Lessons from 1 Samuel 8-16
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