Welcome Back to the Bible Blog!
So we went from reading one book, such as Genesis, over a 2+ week time frame, to reading one book, such as Joshua, in 1 week, to now reading one book, Ruth, in ONE DAY!
We’ve also covered a LOT of ground in 1Samuel in only 6 days (up through chapter 20)… so there’s a lot to summarize, but before we get too far into the story of 1Samuel, a few notes on the structure of the Bible…
Notice how this book, 1Samuel, often referred to as “first Samuel” has a number 1 before it? It’s followed by 2Samuel. You may be familiar with similar numbering of books in the New Testament as well. So there needs to be some clarification as to what these numbers mean.
In the Old Testament when we encounter a book with a number before it, such as 1Samuel, the number represents the number of the scroll on which it was written. Particularly in OT times, writings were done on scrolls and when those scrolls became too large, such as with a lengthy book like Samuel, the scribes would stop when the scroll was large and continue the story on another scroll.
SO… 1Samuel and 2Samuel are, in fact, ONE BOOK! They are one story written on two different scrolls, kind of like Volume 1 and Volume 2. This is the same with 1Kings & 2Kings (really just one book called Kings), etc. In fact the Hebrew Bible does not separate them into 1Samuel and 2Samuel, because they recognize them as one written work.
However, in the New Testament when we encounter a number preceding a book, such as 1Timothy, we are encountering a unique written document. In these cases they are letters. We aren’t very creative in how we distinguish them, so each letter we find from Paul to Timothy we simply give a number; hence, 1Timothy and 2Timothy. These are two independent letters, not one written document. Understand?
Now, let’s step back and look at the flow of the Old Testament so far. I mentioned last week that the story of the line of promise is always maintained throughout the Scriptures. That explains the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38 and, partly, Ruth here after Judges, but before 1Samuel. Ruth begins with the phrase, “In the days when the judges ruled…” clearly indicating that it belongs right alongside the book of Judges. We know these were dark times, as Judges ends with the phrase, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.”
Hmm… No King… Dark times… Now the book of Ruth, which begins, with the ominous time of the judges and ends with the genealogy of David, arguably Israel’s greatest king… until Jesus, that is. Hey, Jesus is in the line of David!
So the end of Ruth signals for us that a king is coming and in 1Samuel we meet him. In Deuteronomy 17 we read God’s instructions for Israel’s future king. He says, “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, ‘Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,’ be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses.” (Deut 17:14-15a)
So once again God demonstrates that He knows all things. He knows Israel will ask for a king. In fact He even knows the manner in which they will ask. 1Samuel tells the story of this first kingly selection (and the second one as well).
However, asking for a king, in fact demanding one, was NOT a God-honoring thing to do. Samuel, Israel’s last judge is appalled at Israel’s request and, in great distress, prays to God. God assures him that, “It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” (1Sam 8:7b-9)
Even after Samuel warns them, Israel’s reply is, “No!…We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” (1Samuel 8:19b-20) God used to fill this role, and He should fill this role, but they were turning away from Him as they had always done.
So God provided for them a man that a wayward people would immediately recognize as “king-material,” a man who “was a head taller than any of the others.” Samuel described him to Israel saying, “There is no one like him among all the people.” Naturally, they fully embraced him as their king. (1Samuel 10:23-24)
King Saul, however, was not the kind of man God would have ideally chosen. In fact, He had another in mind; a man after His own heart, David. (1Samuel 13:14)
When Saul gets impatient waiting for Samuel to arrive before fighting the Philistines, he takes matters into his own hands and sacrifices a burnt offering to the Lord (which was Samuel’s job, not Saul’s). Samuel arrives to inform Saul that his disobedience has resulted in God deciding to give his kingdom to another, one after His own heart. (1Samuel 13)
So… does sacrifice please God?
In chapter 15 we see Saul disobey God again, this time by not completely wiping out the Amalekites, but capturing their king alive along with the best of the sheep and cattle to make a sacrifice to the LORD.
Is this really what God instructed him to do?
Samuel’s answer to him needs to be remembered by us all:
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1Samuel 15:22)
It has ALWAYS been about the heart with God.
King David will remind us of this later in Psalm 51 where, in deep broken-hearted repentance, he says to God,
“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17)
So… God sets out to guide Samuel in His selection of David as Israel’s next king. Notice the instruction He gives Samuel as Samuel keeps failing to recognize the man after God’s own heart. God tells Samuel,
“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him (David’s brother Eliab). The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1Samuel 16:7)
Remember in 1Samuel 10 how Saul was admired for being a head taller than any of the others? Even Samuel sees him as a striking example and describes him saying, “There is no one like him among all the people.”
How often have you & I judged others by their appearance?
How often have you & I been tempted to “do things” for God forgetting that it’s your HEART that He wants more than all?
So the people wanted, “a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” (1Samuel 8:20) However we see David boldly declaring to the giant, Goliath (and maybe to Israel at the same time),
“All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.” (1Samuel 17:47)
David understood that it is God who leads, God who fights, God who delivers, God who is in control. We are to be obedient, we are to engage in the battle, but only as He instructs, with faith and with courage and giving Him all the Glory!
Man, how I want more of my days to be lived as David (in these instances) and less of them lived as Saul.
How about you?
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