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21st March

1 Samuel 9-12; Psalm 80

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
21st March

1 Samuel 9-12; Psalm 80

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in 1-2 Samuel we've read through the rise of Samuel. His mother, Hannah, was unable to have children, and every year when they went to Shiloh to worship at the tabernacle, she would pray to God for a son. She promised God that if he gave her a son, she would give that son back to God to serve him. Eventually, she gave birth to a son named Samuel and when he was old enough, gave him to the priest Eli to serve in the tabernacle.

We read as Samuel grew up in God's presence and grew in favour with God. But in contrast, Eli's own sons were disobedient and rebellious. They took offerings that were dedicated to God and ate them. They also slept with different women that would work at the tabernacle. Eli knew about this and rebuked them but never intervened or stopped them, so God curses Eli and his family for their disobedience. We read as Samuel heard directly from God and gains a reputation of being a prophet of God.

Then yesterday we saw the conflict between the Israelites and the Philistines. The Israelites tried to use the Ark of the Covenant as a weapon against the Philistines, failing to realise that God wasn't with them. The Philistines capture the Ark and took it home. In the battle, Eli's sons are killed and Eli dies upon hearing the news. But in Philistia, God started to knock over statues of their gods and give them all tumours. They had defeated the Israelites, but not their God. The Philistines sent the Ark back.

Samuel then led the people back to God, and together they defeated the Philistines. But as Samuel got older, the people didn't trust his sons to lead them, so they demanded a king. Samuel warned that this king would oppress them, but the people were adamant.

1 Samuel 9-12

1 Samuel 8 ended with Samuel agreeing to appoint a king over Israel. 1 Samuel 9 opens with a story about a young man, Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin.

His father had lost his donkeys and so sent Saul out to look for them. Three days into the search, Saul is ready to give up. His servant encourages him to travel a little further to meet with the man of God, Samuel. Maybe Samuel can tell them where the donkeys have gone.

Meanwhile, God has spoken to Samuel, telling him that he will meet a young man from the tribe of Benjamin and he will be the new king. When Saul finally meets Samuel, he has no idea who he is. Instead, he asked Samuel if he knew where the man of God was. In contrast, Samuel knows everything about Saul, who he is, why he's there, and what's going to happen in his future.

After eating with Saul, Samuel pulls him to one side and anoints him as king. He then tells Saul what's going to happen when he goes home. As Saul turns around to leave, God gives him a new heart. God prepares him for the new role.

And lo and behold, everything Samuel said came true. Saul ended up prophesying. He now knew God was going to be with him. Later, when his uncle asked him what happened, Saul wisely doesn't tell him too much. It would have been wrong for him to announce the fact that he was king before Samuel had the chance to do it publically.

Samuel then calls all the people together to announce Saul as king. But when the time comes, Saul is hiding. Not a great quality for a king. When they brought him out, they saw that he was head and shoulders above everyone else. This tallness was an attractive quality for kings during this time, and the people had asked for a king like the other nations have.

Saul's reign is soon put to the test when the Ammonites attack the town of Jabesh-gilead, threatening to poke out their eyes. Saul quickly rises to the situation, summoning the men of Israel together and organising them to win a decisive victory over the Ammonites.

In victory, some people call to have everyone who had badmouthed Saul at first killed. Instead, Saul declares this to be a moment of celebration of God, and that no one should be killed. At this point, we're meant to think, 'maybe this guy won't be too bad'.

Finally, Samuel retires. In his final speech, he reminds the people that they turned away from God the day they asked for a king to rule over them. To emphasise his point, God sent thunder and rain destroying some of their crops.

Samuel then encourages the people that they can still turn to God and be faithful to him and God will still support them and care for them. And so Samuel passes the reins over to Saul and steps back. We as the reader are left wondering. Is Saul going to be a good king? Is this the point where the people finally stick with being faithful to God? Is this where it finally all turns around?

Psalm 80

This psalm attributed to Asaph, one of king David’s musicians. It is ‘according to Lilies’ which was like the melody of another song that this psalm was to be sung to. It falls into the category of lament psalm.

Like the other laments of this third book of the psalm (Psalm 73-89) it’s a communal lament, most likely after the Israelites have been sacked by their enemies going by the reference to broken-down walls.

Psalm 80:1-3 - Request

Psalm 80:4-6 - Complaint

Psalm 80:7 - Request

Psalm 80:8-11 - Confidence in God

Psalm 80:12-13 - Complaint

Psalm 80:14-19 - Request

The psalmist calls to God to hear. He is described as the shepherd of Israel, enthroned on cherubim. The psalmist asked that God hear and save them. Then comes the line that is repeated three times in this psalm, “Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!” When God’s face shines, it’s a sign of his blessing and favour (see Number 6:25).

Then comes the complaint. God has been angry with his people and has ceased to provide for them as he has done in the past. Now it’s like all they have to drink or eat is their own tears. They are surrounded by their own neighbours who mock them. So the psalmist brings the same request. “Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!”

Next, the psalmist looks back at Israel’s history, describing Israel like a vine. God brought them out of Egypt. He created space for them and cleared it of their enemies so they could settle there. There in God’s support they were well established, protected by mountains, support by large trees, and watered by the sea and rivers.

Contrast that with where they are now. God had once established them in security. Why has he now allowed the security of their walls to be destroyed so that anyone could come and harm them? It’s like the vine that God has planted is now being uprooted by wild animals.

So the psalmist calls to God and makes his final requests. Turn O God and look up on the vine that you plant. The plant that God had grown strong has been burned down by enemies, so may God destroy them. May he support ‘the man of you right hand’ and ‘the son of man’, which are likely both reference to both a king and Israel itself.

If God restores his people, they will not turn from him again, and will instead call on him. And so the psalmist ends with that same request, “Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!”

While it’s not said explicitly, the psalmist recognises that God’s people are in this state because of their own poor choices. This is why they ‘then we shall not turn back from you’ (Psalm 80:18). Realising the mistake, the psalmist is turning back to God, asking him once again to have mercy on them and restore them, because he is a good shepherd.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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