Christ Our Great Savior and King
The Book of 1 Samuel covers a period of about 115 years. It takes us from the birth of Samuel, the last of the judges, to the death of their first king, Saul. The children of Israel had been under the direct government of God himself throughout their history. The Lord God himself was their King. For almost 300 years the Lord God had administered his rule as King in Israel through the judges he raised up to deliver them.
But all the nations around them had kings in royal attire, sitting on splendorous thrones. When Samuel was an old man, after faithfully serving the nation as God’s prophet and their judge, the men of Israel came to him and said, “We want to be like these other nations.” “Give us a king to judge us…Make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” Samuel was, of course, heart broken. After faithfully serving their souls his entire life, they turned on him and rejected him. That’s enough to break any man’s heart. But, they had, in fact, turned on God and rejected him. Therefore the Lord said to Samuel…
"Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and show them the manner of the king that shall reign over them. And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king" (1 Samuel 8:7-10).
Samuel told them exactly the kind of man their king would be, self-serving, cruel, abusive, and destructive (1 Sam. 8:11-18). "Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles" (1 Sam. 8:19-20).
How often have you wanted something, or wanted something to happen so bad you could taste it, so bad that you just felt you had to have it? You prayed for it, prayed for it, and prayed for it. Then the Lord gave it to you; and you wished you had never heard of it. God often gives us what we think we want, and then makes us live with the consequences for a long, long time. The fact is, we never know what is best for us, and never know how to pray as we ought (Rom. 8:26).
Many years ago, William Evans told a story about his daughter. His little girl, who was about eight years old, came home from school and said, "Daddy, I want to get some ball bearing skates. All the other children have ball bearing skates and that is what I want." He said, "But you have a pair of skates." She replied, "Yes, I know Daddy, but they are not ball bearing skates. They are roller bearing skates. They won't go as fast as the others will.”
Mr. Evans was a preacher. His income was limited. So he said, "Well, sweetheart, I'm afraid you will have to make do with the roller bearing skates. We simply can't afford to buy any others right now." But she wouldn't give up. The next night when he came home from his work, there was a little note at his place on the table. It said. "Dear Daddy, I still want the ball bearing skates." When he went to bed that night there was another note pinned to his pillow. It said, "Daddy, would you please buy me some ball bearing skates?"
Well, he did the same thing you or I might have done. He scraped up the money and got those ball bearing skates. When he gave them to her, she was elated. She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him and kissed him and thanked him. Then she put on those great, new ball bearing skates like all the other children had and took off, out the gate, down the sidewalk, and around the corner. That was the last time they ever saw her alive and well. As she went around the corner, she could not maneuver the new skates. She slipped and fell down, hitting her head against the sidewalk. They brought her home in a coma. She died at the hospital that night. "Since then," Mr. Evans said, "when I want something of God and it seems as though he is not willing that I should have it, but I keep crying out for it, the Spirit of God reminds me, ‘Are you asking for ball bearing skates?'"
God often gives us what we want, and then makes us live with the consequences for a long, long time. This is what happened in Israel. How often we have experienced it in our own lives. "Stand thou still a while, that I may show thee the word of God" (1 Sam. 9:27).
Three Principle Characters
There are three principle characters in this Book: Samuel, Saul and David. This piece of Israel’s history begins with the birth of Samuel and gives us a pretty detailed description of his life and ministry (1:10:27). He was born in a house where God was honored. He was a gift of God to his mother, Hannah, who dedicated him to the Lord before he was born. As soon as he was weaned, Hannah brought her boy to the house of God and gave him to the Lord. Soon, the Lord revealed himself to Samuel and made him a prophet. A faithful prophet he was to the day of his death.
Chapters 11-31 describe the sad, sad life and rule of Saul, Israel’s first king. Saul was the gift of God’s judgment to Israel. They wanted to be like all the other nations. They demanded a king. So God gave them Saul.
David comes on the scene in chapter 16. His noble character and his greatness is set before us and runs parallel with Saul’s life from chapter 16-31. David was the man after God’s own heart, whom he chose to replace Saul as king over Israel.
Those facts are easily traced through this first of the historical books. But what does the Holy Spirit intend for us to learn from the historic facts recorded in these thirty-one chapters? Obviously, I cannot (and will not try to) give you everything our God would have us learn from these chapters. I make no pretense of knowing myself. But there are some very important spiritual lessons to be gleaned from 1 Samuel, lessons that will help you and me as we endeavor to live in this world for the glory of our God, serving the interests of his kingdom. Let’s go through these thirty-one chapters together, gleaning the “handfuls of purpose” left here for us by our God.
1 Samuel begins with a man by the name of Elkanah, who teaches us something about the worship of our God (1:1-4). This man’s name, Elkanah, means “possession of God.” Learn this first: Worship is, at its core, the acknowledgement that we are God’s possession. I cannot say this often enough. Faith in Christ involves giving up self to the rule and dominion of Christ our God, acknowledging him as our Lord (Mk. 8:34-35; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). That person who is possessed of God possesses God. What a swap we make when we give up ourselves for Christ and to Christ! We give up our death for his life, our emptiness for his fulness, our sin for his righteousness, our guilt for his atonement, and our way of cursedness for his way of blessedness.
When Elkanah went up to worship God, he brought a sacrifice. If we would worship God, we must come to him with the sacrifice he requires – Christ the Lamb of God, our sin-atoning Substitute. The sacrifice Elkanah brought was a sacrifice involving personal cost. Worship always involves sacrifice. God will not be worshipped and served at our convenience, or upon our terms.
Elkanah’s wife, Hannah, gives us instruction in the matter of prayer (1:9 - 2:11). I do not pretend to know much about prayer. I am always embarrassed when people come to me seeking help about prayer, or ask me about how to pray. But I do know this: You will not find richer, more spiritual instruction about prayer than you will read in these first two chapters of 1 Samuel. Listen to this saintly lady’s prayer as you read its words, and learn what prayer is.
As Hannah was driven to the throne of grace by the persecution of her adversary, Pininnah, we are often sluggish in prayer until the Lord graciously puts us in desperation. Hannah’s prayer arose from her “bitterness of soul,” which caused her to weep sore before the Lord (1:10). Prayer is the cry of a child in need to be remembered by our heavenly Father – “Remember me!” (v. 11). Nothing is more moving to a loving father than the cry of his needy child. Prayer is a matter of the heart, not the lip. – “She spake in her heart…I have poured out my soul before the Lord” (1:13, 15). Prayer obtains God’s blessing (1:17-20). Hannah came to the throne of grace in time of need, cast her burden on the Lord and left it there, having obtained the mercy she needed. The Lord our God always honors those who honor him (2:30). And prayer gives thanks, praise, adoration, honor, and glory to the Lord God alone (2:1-10). "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16).
Eli stands out, at least to me, as a marvelous example of and lesson about a believer’s consecration to God (chapters 3 and 4). Eli was the priest in Israel; and he was a man of remarkable faith in and consecration to God. Yes, he had his faults. He did not restrain his wicked sons, but indulged them in their ungodly behavior. For that he was chastened of the Lord. Still, he was a remarkable man. He did reprove his sons; but he did not restrain them. And they refused to hear his reproof (2:24-25). When Samuel told Eli that the Lord was determined to kill his sons and take the priesthood from his house forever, he responded to God’s Word and his will with exemplary faith, —“It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.” When the ark of God was taken and his sons were killed by the Philistines, “his heart trembled for the ark of God” (2:13-18). Eli was more concerned for the cause of Christ and the glory of God than he was for himself, his name, his sons, or his house.
Samuel exemplifies what it is to be God’s prophet. There are many, many examples of faithful prophets in the Word of God (Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, etc.), but none outshine Samuel. He, too, like Eli, had two sons that were sons of Belial; but he, too, was a faithful man throughout his life. Samuel faithfully declared God’s Word. He plainly told both Eli, the priest, and his master all the Word of God. He faithfully declared to Saul the message God gave him to deliver to the king. And he withheld nothing of God’s revelation from Israel. Being a prophet, he was but the voice by whom God revealed himself, his Word, and his will to Israel. When Israel rejected him, they were not rejecting him, but God (1 Sam. 8:7; 2 Cor. 5:18-21). The same is true of those who reject the gospel preached to them today. Though the children of Israel rejected him and rejected his message, Samuel was faithful still to their souls and to God (1 Sam. 12:20-24).
Saul stands before us as a very sobering lesson, a lesson we must constantly learn. —When we indulge the lusts of our flesh, we bring misery to ourselves (8:1-22). Saul was the product of the flesh. He was exactly what Israel wanted, or thought they wanted. But he proved to be a source of unceasing pain and misery as long as he lived. Oh, how bitter the experience of this is; but it is a lesson that we must learn. Our flesh is our greatest enemy! The flesh prefers the authority of men to the authority of God. – “Give us a king.” The flesh craves the approval of flesh. – “A king like the nations.” The flesh seeks to govern the kingdom of God by the opinions of men, rather than the Word of God. The flesh consults with and follows the flesh, rather than the revelation of God. The indulgence of the flesh always disturbs the peace of God’s kingdom.
I love the illustration of God’s election in David. He teaches us who God’s elect are. The Lord God passed by Saul, the great, strong, handsome choice of Israel, and chose David. He passed by all David’s brothers, and chose the youngest of Jesse’s sons, the runt of the family. And, the fact is, God’s elect are almost always the people we least suspect might be the objects of his grace (1 Sam. 16:12). He almost always chooses to use the most unlikely of men to serve the interests of his kingdom and glory (1 Cor. 1:26-31).
Abigal, Nabal’s wife, shows us a lesson about God’s prevenient grace (25:1-39). How I adore the wonder of God’s providence. Israel’s choice of a king was used by our God to accomplish his purpose. He graciously and wisely overruled their evil choice, their rebellion, and their sin to accomplish his own wise purpose for their good (Rom. 8:28-30; 11:33-36).
Prevenient grace is another of the mysteries of God’s providence, for which we have great reason to praise him with thankful, humbled hearts. Prevenient grace is grace that goes before grace and keeps the objects of grace from much evil, even from the evil we would commit if the Lord would let us (1 Sam. 25:32-39).
The whole Book of 1 Samuel is a marvelous display of divine sovereignty. God was in control of everything; and he still is. Blessed be his holy name! Nothing done by Israel, the Philistines, Saul, or anyone else could in any way hinder God’s work or thwart his purpose!
Types of Christ
Throughout this Book, indeed, throughout the Bible, David stands before us as a great type of our Lord Jesus Christ. Long ago John Gill stated that the Old Testament presents us with three categories of types, by which our Lord Jesus and God’s great salvation in him were prefigured: —Institutional Types (The Ceremonies of the Law) —Providential Types (The Deliverances of Israel) —Personal Types (Individuals). David was one of the greatest of these personal types.
· David was a shepherd in Israel. The Lord Jesus Christ is our good and great Shepherd. David hazarded his life for his sheep; but Christ gave his life for his sheep.
· Jonathan made a covenant of love with David for the salvation of his house. The Lord God made a covenant of love with Christ for the salvation of his house.
· David was anointed and established of God as the king of Israel. Christ is the Lord’s anointed King of Zion, established upon his throne forever.
· David slew Goliath with the most unlikely of weapons (a shepherd’s sling), and cut off his head with the very sword by which Goliath planned to slay him and all of Israel. Our great Savior defeated sin, Satan, death, and hell, and saved all Israel by his death upon the cross.
· All the schemes, plans, and devices by which Saul tried to thwart God’s purpose and keep David from the throne only served to establish him and his kingdom. And all the schemes of hell to thwart our Savior and keep him from saving his people and reigning upon the throne of universal monarchy only serve to accomplish God’s gracious purpose.
· As David recovered all from the Amalekites and rescued his wives from their hands, so the Lord Jesus has recovered all for us and rescued his bride from all harm.
· As David made a law concerning the sharing of the spoils so that every man had the same rich reward, so our Lord Jesus has given all his people all his wealth as the God-man our Savior (John 17:5, 22).
"My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble. The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and he hath set the world upon them. He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed” (1 Sam. 2:1-10).