The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ
by Paul R. Van Gorder
The book of 1 Samuel [say: ''First Samuel''] is a book of transition. It outlines the change from the theocracy established under Moses to the monarchy begun under [king] Saul. The book also marks the transition from priests to prophets as the central figure of God's dealing with Israel. First Samuel is really a continuation of the book of Judges, with Ruth as a parenthesis. The key thought is ''choosing a king,'' and the key verse reads, ''Now, therefore, behold the king whom ye have chosen'' (1Sam 12:13).
  1. Close of the Period of the Judges (1Sam 1-7)
    1. Early life of Samuel (1-3)
    2. Judgments on Eli and loss of the Ark (4:1-7:2)
    3. Samuel as judge (7:3-17)
  2. Beginning of the Monarchy (8-31)
    1. Appointment of the first king (8-10)
    2. Saul's reign until his rejection (11-15)
    3. The fall of Saul and rise of David (16-31)
As the book of 1Samuel opens, lawlessness is reaching its height in Israel. The threshold of the book also depicts in symbol the spiritual state of Israel. After first considering the significance of losing the ark of the covenant, we shall see how Samuel and David reflect Christ, and how Saul represents his countertype.
Chapter 4 of 1Samuel records the story. The people had forgotten God. The priesthood was corrupted. Eli, the high priest, had no control over his sons, who were also priests. We are told, ''Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord; for men abhorred the offering of the Lord'' (1Sam 2:17). How sad! Men who had no real knowledge of God were in charge of holy things.

To make matters worse, the Philistine armies had moved up against Israel and were defeating them. So the elders of Israel decided to get the ark of the covenant from Shiloh and carry it into battle. They reasoned this way: ''It may save us out of the hand of our enemies'' (1Sam 4:3). The ark symbolized God's presence with His people. But Israel failed to distinguish between having 'a form of godliness' and knowing God's presence in their midst. Not only was Israel defeated in the battle with the Philistines, but that heathen people also killed the two sons of Eli and captured the ark. Ungodly men cannot preserve the power of true faith. They turn the most holy things into ridicule. Furthermore, the Lord will not protect empty ritual when the Spirit is gone. Sin always brings defeat.

But let's get back to the primary thought of these studies. Perhaps someone is asking, ''Where in this book of apostasy, sin, and defeat do we see the Lord Jesus?'' First Samuel is really a biography of three men: Samuel, Saul and David. We shall consider each of them, probing to see how the Lord Jesus is pictured either by comparison or contrast.

The Lord Jesus is pictured often in the life of Samuel. During that period when Eli and his licentious sons occupied the office of the priesthood, a glimmer of hope came to the land in the person of a praying mother [1Samuel 1]. Take note of the fact that conditions in Israel just prior to our Lord's first coming were similar. To Hannah was born a son whom she called ''Samuel.'' That name means ''heard of God'' or ''sons of God.'' Read again Hannah's prayer in the first ten verses of 1Samuel 2. This prayer was prophetic, looking forward to a day of deliverance. An interesting parallel can be observed in the prayer of Hannah and Mary's prayer, the Magnificat, recorded in Luke 1:46-55.

Similarities between Christ and Samuel may be seen in the growth of Samuel, his acceptance as prophet and priest, and his place as a ruler. Samuel's activity was terminated when the people, demanding a king, rejected him (1Sam 8:7).

The people did not want Samuel as their judge and ruler; consequently, God let them have a king of their choosing. By comparison, how pertinent are these words of our Lord: ''I am come in My Father's name, and ye receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive'' (John 5:43).

So, Saul was chosen king over Israel. He was head and shoulders above other men. He made an awesome sight as he stood among the people. The ''morning'' of Saul's life was calm and bright. How wonderful if he would have said something like, ''Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee!'' ...But no.

''There is a line by us unseen
But crosses every path,
The hidden boundary between
God's patience and His wrath.''
Saul had crossed that line. Consequently, the ''midday'' of his life was cloudy and threatening. His ''afternoon'' was cold and dark; his ''evening'' was terrifying with the thunderstorms of despair and suicidal blackness.

Much about Saul suggests Satan's counterfeit, [the] Antichrist. The Lord Jesus came in the Father's name and was rejected. Antichrist will come like Saul of old, the people's choice. He will be received and exalted. But he will bring a holocaust of war, famine, despair, and death.

A child was born in Bethlehem of the tribe of Judah. This lad, who was destined to be Israel's greatest king, spent his youth in his father's fields. How like our Lord, who spent His childhood in Joseph's carpenter shop.

David was anointed as king long before he was recognized. He was sought and hunted by Saul, who desired his death even though he had done nothing to deserve it. David's first public act was the meeting of Goliath; similiarly, our Lord's first experience, following His baptism, was His temptation by Satan in the wilderness.

The first part of David's reign was met with great acclaim by the nation. The Lord Jesus was met in His triumphal entry with cries of ''Hosanna to the son of David!''

It was not long, though, until David was rejected by Israel and had to hide in the cave of Adullam. John tells us that Jesus ''came unto His own, and His own received Him not'' (John 1:11). A strange company of men gathered with David in that cave-- some 400 of them. Who were they? They were the distressed, the debtors, the discontented. But somehow they were attracted to David [cp. Mat 11:28; Luke 5:30-32]. The inspired writer to the Hebrews said, ''Let us go forth, therefore, unto Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach'' (Heb 13:13). You would find it most interesting to read the story of these men who joined David and who were faithful to him at the time of his rejection (2Sam 23:8-39). Paul wrote to young Timothy, ''If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us'' (2Tim 2:12).

Christ is the anointed of God. No doubt about it, Jesus Christ will reign! However, we are living in the time of His rejection. It will not always be so, for coronation time is coming!

Return to table of contents for ''The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ,''
written by Paul R. Van Gorder, Copyright 1982 by RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.
Used by permission [within The Book from].
Further distribution is not allowed without permission from RBC.

For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in Christ in All the Scriptures, by A.M. Hodgkin.

Go to The Book opening page.