1 Samuel 1-7
Hannah ‘prayed to the Lord’ (1:10-11). God answered her prayer (1:20). God does not always answer our prayers in the way that we want. Sometimes, rather than changing our circumstances, He simply speaks His Word to us: ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Always, He ‘gives grace to the humble’ (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). Let us find our joy and our strength in the Lord: ‘My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord’ (2:1). The call of Samuel is a vivid example of what God can do in the lives of children. Samuel’s early response to God set in motion a whole process of events leading Samuel to become ‘a prophet of the Lord’ through whom ‘the Word of the Lord… came to all Israel’ (3:10,19-4:1). Let us ground our children in Christ, encouraging them to have great expectations of what God can do in and with their lives as they grow up, loving Him. 5:1-6:16 – In 5:3-4, we read of God’s superiority over Dagon – ‘The Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King’ (Jeremiah 10:10). God is ‘holy’ (6:20). He calls His people to be holy. With His call to holiness, there is His promise of blessing (7:3).
1 Samuel 8-14
Israel’s demand for a king did not arise from love for God. It was motivated by human pride (8:5,20). Having ‘rejected’ the Lord as King, the people made their choice. They did not choose for God! They ‘chose for themselves’ (8:7,18). God allowed them to have their king but He did not approve of their choice (8:22,18). ‘He gave them what they asked, but He sent a wasting disease among them’ (Psalm 106:15). Saul did more harm than good. There was not much blessing during Saul’s reign. God had greater things in store for Israel – but not until Saul’s reign was over! The Lord is King: We must never forget this. A human king is no substitute for the divine King (8:7). God was not pleased with His people. They wanted to be ‘like all the nations’ (8:5). God refused to abandon His people. They wanted a king. He gave them their king (9:15-17). He would wait patiently for His people to make a whole-hearted return to Him. Samuel was not afraid to speak very directly to the king – ‘You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God… Your kingdom shall not continue’ (13:13-14). Saul’s reign was about to end. God’s love continued: ‘The Lord will not cast away His people, for His great Name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for Himself’ (12:22). Saul had become too full of himself and his own importance. He needed to be replaced by ‘a man after God’s own heart’ (13:14). To the divine King be all the glory! Humanly speaking, Israel seemed to be ‘no hopers’ (13:22). There was, however, something else. The Lord was with His people and He would give them the victory (14:6,19,12,23).
1 Samuel 15-24
Saul did what he wanted – not what God commanded (15:3,9). Saul would be replaced (26-28). Love God ‘with all your heart…’ – not just a part (Deuteronomy 6:5)! ‘Samuel did what the Lord commanded’ (16:4). Real obedience comes from ‘the heart’. It is more than just ‘keeping up appearances’(16:7). ‘The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart’ – This is something we must never forget!’ 17:1-58 – David defeats Goliath. This is not only a story about David and Goliath. It is about the Israelites and the Philistines. It is about ‘God’ and the ‘gods’ (17:43,46). Victory comes from the Lord. It is given by grace. It is received by faith (17:47). ‘Saul was David’s enemy continually’ (18:29). His real argument was with God. ‘The Lord was with David’ (18:14,28). ‘Jonathan loved David as he loved his own soul’ (20:17). He was ready to die for David (20:30-33). This is real love and true spiritual fellowship: ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13). ‘Religion’ is no substitute for compassion (21:3-6; Matthew 12:1-4,7). Saul imagined that God was with him in his pursuit of David – ‘God has given him into my hand’ (23:7). He was wrong – ‘Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand’ (23:14). We may like to think that God supports us in everything we decide to do. We must, however, be honest before Him and recognize that there can be a great difference between ‘what I want’ and ‘what God wants’. We must learn to choose God’s will rather than our own will (Luke 22:42). We ask, ‘What is God’s will?’. God says, ‘This is the will of God, your sanctification’ (1 Thessalonians 4:3). God wants us to be ‘changed into His likeness’ (2 Corinthians 3:18). He renews our minds, enabling us to live a life that is more truly and more fully in line with His perfect will (Romans 12:2). Do you want your own way – or God’s will? Saul recognized that David was a ‘righteous’ man to whom ‘the kingdom’ would be given (24:17,20). There is a vital connection between godly character and fruitfulness in God’s service. We dare not imagine that we will be fruitful for God if we refuse to give ourselves fully to Him.
1 Samuel 25-31
Saul and David were very different. David was wise. He had respect for ‘the Lord’s anointed’ (26:11). This was grounded in ‘the fear of the Lord’ which ‘is the beginning of wisdom’ (Psalm 111:10). Saul ‘played the fool’. He ‘erred exceedingly’, choosing the way of self rather than the way of the Lord (26:21). This is not only the story of David and Saul. It’s like looking into a mirror. In David and Saul, we see ourselves. We are at the cross-roads. We must choose. God promises blessing – ‘The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness’ (26:23). This promise is full of challenge. Choose ‘righteousness and faithfulness’. Choose Christ. Keep on choosing Him. What a difference there is between fear – ‘I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul’ – and faith – ‘The Lord will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine (27:1; 17:37)! These words were spoken by the same man – David. There is a battle going on within each one of us – a battle for faith, a battle against fear. How do we overcome fear? How do we grow strong in faith? – ‘Perfect love casts out fear’. It is God’s love which gives us the victory – ‘We love, because He first loved us’. Strengthened by His love, our faith grows strong, and we say, ‘This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith… Jesus is the Son of God’ (1 John 4:18-19; 5:4-5). Saul sinned against the Lord. He brought God’s judgment upon himself: ‘Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord… the Lord has done this thing to you this day’ (28:18). Don’t fight against God. You will be the loser! Don’t ‘shrink back’ and be ‘destroyed’. ‘Believe’ and be ‘saved’ (Hebrews 4:13; 10:29-31, 39; Acts 16:30-31). ‘David was greatly distressed… But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God (30:6). How are we to strengthen ourselves in the Lord our God? We must remind ourselves that God is in control: ‘The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as King for ever’. This is the way in which ‘the Lord gives strength to His people!’ (Psalm 29:10-11). Let us be strong in the Lord. Here, we have tragedy and triumph – the tragedy of Saul (31:4), the triumph of the Lord (30:23). What we are, in ourselves, is tragic – ‘all have sinned… the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 3:23; 6:23). This is not the full story of our life. There’s something else: ‘what the Lord has given us’ – ‘they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus’: ‘the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (23; Romans 3:24; 6:23). This is the triumph of the Lord. It is not something that we achieve for ourselves. ‘This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes’ (Psalm 118:23).