Through the Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 11-15

This Week’s Readings

Monday, May 14: 1 Samuel 1-5
Tuesday, May 15: 1 Samuel 6-10
Wednesday, May 16: 1 Samuel 11-15
Thursday, May 17: 1 Samuel 16-20
Friday, May 18: 1 Samuel 21-25

The overall year’s plan is here.

1 Samuel 12:12-18

Proverbs 26:1 says:

Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.

Rain in harvest was very uncommon in Palestine, so Samuel’s prayer for rain during the harvest was miraculous.

Also, a thunderstorm during harvest could be devastating to the crops, so it was not just a sign, but a punishment as well.

1 Samuel 13:2-4

This attack on the Philistines was not in Philistine territory, but on a Philistine garrison ["a body of troops stationed in a fortified place" or "the place where such troops are stationed" (ref)]. The garrison was at Geba, which was between Jericho and Jerusalem, far from the Philistine land on the Mediterranean coast.

Thus, this was an overthrow of invaders, not an attempt to take Philistine land.

1 Samuel 13:5-23

The location of Gilgal is not certain, but it was close to Jericho, and it was on the west side of the Jordan. It was there that the Israelites made their first camp before attacking Jericho, and Joshua circumcised all the men there.

Michmash, where the Philistines were camped, was miles away, near Geba, which had been attacked by Jonathon. From there they sent raiders north towards Ophrah, which was east of Bethel, west towards Beth-horon, and east to overlook the valley of Zeboim (probable location). Saul was stationed to the south at Gilgal.

Saul and his army were in terrible straits. They were up against 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen without any real weapons.

Worse, he must have been sure that God had abandoned him because Samuel had abandoned him. Exactly why Saul’s sacrifice was such a great offense to Samuel and to God is not told to us. We could speculate that it was a violation of the Law of Moses, but every sacrifice performed by Samuel was a violation of the Law of Moses. None of them were done at the tabernacle.

Further, once David becomes king, he will make sacrifices in almost exactly the same way that Saul did, but without reproof.

It is relationship with God that matters even more than the Law and even under the Old Covenant.

Further, it is important to understand that sacrifice is not a way to obtain the favor of God. Sacrifice is for those who already have the favor of God because of repentance. In other words, the heart of the offerer sanctifies the offering, not the other way around.

David explains this after his sin with Bathsheba in Psalm 51:

You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would offer it. You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and contrite heart, oh God. … Then you shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then shall they offer bulls upon your altar. (vv. 16-17,19).

1 Samuel 14

Saul had moved from Gilgal to Gibea, which was west and put him due south of the Philistines at Michmash. Perhaps he was fleeing the raiders who were headed toward the wilderness of Zeboim. Perhaps he was just in despair, not certain what to do.

Deliverance ends up being brought about by Jonathan, who, as we shall see as we go along, was clearly one of the Lord’s favored ones. His name has become synonymous with friendship, and it is clear that he was a man of great faith and power.

1 Samuel 15

The land of the Amalekites was south and east of Philistine land. We read in chapter 14 that Saul had battled the Philistines. The attack on the Amalekites was probably progress in his conquering. However, his disobedience becomes his downfall despite a great victory.

Saul tries to blame the disobedience on the people, but Samuel will have none of it. When he pronounces judgment on Saul, Saul repents and admits he "feared the people and listened to their voice" (v. 24, NASB).

How many of us have found ourselves in the same boat, being a part of something that we were not comfortable with because we "feared the people." God has high regard for courage (Josh 1:9), and he has extremely harsh words for cowardice (Rev. 21:8).

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion. (Prov. 28:1)

I know from experience how seriously we need to take this. By nature, I’m a follower, letting others make decisions. Overcoming that tendency to just let things go is terribly difficult for me, but we who are Christians have to be followers of God, not men. I continually remind myself that concerning courage, I have to make progress, not excuses.

I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid of a man that shall die and of the son of man, who shall become like grass? You forget the LORD your Maker, who stretched out the heavens, laid the foundations of the earth, and you have been afraid continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy. Where is the fury of the oppressor? … I am the LORD your God, who divides the sea, whose waves roared. The LORD of armies is his name. I have put my words in your mouth, I have covered you in the shadow of my hand, so that I may plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth, and I say to Zion, "You are my people." (Isa. 51:12-13,15-16)

Saul didn’t take the Lord’s words seriously enough, and the results were disastrous for him.

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