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In First Samuel, we begin to see God’s metanarrative (the narrative of the whole of Scripture) really take shape as God transitions His people from being a loose association of tribes under a common covenant to a unified kingdom under an eternal throne prepared for the Messiah. What was God doing through the Old Testament, and why is the 1 Samuel narrative so essential to Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxis? What was His point in taking so much time to provide so much history before the Word became flesh? Why is First Samuel relevant for our study, today?
Before we get into the context of 1 Samuel, I feel it necessary to explain what an expository commentary is. It is not a devotional commentary, in which little points of application are made without any substantive explanation of the text. It is not my mere musings about the discourses present in the narrative. An expository commentary is not mere exposition, only presenting information and background about a text. It is also not an academic commentary, which provides information about history, grammar, and presents different theories about textual interpretation and criticism. Just like an expository sermon explains and strives to see how a passage applies beginning with the text, not a topic, so this expository commentary seeks to explain the text and see how it applies.
The 69 chapters of this expository commentary were preached lectio continua at The Church at Sunsites in Pearce, Arizona. I am indebted to this congregation because of their desire to hear sermons built from Scripture rather than from topics that merely employ the Scriptures. The body of Christ at the Church at Sunsites sincerely desires to understand God’s word as He gave it and to see how it applies in their lives and the local church’s ministry. In my experience, there are many local church congregations that cannot handle this sort of preaching because they are far too interested in their own words—having teachers who will tickle their ears; There are many pastors who cannot preach through Scripture lectio continua because they are too concerned about their own agendas or about preaching in reaction to problems they see or what they feel. God bless the congregation that desires to hear His unadulterated word preached faithfully from week-to-week and understand what He has breathed onto paper for the good of the elect.
The key passage in 1 Samuel is 1 Samuel 8:7-9:
The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them.”
Context is so important because without context it becomes so easy for us to misread, misinterpret, and misrepresent any text in God’s Scripture. I take a grammatical-historical approach to interpretation. This historical context of the metanarrative takes shape leading up to 1 Samuel. In Genesis 1-11 we read about God creating all things for His own glory, pleasure, and affection. People rebelled, pursuing their own glory, pleasure, and affection. In Genesis 12-50 we read about God calling out a representative remnant from all the peoples of the earth for His own glory, pleasure, and affection. In the books of Exodus through Judges, we read about how this remnant maintained a pattern of rebellion, perpetually pursuing their own glory, pleasure, and affection.
In First Samuel, we will be reading together about the transition from the time of the judges to the time of the kings. We will read about how the people desired a king so that they could be like the other nations. God will establish a worldly king and then He will prepare Christ’s throne through David and David’s descendants.
First and Second Samuel are one unit. The major themes are God’s kingship, God’s providential guidance, God’s sovereign will and power, the establishing of God’s throne within His creation, and the redemption of God’s national people. First and Second Samuel is another dramatization of God’s redemptive plan, like Genesis 1-3 and the story of the Exodus. As we read, we will remember that Israel, through the Old Testament, was a pictorial prophecy, or a living parable, concerning the work of Christ. God would do more than merely provide a human king for the people. He would prove, again, the insufficiency of people and establish Christ’s throne in His created world.