Tuesday, August 12, 2014

1 Samuel for You

1 Samuel for You1 Samuel for You by Tim Chester
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Good Book Company has released a series of books that keep getting better and better (or at least I keep enjoying and learning from them more and more!).

Each volume of the God’s Word For You series takes you to the heart of a book of the Bible, and applies its truths to your heart.
           The central aim of each title is to be:
           Bible centred
           Christ glorifying
           Relevantly applied
           Easily readable

The newest volume is from Tim Chester and it covers 1 Samuel.  There were a few books of the Bible very early on in my Christian walk that, for whatever reason, God used mightily and for them he gave me a great affection.  Matthew and Genesis were two, but those are easy to figure out why.  I had a real good habit of starting Bible reading plans, often the read each day from the OT and NT variety, and I had a real bad habit of bailing on those plans within a month or so.  Well, that made me pretty much an expert on Genesis and Matthew because I read them over and over and over!  Philippians was also a book that stood out.  I read it in my NIV(1984!!) Study Bible over and over and then found a copy of John Macarthur’s Commentary and bought it (from Lifeway…without a discount...Yikes!) and read it and loved Macarthur’s work because it cause my love of Paul’s letter to increase greatly.

But my favorite book, or at least right up there with those three, was 1 Samuel.  The story of Hannah and Samuel and Saul and Johnathan and David, for whatever reason, captivated me as a new believer.  I would read and re-read it.  It has been some time since I have camped out in 1 Samuel and I have had such good experience with this series and the work of Tim Chester that I was so very excited to see this volume on 1 Samuel set to release.

And it did not disappoint.  Not one bit!  Chester guides, and “guides” is exactly the word for it, the reader through 1 Samuel.  Chester shows not only the events and their immediate implications but also teaches the reader how to use God’s word as a mirror of our sinful selves and a guide to proper living.  But, and most importantly, Chester attempts to show how the book of 1 Samuel fits into a cohesive, canonical whole that testifies to the Christ who was to come.

And on that last point, a point where so many works struggle and often fail, Chester delivers in a way that still has me excited!  If you want to witness example after example of seeing the immediate context of a passage or event and at the same time seeing how the truths there point to the Christ, this is it…taken to 11. So often, when someone seeks to find Christ in the text of the Old Testament, it feels contrived, fanciful, or forced.  Chester shows that you can see Christ on the pages of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation without losing the immediate context or resorting to, what often seems like, chemically-induced avant-garde allegory.
Allow me to share a couple of examples.

Example from the non-Aaronic priesthood:
           The rise of Samuel is a sign of the fall of Eli’s house. But it is also a sign that God can raise up for himself a priest from outside the house of Aaron. And this is precisely what God promises through the man of God in 2:35: “I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always.”

           There may be an immediate allusion to Zadok and his priestly house, who gain legitimacy under David and Solomon (2 Samuel 8:17; 1 Kings 1:7-8, 32-34; 2:26-27; 4:1-4). But ultimately it is an allusion to Jesus. Jesus is not from the house of Aaron. That priesthood was a failed priesthood (Hebrews 7:11). It could not save completely and it could not save eternally. Even the best of them had to keep repeating the sacrifices. So God promises a coming priest, Jesus.

           Jesus is a better priest because he is an eternal priest (Hebrews 7:11-19, 23-25). His priesthood is founded on his resurrection: “the power of an indestructible life” (v 16). And Jesus is a better priest because he is appointed directly by the oath of God (v 20-22, 28). The result is that Jesus offers “a better hope” (v 19) and is “the guarantor of a better covenant” (v 22).

Example from the removal of the ark of the covenant:
People who take God’s glory seriously repent. And people who take God’s glory seriously are able to stand in his presence, because God takes his own glory seriously through sacrifice.

           The proper response to the threat of God’s glory is sacrifice (v 7-9). The sacrifice of an animal was a picture. What does it symbolise? There is a clue in the story. Deuteronomy 28:64-68 says the ultimate curse of covenant unfaithfulness is exile. But who is exiled in this story? God! The words: “The Glory has departed” in 1 Samuel 4:21-22 are literally: “The Glory has gone into exile”. Psalm 78 recalls this story and describes the ark as going into “captivity” (Psalm 78:61). The people deserve the judgment of exile. But instead it is God himself who is exiled. He bears their judgment.

           It is a pointer to the cross. The sacrifice of an animal is the symbol. The cross is the reality. At the cross God himself, in the person of his Son, experienced judgment. He experienced the judgment of exile. He was cut off from God his Father. He took the judgment of exile on himself so that we can be welcomed home.

Example from Samuel’s confrontation with Saul:

When Samuel confronts Saul in 13:11, he begins with a question—“What have you done?”—just as God did with Adam in Genesis 3:9—“Where are you?”. Saul responds with excuses. He blames the men for leaving and the Philistines for arriving (1 Samuel 13:11-12). He blames Samuel for not coming on time (v 11). Saul is again portrayed as a new Adam. But this is not Adam the snake-crusher. This is Adam the sinner, the excuse-maker (see Genesis 3:12). Saul is not the promised second Adam. He is the old Adam revisited.

Example from David the shepherd-king:
Jesus is the Shepherd-King. David proved he was a good shepherd because he was willing to risk his life for the sheep. Jesus proves he is the ultimate Good Shepherd because he gives his life for the sheep: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

           Here is the king we need. Israel discovered, under first Saul’s and then David’s rule, that the king we decide we want, the king we choose for ourselves, is not the right ruler for us. We need someone who will rule humbly. We need someone who will care for wandering sheep; who will die to protect us. We must all choose a king to rule our hearts, our lives and our futures. Naturally, we choose Saul. But God gives us a Shepherd-King, a greater David. Being a Christian is not about having to live under Jesus’ rule. It is about getting to live under his humble reign; about the security and joy of knowing that we have the King we need, chosen by the Lord and given to us.

How Chester works through the story of Saul, David, and Goliath is brilliant and worth the purchase and read all by itself! “If this story encourages you to take on your local bully, you may find the outcome persuades you to adopt an alternative interpretation!”
Chester also covers some common topics but does so in a manner that really stays with the reader.

On prayer:
If a child cries and no one ever comes, then eventually they stop crying. There are orphanages where children have been neglected to the point where an eerie silence hangs over the dormitories. The point is this: the cry of a child is a cry of faith. It reflects their belief that there is someone out there who hears them and responds to them…And the cry of prayer is a cry of faith. It arises from the belief that God is a Father who is able (powerful enough) and willing (loving enough) to answer.

On our attitude towards God:

           It is possible for us to treat God like a waiter in a restaurant. You sit with your friends, enjoying a meal, talking together, and most of the time you ignore the waiter. Then when you want something you call him over. “Can we order dessert now?” “Can you bring some more water?” “Can we have the bill?” The waiter does not sit at the table with you. He is not part of your evening. You just call him over when you need him. We can treat God like that. He is not part of our lives. But when we need him, we call him over to help. We do not take him seriously.

           It is not hard to end up seeing God in this un-weighty way; to think, perhaps unconsciously, that by coming to church each Sunday, reading the Bible each day and giving a portion of our income, we are doing our bit for God. And in return we expect God to save us from hell and help out from time to time in life, ensuring that we are comfortable or happy or whatever it is that we wish to use him to supply.

           But God is not there for us. We are here for him. We were made in his image; we are not to make him in ours. The world does not revolve around you. Your world does not revolve around you. God must be at the centre. God’s glory must be central to your life. We need to recognise the weight of glory. We need to take God seriously.

On True Repentance:
           We can sum up by saying that true repentance has the following characteristics:

           An end to excuses. We face up to our guilt and responsibility rather than offering excuses for our sin. When someone’s talk about sin is punctuated with excuses, there is not true repentance.

           A movement towards God. Repentance is turning back to God. It is more than frustration or shame with oneself. It is more than a concern for one’s reputation with others. It is God-ward in orientation. When someone talks about their shame or frustration, but leaves God out of the picture, there is not true repentance.

           A movement that results in action. True repentance leads to a change of life (2 Corinthians 7:10-13). When repentance does not lead to action, there is not true repentance.

There are so many examples I could show and so many quotes I could share from this book but, in all honesty, you really just need to treat yourself to this wonderful tour of one of the most intriguing, interesting, and edifying books of the Bible.  It is my prayer that God will use this book to guide many people into a proper reading of his holy book and a greater love of him through it.  I have great confidence that exactly that will happen.

*I received a review copy of this book through Cross Focused Reviews.

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