2 Samuel 1-3

2 Samuel 1-3…Saul’s death.

The final chapter of 1 Samuel recounts a massive battle in which the men of Israel flee before the Philistines. Saul’s three sons are struck down and killed, and Saul himself is wounded. He asks his armorbearer to kill him lest the Philistines have that “pleasure,” but the armor-bearer is too fearful to do it. So Saul allows his body to fall onto his sword. Thus ends the reign of Israel’s first monarch. At least one man, an Amalekite, escapes from the battle and makes his way to David, where he reports Saul’s death at the beginning of 2 Samuel. His account is slightly different. However, he claims to have dealt the death blow to Saul that the armor-bearer refused to give. Apparently he is hoping to curry favor as the man who finally finished off David’s pursuer. But David does not celebrate Saul’s death. Rather, he tears his clothes as a sign of anguish, then mourns, weeps, and fasts till evening. Next he has the self-proclaimed destroyer of God’s anointed king put to death. Finally he composes a lament for Saul and Jonathan, his Song of the Bow, in which he proclaims that a tragedy has befallen Israel.

David’s faith may have been at a low ebb just prior to this unexpected providence. But his reaction to Saul’s death shows that the heart qualities that prompted God to choose him for the throne are still present. David realizes that God has carried out His judgment on Saul, and he takes no joy in it. And he understands that Saul was an effective deliverer for Israel. In light of this dire event, David’s own desire for the throne is a small thing, and he sees that. The selflessness he exhibits here is a wonderful characteristic for any monarch.

God declares in Scripture that He takes no joy in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11), and neither should we. Like David in his mourning for Saul, we must see the deaths of unbelievers for what they are—tragedies caused by sin. Pray for your unsaved friends and family, and warn them of the approach of the day of God’s wrath.

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 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.