Learning From 1 Samuel

The name, “Samuel”, tells the story, leading up to his birth. His name means “God hears”. Samuel was given this name to indicate that he was God’s answer to Hannah’s prayer: “I asked the Lord for him” (1 Samuel 1:20). She gave her son back to the Lord – “I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted my request. In return, I am giving him to the Lord. He will be dedicated to the Lord for his whole life” (1 Samuel 1:11,28).

Hannah’s prayer begins with the words, “”My heart finds joy in the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:1). Her son, Samuel, was going the Lord’s way. This was something which made Hannah rejoice in the Lord. We read about Samuel’s spiritual growth (1 Samuel 2:18,21). “The boy Samuel grew up in front of the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:18,21). “The boy Samuel continued to grow and gained the favour of the Lord and the people” (1 Samuel 2:26). For Samuel, this was just the beginning. There were greater things to come: “And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Samuel 3:19).

Samuel’s spiritual  growth was in stark contrast to the disobedience and downfall of Eli’s sons. This is the context within which we must grow spiritually. We are surrounded by disobedience. We must look away from all of this disobedience. We must keep our eyes on the Lord. We must ask the Lord to give us His grace so that we might go on growing in Christ.

The Lord had His hand on the boy Samuel, and he grew to be a man of God, empowered by the Spirit of God. The ministry of Samuel was a mighty demonstration of the power of the Spirit of God (1 Samuel 3:19-21). God was with him – in power. God was sending His blessing down from heaven. He was giving His Word to Samuel – “the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh through the Word of the Lord”. God’s Word was reaching out, through Samuel, to “all Israel” (1 Samuel 3:21).

The ark of the Lord signified the Lord’s presence among His people. Even the Philistines, Israel’s enemies, recognized the presence of God among His people – “the ark of the Lord was come into the camp. And the Philistines were afraid , for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us!” (1 Samuel 3:6-7). When God’s ark was absent, God’s presence was not among the people – “the glory of the Lord has departed” (1 Samuel 4:21). When the ark of the Lord, containing the Word of the Lord, is returned to its rightful place among God’s people, the blessing of God returns. We need to honour God and His Word, if there is to be blessing among us. If God and His Word are taken lightly, there will be no blessing.

God calls His people to return to Him wholeheartedly. They are to make a commitment to the Lord, and serve only Him (1 Samuel 7:3). When we dedicate our lives to the Lord, we are not left to go it alone. The Lord is with us. He is our Helper – “Until now the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12). The call to be dedicated to the Lord is always accompanied by the promise of His help.

The people of Israel were warned. They were not to have a human king. They were to have no other king but the Lord. They disregarded the Word of the Lord. They wanted to have a king. They wanted to be like other nations. Having the Lord as their king wasn’t enough for them. They were determined to get their own way. They insisted on having a human king. God allowed them to have a king – Saul. There was no real blessing under Saul’s leadership. He was not a true man of God. He did not influence the people for God.

Samuel and Saul were very different. Samuel loved the Lord. Saul “didn’t follow the command of the Lord” (1 Samuel 13:14). Today’s Church needs men like Samuel in its leadership. He was committed to the priorities of prayer and God’s Word – “It would be unthinkable for me to sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. I will go on teaching you the way that ids good and right” (1 Samuel 12:23). Samuel called upon the people to “fear the Lord, and serve Him sincerely”. He emphasized that they were to fear the Lord and serve Him with a sense of gratitude for all that He had done for them – “Consider the great things He did for you” (1 Samuel 12:24). As well as the Word of command, grounded in the remembrance of grace, there was also the Word of warning: “But if you go on doing what is evil, you and your king will be wiped out” (1 Samuel 12:25). May God help us to be like Samuel – “speaking the truth in love”.

Saul enjoyed success as a military leader: “Wherever he turned, he was victorious” (1 Samuel 14:47). He was a failure as a spiritual leader: “Then the Lord spoke to Samuel, “I regret that I made Saul king. He turned away from Me and did not carry out My instructions” (1 Samuel 15:10-11). God’s Word of judgment was pronounced on Saul: “You rejected what the Lord told you. So the Lord rejects you as king of Israel” (1 Samuel 15:26).

David was the one, chosen by God, to be king – “Anoint him.He is the one” (1 Samuel 16:12). This was for the future. For the present, there was the challenge of Goliath. God’s will had been made known to David. Now, through his victory over Goliath, the will of God would become clear to all the people. David’s victory was really the Lord’s victory: “I come to you in the Name of the Lord … The Lord will hand you over to me … The whole world will know that Israel has a God. Then everyone gathered here will know that the Lord can save without sword or spear, because the Lord determines every battle’s outcome. He will hand all of you over to us” (1 Samuel 17:45-47). When we face our “Goliaths”, we must look beyond him to the Lord. When we take our eyes off the Lord, the “giants” look bigger than they really are. When we keep our eyes on the Lord, the “giants” are cut down to size. We are to be like David. We are to rise to the challenge – in the strength of the Lord. Armed with the armour of God, we can face our enemy, Satan, with the confidence that our God will give us the victory.

There’s a great contrast between David and Saul. It is summed up in 1 Samuel 18:12 – “The Lord was with David but had left Saul”. The sadness of this situation is summed up in 1 Samuel 18:29 – “Saul became David’s constant enemy”. The seriousness of this situation is summed up in 1 Samuel 19:10 – “Saul tried to nail David to the wall with his spear”. Saul had been thinking about doing this for some time (1 Samuel 18:11).

Jonathan’s faithfulness to David arose from his love for him (1 Samuel 20:17). This is true of God. He loves us. He is faithful to us. The story of David runs parallel to the story of Saul. It highlight. the continuous conflict between God and Satan. David was God’s man. Saul had become Satan’s tool. God is sending His blessing. Satan is seeking to hinder God’s blessing. This is the conflict that we see in the story of David and Saul. This is the conflict that is still going on in our lives. It’s an unequal conflict. The victory belongs to the Lord – not to Satan!

The story of David and Saul is a story of two very different men. David recognized that the Lord was in control. Saul, on the other hand, was trying to keep himself in control. There are two very different attitudes to life – trusting the Lord and taking things into our hands. We see David’s attitude to the Lord in his response to Nabal: “Blessed be the Lord, who defended me against the insults of Nabal and kept me from doing wrong. The Lord has turned Nabal’s own wickedness back on him” (1 Samuel 25:39).

Saul sinned against the Lord (1 Samuel 28). God’s judgment came upon Saul (1 Samuel 31). While Saul is still king, in these final chapters of 1 Samuel, the chief emphasis is placed on David. God’s work is moving on. It doesn’t stand still. God is looking to the future. Saul was yesterday’s man. David was God’s man for the future. We must move forward with God. He is leading us on to greater blessing.

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