BOOK 2: PSALM 59 OF 72 – Wronged but Righteous

We live in a world where the good Samaritans have been uprooted by the sniggering Pharisees.  How often does one hear that they’ve been wronged; that they are innocent, and their persecutors did not receive their just deserts; that they have worked hard, accumulated tears, sweat, and blood, but receive an imbalance of appreciation or reward.

Whilst 1 Samuel 19-20 shows us the narrative of Saul’s persecution of David, Psalm 59 helps us peer into David’s heart.  For there, we find the turmoil of the king-in-the-making, of the man after God’s own heart.  What we expect is a man who exudes continual confidence; whose gravitas precedes before him; who destroyed Goliath with his wit and not his brawn.  Instead, we find a man incredibly insecure; a man who pines for justice as he has been unjustly dealt with; a man who is not confident to take matters into his own hand, but rather to leave it in His.

Saul has left himself open to a harmful spirit from the Lord.  If not for Jonathan’s reminders, he would have pursued his passions to destroy David.  David describes him, and his men, as dogs howling and prowling about the city, bellowing with their mouths, lying in wait for David’s life, to stir up strife against him.  The enemies whom David faced are born of the same deceiver whom Jesus destroyed; and the enemies we face today are constantly deceived by the spirits of this world, than by the Holy Spirit Who breathes life through us.

That is why David can proclaim that the Lord is his Strength; that God is his fortress; that He will let David look in triumph on his enemies.  How can a howling, growling dog, a prowling lion, a hungry beast who wanders about for food, even scar the high towers of God’s temple?  We triumph because He is much larger than we perceive Him to be; and yet our sights are often on the dogs and lions than the unshakeable and unbreakable Rock we stand on.

David prays that his enemies are consumed by their own wrath; and indeed, that is what God allows, for those who do not stand under the cross; they are, as John said, already condemned: John 3:16-18.

 

Do we not need to restore our perspectives to this, daily?  Are not our eyes and our sight so easily manipulated by the circumstances that surround us?  This psalm is a firm reminder that, even a faithful shepherd like David is easily discouraged, describing to Jonathan that he is but one step away from death: 1 Samuel 20:3.  Yet, turning around, David realises that he need not fear death at all, because Jesus has conquered death.  David can now find strength – even strength in the face of death – that he can sing in the day of his distress.

These are not easy words for David to preach.  He was not a man who merely philosophised the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, and that he should somehow force himself to appreciate that God is his refuge.  No – he is a man who, like Jacob, wrestled with Jesus to be blessed.  David, too, is struggling here with the LORD; and by the end of this psalm, he is blessed and remembers that this Strength and towering fortress is built on the foundation of God’s steadfast love.

That is why Jesus’ work on the cross is so important; not just a generic concept of the emotion and passion that we call ‘love’ today.  Jesus’ work on the cross is a combination of His painful sacrifice, in the face of howling, growling, hungry dogs and lions; and His overcoming of these enemies is what allowed men like David; and men like us, to even have a basis to proclaim victory in the face of death; victory in the face of being wronged.

It is in the cross that we find comfort from the Lord who experienced the same discomfort; it is in the cross that we find true justice, from the Lord who had been unjustly treated; it is in the cross that we find true value, from the Lord who gives us our value.  When we set our sights on the cross, and not on the prowling lions, that we begin to realise that the balance of this world is corrupt.  That the scales are uneven.  But the cross evens the scales; the cross restores the corrupt balance.

 

 

BOOK 2: PSALM 59 OF 72 – Wronged but Righteous

1 Chronicles 20-23: Rise of the Son

The victories of David continue in this prophetic account of the Book of Revelation, where the true David will remain at New Jerusalem (v.1) to orchestrate the judgment on the unbelieving nations.  Joab’s victory over Rabbah is attributed to David’s grand victory over all the cities of the Ammonites (v.3) leading to the meek’s inheritance of the earth (Matthew 5:5) from the first act of David’s taking of the crown from the king’s head.  So also the LORD’s victory over Satan allows us, as His humble servants to achieve countless victories in the true David’s name, redeeming all cities for His glory or otherwise partaking in the judgment against these idolatrous nations.  Ultimately, our home is still found in New Jerusalem – the renewed city of peace (v.3).

And the mark of such miraculous string of victories is hallmarked by our victories over the giants, the descendants of the Nephilim / Rephaim (Genesis 6:4), as consistently recorded through the lives of faithful saints in Christ (Genesis 14:5; Deuteronomy 2:20-21; Joshua 11:21, 13:12, 15:14; 1 Samuel 17:4)?  So also in v.4-8 of chapter 20, we see Sibbecai the Hushathite striking down Sippai; Elhanan son of Jair striking down Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite; and Jonathan the son of Shimea, striking down the giant of Gath (Goliath’s home)?  The key passage is v.8 – “These were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants“.  Such relieving humbleness is portrayed in its fullness when juxtaposing the looming strength and towering majesty of these pagan giants with the weak-willed Israelites (Numbers 13:33) whose strength comes simply from the victory of Christ over Satan alone.

However, in spite of such intentions, David fell to Satan’s temptations by counting the LORD’s blessing as David’s own.  Such is a sin which Christ took lengths to avoid, by consistently referring to compliance with the Father’s will (c.f. John 5) and not His own.  Yet, David’s act contradicts Christ’s character of perichoretic love within the Trinity.  Instead, David’s decision to heed Satan and number the armies implies that such impressive numbers of men are cause for David’s pride, though such numbers are only made possible in the LORD’s hand. Note Joab’s expression of bewilderment which reveals the true status of these numbers of Israel – they are (v.3) men whom the LORD has added to David’s people.  Why then should David require a census and be a cause of guilt for Israel?  Joab’s abhorrence is but a foreshadow of the LORD’s displeasure (v.7), hence his decision to not count Levi or Benjamin in the census.  Adam Clarke’s commentary sheds light on the exclusion of the two tribes:

The rabbins give the following reason for this: Joab, seeing that this would bring down destruction upon the people, purposed to save two tribes. Should David ask, Why have you not numbered the Levites? Joab purposed to say, Because the Levites are not reckoned among the children of Israel. Should he ask, Why have you not numbered Benjamin? he would answer, Benjamin has been already sufficiently punished, on account of the treatment of the woman at Gibeah: if, therefore, this tribe were to be again punished, who would remain?

Indeed, the exclusion of Levi is recorded in Numbers 1:47-54; and the exclusion of Benjamin in accordance to what happened in Judges 19-20.  The LORD has indeed greatly multiplied the number of Israel from 603,550 warring men to 1,570,000 men who drew the sword in Israel and Judah – over twice the number from the day of entering Canaan to the height of David’s reign.  Gad’s choices to David were essentially decided by the LORD, with David humbling himself (v.13) and placing himself entirely at the LORD’s great mercy, understanding that it is better to be at the mercy of the LORD than that of man.  Adam Clarke continues:

“Thus the Targum: “And the WORD of the LORD sent the angel of death against Jerusalem to destroy it; and he beheld the ashes of the binding of Isaac at the foot of the altar, and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, which he made in the Mount of Worship; and the house of the upper sanctuary, where are the souls of the righteous, and the image of Jacob fixed on the throne of glory; and he turned in his WORD from the evil which he designed to do unto them; and he said to the destroying angel, Cease; take Abishai their chief from among them, and cease from smiting the rest of the people. And the angel which was sent from the presence of the Lord stood at the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”

So we re-tread the events of 2 Samuel 24, with David sacrificing himself as the scapegoat from the people (v.17) for it was his command to number the people, with the Angel of the LORD, the pre-incarnate Jesus, staying His hand upon the Father’s command.  Yet, it is here that we see fuller dialogues between Jesus and Gad, Gad and David, and David and Ornan – all surrounding the altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite (v.18).  The king bought Ornan’s symbolic threshing-floor at a price, as David remarkably noted that “…I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing” – a welcome reminder of Christ’s command to bear our cross in our walk with Him (Luke 14:27).  David’s decision to sacrifice at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, which Adam Clarke remarked as Moriah, the place of Abraham’s potential sacrifice of Isaac and thus the place of Christ’s crucifixion, is a more fitting place of sacrifice in light of David’s decision to stand on behalf of Israel to propitiate the LORD’s wrath (1 Chronicles 22:1; 2 Chronicles 3:1).  David is to either hide under the propitiatory sacrifice at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, or receive the sword of the angel of the LORD (v.30) outside of the future site of the temple (1 Chronicles 22:1) and Christ’s work on the cross.

Chapter 22 describes David’s preparation of the materials for Solomon’s fulfillment of the temple, a shadow of the temple which Christ will build – this is most notably distinguished by the prophecy which David recounted to Solomon (v.8-10) and the prophecy the LORD stated to David through Nathan in 1 Chronicles 17:

“10  from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will subdue all your enemies. Moreover, I declare to you that the LORD will build you a house. 11  When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12  He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13  I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, 14  but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.”

Compared with 1 Chronicles 22:8-10, the word having been given to David directly:

“8  But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth. 9  Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. 10  He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.”

The distinctions are that (1) Solomon is a man of peace and of rest (v.9) compared to David, who is a man with blood on his hands (v.8); and (2), more importantly, v.10 – that it is the LORD who will be building a house for us, rather us for him.  The throne which Solomon thus sits on is not established by his own hands; rather, this temple is also a shadow, with Solomon being a more appropriate shadow and type of Christ than David, for the day Christ is given the throne is a day of peace (i.e. “Jerusalem”) rather than that of bloodshed and war.  It is on the day the temple is complete that the Levites no longer are required to carry the tabernacle or any of the things for its service (Chapter 13 v.26), a picture of the rest which Abraham looked forward to (Hebrews 11:8-10) when he no longer had to carry his tent when the heavenly city has been designed and built by God.  Thus, the work of the Levites has evolved to that of care taking and worship at the temple, in the days of Solomon’s rest.  Although such days were short, they were indeed the glory and golden days of Israel, modeled closely after the eternal days which we enjoy as co-heirs of Christ in new creation.

 

1 Chronicles 20-23: Rise of the Son

1 Chronicles 12-15: Seeking the Father in the days of Christ

Chapter 12 continued with various descriptions of David’s mighty men, from Benjaminites (v.2), Gadites (v.8), men of Judah (v.16) and Manassites (v.19) to the other tribes listed in the divisions of the armed troops who also assisted David in turning the kingdom of Saul over to him (such as Simeon (v.25), Levi (v.26), Jehoiada of the house of Aaron (v.27), Ephraim (v.30), Issachar (v.32), Zebulun (v.33), Naphtali (v.34), Dan (v.35), Asher (v.36), Reuben (v.37) – altogether a large number of men from all the 12 tribes of Israel).  These were men of notable abilities (v.2), the least was a match for a hundred men and the greatest for a thousand (v.14).  Amasai (the “strong“, the chief of the thirty v.18), being filled with the Spirit, thus declares that these men are as follows:

We are yours, O David, and with you, O Son of Jesse!  Peace, peace to you, and peace to your helpers!  For your God helps you

Indeed, but for David’s LORD, these mighty men would not be David’s subjects to begin with, that they were scatter from Saul’s headship and kingship to be with the one persecuted and rejected by the kingdom at large (v.19).  These are the men who were added day to day to David’s camp, until there was a great army of God (v.22)  indeed, an army of God, not an army of man.  This army had one single purpose:  to make David king over all Israel (v.38), hundreds of thousands of men feasting with David for three days (v.39) on food from afar, celebratory elements of flour, figs, raisins, wine, oil, oxen and sheep – a shadow of the marriage supper of the Lamb in new creation (v.39-40; Revelation 19:9), for “there was joy in Israel“.

This familial supper is thus combined with the celebratory reclamation of the ark.  Chapter 13 begins with David consulting with the commanders, the leader, and above all – the LORD (v.2), to firstly gather brothers in Christ who were scattered across the land.  Just as the good news was to be brought to the ends of the world as Israel was to be a priest to the nations (Exodus 19:6; Mathew 24:14), Israel must firstly be gathered and seek the LORD as one man (c.f. Judges 20, before the days of Saul).

From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.” (1 Samuel 7).  It has therefore been over two decades until David has ushered in the symbolic presence of the LORD back into the arms of the Israelites.  This explains why David assembled Israel to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim, as it was brought to that region by the Philistines who had been struck with curses (e.g. 1 Samuel 5:6).  Eleazar (God has helped), the son of Abinadab (father of nobleness) has thus taken care of the ark since it was brought to his father’s house in Samuel’s day.

However, terror struck in v.9, at the threshing floor of Chidon (meaning “javelin“; or Nacon, meaning “prepared“- c.f. 2 Samuel 6:6) when Uzzah unwittingly touched the ark when the oxen stumbled and died there before God.  Although it would seem to be merely a careless mistake that this son of Abinadab had died simply from touching the ark, this family of Levites should have known from Exodus 25:14 that the proper method of transporting the ark is not by a cart but by the poles in the side of the ark.  This proper procedure was not observed with care, and thus the incident – a reminder that such joy for the LORD should not come without proper knowledge of the gospel and worshipping in His will and His direction.  Thus, as shown in the house of Abinadab and in the house of Obed-edom – with proper understanding of our standing before the LORD in our worship of Him, understanding that the work of the priesthood can never be replaced or revised, allows us to remember that the Father has indeed chosen to bless us through the High Priest and not through our devised methods of worship.  This, of course, translates into the Protestant obsession with “faith” and “grace” (sometime with a capital G) rather than with Christ Himself:

“The views to which the Wesleys were led by these means became of historic importance, for these views influenced the beliefs they held throughout life.  They both spoke of ‘seeking Christ’, yet as one analyses the pertinent passages in their Journals it becomes evident that they were actuallly seeking faith more than they were Christ. Faith had become the great desideratum in their thinking, insomuch that they began to look upon it as an entity in itself.  Under [the Moravian] Bohler’s instructions they had forsaken their trust in personal endeavours and works, but faith had become a kind of new endeavour which they substituted for their former endeavours and a work which took the place of their former good works.  They had still learned nothing about receiving Christ in the fullness of His person and the completeness of His saving work, but were concerned about faith itself and what measure of it might be necessary for salvation.  Charles expected that the coming of this faith might be associated with some visible presence of Christ, and John looked for an experience which would be accompanied by an emotional response.  ‘I well saw’, he wrote, ‘that no-one could, in the nature of things, have such a sense of forgiveness and not feel it.  But I felt it not.” – Arnold Dallimore on John Wesley in his George Whitfield, vol 1

Chapter 14 chronicles David’s victories against the Philistines, underscoring God who has broken through David’s enemies by David’s hands; so also it is the Father’s joint victory over the cross through the Son.  As Karl Barth states it in his first volume of his Church Dogmatics – the Father’s work has His own distinguishable personality and mark compared to the Son’s, but should never be separated from the Son.  The Son was indeed the One on the cross, but it is as much the Father’s work in the Son’s overcoming of the sting of death as it is the Son’s.  David’s fame is therefore underlined by the LORD (v.17); not by Saul’s type of might, nor by Abinadab’s type of good works, but simply by seeking Christ Himself.

Note the difference in chapter 15 with the break-out against Uzzah in chapter 13; David has learned from his experience and has chosen the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites to consecrate themselves so that they may bring up the ark of the LORD (v.12).  The proper procedure has been observed, and David understood that the failure came from the fact that they “did not carry it the first time, [so] the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule“.  Exodus 24:15 was thus observed in chapter 15:15.  The LORD thus helped the Levites (who had prepared joyous music in this act of worship, see v. 16-25), and their response was to sacrifice seven bulls and seven rams (v.26; c.f. Numbers 23:1; Job 42:8; Ezekiel 45:23) – at the same time, David was dressed as a Levite, robed in fine linen with a linen ephod.  This is a grand picture of the Saviour in His fullness, the salvific work of the Lamb through His sinless sacrifice, the glorious High Priest and King coming in the sound of the horn, trumpets, cymbals, harps and lyres (c.f. Book of Revelation).

Yet, in this wonderful occasion, the chapter ends with Michal’s jealousy for David which is nothing like the jealous love of the LORD.  Her heart for David consumed her above her love for the LORD (2 Samuel 6:23), forgetting what the mystery of marriage truly is about (Ephesians 5:22-33).

1 Chronicles 12-15: Seeking the Father in the days of Christ

1 Samuel 13: Saul the first adam

The basic thrust of the message of the Bible is one – either we trust in Christ’s works, or we trust in ours.  Creation, by which the Word of God is first preached (Psalm 19) and by the Word that it was given life, gives us its first testimony of this interceding Word between the Father and adam.  Yet, the story of adam, of man, embodied and manifested in the one head Adam, is that of rebellion against God in the form of righteousness gained by works.  In the form of security gained by one’s own hands.  The message seems just too simple – yet it is entirely universal and deeply ingrained in our depravity.  Where Jesus fellowshipped with us (Genesis 3:8) in the garden which we did not contribute to create (c.f. Genesis 2:15 – we were placed there after being created from the dust beyond the garden), we find instead man time and time again building the towers of Babylon; golden calves; delighting in burnt offerings where the law points not to Christ but to oneself.  (c.f. Romans 3:31)  It is by faith that the law is fulfilled – as the law points to necessary faith in Christ.  To obey the law without faith is to deny the purpose of the law as inherently Christological and not a Christless anthropology.

By heeding Samuel’s advice (1 Samuel 10:8), it would appear that this is a common practice of Saul’s to wait seven days – the time appointed by Samuel.  It is therefore on the eighth day that Samuel is to perform this peace and burnt offering before Saul – for what purpose except to preach that Christ is to rise on the eighth day of the week, the third day after Friday and one day after the Passover which is on the seventh day of the week?  It is to point to that Sacrificial Lamb Who leads us to victory.  Even when all men are trembling, when they head to the direction away from the heart of the Promised Land to the rocky regions of Gilead; even when they hide in holes, rocks, tombs and cisterns; they are desperately seeking solace but to no avail.  They are running away from the Philistines who are hidden (Michmash) in the ease of the house of nothingness – of the house of idols (Bethaven).  What irony that this consolidated group of enemies was once conquered by Israel through Yeshua (Joshua 11:4-9), and yet Saul could not similarly succeed for Israel.  What irony that Israel, the descendants of the great Abraham through whom the LORD promised his children to be as many as “sand on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17) is now threatened by a rampant murderous nation which is joined to destroy God’s people.

Their only hope then, truly, is in Saul – the king whom they have appointed as a symbolic displacement of the Father’s, His Anointed’s, and the Spirit’s roles as their joint Saviour.  If the nation, and Saul, fears the LORD and serves Him and obeys His voice and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, it will be well (chapter 12:14).

Yet, Saul utterly fails them.  Saul, like Adam, being the head of the church, is a poor representative.  By the sin of one man did the entire nation fall; by the sin of one man did entire mankind fall (Romans 5:19).  Samuel asks him, “What have you done?” (v.11) – and like Adam who blamed God for the woman whom God gave to Adam, so Saul blames it on Samuel.  Yet, although Saul was still at Gilgal (v.7) – it did not mean that he was any more faithful than those who were hiding in the tombs typifying the death they are to receive.  Rather, his acts truly expressed the heart of the nation – a godless nation trying to be priesthood.  Adam, eating the fruit and having his eyes opened and trying to be the Priest of the Garden but forgetting that Jesus is the true life-sustainer and gardener (John 20:15), and that he is but a steward.

The words of Samuel are profound:  “You have done foolishly.  You have not kept the command of the LORD your God, with which he commanded you.  For then the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.  But now your kingdom shall not continue.  The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD had commanded you” (v.13-14).  Whether we see Saul as the manifestation of the physical church Israel, or even more so as the old adam through whom we are all cursed with death, these words ring true as if words spoken directly to the first man in the edenic garden.  If Adam had kept God’s commandment to refrain from eating of the tree of good and evil, then his kingdom would have continued.  But would it really?  Scores of theologians have questioned whether Adam would have lived forever had he not eaten of that fruit; others have wondered if Adam was under the covenant of works or covenant of faith.  However, there is one firm reality – that he was made in the image of God, and the true image of God before creation has always been God the Son (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3; Romans 8:29).  If there is one image to conform, it is not simply that of Adam pre-fall, but that of Christ.  God had chosen Christ to be the head of all creation before Adam (Genesis 1:1 c.f. Hebrew be-resh-it – in the Head, arche, in the LORD – Jesus Christ); God had chosen Christ to be the mediator of all creation before Adam (Isaiah 42:1); God the Father already had a Father-Son dynamic with Christ before Adam, making Adam technically his second son.  Put simply, Adam, Saul, David – none of them were ever truly men after God’s heart; none of them were the prototypical image of God, or even king.  Only Christ was sought out; only Christ had the Father’s heart; only Christ was commanded and that He obeyed His Father before Genesis 1.  Christ was never a plan B.

This is why ever since chapter 8 is the omen that neither Saul, nor David, are the true men after God’s heart.  Indeed, David does bear that title – a man after God’s heart – but he is not the man after God’s heart.  David has not yet been sought out at this stage – and even more so, has not yet been commanded to be prince over his people (v.14).  David is not even in the frame of the story in 1 Samuel 13!  Samuel is instead speaking of Jesus – because He is the subject of the righteous deeds in chapter 12, and that He is the only one who is in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18 – KJV translation) and thus truly knows his Father’s heart to obey His will and to be the archetypal prince of his people – spiritual Israel.  Thus, Adam, Saul, David, even you – are made in the image of the Father, made to be like Christ.  Yet, it is in David that this typology is seen at its height, for he conforms himself in Spirit to Christ that the whole of Israel is also typologically exalted to display temporarily what a new creation kingdom would look like.  It is important to remember however that no matter how successful Israel, David, or Solomon became, these are all but shadows – because the true temple has always been residing in heaven (c.f. Numbers 8:4; Hebrews 8:5), and through Israel are these eternal truths expressed most clearly in the form of understandable shadows.  Israel should have never trusted in their kings, nor judges – but in the One who brought them out of Egypt.

And so this chapter ends on a bittersweet note – we have Jonathan, the great friend of David, alongside his father.  Both of them are the only men of Israel, only six hundred of whom have survived (or have stayed with Saul) from the previous onslaught and now they are clearly surrounded with enemies (v.16-18).  What they need is a good spiritual Head to lead them through these trials, and yet the chapter ends with setting itself for a possible massacre for the Israelites: the large numbers of men with their superior weaponry against a tired and disobedient king.  It would seem that Jonathan is the only one who will conquer by faith that God is the one who is victorious on our behalf.

1 Samuel 13: Saul the first adam

1 Samuel 10: How can this man save us?

The chronicling of Saul’s anointing as king of Israel is met with warm success – but chapter 10 ends with an ominous note from the worthless men of Belial (v.27 – KJV translation of the Hebrew text).  “How can this man save us?”  Indeed – Saul cannot.

It is important that throughout this chapter, we see much of the grand history of Israel – the anointing of the nation to be prince over his heritage, with Saul acknowledged simply as nagid (נגיד), a prince, a captain of the chosen priesthood-nation.  “Has not the LORD anointed you to be prince over his people Israel?” (v.1), Samuel asked.  Yet this rhetoric is not without its irony – the careful choice of Saul as a mere prince and no king; and the Hebrew which if carefully exposed, could possibly reveal another layer of meaning if we consider how the LORD considered Saul as a false shepherd – “The LORD has not anointed you to be prince over his people Israel”.

We are brought instead back to Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin, where we are again reminded of Saul’s heritage as the ravenous wolf, the supposed right-hand and strength of Israel to be the newly appointed monarch.  Yet, this is contrasted with the offering of the three men who are going up to Bethel presumably in worship, reminding us of the covenant made with Jacob at this significant place: one with three young goats for sacrificial offering; another with three loaves of bread, with another carrying a skin of wine – a Trinitarian picture of the communion fulfilled in the covenantal blood sacrifice of the choice animal for the Day of Atonement.  Yet, of the three loaves, two is given.  Of the three pieces of tabernacle furniture, only two are within the presence of the priests which we are – but only the High Priest, Christ, can step into the Holy of Holies to fellowship with the Father face-to-face.  The goat is not for us to feed on, for it is a blood offering to the Father; all of it is to the Father.  Yet, the loaves are for us to consume – the Spirit and the Son, represented in the Spirit-Lamp and Bread-table of the Holy of Holies, Whom we both have presently until the day of the Unseen Father.

From this path of the narrative of the Pentateuch, we are then brought to the events of Joshua whereupon the focus once again is on the Benjaminites who own Gibeah where the fateful and horrid death of the Levite’s concubine was recorded (Judges 19-20).  The stark contrast of Gibeath-elohim, the hill of God, against Gibeah is noted – Saul entered by the latter but not the former.  Though both may be in the same geographic vicinity, the poignancy of Saul walking through the landmarks of the dreaded cursed tribe leads to another question amongst the prophets – “Is Saul also among the prophets?” just as we ask “Has not the LORD anointed him to be prince over Israel”?  Neither question is answered, and though affirmed by the rebellious physical church in v.24, the ominous response by the worthless men of Belial v.27 bring us full circle to the two questions by asking the third question: “How can this man save us?”.  The Spirit inspiring Samuel to write these three questions down should lead us to wonder whether the questions are more appropriately asked of Christ than Saul; for Saul truly cannot save, is no prophet, and is not anointed for the Spirit left him (1 Samuel 16:14).  Saul’s refusal to share the kingdom with his father has betrayed the reason for which he was to find the donkey – chapter 9v.20 – “for [him] and all [his] father’s house”.  Yet, to withhold the good news from his father is to live the wretched life of the Israelite hoarding the law for him/herself but only to be cursed as a result of it.

And so Samuel gathers the people at Mizpah – the watchtower – to see this new king whom the people and not God himself had appointed.  The emphasis on God is dismissed – though Christ brought up Israel out of Egypt (v.18, Jude 1:5), they have rejected their God (v.19).  This is the pretext for Saul – it is not a victorious fanfare, but he is at best a false replacement, an untrue shepherd, not even one chosen by God.  His identity is not only cemented by him walking through Gibeah, through Benjamin, through his failure to honour his father’s house, through the omissions of affirmations to the three questions posed in this chapter, through the ominous rejection by the worthless men of Belial who shall later become part of David’s warriors in 1 Samuel 30 clearly accepting the true Yeshua than the false one: but also through his portrayal as one identified with the “baggage” where he hid (v.22) – as “stuff”, as part of the “tools” – just as Abimelech, Pharoah, Nebuchadnezzar, and Satan himself as God’s tools to discipline and admonish Israel out of love and push her towards repentance.  Saul’s physical beauty falls on blind eyes for the people cannot see Saul for his role as a false and temporary prince when the true king is yet to come.  Though Saul’s life begins with valour, attracting men whose hearts were touched by God just as Saul’s heart had changed (v.9), this is the story of Israel who was also circumcised and blessed by the fellowship of the Trinity but became increasingly a proverb (Deuteronomy 28:37) for other nations to laugh at until Christ came to redeem both the Jew and the Gentile.  Saul may hold his peace, but only for now – just the same as Israel did at her “spiritual heights” but the event of Gibeah is a reminder of what she, and the rest of us, really are.

1 Samuel 10: How can this man save us?

1 Samuel 9: The Servant-Leader

Saul is Israel, Israel is Saul.  When Jacob was plucked out of anonymity, he could echo Saul’s words: “Am I not… from the least of the tribes…?  And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans…?  Why then have you spoken to me in this way?”

Yet, there are signs in which Saul is to fulfil the prophecy of the one who is misplaced on the throne of Israel; that he is the tyrannous king of 1 Samuel 8.  He who hails from the tribe of Benjamin, the ravenous wolf in the morning devouring the prey and at evening dividing the spoil (Genesis 49:27).  This is the mark of the king who will (chapter 8:14-18) take the best of the Israelites’ field and vineyard and olive orchards and give them to his servants, taking their male and female servants and the best of their young men and donkeys and put them to work.  This is the ravenous wolf who will enslave them.  Saul is the son of Ben-oni – the son of sorrow, the original name of Rachel’s last son.  Yet Jacob erroneously calls him Benjamin, the son of the right hand – the right hand which indicates strength, priority and headship in a family as is Christ who stands at the right hand of the Father.  Saul is the son of Kish, the bow, and by this warrior bow and by this righteousness by the right hand shall Saul be portrayed – yet Saul is not the son of the right hand for he is the wolf who will cause sorrow for Israel; cause sorrow for Samuel (c.f. 1 Samuel 15 and 16) who will be replaced by the true son of Judah (Genesis 49:9).  It is in Judah that we find true humility; the great lion who has stooped down, far from the false pretence of humility of the wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Saul is the leader of donkeys which he cannot find, and after three days he finds the type of Christ – Samuel – he who had prophesied that Saul himself would be that tyrannous king in the previous chapter.  It is mysterious as to who found the donkey, but the real importance lies in the fact that the donkeys were found – but not by Saul.

Saul had gone to four different places, but it is his servant who ushered his master to seek the seer, a term fitting for the situation.  Samuel is the prophet-seer, the spokesman who is inspired by the Word and who, as “seer”, is defined as one who is perceptive and who truly has his eyes opened.  It is the servant who provided the right offering (v.8) – which is all that the servant had (quarter of a shekel), and like Mary in John 12:3 who offered all of what she had in praise and worship, so this servant’s hear was hear before the LORD.  It is the LORD who identified the servant of Saul as one who was fitting to feast with Samuel the type of Christ, and this servant had enjoyed all these blessings because of his knowledge of the importance of the seer; because of his greater persistence in pursuing the donkeys when compared to Saul’s half-heartedness.  The servant portrays Christ’s attitude to salvation as the true characteristic of The King of Israel (Matthew 18:12), and for this reason the LORD describes to Samuel in v.17 – “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you!  He it is who shall restrain my people” – the operative word, “restrain” (עצר), being a peculiar Hebrew term very different from malak which is the word associated to a king’s reigning.  Instead, the Hebrew of restrain implies constraint, a withholding and closing-up.

And indeed, that is the truth of Saul – the type of Israel.  He had roots which were humble, like Jacob who was not initially Isaac’s chosen one on his right hand – instead, Jacob ‘stole’ Esau’s birth-right and was exalted to Isaac’s right hand.  Similarly, Saul is from a humble family of Benjaminites, yet his name and his character as an expected man of righteousness is like the law which curses us; like the law which was withheld in Israel, just as Samuel tells the servant to pass on before them (v.27), although it is the servant who had a circumcised heart though it was unlikely that he had the Torah (c.f. Romans 2) the same way Saul did (v.27) upon the personal tuition Samuel gave him.  Similarly, though Israel was the firstborn son of God and was the first of an ethnic nation to receive the law en masse through the administration of Moses, the servant represented the Gentile who shames Saul; the servant represented the gospel which reveals the law, and thus the servant shames the fake-king.  And thus is this first king of Israel who shall restrain the gospel from going forth as he, like the Pharisees, would keep the law restricted to Israel and keep the Israelites condemned for failing to reveal the gospel.  Yet, the law and gospel is for every nation, so that the true King is praised for seeking out even the one sheep in the wilderness; yet Saul’s ministry is very much defined by Samuel’s words in 1 Samuel 15:

1Sa 15:22-23  And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.  (23)  For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.”

Through this ‘restraining’ led by Saul; through the witnessing of the servant who did not receive the word of the LORD like Saul did and yet was truly circumcised by pondering on the Torah in a different way and received food-fellowship with the great guests of the Seer (much like the feast of Exodus 24); and through the mighty appearance though compromised life of Saul’s integrity in Christ (whom He did not truly know nor see), the object of the burnt offerings, do we see a king who focuses on two things:  the Torah in and of-itself as not pointing to the crucified Saviour thus leading to burnt offerings which are underlined by sinful rebellion; and the ethnic exclusivity of Israel as he fails his mission to lead a nation as priesthood and light to the neighbouring nations.

1 Samuel 9: The Servant-Leader

1 Samuel 7: The Judge of Ramah

1 Samuel 7 ends the seven-chapter arc of the focus on Samuel’s story in comparison to the house of Eli, the house of the Dagon, the house of the Philistines. The chapter opens with the same message at the end of chapter 6 – that the Israelites are called to retrieve the ark.  However, it was placed in Kiriath-jearim, the city of woods, where it was brought into the house of Abinadab, a Levite, on the hill.  The lamenting after the LORD (v.2) is out of the Israelites’ character; why would they not go to retrieve the ark?  It was in the safe hands of the Levitical priesthood, and yet it lodged there for some twenty years, and would amount to seventy years (under the relevant biblical scholarship over chronology) until the ark was properly brought from the border of Judah and Benjamin (c.f. Joshua 18:14), from this city of woods, to the city of peace – Jerusalem!  It is not until David’s reign in 2 Samuel that the ark is retrieved and placed in Jerusalem; the return of the Father to the rightful place of new Jerusalem.  So also is the nature of John’s vision in Revelation 11:19 that to see the ark of the covenant is an act accomplished through the work of the cross; and here, David is the agent through whom this act is accomplished as he typifies for us the amazing work of the Son who walks the path in and out of the Holy of Holies with freedom:

1Ch 13:1-6  David consulted with the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, with every leader.  (2)  And David said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you and from the LORD our God, let us send abroad to our brothers who remain in all the lands of Israel, as well as to the priests and Levites in the cities that have pasturelands, that they may be gathered to us.  (3)  Then let us bring again the ark of our God to us, for we did not seek it in the days of Saul.”  (4)  All the assembly agreed to do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.  (5)  So David assembled all Israel from the Nile of Egypt to Lebo-hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim.  (6)  And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim that belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD who sits enthroned above the cherubim.

This is the ark of God, called by the name of the LORD – the Name of God being Christ Jesus by which we are called into the Trinitarian fellowship (Acts 4:7, 4:10).  This emphasises the preparatory nature of Samuel; he is in the tri-office of prophet, priest and judge, paving the path for the true king David in the House of Israel.  It is important we remember that Israel was given the law after the exodus, after their salvation, and here the chosen Church of the Old Testament is to be ready for the time when the King comes to be her true ruler where they can fellowship truly with the LORD by the ark in Jerusalem.  It is this ark in Jerusalem which enables the Israelites to meditate the relational truth of the Unseen Father; and the symbolic meaning of the restoration of the ark in the Promised Land as a promise of us seeing the Unseen Father face to face clothed in the righteous robe of His Son (Isaiah 61; 1 John 3:2).  Where the veil to the Holy of Holies is literally ripped apart and we can stand before Him as the Son stands before Him.

However, like the book of Numbers, the Israelites are in the wilderness worshipping Ashtaroth and the Baals (v.4), and at the watchtower (Mizpah) they gathered to pour their hearts out in repentance to the LORD genuinely.  Thus, true circumcision and birth by water is shown here through the pouring of the water before the LORD (v.6) – and this happens before the symbolic death of the nursing lamb as offered as a burnt offering (v.9).  Such is the same picture offered in the chronology of Old Testament Scripture: that the LORD had favoured people’s repentance in Christ Jesus long before the introduction of the systematic Levitical framework of sacrifices; yet Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jethro, amongst the other pre-Moses saints, were already providing burnt offerings (c.f. Genesis 4:4; Genesis 8:20; Genesis 22; Exodus 18:12) not because the blood inherently was the source of salvation.  Rather, it was their circumcised hearts by the Spirit which led them to Christ in Whom they met the Unseen Father; and the burnt offering is but a visible sacrament of this spiritual truth.  Just as Noah and his family was saved through the raging waters in the coffin (the literal Hebrew of the ark) where they stepped onto dry new land as indicative of new creation and only offered the burnt offering then and received the sacrament of communion, the eating of flesh, then – so also the Israelites look to their Redeemer and Mediator where the truth is symbolically manifested in the death of the nursing lamb.

Yet, we should not forget the second layer of truth which 1 Samuel 7 is teaching us: namely that Samuel is still a type of Christ, that he is now the only High Priest available to represent the nation against the Philistines for the household of Eli has been removed, in favour of the spiritual household of Samuel.  He has offered to pray on behalf of Israel (v.5), and continually by his prayers has the LORD looked on Israel with favour (v.8).  This is a pure imitation of the High Priestly prayer of the Son to the Father (John 17) so that the Son may be one with the Bride as we are one with Him.

And during this beautiful two-fold Christocentricity firstly of Samuel as Christ, and secondly the sacrament of the burnt offering as symbolic of the Christian faith which the Israelites now exercise, we see the juxtaposition of the death of the nursing lamb with the wrath of the LORD upon the Philistines just as the punishment of the Father on the Son is a simultaneous judgment of wrath upon all those who are not shielded in the Son.  What we see here is an echo of the Passover in Exodus, that the Israelites may pursue and destroy the Philistines from the watchtower to the House of the Lamb (Beth-car); from the woods where the ark was hidden to the House of Peace where the ark will soon reside; from the present time of engagement with the enemy to the House of Christ under the name of David where the Israelites will finally overcome them.

Thus, it is in this path in between – the one path between the watchtower and Jeshanah (or Shen in certain translations), that Samuel places the stone of help (Ebenezer), stumbling those who consider it a rock to be neglected but a cornerstone for many (Psalm 118; Acts 4).  It is here that he emphasises that the saints of Old (Jeshanah) look to (Mizpah) the true Rock of Ages (Ebenezer), by whom the Israelites had fallen for not clinging to Him (chapter 4:1), but now are victorious by the covenant made with blood.  It is only upon the victory entering Beth-car, the victory of the return of the ark to Jerusalem, that this victory is fully realised under David typifying Christ Jesus as opposed to Samuel who is the testimony to Christ that the Philistines’ cities were displaced from the enemy’s hands and the earth inherited by all those who are meek (Psalm 82:8; Matthew 5:5) (v.14).  It is a restoration, the Irenaeus-esque recapitulation, for these lands were always promised to the Israelites (Deut 27:3) by the blood of the lamb and not by the false golden offerings which the Philistines had offered in chapter 6 and instead culminated in their demise as in chapter 7 though they witnessed the necessity of blood to enact a covenant (chapter 6:15-16).

Therefore, Samuel ends his life as judge by symbolically passes through three landmarks of Israel – Bethel, where Jacob received the dream confirming the covenant with Abraham, this “House of God” established by the nursing lamb; Gilgal, where the Israelites had their first Passover in Canaan (Joshua 5:10); and Mizpah, the watchtower.  This circuit displays the gospel in the Old Testament – the covenant which the Father offered to the Israelites in the Son seen in Bethel, firstly explicitly spoken through Abraham and confirmed in Jacob’s dream as he is the father of all Israelites; secondly, the Passover which is first tasted in the Promised Land at Gilgal; yet, thirdly, these are all but shadows of the true covenant as Samuel built his own altar to the LORD (v.17) waiting for the true King to bring the brazen altar of the tabernacle, the only appointed place of sacrificial offerings, back from Kiriath-jearim and into Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 13).  What Samuel looked forward to (Mizpah), as all the other Old Testament saints did (Matthew 13:17) was the fulfilment of the covenant in both Jews and Gentiles as Christ is banner of Shem and Japheth (Genesis 9:27); of the Passover by which we enter into New Creation; and no longer shall we then reside in Mizpah as there is no longer anything to look forward to, except to reside in our true Ramah, our true home at the end of the true ascension hill (Psalm 24:3) which Samuel returned to every year to judge, displaying to himself and to us the home we are to enter a new creation home which is redeemed by the One who will be our Judge, face to face, in communal love.

1 Samuel 7: The Judge of Ramah