The next section in The MANual, my NIV Bible for Men is titled “A Nation’s Rise and Fall” and covers the books from 1 Samuel to 2 Kings. This lesson comes from two books: 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel. The next lesson will cover the other two books: 1 Kings and 2 Kings.
From Judges to a King
The setting for the books of Samuel is when the nation of Israel went from being led by God to being led by a human king. First Samuel begins during the closing years of Samson’s life (see those lessons in my post on the book of Judges).
Samuel was one of Israel’s last judges and the first priest and prophet to serve during the reign of King David (1050-970 B.C.). Samuel was the son of a high priest, Elkanah, and his wife, Hannah, who was known for her fervent praying. Hannah dedicated Samuel to God’s service at the age of three by leaving him at the Tabernacle to grow up “in the presence of the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:21). Samuel assisted his older contemporary, Eli in the Tabernacle. Like his mother, Samuel was a man of prayer and became one of Israel’s greatest prophets, eventually beginning a school of prophets, and anointing two kings.
Training Our Children
Parenthood is an awesome responsibility but we must be careful not to blame ourselves for the sins of our children. First Samuel 2:12-17 describes the wicked and unfaithful actions of Eli’s sons but makes no mention of Eli disciplining them. Maybe it was laziness or indifference on Eli’s part. Maybe he was more concerned about being his children’s friend or was afraid of how his sons would respond. Whatever the case, Eli suffered the consequences of his inaction.
- Do you believe Scripture is the best instruction manual for training children in God’s commandments?
- People say, “takes a village” to raise families these days. Do you have a group of like-minded parents who help each other with this task?
Pray hard for your children and continue to set an example by your own godly living.
First Samuel 3 begins with the story of how the Lord calls Samuel. Late one evening, Samuel hears his name called out on three separate occasions. Each time, he goes to Eli, believing he was calling him since Eli was in his later years. But it was the Lord calling and telling Samuel about his plans to carry out a judgment against Eli’s sons since he had failed to restrain them (3:11-14).
Chapter 4 of 1 Samuel begins as the Philistines, the arch-enemy of the Israelites battle to capture the precious Ark of the Covenant that held the Ten Commandments given to Moses. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas died in battle. When notified of their death, the 98-year old Eli falls off a chair, breaks his neck, and dies as well. This sad chapter is a result of the actions of yet another sinful generation.
The Philistines keep the ark for seven months, fill it with guilt offerings, and hide it in a hillside for twenty years while the Israelites mourn. Now a grown man, Samuel helps the people of Israel eliminate their idols and foreign gods, and return to worshipping God alone. The people no longer want judges so Samuel anoints Saul as the nation’s first king.
The people needed Saul’s military skills and leadership abilities. He looked like a king, dressed like a king, and lived in a king’s palace. Saul was a king who failed in many ways despite his early military successes.
Saul could have set a high bar but turned to sorcery for guidance after Samuel’s death and went against God’s expressed commands. He blamed others for his own failure to obey God.
- What God-given talents and responsibilities do you have?
- What causes you to hide those talents and shirk your responsibilities?
Samuel reminded the Israelites in his farewell speech that having a king was their idea and not his. Saul was exercising his military and political power over the tribes of Israel. Samuel zeroed in on the real issue “You have not kept the commands The Lord your God gave you.” (1 Samuel 13:12-13).
Jonathan and David
One of Saul’s sons, Jonathon displayed remarkable courage as a youth by taking on a Philistine outpost almost single-handedly (1 Samuel 14). Jonathan was the heir apparent to the throne. His spiritual character was also in striking contrast to his father’s, especially his honesty as he confessed to eating honey when all the men in the army were told not to eat before the battle.
Chapter 16 begins the story of David, one of the eight sons of Jesse from the town of Bethlehem. David was assigned the least desired chore of watching the sheep as the youngest, smallest, “runt of the litter.” To protect his flocks from predators, he became an expert marksman with a sling, a skill he would use in his duel with Goliath in chapter 17. The killing of the giant initially earned David favor with King Saul, who became jealous of David since he viewed him as a threat.
Saul plots to kill David, but Jonathan had befriended David and shows great loyalty to him since Samuel anointed David as Israel’s next king. Even though Saul is still holding the throne, David spares his life twice out of respect for authority and David’s own position as God’s next anointed king.
- Read more in my previous post about Jonathan and David. Do you have close friends who show this type of loyalty?
Jonathan later dies at the battle of Mount Gilboa along with his brothers. Surrounded and wounded in battle, the defeated Saul asks his armor-bearer to kill him. Saul falls on his own sword when the young soldier refuses, rather than being taken captive in battle (1 Samuel 31).
We Need a New King
The second book of Samuel opens in the land of Israel as David laments Saul’s and Jonathan’s deaths. The first 10 chapters describe David’s early successes and how he builds the fractured kingdom Saul left behind, into a strong, united power. David is crowned king over Judah and then king over all of Israel (5:1-5). He brings the Ark back to the Tabernacle (6:1-23) and leads armies to victory to complete the conquest of the Promised Land.
But David is also human and stumbled into sin. Chapters 11-13 include the lust, adultery, and murder in the well-known story of David and Bathsheba. The prophet Nathan rebukes David about the affair and murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah.
God predicted that David’s family would suffer because of his many sins. David had several wives, was a liar and a murderer. There’s the rape of Tamar by her half-brother Amnon, David’s first-born son. There’s the killing of Amnon by Tamar’s full-brother, Absalom due to incest and lack of remorse.
“Little Sins” are No Big Deal
Today, most men find it easy to say they don’t have any “big” sins like David’s. However, we illegally copy music, have premarital sex, and walk out on our marriages. We abuse drugs and alcohol or have an addiction to pornography, gambling, and workaholism. We say we don’t “rank” our sins but do so anyway to justify them. The “little sins” that we tolerate –and even enjoy, are simply an affront to God’s holy standard. And they cost Jesus His life.
- Do you make light or have a superficial view of sin?
- In what ways do you justify your sins?
Chapters 15-24 of 2 Samuel tell of the national rebellion against David, led by Absolom who plotted against his father. Absolom tried to take away the throne but received bad advice and literally hung by his long hair until he was killed by his enemies (chapter 18).
Chapters 21-24 describe the later years of David’s life as he avenges prior crimes against the Gibeonites and his final battles against the Philistines. David was a skilled musician. He wrote a song of praise in 1 Samuel 22 about how the Lord rescued him from all his enemies. David also wrote many of the Psalms.
God shows Himself strong and protective of the people who believe in Him and repent of their sins. David writes specifically Psalm 51 about his tremendous anguish over his sin against Bathsheba and the killing of Uriah. David knew God would make him clean again, as “whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7) with a “clean heart” (Psalm 51:10).
- Do you have that same sense of God’s promise and deliverance from your sins?
- How do you stay close to God’s commandments to keep your heart clean?
Fortunately, David had an unwavering belief in a faithful and forgiving God. Bathsheba also gave birth to Solomon, another of David’s sons who later becomes king.
God Buddy Focus
Ever since the Israelites first entered the Promised Land, they struggled to unite their nations. Now, after 400 years, David has accomplished what no other leader, judge, nor king had done before him. Israel was finally at peace.
David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). He recognized his sins, confessed them, and remained loyal to God throughout his lifetime.
- Read the story of David and Bathsheba. Then read Psalm 51 and discuss how David repented of his sin and praised God.
- Discuss the God Buddy qualities in the story of Jonathan and David.
The next set of rulers in 1 and 2 Kings provide more lessons about becoming godly men.