Saturday, 20 April 2013

Learning From God's Word: 1 Samuel

1 Samuel 1:1-28
The name, "Samuel, tells the story of the events 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). Hannah did not only ask the Lord for a son. 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).

1 Samuel 2:1-36
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: "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). 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.

1 Samuel 3:1-21
The Lord laid His hand upon 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 God (1 Samuel 3:19-21). God was with him in power. God was sending His blessing down from heaven above. 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).

1 Samuel 4:1-6:21
The ark of the Lord signified the Lord's presence among His people. 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 the Lord is re-established. If there is to be blessing among us, we need to honour God and His Word. If God and His Word are taken lightly, there will be no blessing.

1 Samuel 7:1-17
God calls His people to make a whole-hearted return to Him. They are to commit themselves to serving Him alone (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 7:120). The call to be dedicated to the Lord is always accompanied by the promise of His help.

1 Samuel 8:1-10:27
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 was not enough for them. They were determined to get their own way. They insisted on having a human king. God permitted 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.

1 Samuel 11:1-13:23  
Samuel and Saul were very different. Samuel loved the Lord. Saul didn't follow the command of the Lord (1 Samuel 13:14). Samuel was the kind of man the Church needs in its spiritual leadership today. 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 is good and right" (1 Samuel 12:23). He 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 deep 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, he also issued 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."

1 Samuel 14:1-15:53  
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).

1 Samuel 16:1-17:58
David was the one who 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).

1 Samuel 18:1-19:24 

Here, we see the 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).

1 Samuel 20:1-23:29
Jonathan's faithfulness to David arose from his love for him (1 Samuel 20:17). This is true of God - Because He loves us, He is faithful to us. The story of David runs parallel to the story of Saul. It highlights the continuous conflict between God and Satan. David was God's man. Saul had become Satan's man. God is sending His blessing. Satan is seeking to hinder God's blessing. This is the conflict we see in the story of David and Saul.

1 Samuel 24:1-26:25
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 is, here, a contrast between two very different attitudes to life - trusting the Lord and taking things into our own hands. We see David's attitude to the Lord in his response to Nabal (chapter 25) - "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).

1 Samuel 27:1-31:13 
Saul sinned against the Lord (chapter 28). God's judgment came upon Saul (chapter 31). In these final chapters, Saul is still king - but the chief emphasis is placed upon David. God's work is moving on. It does not 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.