Coming off the first three chapters of 1 Samuel last week, we’ll continue our journey into Samuel. We’ll usher in a new era in Israel: the era of the Kingdom. Spoiler alert: like all things in the Bible that get off to a good start, it comes crashing down pretty quickly. Let’s just call it a false start.
This whole section revolves around the movements of the ark of the covenant after it’s stolen by the Philistines. As you read these chapters, pay attention to the deep ironies. It’s so not obvious to Israel why these awful things are happening to them, but God’s condemnation comes from the mouth of their enemies. The little aside about Dagon in chapters five and six is so funny to me. The Philistines play a little game of “Don’t step on the crack or you’ll break Dagon’s back,” followed quickly by a game of “Hot Potato” with the ark of the covenant. Finally, we see that Samuel was the last judge of Israel who will anoint the first king – and the stage is set for the rest of the Old Testament.
These chapters revolve around the final action of Samuel, which is to anoint Saul as king over Israel. I’d encourage you to read chapter 12 particularly closely. It will sound very familiar. The Lord will not forsake his people – even if they forsake him – because God has attached his reputation for Israel and he wants his glory to be known among the nations.
Things seem to be going so well with Saul. But alas – all good things come to a quick end when we’re reading the Bible. Saul’s impatience and disobedience ruin the establishment of his kingdom by the Lord.
Saul’s reign comes under swift punishment in these chapters and David is anointed king. You’ll see a hint of what the Lord truly desires from his people in 15:22-23. Obedience, not sacrifice. This is a foreshadowing of all the other kings of Israel and a major theme of the prophets to come. When we hear in 15:35 “The Lord regretted…,” I’m reminded of Genesis 6:6 when the Lord regretted that he made man on the earth. We should expect a new beginning, just like the flood was a new beginning for the creation. And we see another common denominator between these texts: the Lord looks on the heart.
Things begin to go crazy at this point. David is the newly anointed King, but Saul is still in power. Pay attention to the power of friendship in these scenes. The inclusion of Psalm 59 in this section is a nice touch because you get an inside look at David’s faithfulness during the episode of 1 Sam. 19:11-18.
The tension continues to escalate. Saul gets more paranoid and the Lord gives more favor to David. The incident in chapter 21 with the Holy Bread is a pretty odd story – but Jesus actually picks up on it in Matthew 12:1-8 as an illustration that mercy is better than sacrifice. It’s a fitting application for a story arc that ends with Saul telling David in 24:17, “You are more righteous than I…” That’s pretty good, and yet we have the added benefit of seeing the better righteousness of David’s true heir – Jesus.
Refuge. Light and Salvation. Surrender. Taste and See the Lord’s Goodness. The Steadfast Love of God Endures. These are wonderful things to think about and reflect upon. As you read these psalms, pay attention to the description under each heading and think about that scene as you read the psalm.