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25th March

1 Samuel 21-24; Psalm 84

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
25th March

1 Samuel 21-24; Psalm 84

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 and 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.

But then 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. When God asked him to do something, he pretended he was doing it as God asked, but even in that he was disobedient.

So Samuel found a new king. A young shepherd boy, David, who may not have looked the part but had a good heart. When Samuel anointed him, the spirit of God left Saul and settled on David. We read as David, in faith, led the Israelites in victory over Goliath and the Philistines, showing God's favour on his life. Then yesterday we saw as David continued to grow in favour with the people and with Saul's children, while Saul became unhinged with jealousy wanting to kill David. Eventually, David fled from Saul court, fearing for his life.

1 Samuel 21-24

David is now on the run. He needs to keep away from Saul, but he also has a few men who are already on the run with him. His first stop is to the priest Ahimelech, from whom he acquires some food and the sword of Goliath.

He doesn't tell Ahimelech what is going on, presumably to protect his own back, but also because he doesn't want to drag Ahimelech into this situation more than he already has. The bread that he is given is normally meant to be eaten by only priests, but Ahimelech makes an exception for David and his men, choosing mercy over law.

From there David decides to flee the country, and so goes to the neighbouring nation of Gath. Unfortunately, the people of Gath have been enemies of the Israelites in the past, and they recognise David. To protect himself, David pretends to be mad, and so they send him away rather than killing him.

David reenters Israel, and his family comes to visit him. Not just his family, but also four hundred men were in desperate need of leadership. Scared for the safety of his family, David takes them to a different neighbouring nation, Moab, and then leaves them there to keep them safe.

Meanwhile, Saul is aware that David is on the run and tries to find him. He finds out that the priest Ahimelech helped David and immediately goes to interrogate him. David never told Ahimelech that he was on the run from Saul, and Ahimelech mentions this. He points out that David has always been a man of character and so why would Ahimelech think otherwise?

At this, Saul goes into a fit of rage and has all the priests killed. Once again, we get the contrast of Saul and David. On the one side, we have people declaring how great David is. On the other, we have Saul killing off the men of God. Things are in a bad way.

David then hears that some Philistines are attacking the town of Keilah. Before going forward, he asks God whether he should defend the town or not and God says to go and fight. For many, this might have seemed obvious, but David didn’t want to step out and do anything that God had not told him to do.

He goes up to protect the town, defeating the Philistines. Saul hears about this and decides to attack David while his people are trapped within the town. David again has the wisdom to ask God what to do, and God points out that Saul will come down, and the townspeople will hand David over.

So David and his men flee. Jonathon comes to visit him and the two renew their commitment. Saul continues to chase David for a while, and then just as he's about to catch David, he hears reports that the Philistines are attacking, so he has to retreat. It doesn't say it specifically, but we're meant to see God's hand in this, protecting David.

We then get perhaps one of my all time favourite Bible stories. David and his men are hiding in a cave. Saul, by chance, decides to use this same cave to relieve himself, unaware that David is just a few feet from him.

This is David's perfect opportunity. He would be perfectly justified in killing Saul. David had already been anointed as the rightful king, and everyone would agree it was in self-defence. But though he was well within his rights to kill Saul, David chooses to put his rights to one side and chooses to stick to his character. To be the most obedient and faithful that he can be.

He picks the godliest and most righteous action possible and spares Saul's life. But he also uses this as an opportunity to prove himself to Saul, and so cuts off a part of his garment without Saul realising. As Saul leaves the cave David jumps out and shows Saul that he could have killed him but chose to spare his life.

Saul is embarrassed because he finally realises how poorly he has treated David when David has only treated him well. He calls off the attack and goes home, leaving David alone.

Psalm 84

This psalm is attributed to the sons of Korah and falls into the category of praise psalm. It is likely a psalm that one would recite as they made pilgrimage towards Jerusalem. They are travelling long distances to get to the place where God’s presence resides and so they strengthen themselves on the journey by celebrating how good God’s presence will be when they get there.

Psalm 84:1-4 - Praise God for life in his presence

Psalm 84:5-8 - Blesses are those who trust in God

Psalm 84:9-12 - Praise God for life in his presence

The psalmist opens with praise for God’s dwelling place. They long to be in God’s presence and to sing his praise there. Even the smallest of animals have a place in God’s presence where they are kept safe and secure. Blessed is anyone who gets to spend time in God’s presence.

Then the psalmist moves to their second section of the psalm. Blessed are those whose strength, whose trust, is in God. They have their hearts set on Jerusalem.

Those whose strength is in God can go through the Valley of Baca, which was associated with weeping, and turn it into an oasis or provision and bounty. The Valley of Baca was likely a common stopping point for people on pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Those who put their trust in God go from strength to strength before appearing in Jerusalem ready to experience God’s presence first time. The psalmist asks that God hear the prayer, presumably to see them safely to Jerusalem.

The psalmist then prays for the king of Jerusalem. While not mentioned by name, the king is referred to as the shield of the people and God’s anointed. And then we’re back to God’s presence. A day in God’s presence is better than a thousand days anywhere else. The psalmist would much rather have the lowest rank in God’s house than dwell with wicked people.

God is the source of life and protection. He pours out blessing on those who live rightly. Those who trust in God are blessed.

The focus of this psalm is how good it is to dwell in God’s presence. The good news for us is that we don’t need to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to experience God’s presence. Instead, the presence of God lives in us through the Holy Spirit, and that same presence should cause us to praise just as the psalmist does.

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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