First Samuel is one of my favorite books in the Old Testament. It includes some of the most riveting and dramatic stories in Scripture, such as David & Goliath, Saul’s attempts to kill David, and Saul’s visit to the witch of Endor.
As great as all these stories are, we only see their full significance when we fit them within the larger story of redemptive history. The book of 1 Samuel captures a crucial time in Israel’s history. The period of the Judges is coming to an end, and Israel is left without strong moral or spiritual leadership. The portrayal of the sins of Eli and his sons shows us that even the priesthood has become corrupted. When the Philistines defeat Israel and carry away the Ark of the Covenant, it is a physical representation of how the glory has departed from this nation that called Yahweh their God.
But in the midst of Israel’s downward spiral, God is at work to fill the leadership vacuum. The narrative of 1 Samuel follows each of the three leaders whom the Lord raises up: Samuel, Saul, and David. Each of these three men teaches us a lot about what spiritual leadership does and does not look like.
Ultimately, 1 Samuel reveals that what God’s people need is a greater trust in and submission to God Himself. In sending us His Son, Jesus, God provided the Prophet we need, the Priest we need, and the King we need. Even King David, a man after God’s own heart, could not be for Israel all that they needed. They needed the perfect, all-wise rule of the Messiah.
We too are a people under earthly leaders, appointed by God. We are called to pray for them. We are called to submit to their authority, wherever conscience will allow. But our hope and confidence must be reserved for the only King who can satisfy our hearts—King Jesus!