Daily Bible Reading for March 18, 2014, with Commentary: 1 Samuel 6-10
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Context: In last week's reading, the Philistines, and their god Dagon, were suffering from having possession of the Ark of the Covenant. They mistakenly believed that possession of the Ark gave them control over the Lord. They were gravely mistaken. The Philistines chose to send the Ark back to Israel, along with an offering of gold, in the hopes of relieving themselves of the misery that had been visited upon them. The return of the Ark was a test, to ensure that the suffering was truly from the God of the Israelites. When the Ark of the Covenant was returned, however, the Israelites failed to show it the respect they knew it deserved. Israelite eventually realizes that they must repent of their ways, throw away all their idols, and worship God alone. If we wish to experience the blessings of the Lord we must always worship Him and Him alone. That includes acknowledging that God, not ourselves, is responsible for any victories in our lives. Following the Israelites victory against the Philistines, for which God was responsible, the Israelites demanded that Samuel appoint a king so that they "could be like all the other nations." God had set Israel apart to be different than other nations and they were rejecting it! Not only were they rejecting God's gift to them, they were also rejecting the Lord as their king! They were trading faith based security for tangible security. Which do you think was better? They thought a king would provide better protection. The Israelites failed to realize that they suffered during the time of Judges because they turned away from the Lord, not because they lacked a king. As Samuel attempted to warn them, and as we will come to see, having a king can actually cause more problems. The same facts stand: Israel will only be blessed so long as the people and king worship the Lord God alone. Similarly today, we cannot pick and choose when and where to serve the Lord. It must be continual. Additionally, only when leaders are in place which worship the Lord will a nation thrive. The remaining two chapters detail the selection of Saul as the first king of Israel. These chapters also show how the Lord can work in ways that are not always obvious to us. Saul demonstrates how God can transform a person, if we let Him. Samuel's private anointing of Saul shows that Israel's king will not be like others. He will be held responsible before the Lord, often by His prophet.
World History: During this time Egypt was experiencing internal problems, which has become known as the Third Intermediary Period. In addition to Egypt, Assyria and Babylon lacked a significant presence to threaten Israel. The Philistines presented the largest threat to Israel, a threat that also existed during the time of Judges and is responsible for the death of at least one judge (Samson).