We’ve talked several times about how good the Israelites were at passing down stories and memories of the great things God had done for them. This time, after God sustains the Israelites against the Philistines, Samuel builds a monument called an “Ebenezer” to remind the Israelites of God’s continued faithfulness. What would make you build an Ebenezer?
1 Samuel 5:1-7:17:
- 1-5 – Dagon was a Philistine god and the Ark of the Covenant was placed in Dagon’s temple. The Dagon statue’s demise was clear that even though the Philistines defeated the Israelites, the God of Israel was greater.
- 6-4 – The ark of the Lord did not belong with the Philistines so God assured that it would be returned by plaguing any Philistine town that had it.
- 19 – Clearly the sins of these men who were struck down were great. The holiness of God and sinfulness of man cannot mix.
- 12-13 – An “Ebenezer” is a sign of remembrance. In the song, “Come Thou Fount”, in one of the later verses it says, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer.” When you want to remember a great thing God has done, it’s important to make a specific note or monument to remember his faithfulness.
- 5-14 – The Feeding of the 5000 is one of very few stories found in all four gospels. Palm Sunday is another.
- 15 – Jesus made many strategic moves to keep the people from forcing him into positions that weren’t God’s will. This is why he often withdraws and regularly told people not to reveal his identity when he performed miracles.
- We read the beginning of this psalm yesterday as it recounted God’s goodness to the Israelites in the wilderness. This second portion focuses on the unfaithfulness of the Israelites in the face of God’s goodness.
- 30 – Certainly a different Phinehas than Eli’s son who was so unfaithful.
- 33 – Someone who is truly wise is not influenced by the foolishness of others around him.
Today’s reading from 1 Samuel says, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days.” We see with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and others, God has conversations and advice for these people throughout their lives. But for a time, whether by God’s choice or because the Israelites had strayed so far from him, God was silent. God’s voice was so absent that Samuel didn’t recognize it when he called. Is it possible that we too have strayed far from God and don’t recognize his voice when he calls?
1 Samuel 2:22-4:22:
- 25 – Eli’s sons had sinned continually against God, choosing to sin directly against his laws, against the women who served God, and against the offerings given to God. Their hearts were hardened through their vast sins and then God chooses to harden them completely.
- 27-36 – God cuts off Eli’s family from the priesthood because of his son’s great sins. Though Eli didn’t sin to the extent of his sons, he also didn’t make a great effort to stop them.
- 1 – This means God was not speaking directly to people much at this time. This could be a choice by God or it could be because of Israel’s distance from God.
- 4 – Yet another biblical character who responds to God’s call with the faithful response, “Here I am.”
- 7 – Samuel was still young and hadn’t had a direct encounter with God so he was unable to recognize his voice. In John’s gospel Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd and because of that, the sheep know his voice.
- 9-10 – A beautiful, willing response.
- 11-15 – Eli raised Samuel so hearing such a negative report about Eli from God would be quite troubling to the young man. It is not surprising that he was scared to tell Eli.
- 19 – Samuel was eager to learn all he could from the Lord.
- 3-11 – The Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments, represented the presence of God. God could have caused the Israelites to defeat the Philistines but decided not to because of the sins of Hophni and Phinehas.
- 22 – The Ark of the Covenant being captured would be like Washington D.C. being taken over by our enemies. But it was even worse than that because it represented God no longer being in their presence.
- 25-29 – This passage tells us that there will be a resurrection for the dead and both believers and non-believers will be judged by Christ.
- 45-47 – The Jews based their holiness and worthiness on Moses’ law. When Jesus says it is Moses that will accuse them before God and not him, he is expressing that none of them have succeeded in meeting Moses’ standards and thus none can be justified before God.
- 4-5 – God was extremely gracious to his people, the Israelites and the psalmist is asking for inclusion on this treatment.
- 7-12 – Of all the great works God did for the Israelites, clearly the most significant to them was being rescued from Egypt. It is, far and away, the most referenced act of God throughout the Old Testament.
- This portion of the proverb contrasts peace and dissatisfaction. The former gives us life, while the other sucks it out of us.
Like in today’s reading from John, Jesus and the religious authorities were in a continual battle and a great deal of it revolved around priorities. The Pharisees and Sadducees knew God’s word and it said you could not work on the Sabbath. Jesus, on the other hand, believed the law’s importance and authority had limits, particularly in light of the suffering of another human. Today, Jesus prioritized a crippled man’s healing over the law. The religious authorities did not approve.
1 Samuel 1:1-2:21:
- 5 – It was not unusual for a man to abandon a barren wife.
- 1-8 – Note the similarities between these two women and Rachel and Leah. The less loved wife is able to bear children. Rivalry ensues. But notice how differently Hannah deals with her situation than Rachel.
- 8 – Elkanah sounds like a wonderful, loving man.
- 11 – Hannah is offering the son she hopes for up as a Nazirite, dedicated to the Lord’s service, like Samson.
- 19-20 – Obviously a huge answer to prayer! Note that in ancient Israelite culture, name’s had deep meaning. We’ve seen this a lot. Name’s were not given frivolously, but with great purpose and thought.
- 24-28 – What an incredibly difficult follow through! Hannah desperately wanted a son, but promised him to God’s service. She follows through with her promise and gives Samuel to the Lord. I’m not sure that I could do the same.
- 1-10 – The deep faith and commitment to God expressed in her prayer makes it a little more clear how she was able to keep her promise.
- 12-17 – The sons of Eli would have been priests as well and were not following the laws of how to sacrifice, but instead, taking the parts of the sacrifice that were meant for God.
- 2-9 – We often read these stories and think they’re neat or nice but fail to feel the weight of it. The man beside the pool had been an invalid for 38 years! 38 years is a long time to be sick or disabled! And then suddenly, with just a word, he is able to walk. That’s incredible!
- 9-17 – The religious leaders were very intent on keeping the law. Note that they did not rejoice that the crippled man was healed, they noticed his infraction of picking up his mat. We can tend to be pretty bad about that too. “Sin no more” is also an interesting statement because you wonder what sin of this man Jesus is referring to. He says the same thing to the woman at the well, but he was addressing a specific sin.
- The continuation of this Psalm tells more of the story of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites through their escape from Egypt and his provision for them in the desert. If you were an Israelite reading or hearing this, it would be a great reminder of the lengths to which God was willing to go to save you.
- Quick reactions, decisions, and emotions continue to be associated with folly.
Who is the most boring character in all of Scripture? Many people would say Samuel even though he is instrumental in the development of Israel and its leaders. If you’re looking for a scandal, deceit, and drama, Samuel is not your guy. He was faithful throughout his service, respected by his people, and followed God’s directions even when they were difficult. But here are a couple of things to watch for in this week of our readings in Samuel:
- Hannah, Samuel’s mother, prayed fervently for a child but promised to dedicate him to God
- Samuel was raised primarily by Eli the priest
- In a time when God didn’t speak much, he chose to speak to Samuel
- When the Israelites begged for a king, God told Samuel they weren’t rejecting Samuel, but God
- Samuel anointed Saul as the first King of Israel
This week in John, we’ll read the first of the 12 times Jesus says, “I am…”. This time he says, “I am the bread of life.” Though some of his “I am” statements are cryptic, he reveals himself, in part, through these statements. If our goal is to know and follow Jesus and to become more like him, these “I am” statements are crucial. Look for these throughout the rest of John’s gospel to try to piece together clues into who Jesus is and what he’s about.
Psalm 106, which we’ll read Monday and Tuesday, recounts God’s faithfulness in getting them out of Egypt and caring for them in the wilderness. It’s important to note that the writer of the psalm was not a slave in Egypt, did not witness the water’s part, and never wandered in the desert with Moses. But someone told him about it and those stories gave the writer faith that he shared with others. This is all the more reason that we must share our experiences with God with others.
We have now started our fifth month of reading! That means we are a third of the way through the Bible! That’s no small feat. Keep up the good work and let us know how your commitment to Scripture has impacted your life.