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23rd March

1 Samuel 15-17; Psalm 82

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
23rd March

1 Samuel 15-17; Psalm 82

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. As were Israel, and so God allowed the Philistines to defeat the Israelites, killing Eli's sons leading to Eli's own death. Samuel stepped up to fill the gap and led the Israelites to repentance before defeating the Philistines, giving the Israelites a new era of peace.

But as Samuel got older, the Israelites did not want his sons leading them so they asked Samuel for a king. Samuel warned them that this king would oppress them but they weren't interested. So Samuel gives them what they want and appoints a young man named Saul to be king. Saul led the Israelites to defeat the Ammonites who were waging war against them. Everything was going well, and so Samuel officially retires, warning the Israelites to continue to be faithful and obedient to God.

Then yesterday we read as Saul showed his true colours. He offered sacrifices himself when he wasn't meant to and he made foolish and impulsive decisions that impacted his people negatively. In contrast, his son Jonathon proved himself to be wise and courageous.

1 Samuel 15-17

We start today with one last battle led by Saul. God, through Samuel, tells Saul to go up and destroy the Amalekites, leaving nothing alive. But Saul in is pride and arrogance interprets this instruction in his own way. He leads an army up and destroys the people of the Amalekites, but keeps all the cattle and livestock alive.

Samuel finds out what has happened and is furious. He makes an important point. God prefers obedience to sacrifice. Saul thought it would be better to do his own thing, and justified it by saying they could sacrifice some of the animals to God. But God didn't want the sacrifices. He wanted Saul to obey his commands.

Saul also shows his lack of leadership by refusing to take any responsibility for what has happened and instead blames the people. Samuel once again declares that God is going to take Saul's crown and give it to someone else. He then leaves and Saul and Samuel never meet again. Samuel, and by extension, God, have turned their backs on Saul. It's at this point we see the focus move away from Saul and towards the new king.

Samuel is busy having a bit of a pity party when God tells him to get up and get going. There's a new king to anoint. He gets to the house of Jesse and asks to see his sons. All the sons are tall and strong men, not unlike Saul.

Any of them would have made a good king. But God doesn't want someone who looks like a good king. He wants someone that acts like a good king.

Eventually, David, the youngest son who had been caring for the sheep, is brought forward. This is the one God wants to be king. Samuel anoints him in the same way he anointed Saul many years ago, and we see the spirit of God come upon him.

At that same moment, the spirit of God leaves Saul and is tormented by a spirit that only David can keep away. We see how completely the favour of God has now left Saul and come upon David.

Finally, we have the famous story of David and Goliath. The Philistines come out to fight the Israelites and send out their strongest man, a giant called Goliath, likely a descendant of one of the Nephilim. The reason is because of 1) his great height, and 2) we read in Joshua 11:22 that the Israelites had pushed the remaining descendants of the Nephilim, the Anakim, back into the lands of the Philistines.

The most logical person to fight a giant would be a giant of their own, and Saul was the tallest man in Israel at the time. Yet Saul refuses to fight, hoping someone else will do it for him. At this point, young David comes forth determined to defeat Goliath.

David's biggest frustration is that this man is insulting their God, and David is going to defend the honour of his God. Unlike Saul, whose confidence comes from his pride, David is confident that he can defeat Goliath because he trusts God is with him.

He first goes to Saul, who tries to make him fight wearing his armour. Instead, David insists he fights using the gifts God has given him with a sling. With God's help, David slays Goliath and the Israelites defeat the Philistines. Already we can see how much better a king David is than Saul. His obedience and faithfulness leads to his favour with God.

Psalm 82

This psalm is attributed to Asaph and is another psalm to fall into its own category. The psalm gives up a sneak peek at God holding court with his spiritual being, also known as the divine council.

This particular council seems to be made up of the spiritual beings he gave the different nations over to in Genesis 11. They were meant to lead these nations on God’s behalf, but were wicked instead. God is now bringing judgement on them.

Psalm 82:1 - God takes his place in the divine council

Psalm 82:2 - God questions the divine council

Psalm 82:3-4 - God reminds them of his command

Psalm 82:5 - The state of the earth, or the divine council

Psalm 82:6-7 - God pronounces judgement on the divine council

Psalm 82:8 - The psalmist asks God to take authority over the earth

The psalmist open with God taking his place amongst the ‘gods’. The Hebrew word is ‘elohim’ and is maybe better translated here as spiritual beings.

God asks this group of spiritual beings how long they will continue to lead unjustly? The word judge is used to describe what we would call leading. Much like how the judges of Israel were their leaders. These spiritual beings are allowing wickedness in the lands that they lead.

God then reminds these spiritual beings of the command he had given them. They are to give justice to those who need it. Maintain the rights of those who cannot defend themselves. Rescue those are who cannot rescue themselves.

Then Psalm 82:5 is a little unclear. There are two main interpretations. One is the God is describing the humans underneath these unjust spiritual beings. The humans are wandering around in darkness, not understanding rightly because they were not led rightly by their spiritual guardians.

The other interpretation is that this is God describing the spiritual beings. They have chosen their own path rather than God’s path. They’ve not understood what they were called to and now they walk about in darkness and have fractured creation in their acts. Either way, it’s not great for the earth or these spiritual beings.

So God pronounces judgement on them. Though they were once important beings in his council, given the title of ‘sons of the Most high’, God will strike them down and kill them like they are mortal humans. They will be no different from the wicked human kings who lead their people poorly and then die and are forgotten.

The psalmist then steps back in, and calls for God to once again lead the earth himself. May God reinherit all nations so that all nations are under him.

It’s worth mentioning here that some try to argue that this is a human council and God is judging leaders within Israel. The language doesn’t really support this view, and the judgement that they will die like men makes no sense if they are just men.

We’ve talked before about how God disinherited the nations, putting them under the responsibility of spiritual beings while focusing just on Israel himself. The psalm gives us a glimpse behind the curtain of went wrong, but also casts the vision of a time when all the earth will once again be led directly by God. Not just Israel.

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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