Week 15 Devotion
As we came to the end of the book of Judges it was clear that in the absence of wise and faithful leaders, like Moses and Joshua, the people of Israel fell into chaos and intense moral corruption. As a nation, Israel made a covenant to trust in the Lord and love Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. But in reality, they abandoned Yahweh, began to worship false gods and in the end, they simply did what was right in their own eyes. This downward and sinful spiral into chaos and moral corruption is the theme of the book of Judges.
But as we enter into the books of 1st and 2nd Samuel we have hope that this trend is going to change…and to some degree, it will. The books of 1st and 2nd Samuel were originally written as one book that was broken into two because of the length and these two books tell the stories of 3 men: Samuel, Saul, and David. And these books serve as character studies contrasting wickedness and faithfulness, pride and humility.
Now, the major part of these books focuses on the first two kings over Israel but before we meet these kings we are introduced to a God-fearing family. The book opens with a focus on the family of a man named Elkanah who had two wives. One of his wives was named Hannah and up to this point, she had no children. So she prayed for God to bless her with a child and God answers her prayer. Then when the child is born she is so thankful to God that He gave her a son that she turns around and gives her son back to God.
She takes her son whose name is Samuel and she gives him to Eli the priest so that Samuel can be trained as a servant of God. While all of this is taking place there is still a great deal of trouble in the nation. Eli has two sons and they are both wicked men who have no regard for the people and even less regard for God. Eli himself was a pretty lousy priest and father. So as this book gets underway we see that God is moving to bring an end to the wicked leadership that has led Israel into sin and He is going to raise up new leaders who will lead the people to follow the Lord.
Here is something to discuss…
There is a theme that runs through this book and we see it begin to unfold in chapter 2 as the focus of Hannah’s prayer. “God humbles the proud but gives grace to the humble.” We see this theme play out in chapter 4 when a battle breaks out between the army of Israel and the army of the Philistines. The opening skirmish results in Israel being defeated and this causes the Elders of Israel to come up with a plan to send for the ark of the covenant. Literally they “fetch” the ark and bring it to the battle-field with the hopes that it will help them win the battle.
Rather than humbling themselves, repenting of their sins and crying out to God for deliverance like they have done before; these men expect to win the battle simply because they brought the ark out and placed it before their army. They are treating the ark like it is some kind of magic trophy that will grant them the victory they desire. But God opposes them for their arrogance, Israel loses the battle and the ark is captured by the Philistines.
Then the two sons of Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas, are killed in battle and when their father learns of their death he too falls over, breaks his neck and dies. In one day the army of Israel is defeated, the ark of the covenant is captured, and the priest and his sons all die. Next, we learn that Phinehas, the dead priest, had a wife who was pregnant. At the end of chapter 4 she gives birth to a son and right before she dies she named the child, “Ichabod,” which means no glory.
Because of their pride and arrogance, God has removed the presence of His glory from the people of Israel. “God humbles the proud” and at the same time, God proves that He doesn’t need Israel to fight His battles. The Philistines place the ark in one of their temples next to the statue of their patron god Dagon. And while the people slept Yahweh destroys the statue of Dagon and then He brings judgment on the Philistines.
But in the next chapter, God once again extends grace to Israel. Through God’s providence the ark is restored to the people and with it comes a renewed sense of awe and humility.
There are two things that the Lord is concerned with in this whole exchange: His own glory and His covenant with Israel. God will not allow His glory to be treated like a toy nor will He allow His glory to be diminished by the wickedness of His people. He loves His people for sure, but He loves His glory more.
At the same time, the glory of God is linked with His love for the people and we see this in 1 Sam 12:22:
And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 22 For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.
Discuss how the unfolding of events on chapters 1-6 reveals God’s concern for His glory. Discuss how the unfolding of events from chapters 1-6 reveals God’s love for His people. Then as you continue to read throughout the week, talk about how these two (God’s glory and God’s love) are linked together in the stories of Saul and David.
Here is something to meditate upon…
The next section of the book opens up with Israel’s pursuit of a king. They want to have a king like all the other nations and Samuel doesn’t like this new direction. By this time Samuel is serving as the judge over Israel as well as their prophet and he knows that appointing a king will give the opportunity for Israel to fall away from trusting in the Lord. He knows that the nation as a whole might be led astray by the corruption of prideful men. But God comforts Samuel and tells him to give the people what they want.
The thing they want is a tall, handsome king who can lead their army in battle. They want a man who looks the part on the outside and that is what God gives them. Saul is taller than the other men and more handsome than them as well, but just because he looks the part does not mean he will be a good king. As we get to know Saul it becomes clear that he is a man with some serious issues.
Saul was reluctant to be singled out as king and hid himself from the people. Next we see that he treats the commands of God with a certain lack of respect when he offered a sacrifice that only the priest, Samuel, was appointed to offer. Then Saul makes a rash vow that endangers the army of Israel and ends up bringing shame onto his son Jonathon. Finally, we see Saul completely disregard the command of God to utterly destroy the Amalekites and this proves to be the last straw.
When Samuel shows up at the end of the battle in chapter 15 he hears the noise of animals and he sees that Saul has failed to carry out the Lord’s command. Samuel rebukes Saul and announces to him that God has rejected him from being king. The kingdom has been stripped away from Saul and in time it will be given to another man.
Saul was a complete failure as a king. He was prideful, dishonest, and was more concerned with pleasing the people than God. He had rejected the word of the Lord and as a result, God rejected him from being king. God humbled this proud man and removed him from the throne and in his place, God will exalt a better and more humble king.
God opposes the proud but exalts the humble and you would be hard pressed to find a humbler young man than David. He was the youngest son of a shepherd named Jesse but David was the man God had chosen to unite the nation of Israel and lead them in the defeat of their enemies. David’s strength was the acknowledgment of his weakness. He wasn’t confident in his own strength but was absolutely confident in the strength of the Lord.
The story of David’s defeat of Goliath is one of the clearest examples of the young anointed king’s humility. As David and Goliath approach the field of battle there is an exchange of words. Goliath mocks David, Israel’s army, and God as well. But David responds in this way:
1 Sam 17:45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”
David’s confidence as he faces down the champion of Gath is in God alone. Unlike Saul, David is humble and puts all of his trust in the Lord. David defeated the giant Goliath not by his own skill but by the strength of the Lord.
Take some time to meditate on the stories of these two kings: Saul and David. Think about the way these men became king in the first place; Saul was chosen for his outward appearance while David was chosen for the humility in his heart. From the world’s perspective Saul was the clear choice for Israel’s king but from God’s perspective, David was the best candidate for the position.
What does this tell us about our God? What does this tell us about the type of people He wants us to be? What does this tell us about how God wants us to lead the church today? The character of God hasn’t changed so let us take time this week to meditate on the comparison and contrast that we see in the stories of these two kings of Israel.
Here is something to pray about…
This week we will be reading several of the Psalms that coincide with David’s experience of being hunted down by Saul and as we read these Psalms we grow to understand why it is that God calls David a man after His own heart. Saul was David’s king, His father-in-law, his military general and fellow Israelite, but Saul is doing his best to either kill David himself or have him killed in battle.
None of us can identify with David’s situation but we can imagine some of the feelings that David must have felt. Surely there was fear in David’s heart at the thought of Saul’s desire to kill him. There was hurt as well to know that your own father-in-law would rather see you die then produce grandchildren. At some points there was probably a desire to take matters into his own hands, I mean, after all, David defeated Goliath, surely Saul wouldn’t be too much trouble.
But through it all David kept his heart focused not on his will but on the will of God. In Psalm 11 David reminded himself that, “The Lord was in His holy temple” and he would pour out justice according to what was right. David wasn’t a perfect man nor was he a perfect king, but he learned to put the battle in the Lord’s hands. He learned that no matter what he was going through in life he could trust that the Lord would be his refuge and strength.
Let’s join David in this prayer that we would find our ultimate hope in God. Let’s pray that we would trust our lives to His cause and His Word. Let’s pray that we would put our hope in the justice of God, in the salvation of God and in the love of God.