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Lesson One, The Book of Joshua

 

The events in the book of Joshua come straight after the events in Deuteronomy.  As we saw in booklet number 1, the book of Deuteronomy ended with the people of Israel encamped in the Plains of Moab ready to enter the Promised Land.  That was when Moses died and Joshua took over as leader of Israel.  The book of Joshua then describes how the people crossed the Jordan river to enter the Promised Land and how they began to invade it.  When we read this book, we need to remember that these are events that God had promised to Abraham many hundreds of years earlier.  God had said to Abraham, “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” (Gen. 15:16).  The Amorites are the people who lived in the land that had been promised to Abraham.  It is instructive for us to note that God keeps an account of the sins of people and nations, and when the measure of their sin reaches a certain point, then He brings judgement upon them.  He is kind and patient and waits until their sins have reached their full measure, He does not judge them immediately they sin.  However, we need to learn this lesson that God keeps a count of the sins of those who are unsaved and if they remain unsaved then the day will come when He will bring His judgement upon them.

 

The contents of the book of Joshua

 

The book of Joshua is divided into five parts.

 

1.  The Israelites prepare to cross the Jordan (chs. 1-2).  In these two chapters, we read of the Lord’s instructions to Joshua to be strong and courageous and of how Joshua prepared the people for the crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land.  We also read of how Joshua sent spies to the first city they would encounter, that of Jericho.  It is here that we read of Rahab who was an immoral woman living in Jericho, but who became a follower of the Lord and was an ancestress of Christ.

 

2.  The Israelites enter the Promised Land and begin to conquer it (chs. 3-12).  This section of the book has plenty of incidents in it.

 

 We read of how the city of Jericho fell when the people of Israel marched around it seven times (ch. 6).

 We read of Achan’s sin during the fall of Jericho (ch. 7).  Achan, a man of the tribe of Judah saw some valuable things in Jericho and coveted them and took them, even though the Lord had specifically forbidden the people of Israel from taking anything.  Because of this sin, the anger of God came upon the whole nation of Israel, and their army was defeated at the next battle at the city of Ai.

 We read of how Joshua’s troops fought Ai a second time and defeated them (ch. 8).

 We read of how a group of people called the Gibeonites deceived Joshua because Joshua did not consult the Lord, and entered into an agreement with the Israelites (ch. 9).

 We read of how five Amorite kings were defeated at the Battle of Gibeon (ch. 10).

 

This section of the book ends with a list of names of kings whom Joshua’s army defeated in the Promised Land.

 

3.  A list of land that remained to be taken (ch. 13).  This chapter in the middle of the book of Joshua is a very important chapter because the people had been expressly commanded by the Lord to clear the whole land and not to allow the Amorites to remain in any part of the land.  This passage (see also Judges 1:19;27-33) tells us that instead of removing all the idolatrous Amorites from the land, the children of Israel lived among them.  In time, the Israelites fell into the sin of idolatry because of the influence of the nations among whom they lived (see Judges 2:12).

 

4.  Division of the land (chs. 14-22).  Up to this point in their history, the people of Israel had all been together fighting their enemies.  Once they had conquered a large part of the Promised Land, Joshua began to make plans to distribute the land among the tribes of Israel and among the clans within each tribe.  This part of the book of Joshua sets the scene for much of the rest of the Old Testament, because the tribes remained in the part of the land they were allocated for many centuries.

 

5.  Joshua’s farewell and death (chs. 23-24).  In the last two chapters of the book we read of Joshua’s final exhortation to the people of Israel to throw away their idols and to serve the one true living God.  We read that the people promised to do this: “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord and serve other gods!” (Josh 24:16).  Joshua then renewed the covenant that they had made with the Lord and wrote down for the people all the decrees and laws that the Lord had given them (24:25).  Then Joshua died and was buried in the hill country of Ephraim.  It is a testimony to Joshua’s faithfulness to the Lord that throughout his lifetime Israel served the Lord (24:31).

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Joshua

 

The book of Joshua is one of the best known books in the Bible because it has so many famous stories like the destruction of Jericho and the sin of Achan.  The book has some very important lessons to teach us.

 

I.  Joshua teaches us some important lessons about God.

 

1.  In the first place, Joshua teaches us that God is faithful to His promises.  Many hundreds of years earlier God had promised Abraham that his descendants would come to the land of the Amorites and occupy it (Gen. 15:16).  Over those hundreds of years the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt and they would never have believed it that one day they will come into their own land and own it.  But God always keeps His promises, which is why the people were able to cross the River Jordan and enter the Promised Land.

 

2.  God is a God of grace.  In the book of Joshua we read of Rahab who lived in Jericho.  This woman was not of the people of Israel and she was an immoral woman.  But of all the people in Jericho she is the only one who was saved.  There must have been many people in Jericho who lived outwardly good, moral, decent lives, but they were all killed.  Rahab was saved and become an Israelite and eventually became an ancestress of Christ Himself.  This is a great work of the grace of God.  The only reason she was saved was because she had faith in God and acted upon that faith.  God was rich in grace and mercy towards her.

 

3.  God is holy and just.  In ch. 7 of Joshua we read of the sin of Achan in Jericho.  The people of Israel had been specifically instructed to keep away from all things in Jericho, and they had been told that if anyone brought any item from Jericho into the Israelite camp then the whole camp was liable to destruction (6:18).  But Achan saw some items which he coveted, so he took them and hid them in his tent.  He thought no one had seen him, but of course God sees all things and the Lord saw him take those items.  Then when Israel went to battle against the smaller city of Ai, they lost and 36 men died, the first time any Israelite had died in a battle since they had left Egypt more than 40 years earlier.  The reason for this defeat was made known to Joshua: “Israel has sinned, they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep” (7:11).  God is holy and just.  He will not allow His people to fall into sin like this without acting in justice.  Achan might have thought no one saw him, but God did.  And Achan thought that since he was one of the people of Israel he will not be punished, but again he was wrong.  At God’s command he and his whole family were stoned to death (7:24-25).

 

II.  Joshua teaches us about salvation.  We learn in this book two very important lessons about salvation.

 

1.  Salvation is by faith alone through grace alone.  This is seen clearly in the case of Rahab.  She was a prostitute who lived in Jericho, but she had faith in the living God.  She had heard of Him through His mighty acts when He rescued the Israelites from Egypt and she trusted Him alone (2:8-10).  She knew that the Israelites would occupy the land because that was the will of God (2:9).  Her faith in the living God saved her from death: “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient” (Heb. 11:31).

 

2.  Saving faith always produces proof to show that it is living and not dead.  The Bible tells us that there is living faith and there is dead faith.  The difference between these two is that living faith motivates a person to live a life of obedience and service to the Lord, whereas dead faith is when a person merely says with his mouth that he has faith, but there is no sign of it in his life (see James 2:14-26).   We know that Rahab’s faith was living faith because it inspired her and motivated her to work for the kingdom of God: “In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodgings to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?” (James 2:25).  Rahab believed in the one true living God and this faith motivated her to help the spies in their mission.

 

III.  Joshua teaches us about the Christian life.  This book has some very important lessons to teach us about how we are to live our lives here on earth.

 

1.  We are to be strong and courageous.  These were the instructions that God gave to Joshua when the people of Israel were about to enter the Promised Land: “Be strong and very courageous” (1:6).  The Christian life is a battle because like the people of Israel we have many enemies who want to destroy us and our faith, and like them we must engage in a battle against our enemies.  Those who give up when opposition and trials come are not fit for the kingdom of God, only those who will fight and overcome.

 

2.  We are to live by the word of God.  God said to Joshua, “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful” (1:7-8).

 

3.  We are to live the Christian life by faith in God.  When Joshua led the people of Israel into the Promised Land, they were a group of about 600,000 men who had to defeat many enemies and conquer the whole land.  This is something that is beyond such a group of people.  In their own strength they may be able to win one or two battles, but it is impossible to defeat all the kings we read about in chapters 11 and 12 without faith in God and without help from him.  The fall of Jericho is a good example of this.  Jericho was a mighty city with thick walls around it.  An army would have had to lay siege on this city for many months before they could defeat it.  But they trusted in the Lord and conquered it in a week.  As long as the people had faith in God they succeeded in their mission.

 

4.  We are to remember that the example of godly Christians is of great importance in the Christian life.  We read that Joshua was a faithful servant of the Lord who never departed from the Lord all his life.  Why was this?  We know from the Bible that Joshua was Moses’ aid (Ex. 24:13), and that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, Joshua was with him (Ex. 32:17).  It is quite clear that there was a very close relationship between Moses and Joshua, and that Joshua learned much from Moses’ example.  Also, in the book of Joshua we read these words, “Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel” (24:31).

 

These two events show us the importance of godly examples in the Christian life.  Joshua was a godly man because he had been influenced by Moses for many years.  The people of Israel were faithful to the Lord all the time that Joshua and the other elders of the nation were alive.  Their example and teaching kept the people faithful to the Lord and away from idolatry.  We learn from this how important it is for all Christians to live godly lives.  We are all examples to other Christians and we need to set a good and a godly example to them.

 

IV.  Joshua teaches us about sin and its effects.

 

In this book we read about the sin of Achan (ch. 7).  When we examine this passage carefully, we find a number of very important lessons about sin.

 

1.  We learn that very often sin will follow a certain pattern.  When Achan was asked to confess his sin, he said, “When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them” (7:21).  We see here the three steps that Achan took into sin: first he saw, then he coveted, and then he took.  These are the same three steps that Eve took when she fell into sin: “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and leasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it” (Gen. 3:6).  Again, these are the three steps that David took when he fell into sin with Bathsheba, he saw her, admired her and invited her to his palace (2 Sam. 11:3-4).

 

2.  We learn that God sees all sin.  Achan took some of the accursed things and hid them.  None of the people of Israel saw him do it, but God saw him.  The Bible tells us, “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good” (Prov. 15:3), and, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13).

 

3.  We learn that sin has very serious consequences for the people of God.  Because of Achan’s sin God judged the people of Israel.  They lost the Battle of Ai and 36 men who had not shared in the sin of Achan lost their lives.  This is a reminder to us that when we fall into sin there are consequences for us personally and also for the people of God.  When a member of a church falls into sin people speak badly about the whole church and about the kingdom of God.  They say things like, “These Christians are all hypocrites.”

 

Reading Joshua

 

The first 11 chapters of Joshua are easy to read because they are full of exciting stories.  After this, there are details of kings that Joshua defeated and how the land was distributed and these are perhaps not so easy to read.  However, they are all part of God’s word and we need to make sure we read them through.

Lesson Two, The Book of Judges

 

The book of Judges tells us the history of Israel from the time that Joshua died until the time that Samuel began his ministry.  Although there are only 21 chapters in this book it actually covers a period of history some 350 years.  Before we continue to look at Judges it may help you to remember the history of Israel up to the time of the Judges.

Timeline

The Contents of the book of Judges

 

The book of Judges records the history of Israel during the 350 years between the death of Joshua and the ministry of Samuel.  The book of Judges begins by reminding us that although Israel had been under a command to clear the whole of the Promised Land of the Amorites so that only the Israelites occupied the land, they in fact did not do this, but allowed many  of the Amorite tribes to remain in the land (see Judges 1:21-36).  God had said to them through Moses, “When the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally.  Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.  Do not intermarry with them.  Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods” (Deut. 7:2-4).

 

In the book of Judges, however, we find that the Israelites did not remove all the Amorite tribes and sometimes made a treaty with some of them (see Judges 1:22-26).  And so when Joshua and his generation died, “another generation grew up, which knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel” (2:10).  This next generation therefore did not continue to worship and serve the Lord, but worshipped idols.

 

The contents of this book are summarised in Judges 2:10-19.  When we read this passage, we find that during the time of Judges there was what we call a sin cycle.  The people of Israel fell into sin by worshipping idols (2:11), so the Lord judged them and punished them by selling them as slaves to their enemies (2:14-15).  The people of Israel therefore were in great hardship and groaned in their slavery (2:18).  Then the Lord had compassion on them and raised up judges who delivered the people out of their slavery (2:16).  But then the people refused to follow the Lord and returned to the worship of idols (2:17).  “Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them.  But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshipping them.  They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways” (2:18-20).

 

The book of Judges therefore can be summarised like this:

Cycle

The book of Judges is in three parts.

 

1.  Introduction (1:1-3:6).  In this part of the book we read of how Joshua died and how the generation after him did not know the Lord or His great works and so they fell into idolatry.  We also read of how the Lord used their enemies to judge and test them because of their unfaithfulness.

 

2.  The Judges of Israel (3:7-16:31).  In this section of the book we read of the men whom the Lord raised up as judges and deliverers for the people of Israel.

 

3.  Conclusion of the book (chs. 17-21).  The last five chapters of the book are very different in character to the rest of the book.  In this section we read of two really terrible sins and their consequences.  Firstly, there is the account of how the tribe of Dan worshipped idols and how they slaughtered mercilessly the inhabitants of Laish (chs. 17-18).  Then we have the account of a Levite and his concubine.  The writer of the book does not tell us when exactly these events occurred or why they are recorded in this book.  However, the book ends with these words, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit” (21:25), and it seems he wants us to see the depths of sin that people can fall to when they depart from the word of God and when they do not have Biblical leadership.

 

Lessons from Judges

 

There are several very important lessons that this book teaches us.

 

1.  Judges teaches us that the heart of man is sinful.

 

The book of Judges teaches us this very important lesson very clearly.  God redeemed the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and then led them to the Promised Land.  He gave them His law and He fought their battles for them and gave them victory.  When the people settled in this land, they had everything they could wish for: the word of God, the promises of God and the blessings of God upon them.  They were God’s covenant people who lived under His care, protection and blessing.  And yet, despite all this, they fell into sin straightaway after the death of Joshua, and continued to fall into sin for 350 years.  The very first generation after Joshua fell into idolatry.  If man’s heart had been pure and sinless then, given the conditions the Israelites had in the Promised Land, they would have lived pure and holy lives.  But the fact that they fell into sin straightaway and continued to fall into sin for 350 years is the clearest indication we have in the Bible that the heart of man is a heart of sin; it loves sin and seeks after sin and despises the word of God.

 

2.  Judges teaches us that God is gracious, faithful and patient.  For 350 years the people of Israel insulted God by rejecting His word and worshipping false gods.  They rejected His word and decided instead to worship idols.  But even then God did not forsake them and leave them.  They were His covenant people and His plan of salvation was going to be worked out through them.  Therefore God disciplines His people repeatedly in this book, but He does not reject them and cast them away.

 

3.  Judges teaches us that a person may have great gifts from God, but that does not necessarily mean he is godly and spiritual.  In this book we read that the Spirit of the Lord gave gifts to men like Gideon, Jephtha and Samson and that God used them mightily in the deliverance of His people from their enemies.  But none of these men was a godly man.  They were all very weak, sinful men whom the Spirit of God used for the deliverance of His people.  A person may have great gifts that he uses in the kingdom of God, but that does not mean he must be godly and a spiritual giant.  The gifts of God are given graciously, they are not deserved.

 

4.  Judges teaches us how important it is for us to teach the word of God to the next generation.  Moses had instructed the people of Israel to teach the commands of God: “Impress them on your children” (Deut. 6:6).  But it seems that in the time of Joshua this commandment was not obeyed, because we are told that after Joshua and his generation died out, “another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).  This is a most surprising statement.  How is it that a whole generation came up who knew nothing of the history of the Lord’s dealings with Israel?  How is it that they knew nothing about the deliverance from Egypt and the journey through the wilderness when God guided them and provided for them?  How is it they did not know the law of God that was given at Sinai?  The answer is they were not taught these things by their parents.  Our children do not learn the Bible automatically.  We must be diligent to teach them the Scriptures each day and to pray for them, otherwise they too will be completely ignorant of who God is and what He has done.

 

5.  Judges teaches us that once a nation departs from God and His word it sinks into the worst sin imaginable.  Throughout the book of Judges we are told that there was no king in Israel at that time and that every person did what was right in their own eyes.  Then in the last five chapters of this book, we get an indication of the kind of immorality that had come among the people of Israel.  The Danites were idolaters who made no secret of it, and they cruelly killed the people of Laish (see chs. 17-18).  We read also of how the people of Benjamin raped a young woman until she died (ch. 19).  These were things that were done openly among the people of God because they had departed from God and His word into idolatry.  When we leave the word of God, we continue to drift further and further into sin until we are completely corrupt and sinful.

 

Reading Judges

 

Judges is an easy book to read because it is full of exciting historical information.  However, it is also a spiritually distressing book to read because the people of God were in such serious sin over such a long period.  It is the kind of book we need to read to remind ourselves how gracious God is to His people and how dangerous a thing sin is.

Lesson Three, The Book of Ruth

 

The book of Ruth is only four chapters long but it is a very popular book.  Christians throughout the ages have loved to read this book and have found great comfort and encouragement from it.

 

The contents of this book

 

The book of Ruth is about two women, Naomi and Ruth, and a man, Boaz.  The story is a fairly simple one.  We are told that during the time of the Judges there was a very serious famine in Israel, and so a man called Elimelech left Israel and settled in Moab with his wife and two sons.  In time the two sons married Moabite women, but then Elimelech and both sons died, so that his wife Naomi was left with her two Moabite daughters-in-law.  When Naomi heard that the Lord was providing food for His people in Israel she decided to return there.  She asked her two daughters-in-law to return to their parents’ home.  One of them, Orpah, agreed, but Ruth refused, saying, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God my God” (1:16).  So Naomi returned to her home town of Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law Ruth.

 

In Bethlehem, Naomi had a piece of land that her family had owned.  When we read chapter 4 of Ruth it seems that there was a custom in Israel in those days that if a widow wanted to sell her piece of land then she must first offer it to her nearest relative.  It also seems that the custom was that if this man did buy that land, then the widow must become his wife if she was childless.  This was so that she could bear children who would inherit her first husband’s property.  This is why Boaz says to Naomi’s nearest relative, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi and from Ruth the Moabitess, you also acquire the dead man’s widow, in order to main the name of the dead with his property” (4:5).  So it would seem that the man who bought Naomi’s piece of land had also to take Ruth to be his wife.

 

When Naomi returned to Bethlehem, it was the time of the barley harvest.  The Law of Moses had instructed the Israelites that they must not harvest the whole field, but that they were to leave some of it for the poor and the alien (Lev. 19:9).  So Ruth went to the field of a man called Boaz to collect food for herself and Naomi.  Boaz was a kind and godly man who helped Ruth and Naomi, and in time, Boaz, as the kinsman redeemer bought Naomi’s land so that he could marry Ruth.

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Ruth

 

1.  The book of Ruth teaches us that God has His faithful people everywhere and at all times.  The book begins with the words, “In the days when the Judges ruled,” and we know that the days of the Judges were days of great sin when “everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25).  We know that at times like these when there is no rule of law in a country then the rich and the powerful are a law unto themselves and will do whatever they want to do and get away with it.  But in the book of Ruth we meet a wealthy land-owner called Boaz who, instead of using his position to mistreat and exploit people, is a godly man who follows the word of God diligently.  We find that when he comes to the farm he greets the workers, “The Lord be with you,” and they reply, “The Lord bless you!” (2:4).  We also find that he obeys the law of Moses in that he instructs his harvesters to leave some of the harvest for the poor (2:15).  We find that although he is a rich and powerful man, he is concerned about a poor widow like Ruth and has taken the trouble to find out all about her (2:11-12).  Then we find out that when he wants to marry Ruth, he does not just use his position to push the matter through, but he does everything carefully according to the Law of Moses. This shows us that God is able to save a wealthy powerful man and enable him to live a godly, law abiding life.

 

2.  The book of Ruth teaches us that it is God’s will that we should work.  When Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem, they were completely poor and had nothing.  But this does not mean that they could just beg from other people and do nothing themselves.  The Law of Moses made provision for the poor by commanding farmers to leave part of their harvest for the poor (Lev. 19:9), but this means, of course, that the poor were commanded to work for their food.  They were not to sit at home and wait for the rich to bring food to them, they were to go into the fields and gather food for themselves.  The reason why Ruth impressed Boaz in this book is because she was a hard worker.  Boaz’s men told him, “She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter” (2:7).

 

The Bible makes it clear that it is our duty to work and not to be lazy and to beg from others.  The apostle Paul wrote, “If a man shall not work, he shall not eat.  Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat” (1 Thess. 3:10-11).  It is the duty of every person to find work and to work for their living.  To be lazy and to depend upon others for our food is disobedience to God and His word.

 

3.  The book of Ruth teaches us that the Lord Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer.  Boaz teaches us something about the ministry of Christ as our Saviour because he is a type of Christ.  Now in the book of Ruth we notice that when Boaz redeemed the land in order to marry Ruth, two things happened at once: firstly, he redeemed Ruth out of poverty, and secondly he married Ruth.  The two things had to happen at the same time.  He could not simply redeem the land, he had to marry Ruth when he redeemed the land (see 4:5-6).  This means that Ruth came out of poverty to become his bride.  This teaches us a very important lesson about our salvation, that when the Lord Jesus saves us out of our sins, we become part of His bride and are expected then to be faithful to Him in seeking to live a life that pleases Him.  In recent years some Christians have taught that when a person is saved he receives Christ as Saviour but not as Lord.  They teach that later on he can accept Christ as his Lord and choose to obey Him.  But the book of Ruth teaches us that when Christ saves us we become part of His bride, and just as Ruth was expected to live a life of submission and obedience to Boaz, so we are expected to live a life of submission and obedience to Christ after we are saved.

 

4.  The book of Ruth teaches us that God’s plan of salvation includes people from all parts of the world.  God had promised Abraham that through him the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:3), and in the book of Ruth we see something of this.  Ruth was not of the nation of Israel but the Lord saved her and used her to look after Naomi in her old age.  Ruth was also an ancestress of King David and of Christ Himself.  This shows God’s kindness and grace towards the people of the nations.

Lesson Four: The book of 1 Samuel

 

The events in the book of 1 Samuel take over from the events in the book of Judges.  In this book we read of how Israel moved from the period of the Judges to the time when they began to have a king to rule over them.

 

The contents of the book of 1 Samuel

 

The book of 1 Samuel is in three parts:

 

1.  The ministry of Samuel (chapters 1-8).  In this part of the book we read of the birth, growth and work of Samuel.  Samuel was in effect the last of the Judges because he ruled over the nation of Israel until a king was appointed.  These eight chapters are full of very interesting stories for us to read.

 

We read of the birth and growth of Samuel in the temple of the Lord at Shiloh (chs. 1-2).

 

We read of how the people of Israel had fallen into great sin so that even the two sons of Eli the priest, Hophni and Phinehas were corrupt and immoral people (2:12-36).

 

We also read of how the people of Israel had left the worship of the one true living God and were engaged in superstition.  This is seen clearly when they took the Ark of the Covenant into a battle with the Philistines, thinking that merely taking the ark with them would give them victory, just as people today sleep with a Bible under the pillow thinking it will protect them from death in the night.  God judged the house of Eli and the nation of Israel when the Philistines defeated them and took the Ark of the Covenant from Israel (ch. 4).

 

We then read in this section of the book how the Philistines returned the Ark of the Covenant because the judgement of God fell upon them, and how Israel defeated them under Samuel’s leadership (chs. 5-7).

 

2.  The second part of this book deals with the time when Saul was king of Israel under the approval and guidance of God (chs. 9-15).  Saul was the first king of Israel and was appointed after the people insisted that they wanted a king over them just as the other nations.  In this part of the book we read of how Saul was appointed king of Israel (chs. 9-10), and how he established himself as the king of his nation (chs. 11-14).  In ch. 15 we read of how the Lord rejected Saul as king because Saul did not obey the Lord.  The Lord had commanded Saul to defeat the Amalekites and to destroy all their property.  Saul, however, gave in to pressure from his men and spared the sheep and cattle.  Then when Samuel confronted him, Saul claimed that the animals had been spared to sacrifice them to God (15:21).  Samuel’s words to Saul are words that all Christians need to take to heart: “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry” (15:22-23).  With these words, Saul was rejected by the Lord as king of Israel.

 

3.  The third part of this book deals with the war between Saul and David (16-31).  When Saul was rejected king over Israel, Samuel was instructed to anoint his successor, a shepherd called David from the town of Bethlehem.  Samuel anointed David as king, but Saul refused to give up the throne and continued as king of Israel even though the Lord had stopped speaking to him and had departed from him.  Saul became aware that David was the man God had chosen to be king, so Saul tried to kill David because he wanted his son Jonathan to succeed him (20:31).  In these chapters therefore we read of how David entered into Saul’s service and how he killed Goliath.  We read of how Saul’s jealousy of David grew until he become obsessed with the idea of killing David.  On several occasions Saul left the business of the state to take his army into the Judean desert to seek out David and to kill him.  However, the Lord protected David throughout this time.  It is interesting for us to note that some of David’s psalms were written during this time while he was on the run from Saul (see, for examples, Psalms 34, 52, 54 and 56).

 

After several years of being on the run, David and his band of men decided to flee Israelite territory and settle in the Philistine city of Gath, whose king Achish welcomed him because he thought that David had aligned himself with the Philistines and was now an enemy of his own people Israel (ch. 27).

 

The book of 1 Samuel opens with a battle between Israel and the Philistines at a place called Aphek (ch. 4), and it ends with another battle between the two nations, again at Aphek.  In both battles Israel was totally defeated.  Moreover, as a result of the first battle of Aphek, Israel’s leader Eli and his two sons died; as a result of the second battle of Aphek, Saul and his three sons died (31:8).

 

The battle recorded at the end of 1 Samuel was particularly brutal.  It is rare for a king to go into a battle knowing full well the outcome of that battle, but that is what happened to Saul.  He consulted Samuel, who had died, through a witch in Endor and knew before he even went into the battle that Israel would be defeated and he and his sons would die (28:19).

 

The book of 1 Samuel therefore ends with the defeat of Israel in a terrible war and the death of Saul and his sons.

 

Lessons from 1 Samuel

 

1 Samuel is a long book with lots of incidents in it.  It also has many very important lessons to teach us today.

 

1.  In the first place, this book teaches us how important it is to bring up our children in the fear of the Lord.  Eli, the priest in Israel, was a godly man in many ways, but he did not bring up his children well.  In time, his sons became very wicked and even then Eli’s rebuke to them was very mild (2:22-25), even though their sin was very serious in the sight of God (2:17).  We also read in this book that Samuel’s sons also dishonoured the Lord and caused the people of Israel to ask for a king.  There are many men today who are great servants of God in the church and in the world but not faithful to the commands of God in the home.  We need to take heed from Eli’s example: the sins of his sons destroyed his own house and brought calamity upon the nation of Israel.

 

2.  In the second place we learn that some of God’s greatest servants did not have a very promising start in life.  If we were to write a list of the great servants of God in the Old Testament, there is little doubt that Samuel would feature highly in our list.  He was an exceptionally godly man who served God with great distinction (12:1-5).  Yet when we look at the beginning of his life, we find that it was not very promising.  Samuel’s father had two wives and there was constant strife among them.  Then when he was young he was sent to the temple of the Lord at Shiloh where Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas were such wicked men.  Samuel became the leader of Israel at a time when the nation had suffered a shattering defeat against the Philistines and had lost the ark of the covenant.  Yet despite all these set-backs Samuel became a great leader in Israel and brought the nation back to God.  He is a lesson to us that one godly man who is determined to serve the Lord and live a holy life can do a huge amount in his land.

 

3.  In the third place we learn that it is God who chooses and appoints leaders for his people and not men.  The first two kings of Israel, Saul and David, were not the most obvious men for the task.  Indeed Samuel was convinced that one of Jesse’s older sons should succeed Saul until God reminded him that He looks at the heart and not on the outside.  It is a reminder to us that when we are looking for those who will lead the work of God here on earth we should not consider things like their education and position in society, but their walk with the Lord.

 

4.  In the fourth place, we learn that God values obedience more than anything else in His people.  The reason why Saul was rejected as king is because he did not obey God fully when he led the army of Israel into battle against the Amalekites.  He did destroy the people and their property but he did not destroy their animals, and for that act of disobedience he was rejected.  It shows us that what God requires from His people is not half-hearted obedience or partial obedience to His law, but complete obedience.  To rebel against Him is to commit great sin (15:23).

 

5.  Finally, we learn from this book that all things are in the hands of God alone.  At the end of the book, as another war against the Philistines looms, Saul consults Samuel to see what would happen.  He knew that God had all things in His hands and that He alone plans the future, which is why he wanted to hear from the Lord.  Samuel’s words were clear: Israel would lose and Saul and his sons would die.  And that, of course, is exactly what happened.  It is a reminder to us that our lives are in the hands of God.  He alone controls all things, and He rules the future.  He decides whether we stay here or whether we leave.  He alone is sovereign in all things.

 

Reading 1 Samuel

 

1 Samuel is one of the easier books in the Bible to read.  It is full of exciting and interesting history that grips us right from the beginning.  It is an important book because it tells us of the events after the time of the Judges and introduces us to David, one of the great characters of the Old Testament.

Lesson Five, The Book of 2 Samuel.

 

The book of 2 Samuel carries on Israel’s history from where 1 Samuel finished.  In the original Hebrew Bible 1 and 2 Samuel formed one book.  2 Samuel concentrates on the reign of Israel’s greatest king, David.

 

The contents of 2 Samuel

 

The book of 2 Samuel is in three parts.

 

1.  The period of division in Israel (chs. 1-4).

 

When Saul, king of Israel, died there was division among the people with regard to his successor.  The tribe of Judah anointed David their king in the city of Hebron (2:4).  But Abner, who had been the commander of Saul’s army took one of Saul’s sons, Ish-Bosheth and made him king over the rest of the tribes (2:9).  This state of division among the tribes of Israel continued for seven years during which time there was much tension and some fighting between David’s tribe of Judah and the tribes under Ish-Bosheth.  Finally, after seven years, Abner was killed by one of David’s men, and Ish-Bosheth was killed by some of his own men.  Then the tribes all came to David and anointed him king over all Israel (5:3).

 

2.  David as King of Israel, the good years (chs. 5-10).

 

After David became king over the whole nation, there was a golden period when he was a highly successful and godly king who enjoyed the favour of the Lord and the full support of his people.  This was the golden period in Israel’s history.  David never knew such success again, and indeed the whole nation never again knew such blessing from God and favour with their neighbouring nations.  During this period David established his capital at Jerusalem and brought the Ark of the Covenant there.  It was also during this period that God made a covenant with David when He promised David that his throne would be established forever (7:13).  This, of course, is the reason why the Lord Jesus, who is the eternal king over God’s people and over all creation was called Son of David.

 

3.  David as King of Israel, the years of trouble (chs. 11-24).

 

In chapter 11 of 2 Samuel we read of an incident which was the turning point in David’s kingship.  This is when he fell into terrible sin with Bathsheba and arranged the murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite.  So serious was this sin in the sight of God that it changed the entire course of David’s reign.  The years of peace, prosperity and blessing were largely over and there began a period of trouble and turmoil.  God said to David that great trouble would come to him because of his sin with Bathsheba: “Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house; Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you” (2 Sam. 12:10-11).

 

The rest of 2 Samuel then records for us the troubles that came upon David and his kingdom, starting with the rape of his daughter, Tamar, by one of his sons, Amnon; and then the murder of Amnon by his brother Absalom (ch. 13).  This was then followed by a rebellion in which Absalom chased his father David out of Jerusalem and became king of Israel.  War broke out between the men of David and the men loyal to his son Absalom in which Absalom was killed and David returned to the throne in Jerusalem (chs. 14-19).

 

David, however, did not have peace in Jerusalem.  He first had to quell another rebellion against his reign by a man called Sheba, and then had to tolerate in-fighting among his generals (ch. 20).  Also, the Philistines, who had been Israel’s enemies for decades arose once again to fight against David (ch. 21).  David’s last days were surrounded by trouble.  The judgement of God came upon Israel in a plague when 70,000 people died.  Finally, as David lay on his death-bed, his son Adonijah rebelled against him and tried to take the throne for himself.  David had to intervene personally to make sure that Solomon, his chosen man, should succeed him and not Adonijah.

 

Lessons from 2 Samuel

 

1.  In the first place, we learn from this book of the faithfulness of God.  God had instructed Samuel to anoint David king over Israel, but for many years after he was anointed, he was not king over the country.  For some of that time, he was on the run from Saul, and then after the death of Saul he was king over the tribe of Judah only for seven years.  But the promises of God are always sure and they never fail.  When the time was right, the people of Israel themselves came to David and anointed him king; he did not have to fight anyone to take the crown.  This shows us that God always keeps His promises and fulfils all that He has pledged to do.

 

2.  In the second place we learn how we as the people of God are to live here on earth.  In this book, we read that when David became king over all Israel and had control of Jerusalem, he did not give all his time and attention to the affairs of state such as waging war and building up an army.  Rather, David’s first two acts were to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and then to make plans for the temple of the Lord.  As a man after God’s own heart David knew that the people of God live in this world and work in this world, but their priority is the worship of their God.  This does not mean we do not work in this world: David was king in Israel.  But it means that our whole life is to be a life of worship to God.  Even in our workplace, we are to seek first to honour God and worship Him in the way we conduct ourselves.

 

3.  In the third place, we learn from this book about the power of sin.  David was a man after God’s own heart.  He loved the Lord and knew the Lord intimately, as his Psalms show.  But David fell into very serious sin with Bathsheba which led him to murder her husband to try and hide his actions.  This incident shows us two things.

 

(i) David’s fall shows us what a powerful thing sin is.  It is able to bring down the greatest of God’s servants.  No one can say that they are so strong spiritually that they can overcome any temptation.  The Bible says, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Cor. 10:12), and, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself, or you too may be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).  David’s experience is a lesson to us that even after we are saved, sin still is in us and can bring us down.  This is why we need to put to death the works of sin and to pursue holiness.

 

(ii) David’s fall shows us how terrible are the consequences of sin.  When we read 2 Samuel, we find that David was a godly man who loved to worship God and who had peace and prosperity in his kingship.  But then when he fell into sin with Bathsheba, the whole picture changed.  From that point onwards we never read of David at peace or prospering.  Rather we hear of trouble within his family and within his kingdom right up to the day he died.  There is an important lesson here for us that even if we are saved, sin can still come into our lives and can spoil our enjoyment of our salvation and it can interfere with our service of God.  Sin can never rob us of our salvation, but it can spoil our lives and sometimes the scars of sin can remain with us all our lives.

 

4.  Finally and most importantly, this book teaches us about Christ.  David is a type of Christ, by which we mean that when we look at the character and life of David we see something of our Saviour and His work.

 

(i) We learn that Christ is a mighty king.  Both before and after he became king, David faced a lot of opposition, but he was never defeated.  In the end he died as a great king in control of his kingdom.  This teaches us about the power of the Lord Jesus.  He is a much more powerful king than David.  He too faces much opposition from His enemies and at times it almost looks as if His will be a lost cause, just as it did with David.  But just as David conquered all his enemies, so the Lord Jesus will defeat all His enemies and will one day establish His great kingdom here on earth.

 

(ii) We learn that Christ is a compassionate king.  When we read 2 Samuel, we read of David’s loyalty and compassion to his people.  For instance, we read of how he refused to fight his fellow Israel and take up the kingship of the whole nation himself.  And we read of his very great kindness to Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth (chapter 9).  These are all things that are designed to teach us about our Lord and Saviour the Lord Jesus who is kind and compassionate and merciful.  He knows our every weakness and He stands ready ever to support us in our trials.

 

(iii) Christ leads us into greater knowledge of God.  David did not just rule Israel, he also wrote some of the best Psalms in the Bible.  It is in David’s Psalms that we learn things like the Lord who is our Shepherd (Ps. 23), about how the forgiveness of our sins brings us great joy and relief (Ps. 32), and how the Lord is the refuge and comfort of His people (Ps. 31).  David was raised up by God as a prophet (Acts 2:30) to teach us about God.  In the same way the Lord Jesus was a prophet who was sent from God not just to die for our sins, but also to reveal God the Father to us.

 

(iv) Christ is the eternal king.   When God made a covenant with David, He said to David, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:36).  This is a prophecy concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the one who inherits this promise of God because He is the Son of David.  This prophecy tells us that Christ’s kingdom is an eternal kingdom and He is the eternal king.  This is why in heaven we will sing, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).

 

Reading 2 Samuel

 

Like 1 Samuel is an easy book to read.  It is full of exciting history about David’s kingship and his works.  This is the book that describes in detail the life and work of David and therefore teaches us much about Christ.