1 & 2 Samuel Part One Deep Dive
THE THREE CHARACTERS & THE THREE THEMES | CHRIS JUSTICE
1st Samuel holds a special place in my heart. It was the first book I read in my journey with God and to look back now, I see exactly why He drew me to it.
Before I made the decision to become a Christian, my biggest areas of contention were morality and ethics. I struggled to comprehend the teachings of Jesus with the ‘God’ of the Old Testament, or, for what I knew of him. 1st Samuel was the book that broke down all my walls, and through it, God taught me invaluable lessons before I had ever made a commitment.
Journeying through 1st Samuel you will be introduced to three main characters, with three amazing stories, that God works through to unify Israel into his country. It is as much a history of Israel and these pivotal men, as it is a character study of their strengths and flaws and God’s unrelenting love.
When I read 1st Samuel, there are a couple of common themes that really stand out. The first is set right from the beginning in Hannah’s Prayer (Chapter 2); God opposes the proud and exalts the humble.
Throughout 1st Samuel you see this in many forms too. As a nation (Starting Chapter 8), as a government (Chapter 15), as an army (Chapter 4), or even as an individual (Saul), God resists pride and rewards humility.
When I was reading 1st Samuel this theme stood out like black and white. I guess, in hindsight, it was really setting the foundation for reverence. Today, in a modern western influenced society, we have a subconscious peace about our place and value in the world. We have grown up in a society that recognises all humans as equal. Our countries constitutions and laws are based on the foundation of the divine individual; that we are all immeasurably unique and valuable, but also, equal.
Jesus radically changed the world’s perspective on the value of human life through the cross. And we live in the fruit of it now. But what I had found being unravelled to me when reading 1stSamuel, was how I had subconsciously, as a consequence of our recognition of divinity, devalued God.
This revelation I had when reading 1st Samuel came from understanding the character of David. That even though he was anointed, favoured, valued and exalted by the people, he never lost his reverence for God.
We must remember God sits on a throne. He is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. All the heavens and earth cry out in worship.
So as you read through 1st Samuel, I would encourage you to take note of this theme. When does God humble or exalt? When do people’s actions lead to pride, and if so, what might have motivated them, and when did they get comfortable with God and what did they forget?
The second theme that stood out to me continues in the same vein, it is after man forgets God, they seek their own wisdom.
This theme is repeated throughout 1st Samuel and in fact, the entire Bible. As above we see this in all its forms. First in Israel’s fight with the Philistines (chapter 4), secondly in Israel’s elders petition for a king (chapter 8), thirdly in Saul’s reign and so on…
In Chapter 13:8 Saul was told to wait 7 days for Samuel to arrive before offering a sacrifice, with 30,000 Philistines on his heel, his army and people scattering before him Saul gave the sacrifice after 7 days but! - before Samuel arrived.
Just after Saul had finished Samuel arrives and asks what he has done, to which he replies “the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favour of the Lord.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.”
Now, I really sympathise with Saul. He is severely outnumbered, morale is low, his people are scattering and he has to wait for one person before giving a sacrifice? I can see why he thought it needed to be done. He certainly wasn’t acting rashly by conventional wisdom.
But in verse 13 we see Samuel’s reply “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”
When reading 1st Samuel there will be many instances, as referenced above, where conventional wisdom doesn’t cut it. Although it seems to be have been the right thing to do, it wasn’t.
This is a beautiful revelation of God’s character.
Look at the times when man forgets God and the consequences, but also look for God’s redeeming hand. As we see in 13:14 although Saul has failed, God will replace him with a man after his own heart. Which, introduces David and we see the fruit of remembering God first.
The last theme that really stands out to me is the theme that resonates most profoundly with the teachings of Jesus; God looks at the heart (motives).
In 1st Samuel, we see in David a humble, unassuming shepherd musician who has built his faith in trusting the lord. From Chapter 17 through to Chapter 31 we see time and again David refusing to take action by conventional wisdom (even when it would seem the absolute right thing to do!) and waiting on the Lord for his direction.
This theme to me is one of the most beautiful found in the Bible. It strips back all of our pride, all of our achievements, all of what conventional wisdom would say makes a great man or woman and puts the focus solely on your relationship and trust with God.
Through Jesus, we know that this is what it has always been about; a relationship. God has always wanted a relationship with us, and by the cross, we can now walk boldly into the throne room of grace.
So, as you begin your journey into the book of 1st Samuel perhaps for the first time, I would encourage you to think about the three and three. The three characters and the three themes.