The Books of Samuel
Good to Great
Good to Great
Over 20 years ago, Jim Collins and his team of researchers embarked on a large scale study of businesses - in fact they embarked on two studies. In one, they sought to understand what differentiated great companies from good companies. What attributes, qualities, systems, structures and more made these companies great. While he found some commonalities, generally, he found that many of these companies were started with great business DNA and remained great. A couple of years after the initial study, one of his friends challenged him saying, “The companies you wrote about were, for the most part, always, great.... They never had to turn themselves from good companies into great companies.” (p. 1) And so challenged by this new thought, Collins and his team sought to study companies that moved from good to great, comparing them with similar companies that just remained good.
In this second study, Jim laid out several different parameters but kept running into dead-ends. The data did not make sense. Great company A should not be better than good company B based on the data. There must be something more. Collins initially pre-determined that leadership could not be a factor and so he refused to account for it. But when the data proved inconclusive, he had to change the parameters - he had to consider the leaders. Once he factored the qualities of the leaders who led these companies from being good companies to being great companies, he and his team realized something that John Maxwell has been touting for many years:
“Everything rises and falls on leadership.”
In the narrative of the book of Judges, we got to see how an absence of leadership left the nation of Israel in a downward spiral. As we dive into the books of Samuel today and the books of Kings next week, we’re going to begin to see just how important leadership is and how a nation can be greatly impacted by the health and effectiveness of its leader.
If you’re visiting with us, let me catch you up to speed. We’ve been walking through the books of the Bible, considering God’s Story in Scripture, we’ve seen some interesting things - that all begin with the letter “C.” (Steve - I may invite someone up to try to recite the Cs that we have done so far)
Creation - as God started it all
Corruption - as humans rebelled against God
Catastrophe - as God brought a flood to begin things anew
Confusion - as the languages of humans were confused so that people would spread out over the earth - be fruitful and multiply
Calling - as God in His sovereignty called out people like Abraham, Jacob, and Moses.
Covenant - as God made promises to these people and their descendents
Consecration - as God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt and established them with ceremonial and moral laws that would set them apart from other people groups
Conquest - as the people finally get to move into the promised land - taking hold of the territory that God had promised to Abraham.
When we considered the book of Judges - we could have added another “C” to the mix
Chaos - as the people chose to do what was right in their own eyes and rebelled against the Lord.
Eventually all of this is pointing us to what we will learn about when we come to the new testament, as we consider
Christ - Jesus - the eternal anointed one - the Messiah and our redeemer
Cross - his finished work atoning for our sin
Consummation - as God re-establishes a full theocracy made up of people from every nation, tribe and tongue - and ushers in a new kingdom, new heaven, and new earth.
Today - we’re going to look at the books of 1&2 Samuel as the Chaos of judges ushers in the Coronation (hands over head like a crown) that we see in Samuel’s narrative. There are a couple of reasons we’re going to look at these books together. First of all, they were originally one scroll. They essentially tell the story leading up to the coronation of King David and the establishment of His dynasty. The other reason we’re going to do these two books this week and then the two books of the Kings next week is that these will get us through Israel’s history before they are exiled. We’re going to take a break from this series for a couple of months beginning with the Sunday before Thanksgiving. When we pick it back up in February, we’ll get to see the recap of the pre-exilic history in the Chronicles and then will get to consider lift in and after exile.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Introducing 1 & 2 Samuel
Introducing 1 & 2 Samuel
One book in Hebrew.
Named for it’s first main character - Samuel
1 Samuel - covers
the miraculous birth of Samuel and his rise to authority as priest, prophet and judge in Israel
In institution of the monarchy with the coronation of Saul - his rise and fall
The anointing of David and his rise in character.
2 Samuel - covers
The coronation and rise of David and his early successes as hi takes the throne.
David’s moral failures
David’s decline as a father and king amidst the rebellion of his son.
David - still a man with a heart for God
Likely written during the time of the exile - though the timeline probably overlapped with that of Samson in the book of Judges.
There are a couple of interesting parallels in this book - the rise and fall of leadership.
Eli - the current priest is declining in his leadership. When the book opens, we find Eli - as an elderly priest with wicked sons. He is faithful to God but a failure as father.
Samuel - rises during the decline of Eli - Samuel doesn’t really have a decline - at least that we can learn about in the book. He remains faithful to God and generally seemed to be a good, godly king. As he anoints Saul and then David as King, he simply passes the mantle of leadership.
Saul - the first king, is anointed and crowed, but then as he declines..
David - is on the rise. David’s errors ultimately lead to his decline.
Hannah’s barrenness and vow
Hannah’s song talks about how God... (the Bible Project):
Opposes the proud and exalts the humble (1-8)
God is at work even while evil seems to reign (6-10
God will raise up a messianic King (10) - she references a king, even though there is no king in Israel.
And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. “There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world. “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail. The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.”
The New Testament writers (quoting Proverbs) would summarize her song like this:
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
So, as we walk through the books of Samuel - we will see some of these themes come through. We will also get to see how a leader’s character can impact a nation as we consider the three primary characters in this book.
So let’s begin by looking at:
Samuel - The Godly Judge - God is the Rejected King
Samuel - The Godly Judge - God is the Rejected King
Samuel’s name means: “heard of God” - because God heard the cry of Hannah.
Samuel seemed to be the perfect judge. He was a more religious and political leader than he was military. He was dedicated to the Lord at an early age and had a tenderness toward God.
And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord. And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.
I love how Samuel let none of the words of the Lord fall - he sought to understand and obey God in all that he was instructed to do.
While Samuel judged in Israel, God was essentially the King - the Theocracy that seemed to be started under Moses and Joshua was rekindled under the leadership of Samuel. He called the people to turn away from other gods and idols and turn to God.
Samuel travelled around and visited various parts of Israel in order to judge effectively.
As Samuel was nearing the end of his life, he set up his sons as co-judges to succeed him and lead the nation in his stead. It’s at this point that the people want something different. Samuel’s sons did not walk in his ways, but were greedy in their leadership (8:3).
And so the people look at the nations around them, noticing that they all have kings and so the Israelites plead for a King.
The people long for a king and God tells Samuel to give them what they want...
But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
I wonder, how often do we look at the world around us and long for the things that others have? Are we expressing discontent with what God has given us?
So Samuel does what the people request at the direction of the Lord and anoints a king - that King is...
Saul - The Requested King - God is ?
Saul - The Requested King - God is ?
Saul’s name means “the requested one” - he is the one they asked for.
Interesting - when Hannah cried out to God - she asked “sa’al” of God.
When the people asked for a king so they could be like the nations, they got “Sa’ul” the requested one.
Saul was a promising figure - tall, handsome. On the outside, he was everything a politician should be - tall, handsome.
Saul even started out as a godly leader. He acknowledged that it was God who put him in this position of authority - but that got to his head quite quickly. Just two years into his monarchy - Saul began to demonstrate a lack of trust in God. He was facing a difficult battle against the Philistines. Samuel had directed Saul to go to Gilgal and wait for 7 days and he (Samuel) would come there to inquire of the Lord.
I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” And Samuel said to Saul, “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. 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.”
In spite of Saul’s faithlessness and Israel’s small numbers - God provided victory to the Israelites that day - but Saul’s decline had begun.
In the life of Saul - we see that he was...
Dishonest - He did not honestly communicate to Samuel here and later when confronted on a different matter - he made excuses for why he did not fully obey God.
Lacked integrity - On multiple occasions, he failed to keep his word.
Prideful - as David began to rise in prominence and popularity in the nation, Saul began to be jealous and prideful. He viewed David as a threat to his authority and leadership. It appears that he spent several years chasing David around the wilderness.
Vengeful - killed 85 priests because one priest aided David. This is in part why God has a questionable role in Israel under Saul.
Failed to take responsibility for his errors.
Ultimately, Saul’s pride led to his defeat. He and his son Jonathan died the same day, in battle.
And so this brings us to the third and most prominent character in the books of Samuel -
David - The Chosen King - God is God
David - The Chosen King - God is God
David means - “beloved” - he is knows as the man after God’s heart. He seems to demonstrate a love for God that is deep and abiding.
Faithful - even while Saul is chasing him in the wilderness, David has two opportunities to kill him, but does not - because he will not raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed. He patiently waits for God to do what he has promised. He did not rush ahead to take a hold of the crown. He trusted in God’s sovereign hand - even while he was running around in the wilderness. David was faithful to Israel, even while he was on the run. When a monarch would rise to power, it was not uncommon for the King to destroy his predecessor’s family. While many of Saul’s family were killed in battle, David showed an extreme kindness to Saul’s family by taking care of one of Saul’s disabled descendents.
Flawed - like all of us, David has some flaws - As a warrior - he could be a bit impulsive. As a King, his adultery and murderous cover-up ultimately began the decline in his reign. It certainly seems like as a father, he was conflicted over how to discipline appropriately.
When confronted, David owned up to his sin and repented - but it changed his life.
His sin - repeated in the lives of his kids
Daughter Tamar raped by Amnon - her half-brother - David did little to nothing - he did not console Tamar and did not seem to punish Amnon.
Absalom (Tamar’s full brother) - murdered Amnon - Grieved by the death of this son, David did little to nothing. Absalom went on the run and began to garner support for himself. Upon returning to a home close to David - at David’s request - Absalom spent a couple of years in a nearly forced seclusion. David did not talk to or see Absalom - but let the wounds in his family fester. Eventually, Absalom orchestrated a coo, seeking to overthrow David.
Rather than fight - David ran - but God preserved David and Absalom was killed.
David seems to be a clear picture of faithful, godly leadership - but also paints a clear picture of the fallenness of all of us. David was not a perfect husband, father or king. As we consider the flaws of people like David and Saul (and even more of the kings that we’ll consider next week) and get to learn how God uses even deeply flawed and fallen individuals - I hope that this bolsters your trust in God and his word. It would be easy for writers to gloss over the fallen details and make these individuals look good - but the fact that we have such character defects should help us see that God wants us to see that He is working in the best and the worst of us and our situation. God is sovereign.
I do think that one of the reasons David is considered so highly in scripture and referred to as a man after God’s heart is that he was so faithful and merciful. But additionally, he demonstrates a clear cycle of forgiveness.
Forgiven - Dever notes a helpful cycle that we see in the life of David:
Rebuke - After David commits adultery with Bathsheba and then has her husband murdered in order to cover it up - the prophet Nathan is sent by God to rebuke David. (2 Sam. 12:1-12). At another time, one of David’s military leaders rebukes David for his actions toward those who have fought for him as he mourned over the death of his son Absalom and seemed to scorn those who killed him (2 Sam 19:1-7). There are times in our own sinfulness that we are convicted or rebuked by the Spirit of God, but there are some times when it takes a rebuke from someone to wake us up to the reality of our sinfulness and rebellion. How well do you hear rebukes? Are you defensive or rationalizing? Or do you hear them and respond appropriately? To his credit, David heard and responded appropriately with...
Confession - upon hearing the rebuke - David confesses his sin (2 Sam. 12:13). Later in the book, when confronted by God about another sin, David confesses (“I have sinned greatly in what I have done” 2 Sam. 24:10) Psalm 51 is a beautiful and profound prayer or song of confession in response to Nathan’s rebuke:
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
In addition to hearing the rebuke and responding with confession, David puts his words into action with...
Repentance - when rebuked by Joab, his military leader - David takes action. We like to think that simply confessing our sin is enough - but our confession should make a change. The Apostle Paul writes...
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
Godly sorrow or grief results in change.
Responsibility - David doesn’t make excuses for his sin, he takes responsibility. In 2 Sam. 24:17David says:
Then David spoke to the Lord when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, “Behold, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand be against me and against my father’s house.”
While the people were taking the the consequences of his sin, David pleaded with God to put the punishment on him. In some ways, it’s so easy and convenient for us to make excuses - “oh it’s just the way I’m made,” “these are traits I inherited from my parents, I can’t help it...” In David’s life, what we observe is that David gets to experience full forgiveness
Forgiveness - While there were ongoing consequences after his affair with Bathsheba - the prophet Nathan tells David that his sin has been put away by the Lord (2 Sam. 12:13). God even goes on to promise ongoing punishment but also blessing through Bathsheba’s next son. There are so many ways in which we don’t fully understand the holiness and grace of God. With our society’s propensity toward self-justification - we don’t think we need to be reconciled to anyone but ourselves, when in actuality, we need to be reconciled to God - the holy one who is able and willing to forgive - removing our sin from us as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:2).
So we see in David’s life, this cycle of dealing with sin - rebuke, confession, repentance, responsibility, forgiveness. The same is true in our lives - when rebuked for our sin, we should confess it - acknowledging our sin, the repent - turning from our sinful ways, in this turning, we take responsibility for our sin - recognizing that we are the ones who deserve the punishment. When we do this, we receive full and complete, eternal forgiveness through Jesus Christ - which brings us to our final point.
Jesus - The Eternal King
Jesus - The Eternal King
Shortly after David conquered Jerusalem and established it as his capital, he expressed a deep desire to build a temple for the Lord. His Love for God was made evident by this desire to have a permanent home for God to dwell. Because of David’s warrior ways, God would not allow him to build a temple - but instead He would allow his son Solomon to build it. Instead, God made a promise to David that He would build him a house - that He (God) would establish a dynasty through David.
And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’ ”
One of things we will see next week is that David’s line lasted for quite a while on the physical throne in Jerusalem, but eventually the Kingdom crumbled and the people will be sent off into exile. Yet there is one who is greater than David and yet descended from David - that is Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of Luke talks about the unique nature and heritage of Jesus...
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
The writer of Hebrews further explains the nature of the reign of Jesus Christ in this way:
But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”
God’s promise is true. There was a break in the earthly kings, but the eternal one now sits in heaven, enthroned over a nation of people who span the globe. This is a glorious and beautiful Kingdom.
When we step into a relationship with Jesus Christ, we gain eternal citizenship into His Kingdom. Each day as we spend time in His word and in prayer, each week as we gather together, we learn about what this citizenship is all about - Loving God and loving others. We then get to learn how to live this loving way each and every day - as aliens and strangers - proclaiming the goodness of the Kingdom of God. When people see your life, can they identify you as a citizen of God’s Kingdom?
The books of Samuel chronicle the transition from the chaos of the judges to the order of the monarchy. Samuel’s leadership brought some semblance of religious order to the land. Saul, though initially promising was so insecure that he eventually lost the kingdom. David - as flawed as he was marked the beginning of a dynasty that spans into eternity through Jesus Christ.
We get to join in this eternal kingdom - if we respond to the rebuke of God as the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, as we confess our sin, repent/turn from our sinful ways, take responsibility/ownership for our sinfulness, we get to walk in forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ as citizens of this kingdom. Are you citizen of this Kingdom? Will you join proclaim the merits of this kingdom as we live as ambassadors here?
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.