Lessons for Living from I Samuel

Several years ago, I taught a Sunday School series titled Lessons for Living from I Samuel. There are two themes that run through the book. They are that we serve a God of compassion, and we serve a God of mercy and justice. This week I returned to I Samuel for my quiet time meditations. I decide to turn this first lesson into a blog and perhaps whet the appetite of my readers to explore this book for themselves

Introduction to Series

I like Old Testament narratives. You can often see New Testament principles fleshed out in living color. This book of I Samuel is no exception. In my series, we did not cover everything embedded in these narratives. For example, from the first two chapters, I picked out the following lessons. Each one could easily be the subject of a single lesson. Hence, one could create a Sunday School quarter from the first two chapters of I Samuel.

1. What to do when you are stressed by circumstances or people in your life—pray! 1:10

2. How to answer authority when questioned—respectfully! 1:15-16

3. How to handle a jealous family member–turn to the Lord 1:6, 10

4. Consequences of poor parenting—disrespectful children 2:12-17, 25

5. Even in difficult times—stay the course and worship 1:19

6. Make a vow to God; keep a vow to God 1:24

7. Do not forget to express thanks when God answers prayer 2:1-11

8. Folly of ordaining unbelievers 2:12-17 and/or folly of favoring worthless children

9. You can’t outgive God 2:20-21

10. The folly of exhorting fools; they will do what they want to do 2:22-25

Historical Setting

Samuel is the last of the judges of Israel. After the death of Joshua, Israel is characterized as a nation in which “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (Joshua 17:6, 21:25) They ignored God, compromised with the pagans around them, and were often militarily dominated by the pagans. They became idolaters worshiping the gods of the pagans around them. Periodically God would raise up a judge to free them from bondage and enable them to put off idolatry. Samuel is the last judge. When he reaches the end of his ministry, the people cry out for a king. They fail to recognize that it has been their disobedience that has caused their political and personal problems, not the theocracy. They want to become a monarchy—they won’t have a human king who will lead them to freedom and stability.

In Lk. 23:21, the Jewish leaders incited the crowd, and they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” They did not want a servant/spiritual king; they wanted a liberating warrior king who could liberate them from Rome and establish them as a dominant power.

My Suggested Outline

Here is my outline of these first two chapters that comprised lesson one. Note I suggest complementarily New Testament passages.

  1. The hand of God and human responsibility 1-2

    1. The story of Hannah (NT principle—John 16:33)

Hannah is one of two wives. She is barren and her “co-wife,” Peninnah, had sons and daughters. Peninnah is characterized as her rival who provoked Hannah and bitterly irritated her. Yet Hannah’s husband LOVED her (1:4-6).

Hannah’s recourse was to take it to God in prayer (9-11)

    1. The story of Eli (NT principle. Matt. 6:24)

Eli was the high priest, but he had not done a good job of raising his sons. Worse, he allowed them into the priesthood even though they were not believers (2:12). He allowed them to continue despite their flagrant sin (2:11-17; 22-25). When he finally confronts them, they have lost all respect for him and have become accustomed to their sin, so they harden their hearts rather than choosing repentance (25).

    1. God’s response to Hannah was to grant her request 1:12-17 [Samuel means “God has heard”]

    2. God’s response to Eli’s negligence

2:27-33 (Reminds us of Romans 1:18, 21-24)

  1. Two lessons for living we learn from these stories

    1. We serve a God of compassion

God “closed” the womb of Hannah (we assume this because, in response to her prayer, we are told God opened her womb). God sustained her while allowing her to live in deep pain. He was preparing her to deliver Samuel as a choice servant of God. In the meantime, God gave her the special love of her husband. Think of Mary and the ridicule she and Joseph suffered with her being pregnant before marriage.

    1. We serve a God of mercy and justice

There developed a leadership crisis at the heart of the church. There was moral failure and performance failure (2:27-28; 22). These sons of Eli were following their own interests and desires. Yet, as God promises judgment, he also promises mercy to Eli (32-33).

These boys brought on the judgment. They defaced the name of Eli and the family by their behaviors, yet God promised to preserve the family name.


Leadership is important, but what is far more important is righteous living. We need a change of leadership in our nation, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that electing an evangelical to the White House, Senate, or Congress will change this nation. What we need is a grand revival. An evangelical in the White House may retard the onslaught of the narcissistic, existential erotic idolatry for a term or two. Still, the kind of cleansing from iniquity and pardon of iniquity we read about in Jeremiah 33:8 only comes from the initiative of God to bring repentance. So, yes, vote! But recognize, at best, this is a temporal short-time fix. Pray for the long-term intervention of God, MERCY, and the revival of his church that will evangelize society so that JUSTICE in judgment will not be necessary.

The word of God is living and powerful. Under the godly leadership of Samuel, the nation was prepared for King David. As you work through the book and follow it with II Samuel, you will encounter lesson after lesson for your personal life and observe how a nation is blessed when honoring God and how quickly slips into corruption when ignoring God.

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