Series: Best Book In the BibleEvery Christian knows the importance of reading their Bible, but many are overwhelmed with the task of devouring such a monstrous book! Often times, when Christians lose steam in their yearly reading plans, they can become frustrated and feel defeated. It is for this reason that individual book studies can be a lifesaver. In the Best Book in the Bible series, we will provide entry points into faithful study through “selling” you on why you should fall in love with the various books of the Bible.
Leadership is something that is always desperately needed. Whether building a company, overseeing government, or keeping a family running—good leadership is essential. But there is no realm in which leadership is more needed than with the care of the people of God. While humans are prone to wander because of sin, Godly leaders work hard to steer our wayward hearts back to God. In a time of crisis, First Samuel introduces us to three prominent leaders in Israel: Samuel, Saul, and David. In studying this book, the reader is exposed not only to qualities of good versus bad leadership, but also to the lives of these unique men. Many who have recounted their own stories likely did not realize they have their origin here. For those fascinated by these stories, First Samuel just may be the Best Book in the Bible!
Main themes: Lessons in Leadership through the Lives of Samuel, Saul, & David.
“And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.’” (1 Samuel 8:7)
“’The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has appointed him [David] as a ruler over His people…’” (1 Samuel 13:14)
“And Samuel said, ‘Has the Lord as much 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.’” (1 Samuel 15:22)
As stated in the introduction, First Samuel chronicles the lives of three men in Israel: Samuel, Saul, and David. The book itself is broken up accordingly, yet their lives intersect and overlap.
(1:1—8:22). Samuel, the last judge. Coming off a long season of 350 years with “no king in Israel; [where] everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25), Samuel emerges as the last judge. The opening chapters of the book chronicle his early life and call to ministry (chs. 1-3), followed by his war with the Philistines (chs. 4-7). In chapter 4, a terrible thing happens—the Philistines steal the Ark of the Covenant. More than just the material loss of their greatest possession, the spiritual loss is devastating. In the raid, the high priest Eli’s two wicked sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are killed. However, it is not their deaths that affect Eli the most. Upon hearing of the loss of the Ark, Eli falls over dead, and Phinehas’ widow gives birth to a son, naming him Ichabod, declaring “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God was taken.” (4:22) By chapter 8, the people of God, rather than submit to God’s rule, demand the appointment of a king. And Samuel will be the one to install him.
(9:1—15:35). Saul, the first king. Saul was the perfect picture of a valiant king. He was tall, handsome, bold, and fearless. He is anointed as king and sets out to lead the people of Israel, striving to be faithful to God. Saul is a victorious king, demonstrating his leadership in the conquest of the Ammonites (ch. 11), but quickly loses faith while opposing the Philistines. Instead of waiting on the Lord to send him Samuel to make sacrifice, Saul takes it on himself, flagrantly disobeying the Lord (see 13:9, 13). At this point, Samuel informs Saul that the Lord will be seeking a new king to replace him; “a man after His own heart” (13:14). Saul begins to turn in on himself, becoming fearful and weak. It all comes to a head in chapter 15 when, after a victory over the Amalekites, Saul disobeys God’s command to wipe them all out, and keeps for himself the best spoils of war, including King Agag. When Samuel hears of Saul’s prideful disobedience, he becomes enraged, and completes the task, hacking Agag to pieces with a sword (15:32-33). This is the beginning of the end for King Saul.
(16:1—26:13). David, the future king. Chapter 16 brings us with Samuel on his quest to find Israel’s new king. He arrives at the home of Jesse, and eventually identifies Jesse’s eighth son, the young David. Samuel then anoints David as the next king of Israel, and “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward” (16:13) while simultaneously “the Spirit… departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him” (16:14). Chapter 17 chronicles David’s rise to fame through his amazing defeat of the giant Goliath. Chapter 18 introduces us to David’s friendship with Saul’s son Jonathan, which will play a pivotal role in David’s escape from Saul’s wrath. Driven by jealousy, Saul purposes to murder David, but he escapes and goes into hiding for most of the rest of the book. It is during this time of exile and hiding from Saul that many of the Psalms are written. By chapter 28, Saul is desperate for answers and turns to a spiritual medium; a gross sin. In chapter 31, Saul and his sons go to war against the Philistines, and they are all killed on the battlefield.
What Makes This Book So Great:
While the book can be approached many different ways, with many lessons gleaned, it is important to examine the effects of sin and disobedience; how it ruins leaders and nations. The lessons are crystal-clear in First Samuel; whenever sin is committed, the consequences are disastrous. And never has there been a greater juxtaposition between a great leader in the sight of God (the humble, faithful David) and a great leader in the sight of men (the proud, distinguished Saul). Above all, we learn that a life of faith and obedience always yields the fruits of righteousness, while sin and disobedience only end in death and disaster. Leaders of our day, take note!
This book can be broken down for easier reading, and the divisions are relatively clear. Explore the characteristics of the three leaders. Note their qualities and times of obedience. What are the results? What about the results of sin and disobedience? Look for spiritual application in your own life. Are there areas of your life where you are prone to partial obedience (see chapter 15)? What must be done to follow through and obey the Lord completely? Challenge yourself to read various Psalms which coincide with David’s exile. How does he pray in times of distress? Apply his faithfulness to your own life. It will help you to maintain a Godward perspective in times of trouble.
- John J. Davis & John C. Whitcomb, Israel from Conquest to Exile: A Commentary on Joshua – 2 Kings. (B&H, 1994).
- Cyril J. Barber, The Books of Samuel, Volume One: The Sovereignty of God Illustrated in the Lives of Samuel, Saul, and David. (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux, 1994).
- Ronald F. Youngblood, “1 Samuel” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 3. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).
Note: Find the rest of the Best Book in the Bible series here: EntreatingFavor.com/BestBookSeries