We continue our walk through the Bible – one book a month. Say with me the books we’ve covered so far:
Today we look at 1 Samuel. 1 Samuel is a big book in terms of its historical impact for the Jewish people because it covers the establishment of kingship in Israel. Before this time, there was no king, there were prophets and various judges who led Israel, but no king.
Kingship is, in fact, probably the main theme in the book.
Date: 850BC (Timeline)
Author: Not sure.
Nathan the prophet’ son Zabud, who was a “personal adviser” to King Solomon?
Three main characters in the book:
Samuel – the prophet (image)
Saul – the first king (image)
David – the second king (image)
1. Samuel was one of the greatest prophets in the Bible and is particularly admirable in that he never faltered. Other great leaders faltered: Moses, David, Peter. But Samuel never did. Though he resided through a particularly difficult time in Israel’s history, he remained faithful to God throughout everything.
Called by God as a young boy, he learned to hear and know the voice of God.
A key moment for Samuel:
When choosing the man to replace Saul as king, it was to Samuel that God said, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him [David’s eldest brother]. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)
Great words for us to remember when choosing friends, choosing a marriage partner, choosing a vocation, choosing a church to attend, and even of course, when looking in the mirror.
Samuel had several roles in Israel. He was a prophet. He was also a judge and a deliverer.
He is a role model to us for his faithfulness.
2. Saul was the first king of Israel and was soon rejected by God as king because of his disobedience and his unwillingness to fully submit to God.
Though it seems he had a positive and loyal start, his faithfulness to God was only ever superficial.
There are warnings here that we can learn from.
Clearly, Saul didn’t know his own God very well. And his own heart is very lackluster in both following God and in repentance.
A defining moment for Saul is when he is rebuked by Samuel for not following God’s instructions. The weakness of his confession reveals his heart:
24 And Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, I pray, pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord….
30 Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord your God.” (1 Sam 15)
Saul is more concerned about his appearance before others than he is about is righteousness before God. A big lesson here for us, echoed in the words God spoke to Samuel I read a few minutes ago. God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance. We have to have our hearts right before God.
This means that in worship, we focus on worshipping God, and not on how we might appear to those around us.
It means we’re faithful in going to our rooms, closing the door and pouring out our hearts to God when no-one is looking or aware of what we’re doing.
It means we make public godly choices in our life regardless of how it might appear to others.
Saul failed in this and so was rejected by God.
3. David is the third principal character in the book and he was chosen by God because of his upright heart. We’re going to spend more time looking at David next month when we study 2 Samuel.
But we know, that David’s heart is right and acceptable to God and we see this early on in his brave and unwavering trust in God in the most impossible of circumstances when he, as a young boy, faces the great Philistine warrior Goliath.
45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Sam 17)
I love war speeches – Achilles and Hector in the movie Troy, Maximus in the movie Gladiator, Aragon in The Lord of the Rings; in history, Churchill’s speeches. But none of them stack up to the young shepherd boy taking on the great Philistine. Here is trust. Here is faithfulness. Here is something for us to emulate.
Before I finish up our look at 1 Samuel, there is one key teaching here that really strikes at my heart and that I want to share with you. It concerns the issue of kingship in Israel. As with many things, it starts out in a way that seems harmless enough, if not even good and righteous. This is what the people said:
“5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us,” sounds okay up to this point but there is more to this…
“such as all the other nations have.”
6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”
A little later…
“19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
The people in choosing a king are rejecting their true King who is God. And they do this so that they can be like the other countries.
There are many modern parallels to this.
I want to watch that movie or listen to that song so that I can be like all my friends.
I want to say the odd crude word so that sometimes I can be just like everyone else.
I don’t want to wait until I’m married for relations just like everyone else.
I want to hold on to all my money just like everyone else.
I want to control my own life just like everyone else.
There is a spooky connection here to the words that Paul writes in Romans 1:
“21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”
As Christians – as followers of Christ and as God’s children – we face the same choices that Samuel, Saul and David did.
We can choose God’s way, or we can modify that a little and choose to go on a own way that resembles God’s way but is a little easier for us.
We can choose to surrender to the call of the Holy Spirit or we can ‘play it safe’ and quench the call of the Holy Spirit in our lives, perhaps pretending that we didn’t hear it or busying ourselves so that we can’t hear it, thereby giving ourselves some sort of excuse to stay in a spiritual status quo.
Here’s the bottom line:
We can choose to really establish God as the King of our lives. This is called true worship.
if we don’t quite like it we have the choice of modifying God a little into something or someone we’re more comfortable with (so we can be a bit more like those around us). This choice is called idolatry whereby we create our own God in the image of whatever we are comfortable with.
Let’s be wise. Let’s not be idolaters!
Let’s commit our lives to God the true King, to His Son Jesus Christ and to the presence and work of the Holy Spirit.