THE MESSAGE OF 1 & 2 SAMUEL
In Samuel, God records for us the inauguration of the Israelite monarchy. Israel wants to be like all the other nations, who had a king to lead them. Samuel complains to the Lord about the people’s request for a king (I.8:6). Yahweh indicates that the people’s desire for a king is really a rejection of His own reign over them. Nevertheless, Yahweh grants them a king. In fact, He provides them with a king (I.9:16). From this point in the book, the visible leader of Israel becomes a “permanently” established, hereditary monarchy that suggests that Yahweh no longer reigns over His people. However, what the books of Samuel suggest is the Lord’s continuing theocratic rule over His people despite (or through) the interposition of human leadership. God “sovereignly works in our lives through leaders, even imperfect leaders” (D. Shumate, unpublished paper, p. 9).
I. God’s all-embracing sovereignty (I.2:6-10; 14:6; 17:47; II.7:21-24, 28)
A. Examples of His universal sovereignty
1. He continues as the “Warrior” of Israel
Israel wanted a king to go before them and lead them into battle, a king that would bring them military victory. Samuel reveals, however, that Yahweh continues to be the Warrior of Israel who ultimately brings victory to His people.
·Jonathan’s victory against the Philistines (I.14:6, 12, 23)
·David and Goliath: the “battle is the Lord’s” (I.17:47)
2. Yahweh remains sovereign over the gods of the heathen (I.5)
B. Descriptions of His universal sovereignty
1. Direct statements: the prayer of Hannah (I.2:6-10)
2. Control of current events
·He directs the outcome of battles (I.7:10; I.11:6-13)
3. Control of future events (prophecies): doom on Eli’s house; downfall of Saul
This theme of Yahweh’s sovereignty over all things manifests itself in Yahweh’s continuing theocratic rule of His people despite human leadership.
II. God’s ongoing theocratic rule over His people despite human leadership
Despite outward appearances, the real king of Israel continues to be Yahweh!!!
This is clearly evident in the lives of all three of the human leaders that dominate the books of Samuel—Samuel, Saul, David.
Behind the incidents of Samuel’s birth is the hand of God at work, preparing the next leader of Israel. Eli’s response of worship (I.1:28) suggests that he also recognized in Samuel God’s provision of a leader.
Note: In Samuel, the prophets as a class of men dedicated to the forthtelling of God’s word first come into existence. In I Samuel 3:20, Samuel is first identified as a prophet of God. In I.10:5, 10-12, there is reference for the first time to a company of prophets. This indicates that simultaneously with the rise of the monarchy, God is raising up His prophets. These men functioned, as it were, as the “watchdogs” of the theocracy (Oehler). Now that the civil and spiritual leadership of Israel was being divided into two offices (as opposed to the days of Moses and Joshua), Yahweh is divinely preparing His messengers who will declare the spiritual stipulations of the theocracy. For example, Samuel confronts Saul in his wrongdoings (I.13:13-14; I.15:16-23); similar prophetic ministry continues to David (e.g., I Sam. 22:5; II.12:25; 24:11).
Even though the motive of the Israelites in asking for a king was wrong and though God’s timing for a king had not yet come, “God allowed them to have a king and selected the best possible choice under the circumstances” (Eugene Merrill, 197). God gave the people what they asked for. The people wanted a military leader; God gave them a man of imposing outward appearance.
David was God’s choice, not Samuel’s (I Sam. 16:6). David’s selection to be king points up the truth that God selects and establishes those who have a heart for Him (I.16:7).
a. Samuel (I Sam. 3:19-21)
b. Saul (I Sam. 10:9; 11:6)
c. David (I Sam. 16:13)
Because the empowering or gifting comes from God, human leaders are foolish to take credit for the things God allows them to accomplish.
One of the truths seen in Samuel is that God sovereignly and providentially exalts even the lowest of men to the positions that He has prepared for them. Saul comes from the lowly tribe of Benjamin. David is the youngest son of a humble family of Judah. Yet, when God chooses to exalt a man into a given position of leadership, nothing averts that purpose of God. God silences the critics of King Saul (I Sam. 10:27) through his victory over Nahash the Ammonite (I Sam. 11:12-13). Almost overnight, God exalts David from a lowly family sheepherder to the champion of Israel through his victory over Goliath (I Sam. 17).
The lesson for us to remember is not to exalt ourselves—Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time!
God exalts and humbles leaders according to their heart for Him. No leader is out of reach of the humbling hand of God (Nebuchadnezzar!). Leaders should heed the words of Hannah not to be arrogant or proud—“for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed” (I Sam. 2:3).
1. Eli removed because of his failure with his sons (I.3:12-14).
In one day, God removes Eli and his two sons, clearing the way for the prophetic judgeship of Samuel (I Sam. 4:11, 18).
2. Saul removed because of his disobedience (I.13:13-14; I.15:16-23).
In spite of all Saul’s efforts to destroy David, the heir apparent to the throne, God’s decree of the downfall of Saul’s dynasty remained unshaken. It is not by strength that one prevails (I Sam. 2:9), but by the purpose of God. God breaks the bow of the warrior when God has finished “using” his bow (I Sam. 2:4).
1. True of Saul and the people (I Sam. 12)
The accountability demanded by God (through Samuel) in I Samuel 12:25 becomes a reality in the life of King Saul in the very next chapter, as he forfeits his kingdom by his disobedience (I.13:13-14).
2. True of David, God’s anointed (II Sam. 12)
1. Israel’s premature request for a king
2. The destruction of the Amalekites (despite Saul)
3. The preservation of David from Saul and Absalom
4. The frustration of the counsel of Ahithophel (II.17:14)
God’s theocratic rule is not changed because of the interposition of human leadership. To the contrary, it is through the Davidic dynasty that God will bring forth His Messianic King, who will sit on the throne of His father David.
If Yahweh is the sovereign ruler of Israel, then only those leaders who stay in step with the true leader of Israel can and will effectively govern. David illustrates a man who “stayed in step” with the true king of Israel. Repeatedly, the Scripture records that David enquired after Yahweh. In all types of situations, David enquired of the Lord in an effort to gain the mind of the Lord. See I.22:13-15; 23:2, 4, 10-12; 30:8; II.2:1; 5:19, 23. Present-day leaders, who also govern under the ruling hand of God, should do no less. Those of us under leadership should keep in mind that those over us do not thwart God’s sovereign plan. Rather, God is providentially directing our lives through the leaders He has placed over us.