respond to this situation?
  • Reflect: What about your home? Do you have a spouse or loved one who might struggle with only thinking about his/her needs? Does he/she express jealousy and rage when you are successful? Are they depressed because they perceive that people around them don’t affirm them enough? Consider what can you learn from this study, that could help you.
  • Challenge: What about you? What needs to change in your life so that you can respond to your circumstances as David did? David knew God had a plan and he trusted God. It wasn’t easy but he kept God’s perspective on the situation.
  • Conclude: David, the one anointed as a young shepherd boy to be the next king, never once “threw a spear” or raised his sword to kill Saul. The fugitive David would later say, "I will not lift my hand against my master [Saul], because he is the Lord's anointed" (24:10).  While he was not perfect in his decision-making, his motives were always to honor Saul as king and to wait on God’s plan to unfold.
  • Challenge: We can learn a lot from Saul regarding how NOT to pursue ambition and from David on how to be ambitious without compromising our character and God’s plans.

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