I’m working on a summary concept for our upcoming sermon series on the first seven chapters of Samuel. It’s still not ready for prime time, but I like “Unconstrained” as a possible title for the series, maybe with a subtitle with something to do with divine intervention or the fact that God is active in redeeming his people out of their rebellious state.
The fact is that these early chapters of Samuel – while setting the stage for a description of the establishment of the Davidic monarchy (and the seeds of Messianic hope in Jesus Christ) – give a fascinating portrayal of the God who is not constrained by our crises, our sin, or our enemies. Through the stories of a barren woman who gives birth, a degenerate priestly family that typifies the crisis God’s people are in at that time (devoid of true faithfulness and any ongoing word from God), a military threat from the Philistines, and general utter foolishness on the part of those who ought to be God’s own people God graciously intervenes to continue the grand redemptive story of history, moving the nation from crisis and degeneration toward being a unified people under God’s own king and with God’s established presence among His people.
So here are two attempts I’ve made at summarizing the essence of 1 Samuel 1-7. I still haven’t settled on a specific way of describing this series or a final title that adequately sums it up, but hopefully these attempts at a summary will help you read these chapters fruitfully in the meantime:
Attempt #1: “In the midst of national and family crisis, God exercises his divine authority over His people to raise up a judge for His people, speak to His people, and demonstrate His own divine sovereignty and the necessity of His presence and submission by His people.”
Attempt #2: “God is not constrained by the degenerate priesthood or by the rebellious culture of His people. He is not constrained by the lack of godly leadership or the threat of other nations or other gods. He leads the way out of the crisis by his own divine authority. He solves the problem of the degenerate priesthood through judgment, He raises up his own leader through miraculous means, He proves Himself a God who cannot be manipulated and who is in fact the one who is in control. He is sovereign over births, deaths, prophetic utterances, battles, and the gods of all nations – including His own people. He in fact proves that His covenantal, authoritative presence is the defining mark of His people and the ultimate blessing that they need. The ultimate nature of the crisis is clearly seen to be a belittling of God, a crisis which God resolves by His own gracious intervention on the behalf of his rebellious people.”