1 Samuel - Pressure

Background

The book of 1 Samuel records the life of Samuel, Israel's last judge; the reign and decline of Saul, Israel's first king, and the choice and preparation of David, Israel's greatest king.

Born in answer to barren Hannah's tearful prayer (1 Sam. 1:10), Samuel was dedicated to the Lord before his birth (1:11) as a "loan" for all his life (1:28; 2:20). Eli raised Samuel at the Shiloh sanctuary (1 Sam. 2:11). Samuel met God and received his first prophetic mission as a young lad (1 Sam. 3:1,11-14).

Following the death of Eli and his sons, Israel experienced twenty years (1 Sam. 7:2) of national sin and Philistine oppression. Samuel reemerged in the role of judge, calling Israel to repentance and delivering them from foreign domination.

Theme

We are not free from pressure. Yet how we handle it is so important. The book of 1 Samuel contains many accounts of people facing all kinds of pressure. There are both good examples for us to follow and bad ones for us to avoid.

Wrong way of handling pressureRight way of handling pressure
​Doing nothing​Seeking God's strength to remedy the situation
​Panic​Staying calm because you have sought God's help
​Seeking advice from the world or evil sources​Seeking God for advice as to what to do
​Succumbing to sin to escape from the pressure​Choosing to do right in spite of the pressure

Do nothing or seek God's strength to remedy the situation.

Even though Eli was a temple priest, his sons' behavior were notorious. Yet Eli did nothing to correct them.

(1 Samuel 2:22-29 NIV) Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. {23} So he said to them, "Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. {24} No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear spreading among the Lord's people. {25} If a man sins against another man, God may mediate for him; but if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?" His sons, however, did not listen to their father's rebuke, for it was the Lord's will to put them to death. {26} And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the LORD and with men. {27} Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, "This is what the LORD says: 'Did I not clearly reveal myself to your father's house when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh? {28} I chose your father out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in my presence. I also gave your father's house all the offerings made with fire by the Israelites. {29} Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?'

"I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours." In other words, Eli had pressure from the people to ask his sons to change their wicked ways. Yet he did nothing. (He did talk to his sons about it but he did not take any other appropriate action.) Eli responded to pressure by running away from it. Later the Lord accused him of honoring his sons more than Him.

This may also be how we handle some of the pressurizing issues of life. We know that we have to witness to our loved ones or else they may be lost forever. Yet we handle this pressure by just not thinking about it and doing nothing.

David responded to pressure by confronting it. When he saw Goliath, he knew that something has to be done. He could not allow Goliath to go on insulting God's army forever.

(1 Samuel 17:26 NIV) David asked the men standing near him, "What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?"

(1 Samuel 17:32 NIV) David said to Saul, "Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him."

Likewise we have to realize that a problem will not go away just because we have left it alone. Many times the problem surfaces at a later point in time and we regret not doing something when we had the chance. Learn to confront whatever difficulty with God's strength.


Panic or stay calm because you have sought God's help.

When the Philistines challenged the Jews, everyone was under pressure. The people responded to pressure by feeling frightened and helpless.

(1 Samuel 17:4-11 NIV) A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall. {5} He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels ; {6} on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. {7} His spear shaft was like a weaver's rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him. {8} Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, "Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. {9} If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us." {10} Then the Philistine said, "This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other." {11} On hearing the Philistine's words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

(1 Samuel 17:23-24 NIV) As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. {24} When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear.

When David confronted Goliath, he knew that the Lord was with him and so he was totally calm. He obviously knew that by himself he could never defeat a giant who is over nine feet tall. All the time he knew that he could count on God to fight the battle for him.

(1 Samuel 17:45-47 NIV) David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. {46} This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. {47} All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give all of you into our hands."

All of us have moments when we were so nervous and pressured that our mind goes blank. We panic. It may be during the time when we encounter a difficult question during the exam or when we were asked a difficult question during the job interview. We too can be calm in any situation if we have already committed it to the Lord and are relying on God's strength to complete the task.


Seek advice from the world (or other evil sources) or seek the Lord's guidance.

(1 Samuel 28:5-8 NIV) When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. {6} He inquired of the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. {7} Saul then said to his attendants, "Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her." "There is one in Endor," they said. {8} So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. "Consult a spirit for me," he said, "and bring up for me the one I name."

When we are under pressure, sometimes the Lord is the last person we seek for help. To many people, an invisible God seem so distant and we prefer someone whom we can see or is more tangible. We begin to ask friends for advice. We may even read secular books to see what the world is advising us to do. Some people even consult evil sources such as mediums like Saul.

In stark contrast, Samuel immediately sought the Lord when he came under pressure. He obviously knew that it is difficult to think for himself when he is under pressure and who else besides God who can give perfect advice?

(1 Samuel 8:5-7 NIV) They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have." {6} But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. {7} And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.

The people pressured Samuel into giving them a king, just like their neighbors. Samuel responded to the pressure by asking God for guidance. There may be times when we are pressured and do not know what to do. Do what Samuel does and pray to God for guidance.

There may not be time to carry out a lengthy prayer when we are under pressure. It is often helpful to mutter a prayer under our breath to God even during that moment of pressure to ask God for the best way to handle the situation. Sometimes, we can withdraw from the situation for five minutes in a quiet place and ask God for His guidance.


Succumb to sin or choose to do what is right.

Saul responded to pressure by doing what pleased men. Saul was supposed to wait seven days for Samuel to arrive so that Samuel could offer sacrifices to God before the battle with the Philistines could begin. But when Samuel did not come after six days, Saul panicked and offered the sacrifices himself.

(1 Samuel 13:6-14 NIV) When the men of Israel saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. {7} Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. {8} He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul's men began to scatter. {9} So he said, "Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings. " And Saul offered up the burnt offering. {10} Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him. {11} "What have you done?" asked Samuel. Saul replied, "When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, {12} I thought, 'Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord's favor.' So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering." {13} "You acted foolishly," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. {14} But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord's command."

When Samuel questioned Saul, he attributed this act to wanting to please his men.

(1 Samuel 15:24 NIV) Then Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned. I violated the Lord's command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.

Jonathan did just the opposite. He chose to do what pleases God during times of pressure. He had constant pressure from his father, King Saul, to betray his friend David and have him killed. If he had lived his life wanting to please men, he would have been so torn as to who to listen to. Should he listen to his father? Anyway his father is the king. Should he listen to his friend? Jonathan chose to listen only to God and do what he think is right in God's eyes.

(1 Samuel 19:1-5 NIV) Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan was very fond of David {2} and warned him, "My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. {3} I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I'll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out." {4} Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, "Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. {5} He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The LORD won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?"

Jonathan responded to pressure by doing what he thought was right.

Under times of stress, sometimes the best way out seems to one that compromises our standards. We are often tempted to cheat or lie to get out of a tight spot. Yet God requires us to stay true to His commandments even during times of pressure.