Monday, May 30, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 1 Samuel- Chapter 16

1 Samuel 16

-The LORD has to ask an important question to his despondent and grieving prophet after the whole ordeal with the disobedient King Saul, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel?” Then the LORD gives a command, “Fill your horn with oil and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.” Samuel actually resisted the call initially as he feared for his life in this new climate of distrust in Saul. But, God worked out a plan for him to take a heifer with him to Bethlehem to have a sacrifice as a front, thereby protecting the prophet from any perceived harm. Samuel was instructed by the Almighty to invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and then He would show the prophet what to do next. Samuel was told that indeed he would anoint for the LORD a new king, which would be designated. “So Samuel did what the LORD said,” and obediently went to the Judean city of Bethlehem, just south of Jerusalem. When he arrived, the elders of the city came to him trembling in fear because of his renown, and asked him if he had come to them in peace. He assured them that he had come in peace and to offer a sacrifice before the LORD God. He beckoned them to consecrate themselves for this occasion and included Jesse in the ceremonial festivities along with his sons. When Jesse’s boys entered, Eliab, the oldest, caught Samuel’s attention as he thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before Him.” However, Yahweh had other plans as He subtly spoke to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:1-7).” In fact, seven of Jesse’s sons passed before Samuel with not one of them getting the call for kingship. Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the children?” Jesse let him know that there was one more, the youngest of them all, who was out tending the sheep. Samuel sent for this one claiming that they would not sit down until he presented himself. So David was sent for and brought in. Upon their first meeting, Samuel found him to be “ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance,” but he was the kid of the group. Nonetheless, God spoke, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” Samuel immediately took the horn of oil, symbolic of God’s Holy Spirit, and anointed him in the midst of all his brothers. Then, the Holy Spirit came mightily upon young David and stayed on him from that day forward. Seeing that his mission was complete, Samuel went back home to Ramah (1 Samuel 16:8-13). No fanfare or celebration mentioned in Scripture. Just a simple passing of the mantle of leadership in the kingdom of Israel. Saul was not dethroned, nor did he abdicate his authority at the time, but a serious transition was occurring.

-“Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD terrorized him.” It was so debilitating that his servants took notice of it. They wanted to seek out a man who was skillful in the harp that could play soothing music to mellow the troubled king when this evil spirit persisted in his being. They figured that all would be well if they could pacify his soul with these placid sounds. One of the young men had knowledge of David’s, son of Jesse, abilities in this area. Not only was David acknowledged as a skillful musician, but he was reputed as a mighty man of valor, a warrior, one prudent in speech, handsome, and who had the LORD with him. So Saul sent messengers to Jesse and beckoned the young man, David, to his come to his palace from the flock that he was tending. Therefore, Jesse sent his youngest son to the king’s service along with a donkey loaded with bread and a jug of wine and a young goat. David attended to the king, and immediately gained the admiration and favor of the troubled of Saul. “Saul loved him greatly.” David became his armor bearer and stood before the king. “So it came about whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul. David would take the harp and play it with his hand; and Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him (1 Samuel 16:14-23).”

-*Application* The presence of God transcends our understanding and exalts the most common of people from their places of perceived mediocrity and simplicity. This has always been how He has operated. He makes wise the humble who toil in ordinary circumstances (1 Corinthians 2-4). He chooses the shepherd boy tending his flock and raises him to be a great shepherd of His people and ancestor of the King of kings. God always looks at the heart, not the outward appearances. So, let us take care of our heart and abide in Him for true peace and soothing. Those who resist His Spirit’s presence will find the void taken over by an evil spirit that only gravitates to physical means of coping, which is always just a temporary solution.

Verse to Memorize: 1 Samuel 16:7

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 1 Samuel- Chapter 15

1 Samuel 15

-Samuel re-enters the scene in this decisive chapter in the kingdom of Saul over Israel. Just as the LORD sent Samuel to anoint this leader as the man of His own choosing, He comes again with an order to go and punish the Amalekite enemy for setting themselves against Israel 400 years prior when they were coming up from their captivity in Egypt. The command was clear, “Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” Saul gathered 200,000 foot soldiers and numbered them in Telaim, which included 10,000 men of Judah. The king came to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the valley. Beforehand, he warned the Kenites who were living among the Amalekites to depart so that they would not be destroyed. They had shown kindness to all the sons of Israel when they came out of Egypt (Numbers 24:21, Judges 1:16). So the Kenites followed through and did depart safely (1 Samuel 15:1-6).  

-Saul did fight with the Amalekites and defeated them soundly under the direction and providence of the LORD. From Havilah as far as Shur, east of Egypt, the Israeli army prevailed in a decisive blow. Agag, the Amalekite king, was captured alive, and the rest of the people were utterly destroyed with the edge of the sword. However, in direct contradiction to God’s orders, Agag the king was spared along with the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good. So the worthless things were done away with, but the best things were not destroyed completely (1 Samuel 15:7-9).

-Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel indicating, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” This news distressed the prophet, and he cried out to the LORD all night long. Then, as a faithful spiritual soldier, he rose early the next morning to meet Saul, who he heard was at Mt. Carmel, where he had set up a monument for himself. But Saul had turned and headed back east to the Jordan River Valley in Gilgal. This is where Samuel comes to the king. Saul, in arrogance and cockiness, greets the prophet of God with these words, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD.” Samuel sarcastic response is classic, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” Saul tried in vain to justify and vindicate his position by letting the prophet know that he brought them back for a sacrifice to the LORD God of Heaven and earth, but Samuel was having nothing to do with this after hearing directly from the Almighty. He stated, “Wait, and let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night.” After Saul told him to speak, the prophet and former judge of the land continued, “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the LORD anointed you king over Israel, and the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’ Why then did you not obey the Voice of the LORD, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD?” Saul continued to make his defense in partial support of God and His program, and then began to accuse the people of talking him into taking some of the spoil, sheep, oxen, and the choice things. He again tried to justify this with the fact that they were going to sacrifice these things to the LORD in Gilgal, even though God had told them to do something completely different. Saul’s compromising leadership was once again dragging him down. This time it was pivotal. His kingdom never recovered. Samuel protested, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king." At this point, Saul acknowledged his sin and transgressions against the commands of the LORD. He admitted that he feared the people and listened to their voice above the Voice of God. He asked for pardon and for the prophet to return with him in sight of the people that all may be shmoozed over and that they worship the LORD together in ungenuine repentance. The discerning prophet was unmoved. He maintained, “I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” As Samuel turned to depart, Saul seized his robe tearing the edge of it. Samuel reiterated with this prophetic sign, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you. Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.” In desperation now, the fallen king reached out again to the prophet to curry his favor in the situation if not just to pacify the moment and make him appealing to the masses of people who had expectations for him. He said, “I have sinned; but please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and go back with me, that I may worship the LORD your (interesting here it’s not “my” or “our” God) God.” Samuel obliged this request, and Saul did worship the LORD in front of the people in a ceremonious act (1 Samuel 15:10-31).

-There was one more matter that needed to be cleared up by the man of God. Samuel had Agag, the Amalekite king, brought to him. Agag came cheerfully, the Bible denotes, thinking that the time for violent action had certainly passed. In fact, he said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” But Samuel had other thoughts planted by his Sovereign LORD. He told the vanquished king that he indeed had made women childless, and now his mother would be childless as well. Samuel finished the orders of God by cutting up the king in pieces before the LORD there at Gilgal. Then he returned to his home in Ramah. Saul went back to his house in Gibeah. And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death. Samuel grieved over Saul, and the LORD regretted that He had entrusted the kingdom of Israel to such a man as this (1 Samuel 15:32-35). But even through much depravity, God was still working out His salvation plan through the life of the nation of Israel. Soon a premiere king with an enduring kingdom would arise with a heart after the LORD.

-*Application* Fear of man verses the fear of God. This is always the great dilemma in life. Who are we going to listen to? Who are we going to worship? Who is our God, or god? Don’t let God regret choosing us for a call or position. We need to follow Him completely and genuinely all the days of our lives to hear “well done good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21, 23).” We should take notice of all the leadership qualities, good and bad, that are display in this lengthy sequence of events between Eli and Samuel, Samuel and Saul, and Saul and David. Much can be learned inductively from a deep character study on these men.

Verses to Memorize: 1 Samuel 15:11, 22-23, 28

Friday, May 27, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 1 Samuel- Chapter 14

1 Samuel 14

-Jonathan, who had the help of his armor bearer, decided to cross over and check out the Philistine garrison that was on the other side. Jonathan did not tell his father of this bold adventure, probably because it would never have been approved. Saul was staying in the outskirts of his home town of Gibeah in Benjamin under the pomegranate tree that was in Migron according to Scripture. His 600 men were with him there (1 Samuel 14:1-2). Ichabod’s older brother, Ahijah, was there wearing the linen as one from the line of Eli in priestly service, and the people did not know that Jonathan had gone (1 Samuel 4:19-22; 14:3).

-Some description is given as to the area where Jonathan was venturing, and then the king’s son exclaimed in faith to his armor bearer, “Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the LORD will work for us, for the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few (1 Samuel 14:4-6).” His armor bearer told him to proceed with all that was in his heart and pledged his loyalty though this was a very dangerous mission in enemy territory. The plan was to reveal themselves to the Philistines with a sign being sent from God. If the enemy said, “Wait until we come to you…” then they would stand in their place and not go up to them. But, on the other hand, if they say, “Come up to us…” then they would indeed go up, for the LORD would have shown that He was going to give them into their hands (1 Samuel 14:7-10). As the action played out, the Philistines called Jonathan and his armor bearer to come up to them. In their minds, they thought there were many other Hebrews that would soon be coming out from hiding in a guerrilla style attack. Jonathan arose climbing up on his hands and feet with his armor bearer right behind him, and they proceeded to kill 20 Philistines in the first encounter by themselves within about half a furrow in an acre of land. Then there was trembling in the camp among all the people as the LORD began to operate His Divine plan. A great earthquake occurred, which is not that uncommon in this region, and Saul’s watchmen in Gibeah could observe what was happening. The multitude of Philistines were melting away before them by the Hand of the Almighty. They were dispersing with chaos and confusion. A quick census was taken by Saul’s camp to see who was there, and it became determined that Jonathan and his armor bearer were gone. As Saul spoke with the priest and asked for the Ark to be brought to him, the commotion in the Philistine camp escalated prompting Saul to say to the priest, “Withdraw your hand (referring to the use of the Urim and Thummin in withdrawing their hand from the linen ephod, or vest, as a way to determine God’s will).” The men with Saul rallied at this point and came to the battle. Every man’s sword, remember Israel was very limited in their weaponry here (refer back to 1 Samuel 13:19-22), was against his fellow man in a very great maelstrom of confusion. Apparently, there were Hebrews who had temporarily sided with the Philistines, but they betrayed the pagans and rejoined their brothers, the Israelites, who were with Saul and Jonathan. Then, all the men who had previously hidden themselves in fear (1 Samuel 13:6) responded coming out of the hill country of Ephraim and chasing the enemy closely in the battle. “So the LORD delivered Israel that day, and the battle spread beyond Beth-aven (1 Samuel 14:11-23).”

-The armies of Israel had been hard-pressed on that day, and Saul had done a very foolish thing. He put them under an oath to curse any man who ate food during the raging of the battle that day until he had avenged himself of his enemies. Notice here that the motivation was not Godly, it was for selfish desires of his own doing. So none of the people had tasted food that day and were famished thus weakening them. There was honey on the ground as they entered the forest during the battle (more than likely spoils from the enemy’s stash), but nobody dared to take and eat to become stronger except for Jonathan who had not been there to hear of the oath and curse. His “eyes brightened” with the nourishment as he ate, but soon he heard one of the men say, “Your father strictly put the people under oath, saying, ‘Cursed be the man who eats food today.’” Jonathan, seeing that the people were weary because of bad commands, said, “My father has troubled the land. See now, how my eyes have brightened because I tasted a little of this honey.” Then, he went on to say that if they would have eaten more of the spoils of their enemy, the slaughter of the Philistines that day would have been much greater. Chaos continued to reign that day as the Israelites struck down Philistines from Michmash all the way to Aijalon until the people became too weary (1 Samuel 14:24-31).

-Then, in their haste and hungry appetite, they rushed greedily upon the rest of the spoil of the Philistines taking sheep, oxen, and calves slaying them and eating them with the blood, which was against Mosaic Law. Saul, recognizing this, called them out, “Behold, the people are sinning against the LORD by eating with the blood. You have acted treacherously; roll a great stone to me today.” This stone rolling references a hasty altar that he wanted put together on which to offer a propitiatory sacrifice to the LORD to curb the Almighty’s anger. The people complied and brought their oxen and sheep to be slaughtered properly and cooked for eating in the right way. This was Saul’s first altar that he had built to the LORD (1 Samuel 14:32-35).

-After these things, Saul prompted his people to go down and take spoil from the Philistines by night until the morning killing all the men that they possible could. The people agreed with him, but the priest among them said, “Let us draw near to God here.” Saul inquired of the LORD for his direction in this matter; however, He did not answer him on that day. Therefore, Saul got the notion to draw all the chiefs of the people near and investigate for any sin that was holding up their progress towards the enemy. Not only that, Saul guaranteed that whoever was found guilty of insubordination, even if it was his son Jonathan, would surely die. The people went with his program as Saul asked for a perfect lot to determine the matter. He sided himself and his son Jonathan on one side and all the people on the other. The lot fell to him and Jonathan. Then, the lot was cast between them, and it was found that Jonathan indeed was the guilty party. He confessed his honey eating in the forest with the end of the staff that was in his hand. He surrendered his life for death before all the people and the king, who was his father. Saul was about to kill his son, but the people stepped up to speak common sense into the situation. They proclaimed, “Must Jonathan die, who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Far from it! As the LORD lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” Saul capitulated, which was becoming a trademark of his leadership in Israel. Thus, the people rescued Jonathan that day according to the will and plan of God. As future events would play out, Jonathan would do some rescuing of his own with his best friend, David, as King Saul became more and more jealous and violent (1 Samuel 18:1-20:42). When it was all said and done, Saul refrained from pursuing the Philistines allowing the enemy to go back to their own place (1 Samuel 14:36-46).

-“Now when Saul had taken the kingdom over Israel, he fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, the sons of Ammon, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines; and wherever he turned, he inflicted punishment. He acted valiantly and defeated the Amalekites, and delivered Israel from the hands of those who plundered them.” This denotes the rising success of the nation under kingly authority now during this period of Israel’s history. The Word of God, in some genealogy work, then names the king’s sons: Jonathan, Ishvi (aka Abinadab, see 1 Chronicles 10:2), and Malchi-shua. Not listed here, but in 1 Chronicles 8:33, Ish-bosheth (aka Eshbaal), is also named as a son of Saul, who was probably the youngest of his sons. It also lists his daughters: Merab, the first born, and the younger, Michal (who became David’s first wife, 1 Samuel 18:27). Saul’s wife was Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz. The captain in his army was his uncle, Abner, who was the son of Ner. War persisted with the Philistines becoming more and more severe all the days of Saul. The words… “when Saul saw any mighty man or any valiant man, he attached him to his staff” should be interpreted that he took them unto himself for their help in fighting and his benefit in controlling the nation (1 Samuel 14:47-52).

-*Application* We can see the double-mindedness of this first Israeli king being played out in this chapter. Some decisions were good and noble. Others were presumptuous and degenerating. Saul was never able to fully get it all going in the right direction with consistency. This, if we read interpreting Scripture with Scripture, demonstrates a lack of wisdom and faith (James 1:5-7). Let’s not have our doubts today. Let’s trust the LORD and seek His wisdom being assured of His accurate and unswerving Voice in our lives.

Verse to Memorize: 1 Samuel 14:6

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 1 Samuel- Chapter 13

1 Samuel 13

-In the middle of the action, there is a brief aside to tell us the age Saul was when he began to reign over Israel and the duration of his authority as king. He was 30 years old when he became king by the anointing of God through Samuel. He reigned 42 long years over Israel as their first earthly ruler (1 Samuel 13:1). Getting back to the narrative, Saul chose for himself 3,000 men (2,000 with him in Michmash north of Gibeah and 1,000 with his son Jonathan actually in Gibeah where the king’s house was in Benjamin), but the rest were released back to their tents at home. In Geba, Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines who were there. This initiated an intense conflict with the two people groups as the Philistines heard of the attack of demolition and responded. Saul, for Israel’s part, blew the trumpet of war throughout the land that the Hebrews would hear the news of what happened at Geba and to prepare for an onslaught from the Philistines. “The people were summoned to Saul at Gilgal.” This was just to the western side of the Jordan River in the fertile valley area near Jericho. The Philistines assembled for a fight with 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen, and people so numerous than they were like the sand which is on the seashore. They gathered at Michmash in the hill country east of Beth-aven. This ominous collection of Philistines sent the Israelites of the area scrambling. They saw that they were outnumbered and in a strait (tsar- distress, adversity, a tight place figuratively as in trouble), which made them hide themselves in caves, thickets, cliffs, cellars, and pits. Some crossed over the river into Gad and Gilead, but Saul stayed near the river on the west side at Gilgal. Some people followed him there, but they were trembling with fear and trepidation (1 Samuel 13:2-7).

-Saul waited there for seven days according to the appointed time that Samuel had set; however, by the end of this period, Samuel had still not arrived in Gilgal and people were beginning to scatter from the king in confusion. Saul, instead of waiting on the prophet of God, took matters into his own hands out of personal anxiety. He ordered the burnt offerings and peace offerings to be brought to him, and he sacrificed them himself in the place of Samuel. As soon as he finished making the burnt offering, guess who showed up? Yep, you guessed it, Samuel. Saul came out to greet him, but the prophet was perturbed. Samuel exclaimed, “What have you done?” Saul replied, “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were gathering at Michmash, therefore I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not asked the favor of the LORD.’ So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering.” Samuel scolded the king, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, for now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own Heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you (1 Samuel 13:8-14).”

-Though the text does not say it, Saul had to have felt like dirt with a great sense of loss and depression with these stinging words of rebuke and prophesy. Samuel went back from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin, and Saul numbered his men at 600, who were presently remained with him. Saul, his warrior son, Jonathan, and the people who were with him proceeded to Geba of Benjamin, where the initial victory over the garrison of Philistines had occurred. Again, the Philistines camped at Michmash. Philistine raiders came now in three companies turning toward: 1) Ophrah, to the land of Shual, 2) Beth-horon, and 3) the border which overlooks the valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness. There was another problem for Israel. Somehow the Philistines had taken control over all the blacksmithing work in the land and would not allow any Hebrews to work with iron. They feared that the Hebrews would make weapons of war, and had monopolized the industry to keep them subjugated in this area. All Israel had to go to Philistines if they needed fixing or sharpening of plowshares, axes, or hoes. They would be charged two-thirds a shekel for work done on plowshares, mattocks, forks, axes, and hoes. They were in a quandary, for they had neither sword or spear in the hands of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan. However, Saul and Jonathan did have some weapons. Now, as the chapter ends, the garrison of Philistines confidently went out to the pass of Michmash ready for battle (1 Samuel 13:15-23).

-*Application* What seemed like a virtually unimportant rash decision by the king, proved to be a monumental turn in the kingdom of Israel for perpetuity. God would have established Saul’s line, but out of fear of man and circumstances he regressed and disobeyed the commands of the LORD. The rising tension proved too much for the impetuous king. Patience is indeed a virtue. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. We are constantly instructed in Scripture to “wait” on the LORD (Genesis 49:18, Numbers 9:8, Psalm 25:3; 27:14; 37:7-9, Isaiah 49:23, Acts 1:4, 1 Corinthians 4:5, Galatians 5:22, James 5:7-10 to name just a few). Today, think about how we can rob ourselves of blessing, honor, and favor by being too aggressive when God simply wants us to wait, be patient, and let Him get His deserved glory in all things according to His schedule, not our own.

Verse to Memorize: 1 Samuel 13:14

Monday, May 23, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 1 Samuel- Chapter 12

1 Samuel 12

-Samuel makes a magnanimous address before all of Israel now as this chapter depicts the solemnity of the situation as the nation transitions to a kingdom. Samuel, under God’s Voice, had listened to their call for a king, and that king had been appointed as Saul the Benjamite. Samuel acknowledged he was old and gray, about to pass on into eternity, and another must definitely take his place in leadership. He wanted confirmation from the people that he had acted nobly as their judge and sovereign. He had not stolen a single ox or donkey. He had defrauded no one. He had oppressed not one single person. He was honest and took no bribes in his tenure. He did not ever pervert justice. The people whole-heartedly agreed with his declaration. They knew he was indeed a man of God, faithful and true. God was witness of this and all agreed (1 Samuel 12:1-5).

-A brief recount of the national history and God’s graciousness to His people was given by the sage prophet. Then he exhorted them to now take their “stand” so as not to forget the great and mighty acts of the LORD their God as they entered this new phase of their existence. He pleaded with them not to turn aside, but to remain faithful as God’s chosen ones (1 Samuel 12:6-11).

-The new king is then confirmed in the remaining verses of this chapter’s text. His victory that the LORD gave him with Nahash is recounted. An admonition to fear the LORD is clearly stated so that they will listen to His Voice and not rebel against His commands. Following the ways of the LORD was fundamental for their success. If the opposite occurred, Samuel warned them vividly that the Hand of the LORD would indeed be against them for calamity as it was against their fathers. The prophet reiterates over again to take their “stand” so that they could see this great thing that God would do before their eyes if they would simply obey. Then he called out for a sign. The harvest was that day, and Samuel prophesied that the LORD would send thunder and rain as a sign that their wickedness was great before God in asking for an earthly king. The thunder and rain came as he prophesied, and all the people greatly feared both the LORD and His prophet, Samuel. They asked for prayers of intercession on account of this great and awesome sign. They feared the LORD would kill them, as He had previously done at times when disobedience was disciplined. They acknowledged that they had added to their sins by asking for a king at this point. Samuel told them not to fear. Even though this was an evil, they could still follow the LORD in their transition to a kingdom. The choice would be theirs. If they served the LORD with all their “heart” all would be good. However, they would reap the consequences if they turned aside from the ways of the LORD to go after futile things, which could not “profit or deliver” them. Then there was this promise, “For 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.” Moreover, Samuel promised that it would be his duty before God to intercede for them and instruct them in the good and right way. If he shrunk back from that, it would be a sin against his call from the Almighty. He reminded them again at this point to “fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.” Then a final warning, “But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away (1 Samuel 12:12-25).”

-*Application* Acknowledgement in fear of the Almighty is our first step towards redemption. Incredible principles for the Christian life our given here in this chapter for us to chew on. We definitely need to take our stand in this generation. We need to give God our whole heart. We need to follow His ways allowing Him to direct our paths. We should never shrink back from our call in whatever capacity the LORD has called us to. Intercede, instruct, challenge, exhort, have impeccable character, these are all qualities we should aspire to in our lives. Meditate on these things today.

Verses to Memorize: 1 Samuel 12:14-16, 22, 24

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 1 Samuel- Chapter 11

1 Samuel 11

-Nahash, the Ammonite (of the sons of Ammon east of the Dead Sea area), came up and besieged Jabesh-gilead on the east side of the Jordan. The men of Jabesh were afraid and asked for a covenant of peace to serve the Ammonites. But the conditions laid on them from Nahash were extremely harsh. He told them that if they became a reproach to all Israel by having their right eye gauged out by his people, then there would be an agreement not to kill them. The elders of Jabesh asked for a seven-day decision period to get their brothers input from Israel. If there were none to deliver them, then they would accept the brutal terms of this offer (1 Samuel 11:1-3).

-The messengers sent out by the elders of Jabesh came to Gibeah of Saul and spoke these words, which Nahash had threatened them with, to all the people. This caused the inhabitants to lift up their voices in weeping and wailing. As Saul came in from the field this day, he asked why all the commotion and weeping. When he heard what was going on, the Spirit of the LORD came upon Saul mightily again, and he became angry with righteous indignation. He took a yoke of oxen and cut them into pieces and sent them throughout the territory of Israel through messengers telling them, “Whoever does not come out after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen.” This caused the dread of the LORD to come on all the people, and they came out as one man, unified and determined. War was in the air at this point. The warriors of Israel were numbered just to the west of the Jordan River at Bezek, just across the river from Jabesh-gilead. Their number came to 300,000, and Judah had 30,000. They informed the messengers who had come to them to go tell their brethren in Jabesh-gilead, “Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you will have deliverance. This gave hope and life to these messengers as well as the people of Jabesh-gilead. They were indeed glad. The men of Jabesh-gilead let them know that they would be coming out for battle the next day and do everything that seemed good to them in service. The next morning Saul commanded the army of Israel by putting them into three distinct companies, and they came into the midst of the camp for a fight at the morning watch. They struck down the Ammonites until the heat of the day scattering the survivors so that no two were even left together (1 Samuel 11:4-11). A complete and utter victory was achieved!

-The naysayers that were worthless men of negativity (1 Samuel 10:27) were now sought out by the people of Israel in the aftermath. They said, “Who is he that said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, that we may put them to death.” But Saul showed humility and grace in this instance seeking no revenge and giving glory to God, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has accomplished deliverance in Israel.” Samuel stepped in at this point, “Come and let us go to Gilgal and renew the kingdom there.” Therefore, everyone went to Gilgal to the south along the Jordan River on the west side, where Israel had first camped in the Promised Land before their attack of Jericho. There they made Saul king before the LORD and offered sacrifices of peace offerings before their Covenant God once again. “And there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly (1 Samuel 11:12-15).” It was a great day in the history of Israel.

-*Application* There are leadership lessons to be learned from this particular passage. The elders of Jabesh-gilead were prudent in taking some time for their decision and seeking extended council. This saved their city and their days. Saul showed some moxy by being filled with the Spirit and taking quick, decisive, bold action in the face of a threat. He was able to unify a body and fight a worthy, just fight. Afterwards, Saul did not act vindictively or harsh in his victory towards those of his own clan who had opposed him and had spoken ill of him. In other words, he had a forgiving spirit. This is grace. Then, Samuel wrapped it all up with a faithful act of worship in a holy place. There was a celebration of all God had accomplished and an established peace. This sets the standard for any organization to emulate.

Verse to Memorize: 1 Samuel 11:13

Friday, May 20, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 1 Samuel- Chapter 10

1 Samuel 10

-Samuel anoints Saul as the ruler over God’s inheritance with oil poured over his head (1 Samuel 10:1). This was a symbolic coronation that this was much more than just a political act of establishment. This king of Israel would be God’s representative to the His people. A priest or prophet always did the anointing, which ties into Jesus’ future completion of the office of Prophet, Priest, and King (John 12:48-49, Hebrews 2:14-18, Revelation 19:16). The oil was an expensive mixture of olive oil, myrrh, and other spices in a beautifully fragrant offering. It represented the Holy Spirit’s power and presence in the person who was being anointed denoting great responsibility to lead God’s people by the LORD’s wisdom and not his own.

-Samuel then gave some instructions to this newly anointed king. He told him that when he went from him that day that he would find two men close to Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah. These would let him know that the donkeys had been found and that indeed the father, Kish, was anxious about his son’s well-being. Saul was told to go on from there to the oak tree of Tabor where he would find three men going up to God at Bethel (the House of God). They would be carrying three young goats, three loaves of bread, and a jug of wine. Saul was informed that he would be offered two loaves of bread, which he should accept from their hand. They would then proceed to the hill of God, where the Philistine garrison was, and meet up with a group of prophets in the city who would be coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them. They would also be speaking the word of God in prophesy as they came. Samuel told Saul, “Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man. It shall be when these signs come to you, do for yourself what the occasion requires, for God is with you (1 Samuel 10:2-7).” Then Samuel told him to go down to Gilgal afterwards and wait for seven days until Samuel could come offer burnt offering, sacrifice peace offerings, and show him what he should do (1 Samuel 10:8).

-But, it happened when Saul turned his back to leave Samuel that God changed his heart and all those signs prophesied by Samuel came upon him that day. When they came to the hill, a group of prophets met him, and the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily right away so that he prophesied among them. All who knew Saul previously were astonished. They asked, “What has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul among the prophets?” It would be and so has got religion now. A hard to believe occurrence and work of the LORD. It became known as a proverb, a general truth, that Saul was one of those among the prophets of the LORD. After he finished prophesying, he came to the high place. At that time, Saul’s uncle came to him and his servant asking where he had gone? Saul told him the sequence of events as they went looking for his father’s donkeys and how they came upon Samuel to gain understanding about the donkeys’ safety. The uncle really wanted to know what the prophet Samuel had told him, but Saul only kept it surface. He did not reveal to his uncle the matter of the kingdom’s anointing, which Samuel had placed on him (1 Samuel 10:9-16).

-Thereafter, Samuel gathered all the people at Mizpah and declared the word of God. He explained again how the LORD had brought His people up from Egypt and delivered them from all of their oppressors. He then reiterated that they were now rejecting their Covenant God who had delivered them for an earthly king to be over them. He then had them present themselves before the LORD by tribes and clans. Benjamin was taken by lot in this ceremony. The tribe of Benjamin then went near by their families, and the Matrite family was taken. Saul, the son of Kish, was selected, but he could not be found even though they looked diligently for him. After finally inquiring of the LORD as to if he had come there yet, God revealed to them that Saul was hiding in the baggage (kĕliy- instruments, vessels, articles, implements, utensils). This was the first indication of Saul’s double-mindedness in the Scriptures. He had hesitation and ran from the call of the LORD. He had fear instead of faith at this point, even though the LORD had come upon him mightily and he had experienced change. He drifted some. Ironically, the people still persisted in their quest for an earthly king against God’s wishes as they “ran” and “took” Saul from his place of hiding. He was brought out a magnificent specimen of a man with stature far exceeding those around him, even though he had shown some qualities of a coward. Samuel extolled him as the man whom the LORD had chosen. There was no one like him among the people. Outward appearances seemed to prove the position. So all the people agreed and shouted out, “Long live the king!” Samuel then told the people the lawful ordinances of the kingdom as directed by God. He wrote them in a book and placed them before the LORD ceremoniously. Then he sent all the people away to each his own house. Saul went back to his home in Gibeah, and the valiant men whose hearts were touched by God went with him in support. However, there were some worthless men who wondered if he could truly have the power to deliver them. They despised him and would not bring him any present. In fear probably rather than humility, Saul kept silent and did not oppose these skeptics (1 Samuel 10:17-27). This is further beginning evidence that Saul would be an inferior king.

-*Application* Be strong in the LORD by the power of His might. Don’t drift from your call or be afraid. God is never pleased with that. God was with Saul, but he never fully appropriated that in faith. He shrunk back. We cannot afford to do that with our lives (Hebrews 10:38-39). So stand up and be courageous in Christ.

Verse to Memorize: 1 Samuel 10:6

Bible Study Notes in 1 Samuel- Chapter 9

1 Samuel 9

-The back story of Israel’s first king is given here in the 9th chapter. Kish, a man of Benjamin, which was a tribe with quite a sordid past during the time of the judges (Judges 19-21), had a son by the name of Saul who was extraordinarily handsome and head and shoulders taller than any other Israelite. He was from all exterior appearances a choice candidate to lead the people, and the LORD took note of this in His sovereign plan. Kish had some lost donkeys that he sent his son, along with one of his servants, to go out and find. They went all throughout the hill country of Ephraim, Shalishah, and Shaalim, but they could not find their missing donkeys. They even searched their homeland of Benjam in their journey, but could find nothing. When they came to the land of Zuph and came up empty again, Saul concluded that at this point his father would be anxious and send out a search party for them forgetting all about the animals. This is when the servant recommended a man of God who was in this city who was held in honor with all his words coming to fruition. He thought they should inquire of this man for some wisdom in their journey before returning home. Saul agreed, but they were short on supplies and would be expected to give this type of individual a gift according to cultural norms upon their arrival. Their bread was gone; there was no present other than a forth of a shekel of silver. This they would give in hopes of getting him to tell them their way to go on their hunt. Samuel at this period in Israel’s history was called a seer rather than a prophet. And so they went ahead towards the city, Samuel, and God’s divine destiny (1 Samuel 9:1-10).

-As they went up the slope of the city, they found some young women who were going out to draw water from the well. They asked them, “Is the seer here?” They answered in the affirmative, but they told him he’d better hurry for the people had a sacrifice that day at the high place. They relayed to him that he would find him before his duty and his eating ritual. His blessing on the sacrifice was all important to the people, and they would eat until he came. And then, only those whom he invited would be able to eat. Then they reiterated that he hurry and go up in order to find him (1 Samuel 9:11-13).

-Saul and his servant went up to the city, and as they came in, providentially, Samuel was coming out toward them to go up to the high place. The LORD had revealed to His prophet the day before Saul’s coming that a man from Benjamin would be coming to him for him to anoint the prince over His people Israel. This anointed one was promised to deliver the LORD’s people from the hand of the Philistines because God regarded His peoples’ cries for help (1 Samuel 9:14-16). At first look, Samuel knew in his spirit that Saul was the one whom God had appointed. The LORD told him, “Behold, the man of whom I spoke to you! This one shall rule over My people.” Saul approached the prophet unbeknownst and asked him, “Please tell me where the seer’s house is.” Samuel then told him who he was and instructed him to go up before him to the high place for he would be eating with the man of God that day. Samuel also told him that in the morning he would let him go after he told him all that was on his mind. He then gave Saul some assurance. The donkeys which were lost three days before had been found. Further, all that was desirable in Israel was for him and his father’s household (1 Samuel 9:17-20).

-Saul’s response showed humility and surprise, “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak to me in this way?” Samuel took Saul and his servant into the hall and gave them a place at the head of those who were invited to the meal, about 30 men were there. Samuel then instructed the cook to bring him the portion that he had given him earlier to set aside. Then the cook took up the leg with what was on it and presented it to Saul. He ate with Samuel that day. Later, when they came down from the high place into the city, Samuel spoke with Saul on the roof of where he would lodge for the night. The next day they arose early and Samuel continued the pivotal conversation as he was about to send them away back on their journey home. Saul and Samuel were on the street of the city strolling along. As they got down to the edge of the city, Samuel had Saul’s servant to go on ahead of them so that he could have a private talk with the future king. As Saul stood still, Samuel proclaimed the word of God to him, which is picked up in the next chapter (1 Samuel 9:21-27).

-*Application* The miraculous nature of the prophet of God is super evident here in this text. We too can hear from God for the extraordinary in this age of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. When was the last time the LORD revealed something that was supernatural and incredible? If these types of things aren’t happening, we probably need to tune in a little, or really a lot, better. God wants to reveal things to us that will blow our minds. Samuel’s faith was such that he knew that at the appointed time on the next day, God would bring about all that He promised. Do we know God’s Voice and trust Him like that?

Verse to Memorize: 1 Samuel 9:17

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 1 Samuel- Chapter 8

1 Samuel 8

-When Samuel was old, having completed a very successful time as judge in Israel, he appointed his sons as judges over Israel. This appears to be nepotism more than God’s call. Samuel had somehow failed to impart his Godly wisdom into his two boys, Joel and Abijah, who were aimlessly judging in Beersheba. These two boys turned aside from the righteous ways of their father by 1) accepting dishonest gain, 2) taking bribes, and 3) perverting justice. Despicable leadership led to unrest and a turning point in Israel’s history as the elders gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. At this time, they wanted a king to be appointed to them by Samuel to judge them “like all the other nations.” This idea displeased Samuel, and he took this issue before the LORD his God. Much to his surprise and chagrin, God’s Voice told the prophet, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them (1 Samuel 8:1-7).” God further explained His displeasure with their decisions. But, it was par for the course. They had committed deeds against Him, their Sovereign Master and Keeper of the Covenant, since the days He had brought them up from Egypt. His people, called by His Name, continuously forsook their God and served idols. Now, in Samuel’s generation, he was getting to know first-hand their unfaithful ways and petty insecurities. Therefore, God told His prophet to listen to their voice, but with a solemn warning and the proper procedure for the king that would be over them. God was at work in all of this for His salvation plan of Prophet, Priest, and ultimate King, but Israel would soon go through the tumults of bad kings (along with a few really good ones) and oppression due to their misguided desires (1 Samuel 8:8-9).

-Samuel faithfully relayed all the words of the LORD to the people who wanted an earthly king over a God appointed judge over their territory. The procedure of the king who would reign over them would:

1) take their sons and place them in his chariots for his own personal gain,

2) take their sons and put them among his horsemen, make their sons run before his chariots,

3) make them command troops by the thousands and of fifties (big and small),

4) make their sons do the plowing of his field,

5) make their sons reap his harvest,

6) make their sons make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots,

7) take their daughters for himself for perfumers, cooks, and bakers,

8) take the best of their fields, vineyards, and olive groves to give to his own servants,

9) take a tenth of their seed and vineyards to give to his own officers and servants,

10) take their male servants, female servants, and best of their young men and donkeys for his own work,

11) take a tenth of their flocks, and make the people his servants to the point that they cry out but to no avail because the LORD will not listen in that day.

“Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel (speaking for the LORD in fact)” and they maintained, “No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” Samuel repeated these words before the LORD that the people had belligerently spoken. Then the LORD spoke again to His prophet in the same manner, “Listen to their voice and appoint them a king.” Samuel dismissed the elders back to their own cities at this point (1 Samuel 8:10-22).

-*Application* Can we say end of an era? When things get corrupt and broken down, change seems to rule the day. Sometimes the change is a good thing. At other times change takes us from the proverbial frying pan into the fire if you know what I mean. Be careful to pay attention to the LORD’s Voice in these times of difficulties, and don’t try to fix your situation in our own strength. We definitely don’t want to go from bad to worse, and this can happen. Discernment is key here. God in His grace will always warn us when we’re about to take a misstep. Pay attention to the red flags. Avoid catastrophe if we can. God has a time for everything, and yes He is still in control no matter what we might decide.

Verse to Memorize: 1 Samuel 8:7

Bible Study Notes in 1 Samuel- Chapter 7

1 Samuel 7

-The men of Kiriath-jearim came and took the Ark of the LORD bringing it into the house of Abinadab, who lived on a hill. They consecrated his son, Eleazar, to keep the Ark. It remained there for a long time, 20 years in fact, while all of Israel “lamented after the LORD.” Their lamentation no doubt was due to the 50,000 plus people that had lost their lives from looking in the Ark illegally (1 Samuel 6:19-20; 7:1-2).

-Then, the prophet Samuel re-enters the scene. He speaks to the house of Israel, “If you return to the LORD with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the LORD and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:3).” The sons of Israel responded positively to this directive by removing all the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the pagan gods of the region, from among their midst. They indeed “served the LORD alone.” After this, Samuel directed them to gather all Israel to Mizpah, which was northeast of Kiriath-jearim and close to Ramah in the central hill country. There Samuel would pray for them. So, they gathered and drew water and poured it out before the LORD, and fasted in repentance for their sin that day. Thus, Samuel judged Israel at Mizpah with a holy righteousness and Godly love (1 Samuel 7:4-6).

-When the lords of the Philistines heard what was going on at Mizpah, they went up against their Israelite counterparts. Israel, the Bible claims, was afraid and pleaded with their prophet, Samuel, to keep praying to the LORD God without ceasing in intercession. This was the right heart. They desired salvation by the LORD from the distress that the Philistines threatened (1 Samuel 7:7-8).

-Samuel now offered up a suckling lamb, an innocent baby lamb, to the LORD as a whole burnt offering. He cried to God on behalf of his people, “and the LORD answered him.” As Samuel was offering the burnt sacrifice, the Philistines drew near for battle against Israel. But, in classic miraculous fashion, “the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel.” The men of war in Israel went out of Mizpah pursuing their enemies and striking them down as far as below Beth-car towards the west (1 Samuel 7:9-11).

-The end result saw Samuel taking a stone, setting it between Mizpah and Shen, and naming it “Ebenezer (the stone of help).” He proclaimed, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” As for the Philistines, they were subdued and did not come back anymore within the border of Israel. In fact, the Hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel, the righteous prophet who prayed for his people. The cities which the Philistines had taken from God’s people were restored from Ekron even to Gath. This created a temporary, but successful, peace between Israel and the Amorites. Israel had once again been delivered from its enemies (1 Samuel 7:12-14).

-Now Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. He would constantly check on his nation as a judge by going annually, like his father faithfully did, around on circuit to Bethel (between Shiloh and Mizpah in the hill country), Gilgal (east of Jericho by the Jordan River), and Mizpah. When he completed his duties, he would return to his home in Ramah, where he had built an altar to the LORD (1 Samuel 7:15-17).

-*Application* We can essentially see the greatness of Samuel, this righteous man of God, in this narrative. His intercession, authority, and faithfulness are quite evident as we meditate on his rule as a judge in God’s country. When he prayed, he got results. God was with him to deliver His people. We can experience this same type of ministry only through the sole power of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in our lives. His truth transforms and delivers us from our enemies. Seek the LORD with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Verse to Memorize: 1 Samuel 7:3

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 1 Samuel- Chapter 6

1 Samuel 6

-For seven months the Ark had been with the Philistines, when they wisely decided to send it back and away from their regions. They called for priests and diviners asking what the proper method might be to send it to its place and away from them. These individuals informed them if they were to send away the Ark of the God of Israel, not to send it empty, but rather put a guilt offering in it. This would ensure healing, and they would have the knowledge as to why His Hand had not been removed from them. The guilt offering consisted of five golden tumors representing the five lords of the Philistines from Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. The guilt offering also was to include five golden mice that ravaged their land. They were also instructed to give glory to the God of Israel with the hopeful expectation that perhaps He would ease His Hand from them, their gods, and their land (1 Samuel 6:1-5, 17). They were then warned not to harden their hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh had done when God severely dealt with them and released the captives that were His covenant people (1 Samuel 6:6).

-Instructions were further given by the priests and diviners to make a new cart and attach to this cart two milch cows who had never before had a yoke placed on them. The cows’ calves were to be separated and sent back home away from them. Then, they were to put the articles of gold, the guilt offering, in a box by the Ark’s side, which was to be placed on the new cart. When that was all set up, they were to send it away that it may go from them. The Philistines were told to “Watch, if it goes up by the way of its own territory to Beth-shemesh, then He (the LORD) has done this great evil. But if not, then we will know that it was not His Hand that struck us; it happened to us by chance (1 Samuel 6:7-9).” The natural thing for the cows to do would be to instinctively go towards their calves back home. It would be supernatural, an act of the Almighty, for them to go towards Beth-shemesh. The men of Philistia did everything prescribed, and released the cows with the cart, which held the Ark and the guilt offering. Ironically, they went straightway towards Beth-shemesh along the highway lowing as they went. They did not turn aside to the left or the right. The lords of the Philistines followed them with watchful eyes all the way to the border of Beth-shemesh now fully knowing this evil had come directly from a mighty God, the LORD of Israel (1 Samuel 6:10-12).

-Now when the people of Beth-shemesh, who were busy reaping their wheat harvest in the fields of the valley area, saw the Ark of the LORD coming back to them, they were extremely glad to see it. The cart came into the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite, and the cows stood there where there was a large stone. The Israelites broke down the cart and quickly made a burnt offering of the cows to the LORD as they rejoiced. The Levites took down the Ark of the LORD and the box that was with it, which held the articles of gold. These articles where placed on the large stone and more burnt offerings and sacrifices were made before the LORD that day. The lords of the Philistines observed all of this taking place, and returned to Ekron that very same day (1 Samuel 6:13-18).

-However, not all the news from this occurrence was positive in the land of Israel. God struck down some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they had illegally looked into the Ark of the LORD. God had clearly warned them in His Law not to ever do this (Numbers 4:20), but they presumed upon Yahweh to their detriment in their curiosity. 50,070 men were struck down by the LORD, which turned the rejoicing into mourning within the land. It was a great slaughter of magnitude proportions. This caused the men who were left in Beth-shemesh to declare, “Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God? And to whom shall He go up from us?” They decided to send messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, which was the closest major town north, to inform them that the Philistines had brought back the Ark of the LORD, and that they should come down and take it up to their city (1 Samuel 6:19-21).

-*Application* It is a dangerous thing to presume upon the LORD as we see in this instance. We should always take heed to His clear warnings. We cannot abuse the grace of God. Nothing happens by chance. This is another thing that we should glean from this episode. He is always in clear control, even of the animal kingdom, when He needs to make a point in fulfilling His appointed will.

Verse to Memorize: 1 Samuel 6:5

Friday, May 13, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 1 Samuel- Chapter 5

1 Samuel 5

-This chapter depicts what happened when the Philistines confiscated the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelis in the battle at Ebenezer (just to the east of modern day Tel Aviv). They brought it down south to Ashdod along the Mediterranean Coast (about half-way between modern day Tel Aviv and the northern border of the Gaza Strip, due west of Jerusalem). There they placed the Ark in the house of their god, Dagon, and sat it right beside their god. When they arose early the next morning, they found something very unique. Dagon had randomly fallen on his face to the ground before the Ark of the LORD. They picked up their idol god, and set him back in his proper spot, probably not thinking too much about it. But, when they arose early the next morning, “behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the Ark of the LORD. And the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off on the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him (1 Samuel 5:1-4).” This was really freaky to the priests of Dagon, and they decided to never enter that house of Dagon again up until at least the writing of this text (1 Samuel 5:5).

-“Now the Hand of the LORD was heavy on the Ashdodites, and He ravaged them and smote them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territories.” The men of Ashdod surmised that they could not keep this Ark among them, for it was destroying them somehow. In actuality, the Hand of God was severe upon them for disrupting His people and holy location in the tabernacle. His presence did not belong with the pagans, and this made Him angry to be set beside an idol of stone in false worship. This is a strong word to my Hindu and Buddhist brothers and sisters, or anyone else who believes in polytheism. In other words, there is an exclusive God of the Universe. A gathering of the minds occurred following this activity in the Philistine camp with the lords of them concluding that the Ark be brought eastward over to Gath (land of Goliath, 1 Samuel 17:4). This proved to be a mistake as well. As they brought the Ark to the city, God’s Hand was against them too. A great confusion came upon them the Bible states, and the LORD smote the men of the city, both old and young, with tumors once again as at Ashdod. This had to have been nasty and disgusting, a horrible scene. Then the Ark was moved to a third destination, this time to Ekron (just north of Gath) with the same results. Another gathering of all the lords of the Philistines quickly was convened, and they decided, “Send away the Ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, so that it will not kill us and our people.” Confusion, chaos, tumors, and death were prevailing, and the cry of the living in this pagan city went up to Heaven in their distress (1 Samuel 5:6-12).

-*Application* The power of God is real. His glory is beyond compare. We cannot manipulate Him or the things of Him to suit our own benefit. This is the lesson we can learn from this episode in the history of Israel and the Philistines.

Verse to Memorize: 1 Samuel 5:12

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 1 Samuel- Chapter 4

1 Samuel 4

-The book moves on in time to the point where Israel went out to meet the Philistines in battle towards the west. Israel camped beside Ebenezer; meanwhile, the Philistines made their camp in Aphek due west of the Israelite encampment. The Philistines drew up in battle array in anticipation of their clash with Israel. As the battle ensued, the Philistines were victorious against the Israelites killing about 4,000 men on the battlefield. This was a big shock to the army of Israel and their elders wondered what was going on. They asked, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines?” They concluded that they needed to go east to Shiloh and take the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD so that it may come and give them deliverance from the power of the enemy. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were still running things at the time with the Ark of the Covenant, and consented to bring the Ark to the Israeli camp. As it approached them at the camp, all Israel shouted to such a great extent that the earth resounded. Of course the Philistines heard the shouts and soon perceived that indeed the Ark of the Covenant, a feared object, was with the Israelites. The Philistines felt that God was in the camp of their enemy. They knew that nothing like this had actually happened before. They feared the woe upon them because of the LORD’s reputation in dismantling Egypt with His plagues and the wilderness miracles that were common knowledge in the region. However, they took courage and gathered their strength together to resist and fight. They had made the Israelites their slaves and did not want to become the slaves of Israel due to cowardness and fear. “So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent; and the slaughter was very great, for there fell of Israel 30,000 foot soldiers (1 Samuel 4:1-10).”

-The Ark of God was taken, and Hophni and Phinehas died in the conflict specifically as prophesied (1 Samuel 2:34). Now a man from the tribe of Benjamin ran from the battle line all the way to Shiloh that same day with torn clothes and dust on his head. As he came to the city, Eli was sitting on his seat by the road eagerly waiting and watching for any kind of news. He was trembling in his heart on account of the Ark of the Covenant being away from its proper spot in the holy of holies. The man gave his account first to men of the city, who immediately cried out in anguish. Eli didn’t initially know what was going on, and the man who ran from the battle shared with him the grim news. He specifically told Eli, “I am the one who came from the battle line. Indeed, I escaped, from the battle line today.” Eli responded, “How did things go, my son?” The bearer of the horrible news then said, “Israel has fled before the Philistines and there has also been a great slaughter among the people, and your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the Ark of God has been taken.” When the part about the Ark was mentioned, Eli fell off of his seat backwards beside the gate. His neck was broken and he died, “for he was old and heavy.” His 40-year reign as Israel’s judge had come to a disastrous close, but that was not all (1 Samuel 4:11-18).

-Eli’s daughter-in-law, Phinehas’s wife, was pregnant and on the verge of giving birth to a son. When she heard the distressing news that the Ark had been taken and her husband’s and father-in-law’s deaths, she kneeled down in anguish, gave birth to her son, then died in the pains of childbirth. The women who stood by her reassured her that she not be afraid, she was having a boy. But, she could not even answer or pay attention in her agony. All that she muttered before leaving the earth was to call the child’s name, Ichabod (no glory), because “the glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God was taken (1 Samuel 4:19-22).”

-*Application* Israel’s mistake was looking to an object, the Ark, rather than the LORD of the object. It was God’s presence they needed, not a box plated with gold as ornate and special as it was. This amounted to idolatry in a sense. They trusted the Ark, and negated the God of the Ark in their battle. Sin was indeed present, and God’s wrath came upon them in an overwhelming way because of it. The leadership was corrupt with Hophni and Phinehas and unwilling to take up the mantle of courage in the case of Eli. When sin begets a camp, tribe, or nation, we too can pronounce Ichabod over it. There is no glory in things done apart from God’s presence and will.

Verse to Memorize: 1 Samuel 4:21

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 1 Samuel- Chapter 3

1 Samuel 3

-As the young boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before the elderly Eli, whose eyesight by now was growing dim, there was a spiritual famine in the presence of the tabernacle. The word from the LORD was rare in those days, nearly 400 years since the miracles of the departure from Egypt and the Jordan crossing into the Promised Land. “Visions were infrequent (1 Samuel 1 3:1-2).” One night as Eli was lying down for the night just before the lamp of God went out and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was, the LORD began to call on His special servant, Samuel. The first call was undiscerned by the young boy, and he ran to Eli thinking it was him that was speaking. Eli told him he had been mistaken, and that he had not called him. This happened again as the LORD called Samuel’s name. So again Samuel arose and went to Eli thinking for sure this time his master had called him. But, Eli repeated that he had not called him. As of yet, he did not perceive what was going on, and Samuel had not yet known the Voice of the Living God. But, when it happened a third time, Eli discerned what was going on and instructed his young minister to say, “Speak, LORD (Yahweh), for Your servant is listening.” Therefore, Samuel went back to his place of sleep and rested. The Voice came a fourth time and stood before him and called as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” This time Samuel responded to the Voice of God as his mentor had instructed, “Speak, for Your servant is listening (1 Samuel 3:3-10).”

-The LORD said to Samuel, His young new prophet, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. In that day I will carry out against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them. Therefore, I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever (1 Samuel 3:11-14).” This must have petrified the young boy. He lay down until morning, and then he rose up to open the doors to the house of the LORD as usual. He was afraid to tell Eli what he had seen and heard. But, in his wisdom, Eli started the conversation by calling on the young boy to relate all that God had spoken to him. He warned him to tell all and not to hide anything, for this was the word of the LORD. He pronounced a curse on him of all, and even more, that had been spoken by God if anything was left out from the message. He wanted to know the entirety of the prophetic word. So Samuel obeyed and told him everything. He hid nothing from his master and mentor. To Eli’s credit, he responded in resignation, “It is the LORD; let Him do what seems good to Him.” “Thus Samuel grew and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fail.” Everywhere in Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, all knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the LORD. The radiance of the LORD was back in Shiloh by revelation of His word (1 Samuel 3:15-21).

-*Application* We also live in a time where the actual word from the LORD is rare. We are enduring a spiritual famine. We need real vision from the Almighty according to His Word and an obedient response like we see here in the passage. So many do not know how to actually hear the Voice of the LORD. We are in a sad state of apathy and ignorance to the things of God all too often. It should never be like this in the age of the Holy Spirit’s presence inside His true children. Too many times we have grieved and quenched the Spirit of the Living God in our own hearts (Ephesians 4:30, 1 Thessalonians 5:19). Pay attention; hear His Voice. Be open; He will speak. Then obey.

-Eli gives us some more application to process here. His response to God’s discipline and correction is admirable. Instead of pride and excuses, he humbly submitted because he realized that he had done wrong. His affections and priorities were tainting his ministry big time. We need to respond in this same way when the Holy Spirit disciplines and corrects us.

Verse to Memorize: 1 Samuel 3:19

Monday, May 9, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 1 Samuel- Chapter 2

1 Samuel 2

-As the second chapter begins, we hear Hannah’s song of thanksgiving that she expresses in a prayer. Her heart exalts in the LORD, her horn (qeren- a ray of light, strength, power) is exalted in the LORD, her mouth speaks boldly against her enemies, and she rejoices in her salvation. There is no comparison, she states, to the LORD. He is the Rock, the Fortifier, of His people. The boasting and arrogance of the proud will be no more, for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and He is the Judge of all things. He shatters the weapons of the enemy and girds the feeble with strength. The full and luxurious will want, but the hunger of the hungry will cease. The barren woman gives birth to seven children, but the one who has many children languishes. The LORD is the Controller of life and death. He brings down to Sheol (the underwold, place of the dead) and raises up (perhaps a Messianic prophecy here). The LORD makes poor and rich. He brings some low, but exalts others by His power. Those He blesses sit with nobles and inherit a seat of honor. “For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and He set the world on them.” He keeps His godly ones, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness. Not by might shall man prevail. Contention with the LORD will be shattered by Him. His thunder in the heavens signal His judgment of the earth, and He will give strength to His king (maybe King as in another Messianic reference). God will exalt the horn of His anointed (maybe Anointed as in Christ, 1 Samuel 2:1-10).

-Elkanah returned to his home at Ramah as the narrative starts back up in verse 11. Samuel, the gift of God and still a very young boy, remained at Shiloh ministering to the LORD before Eli the priest. “Now the sons of Eli were worthless (sons of Belial) men; they did not know the LORD (1 Samuel 2:12). They discredited the Law of Moses and his prescription given by God for the proper methods of sacrifice (see Leviticus 3:3-5; 6:8-30). In short, they were unlawfully taking portions of the sacrificed meat. This was rebellion and a lack of fear for the Almighty. In fact, they argued with those who tried to correct their waywardness, even threatening to take the materials by force if they didn’t get their way. “Thus the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD, for the men despised the offering of the LORD (1 Samuel 2:13-17).” Eli should have followed the law, which would have had them completely cut off (Numbers 15:22-31). Their sin was intentional.

-Now Samuel, on the other hand, was ministering before the LORD as a boy even wearing the linen ephod. His mom would bring him a homemade robe year to year as they came to visit on their yearly sacrifices in Shiloh. Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife with the prayer of more children in lieu of her dedication to give Samuel to the LORD. The LORD indeed visited Hannah, and she had three more sons and two more daughters as their older brother, Samuel, grew before the LORD (1 Samuel 2:18-21).

-Now Eli was very old, and he was aware of all that his sons had been doing as hypocrites to their position of priests. In all of Israel they were making a mockery of the priesthood, even laying with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting in sexual immorality (1 Samuel 2:22). Eli tried to confront them telling them of all he had heard reported to him. However, they would not listen to the voice of their father. Because of their rebellion, the LORD desired to put them to death. At the same time the boy Samuel, much like Jesus would later be described (Luke 2:52), was growing in stature and in favor with both the LORD and men. Then, an unnamed man of God came to Eli and prophesied. His message was clear, “Thus says the LORD.” He reminded Eli of who He was in bringing His children out of Egypt, out of bondage in Pharaoh’s house. He had revealed Himself to them and choose them of His people, from the tribe of Levi, to be His priests perpetually. He had given them His good and perfect Law for them to solemnly adhere. God was ticked. He rightly accused them of kicking at His sacrifice and offering, which made Eli guilty because he honored his sons above the LORD Almighty in excusing them. They had made themselves fat with the choicest of every offering of His people Israel. Therefore, He declared through this man of God that He would now “lightly esteem” these who did not deserve honor and recognition because of their wicked deeds. The days were coming when the LORD would break their strength and there would not be an old man in their house. They would see the distress of the LORD’s dwelling place in spite of all the good that God had done for them. They would be cut off, both Hophni and Phinehas, on the same day indeed they would die. Yet, not every man would be cut off from the altar. This would be too great a grief for the nation. God promised, “I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed always.” Everyone will come to this one and bow down to him for a piece of silver of loaf of bread, and they would humbly ask to be assigned to one of the priest’s offices so that they could have a piece of bread (1 Samuel 2:23-36). I interpret this section as having a then and future meaning prophetically in relation to the Messiah. Indeed, Samuel took over the mantle and reigned as a righteous judge during this period of corruption and intrigue. However, later we see Jesus Christ, from the tribe of Judah, doing the same things as the ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King for His people. Eli’s line was cut off in fulfillment of this prophecy literally in the time of Solomon when Abiathar was removed (1 Kings 2:26-27). Zadok was raised up with a line lasting perhaps as long as the time of Ezra. God always makes His necessary corrections to carry out His plan and purpose.

-*Application* Are there people in our lives that we honor above God like Eli did with his wayward boys? This is serious business because these become an idol to us. God expects us to fulfill His just and righteous ways on this earth. And, sometimes that means calling out and correcting those who are very close to us. This takes courage, strength, and most of all love. Don’t be an Eli in regards to putting up with junk. Be more like Hannah who exalted the LORD and found His power to be all-sufficient.

Verse to Memorize: 1 Samuel 2:35

Friday, May 6, 2016

Bible Study Notes in 1 Samuel- Introduction and Chapter 1

1 Samuel 1

-Introduction: The book of 1 Samuel serves the purpose in God’s plan of salvation for transitioning the nation of Israel from its original theocracy to the monarchy that was yearned for by the people during this particular time. Samuel, who probably wrote parts of this book along with perhaps the prophet Nathan and Gad (1 Chronicles 29:29), finds himself in the position of being Israel’s last judge. He is a major prophet in the nation and well respected as the text bears out. His dialog with the LORD is intimate, and this book explores God’s call on his life from even before his conception. 1 Samuel covers Israel’s first king, Saul, and the tribulations of this transition that did not go as smoothly as hoped for by the nation. It narrates the anointing of David as the future king and his battle with Goliath and the Philistines, which proved his courage and dependence on the Almighty. We then see the rising tension as King Saul remains the leader in a divided nation, which tests the young rising star, David, and culminates in Saul and his son’s downfall at Mount Gilboa according to the will of the LORD. These events take place somewhere between 1083 and 1010 B.C. as the time of change occurred in this great ancient society. Therefore, the themes of this work include but are certainly not limited to: Kingship, God’s sovereign control, Leadership, Obedience, Patience, and God’s faithfulness. The key verses of this book tell the ultimate story… “The LORD said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being King over them…Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them (1 Samuel 8:7-9).’”

(Ideas extracted from “New American Standard Bible: Life Application Study Bible.” Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 1995, pgs. 436-438)

-Chapter 1: God’s timing is impeccable even though sometimes we give up hope in certain situations. Hannah found herself in one of these hopeless conundrums as the LORD had closed up her womb for a number of years. She was one of two wives that Elkanah, the Ephraimite from the hill country of Ramathaim-zophim, had. Although she was the most loved, she had been held back from bearing a child to her husband, which was absolutely disdained in this ancient culture. Elkanah was a religious man who would yearly go up to worship and sacrifice to the LORD of hosts in Shiloh, where the tabernacle, which by now was being called a temple, was located. Eli was the presiding priest, and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, also were priests to the LORD there. At the appropriate time, Elkanah would give the sacrificed portions to Peninnah, his one wife, and all her sons and daughters, but to Hannah, his barren wife, he would give a double portion out of his love, and perhaps pity, for her (1 Samuel 1:1-5).

-Jealousy got the best of Peninnah in this situation, and she provoked her rival bitterly to provoke her. She had children, and Hannah had none. Therefore, she tortured Hannah year after year causing Hannah to weep and refrain from eating out of sadness. Elkanah tried to console her, but to no avail. He reassured her that he was better to her than ten sons, but the grief grew and grew each year. One year, as Hannah was greatly distressed, she prayed before the LORD her God weeping so bitterly that Eli, who happened to be sitting in the vicinity by the doorpost of the temple of the LORD, heard her and thought her to be drunk with wine. Hannah was making a personal vow before the LORD that if He would look on her “affliction” and “remember” His maidservant to give her a son, she would indeed give this boy back to the LORD all the days of his life as a man of God never to be touched by a razor on his head. Eli, not knowing the truth about what was going on, rebuked her, but soon realized that she was not drunk by their conversation. Hannah had related how she was simply “oppressed in spirit” and that she was pouring out her soul before her Creator in supplication. She begged Eli not to consider her a worthless woman because she had spoken out of her “great concern and provocation.” Eli in the end blessed her, “Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him.” This greatly encouraged Hannah and she went back on her way eating once again with renewed vigor and dreams. “Her face was no longer sad (1 Samuel 1:6-18).”

-The family arose early the next morning and worshipped before the LORD before returning to their house in Ramah. Shortly afterwards, Elkanah had relations with his wife, Hannah, and they conceived, just as she had prayed. The LORD remembered her, and in due time they had a little baby boy, who was named Samuel (Shĕmuw'el- heard of God). When the time came to go back up to Shiloh for their yearly worship, offering, and paying of vows, Hannah asked permission to refrain from going there until Samuel was weaned. When he was weaned, she promised to fulfill her commitment and give her boy to the LORD forever to stay with the priests at Shiloh under the care of Eli. Elkanah told her to do what seemed best to her with the stipulation that the LORD would confirm His word in the situation. When Samuel was weaned, Hannah took him up to Shiloh with a three-year-old bull and one ephah of flour and a jug of wine to be given to the house of the LORD. Although the child was young, he was given over to the priest, Eli, after slaughtering the bull according to the Law of Moses. Hannah renewed her conversation with Eli after this elapsed time, “Oh, my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you, praying to the LORD. For this boy I prayed, and the LORD has given me my petition which I asked of Him. So I have also dedicated him to the LORD; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the LORD.” The final sentence of the chapter claims that he (not sure if this was Eli or Samuel) then worshiped the LORD in that place (1 Samuel 1:19-28).

-*Application* Waiting, agony, provocation. We’ve all been in that place where we are more than willing to make a deal with the LORD to alleviate oppression. Hannah is not alone in her struggle. Patience is a virtue; God is at work even when we feel the pain of the meantime. Let’s talk about commitment, faithfulness to a call, and integrity. Hannah showed these things along with her husband as Samuel came along. Are we responding properly after God has blessed us with the things we’ve longed and prayed for? How about giving things we love so dearly up? We know that God will bless it when we do, but the cost can seem so high. Devote your life and your family to the LORD, and see how He will work out the process. Even if you have to look like an intoxicated fool, beg God for the desires that are on your heart and within His plan.

Verses to Memorize: 1 Samuel 1:27-28