Interactive Travel Guide
First Samuel recounts King Saul's rise to power and influence and his tragic fall. Saul's good looks, physical size and success in war made him an obvious choice from a human perspective. But the book of First Samuel highlights Saul's tragic flaw - he disobeyed God's commands. From the ashes of Saul's tragedy God raises up another king - King David.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
1380 - 1050 B.C.
Judges rule in Israel
Philistines occupy the Mediterranean coast
1100 - 1010 B.C.
Samuel's prophetic career
Saul becomes king of Israel
Samuel anoints David to be king
The conquest of Canaan
David's reign acknowledged throughout Israel
David dies and Solomon becomes king
The book of First Samuel can be divided into two sections. The first section deals with the rise of Saul as King.
1. The role of Samuel:
a. Samuel called - Chapters 1-2
b. Samuel confirmed - Chapters 3-6
c. Samuel commended - Chapter 7
2. The reign of Saul:
a. Israel rejects God as King - Chapter 8
b. God chooses Saul as king - Chapters 9-12
c. God rejects Saul as king - Chapters 13-15
PLACES OF INTEREST
- Five miles north of Jerusalem. The town today lies in ruins, but was the hometown of Samuel's parents and Samuel's birthplace. It was in Mt. Ephraim, within accessible distance to Shiloh, were Samuel's parents went up from year to year to worship and to sacrifice (1:3). From Ramah as a center Samuel went on circuit annually, to judge Israel, Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah (1 Sam 7:16).
- One of the five chief cities of the Philistines. The name means stronghold or fortress, and its strength may be inferred by the fact that Psammetik, of Egypt, besieged it for many years. It was still independent in the days of Samuel, when, after the defeat of the Israelites, the ark was taken to the house of Dagon in Ashdod (1 Sam 5:1).
- A town located about 8 miles east of Ekron and 15 miles west of Jerusalem. It was to Beth Shemesh that the Ark was returned to Israel. The name means "house of the sun" (1 Sam 6:12).
- God killed many people in Beth Shemesh for looking inside the Ark. It was then moved to Kiriath Jearim. It is assumed that the location was about 10 miles west of Jerusalem, but the actual location is disputed (1 Sam. 7:1).
- Israel's first king Saul was from Gibeah. Only three miles north of Jerusalem, it was Saul's first capital and was the headquarters for his military campaigns. The city was destroyed by the Roman commander Titus at the same time as the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. No one has lived there since (1 Sam. 1:1).
PEOPLE OF INTEREST
- He was from the tribe of Ephraim, the husband of Hannah and the father of Samuel (1 Sam 1:1).
- A Barren woman who God blessed by opening her womb to bear a child. She became the mother of Samuel whom she had dedicated to the LORD even before his birth (1 Sam 1:27).
- He was the high priest at this time. He had two sons (Hophni and Phinehas) who were wicked. Samuel came to live with Eli as a young boy (1 Sam 1:3).
- The oldest son of Eli. He was wicked in his priestly duties and was later killed in battle as a divine judgment (1 Sam 4:11).
- The younger son of Eli who was equally as wicked as his brother and also killed in battle as a divine judgment. He was the father (born after his death) of the child named Ichabod, meaning "the glory has departed out of Israel."
- He was the godly son for whom Hannah prayed. He could very well be considered a great religious statesman. He was the last of the Judges and the first of the Prophets. If you follow his travels, he was like a circuit riding preacher in the movies of the wild west (1 Sam 1:20; 7:15-17).
An unnamed man of God
- A nameless prophet who warned Eli about his evil sons (1 Sam 2:27).
- When she hears the news that her husband, brother-in-law and father-in-law are dead and the Ark has been lost to the enemy, goes into labor and gives birth to a son that she names Ichabod, meaning "the glory has departed out of Israel" (1 Sam 4:19-22).
- A Philistine god, the harvest god, whose image fell to the ground in the presence of the Ark (1 Sam 5:2).
- When the Ark was recaptured by Israel, they took it to the house of Abinadab who cared for it for 20 years (1 Sam 7:1).
The Yearly Sacrifice
- Samuel's parents traveled to the tabernacle at Shiloh each year to worship God. This celebration was actually the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread. All Israelites were to observe this eight-day feast and in many cases they traveled to Shiloh to do so at the Tabernacle (1 Sam 1:3; 21).
- This Golden Lampstand in the Tabernacle. Originally carved out of acacia wood, it was covered with 96 pounds of pure gold. The Menorah had a long straight stand and six branches curved out and up from the center, three on each side, The flames were an expression of God's presence (1 Sam 3:3).
- Living along the flat coastal areas, carts and wagons were very useful. The Ark, which had been captured by the Philistines, was returned to Israel on an oxcart. The oxcart had to travel over bumpy, rocky areas on the return trip. When it was going to tip over after hitting a bump, Uzzah reached up to steady the Ark and was struck down by God (1 Sam 6:1-7:2 & 2 Sam 6:7).
- During David's days, commanders always had an armor bearer who went into battle with them. He was a highly trusted man with great skills and courage. The armor bearer protected and defended the commander. His name comes from his other duties which were to carry any weapons that the commander needed to fight his battle (1 Sam 14:1).
a. Saul: The people of Israel demanded a king like the surrounding nations. Saul was chosen to be the first king. He was later rejected by God (1 Sam 9:2).
b. Ahinoam: The daughter of Ahimaaz and Saul's wife.
c. Jonathan: The oldest son of King Saul who becomes David's best friend. Jonathan was a brave, loyal and godly man (1 Sam 14:49).
d. Ishui: Saul's next son (1 Sam 14:49).
e. Melchi-Shua: Saul's third son (1 Sam 14:49).
f. Abinadab: Saul's fourth son (1 Sam 14:49).
g. Merab: The oldest daughter of Saul (1 Sam 14:49).
h. Michal: The younger daughter of Saul and David's first wife (1 Sam 14:49; 18:27).
i. Kish: Saul's father. When Kish had lost his donkeys, he sent Saul out to look for them. Through this event, Saul was anointed king by Samuel (1 Sam 9).
j. Ner: Saul's uncle, probably Kish's brother, and the father of Abner who would become the commander of Saul's army.
Father we invite You now in a very special way to be our guest of honor. Part of our worship is a careful, close and a holy attention to Your Word. Part of Your growth is to teach us that we might be transformed by the renewing of our minds. So we pray Father that as You speak through Your Word, our minds and our thinking would be renewed. I pray Lord that we would pay close attention to what Your Spirit might be speaking to us individually. We think of young Samuel whose words we're about to read when he said, "Speak Lord, Your servant hears." We say that corporately. "Speak Lord, Your for your servants gathered hear are listening." In Jesus' Name. Amen.
We will be looking at 1 Samuel chapters 1 - 15 and at the role of a prophet and the rule of a politician. The prophet of course is Samuel. The politician is the first king of Israel, King Saul. We are going to look at the role of Samuel the prophet and the rule of Saul the politician. We call this series the Bible from 30,000 feet and we soar rapidly over a whole bunch of Scriptures in one setting. Speaking of 30,000 feet, imagine being in an airplane at cruising altitude and suddenly you hear this over the airplane intercom, "Now there is no cause for alarm but we felt that you should know that for the last three hours we have been flying without the benefit of radio, compass, radar or navigational beam due to the breakdown of key components. That means that we are, in the broad sense of the word, lost and we're not quite sure in which direction we are heading. On the brighter side of the picture, however, I'm sure you'll be glad to know, that we are making excellent time." How would you feel? Not very good! You're going somewhere, you don't know where, but you are right on time. That is the situation that the nation of Israel is facing at this period of time. We've just come through the period of Judges and the nation is on a course to nowhere. They are actually on a course to captivity. In 586 BC they will be taken captive. They have gotten off course and they are straying away from the Lord. Now we come to a series of books that deal with leadership. We read in the book of Judges, "There was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in his own eyes." Over the next several weeks we are going to look at first and second Samuel, first and second Kings and first and second Chronicles. The theme of those books is leadership and we're going to see many examples of good and bad leadership. Somebody once said that there are three kinds of people: those who make things happen; those who watch things happen and those who have no idea what's happening. All three of them will be found in the pages of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. A major mega-theme of these books is influence and what we're going to see in 1 Samuel are some notable characters. Eli, who's a priest; Samuel, who's a prophet; Saul is a politician and a good one; and David who is a poet. So we're going to look at a priest, a prophet, a politician, and a poet. You can even divide the book of Samuel and outline it based upon those figures. But as I said, the mega-theme is influence.
Look backward for just a moment in your mind's eye and think about people who have influenced you and that made an impact on you. It could be a parent, a grandparent, a coach, a teacher, a mentor or a cartoon character; you know who influenced you. Then after looking back and thinking of those people look around you now and where you are in your life and ask yourself, what kind of footprints are you leaving for other people. You are making an impact somewhere and influencing people somehow. What kind of footprints are you leaving for your family, your friends, your neighbors, your church or people in your small group to follow?
Well the story of leadership and the story of Godliness isn't just the group of men that I mentioned. The story opens with a notable woman. Elkanah is the guy's name who's married to a woman named Hannah and a woman named Peninnah; that's right he has two wives. Now that doesn't mean that the Bible condones that; the Bible is just honest and tells us what is going on. Here's a man who is married to two women and one of them Hannah can't have children and she is very frustrated so she does a very wise thing - she brings it before God. Chapter 1, verse 2: "And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah," (her name means grace), "and the name of the other Peninnah," (which means ruby), "Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children." It was always the burning desire of every Hebrew couple to have as many children as they possibly could because the idea was that you live and you keep living through your children and grandchildren. There's even a great Psalm, number 127 that says, "Children are a heritage from the Lord and the fruit of the womb is his reward. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." A quiver was a pouch where you put arrows. So the analogy is like having a quiver full of arrows, i.e., children, and the more the merrier. If you have a quiver full of children and you're saying, "Boy, it's sort of tough; they are making me quiver," the Bible calls you blessed and hopefully one day you'll see it all pay off. Well, Hannah can't have children so as I mentioned, she prays and God answers. Verse 20: "So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel," (Sehmual), "saying, 'Because I have asked for him from the Lord.'" What does Samuel mean? It could mean the name of the Lord; it could mean his name is the Lord; it could mean answered by the Lord; or it could mean called on the Lord. All of those meanings are wrapped up in the name Samuel. Now, a word about the book of Samuel. In the original Hebrew texts, first and second Samuel were one book and not two; the book of Samuel. Then later on it became divided and first and second Samuel was called first and second Kings; and first and second Kings were called third and fourth Kings. So there were four books of Kings, two that we call Samuel and two that we call Kings; but things have changed and we just call it first and second Samuel. Who wrote it? We think Samuel. It's a Talmudic tradition that Samuel wrote it but we really don't know and obvious he didn't write it all because he dies in chapter 25. So a couple of other guys like Nathan and Gad perhaps wrote after him and finish the story where he left off. In Verse 27 Hannah is speaking: "'For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him.'" I want you to make note of something. The book of Samuel opens with prayer and closes with prayer and prayer is mentioned or seen thirty times in between the opening and the closing of the book. It's really a book of prayer and it's what people do in distress in calling upon the Lord.
There is a period of about 94 years between the birth of Samuel the prophet and the death of King Saul. That 94 year period is a shoulder period, or a transitional period, where Israel gets a king. Verse 28: "'Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord;'" (interesting wording), "'as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.' So they worshiped the Lord there." What does it mean to lend a child to the Lord? It's not like, "Well here Lord, You can have it for a while but I'm taking it back later on." That's not the idea and in fact this really isn't a good translation. The word here, "lent him to the Lord," means an irrevocable, permanent giving of something. That's the idea here. "I've given my child to the Lord." This is what I want you to pick up on. The greatest desire of Elkanah and Hannah for their son Samuel wasn't that he be the richest and the smartest and go to the best universities as much as that he would serve the Lord. "We want this kid to love God and to serve the Lord." They had just come to a period of bad leadership with Judges and, "We'd love it if your son was fully and totally dedicated to the Lord; nothing else matters; I'm giving him to God." Somebody once said, "The earthly possessions you take to heaven are your children." That means that when he was just a little kid they brought him to the Tabernacle and dropped him off and said to the High Priests, "Here, you raise him to serve the Lord with you"; and that's what happened. Maybe between 3 and 5 years of age is when the child finished his weaning process and then as a young child he was dropped off at the Tabernacle.
Chapter 2 is Hannah's response after God blesses her with this child and she dedicates him in prayer. We are not going to go through any of these chapters in any great depth because of lack of time, but one thing I want to point out is that if you were to take 1 Samuel chapter 2 and the Gospel of Luke chapter 1 and compare them you would find some similarities. Mary the mother of Jesus utters a beautiful hymn of worship when she is told that she is going to birth the Messiah. She evidently was familiar with this song of Hannah because the wording is very similar and there are in fact, some direct quotes out of this chapter; so she has been studying this beautiful prayer of Hannah and she utters it at least in part in Luke chapter 1. Verse 11: "Then Elkanah went to his house at Ramah. But the child ministered to the Lord before Eli the priest." We don't know how old he was when he started ministering to the Lord but most people think he was a teenager. Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian, believes that he was 12 years of age when he started in the ministry. Think about that for a moment. Here is a twelve year old kid learning ministry. God is in the business of youth movements; he's always looking for anybody at any age to serve him but it seems like God just loves it when he can get young people turned on to the things of God. I think of Jeremiah. God chose him to be a spokesperson; he wasn't seasoned and Jeremiah even protested and said, "I'm just a kid," and God said, "Quit saying that; I want to use you." Timothy was a young man and Paul said, "Let no man despise your youth," or "don't let anybody look down on you because you're young." Now that is not to say that God exclusively looks for young people. Moses was 80 years old when he started being used by God; and Caleb was 85 when the ministry really took off for him. The point is that God's calling can come at any age. However, a young person is open, more open than we older folks and they are starting to ask questions like, "What is the purpose of life, why am I here and how can I make my life count for something?" Most decisions for Christ come at a young age. That's statistically proven. One organization said this, "At 25 years of age there is a 1 in 5,000 chance that a person will be converted; at 35 it's a 1 in 25,000 chance; at 45 it's a 1 in 60,000 chance; at age 55 it's a 1 in 125,000 chance. Then they say that conversion at age 75 is just a pure miracle; but of course God is a God of miracles. Dwight Lyman Moody, the evangelist, came home one night after a service. His wife had not attended the service and she asked her husband, "Well, how many came forward and were saved at the altar call tonight?" Dwight L. Moody was one of the first purveyors of the altar call and he said, "Two and one half people got saved tonight." She said, "Two and one half? You mean two adults and one child?" He said, "No, two children and one adult; that adult wasted half of his life already but these kids have their whole life ahead of them." So God calls this kid who is twelve years of age or a young teenager to serve at the Tabernacle.
Verse 12: "Now the sons of Eli were corrupt;" If you have an Old King James version it says, "They were sons of Belial." That's like saying they are the devil's kids. "They did not know the Lord." These guys were PK's - priests' kids; they worked in the Tabernacle and yet though they worked in the Tabernacle and they were sons of priests, they weren't saved. Some people think that just by going to church they are automatically saved. In fact some people almost take their cues from seeing the church building or driving into the church parking lot. For example a man can yell at his wife and say rotten things to her and then he turns into the church parking lot and gets out and it's, "Hi brother, God bless you!" Where's the consistency here? My point is that even though you are in a place where Godly things happen, it doesn't make you a Godly person. When you think of the upper room with Jesus and His disciples and you could say, "Oh, yeah, wouldn't it have been great to have been in that upper room?" It was probably the most dangerous place in Jerusalem that night; that's where the devil was, though uninvited. It was in that upper room that Satan entered Judas. Sometimes churches can be the most dangerous places to be. A lot of spiritual warfare can happen. So here they were at the Tabernacle and yet they were unsaved and immoral.
In chapter 3 we look at the life of Samuel who is a contrast to the priests' sons. Here was a young leader who loved God and we have the calling of this prophet. Verse 1: "Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation." This is a very sad verse. God wasn't speaking much back then and you may ask, "Why is that?" Probably because people weren't listening much at that time. You know, God really has nothing to say to people who don't want to listen to Him. If people are in the habit of tuning God out, there will come a time where God says, "I'm done now." Even in the book of Genesis God said, "My Spirit will not always strive with man." So here we read that there was no widespread revelation and that the Word was rare in those days. The Knox translation puts it this way, "In those days a message from God was a rare treasure." It's sad but I have to say that in many churches around the world it could also be said that the Word of God is rare. People, churches, and leaders often feel like, "We've got to get away from the Bible; people don't want to hear the Bible; they just want sugar coated happy feeling sounding messages devoid from the Word of God." Paul said to young Timothy, "Timothy make sure you preach the Word. Be ready in season and out of season." Some years ago there was a poll taken of people in America who had been to church and then they just left the church and stopped going and they wanted to find out why. In this poll, 49 percent (almost half) said, "The church is not efficient in helping people find meaning in life." Wait a minute! That's why we exist! To help people find meaning in life. Let's probe a little bit deeper. Fifty six percent said, "We feel the church is too concerned with organizational issues and not Spiritual issues." So here you have the world, basically, telling the church, "You're not preaching the Gospel!" People come to church expecting the church to do church. They don't have to hide it and be cool and be hipper than thou and, "We better not mention the blood of Christ, because it offends people; we better not read the Bible but let's give them just a bunch of fluff." People don't want that. They want meaning in life and they want Spiritual truth and the church should oblige that need and preach the Word.
Well, the Word of God was rare in those days but there was one kid who was listening and his name was Samuel. In one night God comes to Samuel and calls his name three times. "Samuel, Samuel." He is sleeping and wakes up. "I heard somebody call my name," and he thinks that Eli the priest is calling for him. So you can imagine this little guy walking into Eli's room and asking, "What do you want Eli?" "What do you mean what do I want?" "Well you called me." "I didn't call you, go back to bed." He goes back to bed and hears, "Samuel, Samuel." God didn't say anything but just called his name and I think He's having a little fun with this. Samuel wakes up and goes back into Eli's room, "What do you want?" This happens a few times so Eli says, "Look Samuel, it would appear as though God is speaking to you, so next time you hear your name being called, don't wake me up; just say these words, 'Speak, Lord, Your servant hears.'" Verse 9: "Therefore Eli said to Samuel, 'Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, then you must say, 'Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.' So Samuel went and lay down in his place.'" You think he went back to sleep? I mean after a few times, I wouldn't; I'd be wide awake waiting to see if that voice comes back. "Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, 'Samuel! Samuel!' And Samuel answered, 'Speak, for Your servant hears.'" At that point God gave him a revelation. Speak Lord your servant hears is "Ebed shama" in Hebrew; which means I'm ready to do whatever You want and I'm going to pay careful close attention; I'm at the edge of my seat waiting for further instruction. That's what it all means. It's interesting to me that God spoke to him three times but did not give him a full revelation until the boy said, "Speak Lord, I'm ready to do whatever You want; Your servant hears." There's a principal here my friends - there are a lot of people who say, "I really want to do what God wants me to do; I'm all about God's will and I'm all about doing what He wants; but I kind of want to know what He wants of me first. So Lord, speak, tell me what you want first and then I'll decide if I really want to do what You want me to do. I mean, you might say to go to Africa or on a mission trip and I don't want to do that. Or marry that person and I don't want to do that." Here's a guy who says, "Speak Lord Your servant hears," and then God gave him a revelation. What did He reveal? Sadly He revealed that Eli's household with Hophni and Phinehas, his corrupt boys, would come to an end; that God was displeased with them and that ministry was over because this priest Eli indulged those two kids and never corrected them. He tells this to young Samuel and Samuel is too afraid to tell but eventually he does. Verse 19: "So 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 had been established as a prophet of the Lord." Now since we're doing the Bible from 30,000 feet and seeing how it all fits together, some people see in Samuel a type of Christ. Samuel the prophet speaking forth Christ's words clearly and plainly; growing up; and doing the will of God. It was the same with Jesus Christ. Also, and this is what you ought to know, the very first appearance of the word Messiah, Mashiyach, is in this book. Back in chapter 2, verse 10 Hannah says, "God will exalt the horn of His anointed." The word anointed in that verse is Mashiyach and it's where we get our term Messiah or Christ. So the prediction of Messiah comes first in 1 Samuel chapter 2. Verse 21: "Then the Lord appeared again in Shiloh. For the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord."
We are going to take an overview of chapters 4 through 7 and I'll give you the background. There is a domestic crisis afoot. The Philistines, the biggest enemy of Israel at that time,is pushing their way toward the interior of the land. The people of Israel are frightened and they cry out for a leadership change. "We don't want the priesthood anymore; we don't want Eli and his corrupt kids; we want a king like other nations." Who were the Philistines? The Philistines were a group of sea-faring trades people from the Aegean Islands. They migrated southwards and tried to go down to Egypt and were kicked out of Egypt and landed down in the Southern Mediterranean coast in Israel. For a long time they settled in five principle cities and you read a lot about them: Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath, Gaza and Ekron. They are the enemies of Israel until finally David deals with them once and for all. You've probably have heard the term, Palestine or Palestinian. It comes from the word Philistine. Palestine literally is from the words ur philistea or land of the Philistines. There are no more philistines today but the term Palestine still persists; why is that? Even one hundred years ago in Christian literature you say the word Palestine rather than Israel. That's because, and this is important, in AD 135 a Roman emperor by the name of Hadrian resurrected the word ur philistea, or Palestine because he wanted the people of Israel, the Jews, to lose their identity. He took over and he changed Jerusalem to an idol worshiping capital. He didn't want the terms Judea or Israel so he resurrected the term Palestinian or Palestine after the philistines but there really are no philistines; there really is no Palestine any more than for us to say the Soviet Union. There is no Soviet Union. There are a bunch of different countries and they are all individualized. Or if you were to say, "I'm going to take a trip to Canaan"; well Canaan doesn't exist and the Canaanites don't exist. Or let's go to East Berlin; it's not east and west Berlin anymore. All that stuff is past history. This Roman emperor tried to keep that term in order to slur the people of Judah.
Chapters 4 through 7 speak about these Philistines and they capture the Ark of the Covenant of God, they take it to one of their temples in Ashdod the temple of Dagon, and they kill the two sons of Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas. Now in this chapter Eli the priest is 85 years old and is blind. He's an old guy and has put on a lot of weight and he's sitting down and somebody tells him, "Both of your sons have been murdered by the philistines and the Ark of the Covenant of God has been captured." When he heard that, he was so brokenhearted that he fell over backwards, broke his neck and died. It's horrible way to end your life. Also, on the same day, and at the same time, the wife of Phinehas who has been pregnant with a son, hears what happened and goes into sudden labor because her husband has died and she gives birth.
Chapter 4, verse 21: "Then she named the child Ichabod." You don't want to name your son that if you are looking for a Biblical name. It means, "'The glory has departed from Israel!' because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. And she said, 'The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.'" Ichabod means "where is the glory" or no glory. What does, "The glory has departed" mean? The word departed means gone into captivity. Understand this, to the Jews at that time, the capturing of the Ark of the Covenant was like God going into captivity, and here is why. The Ark of the Covenant wasn't just a box or just a symbol or an icon, it was the only place where atonement for sin could be taken care of. Once a year on Yom Kippur the high priest would sprinkle blood on the top of the mercy seat. The only way to approach God and the only place sins could be forgiven at that time was through the Ark of the Covenant. How were they going to approach and have their sins forgiven now? So for the Ark to go away meant that God had left and gone into captivity - the glory has departed.
In chapters 5 and 6 God judges the Philistines. They take the Ark and put it in that temple of Dagon who is a fish god. When they go in there the next morning the statue has fallen forward as if worshiping the God of Israel via the Ark of the Covenant. The false priests see this and think, "Oh no, somebody must have pushed it over," and they put it back up and guard it. The next day when they come in the statue has fallen forward again but this time it's broken into pieces. Then all sorts of bad things happen to them and finally they say, "Let's get rid of the Ark," and they send it back to Israel to a place called Beth Shemesh and then from there it goes to Kirjath Jearim. By the way, these are all places you can visit in Israel; they are still there.
Chapter 8 marks a transition in Israel's history. This is now where we get the first king. We come now to the United Kingdom and I'm not speaking about England but about the monarchy of Israel; King Saul, King David and King Solomon. This is where the united monarch begins and it lasts 120 years. It begins here in chapter 8 with a guy named Saul. Hosea chapter 13, verse 11 says: "I gave you a king in my anger and I took him away in my wrath." You could write that verse over the rest of this book because that is the theme of the rest of the book of 1 Samuel. King Saul in the Old Testament is like an Old Testament equivalent of a carnal Christian in the New Testament. He's on a roller coaster his whole life and you see promises of his walk with God in his early years and he starts out great but he ends very poorly because he makes some bad choices.
Chapter 8, verse 4: "Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, 'Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.' But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, 'Give us a king to judge us.' So Samuel prayed to the Lord." Samuel took this very personally. He feels like they are rejecting him. He is God's prophet and he's the guy who hears from God and speaks for God and he's the representative of the Lord. It's like, "This is my job, and now I'm out of a job?" He feels personally rejected. Verse 7: "And the Lord said to Samuel, 'Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day--with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods--so they are doing to you also.'" Now here is the big question - was a king the will of God? We understand even from Genesis that it was always God's plan that someday God would reign through a king. In Genesis 49 there is a prediction: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh comes." The scepter is an ornamental staff and the symbol of authority of a king. In Deuteronomy 17, God says, "When you get into the land be sure to appoint over you a king whom the Lord your God chooses." So was a king God's will? Yes. Was this king God's will? Well he wasn't a man after God's own heart. So though God said that he would eventually put a king in this place and it was His plan, everything was wrong in the choice for a king now. Number one, it was the wrong timing. They are about ten years to soon. David is the guy called a man after God's own heart, not Saul. Number two, it was the wrong tribe. Saul is from the tribe of Benjamin. David would be of the tribe of Judah and that's the prophecy in Genesis 49. God selected Judah and the house of David as the kingly tribe not the house of Saul. And number three, this guy has the wrong temperament. He's all about looks; he's not about a spiritual walk. He doesn't have his priorities right. One of the key verses is in chapter 13, verse 14 where the prophet says to Saul: "'But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart.'" So they asked for a king and God says give them what they want. "I gave them a king in my anger and I took him away in my wrath."
Chapters 9 through 15 are about the sad leadership of King Saul. He started well, he could have ended well, but he didn’t. At the end of his life, maybe in a moment of weakness or in a moment of being vulnerable and uttering something, he said in chapter 26, verse 21: "Indeed I have played the fool and erred exceedingly" -nine words that form his autobiography. This was a tragic admission and a banner you could place over his life. In fact, that's a banner statement that you could put over lots of lives; they start well; there's so much potential and so much giftedness but for some reason the person squanders what God has entrusted and given and what God wanted to do through that person. But through whatever reason they would have to say, "I've played the fool and I have erred exceedingly." Unfortunately I have known too many like that. Chapter 9, verse 1: "There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power." Kish is Saul's dad so we understand that Saul has a good heritage; he comes from the tribe of Benjamin who is the favored son of Jacob by his favorite wife, Rachel. It says that Kish was a mighty man of power or an important guy. Verse 2: "And he had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul. There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people." This guy had good looks; he was handsome, he was tall and in the ancient Middle East stature or height was admired. They would look at him and say, "Now that guy looks like a king and we want him." If we understand who the principle enemy is at that time, we can sort of understand their infinity toward height. Remember that the Philistines were their big enemy and we know that the Philistines had a few tall people on their side, like Goliath, so they see Saul and say, "Here's a tall one and he's good looking too!" Of course he turns out to be a chicken but he looks good - he's a good looking chicken! He had a good heritage and he had good looks. He starts out very humble and I can't prove why he changed but maybe it was because he so often heard, "Man, you're so tall! Man, you're so good looking; you're like the best looking dude in the country." He listened to his own press and he got that crown and maybe he put it on one too many times as he stood in front of the mirror. It's like guys in the gym; there are always mirrors in gyms and I watch as people work out, (when I used to go to gyms), that people like looking at themselves when they are lifting weights. I think Saul probably liked looking at himself with that crown on. The prophet Samuel finds him and anoints him as the next king. Verse 21: "And Saul answered and said, 'Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak like this to me?'" Now mark well his beginning, he's a humble man, but it won't last.
We skip down to his coronation day in chapter 10, verse 20; the day that he gets the crown: "And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was chosen. And Saul the son of Kish was chosen. But when they sought him, he could not be found." "Okay, where's the king? Where's the guy we're going to put this crown on? We can't find him!" "Therefore they inquired of the Lord further, 'Has the man come here yet?' And the Lord answered, 'There he is, hidden among the equipment.'" This guy had an incredible sense of inadequacy. He was not secure at all; he was embarrassed; he thought he shouldn't be the king. It's amazing that you have a guy start out very humble like this, "I can't do this job; I can't be king," and turn out like he turned out. He started well. It's not a bad thing to say, "Look, I'm not worthy of the honor of leading God's people." Paul the Apostle said, "I am less than least of all the saints." When Gideon was chosen as a judge he said, "Who am I to lead God's people. I come from a small tribe and my family is the least in my tribe." Many people started this way and so did this king. But what happened and how did he play the fool and end up like he ended up?
Chapters 13, 14, and 15, which we will briefly look at, give us the answer. He played the fool by number one, arrogance; number two, by indifference; and number three by disobedience. Chapter 13, verse 1: "Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel, Saul chose for himself three thousand men of Israel. Two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in the mountains of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. The rest of the people he sent away, every man to his tent. And Jonathan attacked the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. Then Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, 'Let the Hebrews hear!'" Did you get what this is saying? Jonathan attacked and Saul blew the trumpet. I call this military plagiarism. He took the credit for what Jonathan had done. Why? Arrogance and pride. "I'm going to blow my trumpet because I'm the king." "Yes, but you didn't do anything." At least give attribution and give credit and say, "My son did this." Saul didn't do that; he's a very prideful person and pride destroys whatever God builds. Pride destroys families, friendships, and ministries. I had lunch with Jim Baker as soon as he got out of prison a few years back; he was such a broken and humble man. He looked me right in the eye and he said. "You know what caused the downfall of my ministry with Tammy Faye and me? My own pride."
In chapter 14 Saul plays the fool by indifference. Let me explain what's happening here. The army of Israel is reduced in number to only 600 men. King Saul is sitting under a tree waiting for things to happen. His son Jonathan is not a sitter, he's a fighter, so he gets up and says to his armor bearer, "Hey, it may be that the Lord will work for us, let's go to the Philistine's garrison, just you and me, just the two of us and maybe the Lord will deliver the entire army of the Philistines into our hands. It could be that the Lord will be with us for he said, 'What restrains the Lord in saving with many or with few.'" So the armor bearer says, "Cool, I'm game, let's go for it. This sounds like a cool adventure." So the Lord gives the entire army of the Philistines into the hands of these two men - they are all defeated. In the mean time, King Saul has given a stupid order to his army. "Nobody is going to eat anything at all until I am avenged of my enemies. You can't have a single meal today." Which means everybody is so tired and famished and they have no energy and have to fight all day. He says, "Whoever eats anything will get the death penalty." When he gave that order, his son Jonathan and his armor bearer weren't there. They are off fighting a battle and they see honey in the road and they eat it and get energized (like a snickers bar). Watch what happens. Chapter 14, verse 43: "Then Saul said to Jonathan, 'Tell me what you have done.'" This was so stupid. "I'll tell you what I have done - I've won the battle for you dad!" "And Jonathan told him, and said, 'I only tasted a little honey with the end of the rod that was in my hand. So now I must die!' Saul answered, 'God do so and more also; for you shall surely die, Jonathan.' But the people said to Saul, 'Shall Jonathan die, who has accomplished this great deliverance in Israel? Certainly not! As the Lord lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.' So the people rescued Jonathan, and he did not die." Saul would have killed his own son out of jealousy. He hated to see others honored.
He played the fool by arrogance, he played the fool by indifference and in chapter 15, and he played the fool by disobedience. Chapter 15 is the key chapter. Verse 1: "Samuel also said to Saul, 'The Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt.'" People read this and think, "Man, God is really bummed out that day and He's really harsh. Why is He punishing the Amalekites?" For this reason: When Moses lead the Children of Israel through the desert into the promise land, the Amalekites came in the rear and got the old, weak and sick people and killed them; ambushed them. Because they were known for their brutality and they were still living in the land, the way you deal with an aggressive cancer in a body is aggressively. Sometimes, the doctor will say, "I'm sorry but I'm going to have to amputate your leg." "You're a mean doctor!" "No, actually if I cut your leg off you'll live; if I don't you'll die. I know it's painful and it's aggressive but aggressive cancer needs aggressive surgery." "Therefore, Saul, go kill the Amalekites." It was a just war. If you don't believe me wait until we get to the book of Esther and we'll read about what happens when God's people disobey and there's a guy in that book named Haman who almost kills all of the Jews. He was an Amalekite. God knew exactly what He was doing when He said, "Get rid of them." Verse 9: "But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed." Now God Himself speaks to Samuel. Verse 11: "'I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.' And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night." What a Godly man. "So when Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, it was told Samuel, saying, 'Saul went to Carmel, and indeed, he set up a monument for himself; and he has gone on around, passed by, and gone down to Gilgal.' Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, 'Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord.'" Here is a guy who has the right talk and right speech, "God bless you prophet man. I've done everything God told me to do. Praise the Lord! Halleluiah! He had all the talk down but it was covering up his disobedience. "But Samuel said, 'What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?'" If you've obeyed everything God told you to do, why do I still hear animals and they are not all dead? "And Saul said, 'They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.'" Again, he sounds very spiritual. "We want to sacrifice to God." It's not spiritual when you disobey. "Then Samuel said to Saul, 'Be quiet!'" (I like this guy - zip it!) '"And I will tell you what the Lord said to me last night.' And he said to him, 'Speak on.' So Samuel said, 'When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel.'" He gives more excuses. Verse 21: "'But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.'" So Samuel said: 'Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.'" Here's a warning to people who say, "I love the Lord; God is like my best friend," and that's a wonderful thing to say but Jesus said, "You are my friends if you do whatever I command you." You can't be disobeying God and yet be living a lifestyle of disobedience claiming God is your best buddy and best friend and you really love Him. "If you love Me you will keep My commandments." He played the fool by arrogance, by indifference and here by disobedience. God never separates the worship from the worshiper. Cain brought a worship sacrifice to the Lord, an offering, and God looked at both the offering and the one who offered it and said to him, "If you do right you'll be accepted. If you live right, I'll accept it; but I don't separate what you give and who you are." Verse 35: "And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel." Now Saul will still be in power as the king but God will not be with him and God will replace him.
Understand this as we close, it didn't have to go that way. It didn't have to end that way. It could have ended, "And they lived happily ever after." It didn't and it was because of disobedience. F.B. Myer gives us these words, "This is the bitterest of all, to know that suffering need not have been, that it has resulted from indiscretion and inconsistency; that it is the harvest of one's own sowing; that the vulture which feeds on the vitals is a nestling of one's own rearing, awe me, this is pain." No wonder Samuel mourned for Saul the rest of his life.
As we close in prayer, maybe you can think of someone who was walking closely with the Lord and you're thinking, "They've walked away." Let's pray for them and God's mercy as we close.
Heavenly Father, You've been so gracious; none of us are worthy of Your mercies but You lavish Your grace upon us. You're so patient with us and though we have a long way to grow and a lot to learn, like a patient father or mother, You direct our steps and You forgive us and You pick us back up. You wipe the dust off and You get us back on our feet. We pray Lord for those who have erred and who aren't walking in obedience anymore to You. We can't judge their hearts and we can try to wrestle with it theologically but more than that we want to spend our energy praying for them. That one person or two or three that come to our minds, we pray Lord that You'd restore them back to effective service, back to fellowship with You and right relationship with us. Thank You Lord that we've learned what we've learned and we've read what we've read and we pray that Your Spirit will continue to do Your work in us. We bless Your name. Amen.