Recently, I have been moved to read the book of 1 Samuel in the Bible, and it has important lessons for people who yearn for justice in troubled times. The following video by BibleProject presents a short, but well organized summary of the story.
1 and 2 Samuel were composed as one large story, but were divided due to scroll lengths at the time of writing. It opens with a woman named Hannah who could not bear children, until she offered her life to God. God answered her prayer, and she had a son named Samuel. Hannah’s song of thanks sets the tone for the rest of the book, that God punishes the arrogant and exalts the humble. It doesn’t always seem like it, but God works on his own schedule in ways we’re not aware of.
Samuel grew up to be a great prophet, and governed Israel under the early system of the Covenant. The Israelites were constantly under threat by neighboring nations, particularly the Philistines. Whenever the Israelites lost faith in God, their enemies would overtake them. Then the Israelites would repent and God would select a military leader to drive out those enemies. That was the main premise of the book of Judges. 1 Samuel records the transition from this system into Israel being ruled by kings.
The Israelites wanted a king so they could be like other nations. Samuel advised against it, listing the ways a king oppresses people if he has absolute power. In a way, Ancient Israel was history’s first constitutional republic, because the people were ruled by laws rather than other people. The Israelites continued in their demands, so God told Samuel they would have a king. He likely thought the people wouldn’t understand their mistake unless they experienced it themselves. God selected a man named Saul to be the first king.
At first, Saul looked like he would be ideal, since he was tall and powerful. But he had deep character flaws, and trusted his own judgement rather than God’s commandments. God, through Samuel, declared Saul would be replaced by a different king, “a man after God’s own heart.” That man would be David, who at the time was just a young shepherd boy from an average family.
The rest of the 1 Samuel describes the steady rise of David in the ranks of Saul’s army, and Saul’s envious attempts to eliminate David. When God selected David through Samuel, the scripture says God’s Spirit came onto David. This was the Holy Spirit, which is available to all of us today if we open ourselves to God. In the famous story of David and Goliath, David declared it would really be God who defeated the Philistine giant. David was simply God’s instrument. This trust in God’s Spirit is what made David so effective in his early life.
Saul eventually went mad and persecuted David. David was a fugitive on the run for a considerable time. Even when it seemed there was no way forward, David trusted God’s Spirit, and surprising opportunities presented themselves. The lesson for us today, when the world’s governments are blatantly corrupt, is to endure and be open minded. God will give us an escape route at the right time. Meanwhile, many people are experiencing government and corporate oppression firsthand, and waking up to their lies. God is also acting through other people behind the scenes, to prepare for the enemy’s collapse. God has a part for all of us to play, if we listen.