1 Samuel 29-31

1 Samuel 29-31…David faces another trial.

When David and his men found Ziklag burned with fire and their wives and their children gone, they wept. This was a bitter blow to all of them. David in particular, however, tasted the bitterness of being without God’s physical protection. He had been miraculously taken care of on many other occasions, but now that protection had been removed for the time being. David had exchanged the king of Gath and a walled city for the Spirit of the Lord and found no protection in man. It is the Spirit of the Lord who protects God’s people. How often we forget this.

Some of us might be inclined to think that the normal thing would have been for David to start out after the Amalekites without even asking the Lord about it. We might think this was the obvious thing to do. But remember, David had had enough of his own reasoning. He had followed his own reasoning in going to Gath and by it had escaped from the hand of Saul, but he got himself into more difficulties than he ever expected.

The seemingly natural thing to do may not always be the right thing as far as God is concerned. When David’s fellowship with the Lord was restored, he let the Lord guide his steps. God’s Word admonishes us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). David sought God’s will, and God eventually gave victory.

1 Samuel 26-28

1 Samuel 26-28…Communication with the dead?

These chapters describe a rare and unusual occurrence where someone from the dead came back to respond to one yet living. God allowed Samuel to communicate with Saul, though Saul was wrong to seek the help of a medium to begin with. Scripture forbids that practice (Deut. 18:10-12). Samuel’s responses do not describe current conditions; they are based on a message he apparently received from God that Saul and Israel would go down in defeat (1 Sam. 28:15-19).

Some teach that our deceased Christian loved ones can see us from heaven. They frequently cite from Hebrews 12:1, which says: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us . . . run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

They interpret that to mean our departed loved ones watch us like spectators do in a stadium, seeing our every move and cheering us on. While that may seem comforting, I don’t believe the Bible is really teaching that.

The witnesses in that verse are not modern-day loved ones, but the faithful saints in Hebrews 11 who lived victorious lives by trusting God. Those saints are witnesses to us because their lives testify about the value of trusting God no matter what hardships we face. They are active witnesses who speak to us by their example; not passive witnesses who watch us with their eyes.

Consequently, when we understand Hebrews 12:1 in its context, we realize that it doesn’t really support the idea that our loved ones are watching us from heaven. Our comfort comes not from knowing they can see us, but that they can see Jesus and one day we will see Him with them as well-never to be separated again.

1 Samuel 23-25

1 Samuel 23-25…David shows mercy to Saul.

In these chapters, David is given an unexpected opportunity to end his misery. While he and his men are hiding in a cave, Saul himself enters. It would be a simple matter for David to strike Saul down. But David refuses, saying, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord” (1 Samuel 24:6). David’s trust in God’s promises is running high. He has not forgotten that Saul is pursuing him in an effort to kill him. But he also is aware that Saul was anointed as king, a sign that God had designated him to rule, and David will not presume to topple from the throne one whom God put there. While he, too, has been anointed to the throne, he realizes that he must wait to wear the crown until such time as God chooses. And so he allows Saul to go on his way.

When times are difficult, the temptation can be strong to rely on our own wisdom. That may lead us to take actions contrary to God’s revealed will. The faithful Christian will not “cut corners” but will do things God’s way even when it isn’t easy. In which areas of your life are you facing difficulties? What would God have you do?

1 Samuel 20-22

1 Samuel 20-22…The friendship of Jonathan and David.

David’s friendship with Saul’s son, Jonathan, is a model of loyalty in a human relationship. We see in these chapters a moving description of the deep friendship that existed between the two. On the run from Saul, David explained his plight to Jonathan, who could hardly believe him at first. Jonathan did not want to accept that his father wanted to kill David, since that would have meant he would have to forgo loyalty to his own family for the sake of doing what was right. This fact should not be skipped over too quickly. In this fallen world, loyalty to one person can often require us to be disloyal to another, and it is especially painful when we have to be disloyal to our own relatives who are in the wrong. But Jonathan was an honorable man and vowed to let David know whether Saul’s anger still burned against him, even if it meant losing the trust of his father. The two men even made a solemn covenant to reassure each other of their godly motivations.

As the people of God, we must be especially careful never to show loyalty to the wrong people and we must be worthy of the trust of our friends and family. This can be easier said than done at times, but the Holy Spirit is with us to help us maintain our loyalty even when doing so is difficult. Let us repent of any disloyalty we have shown and work to make it up to someone we have betrayed. And may we always keep our vows to the Lord Himself.

1 Samuel 17-19

1 Samuel 17-19…David and Goliath

The message of David and Goliath is not that God will defeat our giants, since that idea is found nowhere in the text. The author speaks through the character of David and tells us in the climax of the story what the message is: that all the nations may know the God of Israel is the true God who saves those who trust in Him. The message is evangelistic – all the nations must know of this God. It is messianic – David is the Lord’s anointed, pointing us to the reign of Christ. It is God-centered – He receives all the glory because He saves apart from man’s strength. The hero of the story is the Lord and His messiah as represented in the character of David.

It is hard for us to resist turning this into a moral tale. We assume the author of 1 Samuel wanted good, godly behavior from his readers. So we cast ourselves as David and re-imagine Goliath as any number of “giants” we may be facing from a disease to a job situation to family problems to financial struggles to persistent heartburn. The moral of the tale of David and Goliath is if we trust and obey God He will empower us to overcome the challenges in our life.

1 Samuel 14-16

1 Samuel 14-16…Jonathan defeats the Philistines, the Lord rejects Saul, and David is anointed King.

It was in the midst of a great national crisis that David was selected to rule over the nation of Israel. After Saul proved to be a great failure (1 Samuel 15), the Lord came to the prophet-judge Samuel and instructed him to anoint a new monarch who would replace him. At first, Samuel was afraid to follow God’s instructions because he knew that Saul would kill him if he learned there was a conspiracy to replace him. This fear is not unlike what many of us feel when we realize what we are supposed to do for the Lord’s glory but know we will meet worldly opposition.

In any case, God reassured Samuel with a plan to keep secret the true purpose of his mission in Bethlehem. So he went forth to the house of Jesse. What followed was a long process of having each of Jesse’s sons stand before Samuel one at a time so that he might discern which of them the Lord had chosen to be the new king. Certainly God could have just told Samuel to find the boy named David and anoint him straightaway, but it seems that He had the prophet go through the ritual to teach him and those who would hear and read this story a lesson. We often select charismatic people for leadership, not the “least likely” candidate. But in having Samuel choose the least of Jesse’s sons to be the king, God demonstrated that the real way to choose a godly leader in the church is to look at the heart of the person under consideration. Samuel thus anointed David according to the Lord’s will, and the Holy Spirit came on the young man to prepare him for leadership.

1 Samuel 11-13

1 Samuel 11-13…King Saul is not King Jesus

God’s miraculous calling of Saul as King of Israel is encouraging. Saul was supernaturally changed, and the result was a humble, wise leader, willing to serve God. Saul was used by the Lord even though the desire for Israel to have a King went against the Lord’s ways. Saul led the Israelite army to defeat the Ammonites, and the men of Israel rejoiced greatly at the end of 1 Samuel 11.

Samuel delivers a typical, biblical sermon to the people in 1 Samuel 12, and outlines God’s providential hand on their lives, despite their sin and rebellion. In 1 Samuel 13, Saul shows why he is not the ultimate King. Like all men, he sins, and is therefore only a picture of the true King, who would save people from sin. Saul disobeys the Lord by rushing through the burnt offering process. He didn’t wait for the Lord, and instead of trusting the Lord’s timing and being patient until Samuel arrived, he went on his own. Samuel rebukes Saul; “You have done foolishly.”

How often do we do the same thing? The Lord’s timing is perfect, and He often has us wait so we’ll grow in our trust of Him. This is how He brings glory to Himself. Thankfully, King Jesus trusted the Lord perfectly, so that even our sins of impatience and distrust would be forgiven, if we repent and believe. Do you repent from distrust of the Lord? Consider ways in which you have not trusted Him fully in your life, and turn from your distrust, and pursue contentment in His timing. Preach the gospel to yourself, as a reminder of the fact that you have been given way more than you deserve.

1 Samuel 8-10

1 Samuel 8-10…Israel demands a King.

This is one of the most important sections in the Bible. Right here is the very tap root of the evil that mined Israel. In this chapter, they rejected God, demanded a king like other nations, and set in motion a chain of events that culminated in the frenzied cry of the Sanhedrin before Pilate, “We have no king but Caesar.”

There is a marvelous lesson in prayer in these chapters. When the request of the elders for a king came as a severe stroke of disappointment and grief to Samuel, he took his sorrow to the Lord in prayer. And when, despite all the warnings, Israel’s elders said, “No! we will have a king,” once more, it is stated that Samuel repeated all the words of the people in the ears of the Lord (1 Samuel 8:21). This is the great example for all believers.

Are you worried? Pray. Are you discouraged? Pray. Are you in pain? Pray. Are you in relational turmoil with someone? Pray. The point here is not so much that by praying we’ll get what we want. Sometimes we will, but the praying needs to be done with humility, and with a desire for God to be glorified.

Pray that in your trials you would grow in maturity. Pray that God would be glorified in the way you respond to difficulty. Pray that you would trust the Lord more, and worry less. Pray that you would remember how small you are, and how big God is. Pray that you would realize more clearly that you are not in charge, and God is eternally omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Pray for a better understanding of the objective reality that this life is short, and the trinkets and toys that are so alluring here will not be in heaven. Pray for a clearer understanding of your sin, God’s holiness and justice, and our need to esteem Jesus highly for what he has done for you.

1 Samuel 1-4

1 Samuel 1-4…Samuel and Eli.

One of the most poignant episodes of the judgment of God occurred in the Old Testament case of Eli. Eli was a judge and priest over Israel. He was, for the most part, a godly man. But his sons were wicked and profaned the house of God. Eli rebuked them but did not fully restrain them. God revealed to Samuel that He would judge the house of Eli:

“Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them.” (1 Samuel 3:11–13)

When Eli persisted in asking Samuel what God had said, Samuel finally told him. When Eli heard the words, he said: “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him” (1 Samuel 3:18).

What seemed good to God was to punish the house of Eli. Eli recognized the Word of God when he heard it because he understood the character of Him whose word it was. A God before whom we need to have no fear is not God but an idol made by our own hands. Eli said: “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him.” Can you make this affirmation from the depths of your heart in difficult times as well as good times?