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Friday, April 20, 2012

Men of the Bible - Samuel, Saul, David and Solomon

Samuel, Saul, David and Solomon are a mixed bunch of men, with different personalities, different ambitions and different character traits. There is much to learn from these men in the Bible.

Below I seek to outline some of the main characteristics that define who they are. Who was Samuel? What was Saul's character? Who was King David? How did Solomon become so wise?
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SAMUEL

  • Samuel was dedicated to God at a very young age - Hannah (Samuel's mother) says in 1 Samuel 1:28, 'So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.'
  • Samuel heard from the Lord throughout his life. 1 Samuel 3:4 says, 'Then the Lord called Samuel'. The author of the book of Samuel notes that during these times visions and words directly from God were rare. Though Samuel began to hear from God.
  • Samuel was called by God. 1 Samuel 3:1-21 tells of Samuel hearing the Lord, and thinking it was the Priest Eli. After the third time, Eli finally says to Samuel, 'Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening"' (1 Sam 3:9).
  • He was a righteous man, who walked in the ways of the Lord. 1 Samuel 8:3 mentions that his sons did not walk in his ways, and thus were punished by the Lord, but Samuel was righteous before God.
  • Samuel communicates to the people of Israel a defence of his own integrity. He says, 'Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right.' They people of Israel reply to Samuel with, 'You have not cheated or oppressed us...' The people were affirming publicly Samuel's integrity.
  • Samuel would at times cry out to the Lord (1 Sam 15:11).
  • He may have had integrity and righteousness, but that did not make Samuel a push over! 1 Samuel 15:22-23 tells of Samuel's forthrightness towards Saul, after Saul disobeyed God. You could say that Samuel had a righteous anger at times.
  • When Samuel died, 'all Israel mourned for him' (1 Sam 28:3).

SAUL
  • Saul was physically tall and impressive. 1 Samuel 9:2 - 'Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.'
  • Samuel anointed Saul as 'ruler over my people Israel' (1 Sam 9:16). As 1 Samuel 10:1 notes, 'Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul's head and kissed him, saying, "Has not the LORD anointed you ruler over his inheritance?" '
  • The Spirit of God came upon Saul following his anointing. 'The Spirit of the LORD will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.' (1 Sam 10:6).
  • 1 Samuel 11:6 tells of Saul burning with anger. Was this righteous anger or an anger that meant Saul lacked good character? 1 Sam 18:8 says that Saul was very angry and he was jealous of David.
  • Saul was 30 years old when he became King of Israel. He then reigned over Israel for 42 years! (1 Sam 13:1).
  • At times Saul failed to follow God's commands.
    • 1 Samuel 13:11-14: "What have you done?" asked Samuel. Saul replied, "When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, I thought, 'Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD's favor.' So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering." "You have done a foolish thing," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command."   
  • Saul was not always wise. He told his army to not eat any food during battle, and made an oath to the Lord regarding this. When his son Jonathan ate some honey from the honeycomb, his father Saul wanted his executed. Well, they defeated the Philistines that day, but not without feeling absolutely exhausted, and with Jonathan having a close encounted with death! See 1 Samuel 14:25-30 and 1 Samuel 14:44-45.
  • So at one point he is willing to put his son Jonathan to death for eating honey, yet when the Lord commands him (for whatever reasons) to put to death the Amalekites he does not fully follow through on the command given (1 Sam 15:3, 1 Sam 15:9-11).
  • Is it true to say that Saul was proud and arrogant? 1 Samuel 15:12 reads that Saul went and set up a monument in his own honour. Something all great humble leaders do (sarcasm).
  • Interestingly he told Samuel he was afraid of the people (1 Sam 15:24). Was the monument more of a insecure way of attempting to continue to have the support of the people?
  • Now when Saul disobeyed God as mentioned above, the Spirit of God left him, and thus he became inflicted by the demonic (1 Sam 16:14). Saul tried to pin David to the wall a number of times with his spear (1 Sam 19:9). Anger, resentment, jealousy, etc. Saul's anger flared up at his son Jonathan too (1 Sam 20:30).
  • Saul was angry and jealous because of David, but the Bible says Saul was afraid of David (1 Sam 18:12). Saul was insecure?
  • Saul gradually lost the respect of the people of Israel - 'Is that why you have all conspired against me?' (1 Sam 22:8).
  • When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him (1 Sam 28:6).
  • Saul killed himself in battle (1 Sam 31:4).


DAVID
  • David was, according to a servant who knew of him, a brave man and a warrior. He was a good communicator and a fine-looking man (1 Sam 16:18).
  • The servant also noticed that, 'The Lord is with him'. How would the servant have known this? What characteristics of David's life shone through? How did he live in such a way that this person could discern that God was with him?
  • Samuel anoints David (1 Sam 16:13), and the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him in power.
  • The story of David and Goliath, you have this sense that David is eager and tenacious. His trust in God is greater than his fear of the giant.
  • Whatever Saul sent David to do, he did it so successfully, that Saul gave David a high rank in the army (1 Sam 18:5). 'In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him' (1 Sam 18:14)
  • David built loyalty amongst some. He developed a strong bond of mateship with Jonathan (1 Sam 20: 4).
  • David inquired of the Lord regularly (1 Sam 23:4).
  • David had an opportunity to kill Saul (1 Sam 24), but he cuts off a small portion of Saul's robe and becomes, 'conscience-stricken'.
  • Humility was a key characteristic of David's life. Even with Saul chasing him down wanting to kill him, David still called Saul, King, and continued to call himself a servant (1 Sam 26:18).
  • Even David questioned Yahweh's plan for him at times - 'One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul' (1 Sam 27:1). Though remember God had anointed him a long time ago by Samuel to become King. (David experiencing Doubt)
  • David was greatly stressed at one point, because people wanted to stone him (1 Sam 30:6), 'But David found strength in the Lord his God.'
  • David loved to worship God (undignified). The predominant writer of the Psalms.
  • Saul was the people's King and David was God's chosen King.

SOLOMON
  • Bathsheba gave birth to David's son - Solomon.
  • Solomon was God's appointed King of Israel (not his brother Adonijah) (1 Kings 1:11-14).
  • David said to Solomon, 'So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires. Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and whereever you go...' (1 Kings 2:2-4).
  • Solomon was known as a man of wisdom (1 Kings 2:9).
  • Solomon was young, when given the reigns of kingship. He prayed, 'So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong' (1 Kings 3:9).
  • 'God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore' (1 Kings 4:29).
  • Men would come from all around to hear Solomon's wisdom.
  • David had a vision, through the prophet Nathan to build a temple for Yahweh. Solomon built the temple.
    • David was the visionary
    • Solomon was the organiser/administrator
    • We see these differences in many people, take for instance William Booth (the founder of The Salvation Army) was then replaced by his son Bramwell Booth (William Booth was a visionary leader, and Bramwell Booth was a adminsitrative leader). Both are needed at various times.
  • After Solomon built the temple, the Lord said to him, 'As for you if you walk before me in integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever...' (1 Kings 9:4-5).
  • Solomon failed to 'finish strong'. 'The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. (1 Kings 11:9-11). The Lord tears away the Kingdom from his successors, and so we begin the topsy-turvy period of the Kings in the Bible.

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