Friday, January 20, 2017

Book Review: 1 and 2 Samuel

Thru the Bible: 1 and 2 Samuel. J. Vernon McGee. 1976/1997. Thomas Nelson. 308 pages. [Source: Bought]

One of my goals for 2017 is to read twelve commentaries. I have always, always, always loved the history books of the Old Testament, so I decided to start with J. Vernon McGee's commentary for 1 and 2 Samuel.

If you've never read his work before, what should you expect? Casual, conversational, yet not fluffy, commentary not only on the Scripture text but on church and society as well. He has a call-it-like-I-see it honest approach to unpacking Scripture.

I appreciate his love of Scripture. The way he sees the whole Bible to be the message of God--the revelation of God--to all of us past, present, future. I love his eagerness to explain Scripture in a way that's easy for everyone--no matter your background--to understand.

Every chapter of the books of First and Second Samuel are discussed in the commentary. I believe the Scripture text printed within this one is the King James Version.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

  • The fact that certain things are recorded in Scripture does not mean that God sanctions them. He is merely giving you the facts concerning history, persons, and events. For example, you will find that the lie of Satan is recorded in Scripture, but that does not mean God approves it!
  • Some churches are the worst places you can be in and the most dangerous places for you.
  • We don’t see much praying like Hannah’s today. Would people think you were drunk by the way you pray? Our prayers are very dignified.
  • We are living in a day of abortion. Hannah lived in a day when she wanted a son, and she dedicated that son unto the Lord. On her cry, God built a kingdom. What a tremendous tribute and wonderful monument to this woman’s cry!
  • Salvation comes in three tenses. (1) We have been saved. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath [right now] everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). That means that God has delivered us from the guilt of sin by the death of Christ. That is justification, and it is past tense. (2) God has also delivered us from what the old theologians called “the pollution of sin,” which is present deliverance. We are being saved. It is a deliverance from the weaknesses of the flesh, the sins of the flesh, the faults of the mind, and the actions of the will. This is the present deliverance that Hannah is talking about. It is sanctification and is in the present tense. (3) Finally there is the deliverance from death in the future—not physical, but spiritual death. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). This is a future deliverance. We shall be saved. That will be glorification, which is future tense. We have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved. Hannah was rejoicing in her salvation.
  • When we come to God in prayer, we need to be very careful, friends, that we do not let our pride cause us to stumble. We need to recognize our weakness, our insufficiency, and our inability, and the fact that we really have no claim on God. Sometimes we hear people ask, “Why didn’t God hear my prayer?” To be quite frank, why should He? What claim do you have on Him? If you have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, you have a wonderful claim on God, and you can come to Him in the name of Jesus Christ. As His children we have Jesus’ right and claim. However, we must remember that our prayers must be in accordance with His will.
  • When God says something, it is the same as done. When God says something is going to happen, it is going to happen.
  • How did God reveal Himself? By the Word. God today is also revealing Himself through His Word. He is illuminating by His Spirit the pages of Scripture. That is how you and I come to know Him, and to know Him is life eternal.
  • You cannot get God into a box! The merit was in the presence and person of God. The merit is in Christ. Success is determined by whether or not we are with Him. That is all important.
  • They think they are getting somewhere spiritually, but this is nothing in the world but idolatry. They are worshiping a box—not God. Let us be careful in the ceremonies and rituals of our church.   
  • The name Eben–ezer means “stone of help.” “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” It was also a stone of remembrance, looking back to the past. It was a stone of recognition, a stone for the present. It was a stone of revelation, a stone for the future. “Hitherto [up to this point, up to the present time] God has helped us.” It is customary for us to look back over the past. Remember what the Lord said through Paul to the Philippians: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). Friend, has God brought you to this point? Is He leading you today? Is He guiding you? If He has, you can say, “Hitherto has the Lord helped me.” Since He has helped you up to this moment, He will continue to do that. God has given us memories so that we can have roses in December. As memory plays on the keyboard of the past, I am sure that all of us can say, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” Joshua could say, “… as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:15). David could say, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed form the hand of the enemy” (Ps. 107:1–2). I personally want to say that oh, the Lord is good! He is the One who has helped us and will help us.
  •  Many people believe that the voice of the majority, the choice of the people, is the voice of God. The Bible contradicts this thinking. Generally the minority is closer to determining the will of God. The people wanted Saul. God was the One who chose David.
  • We ought to pray for one another. There are many needy people. God forbid that we should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for one another.
  • There is a great deal of this informal and friendly approach to the Lord Jesus Christ today. There are so many little songs that go something like this: “Jesus is a friend of mine.” We need to be careful how we use an approach like this to Him. When you say that Jesus is a friend of yours, what do you mean? Actually, you are trying to bring Him down to your level.
  • When we begin to talk about Jesus as “a friend of mine,” we are not being Scriptural. The Lord said, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). Are you obedient unto Him? How dare any of us call Him friend if we are not obeying Him? To disobey Him is worse than witchcraft. It is rebellion against God. When you meet a person who is totally disobedient to the Lord, you almost have to conclude that he does not belong to the Lord at all. Now I am not saying that works enter into salvation. I am saying that if you are a child of God, if you come to the place where you know Him, you will obey Him.
  • The important thing is to be rightly related to the Lord Jesus Christ. To be a child of God is to know Him personally. That is what makes Christianity different from any religion in the world. You can be a Buddhist without knowing Buddha. You can be a follower of Confucius without knowing him. You can be a member of any other religion without knowing the founder, but you cannot be a Christian, friend, without knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. And to know Him is life eternal.
  • My friend, God’s love will not deter Him from judging sinners. He can love them and still execute judgment. Our God is holy and righteous and just, as well as loving.
  • Let’s not try to be something we are not, or try to do something we are really not called to do. If God has called you to use a slingshot, friend, don’t try to use a sword. If God has called you to speak, then speak. If God has called you to do something else, well, do that. If God has called you to sing, sing. But if He has not called you to sing, for goodness sake, don’t do it. Too many people are trying to use a sword when the slingshot is really more their size.
  • God has shown kindness to you and me for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not because of who we are or what we have done that He saved us. Our salvation comes because of who Christ is and what He has done for us. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Because His Son died for us, God extends favor to us for Jesus’ sake.
  • Sin has made us debtors to God. Remember that in the prayer Christ taught His disciples, it says, “Forgive us our debts.” God alone can forgive us. Forgiveness always rests upon the payment of a debt, and those who were in debt had to flee. David, actually, did not pay the debt, but Christ did. He paid the debt of sin by dying on the Cross. He set us free. That is what the Lord Jesus Christ did for you and for me. If you realize you are a debtor to God and have no means to pay, He will pay that debt for you. You can flee to Him. What a wonderful privilege that is!
  • Suppose you wanted to choose the greatest day in the life of David. What day would you choose? Would it be the day that Samuel poured the anointing oil on him as a young shepherd boy? How about the day that he slew the giant Goliath? Certainly his first romance with Michal, Saul’s daughter, who was given to him in marriage, deserves consideration. Perhaps you might choose the day David escaped from Saul. Then again you might choose the day Saul died, because that meant that David would ascend the throne. You might think it was the day that he was made king of all Israel and the crown was placed upon his head. You might even want to suggest it was the day his son Absalom rebelled against him and was slain. Or perhaps you might choose the day his son Solomon was anointed king. All of these were great days in the life of a great man. However, I believe there are two events that stand out above all others in the life of David: the day that David brought the ark of God to Jerusalem (recorded in ch. 6) and the day David purposed in his heart to build God a house (recorded in ch. 7). These are probably the two greatest days in David’s life.
  • Light creates responsibility. If men have the light of the gospel, they are held responsible for rejecting it. I am not going to argue with you about the heathen in Africa, but I would like to argue with you about the heathen in my town and your town because they can hear the gospel, and their responsibility is great. If you turn your back on Jesus Christ, my friend, you can argue about the heathen all you want to, but you are lost and doomed and judged and are bound for eternal hell. That is the teaching of the Word of God. You may not like it; and, if you don’t, you ought to move out of this universe into another one. This is God’s universe and these are His rules.
  • God is going to judge. I do not know about you, but I am a little weary of hearing all this love, love, lovey–dovey stuff. Sure, God is love. Certainly God loves you, but you can go on in sin, you can turn your back on Him, and you are lost. There is no way out of it. There is no other alternative.
  • The Word of God is a mirror that reveals us as we really are.
  • When Absalom died, however, David’s heart broke. Why? He was not sure of the young man’s salvation; he was not sure where his son was. Frankly, I believe that David felt his son was not saved, and that is why he was so stricken with grief. Also, even though David was a great king, he was a poor father; I am sure David realized this.
  • Friend, faith is not a leap in the dark. It is not a gamble. Faith is not even a “hope so.” Faith is a sure thing. God never asks you to believe something that is not true. Faith rests upon a rock, a sure foundation. The Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation. Faith, therefore, is not just leaping out into space. However, there is a time in your life, my friend, when you need to live and move by faith and to recognize that you cannot live by your own effort or by numbers. Unfortunately, the church today has not learned to trust God. As a result, at the congregational meetings the spiritual victories are never mentioned. The things that are mentioned are how much we have in the treasury, how many we baptized this year, and how many members we took in. If the figures look pretty good, we consider that it is a great spiritual victory. Actually, it might have been the worst thing in the world that could have happened in that church.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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