Day 79 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue 1 Samuel and Psalms.
1 Samuel 4 – In the aftermath of Israel’s first defeat by the Philistines, the elders ask the right question, recognizing that the outcome of the battle is in the Lord’s hands. But they don’t wait for an answer. Instead, they try to force the Lord’s hand by bringing “the ark of the covenant” into battle with them. How easy it is to know that our security is in God’s hands and yet to try to secure our own safety by taking matters into our own hands. Israel’s manipulative efforts are entirely unsuccessful, and the ark of the covenant falls into Philistine hands. Soon enough, the Philistines themselves will feel the “weight” of the Lord’s hand.
The key word “weight” (“honor,” “glory”), introduced in 2:29–30, figures prominently in this section. Eli, after a lifetime of spiritual carelessness, dies under his own weight. And when hearing of the ark’s “capture” by the Philistines causes Eli’s daughter-in-law to give premature birth to a son, she names him “Ichabod” (“no honor/glory/weight”), explaining that the “weighty one” had departed. The theme of giving God due weight, which is ultimate weight, continues to build.
1 Samuel 5 – The Lord wastes no time in putting the chief “god” of the Philistines, Dagon, on his face and bringing the Philistines to their knees by a visitation of plague. Unable to bear the weight of God’s hand, the Philistines move the ark from city to city, always with the same result, “very great panic.” In a great reversal, what appeared to be a Philistine victory turns out to be a resounding defeat. The ark’s travels from city to city ultimately become a kind of victory march for Israel.
God can neither be manipulated by those who confess him nor managed by those who defy him.
How do we see in Jesus’ death and resurrection the greatest reversal of all time, as seeming defeat was turned to resounding victory? Hint: Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14.
Because God is personal, powerful, and providentially in charge, we must not judge by short-term appearances but trust in His revealed character and word (ultimately revealed in His covenant promises and provision of Jesus ). False gods—whether of the Egyptians (Exodus 12:12), of the Philistines, or of our own age—will all be judged and brought to nothing.
1 Samuel 6 – Through bitter experience, the Philistines learn that God is not to be trifled with, and they determine to “give glory [weight] to the God of Israel.” The Israelites, by contrast, apparently still need to learn this lesson, as they greet the Philistines’ return of the ark by looking upon it (or perhaps “inside it”)! Only a “great blow” brings them to their senses regarding their act of desecration and reminds them that it is no small thing to “stand before the Lord, this holy God.”
Even sincere actions can be presumptuous, if done in neglect of what God has explicitly said. Depending on our wisdom rather than God’s is yet another way in which we make human ability or acumen a substitute for trust in His provision.
Our calling as followers of Jesus is not merely to be sincere (cf. Proverbs 21:2) but to be attentive and obedient to God’s revealed Word (remember from Deuteronomy, “shema” means to listen and act upon what you hear), and to live our lives trusting the God of that Word.
How does Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection reveal that we can trust God in all matters? Hint: Romans 8:32.
1 Samuel 7 – This chapter bears the imprint of gospel principles. Samuel makes an appeal to the Israelites, who after 20 years of neglecting the Lord now show signs of wanting to return. Samuel exhorts the people to return with all their heart, to demonstrate their repentance by putting away false gods, and to serve God alone. Such full-hearted, active conversion is their only hope of salvation from all that threatens them.
The people respond in all sincerity, but instead of their situation immediately improving, circumstances get worse! Perhaps alarmed by the Israelite assembly at Mizpah, the Philistines come out in force with hostile intent.
There is a gospel reality to this part of the story. How many new believers, perhaps expecting immediate resolution to problems in their lives, discover that in the short term things get worse!
But also true to the gospel pattern, deliverance is forthcoming in God’s perfect timing, which can be delayed beyond human expectations.
Where do we see this same principle in the New Testament? Hint: 1 Thessalonians 1:9–10.
Helpless to save themselves, and led by Samuel, the people cast themselves on God for rescue, and he saves them. Samuel sets up a stone to mark the deliverance, and makes a pronouncement: “Till now the Lord has helped us.” This phrase not only reminds the people that their past deliverance has been by the Lord’s hand, but also that they can go forward in confidence as they continue to walk with him and depend upon him alone.
Looking at what Jesus has done, how much more can believers today say this very thing?
1 Samuel 8 – Against the backdrop of chapter 7’s description of the Lord’s deliverance, chapter 8 comes as a shock. “Appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations” is the elders’ demand to Samuel. In actual time, this episode did not immediately follow the events of chapter 7—Samuel by now is “old”—but in “narrative time” the immediate juxtaposition of the two chapters raises eyebrows.
How can the people of God, who have experienced his deliverance, seek security in lesser powers like human kings?
The elders offer reasons: Samuel is old, and his sons and successors are corrupt, but these are not the real issues. Samuel hears their request for a “king to judge us” and, as Israel’s “judge,” feels personally affronted. The actual offence, though, is much more serious. God tells Samuel, “they have rejected Me from being king over them.”
Such is the tendency of the human heart, to seek safety and security in governments, bank accounts, human relationships, insurance policies, health plans—all kinds of things that can never ultimately deliver.
Where is the only place true security can be found? Hint: Romans 8:31–39.
The gospel call is always to resist becoming conformed to worldly thinking and to be transformed in our thinking and living (Romans 12:2) by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:5–6).
How do we experience true life and peace? Hint: Romans 8:6.
Psalm 79 – Confronted with a world broken because of relational distress with God and one another, every believer will eventually exclaim, “How long, O Lord?” Eventually God did restore Israel’s temple that had been defiled by the nation’s enemies, but not before He showed His prophets that His redemptive plan transcended that earthly structure (Ephesians 2:18–22). One day God Himself would come to earth to dwell among His people not in a building but in a body (John 1:14).
In the meantime, Israel was not prepared for God to answer her prayer for righteous vindication by sending judgment on unbelieving Israel itself (Luke 12:47–48). That drives Asaph to a prayer for atonement. Though he cannot envision how God is going to answer, he prays to the only One who can offer hope.
How does God provide His final answer to this prayer? Hint: 1 John 4:10.
In desperate times, godly people must plead for God to glorify Himself. Asaph is so abandoned to the glory of God that he prays that even forgiveness of sins would be a reflection of God’s greatness.
Asaph’s ultimate “leverage” in his prayer is to remind God of His love for His people. But of course God does not need reminding; we need reminding of God’s regard for us.
We are His inheritance (Colossians 1:12), His holy temple (1 Peter 2:4), His dignified servants (1 Peter 2:16), His chosen people (1 Thessalonians 1:4), and His sheep (John 10:1–17)—all supremely so for those in Jesus.
How does this reminder strengthen you today?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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