Weekly Prompts for Thinking Through Scripture
1 Samuel 15:17 – 17:58
Refresher: Saul is God’s choice to be the first king of Israel’s monarchy. As he takes the helm, his leadership is marked by a tolerance for his enemies, graciousness, courage, and a kind of modesty. But over time, as the stresses of leadership keep coming at Saul, his character shows itself as threadbare. His modesty begins to look more like timidity. More and more he’s unsure of himself, he acts impetuously, he doesn’t follow-through. More significantly, his religion strikes one as closer to tokenism than genuine, hearty faith. His attention is not stayed on God. In this doublemindedness Saul’s obedience is regularly incomplete, as it is in the victory at Amalek.
Read 1 Samuel 15: 17-35
- V. 17 – “Little in your own eyes…” Very interesting! It seems that Saul doesn’t take himself seriously, at least the role and mission that God had set him in. And so it goes for much of the Church today, which is why God is concerned to continually remind us of our peculiar status among the peoples of the earth (1 Peter 2: 9,10). Accept the mantle, Church!
- V. 20, 21 – Saul is rebuked (i.e., Wisdom is calling – Proverbs 1:24, 25) and what does he do? Doubles down in claiming innocence + throws his army under the bus. IT’S SO HARD TO ADMIT BEING WRONG.
- V.22 – “To obey is better…” The old trick is exchanging one virtue for another. Don’t fall for that.
- V. 24 – “…because I feared the people…” – he’s still prevaricating, dodging, casting shade on others, making excuses. Brothers and sisters, accept as much responsibility as reality allows.
- V. 32 – Agag: I’ll be safe with God’s servants. They’re always so nice…
- V. 33 – “Hacked” – Agag didn’t understand Jehovah or His servants until the blade tore into his flesh.
Read 1 Samuel 16: 1-13
- V. 1 – A good man grieves over good men gone bad and the associated lost opportunities. But he can’t stew in his grief, and has to move on, if only because God is moving on.
- V. 2 – “[Saul] will kill me.” Think over Samuel’s fear and then flip back to 1 Samuel 9:7. My, how things have changed! I think they call this ‘character development.’
- V. 2b – “Take a heifer…” Very interesting. Instead of offering Samuel bulletproof protection from Saul, the LORD… what? No, really… what? What is one application to be made in our age of COVID?
- V. 4 – “Trembling” -The arrival of a prophet isn’t always a positive sign. God doesn’t always relay nice words. Fear the LORD, brothers and sisters.
- V. 7 – Did you spot the justly famous phrase?
- V. 13 – “Rushed upon David” – Different from drowsily got around to David. Today consider the zeal of the LORD as He accomplishes salvation. Can you get some of that?
Read 1 Samuel 16: 14-23
- V. 16 – The power of music for good. Take advantage of it. (Does it have power for evil too?)
But after talking up music’s efficacy: isn’t there something mighty superficial in the prescription of Saul’s counselors? Saul’s a wreck: let’s play him some tunes. Seems here we’re in Proverbs 1:28 territory: wisdom is hiding from Saul.
- V. 19 – Saul doesn’t say “please.” Samuel had warned Israel that a monarch would feel free to summon their children. Reminder: “Progress” always means tradeoffs. Be sure to list the tradeoffs, that is, “count the cost,” before you make a decision.
- V. 22 – Just a coincidence that the anointed shepherd is summoned to the royal court, right?! Well, of course not.
But think about this: what exactly was the advantage of David spending his time in court, years before he’s crowned as king? There’s an application here for God’s servants today: God plays the long game in leading your life. You might wonder what today’s all about… but very likely in the future He’ll have you incorporating today’s experiences for the challenges then. God doesn’t waste moments. Trust Him.
Read 1 Samuel 17: 1-11
- Goliath chapter!
- VV. 4-7 – Via statistics, the narrator details the awesomeness of Goliath to underscore how intimidating this guy, and indeed the entire situation, was. What are some statistics around your own intimidating situation today?
- V. 9 – “If he is able to fight me…” Goliath raises the possibility of his being defeated only to highlight the sheer unlikeliness of it happening. His message: If you’re entertaining any idea of things turning in your favor, you’re living in a fool’s paradise. Brothers and sisters, there have always been these cynical voices, and they’ve always seemed to be making a good point. Listening to them effects nothing except to drain your courage.
- V. 11 – The psychological state of the people of God captured in a phrase: “dismayed and greatly afraid.” Though the fear is understandable, it was not only mistaken, but also sin. God has always commanded His people to “Fear not.” 1000 years from David, when the Son of God arrives, He’ll regularly savage this kind of fear and despondency.
Read 1 Samuel 17: 12-30
- V. 12 – That David is re-introduced to the readers (and later to Saul) has been variously explained by commentators.
- V. 17 – David is not on the front but tending the family’s livelihood. At a certain time, he’s given the unglamorous job of conveying a care package to his older brothers. Our Lord said, “If you’re faithful in the small things you’ll be faithful in the big things.” Do your small, daily jobs well, Church.
- V. 26 – Sometimes it takes an outsider to sense how outrageous the situation really is. When you’re inside the outrageous situation, it can all seem inevitable and fixed. I have a good example of this…
- V. 28 – If you take initiative, if you don’t follow the crowd… if even you start down that road… if you just sound like you might be thinking of doing something – POP – up go the critics and naysayers. You’re irresponsible. You haven’t thought things through. You’re operating on some evil principle. You’re a dramatist. Following God’s leading will sometimes require you to be a contrarian. Go brush up on your Man in the Arenaby Teddy Roosevelt to steel yourself!
Read 1 Samuel 17: 31-47
- VV. 32-34 – David: Yep. Saul: Nope. David: Yep.
- VV. 34-37 – Private victories have given David confidence for this big moment in the limelight. From these past successes, he’s come to believe the LORD has His hand on his life. In your life, what past victories could you point to?
- VV. 38,39 – I normally avoid (indeed, look down upon) trendy language. But sometimes it has to be used, like now… The message behind the episode of Saul’s armor and David is thus: YOU GOT TO DO YOU. BE YOURSELF. GOD HAS EQUIPPED YOU IN A SPECIAL WAY. (There, you happy?)
- V. 42 – I’m not sure why we’re talking about David’s good looks here, but ok!
- VV. 41-44 – Looks impossible! Sounds impossible!! Impossible!!! … But then also the still, small voice of 1 Samuel 2:4.
- VV. 45-47 – What a speech! And a speech filled with God’s Spirit. God is the theme and thus confidence is brimming over. Oh to see God! Oh, find us a David who sees a big God even while the multitude quakes before the giant.
Read 1 Samuel 17: 48-58
- V. 48 – “Ran quickly toward the battle line” – May the Spirit who moved David hasten you toward the challenges that God has placed before you. Courage, friends!
- V. 51 – The stone flung from the sling felled Goliath. Then his own sword dealt the death blow, a humiliating insult added to mortal injury. The prayer of Hannah haunts the whole book and it echoes here: Talk no more so very proudly/ let not arrogance come from your mouth…
- V. 52 – The faithful courage or courageous faith of one man rouses the people. Brothers and sisters, Christians stand in a long tradition of courageous men and women. Persons who possessed not just simple bravery, but really a double courage: the courage to do the hard thing, and the courage to go to it on their own. Our Lord Himself is the great example: When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). God, give us today leaders fearless in fighting for your glory!