Most Christians struggle when they read the Old Testament. The causes for this are many- lack of understanding of the biblical storyline, lack of familiarity with the culture, and lack of knowledge about how to apply the message of the Old Testament to their lives now. This is why I’m thankful for resources that help Christians understand the message of the Old Testament and live their lives in light of its truth. 1 Samuel for You by Tim Chester is such a resource. The “God’s Word for You” series, of which this is the latest offering, gives insight into the message of the biblical text while providing practical insight from the text of Scripture itself.
Chester explains and applies the message of 1 Samuel in 31 chapters. Each chapter begins with a walk through the passage, explaining some interpretive issues and thinking through the theological message. When Samuel anoints David as King in chapter 16, Chester explains the details of the text and shows the parallels with other sections in the Old Testament and the New Testament. For example, Chester shows the links between the passage and Ezekiel 34, as well as the commonalities with Micah 5 and Jesus’ birth narrative. He closes the section with a practical word about what it means to represent Jesus the King.
Chester’s treatment of David and Goliath provides the high point of the book. Seeking to apply the message of the passage to our hearts, he encourages readers to identify with the Israelite crowd instead of David. The Israelites did not win the victory. They watched their God sent deliverer win the battle against their seemingly unbeatable foe. The crowd enjoyed the benefits of their deliverer’s victory. In the same way, Christians bask in the glow of Christ’s victory. Rather than needing to summon up the courage to be David and fight against the giants in our lives, we labor through the strength God supplies. Chester makes it clear that this does not make us passive, but that it changes the way we fight our battles. “We often find ourselves facing the hostility and scorn that David faced. But we can fight bravely because the victory is ours in Christ. We can have faith because of the faithfulness of our Champion.”
1 Samuel for You could best be described as a devotional commentary. It avoids many technical discussions that are addressed in other commentaries because that is not the purpose. He introduces the reader to the contents of 1 Samuel and provides some hooks for working through how to live in light of the passage’s truth. A Christian who had never read through 1 Samuel could read this book along with it and it would help them not only understand what the text means, but how it is meant to change them.