Simple Bible Reading Guide
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"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." —Psalms 119:130
God's word is intended for all people. For thousands of years God has communicated to millions of simple people through His word. In fact, many things are hidden from the learned and clever but revealed to the merest children (Lk 10:21). Of course, God's word is sometimes so difficult to interpret that we need the Church to teach us. Therefore, highly academic Bible study has its place, but it is not the principal approach to God's word. The word is not primarily for an educated elite but for everyday people praying and reading by the power of the Spirit.
Nevertheless, not many books about the Bible are written to help the average person. What most people need is something short, simple, and practical that encourages, motivates and guides. We need something that will help us read the Biblical texts and not just about the text. This is the purpose of this simple Bible reading guide. "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all (2 Mc 2:25).
Note: The breakdown of the Bible into chapters (although not always adequate) has served God's people for centuries. So in general we will use a chapter-by-chapter structure for our comments.
Be sure to read each chapter of the Bible along with the introductory comments.
P.S. We have prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament about our choice of the verses in this reading guide. We hope the Scriptures will have a prophetic, life-changing power for you.
1 Sm 1 — SERIOUS PRAYING
"I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted my request." 1 Samuel 1:26-27
After several years of barrenness and depression, Hannah decided to do some serious praying. "In her bitterness she prayed to the Lord, weeping copiously" (1:10). She prayed to give birth to a son and promised to give him to the Lord. Her prayer was answered; she conceived and gave birth to Samuel.
Prayer: Father, may the barren bear fruit.
Promise: "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him." 1:17
1 Sm 2 — PRIESTS AND PARENTS
"I will choose a faithful priest who shall do what I have in heart and mind. I will establish a lasting house for him." 1 Samuel 2:35
The greed and sexual sins of the priests and the weakness of the parents were destroying the nation of Israel. Meanwhile, the Lord was raising up a family which was raising a young boy named Samuel to renew His people.
Prayer: Father, renew the priesthood by renewing parenting and family life.
Promise: "My heart exults in the Lord, my horn is exalted in my God. I have swallowed up my enemies; I rejoice in my victory." 2:1
1 Sm 3 — LITTLE SAMMY AND FAT ELI
"The Lord came and revealed His presence, calling out as before, 'Samuel, Samuel!' Samuel answered, 'Speak, for Your servant is listening.' " 1 Samuel 3:10
Right now, the Lord is doing what He did in Samuel's time. He's renewing a fat, blind, deaf, and sleeping church by calling into His service young people like Samuel.
Prayer: Father, may our precious young Christians be protected and nurtured so as to become great leaders in Your kingdom.
Promise: "Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect." 3:19
1 Sm 4 — DEATHS IN THE FAMILY
"It was a disastrous defeat, in which Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured, and Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were among the dead." 1 Samuel 4:10-11
Hophni and Phinehas, priests and sons of Eli, were killed in battle. The ark of the covenant was captured by the Philistines. When Eli heard the news, he "fell backward from his chair into the gateway; since he was an old man and heavy, he died of a broken neck" (4:18). Finally, Phinehas' wife died in childbirth, but the baby lived. He was named Ichabod, meaning "gone is the glory from Israel" (4:22).
Prayer: Father, may I repent before something worse happens (Jn 5:14).
1 Sm 5 — DAGON IT
"They then took the ark of God and brought it into the temple of Dagon, placing it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next morning, Dagon was lying prone on the ground before the ark of the Lord." 1 Samuel 5:2-3
The ark was captured not because of God's weakness, but because of
His people's sinfulness. In the ark's presence, the statue of the false god Dagon fell to the ground, and its head and hands broke off. Plagues of hemorrhoids and mice devastated every city to which the ark was moved. The Philistines "summoned priests and fortune-tellers to ask, 'What shall we do with the ark of the Lord?' " (6:2)
Prayer: Father, give me a great love for Jesus' eucharistic presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
1 Sm 6 — THE LAST LAUGH
"Therefore, make images of the hemorrhoids and of the mice that are infesting your land and give them as a tribute to the God of Israel. Perhaps then He will cease to afflict you, your gods, and your land." 1 Samuel 6:5
The Philistines put the ark in a cart without a driver and hoped the mooing milch cows would take it back to the Israelites. As a guilt offering, the Philistines also put in the cart five golden hemorrhoids and five golden mice. God has a strange sense of humor.
Prayer: Father, may I laugh when You tell a joke.
Promise: "When they looked up and spied the ark, they greeted it with rejoicing." 6:13
1 Sm 7 — A NATION UNDER GOD
"From the day the ark came to rest in Kiriath-jearim a long time twenty years elapsed, and the whole Israelite population turned to the Lord." 1 Samuel 7:2
The whole country repented within twenty years after they centered their lives on God's presence at the ark. When we center our lives on Jesus' presence in the Eucharist, we will see much greater things.
Prayer: Father, may I see the Church renewed before I die.
Promise: "Thus were the Philistines subdued, never again to enter the territory of Israel, for the Lord was severe with them as long as Samuel lived." 7:13
1 Sm 8 — KING-DUMB
"The people, however, refused to listen to Samuel's warning and said, 'Not so! There must be a king over us. We too must be like other nations, with a king to rule us.' " 1 Samuel 8:19-20
Samuel led the whole nation to the Lord but couldn't get through to His sons. "His sons did not follow his example but sought illicit gain and accepted bribes, perverting justice" (8:3). "Therefore all the elders of Israel came in a body to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, 'Now that you are old, and your sons do not follow your example, appoint a king over us, as other nations have, to judge us' " (8:4-5). This was a big mistake, but the Lord let the people do it, hoping they would learn the hard way. They never did.
Prayer: Father, may I pattern my life not on the world but on Your word.
1 Sm 9 — TALL, DUMB, AND HANDSOME
"He had a son named Saul, who was a handsome young man. There was no other Israelite handsomer than Saul; he stood head and shoulders above the people." 1 Samuel 9:2
Saul might have been too dumb to find a lost ass, but he looked good enough to be king. Looks aren't everything, but in politics they're almost everything. So Saul was anointed king.
Prayer: Father, like You may I see not only the appearance but also the heart (1 Sm 16:7).
Promise: "He shall save My people from the clutches of the Philistines, for I have witnessed their misery and accepted their cry for help." 9:16
1 Sm 10 — DUMB ASS
"Your father is no longer worried about the asses, but is anxious about you." 1 Samuel 10:2
The anointing and selection of Saul as king are interspersed with references concerning the lost asses. Saul was a dumb ass, if there ever was one.
Prayer: Father, I repent of being a damned fool instead of a fool for You (1 Cor 3:18).
Promise: "The Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will join them in their prophetic state and will be changed into another man." 10:6
1 Sm 11 — QUALIFIED OR "CALL-IFIED"?
"So all the people went to Gilgal, where, in the presence of the Lord, they made Saul king." 1 Samuel 11:15
Like Saul, we are successful because we are anointed, not vice-versa. The power is in God's choice, not our ability.
Prayer: Father, may I not look at my ability but at my availability to You.
Promise: "They also sacrificed peace offerings there before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites celebrated the occasion with great joy." 11:15
1 Sm 12 — SHOWDOWN
"It is true you have committed all this evil; still, you must not turn from the Lord, but must worship him with your whole heart." 1 Samuel 12:20
Samuel confronted the people concerning their sinfulness. For His part, the Lord confirmed Samuel's words with a great sign. Samuel questioned the people: " 'Are we not in the harvest time for wheat? Yet I shall call to the Lord, and He will send thunder and rain. Thus you will see and understand how greatly the Lord is displeased that you have asked for a king.' Samuel then called to the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day. As a result, all the people dreaded the Lord and Samuel" (12:17-18).
Prayer: Father, forgive me for refusing to trust in You completely despite Your perfect faithfulness.
Promise: "As for me, far be it from me to sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you and to teach you the good and right way. But you must fear the Lord and worship Him faithfully with your whole heart." 12:23-24
1 Sm 13 — A BAD START
"You have been foolish! Had you kept the command the Lord your God gave you, the Lord would now establish your kingship in Israel as lasting; but as things are, your kingdom shall not endure." 1 Samuel 13:13-14
The announcement of Saul's kingship omits his age when he became king and the length of his reign (13:1). Also, Saul began his reign in Michmash, a name which has come to connote confusion. Finally, Saul panicked and unlawfully offered sacrifice before battle. Saul's reign was off to a bad start.
Prayer: Father, may my every action be in Your will.
Promise: "The Lord has sought out a man after His own heart and has appointed him commander of His people." 13:14
1 Sm 15 — FIRED
"Then the Lord spoke to Samuel: 'I regret having made Saul king, for he has turned from Me and has not kept My command.' " 1 Samuel 15:10-11
Saul had a knack for ruining everything by his disobedience, which stemmed from his poor self-image (15:17). To make things worse, Saul refused to admit his sin (15:13, 20). Samuel confronted him with this prophetic statement: "Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission than the fat of rams. For a sin like divination is rebellion, and presumption is the crime of idolatry. Because you have rejected the command of the Lord, He, too, has rejected you as ruler" (15:22-23). "Never again, as long as he lived, did Samuel see Saul. Yet he grieved over Saul, because the Lord regretted having made him king of Israel" (15:35).
Prayer: Father, may I repent before You have no choice but to fire me.
1 Sm 16 — FACE THE MUSIC
"David would take the harp and play, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, for the evil spirit would leave him." 1 Samuel 16:23
"The Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and he was tormented by an evil spirit" (16:14). Saul's servants suggested that he listen to music to make him feel better. David, who had been anointed by Samuel to take over the kingship, was chosen to provide the music.
Prayer: Father, may I be delivered from the evil one and not just temporarily relieved.
Promise: "Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and from that day on, the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David." 16:13
1 Sm 17 — GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES
"All this multitude, too, shall learn that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves. For the battle is the Lord's, and He shall deliver you into our hands." 1 Samuel 17:47
David was too young to go to war so he got the job of taking cheese sandwiches to his older brothers. Before long, David volunteered to fight the giant Goliath. Because the Lord was with David, he miraculously killed Goliath by using a little slingshot.
Prayer: Father, give me awesome victory in spiritual warfare.
Promise: "You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel that you have insulted." 17:45
1 Sm 19 — SPIRITS
"Saul tried to nail David to the wall with the spear, but David eluded Saul, so that the spear struck only the wall, and David got away safe." 1 Samuel 19:10
Driven by an evil spirit, Saul sent troop after troop of policemen to arrest David. They even tried to murder David in bed. Finally, Saul again went after David himself, only to be stopped by the Spirit of God.
Prayer: Father, stop violence by delivering us from the evil one.
Promise: "As he set out from the hilltop toward the sheds, the Spirit of God came upon him (Saul) also." 19:23
1 Sm 21 — SURVIVAL OF THE UNFITTEST
"He feigned insanity and acted like a madman in their hands, drumming on the doors of the gate and drooling onto his beard." 1 Samuel 21:14
David was being hunted down like a wild animal. But the Lord provided bread and Goliath's sword to help David survive. David for his part was wise enough to play the fool.
Prayer: Father, may I humble myself so You can exalt me (Mt 23:12).
1 Sm 22 — MOTLEY CREW
"He was joined by all those who were in difficulties or in debt, or who were embittered, and he became their leader." 1 Samuel 22:2
In his anger and jealousy, Saul slaughtered the priests. The survivors of Saul's unjust regime joined David. Saul unintentionally built up David's army.
Prayer: Father, may the devil's work backfire on him and raise up an army for You.
Promise: "Stay with me. Fear nothing; he that seeks your life must seek my life also. You are under my protection." 22:23
1 Sm 23 — HOT TIPS
"Though Saul sought him continually, the Lord did not deliver David into his grasp." 1 Samuel 23:14
David could not be arrested because the Lord tipped him off to Saul's plans. The Lord was his Shepherd. He guided him in right paths (Ps 23:1-3). Even though David walked in the valley of the shadow of death, he feared no evil, for the Lord was at his side (Ps 23:4).
Prayer: Father, guard my going in and my coming out (Ps 121:8).
Promise: "Have no fear, my father Saul shall not lay a hand to you. You shall be king of Israel and I shall be second to you." 23:17
1 Sm 24 — IN THE REST ROOM
"The Lord will judge between me and you, and the Lord will exact justice from you in my case. I shall not touch you." 1 Samuel 24:13
David literally caught Saul "with his pants down." He could have killed his bitter enemy but he spared Saul, who then temporarily repented.
Prayer: Father, may I love my enemies and return good for evil (Rm 12:21).
Promise: David "said to his men, 'The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord's anointed.' " 24:7
1 Sm 25 — VENGEANCE
"Blessed be your good judgment and blessed be you yourself, who this day have prevented me from shedding blood and from avenging myself personally." 1 Samuel 25:33
Although David did not avenge himself against Saul, he almost fell into this temptation with Nabal. Nabal had refused to return a favor to David, and this ingratitude was enough to start a war. But Nabal's wife, Abigail, intercepted David before the battle and prevented him from avenging himself.
Prayer: Father, may my enemies repent so as to be spared Your wrath.
Promise: "The Lord shall certainly establish a lasting dynasty for my lord, because your lordship is fighting the battles of the Lord, and there is no evil to be found in you your whole life long." 25:28
1 Sm 26 — NAPPING
"David and Abishai went among Saul's soldiers by night and found Saul lying asleep within the barricade, with his spear thrust into the ground at his head and Abner and his men sleeping around him." 1 Samuel 26:7
David caught Saul napping. Again David spared him. David said: "It must be the Lord Himself Who will strike him, whether the time comes for him to die, or he goes out and perishes in battle" (26:10).
Prayer: Father, may I respect all life at all costs.
Promise: "As I valued your life highly today, so may the Lord value my life highly and deliver me from all difficulties." 26:24
1 Sm 27 — "WISE AS SNAKES" (Mt 10:16)
"When Saul was told that David had fled to Gath, he no longer searched for him." 1 Samuel 27:4
To escape from Saul, David went to live with Achish, king of Gath, in the land of the Philistines. Previously, he had protected himself from Achish by pretending to be insane (21:14). This time, he acted more subtly.
Prayer: Father, show me the situations in my life which endanger my soul.
1 Sm 28 — FORTUNE-TELLING, SÉANCES, AND THE OCCULT
"They came to the woman by night, and Saul said to her, 'Tell my fortune through a ghost; conjure up for me the one I ask you to.' " 1 Samuel 28:8
Saul broke his own law by asking the witch of Endor to tell his fortune. Samuel had warned him that disobedience would lead to involvement in the occult (15:23), which in turn led to Saul's suicide.
Prayer: Father, deliver me and anyone I know from influences of the occult.
1 Sm 29 — VICTORS, NOT VICTIMS, OF CIRCUMSTANCES
"Send that man back! Let him return to the place you picked out for him. He must not go down into battle with us, lest during the battle he become our enemy." 1 Samuel 29:4
Miraculously, David was spared from fighting against his own people. May we too be prevented from fighting with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Prayer: Father, You number the hairs of my head (Mt 10:30). Direct my every step, breath, heartbeat, and minute. Be Lord of every detail of my life.
Promise: "Do not decide to take umbrage at this; you are as acceptable to me as an angel of God." 29:10
1 Sm 30 — "ALL THINGS TO THE GOOD" (Rm 8:28)
"The Lord answered him, 'Go in pursuit, for you shall surely overtake them and effect a rescue.' " 1 Samuel 30:8
When David returned to his city Ziklag, he found it burnt to the ground, and the women, children, and property had been captured by the Amalekites. "Now David found himself in great difficulty, for the men spoke of stoning him, so bitter were they over the fate of their sons and daughters. But with renewed trust in the Lord his God" (30:6), David pursued the Amalekites and recovered everyone and everything.
Prayer: Father, thank You for turning my mourning into dancing (Ps 30:12).
Promise: "The share of the one who goes down to battle and that of the one who remains with the baggage shall be the same; they shall share alike." 30:24
1 Sm 31 — SUICIDE
"So Saul took his own sword and fell upon it." 1 Samuel 31:4
The book ends with the shameful suicide of Saul and the deaths of his three sons. If we don't repent, one sin will lead to another until we self-destruct.
Prayer: Father, may I tell others about Jesus before they die.
Nihil obstat: Reverend Edward J. Gratsch, June 20, 1996
Imprimatur: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, June 26, 1996
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