The Old Testament is boring, or so some Christians think unless they are reading Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs, and perhaps Jonah. This view, however, could not be further from the truth, and author Tim Chester proves this with his latest book, 1 Samuel For You (2014). 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, Jesus Christ is the true King that both Ancient Israel and modern-day Christians seek. As a result, readers are shown throughout 1 Samuel that the Old Testament can be more applicable than one could ever imagine.
First, the application of prayer is 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 writes, “Prayer is not a technique we need to master. It is pouring out your soul.” Hannah pours out her soul, and God transforms her heart while answering her prayer (1:20). Hannah’s example is sound advice for Christians as her story summarizes the contrast between the humble and proud. This contrast is in the lives of Samuel, Saul, and David throughout 1 Samuel.
Second, the Lord’s call to Samuel illustrates the next application Christians can learn. God called Samuel 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, the King who always succeeds. Israel made the mistake of not trusting God as their King. Therefore, Christians mustn’t look to rock star pastors or anyone else as role models. Instead, Jesus is the one role model who will never disappoint.
Third, Tim 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 can 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. Knowing that God has a plan for creation throughout scripture, 1 Samuel For You encourages 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 a part of this series, there was an expectation that Chester would similarly expound on each verse. He did not as he 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, The Good Book Company could release an unabridged version of 1 Samuel For You in the future. 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 and those who approach Him from humility. 1 Samuel For You humbly shows one the depth yet the practicality of every part of 1 Samuel. As a result, even the most critical person can walk away with greater interest and appreciation for the Old Testament, even the parts that seem dull and dry.
Editor’s Note: This book was received via the Cross Focused Review program in exchange for an honest review of the book. The Cross Focused Review program is no longer in operation.
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