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27th March

1 Samuel 28-31; Psalm 86

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
27th March

1 Samuel 28-31; Psalm 86

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in 1-2 Samuel we've read through the rise of Samuel, Saul, and David. Samuel was born to Hannah, who gave him over to the priest Eli to server 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 Saul 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. We saw as David continued to grow in favour with the people and with Saul's children, while Saul became unhinged by jealousy, wanting to kill David. Eventually, David fled from Saul's court, fearing for his life.

We read as David continued to grow in favour while on the run, gathering men around him who looked to him for leadership. And in it all, David was committed to being obedient, refusing to kill Saul when he had the chance. Yesterday we read as Samuel died, Saul tries again to kill David, and David flees to live outside of Israel with the Philistines.

1 Samuel 28-31

While David is away, living with the Philistines, the Philistines decide to attack Israel. Saul goes out with his army to do battle, but when he sees the Philistine army, he is terrified. Saul tries asking God what to do, but no matter what he tried, God doesn't answer him.

Instead, he turns to a medium, someone who speaks to the dead, to try to raise Samuel to ask him what to do. This behaviour is beyond foolish. First, Saul was the one to ban mediums from the land. Second, Saul and Samuel weren't on the best of terms when Samuel was alive. And third, if God won't speak to Saul himself, he definitely isn't going to speak to Saul through Samuel after Saul has used a medium, something God forbids.

Saul eventually finds a medium and persuades her to bring back Samuel. As predicted, Samuel just rebukes Saul, telling him what we already know. God has left Saul and is going to give his kingdom to David. He also adds that by the next day, Saul and his sons will be dead. Saul is distraught. The medium finally persuades him to eat a meal, and then he heads back off to the battle.

As the Philistines prepare for battle, Achish asks David to join them. However, when the other leaders of the Philistine army see David, they demand he is sent away. They know that he is famous in Israel for his ability in battle, and they're concerned he will rejoin the Israelites in battle when they least expect. Achish tries to defend David, but the Philistine leaders insist.

When Achish goes to tell David, we see something of David's wit and intelligence. He says to Achish, "What have you found in your servant from the day I entered your service until now, that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?” (1 Samuel 29:8). What's funny is we as readers are meant to realise that when David says 'my lord the king', he is referring to Saul. David is nothing but loyal. So while Achish thinks David would be true to the Philistines, David would always have switched sides to rejoin Israel in the battle.

So David and his men go back to their town, only to find it has been attacked by the Amalekites who have taken their wives and children. The men were furious, but David 'strengthened himself in the lord' (1 Samuel 30:6). He asked God what they should do and God tells him to go up and fight the Amalekites.

So David and his men go up, they defeat the Amalekites, rescue their wives and children, and get back not only all their stuff but all the stuff the Amalekites had looted from different places. The men decide to call all the livestock and cattle "David's loot". This is their way of recognising him as king.

What's interesting is that when Saul battled the Amalekites, he was disobedient to God and Samuel declared that God would one day take his crown from him and give it to someone else (1 Samuel 15). Now, many years later, David fights the Amalekite. He is obedient to God, and his men recognise him as king. David then demonstrates his generosity by first making sure that even the men that stayed behind got some of the spoils, and the by sending out gifts to some of the towns back in Judah.

Finally, Saul goes out to battle with the Philistines. It's not long before the Philistines kill his sons, and Saul himself is knocked down by an arrow. He asks his armour-bearer to kill him so the Philistines couldn't torture him, but his armour-bearer was too scared, so Saul fell on his own sword. When the Philistines finally find him, they behead his corpse, and tie his body to the walls of one of the towns for all to see.

It's a sad end to Saul's reign. No one, except the Philistines, is rejoicing. Those from the town of Jabesh-gilead risked their lives to get his body back and made sure to cremate him and bury his bones. They then mourn and fast for seven days. Here ends Israel's first king.

Psalm 86

This psalm is attributed to king David and falls into the category of lament psalm.

A) Psalm 86:1-4 - Prayer for deliverance

B) Psalm 86:5-6 - God’s Abounding steadfast love

C) Psalm 86:7 - My day of trouble

D) Psalm 86:8-10 - The nations glorify your name

E) Psalm 86:11 - Teach me to fear your name

D) Psalm 86:12-13 - I will glorify your name

C) Psalm 86:14 - My enemies surround me

B) Psalm 86:15 - God’s Abounding steadfast love

A) Psalm 86:16-17 - A prayer for strength and victory

The psalmist starts with a blend of request and complaint. They ask that God hear them because they are poor and needy. To be gracious to them, because they cry all day. They need God to lift their soul again.

Then the psalmist declares their trust in God’s steadfast love. They know that God is good and forgiving. He will hear the psalmist call for mercy and so the psalmist will call to God during their difficult times.

There are no other gods like Yahweh. All nations will eventually see this and worship God. They shall glorify God’s name. So the psalmist asks God to teach them his ways so they might fear God’s name.

At this, the psalm begins to reflect itself. Just as the nations will glorify God’s name, the psalmist with glorify God’s name for all that God has done for them. They mentioned before that they would call out to God during their day of trouble. Now they bring their complaint by specifying what that trouble is.

Wicked men are rising up to kill the psalmist. Men who do not trust in God. But while these men seek the psalmist’s life, God is a god of abounding love and faithfulness.

Now, confident in who God is, the psalmist moves from their initial prayer, which was for deliverance, to a prayer for strength. They ask God to be gracious and strengthen them. To show them favour and put their enemies to shame.

Other than the chiastic pattern where the psalm mirrors each section from beginning to end, this lament psalm is less structured than some we’ve looked at recently. They weave in and out of complaint, request, and declarations of trust.

But while the journey is winding, the end result is the same. The psalmist has processed through their struggles and once again comes to a place of confidence in who God is.

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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