Notes on 1 Samuel
1:1-28 - Hannah ‘wept’. Hannah ‘was no longer sad’ (7,18). What made the difference? No child had been born. She had not even conceived. These things did not happen until later (21). Why was there such a change in Hannah? She believed. God’s Word had been spoken (17). Hannah believed His Word. She rejoiced in Him. Jesus emphasized the importance of praying with faith (Mark 11:24). We are to ‘ask in faith’, to pray ‘the prayer of faith’ (James 1:6; 5:15). We are also to pray ‘according to His will’ (1 John 5:14-15). God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). God does not always answer our prayers in the way that we want. Sometimes, rather than changing our circumstances, He simply speaks His Word to us: ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Always, He ‘gives grace to the humble’ (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).
2:1-36 - What a contrast between the son of Hannah and the sons of Eli - ‘the boy Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord... in the favour of the Lord’, ‘the sons of Eli were worthless men; they had no regard for the Lord (21,26,12). This is the difference between ‘the children of God’ and ‘the children of the devil’ (1 John 3:10). God’s Word speaks to us with a promise and a warning: ‘those who honour Me I will honour and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed’ (30). Let your attitude to the Lord be summed up in the words of Hannah: ‘There is none holy like the Lord, there is none like Thee; there is no rock like our God’ (2). Let us find our joy and our strength in the Lord: ‘My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord’ (1). May the Lord help us to be ‘His faithful ones’ who walk with Him (9).
3:1-4:22 - The call of Samuel is a vivid example of what God can do in the lives of children. Samuel’s early response to God set in motion a whole process of events leading Samuel to become ‘a prophet of the Lord’ through whom ‘the Word of the Lord... came to all Israel’ (3:10,19-4:1). Let us ground our children in Christ, encouraging them to have great expectations of what God can do in and with their lives as they grow up, loving Him. The people of Israel were ‘defeated’ by the Philistines. The greatest tragedy of this defeat was the ‘capture’ of ‘the ark of God’: ‘The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured’ (4:10-11,22). We may lose ‘goods, honour, children, wife’ (Church Hymnary, 406). The glory of God among His people - We must not lose this!
5:1-6:16 - In 5:3-4, we read of God’s superiority over Dagon - ‘The Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King’ (Jeremiah 10:10). ‘The hand of the Lord was heavy’ on those who set themselves against Him (5:6-7,9,11). Let ‘the Lord alone be exalted’. He is our only ‘Saviour’ (Isaiah 2:17-18; 43:10-11). Through His victory over Dagon, the Lord calls us to be completely devoted to Him: ‘Down went Dagon, smashed in pieces when the ark of God came in. So shall God destroy those idols that defile our hearts within. Come, Lord, and destroy them’. The return of the ark brought joy (6:13). When the Lord is restored to His rightful place among His people, there is joy. ‘Heaven came down and glory filled my soul’. When the Lord comes to us, we ‘rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory’ (1 Peter 1:8).
6:17-7:17 - God is ‘holy’ (20). He calls His people to be holy. With His call to holiness, there is His promise of blessing (3). Committed to serving the Lord only and calling on the Lord for His help, Israel wins a great victory over the Philistines (4-11). God’s people give thanks to Him - ‘Until now the Lord has helped us’ (12). The victory over the Philistines was spectacular. There were, however, many ‘ordinary’ days. Here, we may learn from Samuel. He served the Lord ‘all the days of his life’ (15). The spectacular triumphs were few and far between. The ‘ordinary’ days were many - ‘he went on a circuit year by year...’(16). In all his journeys, he did not forget to ‘come home’ (7:17). Other places and other people seem to be so interesting. Don’t forget - There is much work to be done at ‘home’.
8:1-9:10 - Israel’s demand for a king did not arise from love for God. It was motivated by human pride (8:5,20). Having ‘rejected’ the Lord as King, the people made their choice. They did not choose for God! They ‘chose for themselves’ (8:7,18). God allowed them to have their king but He did not approve of their choice (22,18). Humanly speaking, Saul was well qualified (9:2). There was, however, something tragic about Saul’s reign. From the very outset, it was rushing headlong to its inevitable outcome: ‘I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly’ (26:21). ‘He gave them what they asked, but He sent a wasting disease among them’ (Psalm 106:15). Saul did more harm than good. There was not much blessing during Saul’s reign. God had greater things in store for Israel - but not until Saul’s reign was over!
9:11-10:16 - The Lord is King: We must never forget this. A human king is no substitute for the divine King (8:7). God was not pleased with His people. They wanted to be ‘like all the nations’ (8:5). God refused to abandon His people. They wanted a king. He gave them their king (15-17). He would wait patiently for His people to make a whole-hearted return to Him. The Lord would wait patiently until ‘a man after His own heart’ would rule over ‘His people’ (13:14). A human king must never forget the divine King. He must not become ‘too big for his boots’. He must not impose his own will. He must submit to God’s will. This is what it means to be ‘a man after God’s own heart’ - ‘Not my will but Thine be done’, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ (Luke 22:44; Matthew 6:10).
10:17-11:15 - Everyone was so happy - ‘Long live the king! (24). Everything seemed to be so promising - ‘The Spirit of God came mightily upon Saul’ (6). God’s people were victorious (11). God’s people ‘rejoiced greatly’ (15). This is not, however, the whole story. Things were to get worse, much worse - ‘You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from Him who calls you’ (Galatians 5:7-8). Remember the parable of the sower: ‘Satan immediately comes and takes away the Word... When tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word, immediately they fall away... The cares of the world and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the Word, and it proves unfruitful’ (Mark 4:15,17,19). Pray - ‘Deliver us from evil’ (Matthew 6:13).
12:1-13:15a - To the king as well as the people, God speaks in promise and warning: ‘If both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well... If you will not hearken to the voice of the Lord... then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king’ (12:14-15). Samuel was not afraid to speak very directly to the king - ‘You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God... Your kingdom shall not continue’ (13:13-14). Saul’s reign was about to end. God’s love continued: ‘The Lord will not cast away His people, for His great Name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for Himself’ (12:22). Saul had become too full of himself and his own importance. He needed to be replaced by ‘a man after God’s own heart’ (13:14). To the divine King be all the glory!
13:15b-14:23 - Humanly speaking, Israel seemed to be ‘no hopers’ (13:22). There was, however, something else. The Lord was with His people and He would give them the victory (14:6,19,12,23). There is a very important lesson for us here: ‘The weapons of our warfare are not worldly’. We are to ‘put on the whole armour of God’ (2 Corinthians 10:3-6; Ephesians 6:11-13). The victory does not come from our own strength. It comes from the Lord (Psalms 21:16; 21:7). In all our difficulties, we say, with faith, ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?... In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us’ (Romans 8:31,37). Do you want to have this strong faith which rejoices in the Lord, even when life is very difficult? - ‘Wait on the Lord and renew your strength’ (Isaiah 40:31).
14:24-52 - Making mistakes - it’s part of life for all of us: ‘We all make mistakes. If any one makes no mistakes... he is a perfect man’ (James 3:2). What are we to make of the ‘mistakes’ made by Saul and Jonathan? Saul’s ‘mistake’ was an error of judgment which ‘troubled the land’ (24,29). Jonathan’s ‘mistake’ was unfortunate. In the wrong place at the wrong time, he ‘had not heard’ what had been going on before he arrived on the scene (27). It was almost his last ‘mistake’ (43-44)! How are we to react to our mistakes? We can be like Saul or we can learn from our mistakes. Digging in his heels, Saul blundered on from one ‘mistake’ to another. He acted like he was the ‘perfect man’ who never makes ‘mistakes’. He had got it wrong, and he was the last to see it (44-45)! May God help us to learn from our mistakes!
15:1-35 - Saul chose convenience rather than obedience. He did what he wanted - not what God commanded (3,9). Saul was disobedient. God was not pleased with him (10). Saul made big claims for himself: ‘I have performed the commandment of the Lord’ (13). This was nonsense. Samuel saw through it immediately - ‘What then is this bleating...?’(14). Saul had done what suited himself. God said one thing. Saul did another. Saul tried to ‘pass the buck’. He blamed ‘the people’ (21). Saul appears to confess his sin. Still, there is this element of ‘passing the buck’. He blames ‘the people’ - ‘They put me up to it. It was their idea’ (24). This was ‘the last straw’. For Saul, this was ‘the end’ - ‘the show was over’. He would be replaced (26-28). Love God ‘with all your heart...’ - not just a part (Deuteronomy 6:5)!
16:1-23 - ‘Samuel did what the Lord commanded’ (4). Real obedience comes from ‘the heart’. It is more than just ‘keeping up appearances’(7). ‘The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart’ - This is something we must never forget!’. ‘It’s the presence of Your Spirit, Lord, we need’ (Songs of Fellowship, 256) - This is the lesson we must learn from the stories of Saul and David. The great difference between the two men is summed up in verses 13-14: ‘the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David... the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul’. David exerted a good influence upon Saul (23). Sadly, however, Saul’s best days were behind him. He was only a shadow of what he could have become if he had chosen to become ‘a man after God’s own heart’ (13-14). Don’t settle for second best when you can have God’s very best!
17:1-58 - David defeats Goliath. This is not only a story about David and Goliath. It is about the Israelites and the Philistines. It is about ‘God’ and the ‘gods’ (43,46). Victory comes from the Lord. It is given by grace. It is received by faith (47). Notice the contrast between the attitude of Saul - unbelief -and the attitude of David - faith (33,37). Unbelief is all around us. Don’t be pulled into it. Don’t forget God. Remember what He has done for you and thank Him that He will not fail you now (37). Put off the armour provided by men. ‘Put on the whole armour of God’ (38-40; Ephesians 6:11). We will not win the victory if we fight in our own strength. We must draw our strength from the Lord. He helps us. We are ‘strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man’ (Psalm 121:2; 124:8; Ephesians 3:16).
18:1-30 - ‘Loved’ by ‘all Israel and Judah’ (16,28), David was hated by only one man, the most powerful man in the land - Saul (29). Saul was full of envy (7-8), suspicion (9) and violence (10-11). Saul had been proved wrong (17:33,50), and he didn’t like it! David had more success with the women (7), and Saul wasn’t happy about this! The women shouldn’t have been idolizing David. Saul shouldn’t have been seeking glory for himself. The glory belongs to the Lord - not to David, not to Saul, not to anyone else! ‘Saul was David’s enemy continually’ (29). His real argument was with God. ‘The Lord was with David’ (14,28). This didn’t please Saul - ‘Why am I not getting all this blessing? I’m the king!’. If anyone says, I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar... he who loves God should love his brother also’ (1 John 4:20-21).
19:1-24 - Saul was planning to kill David (1). Jonathan warns David and tries to talk some sense into Saul (2,4-5). Saul took Jonathan’s advice - but not for long (6,10)! Thank God that the ‘like father, like son’ rule didn’t apply here! How much more difficult life would have been for David if he had both Saul and Jonathan for enemies! Sin can be a family tradition, passed on from generation to generation. The ‘father’ chooses a self-centred life. The ‘son’ follows in his footsteps. ‘He’s just his father’s son’! You can be your Father’s son: ‘All who receive Christ become children of God’ (John 1:12). Saul was seeking his own glory. Jonathan gave the glory to God (4-5). Let us not seek glory for ourselves (John 5:41,44). Give all the glory to God (Revelation 14: 7:12; Romans 11:36).
20:1-42 - ‘Jonathan loved David as he loved his own soul’ (17). He was ready to die for David (30-33). This is real love and true spiritual fellowship: ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’, ‘If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another...’ (John 15:13; 1 John 1:7). Where there is real love for the Lord, there will be depth of fellowship among His people. If our love for the Lord is shallow, our interest in other people will be superficial. Don’t be like Saul - ‘backstabbing’, ‘ready to put the knife in’: ‘Any one who hates his brother is a murderer...’ (1 John 3:15). ‘Let there be love shared among us... brotherly love that is real’ (Mission Praise, 411). God will answer this prayer - if we really mean it and don’t just ‘mouth’ it!
21:1-22:23 - ‘Religion’ is no substitute for compassion (21:3-6; Matthew 12:1-4,7). These were difficult times for David. His life was in great danger. He maintained his trust in the Lord. Looking ahead to the future, he speaks of ‘what God will do for me’ (22:3). Saul did not have the upper hand. God was in control. We wonder about the future - ‘What will it bring?’. With our faith in the Lord, we say, ‘I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future’. We look to the Lord and we say, ‘My times are in Thy hand: My God I wish them there... My times are in Thy hand, whatever they may be... Why should I doubt or fear?... I’ll always trust in Thee’. When life is hard, remember the One who suffered for you: ‘Jesus, the Crucified’ - He is our Guard and Guide’ (Church Hymnary, 680).
23:1-29 - Saul imagined that God was with him in his pursuit of David - ‘God has given him into my hand’ (7). He was wrong - ‘Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand’ (14). We may like to think that God supports us in everything we decide to do. We must, however, be honest before Him and recognize that there can be a great difference between ‘what I want’ and ‘what God wants’. We must learn to choose God’s will rather than our own will (Luke 22:42). We ask, ‘What is God’s will?’. God says, ‘This is the will of God, your sanctification’ (1 Thessalonians 4:3). God wants us to be ‘changed into His likeness’ (2 Corinthians 3:18). He renews our minds, enabling us to live a life that is more truly and more fully in line with His perfect will (Romans 12:2). Do you want your own way - or God’s will?
24:1-22 - Saul recognized that David was a ‘righteous’ man to whom ‘the kingdom’ would be given (17,20). There is a vital connection between godly character and fruitfulness in God’s service. We dare not imagine that we will be fruitful for God if we refuse to give ourselves fully to Him. There is no short cut to God’s blessing which by-passes the dedication of our hearts and lives to Him. We learn this lesson from David. A man, ‘raised up to be king’, he was - first of all - ‘a man after God’s heart’, a man who would ‘do all God’s will’ (Acts 13:22). It was great that Saul recognized David’s righteous character and spiritual potential. It was sad that this made no real difference to the way in which Saul lived His own life. He continued to ‘play the fool’, going his own way rather than God’s way (26:21).
25:1-44 - Forewarned is forearmed. Know where the trouble’s coming from before it hits you and knocks you off your feet. This is the message of verse 25. Nabal was well named - Fool!. He is described as ‘that wicked man’, ‘this ill-natured fellow’, ‘this worthless person’, ‘this man of Belial’. We need to be on our guard with people like this around! In 2 Corinthians 6:15, Paul uses the word, ‘Belial’. It is another name for Satan. It’s hardly any wonder that Nabal was a trouble maker. He was a man of Satan! Be on your guard against Satan. He doesn’t always come ‘as a roaring lion’. Sometimes, he ‘masquerades himself as an angel of light’ (1 Peter 5:8; 2 Corinthians 11:14). It’s better to be forewarned and forearmed than to have to say, with the benefit of hindsight, ‘I wish I had known then what I know now’!
26:1-25 - Saul and David were very different. David was wise. He had respect for ‘the Lord’s anointed’ (11). This was grounded in ‘the fear of the Lord’ which ‘is the beginning of wisdom’ (Psalm 111:10). Saul ‘played the fool’. He ‘erred exceedingly’, choosing the way of self rather than the way of the Lord (21). This is not only the story of David and Saul. It’s like looking into a mirror. In David and Saul, we see ourselves. We are at the cross-roads. We must choose. God promises blessing - ‘The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness’ (23). This promise is full of challenge. Choose ‘righteousness and faithfulness’. Choose Christ. Keep on choosing Him. ‘O happy day, that fixed my choice on Thee, my Saviour and my God... That vow renewed shall daily hear’ (Mission Praise, 499).
27:1-28:2 - What a difference there is between fear - ‘I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul’ - and faith - ‘The Lord will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine (27:1; 17:37)! These words were spoken by the same man - David. There is a battle going on within each one of us - a battle for faith, a battle against fear. How do we overcome fear? How do we grow strong in faith? - ‘Perfect love casts out fear’. It is God’s love which gives us the victory - ‘We love, because He first loved us’. Strengthened by His love, our faith grows strong, and we say, ‘This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith... Jesus is the Son of God’ (1 John 4:18-19; 5:4-5). ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine’ (Isaiah 43:1). Let faith grow strong and fear be banished!
28:3-25 - Saul sinned against the Lord. He brought God’s judgment upon himself: ‘Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord... the Lord has done this thing to you this day’ (18). ‘Saul disguised himself’’ - he thought he could get away with his sin. He was wrong: ‘Be sure your sin will find you out’ (8; Numbers 32:23). There is no hiding from God - ‘Before Him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do’. God’s Word warns us: ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’. Do not ‘trample the Son of God under foot, treating His blood as an unholy thing and outraging the Spirit of grace’. Don’t fight against God. You will be the loser! Don’t ‘shrink back’ and be ‘destroyed’. ‘Believe’ and be ‘saved’ (Hebrews 4:13; 10:29-31, 39; Acts 16:30-31).
29:1-30:15 - ‘David was greatly distressed... But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God (30:6). Things are going badly. What do you do? Do you start feeling sorry for yourself? That won’t do any good. God’s Word says, ‘Be strong, and let your heart take courage’ (Psalm 27:14). In times of difficulty, where does your strength come from? - ‘The Lord is my strength and my shield... The Lord is the strength of His people...’ (Psalm 28:7-8). How are we to strengthen ourselves in the Lord our God? We must remind ourselves that God is in control: ‘The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as King for ever’. This is the way in which ‘the Lord gives strength to His people!’.This is the way ‘the Lord blesses His people with peace!’ (Psalm 29:10-11). Let us be strong in the Lord
30:16-31:13 - Here, we have tragedy and triumph - the tragedy of Saul (4), the triumph of the Lord (23). What we are, in ourselves, is tragic - ‘all have sinned... the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 3:23; 6:23). This is not the full story of our life. There’s something else: ‘what the Lord has given us’ - ‘they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus’: ‘the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (23; Romans 3:24; 6:23). This is the triumph of the Lord. It is not something that we achieve for ourselves. ‘This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes’ (Psalm 118:23). We give all the praise and glory to the Lord: ‘Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph. Let us ‘spread the knowledge of Him everywhere’ (2 Corinthians 2:14).