The Old Testament is boring, or at least some Christians think so unless they are reading Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs, and perhaps Jonah. Such a view could not be further from the truth and author Tim Chester proves this with his latest book 1 Samuel For You. In this entry from The Good Book Company’s “God’s Word For You” series, Chester shows that the Old Testament points towards the New Testament. He reminds Christians that within the details of 1 Samuel that, Jesus Christ is the true King that both Ancient Israel and modern day Christians long for. As a result, readers are shown throughout 1 Samuel that the Old Testament can be applicable than one could ever imagine.
First, the application of prayer is found in 1 Samuel For You. In chapter one of 1 Samuel, Hannah is frustrated that God has made her barren (1:10). She begins to pray from her pride and frustration. As she prays God changes her heart to one of humility regarding her circumstances (1:18). Her story shows the contrast between pride and humility. This change takes place with her honest prayer before the Lord. She is not pious; instead she reveals her frustration regarding her predicament. As Chester’s writes, “Prayer is not a technique we need to master. It is pouring out your soul.” This is precisely what Hannah does, she pours out her soul, and God transforms her heart while answering her prayer (1:20). Hannah’s example is sound advice for Christians. Her story also summarizes the contrast between those who are humble and prideful before the Lord. This contrast is clearly displayed through the lives of Samuel, Saul, and David throughout 1 Samuel.
Second, the Lord’s call to Samuel illustrates the next application Christians can learn. Samuel was called by God to proclaim His Word. He was to establish a King that would unify the nation of Israel where “there was no king…and everyone did what was right in his own eyes”(3:19-21, Judges 21:25). By proclaiming God’s Word, He provided leadership when there was no direction. Similarly, Christians now have God’s Word, the Bible, for their leadership. Scripture guides Christians towards Jesus Christ who is the King that always succeeds. Israel made the mistake of not trusting God as their King. Therefore, it is important that Christians do not to look to rock star pastors or anyone else as role models. Rather, Jesus is the one true role model who will never disappoint.
Third, Chester uses biblical theology in 1 Samuel For You. For some Christians the principles of biblical theology are new. However, biblical theology helps one see the whole story of God’s Word and allows them to connect the Old Testament to the New Testament. Suddenly, the Old Testament will become interesting because Christians are able to see how it points to Christ. Chester uses biblical theology with the following examples. He shows the failures of Saul as King of Israel, that he represents the first Adam who failed humanity. Despite these shortcomings, King David was a better king who brought Israel into glory as a nation in the Ancient Near East. As a result, Christians can draw comfort from David who represents the second Adam who will succeed. This Adam is Jesus Christ who defeated both sin and death on the Cross, and will also restore all creation to God’s full glory. These observations from 1 Samuel help illustrate and inspire the use of biblical theology to see God’s complete story. By knowing that God has a plan for creation that is written throughout scripture, 1 Samuel For You serves to embolden believers to proclaim the Gospel because they know God will finish what He has planned.
Lastly, Chester’s applications are profound, but 1 Samuel For You does have its weaknesses. For example, there is a lack of specific verse-by-verse detail. Having read Galatians For You, Romans For You, and Titus For You, which are all apart of this series, there was an expectation that each verse would be covered in similar detail. To be fair, Chester had a lot of material to cover in one book and since there is a second volume of Samuel in the Bible this was unavoidable. Perhaps, in the future The Good Book Company could release an unabridged version of 1 Samuel For You. Yes, it would be much longer, but the detail would be valuable for anyone who desires to go more in-depth with the book of 1 Samuel.
1 Samuel For You by Tim Chester is a great layman’s commentary and Bible study. Like the other entries in the “God’s Word For You” series, this book allows anyone to learn more about God so they may love Him more. As Hannah’s story illustrates, there is a difference between those who approach God from pride than those who approach Him from humility. 1 Samuel For You humbly shows one the depth, yet practicality of every part of 1 Samuel. As a result, even the most critical person can walk away with a greater interest and appreciation for the Old Testament, even the parts that seem boring and dry.
(I received this book through the Cross Focused Review program in exchange for an honest review of the book.)