Autumn View Gardens is a community and sanctuary for people of faith where residents can deepen their relationship with God. When it comes to the Old Testament, few books are as packed with legendary Bible stories and characters as 1 Samuel. From Hannah to Samuel and Saul to David, 1 Samuel simultaneously marks the end of Israel’s theocratic era of judges and the beginning of monarchic reign, highlighting the ascent of Israel’s first kings. Here are some enlightening lessons found throughout the book to foster your spiritual growth in the Lord.
Year after year, Hannah tried to conceive a child with her husband Elkanah, a pious man who made an annual trip to the temple in Shiloh to worship and offer sacrifices to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:2-3). Despite being regularly ridiculed by her husband’s other wife, Peninnah, Hannah remained steadfast in her faith. In verses 9-11, she made a sacrifice to the Lord and prayed once more for a child.
Verse 10 tells us, “She was in the bitterness of the soul, and wept in anguish praying to the Lord.” She vowed that if God granted her a child, she would give the child right back to Him and bring him up in the path of godliness. God heard her pleas and answered with the conception of Samuel, followed by six more children.
Hannah didn’t just utilize prayer as a sacred refuge; she petitioned the Lord through it by promising to return to Him whatever He blessed her with. This completely vulnerable and desperately passionate expression of pure emotion is found in “prayer warriors” throughout Scripture. Hannah prayed as if God had already given her what she’d asked for and had the faith to preemptively promise to give it right back to Him.
God wasn’t pleased when the Israelites wanted a king “the same as all the other nations have” (1 Samuel 8:5). From the standpoint of limited human foresight, the concept made complete sense. Samuel had grown old and tired, and his sons Joel and Abijah were appointed to take his place as the acting judges of Israel. However, when it became obvious to the Hebrew elders that Samuel’s sons “did not walk in his ways” and were prone to “dishonest profiteering, taking bribes and perverting justice," they insisted on establishing a monarchic government in spite of Samuel’s warnings.
Ever since making His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17, God willed for His people to be different from all other nations. He was their protector and deliverer throughout their Egyptian enslavement and exodus, their desert wanderings and their conquest of Canaan. But yet again, Israel’s perpetual cycle of comparing themselves to other peoples — and losing faith in God in the process — led them down the rabbit hole of poor, shortsighted decision-making.
In your day-to-day life as a child of the Lord, perhaps you also find yourself distracted by social norms and the accepted values and attitudes in society. Strive to stay connected with your Creator through prayer and study of Scripture. Above all else, remember that these societal conditions and symptoms are temporary and fleeting in a life where God and His promises are eternal.
Over the course of his 42-year reign, King Saul’s leadership of Israel was rife with rash decisions, conniving behavior and paranoia. Although Saul was unaware that David had already been anointed by God as the next king over Israel, his suspicion of David inevitably grew alongside David’s popularity.
When Saul’s murderous pursuit of David brought him to the edge of the wilderness on the outskirts of En-gedi, Saul spotted a cave from the road and decided it was the ideal place for a bathroom break. Little did he know that David and his men were using this very cave as their hideout, but they’d gone a little farther into its dark recesses.
David sat calmly and quietly as the very man who’d pursued him this far into the wilderness entered, completely unaware and unprotected, into the very space David had chosen to escape him. In verse 4, David’s men are ready to seize the opportunity. “Look!” they tell him. “This is the day the Lord told you about: ‘I will hand your enemy over to you so you can do to him whatever you desire.’”
Perhaps anyone in a situation this fearful and desperate would have seen it as an opportunity to strike. After all, David had defeated Goliath with a single stone; Saul with his pants down (quite literally) would have been nothing, especially with 400 men hanging on his every order. But David understood that it wasn’t an issue of who killed who first. It was an issue of integrity.
Using this moment to strike would have been easy, and even justified, but David knew that taking advantage of such a moment was exactly the kind of thing that Saul would do. He refused to become that kind of man. Instead, in an attempt to prove a point to Saul, he sneaked up behind him and slyly cut off a corner of Saul’s robes. David spares Saul once again in a similar situation only two chapters later, taking his spear but never laying a finger on him.
Although David was far from perfect, behavior such as this earned him the title of “a man after God’s own heart.” Regardless of Saul’s morals (or lack thereof), David would never compromise his own. In the end, this very quality is what differentiated him from Saul both as a man and as a leader: He prioritized God’s way over his own.