We are not ready for the Book of 1 Samuel until after we have read the Book of Judges. These days of the judges were dark days for the nation Israel. God had delivered the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. Due to their unbelief, the first generation of Israelites failed to enter the promised land. The second generation entered Canaan, and under the leadership of Joshua, did reasonably well. But after the death of Joshua, things began to fall apart. Israel went through repetitive cycles of blessing and discipline, the result of their obedience or rebellion. When Israel disobeyed, God gave the nation over to an oppressive enemy. When the Israelites repented and cried out to God, He sent a “judge” to deliver them. When that judge died, the people of Israel returned to their sin. The cycle seemed to be endless.
One might conclude from reading the Book of Judges that the problem was the absence of a king in Israel: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). In 1 Samuel, Israel will get her king. Saul, Israel’s first king, will be the kind of king the people want, and prove to be the king Israel deserves. David, Israel’s second king, will replace Saul. He is God’s kind of king, a man after God’s heart. 1 Samuel tells the story of fascinating people like Hannah and Samuel, like Saul and David. There is never a dull moment in this masterfully well written history. The book closes with the death of Saul, and thus the end of David’s flight from the hand of Saul, who seeks to kill him as an enemy.
While the people and events of 1 Samuel are from long ago and from far away, the struggles these men and women faced are the same as ours today, as we seek to live in a fallen world in a way that is pleasing to God. There are many ways in which we can identify with these ancient Israelites, and many lessons we can learn from their successes and failures. As we embark on our study, let us do so with a sense of expectation, praying that God may change us and work in our lives as He did in the lives of these men and women of old. May God use this book to make us men and women after His heart.