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The State of Faith
A Study on Holiness

The State of Faith
A Study on Holiness

The State of Faith
A Study on Holiness

The State of Faith
A Study on Holiness

The State of Faith
A Study on Holiness

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Renewing Your Mind


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Old Testament Survey

1 Samuel

Key Verses

8:6, 7
15:22, 23

Key Chapters 

Chapter 8
Chapter 15
Chapter 16

Key Concepts


Thoughts for Reading

Whom do you want to mirror?
The World or God?

>1 Samuel 15:22
And Samuel said, Hath 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 hearken than the fat of rams.

This is a book of transition. One must read it with the background of Judges clearly in mind, for the closing verse of Judges sets the stage for the events of 1 Samuel.

Title -- Author

The Talmud names Samuel as the author, but this is hardly probable since he dies in chapter 25. The naming probably relates to the role he played in the first 25 chapters of this history. It is possible that Samuel was compiled from the writings of the prophet Samuel, Gad, and Nathan whose works were preserved within the nation (1 Chron. 29:29; cf. 1 Sam 10:25; cf. 2 Sam 1:18). It is also possible that Samuel wrote chapters 1--25 and then Gad and/or Nathan completed the remainder of the book. The work is named after Samuel, who is the main character in the first book and who represents the prototype of the Old Testament prophet. Remember, also, that in the Septuagint these two books were combined with 1 and 2 Kings, being named the Kingdoms.

Prophet v. Priest

The two books of Samuel and the two books of Kings must be contrasted with the two books of Chronicles. The Samuel-Kings unit is a unit of prophecy, written from the view point of the prophets (Samuel – Gad – Nathan) as contrasted to the Chronicles which carry a priestly flavor. While Chronicles parallel 2 Samuel and the Kings, in the Hebrew Scriptures 1 and 2 Samuel are a single book, so it is only natural that the first book would carry the prophetic outlook of the unit.

1:3 is the first use in the Bible of the name “Lord of hosts.” This name is used 11 times in 1 & 2 Samuel, but is primarily a name used by the prophets.

The prophetic view point does not necessarily mean that the book is full of prophecies. Rather, the emphasis remains on the people’s relationship with God and what the people need to do to strengthen, maintain, and/or return to this wonderful relationship. The Chronicles, on the other hand, carry the viewpoint of the importance of the elements of worship, especially the priesthood and the Temple.


The purpose of the book is tied to the need for the prophets. The kings and leaders of Israel, time and again, would place their trust in their own armies and armies of their allies as well as the gods of their allies. The call of the prophets was to cease this practice and to place the trust of the nation in God, the supreme being who created the nation and saved it from Egypt.

As a book of transition, it is important to look for the continuation of progressive revelation from God and to determine how this revelation fits with what has come before. In 1 Samuel this progressive revelation may be found in the call of the nation for a king. The book is set against the backdrop of the Judges and of a failure in the priesthood. Samuel, himself, is the last true judge.

You should compare Hannah’s hymn of praise (2:1-10) with that in Luke 1:46ff by Mary the mother of Jesus.

Early on the scene is set by the contrast of the faith of Samuel’s mother, Hannah, with the faithlessness of the priesthood, especially in the lives of the two sons of Eli the High Priest, Hophni and Phinehas. Because of their evil, the entire household of Eli is judged, and for a short time period, the Ark of the Covenant is lost to the Philistines. Indeed, in some meaning of the word, the Philistines displayed more faith in the God of Israel than did the Israelites. The Ark is returned, but the people have not learned their lessons.

The cry of the people flows from their desire to be like their neighbors.

Judges 21:25
In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

1 Samuel 8:5
And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.

This request does not catch God by surprise. Notice first God’s immediate response to Samuel.

1 Samuel 8:7
And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

To “anoint” is to set apart for special service. It is a symbol of someone being sanctified for God.

The early giving of the Law presupposes the anointing of an earthly king. While God desired the nation to be a theocracy, God knows that the people will need a visible leader to keep them on track. However, the view of this leader given by Scripture is considerably different from the people’s request.

The human king was supposed to be a representative of Jehovah, God their divine king (Gen 49:18; Num 24:17; Deut 17:14-19). The people have failed to understand this concept as 1 Samuel 8:5 shows and as God’s response demonstrates. The people seemed to assume that they were being oppressed because they had no king rather than because of their own evil. The people will learn that having a king will not resolve their difficulties. Indeed, three times (Chps 8, 10, 12) Samuel will warn the people as to the consequences of their choice.

God Himself acts for the good of Israel and for His own glory even in the face of evil desires on the part of the people. First, God uses Saul to bring temporary deliverance as though the first king was nothing more than another judge. This brings about a repentance among the nation (1 Sam 12:19), as well as exposing the nation to the consequences of a weak king. The ultimate solution of God is to prepare his people for the Messiah. The moral for the people is that a king of the people is no better than a judge of the people. Messiah is the nation’s only hope.

God retains control of the entire situation. Saul is God&s choice as king, not the people’s. The entire order of 1 Samuel shows the continuing “reversal” from the natural order of life. The Lord does all for His glory rather than the glory of the people. Hannah, a woman, is the source of the next hero. Her faith in God is contrasted with the lack of faith on the part of Eli, the High Priest.

The importance of prayer is highlighted by the use of this word 30 times in 1 Samuel.

In battle, the Philistines have more faith in the powers of God than do the Israelites. From the world’s view point, Saul should be the ideal king, but his son Jonathan is a better warrior. David is a better shepherd. Jonathan is the one who has the discernment to understand David is God’s hero. Jonathan will give up his potential inheritance of the throne to follow David. And, of course, there is the story of David and Goliath, where the teenager with a sling defeats the giant in full armor.

While Saul is the first king, he is never identified with Jehovah. Samuel predicts it is the Spirit of Jehovah (Yahweh) which will come upon Saul, but when the event finally occurs, it is the Spirit of God (Elohim) who acts in Saul’s life, not the Spirit of Jehovah, the God of the covenant (cf. 10:6 with 10:10). This may be a small linguistic point, but it demonstrates that Saul’s power is from a different perspective in the eyes of God than all of the other spiritual empowerings found in the Old Testament. The only time that Jehovah is connected with Saul is at the end of his anointing when it is written that "the Spirit of the Lord [Jehovah] departed form Saul" (16:14). This needs to be contrasted with the work of Jehovah in the lives of Hannah, Samuel, Jonathan and David.

1 Samuel 16:7
But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

Protecting the Covenant

Ebenezer is frequently used as a church name. It means “the stone of help” and was the site of Samuel’s victory over the Philistines (7:9-12).

It is clear that no one (with the exception of Jesus) has lived so righteously as to require that God bless him. God acts because of the nature of His own character and the promises He give. God covenanted with Abraham and having made this covenant, God is faithful to keep His promise. Samuel cannot pass his spiritual faith to his sons (8:1-5). Saul trusts in his own natural ability. David does not consistently trust God (cf 1 Sam 21). The Lord acts out of promise and blesses in the context of obedience to the Law (Hannah, Samuel, David), but not because of obedience (Jonathan). God is a faithful God and the nation receives the blessings of this faithfulness. Even as the nation rejects God in their sin, God&s purpose toward the nation is that, "the Lord will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the Lord has been pleased to make you a people for Himself" (12:22). This is the reason the nation is not destroyed for their rejection of the theocracy, the reason Saul is chosen at all (perhaps as poetic justice for the rebellion of the nation) and the reason David is permitted to continue as Gods anointed in spite of his own sinfulness.

A simple outline of this book is:

Witches, Evil and Other Issues

Saul’s fall comes through a series of events in which the King displays a severe lack of obedience to the Words of God. Saul is impatient, uses poor judgement, lacks perspective, and is concerned more with saving face than being obedient. While not all of his actions would strike one as “sinful,” it is clear that Saul is spiritually bankrupt and the words of Paul echo in our ears.

Romans 14:23
. . . for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

The presence of evil plays an important role in this book. The power of evil is accentuated as it overwhelms Saul in spite of his better judgment and as it repeatedly attacks David in spite of his continually calling upon God. Eli and his sons demonstrate the force of evil in the priesthood. Again, this is contrasted with the power of God in the life of Hannah and in Samuel. Even Samuel’s sons are evil.

God allows evil to used for His purposes, even though God is not the author of evil (Hab 1:13). God judges evil in the priestly family, in the treatment of the Tabernacle and ark as a fetish, in the people&s call for a king like those around them, in Saul&s fearful fatalistic slide from king to massive depression, in David&s deceit at Nob, and in the young shepherd’s bouts of fear which lead him into the heart of enemy territory.

One of the most difficult episodes of evil is found in the issue of the evil spirit from the Lord which settles upon Saul.

1 Samuel 16:14
But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.

What Saul needed was a change of heart not a harp!

This verse creates a lot of difficulty for many people. God is a God of peace and love, a God who cannot “behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13). God is sovereign of all and over all. God cannot do evil (James 1:13), but God has many methods of dealing with men. God’s perfect will is complemented by God’s permissive will. Under His permissive will, events are allowed to occur within the limits God Himself sets. God has “allowed” this evil spirit to invade Saul’s life. Since the Israelites view God as having absolute control of the universe, if Saul is controlled by an evil spirit, such spirit is ultimately sent from God as the final voice of authority. The evil spirit will return often to torment Saul. God uses this evil spirit to teach David lessons. In New Testament terms, one might apply Romans 8:28 as the basis of these episodes. Only music from David’s harp is able to bring soothing to Saul’s tortured soul. Notice that Saul’s servants deal with the symptoms and not the cause of the king’s problems.

The other issue comes at the end of Saul’s life. This is the episode with the witch of Endor. She raises Samuel from the dead, to both her surprise and terror and to Saul&s great consternation.

There are a large number of Old Testament passages which speak against mediums, spiritists, and witches (Lev 19:31; 20:6; 27; Deut 18:10-14). Saul is a tragic example of what can happen to all of us when we fall too far into sin. Even the Christian can rebel against God to the point where he is unable to distinguish and understand God’s Word (cf. 2 Timothy 3:1-13; 4:1-4). Pushing this far enough brings one to the “point of no return,” the point where the Holy Spirit is so grieved and quenched that the person is no longer aware of the convicting power of God. The heart becomes hardened due to the persistent rejection of the Gospel message. Christians will not lose their salvation, but those who are not saved have passed beyond the point of hope. The unsaved who believe they can continually live in sin and then turn to God whenever they want (“at the last moment”) will be sorely surprised. Pharaoh is an example of this hardening.

But, did the witch of Endor raise Samuel from the dead? If she did, Samuel is still Samuel, even from beyond the grave. He continually stands for the Lord. Saul&s future is foretold in great detail. He and his sons will die in battle (28:15-19). And this judgment is not one vaguely far off. It will be tomorrow! On the other hand, the battle forces heavily favor the Philistines, so this “prediction” could just be a wish of the devil. No one but God can bring people from the grave. There are analysis of this passage supporting both positions. The ultimate issue is not whether God allowed Samuel to be brought forth, but rather the teachings we can bring away from the passage.

Besides Saul, Scriptures record five other suicides:

All are the desperate act of deeply troubled persons.

Saul’s story is one of a spiraling fall into depression and despair. While some depression may be the result of a chemical imbalance, the story of Saul shows that as one sin builds upon another, the combined effect creates internal spiritual changes in us which lead us closer and closer to the pit of destruction and death. His jealousy leads him to try to kill David (18:7-11; 19:10), as well as his own son, Jonathan (20:33). In the end, Saul takes his own life (31:1-6).

Jesus in 1 Samuel

Samuel is a picture of Christ, the combining of priest, prophet, and leader in one person. While Samuel is not a king, he is a judge, indeed, the judge whom God uses to usher in the new age for the kingdom.

During this time, David may have written Psalms 7, 18, 34, 52, 56, 59, and 142.

David is chased by Saul through Israel and Philistine. In this time of despair, David makes mistakes, on more than one occasion. For example, he runs directly into the heart of enemy territory for shelter! God uses this time to mold David into a leader. For his part, David uses this time to write many of the great Psalms, songs which reflect his personal turmoil and his true love for God.

The Hebrew word Messiah literally means “the anointed one.” First Samuel is the first book of the Bible to use the word anointed (2:10). This looks forward to Christ. With the introduction of David, a portrait of Messiah is commenced and anticipated. David, the shepherd, was born in Bethlehem, and is the forerunner of the Davidic dynasty through which the Messiah will legally inherit the throne. Paul describes Jesus as:

Romans 1:3-5
3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: 5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name.

The story of Jonathan, Saul’s son, and David is an example of the type of unselfish love and friendship God’s people should all have, one for another. If each of us were willing to give up our garments of authority, as Jonathan did for David, the Christian community would be a better place. Who knows how this might change the world?!

Chapters 13-15 record three strikes against Saul. Obedience is the key. Saul does many things wrong, but the final straw is his direct disobedience with regard to God’s specific command to annihilate the Amalekites. For this, God removes the kingdom from Saul’s hands.

How often are you disobedient?

Have you used your three strikes?




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