This week's Book Review was on 1 Samuel 1-6. In our Tuesday morning Bible study, we are on 2 Kings 10-11. I had a hard time getting into going back to 1 Samuel. It's kind of like going back to the beginning of a book and reading it when you are already 3/4 of the way through.
I did finally read it. Once. I also scanned it a few times, and read passages here and there.
I was dreading writing this book review, because what came out to me was the judgment of God. Every time I read God's word, something different pops out--His mercy, His power, His sovereignty, His love. Well, this week, in this passage, it was His judgment. Which was not exactly what I was hoping for. Perhaps it is a warning. Perhaps I am in a dangerous spiritual place.
The verse that really hit me was 1 Samuel 2:25 where Eli was warning his sons not to sin against the Lord: " 'If a man sins against another man, God can intercede for him, but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?' But they would not listen to their father, since the Lord intended to kill them." Did you get that? It implies that the Lord actually hindered them from listening to their father, because He had already intended to kill them.
I guess this jumped out at me because I had been haunted by the verse in Jude last week that talked about how God had destined certain evil men for destruction (designated them for judgment). 1 Samuel 2:25 reminded me of Jude 4. How eerie. And, both verses talk about people who are supposedly spiritual leaders.
I spent a lot of time last week feeling bad about myself for dwelling on this. But every time I went back to 1 Samuel 1-6, another frightening thing popped up. How about the prophesy that God gave Samuel to take back to Eli? We know the story of how Hannah prayed for a baby and God granted her request. We know the story of how God called to the boy Samuel in an audible voice in the tabernacle as he lay sleeping. But how often do we read on and see that Samuel had to go back to Eli and tell him that his entire line was going to be wiped out? Did you notice 2:14, where God told Samuel that the sins of Eli's family will never be wiped out by either sacrifice or offering? That is a very frightening and solemn threat.
The recurring talk of blood sacrifices also seemed more significant to me than they have during other times when I've read this passage. Over and over in these six chapters, we read about animals being sacrificed. This reminds us, in our day, that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). Of course, we know that Jesus' perfect blood paid the price for every sin, and we no longer have to go through the symbolic ritual of killing animals. The real sacrifice has been made, and it is finished, praise be to Jesus.
Speaking of Jesus, I was struck by Hannah's prayer--it reminded me of Mary's magnificat (in Luke 1). The lowly have been lifted up, the proud are brought low. I was also struck by 1 Samuel 2:26, "By contrast, the boy Samuel grew in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men." It reminded me of Luke 2:52, "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people."
It became clear to me what a "type of Christ" Samuel was, a foretaste of the Perfect One to come, a shadow of the Promise. In the midst of a sinful and depraved people who needed to kill animals constantly because of all their sins, and who couldn't even go through the sacrificial process itself without sinning in additional and astonishing ways (2:12-17), God raised up Samuel to stand in the gap and minister to His people. Samuel brought the people back to a knowledge of the Truth: "Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let nothing he said prove false. All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a confirmed prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear in Shiloh, because there He revealed Himself to Samuel by His word. And Samuel's words came to all Israel." (Also, we didn't get to chapter 7, but there it explains how Samuel worked to bring God's word to the people: "Every year he would go on a circuit to Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpah and would judge Israel at all these locations. Then he would return to Ramah because his home was there, he judged Israel there, and he had built an altar to the Lord there." 7:16-17)
After pondering these chapters,
- I am thankful that Jesus died for my sins and we don't have to kill animals anymore
- I am sobered by the thought of the judgment of God, and how it is impending for all who are not covered by the blood of Jesus.
- I am thankful that Jesus not only brought us the word of God, He is the Word of God (John 1), and although He will sit in the seat of judgment and judge all the nations on the Final Day, I do not need to be afraid, because I belong to Him, I am in Him , and He is in me.
Another passage that I read this week was Psalm 130, and it seems to go along with what God was showing me in 1 Samuel.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.
In Jesus we have forgiveness for sins. Do we realize what a marvelous thing this is?