1 Samuel Bible Study Lessons
“Runners, take your marks,” the starter barks his signal, and the crowd turns quiet attention to the athletes walking toward the line. “Get set” … in position now, muscles tense, nervously anticipating the sound of the gun. It resounds! And the race begins. In any contest, the start is important, but the finish is even more crucial. Often a front-runner will lose strength and fade to the middle of the pack. And there is the tragedy of the brilliant beginner who sets the pace fora time, but does not even finish. He quits the race burned out, exhausted, or injured.
First Samuel is a book of great beginnings … and tragic endings. It begins with Eli as high priest during the time of the judges. As a religious leader, Eli certainly must have begun his life with a close relationship to God. In his communication with Hannah, and in his training of her son Samuel, he demonstrated a clear understanding of God’s purposes and call (chapters 1; 3). But his life ended in ignominy as his sacrilegious sons were judged by God, and the sacred Ark of the Covenant fell into enemy hands (chapter 4). Eli’s death marked the decline of the influence of the priesthood and the rise of the prophets in Israel.
Samuel was dedicated to God’s service by his mother, Hannah. He became one of Israel’s greatest prophets. He was a man of prayer who finished the work of the judges, began the school of the prophets, and anointed Israel’s first kings. But even Samuel was not immune to finishing poorly. Like Eli’s family, Samuel’s sons turned away from God, taking bribes and perverting justice. The people rejected the leadership of the judges and priests and clamored for a king “like all the other nations have” (8:5).
Saul also started quickly. A striking figure, this handsome (9:2) and humble (9:21; 10:22) man was God’s choice as Israel’s first king (10:24). His early reign was marked by leadership (chapter 11) and bravery (14:46–48). But he disobeyed God (chapter 15), became jealous and paranoid (chapters 18–19), and finally had his kingship taken away from him by God (chapter 16). Saul’s life continued steadily downward. Obsessed with killing David (chapters 19–30), he consulted a medium (chapter 28) and finally committed suicide (chapter 31).
Among the events of Saul’s life stands another great beginner—David. A man who followed God (13:14; 16:7), David ministered to Saul (chapter 16), killed Goliath (chapter 17), and became a great warrior. But we’ll have to wait until the book of 2 Samuel to see how David finished.
As you read 1 Samuel, note the transition from theocracy to monarchy; exult in the classic stories of David and Goliath, David and Jonathan, David and Abigail; and watch the rise of the influence of the prophets. But in the midst of reading all the history and adventure, determine to run your race as God’s person from start to finish.
Life Application Bible Notes (Tyndale, 2007), 404.