Where Do We See Jesus in the Old Testament Book of 1 Samuel?

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Where Do We See Jesus in the Old Testament Book of 1 Samuel?

What do you think of when you hear someone mention 1 Samuel? 

I immediately think of the story of Samuel and his mother, Hannah, who had prayed for him. The call of Samuel is also one of those riveting stories of the Old Testament. I also remember that it has something to do with King Saul — and how he was kind of a mess. And then I slowly remember that somewhere in this book is also the story of David and Goliath

It’s a book about transitions. The Israelites move from being governed and led by judges to being led by a king, just like the nations. It’s a story of what happens when God gives you what you want. But it’s also a story where some big gospel promises begin to take shape. 

You’ve probably heard a sermon or two on David and Goliath. And in that sermon, you’ve probably seen a few connections to the Lord Jesus. But where else do we see Jesus in 1 Samuel? How do we find the gospel here? 

How Do You Find the Gospel in the Old Testament? 

I suppose before understanding how to find the gospel in the OT, it’d be helpful for us to define the gospel. The simplest definition is one given by JI Packer: God saves sinners. If you’d like to put a bit more meat on your gospel presentation, I use two different frameworks with four points each. The first is God—Man—Christ—Response. The second is more of a story: Creation—Fall—Redemption—Glory. 

The first presentation centers upon God’s character and how humanity fails to meet God’s holy standard, as such the judgment of God is upon us. But the good news is that Jesus Christ fixes this by fulfilling what is required through his life, death and resurrection. Our only fitting response, then, is to respond to Him in repentance and faith. When this happens, we are united to Christ and his record becomes our record. 

The second presentation centers upon the overarching story of the Bible. God lovingly created us to love Him and enjoy Him forever. We were made for rest, rule, and relationship. But we made shipwreck of this, and so rather than having the blessings of obedience we are under the curse of disobedience. Rather than having peace (rest), purpose (ruling), and healthy relationship, we often experience the opposite. Ultimately, we are alienated from God. But thankfully God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to bear our curse and to fulfill what God intended for humanity. As such we now experience the blessings of Jesus’ obedience in our place. He restores the rest, rule, and relationship we were created to enjoy. Someday everything will be ultimately restored, and we will live in a new heaven and a new earth. 

We could write entire books focusing on these various themes of the gospel. But every gospel story follows this basic skeleton. No matter where you find yourself in the Old Testament (or the New Testament) you can find one of these various threads. Every place in Scripture is either telling you something about God, something about our rebellion, something about His rescue, or something about our future restoration. If you can spot this, then you can fill out the rest of the story. 

How Do We Find the Gospel in 1 Samuel? 

In the Creation narrative we see God creating humanity and placing them within the Garden. They are created in His image, and they are given the task of being fruitful and multiplying. God tells the first couple to rule and have dominion over creation. Tim Bertolet summarizes well what is happening in this story: “God, creating and establishing the earth, establishes an image to rule in his stead as he ‘sits down’ in heaven to rule all creation. The language of Genesis 1 is what we call ‘vice regency.’”

We were made for a purpose. We were intended to rule. Some of this is picked up in the logic of Hebrews 2 and Psalm 8. But the problem is also found in Hebrews 2. “Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them.” We aren’t ruling as we ought to be ruling. 

This reality was made evident in 1 Samuel. It begins with the prayer of Hannah. Her prayer is a picture of the type of humble ruling that ought to mark humanity. It’s a picture of dependence upon God, and also that God gives authority and rule to those who are humble and faithful. She prayed this before Israel even had a king: 

“The Most High will thunder from heaven;
the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

He will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed”

(1 Samuel 2:10).

This prayer is what ought to be. But as the story unfolds, we see that Israel does not want to be dependent upon God, they’d rather be like the nations. They want a king just like the nations, and God gave to them Saul, a man who ends up being the opposite of that which Hannah prayed for. 

God created humanity to rule and reflect His glory. But humanity sinfully chooses to rule in such a way that isn’t a reflection of God’s goodness. Saul is a perfect picture of how humanity rules and reigns. He’s inward focused. He’s power hungry and jealous. He is the opposite of faithful and humble. 

His kingdom is taken from him and in his place arises another. David is the opposite of Saul. In this way he points to the Messiah. But there is a reason why we refer to Jesus as the Greater David. David was not perfect — far from it. We see much of his failure in 2 Samuel. But he is also the opposite of Saul in many ways. 

But David is pointing to another. It will not be through King David that our high calling to rule will be restored. No, this will come through the finished work of King Jesus. 1 Samuel points to what ought to be, but also gives us a picture of what painfully is at present. Some day we will once again reign. There is one, like David, who will rule and reign and lead us to victory. 

Where Is Jesus in the Story of David at the Cave of Adullam? 

There are a few places in 1 Samuel that would be pretty easy to make a “beeline to the cross” as Spurgeon spoke of. But I think it is beneficial to challenge ourselves to pick some of the more obscure passages and try to see how they connect to the story, and from there show how it all connects to Jesus. 

In 1 Samuel 22:1-5 we read of David fleeing the murderous threats of King Saul. It is clear that God has chosen David to be the king, but Saul will not go without a fight. In this section of Scripture, David is housed in the Cave of Adullam. 

The name Adullam means refuge. What is a refuge? Do you remember playing tag, or freeze tag as a child? There was always a place that was base. When you were touching “base” you couldn’t be tagged. It was your safe place. Another word for this would be refuge. A refuge is a place of shelter, a place where you’ll be protected from harm. 

But David wasn’t alone in this cave. His family also needed protection. We read that David and his family weren’t the only ones who were in trouble. This cave also served as a place of rest for “everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and every who was bitter in soul.” 

But the cave itself isn’t the greatest source of protection. The Scripture says that all of these broken and outcasts were “gathered to him.” David made a loyal army out of this band of misfits. But all of this is a picture of God’s protection of David. What Hannah prayed is coming true in the life of David, 

“He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be broken” (1 Samuel 2:9). 

Saul will be broken. David will be exalted. 

Many years later, a Son of David would come who would be a place of refuge for outcasts and misfits. He’d unite Himself to them, and they would become His disciples. David’s actions here are foreshadowing the much greater work of the Lord Jesus. Just as David opened up this cave of refuge for others — so also Christ in His own body, will open up a place of refuge for “all those in distress.” 

The key question, then, is what will we do with this place of refuge? Will we remain outside — battered, bruised, and broken? Will we stay in our rebellion and ultimately “be silenced in the place of darkness,” or will we turn to Christ who is our only sure and certain refuge?

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Photo credit: ©Getty Images/FTiare

Mike Leake is husband to Nikki and father to Isaiah and Hannah. He is also the lead pastor at Calvary of Neosho, MO. Mike is the author of Torn to Heal and Jesus Is All You Need. His writing home is http://mikeleake.net and you can connect with him on Twitter @mikeleake.