Our BIG WORD Bible study this season is on 1 Samuel. We’ve already covered the first ten chapters and will discuss the next two next week. With Leap Day elongating our schedule, I thought it might be nice to do a little recap.
By the way, if you’re not yet with us, it’s not too late to join! You can download the homework for FREE and start where we are now or go to the beginning and “catch up” before our next discussion.
First Samuel is a natural continuation of Judges, which we studied last fall. (Those notes are also available on the BIG WORD tab.) We see mankind continuing to do whatever is right in their own eyes. Our hope is that the dawn of Israel’s kings will abate this time of anarchy, especially if we get the right king.
While Judges taught us that God can use flawed, sinful, rebellious, arrogant people — basically, ANYONE — to accomplish His will, the books of Samuel (both 1 and 2) teach us what kind of person God desires to use.
So far we’ve seen bad examples and worse examples. We fostered a positive vibe with the prophet Samuel, but that was short-lived. Even after God revealed Himself as the Almighty Sovereign LORD, able to conquer enemies and decapitate other gods, the Israelites wanted more. They were no longer happy with a government of priests; they wanted a king “like all the other nations.” Saul, whether he wanted it or not, was named the first king of Israel. Our discussion on Thursday will be about his first acts as king.
That’s the basic history, but what has this taught us about God? About ourselves? What difference does it — or should it — make in our lives today?
Chapters 1–3 told the story of Samuel’s birth and childhood. This section contrasted the faithfulness of Hannah (Samuel’s mother) with Eli (the serving priest who raised Samuel). We learned that God can and does speak to individuals. We also learned that those individuals don’t always recognize His voice. We learned that adults, especially parents, can have a huge impact the faith and character of children.
Here are the big questions we asked:
- How can we attune our hearts and ears to God?
- How much of a child’s behavior should be blamed on the parents?
- What can we do to foster godly character in the children within our sphere of influence?
- Samuel was prepared from birth for his future as a prophet and priest. Is it possible God has prepared you for something? How? What?
Chapters 4–7 covered a lot of material. We saw the demise of Eli and his wicked sons. Through the war with the Philistines, we learned where the Israelites truly put their trust and what their enemies (the Philistines) thought of their God and the Ark of the Covenant. Then we saw God topple, quite literally, the false god of Dagon. That was just awesome. The Israelites eventually returned to a proper understanding of the Source of their strength and recovered the Ark.
Our big questions for this section included:
- How does fear affect our decision making?
- What characterizes a healthy fear of God, one that leads to wisdom? (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7)
- Where do we really put our trust? Is it in God alone or is it in “lucky charms” like praying the “right” prayer, attending the “right” church, or doing the “right” things to garner His favor?
Chapters 8–10 provided us an interesting parallel between Samuel’s sons and Eli’s sons. This forced us to revisit the question of parental responsibility for children’s character and outcome as adults. More prominent in this section, however, was the insistence by the Israelite people that Samuel give them a king. Even after Samuel relayed all the terrible things a king could and would do to them, they demanded the installment of an Israelite monarchy. With God’s consent, Samuel found a king for the nation. Saul was selected and coronated (albeit without an actual crown).
We used this section as a springboard for discussion about Covenental vs. Dispensational theology.
We asked these major questions:
- Was it God’s will for Israel to have a king?
- What steps can we take when we doubt the will of God?
- How can we confirm what His will is?
In his commentary on 1 Samuel, Warren Wiersbe wrote:
“Until individuals, churches, and nations start emphasizing character and obedience, there can never be true success. Only through faith in Jeuss Christ and obecience to His will can we have godly character and the kid of success that will survive the fires of God’s judgment. What was true of King Uzziah can be also true of us: ‘As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success’ (2 Chron. 26:5 NIV).”
The Israelites wanted success. Their kings wanted success. We want success. True success, however, is not measured by victories, power or money. We want a wealth that money cannot buy, an eternal wealth that stems from the heart of God.