The Book of I Samuel records the beginnings of the nation of Israel. It covers a period of about 115 years from the time of the birth of Samuel through the period of Saul and the anointing of David and ends with the death of Saul.
It teaches us valuable lessons through the life-stories of Eli, Hannah, Samuel, Saul, Jonathan, David and Abigail. We have much to learn from the pages of this book.
I The People in this Book
The priest of the Lord who failed to honour God because he honoured his sons more and failed to restrain them when they did wrong. He not only lost his life and the lives of his sons but the privilege of priesthood for his family as well.
The woman who saturated her life with prayer. She was blessed with a godly son Samuel as a result of her fervent prayer. When she gave her son to God, God gave her three more sons and two daughters (1 Samuel 2:20, 21)!
The priest, prophet and judge of Israel; a great intercessor and the man who anointed the first two kings of Israel.
The first king of Israel. Had a great beginning but failed to obey God in the end.
Courageous and loyal with great trust in God and sensing God’s purposes; who had great capacity for friendship. His friendship with David is summed up in David’s lament: “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women” (2 Samuel 1:26 NIV).
The man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), a musician, a warrior with abundant trust in God, jealous for God’s honour and anointed to be the future king of Israel. At the same time hunted like a bird by Saul (many of David’s Psalms of distress ending in praise came during this period). David is portrayed as an ordinary human being who is very much afraid at times (see Psalm 56:3).
The intelligent and beautiful woman who later became David’s wife. She, by her timely and wise words, was able to prevent David from needless bloodshed.
II Prayer—Shaping Individuals and Nations
One of the most overlooked elements of prayer is its ability to change the person praying, for the better. A praying person cannot remain unaffected by his praying. God changes and shapes the individual and enables him or her to do or achieve things beyond his or her natural abilities. The confidence of a praying person is found in his or her dependency on God. With Him they win, without Him they fail. This perhaps is the underlying story of 1 Samuel.
Hannah is a great example of reliance upon God. She did not fight back when provoked. But she wept much. Her need was so great. And she took her need to the Lord in prayer: “In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:10 NIV). She then made a vow to the Lord that if the Lord gave her a son, she would devote him to be a Nazirite (a person separated unto God; for more see the life of Samson) to the Lord.
Sadly Eli the priest misunderstood her and thought she was drunk because “Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard” (1 Samuel 1:13 NIV). The sad fact was that the priest more than anybody else should have known when a person was praying so passionately. Yet he failed to note her genuineness and her great need. So Hannah said that she was pouring out her soul to the Lord and that she had been praying out of her great anguish and grief.
When Eli finally understood, he blessed her and said, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” Then Hannah “went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” God remembered Hannah and gave her a son whom she named Samuel, which means, “heard of God.” Later, when Samuel was two or three years old, Hannah brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh where Samuel worshipped the Lord.
Life Application: This is an example of assurance in prayer. When you’ve prayed passionately to God, there comes a point in praying when you know for sure that God has answered your prayer. You no longer need any evidence for the answer, but you will go about quietly thanking God for the answer because there will be an inner peace and witness in your heart that God has heard your prayer and already answered it. When such an assurance comes, like Hannah, you too will stop praying for the request but rejoice in the assurance of God’s answer.
IV Hannah’s Prayer
It is a lovely prayer of rejoicing and prophetic overtones. The notes of joy and triumph and exaltation that comes from God rings out at the beginning. She delighted in God’s deliverance.
She praises and magnifies the God whom she adored saying that there is no one holy like the Lord, indicating His purity. She says that, “there is no Rock like our God,” signifying His great power. She speaks of God as someone knowing everything and also of Him as Judge (vv. 3 and 4).
Messianic Overtones: This prayer moves to prophetic overtones towards the end where she says, “He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed” (v. 10b). Most Bible Scholars are agreed that this refers immediately to the anointing of King David by the hand of Samuel. But they also see more in it.
Matthew Henry the great Biblical Commentator says that this is the first time in the Bible that we come across the term “Messiah” or “his anointed.” Clearly this is a reference to the coming kingdom of the Son of David, Jesus Christ. At that time, “the Lord will judge the ends of the earth” and “will guard the feet of his saints,” while “the wicked will be silenced in darkness,” and “those who oppose the Lord will be shattered.”
Note: Mary’s song in Luke’s gospel (Luke 1:46 to 55) shows overtones of Hannah’s praise. She must have memorized and meditated on Hannah’s words.
V Eli and His Wicked Sons
In one verse the character of Eli’s sons have been summed up: “Eli’s sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord” (2:12). Their sin was that they were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt. This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight (2:17).
A contrast is drawn here between them and the young boy Samuel who grew up in the presence of the Lord (2:21b). Eli failed to restrain his sons (3:13) and it was the Lord’s will to put them to death (2:25b). Again a contrast is drawn with Samuel, “who continued to grow in stature and in favour with the Lord and with men” (2:26).
A man of God was sent to pronounce judgement against the house of Eli. The highlight of the judgement was God saying that He would remove Eli and his house from priesthood of the Lord. God said, “Those who honour me I will honour, but those who despise me will be disdained” (2:30). This was because Eli honoured his sons more than God by failing to restrain them from treating the Lord’s offering with contempt. It was also predicted as a sign that his two sons Hophni and Phinehas will die on the same day.
Life Application: How dangerous when parents honour their children more than God! Disciplining children to fear the Lord is most important. Otherwise there will come a day when children will “blind your eyes with tears” and “grieve your heart” (see 2:33). Read also Proverbs 22:6 and Hebrews 12:11.
Messianic Overtones: God then said, “I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his house, and he will minister before my anointed one always” (2:35).
Matthew Henry comments “In the midst of all these threats against the house of Eli, here is mercy promised to Israel . . .
1. This was fulfilled in Zadok, of the family of Eleazar, who came into Abiathar’s place in the beginning of Solomon’s reign, and was faithful to his trust. If some betray their trust, yet others shall be raised up who will be true to it. God’s work shall never fall to the ground for lack of hands to carry it on.
2. It has its full accomplishment in the priesthood of Christ.”
VI The Call of Samuel
The backdrop of the call is given in verse 1. Samuel was ministering before the Lord under Eli. “In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.” Undoubtedly, this was caused by the ways people lived (Judges 21:25), the improper things happening at the tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:15, 22), and the priest’s inability to discern the things of God (Eli was not able to understand that Hannah was praying; neither was he able to know that God was calling Samuel).
When Eli finally realized that the Lord was calling Samuel, he instructed Samuel to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” The fourth time when God called it was different in the sense that “The Lord came and stood there” (3:10). And the call came with emphasis because twice was his name called: “Samuel! Samuel!” It is interesting to note that Samuel omitted one word, “Lord,” when he responded. He said, “Speak, ____, for your servant is listening.” Perhaps verse 7 gives us the clue why this might have happened; “Samuel did not yet know the Lord.”
Life Application: Just getting involved in religious duties is no guarantee that you come to know the Lord personally. Similarly religious symbols will not save anyone when the hearts of people are not right with God as you see in the capture of the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines in Chapter 4.
VII The Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant was symbolic of God’s Presence as God used to speak from between the cherubim on its cover (Numbers 7:89, Exodus 25:22). The Israelites thought that the Ark would have some magical powers to give them victory; just like many people today sleep with the Bible under their pillows! But the Ark was captured in battle.
Dr. Henrietta C. Mears comments,
When Eli heard the news of the capture of the Ark by the Philistines, he fell backward off his chair, broke his neck and died. One good thing about Eli was that his heart was concerned for the ark of God (1 Samuel 4:13). His sons died that day in battle. Phinehas’ wife who was near the time of delivery gave birth to a boy after hearing all the sad news and died in the process. But as she was dying, she named her son “Ichabod” saying, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured” (v. 22).
Life Application: Dear young friends, the glory of God will not rest on outward symbols of religion when our hearts are not right with God.
Chapter 5 talks about how God proved Himself mighty over Dagon the god of the Philistines by causing the idol to crash when the Philistines had placed the ark in their temple [Warning: Note that God does not operate in this manner today. Instead He is wooing people to look to His love manifested on the cross where Jesus shed His precious blood. So it is foolishness to present the gospel by trying to degrade the gods whom people worship. Instead we are called to present Jesus Christ. When they take Him in into their hearts, He Himself will win over the love in their hearts. That is His work not ours!].
Wherever the Philistines took the ark God sent death and panic. And finally they decided to return the ark to Israel (Chapter 6). When the ark came back to the land, people made sacrifices to God with joy. But tragedy struck seventy of the people because they had looked into the ark of the Lord (6:19). Through this incident God was reminding them that He is a holy, awesome and jealous God and they were not supposed to treat Him in a light-hearted manner (6:20).
VIII Ebenezer—Stone of Help
Let me ask you dear friends, how long does it take for you to get back to your God? In the case of the Israelites in this context, for twenty years they did nothing to get back to God. But one good thing was that, “all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the Lord” (7:2). At this point we find the emergence of Samuel as the leader of the people (7:6) and as a mighty intercessor (one who prays passionately and unselfishly to God for others) (7:5, 9).
Samuel’s message to the people on this occasion was uncompromising (7:3). If the people were returning to the Lord with all their hearts, then they were asked to get rid of all foreign gods and serve God only. If they did so then deliverance from the Philistines was promised.
Life Application: One cannot expect God’s deliverance with half-hearted response to God or when the hearts are bowed down to worship the gods of money, physical beauty or strength, materialism, technology etc. In other words, do not exalt anything or anybody above God in your heart.
Samuel prayed to the Lord on the Israelites’ behalf and God answered him. And deliverance came. Remember that the people poured out their hearts (symbolised by pouring out water) before God, fasted and confessed that day (7:6) before the deliverance could come. When God gave victory, Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen naming it Ebenezer, saying “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”
Life Application: Have set up “Ebenezers” in your life? It refers to your remembrance of your return to God and His deliverance on your behalf.
The Bible says that “Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines” (7:13). The influence of this godly man of prayer in the life of the nation of Israel can never be overestimated. And Samuel continued to act as judge over Israel (7:15).
Notes on The Ark and Shiloh:
1. It seems that during the 20 years there was no definite centre of worship. Since the Ark was in the house of an individual (Abinadab) it is probable that the rest of the Tabernacle was dismantled.
2. Shiloh: “ `The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh’ (1 Samuel 3:21). God revisited Shiloh! For Shiloh had been left. Read Judges 21:19—21. The place of worship had been turned into a place of feasting and dancing. Shiloh was the location of the house of God from the days of Joshua to Samuel. David moved it to Jerusalem. That Ark was removed by the Philistines in Samuel’s childhood and from then on Shiloh ceased to be of great importance (1 Samuel 4:3 —11).” — Taken from What the Bible Is All About by Dr. Henrietta C. Mears.
IX The People Reject God as King
God wanted the Israelite nation to be unlike other nations; to be holy and to walk in the light of the Lord and in dependence on Him. But when they found Samuel’s sons not walking in his ways, they demanded a king to be like the other nations. This displeased Samuel but he took the matter to the Lord in prayer. And God told him that he should listen to the people because they had not rejected him by this request but God Himself (8:7). A solemn warning about what the king would do was given. But the people were not willing to listen. They wanted to be like the other nations. So God said to Samuel to give them a king (8:21, 22).
Life Application: Sometimes we get too tired of our dependence on God. We want to do things the way others who do not know God do. God listens to our requests at times but always warns us about consequences. In this case, the people were not willing to wait for God’s time to give them a godly king.
Therefore Samuel in his farewell speech demonstrated with mighty power through his praying “what an evil thing” the Israelites did in the eyes of the Lord when they asked for a king (1 Samuel 12:17). Let us therefore be careful that we do not take things into our own hands to get our will done and not God’s.
Note: In spite of the people’s sin Samuel did not stop praying for the people. He considered it sin not to pray for them (12:23). Dear friends, do not fail to pray for others. If you fail, that is sin against the Lord. God wants you to be mighty intercessors on behalf of others.
X Saul, the First King of Israel
An impressive young man is given the task of finding the lost donkeys of his uncle. He, in response to his father’s command, takes a servant with him and goes in search of it. When they cannot find it Saul thinks of returning home. Then urged by his servant they visit Samuel the seer (“seer” means one who could see what others could not).
But his visit was told Samuel by God the day before and Samuel was asked to anoint him leader over God’s people, Israel (9:15, 16). God said that the cry of His people had reached Him. The next day when Samuel caught sight of Saul, God told Samuel: “This is the man I spoke to you about.” We find that God does not leave anything in doubt when He communicates; He communicates in a very specific and clear manner.
Samuel tells Saul that the donkeys he was searching for had been found; so there was no need to worry about them. And he is informed that Israel was now looking to him. To this, Saul replies of his smallness (see verse 21). They have a meal together. Next morning when Samuel was about to send Saul on his way, he asked Saul to send the servant ahead, “so that I may give you a message from God” (9:27).
Life Application: Do not despise opportunities in life. Think about Saul’s case. He went searching for donkeys and came back with the kingship of the land. Sometimes opportunities in life will not look appealing. It might seem as common task as looking for donkeys; but who knows what lies at the end of the search.
Even though it was Saul’s servant who encouraged Saul to meet Samuel, there came a time when Saul had to be alone with the prophet to receive a message from God. No matter how helpful people would have been to you in your walk with God, there comes times when you have to be alone to receive God’s message for you.
X.1. Saul Anointed
Samuel took a flask of oil and anointed Saul. He was given a few signs. He was given a direction that when the signs given where fulfilled he could do whatever his hand found to do; the reason being God was with him (10:7). Finally he was given a command to reach Gilgal and wait for Samuel seven days (10:8), which later Saul violated.
Highlights of Saul’s Anointing:
A changed heart:
First of all God changed Saul’s heart. Signs fulfilled: The three signs given were fulfilled and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power. Chosen king by lot: At Mizpah, Samuel assembles all Israel to cast lots and Saul is chosen. But he hid behind the baggage. When he was brought out everybody saw that he was a head taller than all else. People approve: They shouted, “Long live the king.”
Saul was now accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched. Disapproval: Some troublemakers despised Saul saying, “How can this fellow save us?” and brought him no gifts.
Through all this God was confirming Saul as king. We find a divine element in his becoming king and we also find the earthly approval of the people. But Saul went back home as if nothing spectacular had happened. Yet soon his opportunity came when the people of Jabesh-Gilead requested help against the Ammonites (chapter 11:1—11). Saul acts courageously when the Spirit of God came upon him in power. And Saul was confirmed as king in the presence of the Lord at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:15).
X.2. Saul’s Mistakes
He failed God in three ways:
● Chapter 13:1—15. He showed impatience and offered sacrifices permitted only for a priest to offer. He did this by presumption (a kind of compulsion from within to do something which does not have divine approval). Samuel had asked Saul to wait seven days. But Saul did not think it important to keep the Lord’s command to wait. The loss for him was fatal. God instead of establishing his kingdom forever, now gives the kingdom over to “a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). That man was David.
● Chapter 15: The second mistake before God was his disobedience to God’s command to put the entire Amalekites to the sword. The reason to destroy the Amalekites was they waylaid the Israelites when they came out of Egypt. Saul destroyed everything but spared the best of everything that was good. They also spared the Agag the Amalekite king. God told Samuel that He was grieved that He had made Saul, king. Samuel mourns all night.
The next day Samuel confronts Saul and tells him, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22, 23 NIV). Samuel tells Saul that God has rejected him as king for rejecting the word of the Lord.
● Chapter 28 and 31: Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land (28:3b). For these practices were forbidden by God (Leviticus 19:31, Deuteronomy 18:9—13). Yet when he saw the Philistine army he was afraid and terror filled his heart. Then he consulted a medium and called Samuel from the dead. Samuel informs him of his impending death. Saul was critically wounded in the battle and dies by falling on his sword. Most Important: Read Saul’s Death Certificate in 1 Chronicles 10:13, 14!
Life Application: Waiting for God when He has commanded to do so is never in vain. Though God seems slow to our human minds, His time is always right. So wait for your God always.
There is nothing God delights in more than obedience. Perhaps that is the greatest lesson Jesus taught. He did nothing on His own but did everything in obedience to His Father’s will (see Philippians 2:8).
A life of promise with a great beginning doesn’t necessarily mean that it should end well. Many kings mentioned in the Bible had wonderful beginnings but dismal ends. Seek God’s help to finish well in life. Saul had to die in such an ignoble fashion because he trusted in his own self than God.
Saul also is an example of foolish decisions like not allowing the army to eat food on the day of battle (1 Samuel 14:24). This decision was not God-given. And as Jonathan soon said his father had made trouble for the country (14:29) by this decision. And Jonathan, who, not knowing about the oath tasted a little bit of honey, was soon under the wrath of Saul who wanted to kill him. But the soldiers rescued Jonathan by pointing out to Saul that Jonathan had achieved victory that day with God’s help (14:45).
Another wrong that Saul committed was how he treated David. In contrast to Jonathan who loved David as himself (18:1, 3), Saul was jealous of David. The contrast in the spiritual condition of Saul and David is portrayed in 1 Samuel 16:13, 14.
It says that when Samuel anointed David in the presence of his brothers, from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. In the next verse it is recorded that the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul (possibly after his disobedience in destroying the Amalekites, see ch. 15), and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him
[This does not mean that God sends evil spirits but that God allowed an evil spirit to torment Saul/another possible translation for evil spirit is “injurious spirit”; see NIV footnote]. Now David because the Lord was with him and had fine qualities plus the ability to play the harp found a place in the royal court to bring relief to Saul by his musical abilities (16:18). And whenever Saul was tormented, David would take his harp and play and Saul would find relief.
But Saul’s attitude towards David changed after the women started praising David more than Saul after David killed Goliath and came back victorious (1 Samuel 18:7). This created resentment in Saul and from that time on he “kept a jealous eye on David” knowing fully well that David would take over his kingdom some day.
The next day itself while troubled by the evil spirit Saul tried to pin David to the wall with his spear. But David eluded him twice. This record sums it all up: “Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had left Saul” (1 Samuel 18:12 NIV). Saul tried again to destroy David by getting him married to his daughter: “Saul’s plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 18:25b).
Jonathan tried to reason with his father that David had brought him only good (19:4, 5) and Saul listened to him and agreed not to put David to death. But Saul again tried to kill David and David escaped from the presence of Saul that night (19:9, 10). The attempts on David’s life continued, but he escaped because God kept him safe: “Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands” (1 Samuel 23:14b NIV). (See 1 Samuel 23:26—29 also; “Sela Hammahlekoth” means “rock of parting” which gives us a classic example of how God kept saving David from the hand of Saul.)
Life Application: Saul is an example of foolish decision-making and then trying to put the blame on others. Therefore be careful of the decisions you make especially when you are in a position of leadership. Learn to take responsibility for your actions rather than put the blame on somebody else. Remember that the blame game started in the garden of Eden when Adam blamed Eve and Eve in turn blamed the serpent (see Genesis 3:12, 13).
Being anointed by God does not mean escape from troubles. Just because the Spirit of God came upon you in power does not mean that you can escape from the jealous eye of others. That is what David learned. More than that we need to learn that jealousy only leads to our own ruin.
Key Lesson: “There are many lessons to be learned from the life of Saul—one being that obedience to the Lord is far more important than achieving success in any other realm. The main lesson that we learn from his life, however, is that of the evil selfism. He refused to obey God, set about having his own way and, as a result, fell from the highest position in the land . . .” Taken from Character by Selwyn Hughes & Trevor J. Partridge.
He is one of the finest portrayals of human characters in the Bible.
Jonathan is an example of great courage. In the day of battle when only he and his father had any weapons with them (1 Samuel 13:22), Jonathan with his armour-bearer goes out to fight the Philistines. Depending on God’s guidance he looks for a sign from God (like Gideon with the fleece) to attack the Philistines (1 Samuel 14:8—10). He gets the sign and kills about 20 Philistines and then panic struck their army which was a panic sent by God (1 Samuel 14:15). That day the victory over the Philistines was great (1 Samuel 14:45).
His statement, “Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6) before the battle mentioned above shows us where his confidence and trust lay. He had great faith in his God.
Jonathan showed great moral strength in speaking out against his father’s foolish and rash decision of not allowing the army to eat food on the day of battle (1 Samuel 14:29).
Jonathan enjoyed great popularity among his men, not only because of his fine qualities but also and more importantly because the soldiers realized that Jonathan fought the battles and won with God’s help (1 Samuel 14:45b).
Love for David
At the very first meeting Jonathan became one in spirit with David and loved him as he loved himself. He made a covenant (agreement) with David. And presented David with the robe he was wearing, “along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt” (1 Samuel 18:1—3). David later extolled Jonathan’s love for him in song (2 Samuel 1:25, 26) and calls him “my brother.” (Later after David becomes king he shows kindness to Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan, because of his covenant with Jonathan. See 2 Samuel 9:1 onwards).
We are reminded of Proverbs 18:24 which says, “but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” when we think of Jonathan’s love for David. Jonathan kept trying to make his father Saul understand that David was not his enemy. We also need to note that Jonathan’s love for David came at a price; he had to remain loyal to his father and at the same time loyal to David. And this almost cost him his life at the hand of Saul (1 Samuel 20:32, 33).
Like Barnabas in the New Testament, Jonathan is seen as a great encourager. While Saul was trying to take David’s life, Jonathan went all the way to David at Horesh, “and helped him find strength in God” (1 Samuel 23:16) . It is interesting to note that Jonathan encouraged David by reminding him of God’s promise to him, “You will be king over Israel.”
Life Application: The best way to encourage people in distress is to remind them of God’s promises! And what a blessing it is to have people who can speak an encouraging word to us while we are in trouble! Read Proverbs 12:25, 15:23 16:24 and 25:11.
Key Lesson: “It has been said of Jonathan, `he is the most chivalrous figure in the whole of the Old Testament, the flower and crown of Hebrew history, a knight without reproach.’ The Scripture, which we know to be open and honest concerning the lives of its personalities, has nothing negative to say about Jonathan.
From first to last, there is not one crooked line or dark spot in his conduct. Jonathan is the perfect example of a good and godly friend, and this, no doubt, is the main lesson that we observe from his life. He could take second place without jealousy or a spirit of rivalry, and maintain his love and loyalty for David despite everything that worked to the contrary.
No wonder when David looks back and remembers the friendship of Jonathan, that he weeps and cries out: “Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women” (2 Sam. 1:26). Have you a friend like that? Then consider yourself greatly blessed. But perhaps what is more important is this—are you a friend like that? — From Character by Character by Selwyn Hughes & Trevor J. Partridge.
Comment: “Jonathan was heir to the throne. His brilliant victory over the Philistines, ch 14, and his nobility of character were good evidence that he would have made a worthy king. But he had learned that God had ordained David to be king; and his graceful effacement of himself from the succession, and his unselfish devotion to his rival, form one of the noblest stories of Friendship in history. – Halley’s Bible Handbook.
The name David means “Beloved.” When a little boy (or girl for that matter) enters the stage of history with God’s anointing and does exploits based on his experiential knowledge of God and great trust and faith in Him, it never fails to capture our imagination; the story rolls on in our mind, its images flashing bright in colour and intensity time and again till we feel ready to move out to take on Goliaths and be victorious for our God!
The Bible paints David in very human and honest terms. He is definitely one of the most defining characters in the Old Testament not only shaping its national character, but also their worship with Psalms and songs. Setting standards of valour and dependence on God, this shepherd boy sets an expectation in the heart of God’s people about the coming Messiah, the Son of David, who will be the Shepherd-King of Israel. Jesus Himself testified that the Psalms speak about Him (Luke 24:44).
XII.1. David the Anointed
(1 Samuel 16:1—13)
A great lesson from this incident is how God makes an estimate of a person. When Samuel saw the oldest son of Jesse, he thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But God told him not to consider his appearance or his height. That was God’s rejection note. God said, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b NIV).
But when David came in last, the Lord gave specific direction saying, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” Samuel anointed David with oil and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power (1 Samuel 16:12, 13). Israel so far had a king who was outwardly magnificent, but now they were to have one after God’s own heart!
Life Application: Modern world places too much emphasis on appearances and the Christian world has gulped down this philosophy without much thought. God’s value systems are different. You may have a winsome appearance but if God looks at your heart, will He find you worthy?
XII.2. David the Musician
(1 Samuel 16:14—23)
David’s ability to play the harp brought him into Saul’s service. He was taken as Saul’s armour bearer and Saul was pleased with him. He brought relief to Saul by playing the harp whenever the evil spirit tormented Saul. As we look at this turn of events we find God preparing David to be king. Otherwise the shepherd boy from the “little town of Bethlehem” would never have come to know the ways of the court. But now David is shown a glimpse of the court life and the throne he will occupy one day.
Life Application: God always prepares His servants for the tasks ahead. He may have promised you a crown but you may at the moment doing a work that might not have much to do with it directly. But know God gives such opportunities to train you for greater tasks ahead. See, David did his work well; that is why Saul was pleased with him. So do your work well, someday you’ll recognize God’s hand in it.
XII.3. David the Victorious
(1 Samuel 17)
David’s victory over Goliath is a classic in all human history. For forty days, morning and evening, the Philistine champion took his stand and taunted Israel. His demand was: “Give me a man and let us fight each other” (1 Samuel 17:10).
Note: Some preachers see that the answer to this challenge was not just David alone. They see a spiritual parallel in Goliath challenging David. It can be seen as Satan challenging God to give him a man. And God gave him the Man Jesus Christ, the Son of David, of whom Pilate said: “Here is the man!” (John 19:5) [“Idou ho anthropos!” in Greek]
David showed great care in leaving his flock with a shepherd before he leaves for the battle lines with food for his brothers (17:20). While the Israelites were busy running away from the Philistine in fear, David was asking, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (17:26b).
He was wrongly criticized by his oldest brother (17:28), but this does not deter him from his God-given task. He bravely tells Saul that he will go and fight the Philistine (17:32), but Saul discourages him (17:33).
David’s answer to that is a classic because he tells of his past experiences of God’s deliverance in his life and expresses full confidence in the fact that the Lord will deliver him from the hand of the Philistine. Note that David is not at all awed by the giant size of the Philistine but simply equates him to the lion and the bear he was enabled to kill.
David is dressed in Saul’s tunic and weaponry but David said he could not use them since he was not used to it. Instead he took his shepherd’s staff and chose five smooth stones from the stream. This shows us his confidence in God, at the same time tells us that he was not over-confident in his own abilities since he took five stones instead of one.
Goliath despised David when he saw him and asked, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” The Philistine also cursed David by his gods. But David’s reply to this is a classic and you as a young person should arm yourself with its content. The main thrust of his reply is that he was going against the Philistine in the name of the Lord Almighty and that “It is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Samuel 17:47).
Life Application: Know your moment. Be prepared to meet the challenge. Trust God and in the deliverances He had given you in the past. Do not look at the terrifying nature of the problem but go against it in the name of the Lord Almighty. Do not trust in human strength, but know that the battle is the Lord’s.
The world today needs a mighty demonstration of what simple trust in God can accomplish! Would you be a David challenging Goliath’s of your times? Remember David was jealous about the honour of his God. Are you concerned about it?
XII.4. David the Fugitive
(1 Samuel 19—24)
Saul tried to hunt down David because of his jealousy towards him. At the same time Saul knew that the Lord was with David but had left him (18:12). Many times Saul tried to kill David. In the process many innocent people also became victims (1 Samuel 21:1—12 abd 22:6—23).
A few times Jonathan tried to save David from the hand of Saul but the peace did not last long. In the process of running away we find David once acting like a madman, “making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard” (21:12, 13) while in the land of Gath (Philistine territory).
We find David here every inch a human who is afraid and trying desperately to save his life. We find the people of Keilah whom he saved willing to give him into Saul’s hand (23:12). At the same time we find David twice sparing Saul’s life when he could have easily killed him (see 1 Samuel 24 and 26).
Life Application: Many of David’s Psalms come during this time of fleeing away from Saul. Though he was anointed to be king, he had to go through rough times before he finally became king. But perhaps that was the fertile ground in which his Psalms were born which can be called “songs in the night” in which he delighted in God’s mercy.
Perhaps God will use your brokenness of heart to bring comfort and healing to many as the Psalms have comforted billions of its readers. Again, David could have easily become king by killing Saul, but he was willing to wait for God’s time. Are you willing to wait for God’s time? See 1 Samuel 26:10, 11.
XII.5. David the Inquirer
(1 Samuel 23, 30:7, 8)
David had the habit of inquiring of God for all his decisions (though the Bible also records David not seeking God’s guidance at times. For example moving into Philistine territory as recorded in 27:1 is simply David’s decision alone).
Chapter 23 gives us a keen insight into David’s heart which sought after God. When God gave him permission to go and save Keilah (verse 2), David’s men objected. So David took the matter to the Lord in prayer once more (v. 4) and we find God encouraging him to go. But then David inquired again when he heard that Saul was coming against him and God told him that the citizens, though he had saved them from the Philistines, would hand him over to Saul. So David and his men escaped from there. We also find David inquiring of God in chapter 30 when he was in deep distress.
Life Application: As we look at the life of David, we find that he had a constant habit of asking God for decisions. And almost always God answered him. Make this a habit in your life too. You’ll be surprised at how many ways God answers you and helps you.
XII.6. David the Restorer
(1 Samuel 27, 29, 30)
David finds a temporary shelter among the Philistines and earns a good reputation with Achish king of Gath. But when the battle against the Israelites came, the Philistine commanders opposed David marching with them. And David and his men were sent back. When they reached Ziklag they found that the Amalekites had attacked Ziklag and burned it and had taken everyone captive including both of David’s wives.
The Bible records that “David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep” (30:4). And David was in deep trouble because the men were talking about stoning him since everyone had lost his family. Then the Bible records a lovely statement: “But David found strength in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6b NIV). He inquired of God, got a positive reply, pursued the Amalekites and recovered everything they had taken (see 30:18, 19).
David also created a principle to follow when he said, “The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike” (1 Samuel 30:24b NIV). This was because some 400 people who went to battle was unwilling to share the plunder with 200 who were too exhausted to go to battle.
Life Application: Finding strength in the Lord your God is important in times of distress when everybody is against you. Inquiring of God during that time is most important as many stop praying when they come to a time of crisis when everybody is criticizing them. And perhaps those who stay at home and pray fervently for those who preach the good news far away will alike share in the rewards that God would give at the time of the end.
Warning Note: David’s taking refuge among the Philistines was a reversal of his God-centred stance against Goliath. It was fear and not faith that put him in a complicated situation where he found himself a friend of the Philistines and almost at the verge of joining hands with them to fight against his own people the Israelites. What would have happened if the Philistine commanders had not prevented him from fighting in their army against Israel?
Can you imagine David fighting against his own people and killing them when God had anointed him to be their saviour, defender, shepherd, leader and king! Even if he had turned against the Philistines when the battle was joined, he would have been in danger of his life. Through this providential overruling of God he was saved from an entanglement he had brought upon himself by fear in place of faith.
Life Application: Even great men of faith can sometimes act in fear like Elijah running away from Jezebel (1 Kings 19:3) and how David here acted in fear. It can happen in our lives too. During these times it is God’s merciful dealing with us that saves us. May you be given grace to find strength in God during those times and may you be restored to God’s purposes and plans for your life.
Abigail meets David: “It was a classic meeting. She made the longest recorded speech of any woman in the Bible. Her 300 words are a veritable gem of a public relations exercise. Practitioners today give rules for influencing people without giving offence, but without having read those books, she used all the rules!
● Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person (vv 24—25)
● Call attention to the other’s mistake indirectly (v. 26)
● Make the fault seem easy to correct (v. 27)
● Use honest appreciation (v. 28)
● Give the dog a good name—a reputation to live up to (vv. 28—29)
● Let the other man save his face (vv. 30—31)
● Make the other person happy at the things you suggest (vv. 32—35)
. . .
Neither her resourcefulness nor her intelligence and her beauty were lost on David. A person who could penetrate through his foolish temper and point out where his real interests lay was a person worth having around. When he heard that Nabal had died, he proposed marriage, and she accepted.” — Taken from King David, Lessons on Leadership from the Life of David by Rev. Tom Houston.
1 Samuel 2:1z For I delight in Your Deliverance
1 Samuel 2:4b But Those Who Stumbled Are Armed with Strength
1 Samuel 2:30b Those Who Honor Me Will I Honor
1 Samuel 3:10 Speak, for Your Servant is Listening
1 Samuel 3:21 Revealed Himself Through His Word
1 Samuel 6:13 They Rejoiced at the Sight
1 Samuel 7:12 Ebenezer, Thus Far Has the Lord Helped Us
1 Samuel 9:3 Go and Look for the Donkeys
1 Samuel 9:27 But You Stay Here Awhile
1 Samuel 10:22b Saul, Has Hidden Himself Among the Baggage
1 Samuel 12:23 Sin, Failing to Pray
1 Samuel 17:10 Give Me a Man!
1 Samuel 23:4 Once Again David Inquired of the Lord