Understanding His story helps us to understand that His-Story is our Story!
The Judges Era
How Much Do You Know?
Understanding the Book of 1 Samuel: After God had made Adam and Eve, he planted a Garden for them. It must have been an amazing Garden with the most beautiful trees and the sweetest fruits. (Gen. 2:8-9) God placed the most precious thing He had made there in the Garden, Man! Adam and Eve were the image of God! They represented and reflected the image of God’s Holiness! Adam had the breath of God breathed into him. (We also translate that word for breath as spirit.) In Proverbs it says, “The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD...” (Prov. 20:27). Man was unique among all of Creation including the angels. There was no need for altars, tabernacles, temples or even the written Word of God! Adam and Eve represented all of those things… until the Glory of God departed and they were found... naked.
God’s Glory returns to man periodically. His Glory appeared to Abraham in Ur. (Acts 7:2) And His Glory descends upon the Tabernacle in the wilderness. God really does love Israel with an everlasting love and drew them unto Himself with loving kindness, as Jer. 31:3 will remind them later. But, during Samuel’s lifetime, the Lord does something drastic! After forty years in the wilderness, the conquest of the land and 300 years of Judges, the Bible tells us that God's Glory departed from Israel...
If you're reading with us through the Bible chronologically, you have read about the miraculous conception and birth of Samuel, pronounced by Eli, the Priest. The failure of Eli, who was also judge of Israel, was concerning his two sons that he did not discipline. Eli's failure as the father of Hophni and Phinehas and their wickedness as corrupt leaders of Israel was the last straw for God. God allows the Ark of the Covenant to fall into the hands of the Philistines and Hophni and Phinehas are killed when it is captured. Upon hearing the news of the capture of the Ark of the Covenant, Eli, who is 98 years old and heavy as the Bible says, falls from his stool and breaks his neck and dies. But Eli's daughter-in-law is about to have a son. After losing her husband and her father-in-law, she gives birth and dies in childbirth. But before she dies “She named the child Ichabod (which means ‘Where is the glory?’), for she said, ‘Israel’s glory is gone.’ She named him this because the Ark of God had been captured and because her father-in-law and husband were dead. Then she said, ‘The glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God has been captured.’” (1 Sam. 4:21-22 NLT).
Eli himself, must not have been a bad man or a poor judge or priest? His failure was with his own family. Perhaps Eli was one of those ministers who sacrifice their family up on the altar of work. But he must have been well respected and known for being able to speak truth from God. When he tells Hannah, may God grant you request for a child, she replies with excitement and believe that it will happen.
This is the world into which Samuel had been born and then called to minister to Israel as Prophet, Priest and Judge. He is a picture of Christ! As you read and study, look for Jesus on every page!
Lesson Objective: At the conclusion of this lesson, students should be able to take a critical look at their own heart and know if they have heart that shares the heart of God or a heart that is more like Israel’s heart as they rejected the King. Students should not gain a better understanding of the Book of 1 Samuel but also a better understanding of how our actions affect the heart of God. (Like David - A man after God’s own heart!)
Like the Book of Ruth, the very first verse has something that may set the tone of the whole book! “Now there was a certain man from Ramathaim-zophim from the hill country of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.” (1 Sam. 1:1). The very first verse introduces us to Elkanah, who lives in a small city on a mountain called Ramathaim-zophim (sometimes referred to as Ramah). The name of this place is made up of two words and it means "double height of the watchers". That is where Samuel was conceived and born in Ramah. Later, it would also be called Arimathea where Joseph (who owned the tomb where Jesus was buried) was from. What I immediately wondered was, was this some prophetic name that indicated Samuel would come from this place? He was the Greatest Judge!
After Eli the Priest’s death, Samuel has his home there at Ramah. Samuel had grown up at the Tabernacle sleeping near the Ark of the Covenant, but there was probably no need to stay near the Tabernacle because the Ark was not returned to it after the Philistines returned it to Israel. The Ark stayed in Kiriath-jearim for twenty years. (1 Sam. 6:1-18, 21; 7:1-2)
Apparently, in his younger days, Samuel traveled a circuit as Judge of Israel. But as he became older he remained at his home in Ramah where he judged Israel and he built an altar there to conduct worship and sacrifice (1 Sam. 7:17; 8:4). Samuel also had a school for prophets there in Ramah in a village called Naioth. Later, that will be where Saul sent some soldiers to arrest David and the Spirit of the Lord came upon them and he began to prophesy. Saul had to go personally to arrest David but the Spirit of the Lord came upon him as well and he prophesied naked before the Lord and everyone else for a whole day and night! God protected David and humbled Saul that day in Ramah. (1 Sam. 19:18-24) When Samuel died he was buried there in Ramah and David was there at his burial. (1 Sam. 25:1; 28:3)
Samuel was arguably the greatest Judge. He did not have super strength, skills as a warrior or something unique like Deborah, who was a woman leading in a man's world, but Samuel was counted on the same level as Abraham, Moses and Aaron (Jer. 15:1, Psalm 99). He was a picture of Christ. He was a Prophet, a Priest, a Judge and Samuel spoke the Word of the King he served which was Jehovah himself! As Priest, Samuel offered up intercessory prayers for the people and God answered them. (1 Sam. 7:9) Samuel led what was probably the greatest Passover celebrations in the history of Israel. It is not until the time of Josiah at the end of the Divided Kingdom Era, that Israel would celebrate anything close to those Passover celebrations led by Samuel. (2 Chr. 35:18) Samuel was also a Nazarite. Although the term Nazarite is not used, Hannah “made a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.’” (1 Sam. 1:11). (See also: Num. 6:1–21.)
Did you know that Samuel is one of eight persons in the Bible that God calls by name … twice? (1 Sam. 3:1–10) The others are Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Martha, Simon, Saul and Jesus called out to the Father, “My God, My God...”
2. The Famine is Over!
In the last lesson, “The Rejection of the King” we saw not only a physical famine in the land but also a famine of God's word being given to the people. That was still true while Samuel was a child. “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord before Eli. And word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.” (1 Sam. 3:1).
But Samuel would grow and become the first major
Prophet since Moses that is bringing God's Word to the people. As Samuel grows up, the famine of the Word of God ends and God speaks to the people through Samuel.
Samuel brings the Word of God to the people but once again the people do not listen! As we read and learn about what the people of Israel did, it is a constant reminder to us not to think we know what is best! They were not in the position to try to figure out how to make the Nation of Israel more like their neighbors! In fact, they were not to be like their neighbors at all! Once again, we can see that in so many people within the church today. Most people want to be accepted and do not want to stand out from the crowd, so we try to live just like those around us? Or we try to raise our children exactly like those around us are raising their children? We often want to have the same things that we see our neighbors having. These were the problems that Israel was having. They were desiring what the surrounding countries had and rejecting God who had called them out and placed them into the Promised Land to be different from everyone else in the world. God also calls Christians out to be different from everyone else in the world. To desire to be like those around us that are not Christians is to reject the King!
3. Samuel’s Greatest Disappointment!
As Samuel grew old, he judged Israel from his home in Ramah and it was there where the Elders of Israel came to see him. They had obviously been meeting behind Samuel’s back and making plans for the future of their Nation. They must have known they could not just turn against Samuel. Probably because the people would have turned against them. So they go to Ramah and they demand that Samuel give them a king! God had predicted this all the way back in Deut. 17:14 (“‘When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me’”). God knew He would be rejected as King, yet He still loved Israel and saw to her safety and future all those years.
Samuel's mother gave him to the Lord before he was even conceived. (1 Sam. 1:11) Samuel has given his life to the Lord and served Israel with all of his heart. It makes me wonder how Samuel really felt that day sitting there at his house when the owners of Israel walked in and told him what they had to say… “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him, ‘Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.’ But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ And Samuel prayed to the Lord.” (1 Sam. 8:4-6). “Displeased!” That translation is somewhat of an understatement! The first three words of the verse in Hebrew are, Dabar Ra’a’ `ayin - pronounced daw-baw' raw-ah' ah'-yin. Dabar means speech, saying or words. It is used 1,439 times in the Old Testament. Ra’a - means to be broken, be broken in pieces, be broken asunder... It is the root word for the Hebrew word we looked at in our last lesson - Ra’ab, which means famine or famine of God’s Word! ‘Ayin can mean physical eye or it can mean mental and spiritual faculties (like the eye of the heart, soul or mind?) It is sometimes used to describe a spring or fountain.
Put all of that together and we will begin to see how Samuel was affected by this, and through that, how God must have been affected as well. Dabar Ra’a’ `ayin - These words broke Samuel! After all he had done and given for the people of God, he is rejected! I have a question for you? Is there any place in the Bible where Samuel did something or is talked about doing something that made him a failure before God or the people? Some would say his sons, but I would have to say there is more to that than meets the eye. Samuel’s grandson does not follow his father’s footsteps, but he does follow in Samuel’s. That makes us curious as to how Samuel’s sons became sinful in the administration of God’s people. But Samuel never waivers and God does not bring judgment on Samuel for his sons as He did with Eli. I have not been able to find any negative things that the Lord says about or to Samuel. Maybe you can find something?
Dabar Ra’a’ `ayin - These words broke Samuel mentally and spiritually! It sounds like he went into a depression and felt as if it were all his fault? These words broke and crushed the fountain inside Samuel’s heart! This is not just a disappointment in Samuel’s life! Samuel would never be the same! His heart had been crushed. Ra’a’ is a participle - like the word baked in “baked beans”. They have been baked and they are baked beans. It is a verb that is an action and a state of being. Samuel was crushed! Not just at that moment, from that point on...
I believe that what made it worse was that these were Elders of Israel! Men that were older leaders! They should have known better. They saw what God had been doing during Samuel’s life time yet they still reject God! But God tries to encourage Samuel with the big picture.
4. The Rejection of the King Continues...
“‘Do everything they say to you,’ the Lord replied, ‘for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.’” (1 Sam. 8:7-9 NLT). Samuel was not only the voice of God to the people, but he shared God's heart as well. We can easily see that Samuel's heart was a reflection of God's heart. The Lord speaks to the people through Samuel and warns them of the great effect this new king would have on them, their families and their belongings, “But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. ‘Even so, we still want a king,’ they said. ‘We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.’ So Samuel repeated to the Lord what the people had said, and the Lord replied, ‘Do as they say, and give them a king.’ Then Samuel agreed and sent the people home.” (1 Sam. 8:19-21 NLT).
Something similar happens to Jeremiah and to several other prophets of Israel. “Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me.” (Jeremiah 8:21 NIV). The prophets hearts were crushed because God's heart was crushed at the continual rejection he received from Israel!
Application - Connecting it to Jesus…
“But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. ‘How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not recognize it when God visited you.’” (Luke 19:41-44 NLT).
Jesus’ heart was broken as he entered Jerusalem in his final days on the earth before His return and the Judgment that is yet to come. It was and is our failures that have broken His heart! It was our sin that caused Him to be crucified and die the death of a criminal even though He was sinless! And we are so often just like Israel! Rejecting the King and putting a new king on the throne of our hearts. The king of self-will just like they did. God tells us about this through the prophet Jeremiah, “Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.
He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people.
He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave.” (Isa. 53:4-9 NLT).
If the reality of these thoughts do not make you want to love the Lord more - “with all of your heart” (that is: to share His heart) and make you want to live close to him and stay clean before him then there may be a bigger problem in your heart than you think? We can know and share the heart of God! We do this by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit! We receive the Holy Spirit when we are Saved! It is the heart that matters. “‘The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” (1 Sam. 16:7 NLT). That is why the only answer God had for fixing the heart of man was to replace it with His heart by living there with us in the form of the Holy Spirit!
David was such a man. (Next lesson) The Apostle Paul spoke of these times during 1 Samuel when he spoke of Saul and David. “But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’” (Acts 13:22 NLT). Would that I were that kind of man. I pray that God might make all of us that kind of person because we cannot be so without the power of God in our hearts.
We may ask the question what was the heart of Samuel like? Or we may ask what were the hearts of the Elders of Israel like? But this lesson in the book of Samuel begs the question which is the speck in our own eyes... What is my heart like?
What Have You Learned?
Here's the list of Bible readings that your students will be reading the week before you teach this lesson:
Monday, 1 CHRONICLES 2:9-55
Tuesday, 1 CHRONICLES 4:1-23, 1 SAMUEL 1:1-8
Wednesday, 1 SAMUEL 1:9-2:26
Thursday, 1 SAMUEL 2:27-4:11
Friday, 1 SAMUEL 4:12-6:18
Saturday, 1 SAMUEL 6:19-8:22
Sunday, 1 SAMUEL 9:1-27
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