The Life of David

 

Part I Ė Davidís Rise

 

 

 

Part II Ė Davidís Reign


Part I - Davidís Rise. 4

1-DAVID AS A YOUTH 1 Samuel 16:1-17. 4

2 - HIS ANOINTING- 1 Samuel 16:1-17. 7

3 - ENTER SAUL'S SERVICE - 1 Samuel 16:1-17. 11

4 - SLAYING GOLIATH - 1 Sam 17. 15

5 - HIS EARLIER EXPERIENCES - (1 Sam 18) 19

6 - HIS EARLIER EXPERIENCES (cont) (1 Sam 18) 23

7 - FLEEING FROM SAUL - (1 Sam 19) 26

8 - HIS WANDERINGS (1 Sam 20) 30

9 - HIS FLIGHT TO ZIKLAG - (1Sa_21:1-15) 34

10 - IN THE CAVE OF ADULLAM (1 Sam 22) 37

11 - HIS RETURN TO JUDEA (1 Sam 22 and 23) 41

12 - DELIVERING KEILAH (1 Sam 23) 45

13 HIS SOJOURN AT ZIPH (1 Sam 23) 49

14 SPARING SAUL (1 Sam 24) 52

15 HIS ADDRESS TO SAUL (1 Sam 24) 56

16 HIS VICTORY OVER SAUL (1 Sam 24) 60

17 HIS AFFRONT FROM NABAL (1 Sam 25) 63

18 HIS CHECK FROM ABIGAIL (1 Sam 25) 67

19 HIS MARRIAGE TO ABIGAIL(1 Sam 25) 71

20 HIS CHASTENING (1 Sam 26) 74

21 HIS FINAL WORDS WITH SAUL (1 Sam 26) 78

22 HIS UNBELIEF (1Sa_27:1-12) 82

23 - HIS STAY AT ZIKLAG (1Sa_27:1-12) 85

24 - HIS SORE DILEMMA (1 Sam 28) 89

25 HIS SORROW AT ZIKLAG (1Sa_29:1-11 and 30) 93

26 HIS RECOURSE IN SORROW (1 Sam 30) 96

27 - HIS PURSUIT OF THE AMALEKITES (1 Sam 30) 100

28 HIS RECOVERY OF HIS WIVES (1 Sam 30) 103

 

Part II - Davidís Reign. 108

29 HIS LAMENTATIONS FOR SAUL (1Sa_31:1-13 & 2 Samuel 1) 108

30 HIS SOJOURN AT HEBRON (2 Sam 2) 111

30 HIS SOJOURN AT HEBRON (2 Sam 2) 115

31 HIS TESTING (2 Sam 2) 118

32 - HIS FAILURE (2 Sam 3 and 2Sa_4:1-12) 122

33 - HIS CORONATION (2 Sam 5) 125

34 HIS CORONATION (CONTINUED) (2 Sam 5) 129

35 - HIS VICTORY (2 Sam 5) 132

36 HIS VICTORY (2 Sam 5) 135

37 BRINGING UP THE ARK (2 Sam 5 and 6) 139

38 BRINGING UP THE ARK (CONTINUED) (2 Sam 6) 143

39 BRINGING UP THE ARK (2 Sam 6) 146

40 - BRINGING UP THE ARK (2 Sam 6) 150

41 HIS CONDEMNATION BY MICHAL (2 Sam 6) 153

42 HIS CONCERN FOR GOD'S HOUSE (2 Sam 7) 157

43 HIS DEEP HUMILITY (2 Sam 7) 160

44 HIS EXEMPLARY PRAYER (2 Sam 7) 163

45 HIS CONQUESTS (2 Sam 8) 167

46 - HIS CONQUESTS (2 Sam 8) 170

47 HIS KINDNESS TO MEPHIBOSHETH (2 Sa_9:1-13) 174

48 - HIS KINDNESS TO MEPHIBOSHETH (2Sa_9:1-13) 177

49 HIS SERVANTS INSULTED (2 Sam 10) 181

50 HIS KINDNESS REPULSED (2 Sam 10) 185

51 - HIS FEARFUL FALL (2 Sam 11) 188

52 - HIS TERRIBLE SIN (2 Sam 11) 192

53 - HIS TERRIBLE SIN (2 Sam 11) 195

54 - HIS CONVICTION (2 Sam 12) 199

55 HIS REPENTANCE (2 Sam 12) 203

56 - HIS FORGIVENESS (2 Sam 12) 206

57 - HIS CHASTENINGS (2 Sam 12) 210

58 - HIS SON ABSALOM (2 Sam 13) 214

59 - HIS SON ABSALOM (2 Sam 13) 218

60 HIS SON ABSALOM (2 Sam 14) 221

61 HIS SON ABSALOM (2 Sam 15) 225

62 - HIS FLIGHT (2 Sam 15) 229

63 CROSSING KIDRON (2 Sam 15) 233

64 - ASCENDING OLIVET (2 Sam 15) 236

65 - MISJUDGING MEPHIBOSHETH (2 Sam 16) 240

66 Ė CURSED (2 Sam 16) 244

67 Ė BEFRIENDED (2 Sam 16) 248

68 - BEFRIENDED (2 Sam 16 and 17) 251

69 - HIS STAY AT MAHANAIM (2 Sam 17) 255

70 HIS SONíS DEATH (2 Sam 18) 259

72 - HIS INORDINATE GRIEF (2 Sam 18) 266

73 HIS INORDINATE GRIEF (2 Sam 19) 270

74 - HIS RETURN TO JORDAN (2 Sam 19) 274

75 - HIS RESTORATION (2 Sam 19) 278

76 - HIS RESTORATION (2 Sam 20) 281

77 - HIS PURPOSE THWARTED (2 Sam 20) 285

78 - HIS HONORABLE CONDUCT (2 Sam 21) 289

79 - HIS SACRED SONG (2 Sam 22) 292

80 - HIS SACRED SONG 2 Samuel 22. 296

81 - HIS SACRED SONG (2 Sam 22) 300

82 - HIS SACRED SONG (2 Sam 22) 304

83 - HIS SACRED SONG (2 Sam 22) 308

84 - HIS SACRED SONG (2 Sam 22) 311

85 - HIS LAST WORDS (2 Sam 23) 315

86 -HIS MIGHTY MEN (2 Sam 23) 319

87 - HIS MIGHTY MEN (2 Sam 23) 322

88 - HIS FINAL FOLLY (2 Sam 24) 326

89 - HIS FINAL FOLLY (2 Sam 24) 330

90 - HIS WISE DECISION (2 Sam 24) 333

91 - HIS WISE DECISION (2 Sam 24) 337

92 - HIS PREVAILING INTERCESSION (2 Sam 24) 341

93 - HIS GRAND REWARD (2 Sam 24) 345

94 - HIS FERVENT PRAISE (2 Sam 24) 348

95 - HIS CLOSING DAYS (1 Kings 1) 352

96 - HIS CLOSING DAYS (1 Chr 22) 356


Part I - Davidís Rise

1-DAVID AS A YOUTH 1 Samuel 16:1-17

The life of David marked an important epoch in the unfolding of Godís purpose and plan of redemption. Here a little and there a little God made known the grand goal toward which all His dealings tended. At sundry times and in divers manners God spake in times past. In various ways and by different means was the way prepared for the coming of Christ. The work of redemption, with respect to its chief design, is carried on from the fall of man to the end of the world by successive acts and dispensations in different ages, but all forming part of one great whole, and all leading to the one appointed and glorious climax.

"God wrought many lesser salvations and deliverances for His church and people before Christ came. Those salvations were all but so many images and forerunners of the great salvation Christ was to work out when He should come. The church during that space of time enjoyed the light of Divine revelation, or Godís Word. They had in a degree the light of the Gospel. But all those revelations were only so many forerunners and earnests of the great light which He should bring who came to be Ďthe Light of the world.í That whole space of time was, as it were, the time of night, wherein the church of God was not indeed wholly without light: but it was like the light of the moon and stars, that we have in the night; a dim light in comparison with the light of the sun. The church all that time was a minor: see Gal_4:1-3" (Jonathan Edwards).

We shall not here attempt to summarize the divine promises and pledges which were given during the earlier ages of human history, nor the shadows and symbols which God then employed as the prefigurations of that which was to come: to do so, would require us to review the whole of the Pentateuch. Most of our readers are more or less familiar with the early history of the Israelite nation, and of what that history typically anticipated. Yet comparatively few are aware of the marked advance that was made in the unfolding of Godís counsels of grace in the days of David. A wonderful flood of light was then shed from heaven on things which were yet to come, and many new privileges were then vouchsafed unto the Old Testament Church.

In the preceding ages it had been made known that the Son of God was to become incarnate, for none but a divine person could bruise the Serpentís head (cf. Jude), and He was to do so by becoming the womanís "Seed" (Gen_3:15). To Abraham God had made known that the Redeemer should (according to the flesh) descend from him. In the days of Moses and Aaron much had been typically intimated concerning the Redeemerís priestly office and ministry. But now it pleased God to announce that particular person in all the tribes of Israel from which Christ was to proceed, namely, David. Out of all the thousands of Abrahamís descendants, a most honorable mark of distinction was placed upon the son of Jesse by anointing him to be king over his people. This was a notable step toward advancing the work of redemption. David was not only the ancestor of Christ, but in some respects the most eminent personal type of Him in all the Old Testament.

"Godís beginning of the kingdom of His church in the house of David, was, as it were, a new establishing of the kingdom of Christ: the beginning of it in a state of such visibility as it thenceforward continued in. It was as it were Godís planting the root, whence that branch of righteousness was afterwards to spring up, that was to be the everlasting King of His church; and therefore this everlasting King is called the branch from the stem of Jesse: ĎAnd there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his rootsí (Isa_11:1). ĎBehold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise up unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosperí (Jer_23:5). So Christ, in the New Testament, is called Ďthe root and offspring of Davidí (Rev_22:16)" (Work of Redemption by Jonathan Edwards, 1757).

It is deserving of our closest attention and calls for our deepest admiration that each advance which was made in the unfolding of the counsels of divine grace occurred at those times when human reason would have least expected them. The first announcement of the divine incarnation was given not while Adam and Eve remained in a state of innocency, but after they had rebelled against their Maker. The first open manifestation and adumbration of the everlasting covenant was made after all flesh had corrupted its way on earth, and the flood had almost decimated the human race. The first announcement of the particular people from which the Messiah would spring, was published after the general revolt of men at the tower of Babel. The wondrous revelation found in the last four books of the Pentateuch was made not in the days of Joseph, but after the whole nation of Israel had apostatized (see Eze_20:5-9).

The principle to which attention has been directed in the above paragraph received further exemplification in Godís call of David. One has but to read through the book of Judges to discover the terrible deterioration which succeeded the death of Joshua. For upwards of five centuries a general state of lawlessness prevailed: "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Jdg_21:25). Following this was Israelís demand for a king, and that, that they might "be like all the nations" (1Sa_8:20); therefore did Jehovah declare, "I gave thee a king in Mine* anger, and took him away in My wrath" (Hos_13:11). He, too, was an apostate, and his history ends by his consulting a witch (1 Sam. 28), and perishing on the battlefield (1Sa_31:1-13).

Such is the dark background upon which the ineffable glory of. Godís sovereign grace now shone forth; such is the historical setting of the life of him we are about to consider. The more carefully this be pondered, the more shall we appreciate the marvelous interposition of divine mercy at a time when the prospects of Israel seemed well-nigh hopeless. But manís extremity is always Godís opportunity. Even at that dark hour, God had ready the instrument of deliverance, "a man after His own heart." But who he was, and where he was located, none but Jehovah knew. Even Samuel the prophet had to be given a special divine revelation in order to identify him. And this brings us to that portion of Scripture which introduces to us, David as a youth.

"And the Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided Me a king among his sons" (1Sa_16:1). This is the sequel to what is recorded in 1Sa_16:10-12. Saul had despised Jehovah, and now he was rejected by Him (1Sa_15:23). True, he continued to occupy the throne for some little time. Nevertheless, Saul was no longer owned of God. An important principle is here illustrated, which only the truly Spirit-taught can appreciate: a person, an institution, a corporate company, is often rejected by God secretly, a while before this solemn fact is evidenced outwardly; Judaism was abandoned by the Lord immediately before the Cross (Mat_23:38), yet the temple stood until A.D. 70!

God had provided Him a king among the sons of Jesse the Bethlehemite, and, as Mic_5:2 informs us, Bethlehem Ephratah was "little among the thousands of Judah." Ah, "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are" (1Co_1:27-28). And why? "That no flesh should glory in His presence" (1Co_1:29). God is jealous of His own honor, and therefore is He pleased to select the most unlikely and unpromising instruments to execute His pleasure (as the unlettered fishermen of Galilee to be the first heralds of the Cross), that it may the more plainly appear the power is His alone.

The principle which we have just named received further illustration in the particular son of Jesse which was the one chosen of God. When Jesse and his sons stood before Samuel, it is said of the prophet that "He looked on Eliab and said, Surely the Lordís anointed is before Him" (1Sa_16:6). But the prophet was mistaken. And what was wrong with Eliab? The next verse tells us, "But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1Sa_16:7). Ah, my reader, this is solemn and searching: it is at your heart the Holy One looks! What does He see in you? ó a heart that has been purified by faith (Act_15:9), a heart that loves Him supremely (Deu_6:5), or a heart that is still "desperately wicked" (Jer_17:9)?

One by one the seven sons of Jesse passed in review before the prophetís eye, but the "man after Godís own heart" was not among their number. The Sons of Jesse had been called to the sacrifice (1Sa_16:5), and, apparently, the youngest was deemed too insignificant by his father to be noticed on this occasion. But "the counsel of the Lord . . . shall stand" (Pro_19:21), so inquiry and then request is made that the despised one be sent for. "And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the Lord said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he" (1Sa_16:12). Most blessed is it to compare these words with what is said of our Lord in Son_5:10, Son_5:16, "My Beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand . . . His mouth is most sweet: yea, He is altogether lovely."

The principle of divine election is designed for the humbling of manís proud heart. Striking and solemn is it to see that, all through, God ignored that in which the flesh glories. Isaac, and not Ishmael (Abrahamís firstborn), was the one selected by God. Jacob, and not Esau, was the object of His eternal love. The Israelites, and not the Egyptians, the Babylonians, or the Greeks, was the nation chosen to shadow forth this blessed truth of Godís sovereign foreordination. So here the eldest sons of Jesse were all "rejected" by Jehovah, and David, the youngest, was the one of Godís appointing. It should be observed, too, that David was the eighth son, and all through Scripture that numeral is connected with a new beginning: suitably then (and ordained by divine providence) was it that he should be the one to mark a fresh and outstanding epoch in the history of the favored nation.

The elect of God are made manifest in time by the miracle of regeneration being wrought within them. This it is which has always distinguished the children of God from the children of the devil; divine calling, or the new birth, is what identifies the high favorites of Heaven. Thus it is written, "whom He did predestinate, them He also called" (Rom_8:30) ó called out of darkness into His marvelous light (1Pe_2:9). This miracle of regeneration, which is the birth-mark of Godís elect, consists of a complete change of hears, a renewing of it, so that God becomes the supreme object of its delight, the pleasing of Him its predominant desire and purpose, and love for His people its characteristic note. Godís chosen are transformed into the choice ones of the earth, for the members of Christís mystical body are predestinated to be "conformed to the image" of their glorious Head; and thus do they, in their measure, in this life, "show forth" His praises.

Beautiful it is to trace the fruits or effects of regeneration which were visible in David at an early age. At the time Samuel was sent to anoint him king, he was but a youth, but even then he evidenced, most unmistakably, the transforming power of divine grace. "And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep" (1Sa_16:11). Thus the first sight we are given of David in Godís Word presents him as one who had a heart (a shepherdís care) for those who symbolized the people of God. "Just as before, when the strength of Godís people was being wasted under Pharaoh, Moses, their deliverer, was hidden as a shepherd in a wilderness; so, when Israel was again found in circumstances of deeper, though less ostensible, peril, we again find the hope of Israel concealed in the unknown shepherd of an humble flock" (David by B. W. Newton).

An incident is recorded of the shepherd-life of David that plainly denoted his character and forecast his future. Speaking to Saul, ere he went forth to meet Goliath, he said, "Thy servant kept his fatherís sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: and I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him" (1Sa_17:34-35). Observe two things. First, the loss of one poor lamb was the occasion of Davidís daring. How many a shepherd would have considered that a thing far too trifling to warrant the endangering of his own life! Ah, it was love to that lamb and faithfulness to his charge which moved him to act. Second, but how could a youth triumph over a lion and a bear? Through faith in the living God: he trusted in Jehovah, and prevailed. Genuine faith in God is ever an infallible mark of His elect (Tit_1:1).

There is at least one other passage which sheds light on the spiritual condition of David at this early stage of his life, though only they who are accustomed to weigh each word separately are likely to perceive it. "Lord, remember David, and all his afflictions: How he sware unto the Lord, and vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob; Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob. Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood" (Psa_132:1-6). A careful reading of the whole Psalm reveals to us the interests of the youthful Davidís heart. There, amid the pastures of Bethlehem Ephratah, he was deeply concerned for Jehovahís glory.

In closing, let us note how conspicuous was the shepherd character of David in his early days. Anticipating for a moment that which belongs to a later consideration, let us thoughtfully observe how that after David had rendered a useful service to King Saul, it is recorded that, "David went and returned from Saul to feed his fatherís sheep at Bethlehem" (1Sa_17:15). From the attractions (or distractions) of the court, he returned to the fold ó the influences of an exalted position had not spoiled him for humble service! Is there not a word here for the pastorís heart: the evangelistic field, or the Bible-conference platform, may furnish tempting allurements, but your duty is to the "sheep" over the which the good Shepherd has placed you. Take heed to the ministry you have received of the Lord, that you fulfill it.

Fellow-servant of God, your sphere may be an humble and inconspicuous one; the flock to which God has called you to minister may be a small one; but faithfulness to your trust is what is required of you. There may be an Eliab ready to taunt you, and speak contemptuously of "those few sheep in the wilderness" (1Sa_17:28), as there was for David to encounter; but regard not their sneers. It is written, "His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Mat_25:21).

As David was faithful to his trust in the humble sphere in which God first placed him, so he was rewarded by being called to fill a more important position, in which there too he honorably acquitted himself: "He chose David also for His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: from following the ewes great with young He brought him to feed Jacob, His people, and Israel His inheritance. So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands" (Psa_78:70-72).

 

 

2 - HIS ANOINTING - 1 Samuel 16:1-17

In our last chapter we called attention to the time in which Davidís lot was cast. The spirituality of Israel had indeed fallen to a low ebb. The law of God was no longer heeded, for "every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Jdg_21:25). The terrible failure of the priesthood stands out clearly in the character of Eliís sons (1Sa_2:22). The nation as a whole had rejected Jehovah that He should not reign over them (1Sa_8:7). The one then on the throne was such a worthless reprobate that it was written, "The Lord repented that He had made Saul king over Israel" (1Sa_15:35). The utter contempt which the people paid to the sacred tabernacle appears in the dreadful fact that it was suffered to languish in "the fields of the wood" (Psa_132:6). Well, then, might our patriarch cry out, "Help Lord, for the godly man ceaseth" (Psa_12:1).

But though the righteous government of God caused Israel to be sorely chastised for their sins, He did not completely abandon them. Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. Amid the prevailing darkness, almighty power sustained, here and there, a light unto Himself. The heart of one feeble woman laid hold of Jehovahís strength: "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lordís, and He hath set the world upon them: He will keep the feet of His saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness: for by strength shall no man prevail. The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall He thunder upon them: The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and He shall give strength unto His King, and exalt the horn of His Anointed" (1Sa_2:8-10). That was the language of true faith, and faith is something which God never disappoints. Most probably Hannah lived not to see the realization of her Spirit-inspired expectations, but in "due season" they were realized.

How encouraging and comforting ought the above to be to the little remnant of Godís heritage in this "cloudy and dark day"! To outward sight, there is now much, very much, to distract and dishearten. Truly "menís hearts are failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth" (Luk_21:26). But, blessed be His name, "the Lord hath His way in the whirlwind" (Nah_1:3). Faith looks beyond this scene of sin and strife, and beholds the Most High upon His throne, working "all things after the counsel of His own will" (Eph_1:11). Faith lays hold of the Divine promises which declare, "at eveningtide it shall be light" (Zec_14:7); and "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him" (Isa_59:19). In the meantime Godís grace is sufficient for the feeblest who really trusts Him.

Samuel was given by God in response to the prayers of Hannah, and who can doubt that David also was the answer to the earnest supplications of those who sought Jehovahís glory. And the Lordís ear has not grown heavy that it can no longer hear; yet the actions of present-day professing Christians say they believe that it has! If the diligence which is now paid to the ransacking of daily newspapers in search for sensational items which are regarded as "signs of the times," and if the time that is now given to Bible conferences was devoted to confession of sin and crying unto God to raise up a man after His own heart, whom He would use to bring back His wayward people into the paths of righteousness, it would be spent to much greater profit. Conditions are not nearly so desperate today as they were at the close of the "dark ages," nor even as bad as they were when God raised up Whitefield. To your knees, my brethren: Godís arm is not shortened that it cannot save.

Now not only was the raising up of David a signal demonstration of divine grace working in the midst of a people who deserved naught but untempered judgment, but, as pointed out before, it marked an important stage in the unfolding of Godís counsels, and a further and blessed adumbration of what had been settled upon in the everlasting covenant. This has not been sufficiently emphasized by recent writers, who, in their zeal to stress the law element of the Mosaic economy, have only too often overlooked the grace element which was exercised throughout. No "new dispensation" was inaugurated in the days of David, but a most significant advance was made in the divine foreshadowings of that kingdom over which the Messiah now rules. The Mediator is not only the arch Prophet and High Priest, but He is also the King of kings, and this it is which was now to be specifically typified. The throne, as well as the altar, belongs to Christ!

From the days of Abraham, and onwards for a thousand years, the providential dealings of God had mainly respected that people from whom the Christ was to proceed. But now attention is focused on that particular person from whence He was to spring. It pleased God at this time to single out the specific man of whom Christ was to come, namely, David. "David being the ancestor and great type of Christ, his being solemnly anointed to be king over his people, that the kingdom of His church might be continued in his family forever, may in some respects be looked on as an anointing of Christ Himself. Christ was as it were anointed in him; and therefore Christís anointing and Davidís anointing are spoken of under one in Scripture: ĎI have found David My servant; with My holy oil have I anointed himí (Psa_89:20). And Davidís throne and Christís are spoken of as one: ĎAnd the Lord shall give Him the throne of His father Davidí (Luk_1:32). ĎDavid ó knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, He would raise up Christ to sit on his throneí (Act_2:30)" (Jonathan Edwards).

The typical character of Davidís person presents a most precious line of study. His very name signifies "the Beloved." His being an inhabitant of Bethlehem was ordained to point to that place where the Darling of Godís heart was to be born. His "beautiful countenance" (1Sa_16:13) spoke of Him who is "fairer than the children of men." His occupation as a shepherd set forth the peculiar relation of Christ to Godís elect and intimated the nature of His redemptive work. His faithful discharge of the pastoral office forecast the love and fidelity of the great Shepherd. His lowly occupation before he ascended the throne prefigured the Saviorís humiliation prior to His glorious exaltation. His victory over Goliath symbolized the triumph of Christ over the great enemy of God and His people. His perfecting of Israelís worship and instituting of a new ecclesiastical establishment anticipated Christ as the Head and Law-Giver of His Church.

But it is in the anointing of David that we reach the most notable feature of our type. The very name or title "Christ" means "the Anointed" One, and David was the first of Israelís kings who thus foreshadowed Him. True, Saul also was anointed, but he furnished a solemn contrast, being a dark foreboding of the antichrist. At an earlier period, Aaron had been anointed unto the sacerdotal office (Lev_8:12); and, at a later date, we read of Elisha the prophet being anointed (1Ki_19:16). Thus the threefold character of the Mediatorís office as Prophet, Priest and Potentate, was fully typed out centuries before He was openly manifested here on eaRuth

It is a remarkable fact that David was anointed three times. First, privately at Bethlehem (1Sa_16:13). Second, by the men of Judah (2Sa_2:4). Third, by the elders of Israel (2Sa_5:3). So also was that august One whom he foreshadowed. This will appear the more evident if we quote the following: "Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in (or "from") the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward" (1Sa_16:13). Concerning our Lord, His humanity was miraculously conceived and sanctified by the Spirit and endowed with all graces in the Virginís womb (Luk_1:35). Second, He was publicly "anointed with the Spirit" (Act_10:38) at His baptism, and thus equipped for His ministry (see Isa_61:1). Third, at His ascension He was "anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows" (Psa_45:6-7). It was to this that the anointing of David more especially pointed.

It is striking to observe that God anointed David after Saul, to reign in his room. He took away the crown from him who was higher in stature than any of his people, and gave it to one who resided in Bethlehem, which was "little among the thousands of Judah" (Mic_5:2). In this way was God pleased to prefigure the fact that He who, when on earth, was "despised and rejected of men," should take the kingdom from the great ones of the eaRuth At a later date, this was more expressly revealed, for in the Divine interpretation of Nebuchadnezzarís dream Daniel declared, "In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the Stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it break in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter" (Dan_2:44-45).

It was the mediatorial reign of Christ which David foreshadowed, and of which he prophesied: "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever: the scepter of Thy kingdom is a right scepter" (Psa_45:6). That "throne" is His mediatorial throne, and that "scepter" is the symbol of authority over His mediatorial kingdom. Those metaphors are here applied to Christ as setting forth His kingly office, together with His dignity and dominion, for the throne whereon He sits is "the throne of the Majesty in the heavens" (Heb_8:1). "Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore, God, thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows" (Psa_45:7). This is in contrast from the days when He was "a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." It denotes His triumph and exaltation. It was at His ascension that He was "crowned with glory and honour."

Just as the priestly office and work of Christ were foreshadowed by Melchizedek and Aaron, so the kingship and kingdom of the Mediator were typed out by both David and Solomon. It would lead us too far afield to enlarge upon this, but the interested reader will do well to ponder such scriptures as 2Sa_7:12-16; Isa_16:5; Jer_23:5-6; Jer_33:14-17; Act_13:34; Rev_3:7; Rev_5:5. And let us not be robbed of the preciousness of these passages by the attempts of some who would have us believe they belong only to the future. In many instances their insistence upon literalizing many portions of Holy Writ has resulted in the carnalizing of them, and the missing of their true and spiritual import. Let the reader beware of any system of interpretation which takes away from the Christian any portion of Godís Word: all Scripture is "profitable for doctrine" (2Ti_3:16).

Between the first and the third anointings of David, or between Samuelís consecrating of him to the kingly office and his actually ascending the throne, there was a period of severe trials and testings, during which our patriarch passed through much suffering and humiliation. Here too we may discern the accuracy of our type. Davidís Son and Lord trod a path of unspeakable woe between the time when the Holy Spirit first came upon Him and His exaltation at the right hand of the Majesty on high. It is indeed blessed to read through the first book of Samuel and take note of the series of wonderful providences by which God preserved Davidís life until the death of Saul; but it is yet more precious to see in these so many adumbrations of what is recorded in such passages as Mat_2:16; Luk_4:29; Joh_8:59; Joh_10:31, Joh_10:39, etc.

Ere passing on, let us seek to make practical application unto ourselves of what has just been referred to above. God promised Abraham a son, in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed (Gen_12:3), yet he performed it not for thirty years (Gen_21:2). God anointed David king over Israel, yet before the kingdom was actually given to him, his faith was severely tested, and he was called on to endure many sore buffetings. He was hated, persecuted, outlawed and hunted like a partridge on the mountains (1Sa_26:20, etc.). Yet was he enabled to say, "I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry" (Psa_40:1). So the Christian has been begotten to a glorious inheritance, but "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Act_14:22). It is only "through faith and patience (we) inherit the promises" (Heb_6:12).

Another thing which God did at that time toward furthering the great work of redemption was to inspire David to show forth Christ and His salvation in divine songs. David was endowed with the spirit of prophecy, and is called "a prophet" (Act_2:29-30) so that here too he was a type of Christ. "This was a great advancement that God made in this building; and the light of the Gospel, which had been gradually growing from the fall, was exceedingly increased by it; for whereas before there was but here and there a prophecy given of Christ in a great many ages, now here Christ is spoken of by David abundantly, in multitudes of songs, speaking of His incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension into heaven, His satisfaction, intercession; His prophetical, kingly, and priestly office; His glorious benefits in this life and that which is to come; His union with the church and the blessedness of the church in Him; the calling of the Gentiles. All these things concerning Christ and His redemption are abundantly spoken of in the book of Psalms" (Jonathan Edwards).

To quote again from this Spirit-taught man, "Now first it was that God proceeded to choose a particular city out of all the tribes of Israel to place His name there. There is several times mention made in the law of Moses of the children of Israelís bringing their oblations to the place which God should choose, as Deu_12:5-7; but God had never proceeded to it till now. The tabernacle and ark were never pitched, but sometimes in one place, and sometimes in another; but now God proceeded to choose Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem was never thoroughly conquered or taken out of the hands of the Jebusites, till Davidís time. It is said in Jos_15:63, ĎAs for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out.í But now David wholly subdued it, as we have an account in 2 Samuel 5. And now God proceeded to choose that city to place His name there, as appears by Davidís bringing up the ark thither soon after; and therefore this is mentioned afterwards as the first time God proceeded to choose a city to place His name there: 2Ch_6:5-6; 2Ch_12:13.

"The city of Jerusalem is therefore called the holy city; and it was the greatest type of the church of Christ in all the Old Testament. It was redeemed by David, the captain of the hosts of Israel, out of the hands of the Jebusites to be Godís city, the holy place of His rest forever, where He would dwell; as Christ, the Captain of His peopleís salvation redeemed His church out of the hands of devils, to be His holy and beloved city. And therefore how often does the Scripture, when speaking of Christís redemption of His church, call it by the names of Zion and Jerusalem! This was the city that God had appointed to be the place of the first gathering and erecting of the Christian Church after Christís resurrection, of that remarkable pouring out of the Spirit of God on the apostles and primitive Christians, and the place whence the Gospel was to sound forth into all the world; the place of the first Christian Church, that was to be, as it were, the mother of all other churches in the world; agreeably to that prophecy, Isa_2:3-4 : Ďout of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalemí" (Work of Redemption).

 

 

 

3 - ENTER SAUL'S SERVICE - 1 Samuel 16:1-17

In our last chapter we contemplated Davidís anointing; in our present study an entirely different experience in his varied career is before us. The two halves of 1 Samuel 16 present a series of striking contrasts. In the former, we behold David called to occupy the throne, in the latter he is seen entering the place of service. There we see the Spirit of the Lord coming upon David (1Sa_16:13), here we behold the Spirit of the Lord departing from Saul (1Sa_16:14). In the one David is anointed with the holy oil (1Sa_16:13), in the other Saul is troubled with an evil spirit (1Sa_16:14). Samuel was "mourning" (1Sa_16:1), Saul is "refreshed" (1Sa_16:23). Samuel approached Jesse with an heifer for sacrifice (1Sa_16:2), Jesse sends David to Saul with bread, wine, and a kid for feasting (1Sa_16:20). David was acceptable in Godís sight (1Sa_16:12), here he found favor in Saulís eyes (1Sa_16:22). Before he was tending the sheep (1Sa_16:11), now he is playing the harp in the palace (1Sa_16:23).

God did not set David upon the throne immediately: after his "anointing" came a season of testing. The coming of the Spirit upon him was followed by his having to face the great enemy. Thus it was with Davidís Son and Lord, the One whom, in so many respects, he foreshadowed. After the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him at His baptism, Christ was tempted of the devil for forty days. So here: the next thing we read of is Davidís being sent to calm Saul who was terrified by an evil spirit, and shortly after that he goes forth to meet Goliath ó figure of Satan. The principle which is here illustrated is one that we do well to take to heart: patience has to be tested, humility manifested, faith strengthened, before we are ready to enter into Godís best for us; we must use rightly what God has given us, if we desire Him to give us more.

"But the Spirit of the Lord departed From Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him" (1Sa_16:14). Exceedingly solemn is this, the more so when we consider that which precedes it. In 1Sa_15:1-3 the Lord, had, through Samuel, given a definite commission unto Saul to "utterly destroy Amalek, and all that they had." Instead of so doing, he compromised: "But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them" (1Sa_15:9). When faced by Godís faithful prophet, the kingís excuse was "the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen to sacrifice unto the Lord" (1Sa_15:15). Then it was that Samuel said, "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and in sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, to hearken than the fat of rams" (1Sa_15:22).

Saul had openly defied the Lord by deliberately disobeying His plain commandment. Wherefore the prophet said unto him, "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king" (1Sa_15:23). And now we come to the dreadful sequel. "The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him." Having forsaken God, God forsook him. Rightly did Matthew Henry say upon this verse: "They that drive the good Spirit away from them, do of course become a prey to the evil spirit. If God and His grace do not rule us, sin and Satan will have possession of us."

"But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him." Great care needs to be taken against our reading into these words what is really not in them, otherwise we shall make one part of Scripture contradict another. The Holy Spirit had never been given to Saul as the Spirit of regeneration and sanctification: but He had been given to him as a Spirit of prophecy (see 1Sa_10:10 and contrast 1Sa_28:6), and as a Spirit of wisdom for temporal rule, thus fitting him for the discharge of his royal duties, In like manner, when we read that "God gave him another heart" (1Sa_10:9), this must not be confounded with "a new heart" (Eze_36:26) ó the "another heart" was not in a moral and spiritual sense, but only in a way of wisdom for civil government, prudence to rule, courage to fight against his enemies, fortitude against difficulties and discouragements.

It is a serious mistake to suppose that because the Holy Spirit has not come as the Spirit of regeneration and sanctification unto many professors, that therefore He has not come to them at all. Many are "made partakers of the Holy Spirit" as the Spirit of "enlightenment" (Heb_6:4), of spiritual aspirations (Num_24:2; Num_23:10 etc.), of deliverance from the "pollutions of the world" (2Pe_2:20), who are never brought from death unto life. There are common operations of the Spirit as well as special, and it behooves all of us to seriously and diligently examine our hearts and lives for the purpose of discovering whether or not the Holy Spirit indwells us as a Sanctifier, subduing the flesh, delivering from worldliness, and conforming to the image of Christ. "When men grieve and quench the Spirit by willful sin, He departs, and will not strive" (Matthew Henry).

The servants of Saul were uneasy over the kingís condition, realizing that an evil spirit from God was tormenting him. They therefore suggested that a man who had skill in playing the harp should be sought out, saying, "And it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well" (1Sa_16:16). Such is the best counsel which poor worldlings have to offer unto those in trouble. As Matthew Henry says, "How much better friends had they been to him, if they had advised him, since the evil spirit was from the Lord, to make his peace with God by true repentance, to send for Samuel to pray with him, and intercede with God for him; then might he not only have had some present relief, but the good Spirit would have returned."

How many whose consciences have convicted them of their careless, sinful, Godless ways, and who have been startled by the presence of an eternity in Hell, have been ruined forever by following a course of drowning the concerns of the soul by regaling and delighting the senses of the body, "Eat, drink, and be merry" is the motto of the world, and every effort is made to stifle all anxiety about the near prospect of a time arriving when instead of being able to go on so doing, not even a drop of water will be available to ease their unbearable sufferings. Let younger readers seriously ponder this. "Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will surely bring thee into judgment" (Ecc_11:9).

The suggestion made by his servants appealed to Saul, and he gave his consent. Accordingly one of them told him, "Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the Lord is with him" (1Sa_16:18). A high character is here accorded David, as one well fitted for the strange part he was to play. Not only was his person suited for the court, not only was he skilled upon the harp, but he was known for his courage and wisdom. The terming of him "a mighty valiant man" intimates that his single-handed victory over the lion and the bear (1Sa_17:37) had already been noised abroad. Finally, it was known that "the Lord is with him." How this illustrates and demonstrates the fact that one who has received the Spirit as the Spirit of regeneration and sanctification gives dear evidence of it to others! Where a miracle of grace has been wrought in the heart, the fruits of it will soon be unmistakably manifested to all around. Very searching is this. Can those with whom we come into daily contact see that "the Lord is with" the writer and the reader? O to let our light "so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven" (Mat_5:16).

"Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, which is with the sheep" (1Sa_16:19). Little did Saul think that in giving this order he was inviting to his palace the very one of whom Samuel had said, "The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbor of thine, better than thou" (1Sa_15:28)! How marvelously does God, working behind the scenes, bring His own purpose to pass! Verily "manís goings are of the Lord," and well may we say "how can a man then understand his own way?" (Pro_20:24). Yet while we are quite incapable of analyzing either the philosophy or psychology of it, let us admire and stand in awe before Him of whom it is written, "For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory forever, Amen" (Rom_11:36).

"Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, which is with the sheep" (1Sa_16:19). What a testing for David was this! He who had been anointed unto an office wherein he would command and rule over others, was now called on to serve. Lovely is it to mark his response: there was no unwillingness, no delay. He promptly complied with his fatherís wishes. It was also a testing of his courage: Might not Saul have learned his secret, and now have designs upon his life? Might not this invitation to the palace cover a subtle plot to destroy him; Ah, "the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them," and where God is truly feared, the fear of man disappears.

"And Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them by David his son, unto Saul" (1Sa_16:20). What a beautiful typical picture is here presented to us. It was the dire need of poor Saul which moved Jesse to send forth his anointed son: so it was a world lying in sin unto which the Father sent His Beloved. Behold David richly laden with presents for the king: Jesse sent him forth not with weapons of warfare in his hands, but with the tokens of his good will. So the Father sent forth His Son "not to condemn the world" (Joh_3:17), but on an errand of grace and mercy unto it.

"And David came to Saul." Yes, at his fatherís bidding he freely left his home: though the anointing oil was upon him, he went forth not to be ministered unto, but to minister. How blessedly this foreshadowed Him of whom it is written, "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death" (Phi_2:6-8). O that writer and reader may be so filled with His Spirit, that not only shall we unmurmuringly, but joyfully, perform our Fatherís bidding.

"And David came to Saul." Admire again the wondrous working of God. David had been called to reign over Israel, but the time had not yet arrived for him to occupy the throne. An unsophisticated shepherd-boy needed training. Observe then how the providence of God ordered it that for a season he should dwell in the royal court, thus having full opportunity to note its ways, observe its corruptions, and discover its needs. And mark it well, this was brought about without any scheming or effort either on his own part or of that of his friends. An evil spirit from the Lord troubled the king: his courtiers were exercised, and proposed a plan to him: their plan met with Saulís approval: David was mentioned as the one who should be sent for: the king assented, Jesse raised no demurs, David was made willing; and thus, working secretly but surely, Godís purpose was accomplished. It is only the eye of faith that looks above the ordinary happenings of daily life and sees the divine hand ordering and shaping them for the accomplishment of Godís counsels and the good of His people.

An important principle is here illustrated: when God has designed that any Christian should enter His service, His providence concurs with His grace to prepare and qualify him for it, and often it is by means of Godís providences that the discerning heart perceives the divine will. God opened the door into the palace without David having to force or even so much as knock upon it. When we assume the initiative, take things into our own hands, and attempt to hew a path for ourselves, we are acting in the energy of the flesh. "Commit thy way unto the Lord: trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass . . . Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him" (Psa_37:5-7). Obedience to these exhortations is not easy to flesh and blood, yet they must be complied with if we are not to miss Godís best. The more we appropriate and act upon such divine precepts, the more clearly will the hand of God be seen when it intervenes on our behalf: the feverish activities of natural zeal only raise a cloud of dust which conceals from us the beauties of divine providence.

"And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer. And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight" (1Sa_16:21-22). Here too we may perceive and admire the secret workings of God s providence. "The kingís heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will" (Pro_21:1). It was the divine purpose, and For Davidís good, that he should spend a season at the court; therefore did the Lord incline Saulís heart toward him. How often we lose sight of this fact. How apt we are to attribute the favor and kindness of people toward us to any thing rather than to the Lord! O my reader, if God has given you favor in the eyes of your congregation, or your employer, or your customers, give Him the glory and the thanks for it.

"And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him" (1Sa_16:23). Here we see the readiness of David to perform every task which God allotted him. In this he evidenced his moral fitness for the important role he was yet to fill. "Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things" (Mat_25:21), expresses an important principle in the government of God, and one which we do well to take to heart. If I am careless in fulfilling my duties as a Sunday school teacher, I must not be surprised if God never calls me to the ministry. And if I am unfaithful in teaching and disciplining my own children, I must not be surprised if God withholds His power and blessing when I seek to teach the children of others.

The power of Davidís harp to quiet the spirit of Saul and to drive away temporarily the demon, ought not to be attributed either to the skill of the player or to the charm of music. Instead, it must be ascribed alone to the Lord, who was pleased to bless this means to these ends. The instrument, be it weak or strong, likely or unlikely, is utterly powerless in and of itself. Paul may plant and Apollos may water, but there will be no increase unless God gives it. In view of chapter 1Sa_17:55-56 some have concluded that what has been before us in the closing verses of chapter 16 is placed out of its chronological order. But there is no need to resort to such a supposition. Moreover, chapter 1Sa_17:15 plainly refutes it. How long David remained in the palace we know not, but probably for quite some time; after which he returned again unto his humbler duties in the sheepfold.

 

 

 

4 - SLAYING GOLIATH - 1 Sam 17

When Samuel denounced Saulís first great sin and announced that his kingdom should not continue, he declared, "The Lord hath sought Him a man after His own heart" (1Sa_13:14). To this, allusion was made by the apostle Paul in his address in the synagogue at Antioch, "He raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also He gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after Mine own heart, which shall fulfill all My will" (Act_13:22). A truly wondrous tribute was this unto the character of David, yet one which the general course of his life bore out. The dominant characteristic of our patriarch was his unfeigned and unsurpassed devotion to God, His cause, and His Word. Blessedly is this illustrated in what is now to be before us. The man after Godís own heart is the one who is out and out for Him, putting His honor and glory before all other considerations.

1Sa_17:15 supplies a precious link between what was considered in our last lesson and what we are now about to ponder. There we are told, "But David went and returned from Saul to feed his fatherís sheep at Bethlehem." Knowing that he was to be the next king over Israel, natural prudence would suggest that his best policy was to remain at court, making the most of his opportunities, and seeking to gain the goodwill of the ministers of state; but instead of so doing, the son of Jesse returned to the sheepfold, leaving it with God to work out His will concerning him. No seeker after self-aggrandizement was David. The palace, as such, possessed no attractions for him. Having fulfilled his service unto the king, he now returns to his fatherís farm.

"Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh" (1Sa_17:1). Josephus (Antiq. 50:6, c. 9, sect. 1) says that this occurred not long after the things related in the preceding chapter had transpired. It seems likely that the Philistines had heard of Samuelís forsaking of Saul, and of the kingís melancholy and distraction occasioned by the evil spirit, and deemed it a suitable time to avenge themselves upon Israel for their last slaughter of them (chapter 14). The enemies of Godís people are ever alert to take advantage of their opportunities, and never have they a better one than when their leaders provoke Godís Spirit and His prophets leave them. Nevertheless, it is blessed to see here how that God makes the "wrath of man" to praise Him (Psa_76:10).

"And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines" (1Sa_17:2). The king had been relieved, for a season at least, of the evil spirit; but the Spirit of the Lord had not returned to him, as the sequel plainly evidences. A sorry figure did Saul and his forces now cut. "And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath of Gath . . . And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? Am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants; but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid" (1Sa_17:4, 1Sa_17:8-11). Ere pondering the haughty challenge which was here thrown down, let us point out (for the strengthening of faith in the inerrancy of Holy Writ) a small detail which exhibits the minute accuracy and harmony of the Word.

In Numbers 13 we read that the spies sent out by Moses to inspect the promised land, declared, "The land through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants" (Num_13:32-33). Now link this up with Jos_11:21-22, "And at that time came Joshua, and cut off the Anakims from the mountains . . . there was none of the Anakims left in the land of the children of Israel: only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod, there remained." Here in our present passage it is stated, quite incidentally, that Goliath belonged to "Gath"! Thus, in the mouth of three witnesses ó Moses, Joshua and Samuel ó is the word established, concurring as they do in a manner quite artless, to verify a single particular. How jealous was God about His Word! What a sure foundation faith has to rest upon!

Goliath pictures to us the great enemy of God and man, the devil, seeking to terrify, and bring into captivity those who bear the name of the Lord. His prodigious size (probably over eleven feet) symbolized the great power of Satan. His accoutrements (compare the word "armour" in Luk_11:22!) figured the fact that the resources of flesh and blood can not overcome Satan. His blatant challenge adumbrated the roaring of the lion, our great adversary, as he goes about "seeking whom he may devour" (1Pe_5:8). His declaration that the Israelites were but "servants to Saul" (1Sa_17:8) was only too true, for they were no longer in subjection to the Lord (1Sa_8:7). The dismay of Saul (1Sa_17:11) is in solemn contrast to his boldness in 1Sa_11:5-11 and 1Sa_14:47, when the Spirit of the Lord was upon him. The terror of the people (1Sa_17:11) was a sad evidence of the fact that the "fear of the Lord" (1Sa_11:7) was no longer upon them. But all of this only served to provide a background upon which the courage of the man after Godís own heart might the more evidently appear.

The terrible giant of Gath continued to menace the army of Israel twice a day for no less than forty days ó a period which, in Scripture, is ever associated with probation and testing. Such a protracted season served to make the more manifest the impotency of a people out of communion with God. There was Saul himself, who "from his shoulders and upward was higher than any of the people" (1Sa_9:2). There was Jonathan who, assisted only by his armor-bearer, had, on a former occasion, slain twenty of the Philistines (1Sa_14:14). There was Abner, the captain of the host (1Sa_14:50), a "valiant man" (1Sa_26:15), but he too declined Goliathís challenge. Ah, my reader, the best, the bravest of men, are no more than what God makes them. When He renews not his courage, the stoutest heart is a coward. Yet God does not act arbitrarily, rather is cowardice one of the consequences of lost communion with Him: "The righteous are bold as a lion" (Pro_28:1).

Manís extremity is Godís opportunity. But He does not always, nor generally, act immediately, when we are brought low. No, he "waits to be gracious" (Isa_30:18), that our helplessness may be the more fully realized, that His delivering hand may be seen the more clearly, and that His merciful interposition may be the more appreciated. But even at this time, when all seemed lost to Israel, when there was none in her army that dared to pick up the gauntlet which Goliath had thrown down, God had His man in reserve, and in due time he appeared on the scene and vindicated the glorious name of Jehovah. The instrument chosen seemed, to natural wisdom and military prudence, a weak and foolish one, utterly unfitted for the work before him. Ah, it is just such that God uses, and why? That the honor may be His, that "no flesh should glory in His presence" (1Co_1:29). Before considering the grand victory which the Lord wrought through David, let us carefully ponder the training which he had received in the school of God. This is deeply important for our hearts.

It was away from the crowds, in the quietude of pastoral life, that David was taught the wondrous resources which there are in God available to faith, There, in the fields of Bethlehem, he had, by divine enablement, slain the lion and the bear (1Sa_17:34-35). This is ever Godís way: He teaches in secret that soul which He has elected shall serve Him in public. Ah, my reader, is it not just at this point that we may discover the explanation of our failures? ó it is because we have not sufficiently cultivated the "secret place of the most High" (Psa_91:1). That is our primary need. But do we really esteem communion with God our highest privilege? Do we realize that walking with God is the source of our strength?

There had been direct dealings between Davidís soul and God out there in the solitude of the fields, and it is only thus that any of us are taught how to get the victory. Have you yet learned, my brother or sister, that the closet is the great battlefield of faith! It is the genuine denying of self, the daily taking up of the cross, the knowing how to cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and the bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2Co_10:5). Let the foe be met and conquered in private, and we shall not have to mourn defeat when we meet him in public. O may the Holy Spirit impress deeply upon each of our hearts the vital importance of coming forth from the presence of God as we enter upon any service unto Him: this it is which regulates the difference between success and failure. Note how the blessed Redeemer acted on this principle: Luk_6:12-13, etc.!

"And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren; and carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand, and look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge" (1Sa_17:17-18). Another beautiful type is this of our Saviour going about His Fatherís business, seeking the good of his brethren: a similar one is found in Gen_37:13-14. But without staying to develop this thought, let us observe how God was directing all things to the accomplishment of His purpose. Jesse had eight sons (1Sa_16:10-11), and only three of them had joined Saulís army (1Sa_17:13), so that five of them were at home; yet David, the youngest, was the one sent ó though Jesse knew it not, God had work for him to do. Nothing happens by chance in this world: all is controlled and directed from on High (Joh_19:11).

"And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle" (1Sa_17:20). How this evidenced the readiness and eagerness of David to obey his fatherís orders! Again we may look from the type to the Antitype, and hear Him say, "Lo, I come, to do Thy will, O God" (Heb_10:7). Blessed it is to mark that David was as mindful of his fatherís sheep as he was of his commands: his leaving them "with a keeper," evidenced his care and fidelity in the discharge of his office. His faithfulness in a few things fitted him to be ruler over many things. He who is best qualified to command, is the one who had, previously, learned to obey.

"Godís providence brought him to the camp very seasonably, when both sides had set the battle in array, and as it should seem were more likely to come to an engagement than they had yet been all the forty days (1Sa_17:21). Both sides were now preparing to fight. Jesse little thought of sending his son to the army just in that critical juncture; but the wise God orders the time, and all the circumstances, of actions and affairs, so as to serve His design of securing the interests of Israel, and advancing the man after His own heart" (Matthew Henry).

Though he had only just completed a long journey, we are told that David "ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren" (1Sa_17:22). This reminds of Pro_22:29, "Seest thou a man diligent in business? he shall stand before kings." As David talked with his brethren, Goliath came forth again and repeated his challenge. The whole army was "sore afraid" (1Sa_17:24), and though reminding one another of the promised reward awaiting the one who slew the giant, none dared to venture his life. Such inducements as Saul offered, sink into utter insignificance when death confronts a man. David mildly expostulated with those who stood near him, pointing out that Goliath was defying "the armies of the living God" (1Sa_17:26).

"And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliabís anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle" (1Sa_17:28). How this reminds us of what is said of Davidís Son and Lord in Joh_1:11, etc. There is a lesson here which every true minister of Christ does well to take to heart, for by so doing he will be forearmed against many a disappointment and discouragement. Sufficient for the disciple to be as his Master: if the incarnate Son was not appreciated, his agents should not expect to be ó "For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ" (Gal_1:10). Not only will men in general be displeased, but even the people of God, when in a low state, will neither understand nor value the actings of faith. The man of God must be prepared to be misinterpreted and to stand alone.

Blessed it is to mark Davidís reply to the cruel taunt of his brother: it was a real testing of his meekness, but when he was reviled, he reviled not again. Nor did he attempt any self-vindication, or explanation of his conduct ó such had been quite wasted upon one with such a spirit. First, he simply asked "What have I done?": what Fault have I committed to be thus chided; reminding us of our Lordís meek reply under a much stronger provocation ó "ĎWhy smitest thou Me?" (Joh_18:23). Second, he said, "Is there not a cause?" This he left with him: there was a cause for his coming to the camp: his father had sent him: the honor of Israel ó sullied by Goliath ó required it; the glory of God necessitated it. Third, he "turned from him toward another" (1Sa_17:30).

Davidís speaking to one and another soon reached the ears of Saul, who accordingly sent for him (1Sa_17:31). To the king, he at once said, "Let no manís heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine" (1Sa_17:32); only to be met with this reply, "Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him," Ah, "These that undertake great and public services must not think it strange if they be discountenanced and opposed by those from whom they have reason to expect support and assistance. But must humbly go on with their work, in the face not only of their enemiesí threats, but of their friendsí sleights and suspicions" (Matthew Henry). The language used by him in the presence of the king was not the bravado of a boaster, but the God-honoring testimony of a man of faith. Saul and his people were in despair as the consequence of their being occupied with the things of sight: the man of faith had a contemptuous disdain for Goliath because he viewed him from Godís viewpoint ó as His enemy, as "uncircumcised." Note how he attributed his previous successes to the Lord, and how he improved them to count upon Him for further victory: see 1Sa_17:37.

The response made by Saul unto Davidís pleading was solemnly ludicrous. First, he said, "Go, and the Lord be with thee," which were idle words on such lips. Next we read that "Saul armed David with his own armour" (i.e., with some that he kept in his armory), in which he had far more confidence than in God. But David quickly perceived that such was unsuited to him: the one who has much to do with God in secret cannot employ worldly means and methods in public; the man of faith has no use for carnal weapons. Such things as ecclesiastical titles, dress, ritualistic ceremonies, which are imposing to the eye of the natural man, are but bubbles and baubles to the spiritual. "And David put them off him" (1Sa_17:39), and advanced to meet the haughty Philistine with only a sling and five smooth stones. Should it be asked, But are we not justified in using means? The answer is, Yes, the means which God supplies (the "smooth stones"), but not that which man offers ó his "armour."

"When the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained him" (1Sa_17:42). First, Eliab had taunted, then Saul had sought to discourage, and now Goliath scorns him. Ah, the one who (by grace) is walking by faith must not expect to be popular with men, for they have no capacity to appreciate that which actuates him. But true faith is neither chilled by a cold reception nor cooled by outward difficulties: it looks away from both, unto Him with whom it has to do. If God be "for us" (Rom_8:31), it matters not who be against us. Nevertheless, faith has to be tested ó to prove its genuineness, to strengthen its fiber, to give occasion for its exercise. Well may writer and reader pray, "Lord, increase our faith."

The Philistine blustered, "cursed David by his gods" (1Sa_17:43), and vowed he would give his flesh unto the fowls and beasts. But it is written, "the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong" (Ecc_9:11); and again, "God resisteth the proud" (Jam_4:6). The response made by David at once revealed the secret of his confidence, the source of his strength, and the certainty of his victory: "I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied" (1Sa_17:45). Ah, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runneth into it, and is safe" (Pro_18:10).

The reader is so familiar with the blessed sequel that little comment on it is required. Faith having brought God into the scene could announce the victory in advance (1Sa_17:46). One stone in its hand was worth more than all the Philistineís armor on the giant of unbelief. And why? Because that stone, though flung by Davidís sling, was directed and made efficacious by the hand of God. It is pitiable to find how some of the best commentators missed the real point here. 1Sa_17:6 begins the description of Goliathís armor by saying "he had a helmet of brass upon his head": some have suggested this fell off when he lifted up his hand to curse David by his gods (1Sa_17:43); others supposed he left the visor open that he might see the better. But Davidís stone did not enter his eye, but his "forehead" ó divine power sent it through the helmet of brass! In Davidís cutting off his head (1Sa_17:51) we have a foreshadowment of what is recorded in Heb_2:14.

 

5 - HIS EARLIER EXPERIENCES - (1 Sam 18)

Had we sought a topical title for this chapter, "The Price of Popularity" might well have been selected. The seventeenth chapter of 1 Samuel closes by recounting the memorable victory of David over Goliath the Philistine giant; the eighteenth chapter informs us of a number of things which formed the sequel to that notable achievement. There is much which those who are ambitious and covetous of earthly honor do well to take to heart. An accurate portrayal is given of different phases and features of human nature that is full of instruction for those who will duly ponder the same. Much is condensed into a small compass, but little imagination is required in order to obtain a vivid conception of what is there presented. One scene after another is passed in rapid review, but amid them all, the man after Godís own heart acquitted himself admirably. May the Lord enable each of us to profit from what is here recorded for our learning.

"And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul" (1Sa_18:1 and cf. 1Sa_18:3-4). Let us admire here the tender grace of God, and behold an illustration of a blessed principle in His dealings with us. Jonathan was the son of Saul, and, therefore (ordinarily), "heir apparent to the throne." But, as we have seen, David had been anointed unto that position. There was, therefore, occasion for Jonathan to look upon David as his rival, and to be filled with jealousy and hatred against him. Instead, his heart is united unto him with a tender affection. This should not be attributed to the amiability of his character, but is to be ascribed unto Him in whose hand are all our hearts and ways.

What we have just called attention to above, is not sufficiently recognized and pondered in these evil days, no, not even by the people of God. There is nothing recorded of Jonathan which really shows that he was a saved man, but not a little to the contrary ó particularly in the closing scenes of his life. When, then, the heart of a man of the world is drawn out to a saint, when he shows kindness unto him, we should always discern the secret workings of Godís power, graciously exercised for us. He who employed ravens to feed His servant Elijah (1 Kings 17), often moves the hearts and minds of unregenerate people to be kind toward His children. It was the Lord who gave Joseph "favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison" (Gen_39:21), the Israelites "favour in the sight of the Egyptians" (Exo_3:21) at the time of their exodus, Esther in the sight of king Ahasuerus (Est_5:2). It is so still; and we only honor God when we perceive and own this, and praise Him for it.

Davidís finding favor in the eyes of Jonathan was the more noteworthy, in that the envy and enmity of Saul was soon stirred against him. What a mercy from God was it, then, for David to have a true friend in his enemyís household! The value of it will come before us later. It was by this means that our hero received warning and his safety was promoted. In like manner, there are few of Godís children unto whom He does not, in critical seasons, raise up those who are kindly disposed toward them, and who in various ways help and succor them. Thus it has been in the life of the writer, and we doubt not, with many of our readers also. Let us admire the Lordís goodness and adore His faithfulness in thus giving us the sympathy and assistance of unsaved friends in a hostile world.

"And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his fatherís house" (1Sa_18:2). The purpose of God concerning David was beginning to ripen. First, He had so overruled things, that Saul had sent for him to attend the king occasionally in his fits of melancholia. But now David was made a permanent member of the court. This was but fitting in view of the promise which had been made to him by the king before he encountered Goliath: that if victorious, Saulís daughter should be given to him to wife (1Sa_17:25). Thus was David being fitted for his royal duties. It is blessed when we are able to realize that each providential change in our lives is another step toward the accomplishing of the divine counsels concerning us.

"And David went out whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely; and Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saulís servants" (1Sa_18:5). Beautiful it is to behold here the humility and fidelity of the one upon whom the anointing oil already rested: diligently had he fulfilled his trust in the sheepfold at Bethlehem, dutifully did he now carry out the orders of the king. Let this be duly laid to heart by any who are tempted to chafe under the situation which they now occupy. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might" (Ecc_9:10), defines the duty of each one of us. The teaching of the New Testament is, of course, the same: "Not slothful in business; Fervent in spirit" (Rom_12:11). Whatever position you occupy, dear reader, no matter how humble or distasteful, "whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men" (Col_3:23).

"And behaved himself wisely." How very few do so! How many have, through injudicious conduct, not only hindered their spiritual progress, but ruined their earthly prospects. Such a word as the one now before us needs to be turned into prayer ó believing, fervent, persevering. Especially is that counsel timely unto the young. We need to ask God to enable us to carry ourselves wisely in every situation in which He has placed us: that we may redeem the time, be on our guard against temptations, and perform each duty to the very best of our ability. "Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" (Mat_10:16), does not mean, be compromisers and temporizers, tricky and deceitful; but, take into consideration the fickleness of human nature and trust none but God. In Davidís behaving himself "wisely" he points again unto Him of whom God said, "Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently" (Isa_52:13).

Saul now set David "over the men of war": though not made commander-in-chief, some high military office was given him, possibly over the kingís bodyguard. This was a further step toward the equipping of David for his lifeís work: there was much fighting ahead of him, powerful enemies of Israel which had to be conquered; thus was God making all things "work together" for his good. What a change from the obscurity and peace of pastoral life, to becoming a courtier and soldier. "And he was accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saulís servants." God gave their future ruler favor in the eyes both of the common people and of the court. How this reminds us of what is recorded of the Antitype: "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man" (Luk_2:52).

"And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music. And the women answered as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands" (1Sa_18:6-7). How this incident served to make manifest the low spiritual state into which the nation of Israel had now sunk. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Mat_12:34): the language we employ, is a sure index to the condition of our souls, "They are of the world, therefore speak they of the world" (1Jo_4:5). It is indeed distressing, yet ought not to be surprising, that so few professing Christians in their general conversation with each other, "minister grace unto the hearers" (Eph_4:29) ó not surprising, because the great majority of them are strangers to the power of godliness.

The language used by the women of Israel when celebrating the .death of Goliath and the defeating of the Philistines, gave plain indication that their hearts and minds were occupied only with the human victors. "God was not in all their thoughts" (Psa_10:4). Alas that this is so often the case today: we are living in an age of hero worship, and Christendom itself is infected by this evil spirit. Man is eulogized and magnified on every hand, not only out in the world, but even in the so-called churches, Bible conferences, and religious periodicals ó seen in the advertising of the speakers, the printing of their photos, and the toadying to them. O how little hiding behind the Cross, how little self-effacement there is today. "Cease ye from man" (Isa_2:22), needs to be placed in large letters over the platforms of all the big religious gatherings in this man-deifying age. No wonder the Holy Spirit is "grieved" and "quenched," yet where are the voices being raised in faithful protest?

"And the women answered as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands." What a sad contrast was this from what we find recorded in Exodus 15! A far greater overthrow of the enemy was witnessed by Israel at the Red Sea, than what had just taken place in the valley of Elah (1Sa_17:19). Yet we do not find the mothers of these women of Israel magnifying Moses and singing his praises. Instead, we hear Miriam saying to her sisters, "Sing ye to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea" (Exo_15:21). Jehovah was there given His true place, the victory being ascribed to Him and not to the human instruments. See to it, dear reader, that ó no matter what the common and evil custom be to the contrary ó you give all the glory to Him unto whom alone it rightfully belongs.

"And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?" (1Sa_18:8). The song of the women was not only dishonoring to God, but was impolitic as well. As we saw in 1Sa_18:15, David "behaved himself wisely"; but the conduct of Israelís daughters was in sharp contrast therefrom. The honoring of David above Saul, was more than the kingís proud heart could endure: the activity of the "flesh" in the women acted upon the "flesh" in him. Unable to rejoice in what God had wrought through another, Saul was envious when he heard the superior praises of David being sung; he could not tolerate the thought of being second.

Perhaps someone may be inclined to raise the question, Why did not God restrain those women from exalting David in song above Saul (as He could easily have done), and thus prevented the rising of the kingís jealousy? Several answers may be returned to this query: it subserved Godís purpose, arid promoted the spiritual good of David. God often withholds His curbing hand in order that it may the better appear what is in fallen and unregenerate man. Were He not to do so, the distinction between the children of God and the children of the devil would not be so evident. Moreover, David was being flattered, and flattery is ever a dangerous thing; therefore does God often wisely and mercifully check our proud hearts from being unduly elated thereby, by causing some to think and speak evil of us.

"For every great and good work a man must expect to be envied by his neighbor: no distinction or pre-eminence can be so unexceptionably obtained, but it will expose the possessor to slander and malice, and perhaps to the most fatal consequences. But such trials are very useful to those who love God, they serve as a counterpoise to the honour put upon them, and check the growth of pride and attachment to the world; they exercise them to faith, patience, meekness, and communion with God; they give them a fair opportunity of exemplifying the amiable nature and tendency of true godliness, by acting with wisdom and propriety in the most difficult circumstances; they make way for increasing experience of the Lordís faithfulness, in restraining their enemies, raising them up friends, and affording them His gracious protection; and they both prepare them for those stations in which they are to be employed, and open their way to them: for in due time modest merit will shine forth with double lustre" (T. Scott).

Ere passing on, let it be remembered that each detail of this chapter, and every thing in the Old Testament Scriptures, is "written for our learning" (Rom_15:4). Especially does it need to be emphasized for the benefit of the young, that lavish commendations from those who admire and love us, in such a world as this, often prove a real injury; and in all cases every thing should be avoided which can excite envy and opposition ó except the performance of our duty to God and man. "Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you" (Luk_6:26). During the twelve years He was in the pastorate, the writer deemed it expedient to retire into the vestry as soon as the service was over: the "flesh" loves to hear the eulogies of the people, but they are not conducive to humility. "Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not" (Jer_45:5).

"And Saul eyed David from that day and forward" (1Sa_18:9). Perceiving that David was looked upon favorably by the people (1Sa_18:5), jealous of the praise which was accorded him (1Sa_18:7), fearful that he might soon lose the kingdom (1Sa_18:8), Saul now regarded the slayer of Goliath with a malignant eye. Instead of looking upon David with esteem and gratitude, as he should have done because of his gallant behavior, he jealousy observed his ways and actions, biding his time to do him injury. What a solemn example does this provide of the inconstancy of poor human nature! Only a little before Saul had "loved him greatly" (1Sa_16:21), and now he hated him. Beware, my reader, of the fickleness of the human heart. There is only One who can truthfully say "I change not" (Mal_3:6).

If David was counting upon the stability of Saulís affection for him, if he concluded that his military prowess had established him in the kingís favor, he was now to meet with a rude awakening. Instead of gratitude, there was cruel envy; instead of kindly treatment, his very life was sought. And this too is recorded for our instruction. The Holy Scriptures not only unveil to us the attributes of God, but they also reveal to us the character of man. Fallen human nature is faithfully depicted as it actually is. The more attentively Godís Word be pondered and its teachings and principles absorbed, the better will we be fortified against many a bitter disappointment. There is no excuse for any of us being deceived by people: if we took to heart the solemn warnings which the Bible furnishes, we should be far more upon our guard, and would heed such exhortations as are found in Psa_146:3; Pro_17:18; Jer_9:4; Jer_17:5; Mic_7:5.

"And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house. And David played with his hand, as at other times; and there was a javelin in Saulís hand. And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall. And David avoided out of his presence twice" (1Sa_18:10-11). How swiftly troubles follow on the heels of triumphs! What a contrast between hearing the acclaiming songs of the women, and dodging a murderous weapon! And yet how true to life! Well, then, does each of us need to seek grace that we may learn to hold everything down here with a light hand. Rightly did one of the Puritans counsel, "Build not thy nest in any earthly tree, for the whole forest is doomed to destruction." It is only as the heart is set upon things above that we find an object which will never disappoint nor pall.

"The evil spirit came from God upon Saul." Yes, the wicked as well as the righteous, evil spirits as well as holy angels, are under the absolute and immediate control of God, cf. Jdg_9:23. But let us not miss the solemn connection between what is recorded in 1Sa_18:9 and in 1Sa_18:10 : when we indulge jealousy and hatred, we give place to the devil (Eph_4:26-27). "And he prophesied:" all prophesyings are not inspired by the Holy Spirit, that is why we need to heed 1Jo_4:1. Observe the enemyís subtilty: no doubt Saulís prophesying was designed to take David off his guard ó he would least expect an attempt on his life at such a time. Blessed is it to note that after avoiding the deadly weapon cast at him, David did not pick it up and hurl it at Saul: instead, he quietly withdrew from his presence. May like grace be granted unto both writer and reader when tempted to retaliate upon those who wrong us.

 

 

 

6 - HIS EARLIER EXPERIENCES (cont) (1 Sam 18)

Human nature is quite apt to turn eyes of envy upon those who occupy exalted positions. It is commonly supposed that they who are stationed in seats of eminence and honor enjoy many advantages and benefits which are denied those beneath them; but this is far more imaginary than real, and where true is offset by the added responsibilities incurred and the more numerous temptations which are there encountered. What was before us in our last chapter ought to correct the popular delusion. David on the plains of Bethlehem was far better off than David in the kingís household: tending the sheep was less exacting than waiting upon Saul. Amid the green pastures he was free from jealous courtiers, the artificial etiquette of the palace, and the javelin of a mad monarch. The practical lesson to be learned by us is, to be contented with the lowly position which the providence of God has assigned us. And why should those who are joint-heirs with Christ be concerned about the trifles and toys of this world?

Resuming now at the point where we broke off, we next read, "And Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, and was departed from Saul" (1Sa_18:12). The word for "afraid" here is a milder one than that employed in 1Sa_18:15, and might be rendered "apprehensive." The king was becoming increasingly uneasy about the future. Consequent upon his disobedience, the prophet of God had plainly told Saul, "Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king," and then he added, "The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou" (1Sa_15:23, 1Sa_15:28). While he was probably ignorant of Davidís anointing (1Sa_16:13), it is plain that Saul was now growing more fearful that the man who had vanquished Goliath was he whom Jehovah had selected to succeed him.

First, it was evident to all that the Lord had given the young shepherd the victory over Goliath, for none had dared, in his own courage, to engage the mighty giant. Second, Davidís behaving himself so wisely in every position assigned him, and his being "accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saulís servants" (1Sa_18:5), indicated that he would be popular with the masses were he to ascend the throne. Third, the song of the women caused the jealous king to draw his own conclusion: "they have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what can he have more but the kingdom?" (1Sa_18:8). And now that his personal attack upon Davidís life had been frustrated (1Sa_18:11), Saul was apprehensive, for he saw that the Lord was with David, while he knew that He had forsaken himself.

"And Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him" (1Sa_18:12). The proofs that the special favor of God rested upon David were too plain and numerous for Saul to deny. Jehovah was protecting and preserving, prospering and succeeding David, giving him victory over his enemies and acceptance in the sight of the people. Ah, my reader, when the smile of the Lord is resting upon any of His saints, even the wicked are obliged to take note of and acknowledge the same. The chief captain of Abimelechís host admitted to Abraham, "God is with thee in all that thou doest" (Gen_21:22)ó what a testimony was that from a heathen! When Joseph was in the house of Potiphar, we are told, "And his master saw that the Lord was with him" (Gen_39:3). Can those among whom our lot is cast perceive that the special blessing of Heaven is resting upon us? If not, our hearts ought to be deeply exercised before God.

"And Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, and was departed from Saul." An additional cause of Saulís alarm was the knowledge that the Lord had departed from him, and therefore was he destitute of strength of mind and courage, wisdom and prudence, and had become mean and abject, and exposed to the contempt of his subjects. The reference is to chapter 1Sa_16:14. A solemn warning is this for us. It was because of his rebellion against the Lord, that Saul was now deserted of God. How often God withdraws His sensible and comforting presence from His people, through their following of a course of self-will. "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him" (Joh_14:21).

"Therefore Saul removed him from him, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people" (1Sa_18:13). Solemn indeed is it to behold how Saul acted here. Instead of humbling himself before God, he sought to rid himself of the man whose presence condemned him. Instead of judging himself unsparingly for the sin which had caused the Spirit of God to leave him, the wretched king was loath to look any more at the one upon whom Jehovahís favor manifestly rested. Flow differently did sinning David act at a later date! Behold him as he cried, "For I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight . . . . Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me" (Psa_51:3-11). Ah, here is the great difference between the unregenerate and the regenerate: the one harden themselves in their sin, the other are broken before God on account of it.

"Therefore Saul removed him from him, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people." But let us admire again the hand of God overruling, yea, directing, the reprobate monarchís actions to the carrying out of His own designs. Though it was hatred of his person that caused the king to remove David from the court, and perhaps partly to please his subjects and partly because he hoped he might be slain in battle, that our hero was now made captain over a regiment; yet this only served the more to ingratiate him with the people, by affording him the opportunity of leading them to victory over their enemies. Abundant opportunity was thus afforded to all Israel to become acquainted with David and all his ways.

Let us also take note of another line in the typical picture here. Though anointed king of Israel (1Sa_16:13), David was, nevertheless, called upon to endure the hatred of the ruling power. Thus it was with Davidís Son and Lord. The One who lay in Bethlehemís manger was none other than "Christ (Ďthe Anointedí) the Lord" (Luk_2:11), and "born King of the Jews" (Mat_2:2); yet the king of Judea sought His life (Mat_2:16) ó though fruitlessly, as in our type. So too at a later date, when His public ministry had begun, we read that, "the Pharisees went out and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him" (Mat_12:14). Blessed is it to see how that, instead of attempting to take things into his own hands, David was content to quietly wait the time which God had appointed for his coronation. In like manner, our blessed Lord willingly endured the "sufferings" before He entered into His "glory." May Divine grace grant unto us all needed patience.

"And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him" (1Sa_18:14). Observe that little word "all," and turn it into prayer and practice. Whether on the farm, in the court, or on the battlefield, the man after Godís own heart conducted himself prudently. Here too he foreshadowed Him of whom it was declared "He hath done all things well" (Mar_7:37). Let this ever be our desire and aim. "And the Lord was with him," protecting and prospering. That word in 2Ch_15:2 still holds good, "The Lord is with you, while ye be with Him: and if ye seek Him, He will be found of you; but if ye forsake Him, He will forsake you." If we diligently seek to cultivate a daily walk with God, all will be well with us.

"Wherefore when Saul saw that he behaved himself very wisely, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them" (1Sa_18:15-16). When the God-forsaken king perceived that he had gained no advantage against David, but that instead he succeeded in all his undertakings, and was more and more in favor with the people, Saul was greatly alarmed, lest the hour was drawing near when the kingdom should be rent from him and given to his rival. When the wicked discern that the awe and blessing of God is upon the righteous, they are "afraid" of them: thus we read that "Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy" (Mar_6:20). When it is known that God is in the assemblies of His saints, even the great ones of the earth are convicted and rendered uneasy: see Psa_48:2-6.

"And Saul said to David, Behold my elder daughter Merab, her will I give thee to wife: only be thou valiant for me, and fight the Lordís battles. For Saul said, Let not mine hand be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him" (1Sa_18:17). This was said not in friendship and good-will to David, but as designed to lay a snare for him. Thoroughly obsessed with envy, the king was unable to rest. If it could be accomplished without incurring direct guilt, he was determined to encompass Davidís destruction. Formerly he had made a personal attack upon his life (1Sa_18:11), but now he feared the people, with whom David was so popular (1Sa_18:16); so Saul deemed it wiser to devise this vile plot. He would have David work out his own doom. Remarkable is it to note that this was the very way in which Saulís own career was ended ó he was slain by the Philistines: see 1Sa_31:1-5.

"Only be thou valiant for me and light the Lordís battles. For Saul said, Let not mine hand be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him." Was this incident before David when he wrote, "The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords" (Psa_55:21)! How unspeakably dreadful was this: here was a man with murder in his heart, deliberately plotting the death of a fellow-creature; yet, at that very moment, talking about "fighting the Lords battles"! O how often is the vilest hypocrisy cloaked with spiritual language! How easy it is to be deceived by fair words! How apt would be the bystanders who heard this pious language of Saul, to conclude that the king was a godly man! Ah, my reader, learn well this truth: it is actions which speak louder than words.

"And David said unto Saul, Who am I? and what is my life, or my fatherís family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?" (1Sa_18:18). Some of the commentators have supposed that Saul promised David his daughter to wife at the time when he went forth to engage Goliath; but there is nothing in Scripture which directly supports this. What is recorded in 1Sa_17:25 was the words of Israel, and not of the king ó they supposed he would do this and more. When Saulís proposal was made known to him, the modesty and humility of David was at once manifested. Some think that the reference made by David to his "family," had in view his descent from Ruth the Moabitess.

It is blessed to behold the lowly spirit which was displayed by David on this occasion. No self-seeking time-server was he. His heart was occupied in faithfully performing each duty assigned to him, and he aspired not after earthly honors and fleshly advantages. "Who am I?" at once evidenced the mean estimate which he entertained of himself. Ah, that is the man whom the Lord uses and promotes: "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble" (Jam_4:6). "And what is my life?" breathes the same sentiment: the pitting of my life against the Philistine is no equivalent to receiving the kingís daughter in marriage. Here again we see the subject of these articles adumbrating the perfections of his Lord: "learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart" (Mat_11:29) gives us what the modesty of David but imperfectly represented. Let writer and reader earnestly seek grace to heed that word "not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly" (Rom_12:3).

"But it came to pass at the time when Merab Saulís daughter should have been given to David, that she was given unto Adriel the Meholathite to wife" (1Sa_18:19). What was the word of such a man worth? Be very slow, dear reader, in resting upon the promises of a fallen creature. No doubt the perfidy of the king is so grossly affronting David was designed to anger him. Such shameful treatment was calculated to stir up to mutiny one who had the right to claim the fulfillment of Saulís agreement; and thus the king thought he could gain an advantage against him. It is striking and solemn to discover that the curse of God rested upon that marriage; for the five sons born by Merab to the Meholathite (brought up by Michal) were delivered into the hands of the Gibeonites, and "hanged" (2Sa_21:8-9)!

"And Michal Saulís daughter loved David: and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him" (1Sa_18:20-21). A new opportunity now presented itself unto the wicked kingís purpose. Michal, another of his daughters, fell in love with David: he therefore proposed to give her to him for a wife instead of Merab, hoping that he would now have opportunity of bringing about his death. But let us look beyond the devil-possessed monarch, and behold and admire the wondrous ways of Him who maketh "all things work together for good" to them that love Him. Just as of old the Lord turned the heart of the daughter of Pharaoh unto Moses and thus foiled the evil designs of her father to destroy all the male children of the Hebrews, so He now drew out the affections of Michal unto David, and used her to thwart the murderous intentions of Saul: see 1Sa_19:11-17. What a proof that all hearts are in Godís hands!

Conscious that his own word would have no weight with him, the king slyly employed his servants to gain Davidís confidence. They were commanded to commune with him "secretly," and to assure him "the king hath delight in thee, and all his servants love thee: now therefore be the kingís son-in-law" (1Sa_18:22). When the secret restraints of God are withdrawn from them "the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecc_8:11). They will scruple at nothing, but employ any and every means to hand for accomplishing their evil designs: they will flatter and praise or criticize and condemn, advance or abase, the object of their spleen, as best serves their purpose.

When David was informed of the kingís intention, his reply again evidenced the lowliness of his heart: "Seemeth it to you a light thing to be a kingís son-in-law, seeing that I am a poor man, and lightly esteemed?" ó by the king (1Sa_18:23). From what follows, it seems evident that David was here pointing out his inability to bring to the kingís daughter the dowry that might be expected: compare Gen_29:18; Gen_34:12; Exo_22:16-17. Beautifully has Matthew Henry, in his comments on this verse, pointed out: "If David thus magnified the honour of being son-in-law to the king, how highly then should we think of it to be the sons (not in law, but in Gospel) to the King of kings! ĎBehold what manner of love the Father bath bestowed upon us!í (1Jo_3:1). Who are we that we should be thus dignified?" Utterly unable as we were to bring any "dowry" to recommend us unto God.

When his servants made known unto Saul Davidís reply, the real design of the king became apparent. "The condition of the marriage must be that he kill a hundred Philistine; and, as proof that those he had slain were uncircumcised, he must bring in their foreskins cut off. This would be a great reproach upon the Philistines, who hated circumcision, as it was an ordinance of God; and perhaps Davidís doing this would the more exasperate them against him; and make them seek to be revenged on him, which was the thing Saul desired and designed" (Matthew Henry). Even to such a stipulation David did not demur: knowing that God was with him, jealous of His glory to slay His enemies, he went forth and killed double the number required. Verily, God maketh the wrath of man to praise Himself (Psa_76:10).

 

 

 

7 - FLEEING FROM SAUL - (1 Sam 19)

At the close of 1 Samuel 18 there is a striking word recorded which supplies a most blessed line in the typical picture that was furnished by the man after Godís own heart. There we read, "David behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul; so that his name was much set by" ó the marginal reading is still more suggestive: "so that his name was precious." What a lovely foreshadowing was this of Him whose "Name" is "as ointment pouted forth" (Son_1:3)! Yes, both to His Father and to His people the name of Christ is "much set by." He has "obtained a more excellent name" than angels bear (Heb_1:4); yea, He has been given "a name which is above every name" (Phi_2:9). "Precious" beyond description is that Name unto His own: they plead it in prayer (Joh_14:13); they make it their "strong tower" (Pro_18:10).

"And Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David" (1Sa_19:1). How vivid and how solemn is the contrast presented between the last sentence of the preceding chapter and the opening one of this! And yet perhaps the spiritually minded would hardly expect anything else. When the "name" of the "Beloved" (for that is what ĎDavid" signifies) is "much set by," we are prepared to see the immediate raging of the enemy ó personified here by Saul. Yes, the picture here presented to our view is true to life. Nothing is more calculated to call into action the enmity of the Serpent against the womanís Seed than the extolling of His "name," with all that that scripturally includes. It was thus in the days of the apostles. When they announced that "There is none other Name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved" (Act_4:12), the Jewish leaders "commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus" (Act_4:18); and because they heeded not, the apostleís were "beaten" and again commanded "not to speak in the name of Jesus" (Act_5:40).

The previous plot of Saul upon Davidís life had failed. Instead of his being slain by the Philistines, they fell under the hand of David, and the consequence was that the son of Jesse became more esteemed than ever by the people. His name was held in high honor among them. Thus it was too with his Antitype: the more the chief priests and Pharisees persecuted the Lord Jesus, the more the people sought after Him: "From that day forth, they took counsel together for to put Him to death . . . and the Jewsí passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves. Then sought they for Jesus" (Joh_11:53-56). So it was after His ascension: the more His witnesses were persecuted, the more the Gospel prospered. There seems little room for doubt that the death of Stephen was one of the things used by God to convict him who afterwards became the mighty apostle to the Gentiles. When the early church was assailed, we are told, "Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word" (Act_8:4). Thus does God make the wrath of man to praise Him.

Saul was growing desperate, and now hesitated not to make known unto his own son his fierce hatred of David. Yet here again we may behold and admire the directing hand of Providence, in the kingís not concealing his murderous designs from Jonathan. The son shared not his fatherís enmity, accordingly we read, "But Jonathan Saulís son delighted much in David: and Jonathan told David, saying, Saul my father seeketh to kill thee: now therefore, I pray thee, take heed to thyself until the morning, and abide in a secret place, and hide thyself: and I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where thou art, and I will commune with my father of thee; and what I see, that I will tell thee" (1Sa_19:2-3). It is blessed to see such true and disinterested friendship, for it should not be forgotten that Jonathan was the natural heir to the throne. Here we see him faithfully acquainting David of his danger, and counseling him to take precautionary measures against it.

Not only did Jonathan warn his beloved friend of the evil intentions of his father, but he also entreated the king on his behalf. Beautiful it is to see him interceding before Saul (1Sa_19:4-5), at the imminent risk of bringing down his anger upon his own head. Jonathan reminded Saul that David had never wronged him; so far from it, he had delivered Israel from the Philistines, and had thus saved the kingís throne; why then should he be so set upon shedding "innocent blood"? Jonathan must not here be regarded as a type of Christ, rather is he a vivid contrast. Jonathanís plea was based upon Davidís personal merits. It is the very opposite in the case of the Christianís Intercessor. Our great High Priest appears before the King of the universe on behalf of His people not on the ground of any good they have done, but solely on the ground of that perfect satisfaction or obedience which He offered to divine justice on their behalf; no merits of theirs can He plead, but His own perfect sacrifice prevails for them.

Jonathanís intercession was successful: "And Saul hearkened unto the voice of Jonathan" (1Sa_19:6). He not only gave his son a fair hearing, but was duly impressed by the arguments used, and was convicted for the present that he was wrong in seeking the life of David. Yet here again the intercession of Jonathan and that of the Lord Jesus for His people are in striking contrast: the former had naught but a temporary and transient effect upon his father, whereas that of our Advocate is eternally efficacious ó forever be His name praised. "And Saul sware, As the Lord liveth, he shall not be slain" (1Sa_19:6). Once more we see how easy it is for wicked men to make use of pious expressions, and appear to superficial observers godly men. The sequel shows of what little value is the solemn oath of a king, and warns us to place no confidence in the engagements of earthly rulers. They who are acquainted with the Scriptures are not surprised when even national and international treaties become only worthless "scraps of paper."

Reassured by Jonathan, David returned to Saulís household (1Sa_19:7). But not for long: a fresh war (probably local, and on a small scale) broke out with the Philistines. This called for David to resume his military activities, which he did with great success (1Sa_19:8), killing many of the enemy and putting the remainder to flight. A blessed example does the man after Godís own heart here set us. Though serving a master that little appreciated his faithful efforts, nay, who had vilely mistreated him, our hero did not refuse to perform his present duty. "David continues his good services to his king and country. Though Saul had requited him evil for good, and even his usefulness was the very thing for which Saul envied him, yet he did not therefore retire in sullenness, and decline public service. Those that are ill paid for doing good, yet must not be weary of well-doing, remembering what a bountiful benefactor our heavenly Father is" (Matthew Henry).

"And the evil spirit from the Lord was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand" (1Sa_19:9). The opening word of this verse seems to intimate that the fresh victory of David over the Philistines stirred up the spiteful jealousy of the king, and thus by "giving place to the devil" (Eph_4:26-27) became susceptible again to the evil spirit. "And David played with his hand," no doubt upon the harp. One who had been so successful upon the battlefield, and was held in such honor by the people, might have deemed such a service as beneath his dignity; but a gracious man considers no ministry too humble by which he may do good to another. Or, he might have objected on the basis of the danger he incurred the last time he performed this office for Saul (1Sa_18:10), but he counted upon God to preserve him in the path of duty.

"And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin" (1Sa_19:10). In view of his so recently acceding to his sonís intercession and swearing that David should not be slain, our present verse furnishes an illustration of a solemn and searching principle. How often unsaved people, after sudden conviction have resolved to break from their evil doings, and serve the Lord, but only after a short season to return to their course of sin, like a washed sow to her wallowing in the mire (2Pe_2:22), Where there has been no miracle of mercy wrought within the heart, no change of disposition, and where there is no dependence upon divine grace for needed strength, resolutions, however sincere and earnest, seldom produce any lasting effect. Unmortified lusts quickly break through the most solemn vows; where the fear of God does not possess the heart, fresh temptations soon arouse the dormant corruptions, and this gives Satan good opportunity to regain complete mastery over his victim.

But he slipped away out of Saulís presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall; and David fled, and escaped that night" (1Sa_19:10). How wonderful is the care of God for His own! Though invisible, how real are His protecting arms! "Not a shaft of hate can hit, till the God of love sees fit." What peace and stability it brings to the heart when faith realizes that "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them" (Psa_34:7). Men may be filled with malice against us, Satan may rage and seek our destruction, but none can touch a hair of our heads without Godís permission. The Lord Almighty is the "Shield and Buckler," the "Rock and Fortress" of all those who put their trust in Him. Yet note that David was not foolhardy and reckless. Faith is not presumptuous: though we are to trust Him, we are forbidden to tempt the Lord; therefore it is our duty to retire when men seek our hurt (cf. Mat_10:23).

Saul also sent messengers unto Davidís house, to watch him, and to slay him in the morning: and Michal Davidís wife told him, saying, If thou save not thy life tonight, tomorrow shalt thou be slain" (1Sa_19:11). Saul was thoroughly aroused: chagrined by his personal failure to kill David, he now sent his guards to assassinate him. These were to surround his house and wait till daylight, rather than enter and run the risk of killing some one else, or allowing him to make his escape during the confusion and darkness. But man proposes, and God disposes. The Lord had other services for David to perform, and the servant of God is immortal until the work allotted him has been done. This time the kingís own daughter, who had married David, was the one to befriend him. In some way she had learned of her fatherís plan, so at once took measures to thwart it. First, she acquainted her husband of his imminent danger.

Next we are told, "so Michal let David down through a window; and he went, and fled, and escaped" (1Sa_19:12). In like manner, Rahab had let down the spies from her house in Jericho, when the kingís messengers were in quest of him; and as the disciples let down the apostle Paul at Damascus, to preserve him from the evil designs of the Jews. Though the doors were securely guarded, David thus escaped through a window, and fled swiftly and safely away. It is of deep interest at this point to turn to the fifty-ninth Psalm, the heading of which (inspired, we believe) tells us it was written "when Saul sent, and they watched the house to kill him." In this critical situation, David betook himself to prayer: "Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God: defend me from them that rise up against me. Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody men. For, lo, they lie in wait for my soul: the mighty are gathered against me; not for my transgression, nor for my sin, O Lord" (Psa_59:1-3). Blessed is it to see that ere he completed the Psalm, full assurance of deliverance was his: "But I will sing of Thy power, yea, I will sing aloud of Thy mercy in the morning"(Psa_59:16).

"And Michal took an image, and laid it in the bed, and put a pillow of goatsí hair for his bolster, and covered it with a cloth, and when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, He is sick" (1Sa_19:13-14). Water will not rise above its own level. We cannot expect the children of this world to act according to heavenly principles. Alienated as they are from the life of God (Eph_4:18), utter strangers to Him in experience (Eph_2:12), they have no trust in Him. In an emergency they have no better recourse than to turn unto fleshly schemings and devisings. From a natural viewpoint Michalís fidelity to her husband was commendable, but from a spiritual standpoint her deceit and falsehood was reprehensible. The one who commits his cause and case unto the Lord, trusting also in Him to bring to pass His own wise purpose and that which shall be for his own highest good (Psa_37:5), has no need to resort unto tricks and deceits. Does not Davidís having yoked himself to an unbeliever supply the key to his painful experiences in Saulís household!

"And Saul sent the messengers again to see David, saying, Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may slay him" (1Sa_19:15). Bent on Davidís destruction, the king gave orders that, sick or no, he should be carried into his presence, and this for the specific purpose of slaying him by his own hand. Base and barbarous was it to thus triumph over one whom he thought was sick, and to vow the death of one that, for all he knew, was dying by the hand of nature. Spurred on by him who is "a murderer from the beginning" (Joh_8:44), the savage cruelty of Saul makes evident the extreme danger to which David was exposed: which, in turn, intensifies the blessedness of Godís protection of him. How precious it is for the saint to know that the Lord places Himself as the Shield between him and his malicious foe! "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people from henceforth even forever" (Psa_125:2).

When the servants returned to and entered Michalís house, her plot was exposed and the flight of David discovered (1Sa_19:16). Whereupon the king asked his daughter, "Why hast thou deceived me so, and sent away mine enemy, that he is escaped?" (1Sa_19:17). How thoroughly blurred is the vision of one who is filled with envy, anger and hatred! He who had befriended Saul again and again, was now regarded as an "enemy." There is a solemn lesson for us in this: if pride, prejudice, or self-seeking rule our hearts, we shall regard those who are our wisest counselors and well-wishers as foes. Only when our eye be single is our whole body full of light. Solemn is it to note Michalís answer to Saul: "He said unto me, Let me go; why should I kill thee?" (1Sa_19:17), thereby representing David as a desperate man who would have slain her had she sought to block his escape. Still more solemn is it to find the man after Godís own heart married to such a woman!

"So David fled, and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth" (1Sa_19:19). It was by Samuel he had been anointed, and through him he had first received the promise of the kingdom. Probably David now sought Godís prophet for the strengthening of his faith, for counsel as to what he should do, for comfort under his present troubles, for fellowship and prayer: it was through Samuel he was now most likely to learn the mind of the Lord. And too, he probably regarded asylum with Samuel as the most secure place in which he could lodge. Naioth was close to Ramah, and there was a school of the prophets: if the Philistines gave no disturbance to the "hill of God" and the prophets in it (1Sa_10:5), it might be reasonably concluded that Saul would not.

"And it was told Saul, saying, Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah." And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied" (1Sa_19:19-20). Notwithstanding the sacredness of the place David was in, Saul sent servants to arrest him. But again the Lord interposed, by causing His Spirit to fall upon Saulís messengers, who were so much taken up with the religious exercises, they neglected the errand on which they had been sent. How this reminds us of the Pharisees and chief priests sending officers to apprehend Christ, but who instead of executing their commission, returned to their masters, saying, "Never man spake like this Man" (Joh_7:32, Joh_7:45-46)! Saul sent others of his servants, a second and a third time, to seize David, but before he reached the place where David was, the Spirit of God came upon him and threw him into a kind of trance, in which he continued all day and night; giving David plenty of rime to escape. Such strange methods does Jehovah sometimes employ in bringing to naught the efforts of His enemies against His servants.

 

8 - HIS WANDERINGS (1 Sam 20)

The picture which the Holy Spirit has given in Scripture of Davidís character and life is a composite one. It is somewhat like a painting in which the dominant colors are white, black and gold. In many details David has left an example which we do well to follow. In other respects he presents a solemn warning which we do well to heed. In other features he was a blessed type of Christ. Thus, the meeting together of these three distinct things in David may well be likened unto a composite picture. Nor do we exercise a wrong spirit (providing our motive be right), or sully the grace of God by dwelling upon the sad defects in the character of the Psalmist or the failures in his life; rather will the Spiritís design be realized and our souls be the gainers if we duly take to heart and turn them into earnest prayer, that we may be delivered from the snares into which he fell.

At the close of our last chapter we saw how that, to escape the murderous hatred of Saul, David took refuge with Samuel at Naioth. Thither did his relentless enemy follow him. But wondrously did God interpose. Three times the messengers which the king had sent to arrest David were restrained and awed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Not only so, but when Saul himself came in person, the Spirit of God subdued and threw him into a kind of ecstatic trance. One would have thought that this signal intervention of God for David had quieted all his fears, and filled his soul with praise and thanksgiving unto Him who had shown Himself strong on his behalf. Was it not plain that God did not intend Saul to harm the one whom His prophet had anointed? Ah, but David too was a man of like passions with us, and unless divine grace wrought effectually within him, no outward providences would avail to spiritualize him. The moment the Lord leaves us to ourselves (to try us, to show what we are), a fall is certain.

Instead of continuing at Naioth, quietly waiting the next token of Godís goodness, David became alarmed, and took matters into his own hands. Instead of being occupied with the divine perfections, David now saw only a powerful, inveterate, bloodthirsty enemy. Accordingly, the next thing we read is, "And David fled from Naioth in Ramah" (1Sa_20:1): true he "fled" from Saul, but he also turned his back upon Samuel. "And came and said before Jonathan, What have I done? what is mine iniquity? and what is my sin before thy father, that he seeketh my life?" It is solemn to see David preferring a conference with Jonathan rather than with the prophet of God. As usual, the key is hung upon the door; the opening verse of this chapter explains to us what is found in the later ones. It was "natural" that David should turn for help to a "friend," but was it spiritual?

Do not the questions David put to Jonathan reveal to us the state of his heart? The "I," "mine," "my," "my," show plainly enough the condition of his mind. God was not now in all his thoughts, yea, He was not mentioned at all. The repeated attempts of Saul upon his life had thoroughly unnerved him, and his "there is but a step between me and death" (1Sa_20:3), intimates plainly that unbelieving fears now possessed him. Ah, David needed to turn unto an abler physician than Jonathan if his feverish anxiety was to be allayed: only One was sufficient for laying a calming and cooling hand upon him. O how much the saint loses when he fails to acknowledge the Lord in all his ways (Pro_3:6). But worse: when communion is broken, when the soul is out of touch with God, temptation is yielded unto and grievous sin is committed. It was so here. Afraid that Saulís anger would return when his absence from the table was noted, but fearful to take his place there, David bids Jonathan utter a deliberate lie on his behalf (1Sa_20:5-6). May this speak loudly to each of our hearts, warning of the fearful fruits which issue from severed fellowship with the Lord.

The first false step David had taken was in marrying the daughter of Saul, for it is evident from the sacred narrative that she was no suited partner for the man after Godís own heart. His second mistake was his fleeing from Naioth, and thus turning his back upon the prophet of God. His third failure was to seek aid of Jonathan. The true character of his "friend" was exhibited on this occasion: seeing David so perturbed, he had not the moral courage to acknowledge the truth, but sought to pacify him with a prevarication (1Sa_20:2). Surely Jonathan could not be ignorant of Saulís having thrown the javelin at David, of the instructions given to the servants to slay him (1Sa_19:11), of the messengers sent to arrest him (1Sa_19:20), and of his going after David in person (1Sa_19:22). But all doubt is removed by "Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David" (1Sa_19:1). Jonathan deliberately equivocated in 1Sa_20:2, and "evil communications corrupt good manners" (1Co_15:33): thus it was here ó David lied too (1Sa_20:5-6).

We do not propose to go over this twentieth chapter verse by verse, for we are not now writing a commentary upon 1 Samuel. A plan was agreed upon by Jonathan whereby he should ascertain the latest attitude of his father and acquaint David with the same. A solemn covenant was entered into between them: Jonathan here, and David much later (2Sa_9:1-13), faithfully carried out its terms. The words "David hid himself in the held" (1Sa_20:24 and cf. 1Sa_20:35-41), at once expose his lie in 1Sa_20:6, though the commentators have glossed it over. When David was missed from the kingís table and inquiry was made, Jonathan repeated the lie which David had suggested to him. Thereupon the king reviled his son, and declared that David "shall surely die" (1Sa_20:31). When Jonathan sought to expostulate, and ask why David should be slain, Saul threw his javelin at him. The meeting between Jonathan and David in the field, and their affectionate leave-taking is touchingly described (1Sa_20:41-42).

"Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest" (1Sa_21:1). When a real saint is out of touch with God, when he is in a backslidden state, his conduct presents a strange enigma and his inconsistent ways are such as no psychologist can explain. But much that is inexplicable to many (even to ill-informed believers) is solved for us by Gal_5:17 : "for the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." Here we have set forth the conflict of the two "natures" in the Christian, the irreconcilable opposition between the two mainsprings of conduct, the "flesh" and the "spirit." According as one or the other of these two principles is actuating and dominating the saint, such will be his course of action. The final clause of this verse has a double force: the presence of the "flesh" hinders the "spirit" from completely realizing its desires in this life (Rom_7:15-25); the presence of the "spirit," prevents the "flesh" from fully having its way.

Gal_5:17 supplies the key to many a mysterious experience in the life of a Christian, and sheds much light on the checkered histories of Old Testament saints. We might add many paragraphs at this point by illustrating the last sentence from the lives of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Elijah, etc., but instead, we will confine our attention to the leading subject of these chapters. In his meeting the attacks of the wild animals (1Sa_17:34-36), in his devotion for the tabernacle (Psa_132:1-7), in his engagement with Goliath, the "spirit" was uppermost in David, and therefore was the Lord before his heart. There had been severe testings of courage and faith, but his trust in the Lord wavered not. Then followed a season in the kingís household, where it was much harder to preserve this spirituality. Then Saul turned against him, and again and again sought his life. Deprived of the outward means of grace, Davidís faith flagged, and as it flagged fears replaced it, and instead of being occupied with the Lord, his powerful foe filled his vision.

In his flight from Saul, David first sought unto Samuel, which shows that the "flesh" in him was not completely regnant, as it never is in a truly regenerate soul: "Sin shall not have dominion over you" (Rom_6:14) ó it shall not render you its absolute slave. But in his flight from Samuel and his turning to Jonathan for help, we see the "flesh" more and more regulating his actions ó still more plainly manifested in the falsehood which he put into his friendís mouth. And now in his flight unto Ahimelech and the manner in which he conducted himself, the anointed eye may discern the conflict which was at work within him. It now seemed clear unto David that no change for the better was to be expected in Saul: as long as the king was alive, he was in danger. An outcast from the court, he now became a lonely wanderer, but before he journeyed farther afield, his heart was first drawn to Nob, whither the tabernacle had been removed.

Various motives and considerations seem to have moved David in his repairing to Nob. Foreseeing that he must now be an exile, he wished to take leave of the tabernacle, not knowing when he should see it again, it is plain from many of his Psalms that the sorest grief of David during the time of his banishment was his isolation from the house of God and his restraint from public ordinances: "How amiable are thy Tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord . . . . For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness" (Psa_84:1-10 and cf. Psa_42:3-4, etc.) Second, it seems clear from 1Sa_22:10 that Davidís purpose was to enquire of the Lord through the high priest, to obtain directions from Him as to his path. Third, from what follows here, it appears that food was also his quest.

"And Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David" (1Sa_21:1). Evidently the high priest had heard of Davidís having fallen under the displeasure of Saul, and so concluded that he was a fugitive. Knowing the type of man the king was, Ahimelech was fearful of endangering his own life by entertaining David. "And said unto him, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee?" That there were some "young men" with him is clear from 1Sa_21:4 and also Mat_12:3, yet having won such renown both in camp and court, it might well be expected that David should be accompanied by a suitable equipage. The disdain which the high priest showed for David the outcast, illustrates the merciless attitude of the world toward a fallen and impoverished hero.

"And David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, Let no man know any thing of the business whereabout I send thee, and what I have commanded thee: and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place" (1Sa_21:2). Here again we see David guilty of a gross untruth. How solemn to find the Psalmist of Israel telling a deliberate lie at the threshold of the house of God, whither he had come to inquire the mind of the Lord. Verily, each one of us has real need to pray "Remove from me the way of lying" (Psa_119:29). Davidís heart quailed under the embarrassing question of the priest, and he who had dared to meet single-handed the Philistine giant was now afraid to speak the truth. Ah, there cannot be the calm and courage of faith, where faith itself is inoperative. Elijah shrank not from meeting the four hundred prophets of Baal, yet later he fled in terror from Jezebel. Peter dared to step out of the ship onto the sea, yet trembled before a maid. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall."

It is easier to trust God in days of sunshine than in times of gloom and darkness. "David had often, indeed, before known difficulty and danger: from the day of his conflict with Goliath he had known little else: but then, there was this difference ó in former difficulties he had been enabled to triumph. Some ray of brightness had gilded every cloud; some honor awaited him out of each affliction. But now, God seemed no longer to interfere on his behalf. The full enmity of Saul was allowed to take its course; and God interfered not, either to subdue or to chasten. He appeared no longer to intend raising David above circumstances, but to allow him to be overcome by them. Davidís heart seemed unable to bear this. To trust God whilst overcoming is one thing; to trust Him when being overcome is another" (B. W. Newton).

David now asked Ahimelech for five loaves of bread (1Sa_21:3): bear in mind that he stood at the door of the tabernacle, and not before the priestís personal residence. All that was to hand were the twelve loaves which had rested for a week on the golden table in the sanctuary, and which, being replaced at once by twelve more, became the property of the priests and their families. Assuring Ahimelech that he and his men met the requirements of Exo_19:15, David pressed for the bread being given to him. To what a low estate had the son of Jesse fallen: now that Saulís rooted malice was generally known the people would be afraid and unwilling to befriend him. In Matthew 12 we find the Lord Jesus vindicating this action, which shows us that the ordinances of religion may be dispensed with where the preservation of life calls for it: ritual observances must give way to moral duties, and in the case of urgent providential necessity that is permissible which ordinarily may not be done.

"Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the Lord; and his name was Doeg, an Edomite, the chiefest of the herdmen that belonged to Saul" (1Sa_21:7). And yet in his hearing David had preferred his urgent request. Surely natural common sense would have prompted him to act with more prudence. Ah, my reader, when the saint is in a backslidden state of soul, he often acts more foolishly than does the man of the world. This is a righteous judgment of God upon him. He has given us His Word to walk by, and that Word is one of wisdom, containing salutary counsel. We turn from it at our peril and irreparable loss. To lean unto our own understanding is to court certain disaster. Yet, when communion with God is broken, this is exactly what we do. Then it is that we are suffered to reap the bitter fruits of our evil ways and made to feel the consequences of our folly.

Next, David asked Ahimelech for a weapon, and was told that the only one available was "the sword of Goliath," which had been preserved in the tabernacle as a monument of the Lordís goodness to Israel. When told of this, David exclaimed, "There is none like that, give it to me." Alas, alas, how had the mighty fallen. "Surely it augured ill for David, that his hand ó that hand which had placed the sword of Goliath in the sanctuary of the God of Israel ó that hand which had once taken the pebble and the sling as the symbol of its strength, because it trusted in the Lord of hosts ó it augured ill that his hand should be the first to withdraw the giant weapon from its resting-place in order that he might transfer to it a measure, at least of that confidence which he was withdrawing from God. How different the condition of David now, and on the day of Goliathís fall! Then, trusting in the God of Israel, and associated with Israel, he had gone out in owned weakness; but now, forsaking Israel and the land of Israel, he went forth armed with the sword of Goliath, to seek friendship and alliance with the Philistines, the enemies of Israel, and the enemies of God" (B. W. Newton).

Thus David now set forth, provisioned (temporarily, at least) and armed. But at what a cost? The unsuspecting priest had believed Davidís lies, and assured by him that Saul had commissioned him, feared not the presence of Doeg the kingís servant (1Sa_21:7). But he paid dearly for listening, against his better judgment, to Davidís falsehoods. That treacherous Edomite informed Saul (1Sa_22:9-10), and later he was ordered by the enraged king to reek a fearful vengeance: "And Doeg the Edomite turned, and he fell upon the priests, and slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear a linen ephod. And Nob, the city of the priests smote he with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and sucklings, and oxen, and asses, and sheep" (1Sa_22:18-19). Such were some of the fearful results of Davidís lies, as he afterwards acknowledged to the one remaining child of Ahimelech: "I have occasioned the death of all the persons of thy fatherís house" (1Sa_22:22). May it please the Holy Spirit to powerfully move both writer and reader to lay to heart the whole of this solemn incident, that we may pray daily with increasing earnestness, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

 

9 - HIS FLIGHT TO ZIKLAG - (1Sa_21:1-15)

There are times when Godís tender love for His people seems to be contradicted by the sore testings which He sends upon them, times when His providences appear to clash with His promises; then it is that faith is tested, and so often fails; then it is also that the superabounding grace of God is evidenced by delivering the one who has given way to unbelief. These principles are illustrated again and again on the pages of Holy Writ, especially in the Old Testament, and one of their chief values is for us to lay them to heart, turn them into earnest prayer, and seek to profit from them. God forbid that we should "wrest" them to our destruction (2Pe_3:16). God forbid that we should deliberately sin in order that grace may abound (Rom_6:1-2). And God forbid that we should take the failures of those who preceded us as excuses for our own grievous falls, thus endeavoring to shelter behind the faults of others. Rather let us seek grace to regard them as danger-signals, set up to deter us from slipping into the snares which tripped them.

To Abraham God promised a numerous seed (Gen_12:2), but His providences seemed to run counter to the fulfillment. Sarah was barren! But the sterility of her womb presented no difficulty to Omnipotence. Nor was there any need for Abraham to attempt a fleshly compromise, by seeking a son through Hagar (Gen. 16). True, for a while, his plan appeared to succeed? but the sequel not only demonstrated the needlessness for such a device, but in Ishmael a bitter harvest was reaped. And this is recorded as a warning for us. To Jacob God said, "Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred, and I will be with thee" (Gen_31:3). During the course of his journey, messengers informed him that Esau was approaching with four hundred men, and we read that "Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed" (Gen_32:7). How human! True, and how sad, how dishonoring to God! What cause for fear was there when Jehovah was with him? O for grace to "trust in Him at all times" (Psa_62:8).

Learn, dear brethren and sisters, that faith must be tested ó to prove its genuineness. Yet only He who gives faith, can maintain it; and for this we must constantly seek unto Him. What has just been before us receives further illustration in the subject of these chapters. David was the king elect, yet another wore the crown. The son of Jesse had been anointed unto the throne, yet Saul was now bitterly persecuting him. Had God forgotten to be gracious? No, indeed. Had He changed His purpose? That could not be (Mal_3:6). Why, then, should the slayer of Goliath now be a fugitive? He had been appointed to be master of vast treasures, yet he was now reduced to begging bread (1Sa_21:3). Faith must be tested, and we must learn by painful experience the bitter consequences of not trusting in the Lord with all our hearts, and the evil fruits which are borne whenever we lean unto our own understandings, take matters into our own hands, and seek to extricate ourselves from trouble.

Concerning Hezekiah we read that "God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart" (2Ch_32:31). None of us knows how weak he is till God withdraws His upholding grace (as He did with Peter) and we are left to ourselves. True, the Lord has plainly told us that "without Me ye can do nothing." We think we believe that word, and in a way we do; yet there is a vast difference between not calling into question a verse of Scripture, an assenting to its verity, and an inward acquaintance with the same in our own personal history. It is one thing to believe that I am without strength or wisdom, it is another to know it through actual experience. Nor is this, as a rule, obtained through a single episode, any more than a nail is generally driven in securely by one blow of the hammer. No, we have to learn, and re-learn, so stupid are we. The Truth of God has to be burned into us in the fiery furnace of affliction. Yet this ought not to be so, and would not be so if we paid more heed to these Old Testament warnings, furnished in the biographies of the saints of yore.

In our last chapter we saw that, following the murderous attack of Saul upon him, David fled to Naioth, But thither did his relentless enemy follow him. Wondrously did God interpose on His servantís behalf. Yet, being a man of like passions with ourselves, and the supernatural grace of God not supporting him at the time, instead of Davidís fears being thoroughly removed, and instead of waiting quietly with Samuel to receive a word of Divine guidance, he was occupied with his immediate danger from Saul, and after vainly conferring with Jonathan, took things into his own hands and fled to Nob. There he lied to the priest, by means of which he obtained bread, but at the fearful cost of Saul reeking vengeance through Doeg in slaying eighty-five of those who wore the linen ephod. Disastrous indeed are the consequences when we seek to have our own way and hew out a path for ourselves. How differently had things turned out if David trusted the Lord, and left Him to undertake for him!

God is all-sufficient in Himself to supply all our need (Phi_4:19) and to do for us far more exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think (Eph_3:20). This He can do either in an immediate way, or mediately if He sees fit to make use of creatures as instruments to fulfill His pleasure and communicate what He desires to impart to us. God is never at a loss: all things, all events, all creatures, are at His sovereign disposal. This foundational truth of Godís all-sufficiency should be duly improved by us, taking heed that we do not by our thoughts or actions reflect upon or deny this divine perfection. And this we certainly do when we use unlawful means to escape imminent dangers. Such was the case with Abram (Gen. 20) and Isaac (Gen. 26) when they denied their wives, concluding that that was a necessary expedient to save their lives ó as though God were not able to save them in a better and more honorable way. Such we shall see was the case with David at Ziklag.

We also made brief reference in our last chapter to the fact that when the saint is out of touch with God, when he is in a backslidden state, his behavior is so different from his former conduct, so inconsistent with his profession, that his actions now present a strange enigma. And yet that enigma is capable of simple solution. It is only in Godís light that any of us "see light" (Psa_36:9). As the Lord Jesus declares, "he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness" (Joh_8:12). Yes, but it is only as we are really "following" Him, our hearts engaged with the example which He has left us, that we shall see, know, and take that path which is pleasing and honoring to Him. There is only one other alternative, and that is seeking to please either our fellows or ourselves, and where this is the case, only confusion and trouble can ensue.

When communion with God (who is "light") is severed, nothing but spiritual darkness is left. The world is a "dark place" (2Pe_1:19), and if we are not ordering our steps by the Word (Psa_119:105), then we shall flounder and stumble. "The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways" (Pro_14:14), not with the "ways" of God (Psa_103:7). Where fellowship with the Lord is broken, the mind is no longer illuminated from Heaven, the judgment is clouded, and a lack of wisdom, yea, folly itself, will then characterize all our actions. Here is the key to much in our lives, the explanation of those "unwise doings," those "foolish mistakes" for which we have had to pay so dearly ó we were not controlled by the Holy Spirit, we acted in the energy of the flesh, we sought the counsel of the ungodly, or followed the dictates of common sense.

Nor is there any determining to what lengths the backslider may go, or how foolishly and madly he may not act. Solemnly is this illustrated in the case now before us. As we saw in the preceding paper, David was worried at being unarmed, and asked the high priest if there were no weapon to hand. On being informed that the only one available was "the sword of Goliath," which had been preserved in the tabernacle as a memorial of the Lordís goodness to His people, David exclaimed, "There is none like it, give it me" (1Sa_21:9). Alas, "how had the fine gold become dim"! He who when walking in the fear of the Lord had not hesitated to advance against Goliath with nothing in his hand save a sling, now that the fear of man possessed him, placed his confidence in a giantís sword. Perhaps both writer and reader are inclined to marvel at this, but have we not more reason to mourn as we see in this incident an accurate portrayal of many of our past failures?

"And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath" (1Sa_21:10). Fearing that Saul would pursue him were he to make for any other part of the land of Israel, and not being disposed to organize a company against him, David took refuge in Gath of the Philistines. But what business had he in the territory of Godís enemies? None whatever, for he had not gone there in His interests. Verily, "oppression maketh a wise man mad" (Ecc_7:7). Few indeed conduct themselves in extreme difficulties without taking some manifestly false step: we should therefore "watch and pray that we enter not into temptation" (Mat_26:41), earnestly seeking from God the strength which will alone enable us to successfully resist the Devil.

"And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath." It is evident from what follows that David hoped he would not be recognized. Thus it is with the backslidden Christian as he fraternizes with the world: he attempts to conceal his colors, hoping that he will not be recognized as a follower of the Lord Jesus. Yet behold the consummate folly of David: he journeyed to Gath with "the sword of Goliath" in his hands! Wisdom had indeed deserted him. As another has said, "Common prudence might have taught him, that, if he sought the friendship of the Philistines, the sword of Goliath was not the most likely instrument to conciliate their favour." But where a saint has grieved the Holy Spirit, even common sense no longer regulates him.

"And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying Saul hath slain his thousands and David his ten thousands?" (1Sa_21:11). God will not allow His people to remain incognito in this world. He has appointed that they should "be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without blame in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation among whom" they are to "shine as lights in the world" (Phi_2:15), and any efforts of theirs to annul this, He will thwart. Abrahamís deception was discovered. Peterís attempt to conceal his discipleship failed ó his very speech betrayed him. So here: David was quickly recognized. And thus it will be with us. And mercifully is this the case, for God will not have His own to settle down among and enjoy the friendship of His enemies.

"And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath" (1Sa_21:12). What right had David to be at Gath? None whatever, and God soon caused circumstances to arise which showed him that he was out of his place, though in wondrous mercy He withheld any chastisement. How sad to hear of him who had so courageously advanced against Goliath now being "sore afraid"! "The righteous are bold as a lion" (Pro_28:1); yes, the "righteous," that is, they who are right with God, walking with Him, and so sustained by His grace. Sadder still is it to see how David now acted: instead of casting himself on Godís mercy, confessing his sin, and seeking His intervention, he had recourse to deceit and played the fool.

"And he changed his behaviour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard" (1Sa_21:13). Afraid to rely upon the man whose protection he had sought, the anointed of God now feigned himself to be crazy. It was then that he learned experimentally, "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes" (Psa_118:9). The king elect "feigned himself mad": "such was the condition into which David had sunk. Saul himself could scarcely have wished for a deeper degradation" (B. W. Newton). Learn from this, dear reader, what still indwells the true saint, and which is capable of any and every wickedness but for the restraining hand of God. Surely we have need to pray daily "Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe" (Psa_119:117).

"Then said Achish unto his servants, Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore then have ye brought him to me? Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?" (1Sa_21:14-15). How evident is it to the anointed eye, from the whole of this incident, that the Holy Spiritís object here was not to glorify David, but to magnify the longsuffering grace of God, and to furnish salutary instruction and solemn warning for us! Throughout the Scriptures the character of man is accurately painted in the colors of reality and truth.

Many are the lessons to be learned from this sad incident. Though ingenious falsehoods may seem to promote present security, yet they insure future disgrace. They did for Abraham, for Isaac, for Jacob, for Peter, for Ananias. Leaning unto his own understanding conducted David to Gath, but he soon learned from the shame of his folly that he had not walked in wisdom. Not only was David deeply humiliated by this pitiful episode, but Jehovah was grievously dishonored thereby. Marvelous indeed was it that he escaped with his life: this can only be attributed to the secret but invincible workings of His power, moving upon the king of the Philistines, for as the title of Psalm 34 informs us, "Achish drove him away, and he departed." Such was the means which an infinitely merciful God used to screen His child from imminent danger.

From Gath David fled to the cave of Adullam. Blessed is it to learn of the repentant and chastened spirit in which the servant of God entered it. The thirty-fourth Psalm was written by him then (as its superscription informs us), and in it the Holy Spirit has given us to see the exercises of Davidís heart at that time. There we find him blessing the Lord, his soul making his boast in Him (Psa_34:1-3). There we hear him saying, "I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears" (Psa_34:4). There he declares, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them" (Psa_34:6-7).

But it was more than praise and gratitude which filled the restored backslider. David had learned some valuable lessons experimentally. Therefore we hear him saying, "Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace and pursue it" (Psa_34:11-14). "He had proved the evil of lying lips and a deceitful tongue, and now was able to warn others of the pitfall into which he had fallen" (B. W. Newton). But it is blessed to mark that the warned, not as one who was left to reap the harvest of his doings, but as one who could say, "The Lord redeemeth the soul of His servants, and none of them that trust in Him shall be desolate" (Psa_34:22).

 

10 - IN THE CAVE OF ADULLAM (1 Sam 22)

At the close of the preceding chapter, we saw the backslider restored to communion with God. As David then wrote, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous" ó most of them brought upon themselves through sinful folly ó "but the Lord delivereth him out of them all" (Psa_34:19). Yet, in His own good time. The hour had not yet arrived for our patriarch to ascend the throne. It would have been a simple matter for God to have put forth His power, destroyed Saul, and given His servant rest from all his foes. And this, no doubt, is what the energetic nature of David had much preferred. But there were other counsels of God to be unfolded before He was ready for the son of Jesse to wield the scepter. Though we are impulsive and impetuous, God is never in a hurry; the sooner we learn this lesson, the better for our own peace of mind, and the sooner shall we "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him" (Psa_37:7).

"God had designs other than the mere exaltation of David. He intended to allow the evil of Saul and of Israel to exhibit itself. He intended to give to David some apprehension of the character of his own heart, and to cause him to learn subjection to a greater wisdom than his own. He intended also to prove the hearts of His own people Israel; and to try how many among them would discern that the Cave of Adullam was the only true place of excellency and honour in Israel" (B. W. Newton). Further discipline was needed by David, if he was to learn deeper lessons of dependency upon God. Learn from this, dear reader, that though Godís delays are trying to flesh and blood, nevertheless they are ordered by perfect wisdom and infinite love. "For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come" (Hab_2:3).

"David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam" (1Sa_22:1). Still a fugitive, David left the land of the Philistines, and now took refuge in a large underground cavern, situated, most probably, not far from Bethlehem. To conceal himself from Saul and his blood-thirsty underlings, our hero betook himself to a cave ó it is probable that the Holy Spirit made reference to this in Heb_11:38. The high favorites of Heaven are sometimes to be located in queer and unexpected places. Joseph in prison, the descendants of Abraham laboring in the brick-kilns of Egypt, Daniel in the lionsí den, Jonah in the great fishís belly, Paul clinging to a spar in the sea, forcibly illustrate this principle. Then let us not murmur because we do not now live in as fine a house as do some of the ungodly; our "mansions" are in Heaven!

"David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam." It is blessed to learn how David employed himself at this time; yet close searching has to be done before this can be ascertained. The Bible is no lazy manís book: much of its treasure, like the valuable minerals stored in the bowels of the earth, only yield up themselves to the diligent seeker. Compare Pro_2:1-5. By noting the superscriptions to the Psalms (which, with many others, we are satisfied are Divinely inspired), we discover that two of them were composed by "the sweet singer of Israel" at this time. Just as Psalm 34 casts its welcome light upon the close of 1Sa_21:1-15, so Psa_57:1-11 and Psa_142:1-7 illuminate the opening verses of 1 Samuel 22.

The underground asylum of David made an admirable closet for prayer, its very solitude being helpful for the exercise of devotion. Well did C. H. Spurgeon say, "Had David prayed as much in his palace as he did in his cave, he might never have fallen into the act which brought such misery upon his latter days." We trust the spiritual reader will, at this point, turn to and ponder Psa_57:1-11 and Psa_142:1-7. In them he will perceive something of the exercises of Davidís heart. From them he may derive valuable instruction as to how to pray acceptably unto God in seasons of peculiar trial. A careful reading of the fifty-seventh Psalm will enable us to follow one who began it amid the gloomy shadows of the cavern, but from which he gradually emerged into the open daylight. So it often is in the experiences of the believerís soul.

Perhaps Psa_142:1-7 was composed by David before the Psa_57:1-11 : certainly it brings before us one who was in deeper anguish of soul. Blessed indeed is it to mark the striking contrast from what is here presented to us and what was before us as we passed through 1 Samuel 20 and 1Sa_21:1-15. There we saw the worried fugitive turning to Jonathan, lying to Ahimelech, playing the madman at Gath. But vain was the hope of man. Yet how often we have to pass through these painful experiences and bitter disappointments before we thoroughly learn this lesson! Here we behold the son of Jesse turning to the only One who could do him any real good. "I cried unto the Lord with my voice I poured out my complaint before Him. I showed before Him my trouble" (Psa_142:1-2). This is what we should do: thoroughly unburden our hearts unto Him with whom we have to do. Note how, at the close of this Psalm, after he had so freely poured out his woes, David exclaimed, "Thou shalt deal bountifully with me"!

"And Jonathan loved him as his own soul . . . all Israel and Judah loved David" (1Sa_18:1, 1Sa_18:16). Now their love was tested, now an opportunity was furnished them to manifest their affections for him. This was the hour of Davidís unpopularity: he was outlawed from the court; a fugitive from Saul, he was dwelling in a cave. Now was the time for devotion to David to be clearly exhibited. But only those who truly loved him could be expected to throw in their lot with an hated outcast. Strikingly is this illustrated in the very next words.

"And when his brethren and all his fatherís house heard it, they went down thither to him" (1Sa_22:1). Ah, true love is unaffected by the outward circumstances of its object. Where the heart is genuinely knit to another, a change in his fortunes will not produce a change in its affections. David might be, in the eyes of the world, in disgrace; but that made no difference to those who loved him. He might be languishing in a cavern, but that was all the more reason why they should show their kindness and demonstrate their unswerving loyalty. Among other things, this painful trial enabled David to discover who were, and who were not, his real friends.

If we look beneath the surface here, the anointed eye should have no difficulty in discerning another striking and blessed type of Davidís Son and Lord. First, a type of him when He tabernacled among men, in "the days of his flesh." How fared it then with the Anointed of God? By title the throne of Israel was His, for He was born "the King of the Jews" (Mat_2:2). That God was with him was unmistakably evident. He too "behaved Himself wisely in all His ways." He too performed exploits: healing the sick, freeing the demon possessed, feeding the hungry multitude, raising the dead. But just as Saul hated and persecuted David, so the heads of the Jews ó the chief priests and Pharisees ó were envious of and hounded Christ. Just as Saul thirsted for the blood of Jesseís son, the leaders of Israel (at a later date) thirsted for the blood of Godís Song.

The analogy mentioned above might be drawn out at considerable length, but at only one other point will we here glance, namely, the fact of the solemn foreshadowment furnished by David as first the friend and benefactor of his nation, now the poor outcast. Accurately did he prefigure that blessed One, who when here was "the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Trace His path as the Holy Spirit has described it in the New Testament. Behold Him as the unwanted One in this world of wickedness. Hear His plaintive declaration, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head" (Mat_8:20). Read too, "And every man went unto his own house; Jesus went unto the mount of Olives" (Joh_7:53; Joh_8:1); and it is evident that Davidís Lord was the Homeless Outcast in this scene.

But were there none who appreciated Him, none who loved Him, none who were willing to be identified with and cast in their lot with Him who was "despised and rejected of men"? Yes, there were some, and these, we believe, are typically brought before us in the next verse of the scripture we are now pondering: "And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him" (1Sa_22:2). What a strange company to seek unto Godís anointed! No mention is made of the captains of the army, the men of state, the princes of the realm, coming unto David. No, they, with all like them, preferred the court and the palace to the cave of Adullam.

Is not the picture an accurate one, dear reader? Is it not plain again that these Old Testament records furnished something more than historical accounts, that there is a typical and spiritual significance to them as well? If David be a type of Christ, then those who sought him out during the season of his humiliation, must represent those who sought unto Davidís Son when He sojourned on this eaRuth And clearly they did so. Read the four Gospels, and it will be found that, for the most part, those who sought unto the Lord Jesus, were the poor and needy; it was the lepers, the blind, the maimed and the halt, who came unto Him for help and healing. The rich and influential, the learned and the mighty, the leaders of the Nation, had no heart for Him.

But what is before us in the opening of 1 Samuel 22 not only typed out that which occurred during the earthly ministry of Christ, but it also shadowed forth that which has come to pass all through this Christian era, and that which is taking place today. As the Holy Spirit declared through Paul, "For ye see your calling brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought the things which are: That no flesh should glory in his presence" (1Co_1:26-29).

The second verse of 1 Samuel 22 sets before us a striking gospel picture. Note, first, that those who came to David were few in number: "about four hundred." What a paltry retinue! What a handful compared with the hosts of Israel! But did Christ fare any better in the days of His flesh? How many friends stood around the Cross, wept at His sepulcher, or greeted Him as He burst the bars of death? How many followed Him to Bethany, gazed at His ascending form, or gathered in the upper room to await the promised Spirit? And how is it today? Of the countless millions of earthís inhabitants what percentage of them have even heard the gospel? Out of those who bear His name, how many evidence that they are denying self, taking up their cross daily, and following the example which He has left, and thus proving themselves by the only badge of discipleship which He will recognize? A discouraging situation, you say. Not at all, rather is it just what faith expects. The Lord Jesus declared that His flock is a "little one" (Luk_12:32), that only "few" tread that narrow way which leadeth unto life (Mat_7:14).

Second, observe again the particular type of people who sought out David: they were "in distress, in debt, and discontented." What terms could more suitably describe the condition they are in when the redeemed first seek help from Christ! "In debt": in all things we had come short of the glory of God. In thought, word, and deed, we had failed to please Him, and there was marked up against us a multitude of transgressions. "In distress"; who can tell out that anguish of soul which is experienced by the truly convicted of the Holy Spirit? Only the one who has actually experienced the same, knows of that unspeakable horror and sorrow when the heart first perceives the frightful enormity of having defied the infinite Majesty of heaven, trifled with His longsuffering, slighted His mercy again and again.

"Discontented." Yes, this line in the picture is just as accurate as the others. The one who has been brought to realize he is a spiritual pauper, and who is now full of grief for his sins, is discontented with the very things which till recently pleased him. Those pleasures which fascinated, now pall. That gay society which once attracted, now repels. O the emptiness of the world to a soul which God hath smitten with a sense of sin! The stricken one turns away with disgust from that which he had formerly sought after so eagerly. There is now an aching void within, which nothing without can fill. So wretched is the convicted sinner, he wishes he were dead, yet he is terrified at the very thought of death. Reader, do you know anything of such an experience, or is all this the language of an unknown tongue to you?

Third, these people who were in debt, in distress, and discontented, sought out David. They were the only ones who did so; it was a deep sense of need which drove them to him, and a hope that he could relieve them. So it is spiritually. None but those who truly feel that they are paupers before God, with no good thing to their credit, absolutely destitute of any merits of their own, will appreciate the glad tidings that Christ Jesus came into this world to pay the debt of such. Only those who are smitten in their conscience, broken in heart, and sick of sin, will really respond to that blessed word of His, "Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Only those who have lost all heart for this poor world, will truly turn unto the Lord of glory.

Fourth, the spiritual picture we are now contemplating is not only a type of the first coming to Christ of His people, but also of their subsequent going forth "unto Him without the camp" (Heb_13:13). Those who sought David in the Cave of Adullam turned their backs upon both the court of Saul and the religion of Judaism. There was none to pity them there. Who cared for penniless paupers? Who had a heart for those in distress? So it is in many churches today. Those who are "poor in spirit" have nothing in common with the self-satisfied Laodiceans. And how "distressed" in soul are they over the worldliness that has come in like a flood, over the crowds of unregenerate members, over the utter absence of any scriptural discipline? And what is to be the attitude and actions of Godís grieved children toward those having nothing more than a form of godliness? This "from such turn away" (2Ti_3:5). Identify yourself with Christ on the outside; walk alone with Him.

Fifth, "And he became a captain over them" (1Sa_22:2). Important and striking line in the picture is this. Christ is to be received as "Lord" (Col_2:6) if He is to be known as Saviour. Love to Christ is to be evidenced by "keeping His commandments" (Joh_14:15). It mattered not what that strange company had been who sought unto David, they were now his servants and soldiers. They had turned away from the evil influence of Saul, to be subject unto the authority of David. This is what Christ requires from all who identify themselves with Him. "Take My yoke upon you" is His demand (Mat_11:29). Nor need we shrink from it, for He declares "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

 

11 - HIS RETURN TO JUDEA (1 Sam 22 and 23)

In our last chapter we left David in the Cave of Adullam. An incident is recorded in 2 Samuel 23 which throws an interesting light on the spiritual life of our hero at this time. "And three of the thirty chief went down and came to David in the harvest-time unto the cave of Adullam: and the troop of the Philistines pitched in the valley of Rephaim. And David was then in an hold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. And David longed, and said, Oh, that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate! And the three mighty men brake through the hosts of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the Lord. And he said, Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? Therefore he would not drink of it" (2Sa_23:13-17).

No doubt the trials of his present lot had called to Davidís mind his happy life at home. The weather being hot, he expressed a longing for a drink from the family well of Bethlehem, though with no thought that any of his men would risk their lives to procure it for him. Yet this is precisely what happened: out of deep devotion to their outlawed captain, three of them fought their way through a company of the Philistines who were encamped there, and returned to David with the desired draught. Touched by their loyalty, stirred by their self-sacrifice, David felt that water obtained at such risk was too valuable for him to drink, and was fit only to be "poured out unto the Lord" as a "drink-offering." Beautifully has Matthew Henry made application of this, thus: "Did David look upon that water as very precious, which was got but with the hazard of these menís blood, and shall not we much more value those benefits for the purchasing of which our blessed Saviour shed His blood"?

We quote from another who has commented upon this incident. "There is something peculiarly touching and beautiful in the above scene, whether we contemplate the act of the three mighty men in procuring the water for David, or Davidís act in pouring it out to the Lord. It is evident that David discerned, in an act of such uncommon devotedness, a sacrifice which none but the Lord Himself could duly appreciate. The odor of such a sacrifice was far too fragrant for him to interrupt it in its ascent to the throne of the God of Israel. Wherefore he, very properly and very graciously, allows it to pass him by, in order that it might go up to the One who alone was worthy to receive it, or able to appreciate it. All this reminds us, forcibly, of that beautiful compendium of Christian devotedness set forth in Phi_2:17-18 : ĎYea, and if I be poured out upon the sacrifice, and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all; for this cause ye also joy and rejoice with me.í In this passage, the apostle represents the Philippian saints in their character as priests, presenting a sacrifice and performing a priestly ministration to God; and such was the intensity of his self-forgetting devotedness, that he could rejoice in his being poured out as a drink-offering upon their sacrifice, so that all might ascend, in fragrant odor to God" (C. H. M.).

Some commentators have denied that the above touching episode occurred during that section of Davidís history which we are now considering, placing it at a much later date. These men failed to see that 1Ch_11:15 and 2 Samuel 23 recount things out of their chronological order. If the reader turn back to 1Sa_17:1, 1Sa_19:8, etc., he will see that the Philistines were quite active in making raids upon Israel at this time, and that David, not Saul, was the principal one to withstand them. But now he was no longer in the position to engage them. Saul, as we shall see in a moment, had dropped all other concerns and was confining his whole attention to the capture of David: thus the door was then wide open for the Philistines to continue their depredations. Finally, be it said, all that is recorded after David came to the throne, makes it altogether unlikely that the Philistines were then encamped around Bethlehem, still less that the king should seek refuge in the cave of Adullam.

"And David went thence to Mizpeh of Moab: and he said unto the king of Moab, Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth, and be with you, till I know what God will do for me. And he brought them before the king of Moab: and they dwelt with him all the while that David was in the hold" (1Sa_22:3-4). We are convinced that what has been before us in the above paragraphs supplies the key to that which is here recorded. In 1Sa_22:1 we learn that "all his family" had come to David in the Cave. From 1Sa_16:1 we learn that their home was in Bethlehem: but the Philistines were now encamped there (2Sa_23:14), so they could not return thither. David did not wish his parents to share the hardships involved by his wanderings, and so now he thoughtfully seeks an asylum for them. Blessed is it to see him, in the midst of his sore trials, "honoring his father and his mother." Beautifully did this foreshadow what is recorded in Joh_19:26-27.

While Saul was so bitterly opposed to David, there was no safety for his parents anywhere in the land of Israel. The deep exercises and anguish of Davidís heart at this time are vividly expressed in Psa_142:1-7, the Title of which reads, "A Prayer when he was in the Cave." "I cried unto the Lord with my voice, with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication. I poured out my complaint before Him: I showed before Him my trouble. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then Thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me. I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul. I cried unto Thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living. Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low; deliver me from my persecutors, for they are stronger than I. Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for Thou shalt deal bountifully with me." Blessed is it to mark the note of confidence in God in the closing verse.

"And David went thence to Mizpeh of Moab: and he said unto the king of Moab, let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth, and be with you." What was it induced David to trust his parents unto the protection of the Moabites? We quote, in part. from the answer given by J. J. Blunt in his very striking book, Undesigned Coincidences in the Old and New Testament, "Saul, it is true, had been at war with them, whatever he might then be ó but so had he been with every people round about; with the Ammonites, with the Edomites, with the kings of Zobah. Neither did it follow that the enemies of Saul, as a matter of course, would be the friends of David. On the contrary, he was only regarded by the ancient inhabitants of the land, to which ever of the local nations they belonged, as the champion of Israel; and with such suspicion was he received amongst them, notwithstanding Saulís known enmity towards him, that before Achish king of Gath, he was constrained to feign himself mad, and so effect his escape . . .

"Now what principle of preference may be imagined to have governed David when he committed his family to the dangerous keeping of the Moabites? Was it a mere matter of chance? It might seem so, as far as appears to the contrary in Davidís history, given in the books of Samuel; and if the book of Ruth had never come down to us, to accident it probably would have been ascribed. But this short and beautiful historical document shows us a propriety in the selection of Moab above any other for a place of refuge to the father and mother of David; since it is there seen that the grandmother of Jesse, Davidís father, was actually a Moabitess; Ruth being the mother of Obed, and Obed the father of Jesse. And, moreover, that Orpah, the other Moabitess, who married Mahlon at the time when Ruth married Chilion his brother, remained behind in Moab after the departure of Naomi and Ruth, and remained behind with a strong feeling of affection, nevertheless, for the family and kindred of her deceased husband, taking leave of them with tears (Rth_1:14). She herself then, or at all events, her descendants and friends might still be alive. Some regard for the posterity of Ruth, David would persuade himself, might still survive amongst them . . .

"Thus do we detect, not without some pains, a certain fitness, in the conduct of David in this transaction which makes it to be a real one. A forger of a story could not have fallen upon the happy device of sheltering Jesse in Moab simply on the recollecting of his Moabitish extraction two generations earlier; or, having fallen upon it, it is probable he would have taken care to draw the attention of his readers towards his device by some means or other, lest the evidence it was intended to afford of the truth of the history might be thrown away upon them. As it is, the circumstance itself is asserted without the smallest attempt to explain or account for it. Nay, recourse must be had to another book of Scripture, in order that the coincidence may be seen."

Unto the king of Moab David said, "Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth and be with you, till I know what God will do for me." Slowly but surely our patriarch was learning to acquiesce in the appointments of God. Practical subjection unto the Lord is only learned in the school of experience: the theory of it may be gathered from books, but the actuality has to be hammered out on the anvil of our hearts. Of our glorious Head it is declared, "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered" (Heb_5:8). This word of Davidís also indicates that he was beginning to feel the need of waiting upon God for directions: how much sorrow and suffering would be avoided did we always do so. His "what God will do for me," rather than "with me," indicated a hope in the Lord.

"And the prophet Gad said unto David, Abide not in the hold; depart, and get thee into the land of Judea. Then David departed, and came into the forest of Hareth" (1Sa_22:5). In the light of this verse, and together with 1Sa_22:23, we may see that "the excellent" of the earth (Psa_16:3) were more and more gathering to him who was a type of Christ in His rejection. Here we see the prophet of God with him, and shortly afterwards he was joined by the high priest ó solemn it is to contrast the apostate Saul, who was now deserted by both. David had been humbled before God, and He now speaks again to him, not directly, but mediately. Two reasons may be suggested for this: David was not yet fully restored to Divine communion, and God was honoring His own institutions ó the prophetic office: cf. 1Sa_23:9-11.

"And the prophet Gad said unto David, Abide not in the hold; depart, and get thee into the land of Judah." It is quite clear from the language of this verse that at the time God now spoke to His servant through the prophet, he had not returned to the Cave of Adullam, but had sought temporary refuge in some stronghold of Moab. Now he received a call which presented a real test to his faith. To appear more openly in his own country would evidence the innocency of his cause, as well as display his confidence in the Lord. "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord" (Psa_37:23), yet the path He appoints is not the one which is smoothest to the flesh. But when God calls, we must respond, and leave the issue entirely in His hands.

"When Saul heard that David was discovered, and the men that were with him, (now Saul abode in Gibeah under a tree in Ramah, having his spear in his hand, and all his servants standing about him); then Saul said unto his servants . . . " Here the Spirit takes up again another leading thread around which the history of 1 Samuel is woven. Having traced the movements of David since the leaving of his home (1Sa_19:11-12) up to the Cave of Adullam and his now receiving orders to return to the land of Judea, He follows again the evil history of Saul. The king had apparently set aside everything else, and was devoting himself entirely to the capture of David. He had taken up his headquarters at Gibeah: the "spear in his hand" showed plainly his blood-thirsty intentions.

The news of Davidís return to Judea, soon reached the ears of Saul, and the fact that he was accompanied by a considerable number of men, probably alarmed him not a little, fearful that the people would turn to his rival and that he would lose his throne. His character was revealed again by the words which he now addressed to his servants (1Sa_22:7), who were, for the most part, selected from his own tribe. He appealed not to the honor and glory of Jehovah, but to their cupidity. David belonged to Judah, and if he became king then those who belonged to the tribe of Benjamin must not expect to receive favors at his hands ó neither rewards of land, nor positions of prominence in the army.

"All of you have conspired against me, and there is none that showeth me that my son hath made a league with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you that is sorry for me, or showeth unto me that my son hath stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day" (1Sa_22:8). Here Saul charges his followers with having failed to reveal to him that which he supposed they knew, and of showing no concern for the circumstance in which he was then placed; this he construed as a conspiracy against him. His was the language of ungovernable rage and jealousy. His son is charged as being ringleader of the conspirators, merely because he would not assist in the murder of an excellent man whom he loved! True, there was a covenant of friendship between Jonathan and David, but no plot to destroy Saul, as he wildly imagined. But it is the nature of an evil person to regard as enemies those who are not prepared to toady to him or her in everything.

It was in response to Saulís bitter words to his men, that Doeg the Edomite made known Davidís secret visit to Ahimelech, and his obtaining victuals and the sword of Goliath (1Sa_22:9-10). Nothing was mentioned of the high priest being imposed upon, but the impression was left that he joined with David in a conspiracy against Saul. Let us learn from this that we may "bear false witness against our neighbor" as really and disastrously by maliciously withholding part of the truth, as by deliberately inventing a lie. When called upon to express our opinion of another (which should, generally, be declined, unless some good purpose is to be served thereby), honesty requires that we impartially recount what is in his favor, as well as what makes against him. Note how in His addresses to the seven churches in Asia, the Lord commended the good, as well as rebuked that which was evil.

The terrible sequel is recorded in 1Sa_22:11-19. Ahimelech and all his subordinate priests were promptly summoned into the kingís presence. Though he was by rank the second person in Israel, Saul contemptuously called the high priest "the son of Ahitub" (1Sa_22:12). Quietly ignoring the insult, Ahimelech addressed the king as "my lord," thus giving honor to whom honor was due ó the occupant of any office which God has appointed is to be honored, no matter how unworthy of respect the man may be personally. Next, the king charged the high priest with rebellion and treason (1Sa_22:13). Ahimelech gave a faithful and ungarnished account of his transaction with David (1Sa_22:14-15). But nothing could satisfy the incensed king but death, and orders were given for the whole priestly family to be butchered.

One of the sons of Ahimelech, named Abithai, escaped. Probably he had been left by his father to take care of the tabernacle and its holy things, while he and the rest of the priests went to appear before Saul. Having heard of their bloody execution, and before the murderers arrived at Nob to complete their vile work of destroying the wives, children and flocks of the priests, he fled, taking with him the ephod and the urim and thummim, and joined David (1Sa_22:21). It was then that David wrote the fifty-second Psalm. Three things may be observed in connection with the above tragedy. First, the solemn sentence which God had pronounced against the house of Eli was now executed (1Sa_2:31-36; 1Sa_3:12-14) ó thus the iniquities of the fathers were visited upon the children. Second, Saul was manifestly forsaken of God, given up to Satan and his own malignant passions, and was fast ripening for judgment. Third, by this cruel carnage David obtained the presence of the high priest, who afterwards proved a great comfort and blessing to him (1Sa_23:6, 1Sa_23:9-13; 1Sa_30:7-10) ó thus did God make the wrath of man to praise Him and work together for good unto His own.

 

12 - DELIVERING KEILAH (1 Sam 23)

The first section of 1 Samuel 23 (which we are now to look at) presents some striking contrasts. In it are recorded incidents exceedingly blessed, others fearfully sad. David is seen at his best, Saul at his worst. David humbly waits on the Lord, Saul presumes upon and seeks to pervert His providences. Saul is indifferent to the wellbeing of his own subjects, David delivers them from their enemies. David at imminent risk rescues the town of Keilah from the marauding Philistines; yet so lacking are they in gratitude, that they were ready to hand him over unto the man who sought his life. Though the priests of the Lord, with their entire families, had been brutally slain by Saulís orders, yet the awful malice of the king was not thereby appeased: he is now seen again seeking the life of David, and that at the very time when he had so unselfishly wrought good for the nation.

It is instructive and helpful to keep in mind the order of what has been before us in previous chapters, so that we may perceive one of the important spiritual lessons in what is now to be before us. David had failed, jailed sadly. We all do; but David had done what many are painfully slow in doing: he had humbled himself before the Lord, he had repented of and confessed his sins, in our last chapter, we saw how that David had been restored, in considerable measure at least, to communion with the Lord. God had spoken to him through His prophet. Light was now granted again on his path. The word was given him to return to the land of Judah (1Sa_22:5). That word he had heeded, and now we are to see how the Lord used him again. Strikingly does this illustrate 1Pe_5:6 : "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time."

"Then they told David, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshingfloors" (1Sa_23:1). Here we may see another reason (more than those suggested at the close of our last chapter) why God had called David to return to the land of Judah: He had further work for him to do there. Keilah was within the borders of that tribe (Jos_15:21, Jos_15:44). It was a fortified town (1Sa_23:7), and the Philistines had laid siege to it. The "threshingfloors" (which were usually situated outside the cities: Jdg_6:11, Rth_3:2, Rth_3:15) were already being pilfered by them. Who it was that acquainted David with these tidings we know not.

"Therefore David inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines?" (1Sa_23:2). Very blessed is this, and further evidence does it supply of Davidís spiritual recovery. Saul was neglecting the public safety, but the one whom he was hounding was concerned for it. Though he had been ill treated, David was not sulking over his wrongs, but instead was ready to return good for evil, by coming to the assistance of one of the kingís besieged towns. What a noble spirit did he here manifest! Though his hands were full in seeking to hide from Saul, and provide for the needs of his six hundred men (no small task!), yet David unselfishly thought of the welfare of others.

"Therefore David inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines?" This is very beautiful. Having been anointed unto the throne, David considered himself the protector of Israel, and was ready to employ his men for the public weal. He had an intense love for his country, and was desirous of freeing it from its enemies, yet he would not act without first seeking counsel of the Lord: he desired that God should appoint his service. The more particularly we seek direction from God in fervent prayer, and the more carefully we consult the sacred Scriptures for the knowledge of His will, the more He is honored, and the more we are benefited.

"And the Lord said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah" (1Sa_23:2). Where God is truly sought ó that is, sought sincerely, humbly, trustfully, with the desire to learn and do that which is pleasing to Him ó the soul will not be left in ignorance. God does not mock His needy children. His Word declares, "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths" (Pro_3:6). So it was here. The Lord responded to Davidís inquiry ó possibly through the prophet Gad ó and not only revealed His will, but gave promise that he should be successful.

"And Davidís men said unto him, Behold, we be afraid here in Judah: how much more then if we come to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?" (1Sa_23:3). This presented a real test to Davidís confidence in the Lord, for if his men were unwilling to accompany him, how could he expect to relieve the besieged town? His men were obviously "afraid" of being caught between two fires. Were they to advance upon the Philistines and Saulís army should follow them up in the rear, then where would they be? Ah, their eyes were not upon the living God, but upon their difficult "circumstances," and to be occupied with these is always discouraging to the heart. But how often has a man of God, when facing a trying situation, found the unbelief of his professed friends and followers a real hindrance. Yet he should regard this as a test, and not as an obstacle. Instead of paralyzing action, it ought to drive him to seek succor from Him who never fails those who truly count upon His aid.

"Then David inquired of the Lord yet again" (1Sa_23:4). This is precious. David did not allow the unbelieving fears of his men to drive him to despair. He could hardly expect them to walk by his faith. But he knew that when God works, He works at both ends of the line. He who had given him orders to go to the relief of Keilah, could easily quiet the hearts of his followers, remove their fears, and make them willing to follow his lead. Yes, with God "all things are possible." But He requires to be "inquired of" (Eze_36:37). He delights to be "proved" (Mal_3:10). Oft He permits just such a trial as now faced David in order to teach us more fully His sufficiency for every emergency.

"Then David inquired of the Lord yet again." Yes, this is blessed indeed. David did not storm at his men, and denounce them as cowards. That would do no good. Nor did he argue and attempt to reason with them. Disdaining his own wisdom, feeling his utter dependency upon God, and more especially for their benefit ó to set before them a godly example ó he turned once more unto Jehovah. Let us learn from this incident that, the most effectual way of answering the unbelieving objections of faint-hearted followers and of securing their co-operation, is to refer them unto the promises and precepts of God, and set before them an example of complete dependency upon Him and of implicit confidence in Him.

"And the Lord answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah: for I will deliver the Philistines into thine hand" (1Sa_23:4). How sure is the fulfillment of that promise, "Them that honor Me, I will honor" (1Sa_2:30)! We always lose by acting independently of God, but we never lose by seeking counsel, guidance and grace from Him. God did not ignore Davidís inquiry. He was not displeased by his asking a second time. How gracious and patient He is! He not only responded to Davidís petition, but He gave an answer more explicit than at the first, for He now assured His servant of entire victory. May this encourage many a reader to come unto God with every difficulty, cast every care upon Him, and count upon His succor every hour.

"So David and his men went to Keilah, and fought with the Philistines, and brought away their cattle, and smote them with a great slaughter. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah" (1Sa_23:5). Animated by a commission and promise from God, David and his men moved forward and attacked the Philistines. Not only did they completely rout the enemy, but they captured their cattle, which supplied food for Davidís men, food which the men greatly needed. How this furnishes an illustration of "Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us" (Eph_3:20)! God not only overthrew the Philistines and delivered Keilah, but as well, bountifully provided Davidís army with a supply of victuals.

"And it came to pass, when Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David to Keilah, that he came down with an ephod in his hand" (1Sa_23:6). This was a further reward from the Lord unto David for obeying His word. As we shall see later, the presence of the high priest and his ephod with him, stood David in good stead in the future. We may also see here a striking example of the absolute control of God over all His creatures; it was Davidís visit to Ahimelech that had resulted in the slaying of all his family; well then might the only son left, feel that the son of Jesse was the last man whose fortunes he desired to share.

"And it was told Saul that David was come to Keilah. And Saul said, God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars" (1Sa_23:7). Surely Davidís signal victory over the common enemy should have reconciled Saul to him. Was it not abundantly clear that God was with him, and if He were with him, who could be against him? But one who is abandoned by the Lord can neither discern spiritual things nor judge righteously, and therefore his conduct will be all wrong too. Accordingly we find that instead of thinking how he might most suitably reward David for his courageous and unselfish generosity, Saul desired only to do him mischief. Well might our patriarch write, "They regarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul" (Psa_35:12).

"And Saul said, God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars." How easy it is for a jaundiced mind to view things in a false light. When the heart is wrong, the providences of God are certain to be misinterpreted. Terrible is it to behold the apostate king here concluding that God Himself had now sold David into his hands! That man has sunk to a fearful depth who blatantly assumes that the Almighty is working to further his wicked plans. While David was at large, hiding in caves and sheltering in the woods, he was hard to find; but here in a walled town, Saul supposed he would be completely trapped when his army surrounded it.

"And Saul called all the people together to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men" (1Sa_23:8). if we omit the last clause and read on through the next verse, it will be seen that the unscrupulous Saul resorted to a dishonest ruse. To make war against the Philistines was the ostensible object which the king set before his men; to capture David was his real design. The last clause of 1Sa_23:8 states Saulís secret motive. While pretending to oppose the common enemy, he was intending to destroy his best friend. Verily, the devil was his father, and the lusts of his father he would do.

"And David knew that Saul secretly practiced mischief against him; and he said to Abiathar, the priest, Bring hither the ephod" (1Sa_23:9). Yes, "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him" (Psa_25:14). Ah, but only with them that truly "fear" Him. "If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not" (Joh_11:9). "He that followeth Me," said Christ, "shall not walk in darkness" (Joh_8:12). O what a blessed thing it is, dear reader, to have light upon our path, to see the enemyís snares and pitfalls. But in order to this, there must be a walking with Him who is "the Light." If we are out of communion with the Lord, if we have for the moment turned aside from the path of His commandments, then we can no longer perceive the dangers which menace us.

"And David knew that Saul secretly practiced mischief against him." This is very blessed, and recorded for our instruction. We ought not to be ignorant of Satanís devices (2Co_2:11), nor shall we be if our hearts are right with God. Observe carefully that 1Sa_23:9 opens with the word "And," which announces the fact that it is connected with and gives the sequel to what has gone before. And what had preceded in this case? First, David had sought counsel of the Lord (1Sa_23:2). Second, he had refused to be turned aside from the path of duty by the unbelieving fears of his followers (1Sa_23:3). Third, he had maintained an attitude of complete dependency upon the Lord (1Sa_23:4). Fourth, he had definitely obeyed the Lord (1Sa_23:5). And now God rewarded him by acquainting him with the enemyís designs upon him. Meet the conditions, my brother or sister, and you too shall know when the devil is about to attack you.

David was not deceived by Saulís guile. He knew that though he had given out to his men one thing, yet in his heart he purposed quite another. "Then said David, O Lord God of Israel, Thy servant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, to destroy the city for my sake" (1Sa_23:10). This too is very blessed; once more David thus turns to the living God, and casts all his care upon Him (1Pe_5:7). Observe well his words: he does not say "Saul purposeth to slay me, but he seeketh to destroy the city for my sake," on my account. Is it not lovely to see him more solicitous about the welfare of others, than the preserving of his own life!

"Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hands? will Saul come down, as Thy servant hath heard? O Lord God of Israel, I beseech Thee, tell Thy servant. And the Lord said, He will come down" (1Sa_23:11). It is to be noted that the two questions here asked by David were not orderly put, showing the perturbed state of mind he was then in. We should also observe the manner in which David addressed God, as "Lord God of Israel" (so too in 1Sa_23:10), which was His covenant title. It is blessed when we are able to realize the covenant-relationship of God to us (Heb_13:20-21), for it is ever an effectual plea to present before the Throne of Grace. The Lord graciously responded to Davidís supplication and granted the desired information, reversing the order of his questions. Godís saying "he (Saul) will come down" (that is his purpose), here manifested His omniscience, for He knows all contingencies (possibilities and likelihoods), as well as actualities.

"Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul?" (1Sa_23:12). Wise David, He had good cause to conclude that after so nobly befriending Keilah and delivering it from the Philistines, that its citizens would now further his interests, and in such case, he and his own men could defend the town against Saulís attack. But he prudently refrained from placing any confidence in their loyalty. He probably reasoned that the recent cruel massacre of Nob would fill them with dread of Saul, so that he must not count upon their assistance. Thus did he seek counsel from the Lord. And so ought we: we should never confide in help from others, no, not even from those we have befriended, and from whom we might reasonably expect a return of kindness. No ties of honor, gratitude, or affection, can secure the heart under powerful temptation. Nay, we know not how we would act if assailed by the terrors of a cruel death, and left without the immediate support of divine grace. We are to depend only upon the Lord for guidance and protection.

"And the Lord said, They will deliver thee up" (1Sa_23:12). This must have been saddening to Davidís heart, for base ingratitude wounds deeply. Yet let us not forget that the kindness of other friends whom the Lord often unexpectedly raises up, counterbalances the ingratitude and fickleness of those we have served. God answered David here according to His knowledge of the human heart. Had David remained in Keilah, its inhabitants would have delivered him up upon Saulís demand. But he remained not, and escaped. Be it carefully noted that this incident furnishes a clear illustration of human responsibility, and is a strong case in point against bald fatalism ó taking the passive attitude that what is to be, must be.

"Then David and his men, which were about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul that David was escaped from Keilah, and he forbare to go foRuth And David abode in the wilderness in strongholds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand" (1Sa_23:13-14). This too is blessed: David was willing to expose himself and his men to further hardships, rather than endanger the lives of Keilah! Having no particular place in view, they went forth wherever they thought best. The last half of 1Sa_23:14 shows Godís protecting hand was still upon them, and is Jehovahís reply to Saulís vain and presumptuous confidence in 1Sa_23:7.

 

13 HIS SOJOURN AT ZIPH (1 Sam 23)

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous" (Psa_34:19): some internal, others external; some from friends, others from foes; some more directly at the hand of God, others more remotely by the instrumentality of the devil. Nor should this be thought strange. Such has been the lot of all Godís children in greater or lesser degree. Nor ought we to expect much comfort in a world which so basely crucified the Lord of glory. The sooner the Christian makes it his daily study to pass through this world as a stranger and pilgrim, anxious to depart and be with Christ, the better for his peace of mind. But it is natural to cling tenaciously to this life and to love the things of time and sense, and therefore most of the Lordís people have to encounter many buffetings and have many disappointments before they are brought to hold temporal things with a light hand and before their silly hearts are weaned from that which satisfies not.

There is scarcely any affliction which besets the suffering people of God that the subject of these chapters did not experience. David, in the different periods of his varied life, was placed in almost every situation in which a believer, be he rich or poor in this worldís goods, can be placed. This is one feature which makes the study of his life of such practical interest unto us today. And this also it was which experimentally fitted him to write so many Psalms, which the saints of all ages have found so perfectly suited to express unto God the varied feelings of their souls. No matter whether the heart be cast down by the bitterest grief, or whether it be exultant with overflowing joy, nowhere can we find language more appropriate to use in our approaches unto the Majesty on High, than in the recorded sobs and songs of him who tasted the bitters of cruel treatment and base betrayals, and the sweetness of human success and spiritual communion with the Lord, as few have done.

Oftentimes the providences of God seem profoundly mysterious to our dull perceptions, and strange unto us do appear the schoolings through which He passes His servants; nevertheless Faith is assured that Omniscience makes no mistakes, and He who is Love causes none of His children a needless tear. Beautifully did C. H. Spurgeon introduce his exposition of Psalm 59 by saying, "Strange that the painful events in Davidís life should end in enriching the repertoire of the national minstrelsy. Out of a sour, ungenerous soil spring up the honey-bearing flowers of psalmody. Had he never been cruelly hunted by Saul, Israel and the church of God in after ages would have missed this song. The music of the sanctuary is in no small degree indebted to the trials of the saints. Affliction is the tuner of the harps of sanctified songsters." Let every troubled reader seek to lay this truth to heart and take courage.

"And David abode in the wilderness in strong holds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day but God delivered him not into his hand" (1Sa_23:14). It is blessed to behold Davidís self-restraint under sore provocation. Though perfectly innocent, so far as his conduct toward Saul was concerned, that wicked king continued to hound him without any rest. David had conducted himself honorably in every public station he filled, and now he has to suffer disgrace in the eyes of the people as a hunted outlaw. Great must have been the temptation to put an end to Saulís persecution by the use of force. He was a skilled leader, had six hundred men under him (1Sa_23:13), and he might easily have employed strategy, lured his enemy into a trap, fallen upon and slain him. Instead, he possessed his soul in patience, walked in Godís ways, and waited Godís time. And the Lord honored this as the sequel shows.

Ah, dear reader, it is written, "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city" (Pro_16:32). O for more godly self-control; for this we should pray earnestly and oft. Are you, like David was, sorely oppressed? Are you receiving evil at the hands of those from whom you might well expect good? Is there some Saul mercilessly persecuting you? Then no doubt you too are tempted to take things into your own hands, perhaps have recourse to the law of the land. But O tried one, suffer us to gently remind you that it is written, "Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath . . . vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink" (Rom_12:19-20). Remember too the example left us by the Lord Jesus, "Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously" (1Pe_2:23).

"And David saw that Saul was come out to seek his life: and David was in the wilderness of Ziph in a wood" (1Sa_23:15). How this illustrates what we are told in Gal_4:29, "But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now"! And let us not miss the deeper spiritual meaning of this: the opposition which Isaac encountered from Ishmael adumbrated the lustings of the "flesh" against "the spirit." There is a continual warfare within every real Christian between the principle of sin and the principle of grace, commonly termed "the two natures." There is a spiritual Saul who is constantly seeking the life of a spiritual David: it is the "old man" with his affections and appetites, seeking to slay the new man. Against his relentless attacks we need ever to be on our guard.

"And David saw that Saul was come out to seek his life: and David was in the wilderness of Ziph in a wood." "Ziph" derived its name from a city in the tribe of Judah: Jos_15:24-25. It is surely significant that "Ziph" signifies "a refining-place": possibly the "mountain" there (1Sa_23:14) was rich in minerals, and at Ziph there was a smelter and refinery. Be this as it may, the spiritual lesson is here written too plainly for us to miss. The hard knocks which the saint receives from a hostile world, the persecutions he endures at the hands of those who hate God, the trials through which he passes in this scene of sin, may, and should be, improved to the good of his soul. O may many of the Lordís people prove that these "hard times" through which they are passing are a "refining place" for their faith and other spiritual graces.

"And Jonathan Saulís son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said unto him, Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth. And they two made a covenant before the Lord: and David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house" (1Sa_23:16-18). These verses record the final meeting on earth between David and the weak, vacillating Jonathan. Attached to David as he was by a strong natural affection, yet he lacked grace to throw in his lot with the hunted fugitive. He refused to join with his father in persecuting David, yet the pull of the palace and the court was too strong to be resisted. He stands as a solemn example of the spiritual compromiser, of the man who is naturally attracted to Christ, but lacks a supernatural knowledge of Him which leads to full surrender to him. That he "strengthened Davidís hand in God" no more evidenced him to be a regenerate man, than do the words of Saul in 1Sa_23:21. Instead of his words in 1Sa_23:17 coming true, he fell by the sword of the Philistines on Gilboa.

"Then came up the Ziphites to Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself with us in strong holds in the wood, in the hill of Hachilah, which is on the south of Jeshimon? Now therefore, O King, come down according to all the desire of thy soul to come down; and our part shall be to deliver him into the kingís hand" (1Sa_23:19-20). Alas, what is man, and how little to be depended upon! Here was David seeking shelter from his murderous foe, and that among the people of his own tribe, and there were they, in order to curry favor with Saul, anxious to betray him into the kingís hands. It was a gross breach of hospitality, and there was no excuse for it, for Saul had not sought unto nor threatened them. It mattered not to them though innocent blood were shed, so long as they procured the smile of the apostate monarch. That Day alone will show how many have fallen victims before those who cared for nothing better than the favor of those in authority.

"And Saul said, Blessed be ye of the Lord; for ye have compassion on me" (1Sa_23:21). Thankfully did Saul receive the offer of these treacherous miscreants. Observe well how he used the language of piety while bent on committing the foulest crime! Oh my reader, for your own good we beg you to take heed unto this. Require something more than fair words, or even religious phrases, before you form a judgment of another, and still more so before you place yourself in his power. Promises are easily made, and easily broken by most people. The name of God is glibly taken upon the lips of multitudes who have no fear of God in their hearts. Note too how the wretched Saul represented himself to be the aggrieved one, and construes the perfidy of the Ziphites as their loyalty to the king.

"Go, I pray you, prepare yet, and know and see his place where his haunt is, and who hath seen him there: for it is told me that he dealeth very subtly. See therefore, and take knowledge of all the lurking places where he hideth himself, and come ye again to me with the certainty and I will go with you: and it shall come to pass, if he be in the land, that I will search him out throughout all the thousands of Judah" (1Sa_23:22-23). Before he journeyed to Ziph, Saul desired more specific information as to exactly where David was now located. He knew that the man he was after had a much better acquaintance than his own of that section of the country. He knew that David was a clever strategist; perhaps he had fortified some place, and the king wished for details, so that he might know how large a force would be needed to surround and capture David and his men. Apparently Saul felt so sure of his prey, he considered there was no need for hurried action.

Then news that the Ziphites had proved unfaithful reached the ears of David, and though the kingís delay gave him time to retreat to the wilderness of Maon (1Sa_23:24), yet he was now in a sore plight. His situation was desperate, and none but an Almighty hand could deliver him. Blessed is it to see him turning at this time unto the living God and spreading his urgent case before Him. It was then that he prayed the prayer which is recorded in Psa_54:1-7, the superscription of which reads "A Psalm of David, when the Ziphites came and said to Saul, Doth not David hide himself with us?" In it we are given to hear him pouring out his heart unto the Lord; and unto it we now turn to consider a few of its details.

"Save me, O God, by Thy name, and judge me by Thy strength" (Psa_54:1). David was in a position where he was beyond the reach of human assistance: only a miracle could now save him, therefore did he supplicate the miracle-working God. Without any preamble, David went straight to the point and cried, "Save me, O God." Keilah would not shelter him, the Ziphites had basely betrayed him, Saul and his men thirsted for his blood. Other refuge there was none; God alone could help him. His appeal was to His glorious "Name," which stands for the sum of all His blessed attributes; and to His righteousness ó "judge me by Thy strength." This signifies, Secure justice for me, for none else will give it me. This manifested the innocency of his cause. Only when our case is pure can we call upon the power of divine justice to vindicate us.

"Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth" (Psa_54:2). How we need to remember and turn unto the Lord when enduring the contradiction of sinners against ourselves: to look above and draw strength from God, so that we be not weary and faint in our minds. Well did C. H. Spurgeon write, "As long as God hath an open ear we cannot be shut up in trouble. All other weapons may be useless, but all-prayer is evermore available. No enemy can spike this gun." "For strangers are risen up against me, and oppressors seek after my soul: they have not set God before them. Selah" (Psa_54:3). Those who had no acquaintance with David, and so could have no cause for ill-will against him, were his persecutors; strangers were they to God. In such a circumstance it is well for us to plead before God that we are being hated for His sake.

We must not here expound the remainder of this Psalm. But let us note three other things in it. First, the marked change in the last four verses, following the "Selah" at the end of Psa_54:3. On that word "Selah" Spurgeon wrote, "As if he said, ĎEnough of this, let us pause.í He is out of breath with indignation. A sense of wrong bids him suspend the music awhile. It may also be observed, that more pauses would, as a rule, improve our devotions: we are usually too much in a hurry." Second, his firm confidence in God and the assurance that his request would be granted: this appears in Psa_54:4-6, particularly in the "He shall reward evil unto mine enemies" ó the "cut them off" was not spoken in hot revenge, but as an Amen to the sure sentence of the just Judge. Third, his absolute confidence that his prayer was answered: the "hath delivered me" of Psa_54:7 is very striking, and with it should be carefully compared and pondered, Mar_11:24.

It now remains for us to observe how God answered Davidís prayer. "And they arose, and went to Ziph before Saul: but David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the plain of the south of Jeshimon" (1Sa_23:24). The term "wilderness" is rather misleading to English ears: it is not synonymous with desert, but is in contrast from cultivated farmlands and orchards, often signifying a wild forest. "And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon. And Saul went on this side of the mountain, and David and his men on that side of the mountain: and David made haste to get away for fear of Saul; for Saul and his men compassed David and his men round about to take them" (1Sa_23:25-26). How often is such the case with us: some sore trial presses, and we cry unto God for relief, but before His answer comes, matters appear to get worse. Ah, that is in order that His hand may be the more evident.

Davidís plight was now a serious one, for Saul and his men had practically enveloped them, and only a "mountain," or more accurately, a steep cliff, separated them. Escape seemed quite cut off: out-numbered, surrounded, further flight was out of the question. At last Saulís evil object appeared to be on the very point of attainment. But manís extremity is Godís opportunity. Beautifully did Matthew Henry comment, "This mountain (or cliff) was an emblem of the Divine Providence coming between David and the destroyer, like the pillar of cloud between the Israelites and the Egyptians." Yet, a few hours at most, and Saul and his army would either climb or go around that crag. Now for the striking and blessed sequel.

"But there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land. Wherefore Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines: therefore, they called that place The rock of divisions. And David went up from thence and dwelt in strong holds at Engedi" (1Sa_23:27-29). How marvelously and how graciously God times things! He who orders all events and controls all creatures, moved the Philistines to invade a portion of Saulís territory, and tidings of this reached the kingís ear just at the moment David seemed on the brink of destruction. Saul at once turned his attention to the invaders, and thus he was robbed of his prey and God glorified as his (Davidís) Protector. Thus, without striking a blow, David was delivered. O how blessed to know that the same God is for His people today, and without them doing a thing He can turn away those who are harassing. God does hear and answer the prayer of faith! David and his little force now had their opportunity to escape, and fled to the strong holds of Engedi, on the shore of the Dead Sea.

 

14 SPARING SAUL (1 Sam 24)

We began our last chapter by quoting "many are the afflictions of the righteous," the remainder of the verse reading "but the Lord delivereth him out of them all" (Psa_34:19). This does not mean that God always rescues the afflicted one from the physical danger which menaces him. No indeed, and we must be constantly on Our guard against carnally interpreting the Holy Scriptures. It is quite true that there are numerous cases recorded in the Word where the Lord was pleased graciously to put forth His power and extricate His people from situations where death immediately threatened them: the deliverance of Israel at the Red Sea, Elijah from the murderous intentions of Ahab and Jezebel, Daniel from the lionsí den, being striking illustrations in point. Yet the slaying of Abel by Cain, the martyrdom of Zechariah (Mat_23:35), the stoning of Stephen, are examples to the contrary. Then did the promise of Psa_34:19 fail in these latter instances? No indeed, they received a yet more glorious fulfillment, for they were finally delivered out of this world of sin and suffering.

David was the one whose hand was moved by the Holy Spirit to first pen Psa_34:19, and signally was it fulfilled in his history in a physical sense. Few menís lives have been more frequently placed in jeopardy than was his, and few men have experienced the Lordís delivering hand as he did. But there was a special reason for that, and it is this to which we would now call attention. David was one of the progenitors of Israelís Messiah, and it is indeed striking and blessed to note the wonderful works of God of old in His miraculously preserving the chosen seed from which Christ, after the flesh, was to spring. Indeed it is this more particularly, which supplies the key to many a divine interposition on behalf of the patriarchs and others, who were in the immediate line from which Jesus of Nazareth issued.

Strikingly does this appear in the history of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who for so many years dwelt in the midst of the Canaanites. The inhabitants of that land were heathen, and most wicked, as Gen_15:16 intimates. Abraham and his descendants were exposed to them as sojourners in the land, and men are most apt to be irritated by the peculiar customs of strangers. It was, then, a most remarkable dispensation of Providence which preserved the patriarchs in the midst of such a people: see Psa_105:42, "Thus was this handful, this little root that had the blessing of the Redeemer in it, preserved in the midst of enemies and dangers which was not unlike to the preserving of the ark in the midst of the tempestuous deluge" (Jonathan Edwards). Wondrously too did God preserve the infant nation of Israel in Egypt, in the wilderness, and on their first entering the promised land.

Still more arresting is the illustration which this principle receives in the divine preserving of the life of him who was more immediately and illustriously the sire of Christ. How often was there but a step betwixt David and death! His encountering of the lion and bear in the days of his shepherd life, which, without divine intervention, could have rent him in pieces as easily as they caught a lamb from his flock; his facing Goliath, who was powerful enough to break him across his knee, and give his flesh to the beasts of the field as he threatened; the exposing of his life to the Philistines, when Saul required one hundred of their foreskins as a dowry for his daughter; the repeated assaults of the king by throwing his javelin at him; the later attempts made to capture and slay him ó yet from all these was David delivered. "Thus was the precious seed that virtually contained the Redeemer and all the blessings of redemption, wondrously preserved, when all earth and hell were conspired against it to destroy it" (Jonathan Edwards).

But we must now turn to our present lesson, a lesson which records one of the most striking events in the eventful life of David. Well did Matthew Henry point out, "We have hitherto had Saul seeking an opportunity to destroy David, and, to his shame, he could never find it; in this chapter David had a fair opportunity to destroy Saul, and, to his honour, he did not make use of it; and his sparing Saulís life was as great an instance of Godís grace in him, as the preserving of his own life was of Godís providence over him." Most maliciously had Saul sought Davidís life, most generously did David spare Saulís life. It was a glorious triumph of the spirit over the flesh, of grace over sin.

"And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi" (1Sa_24:1). From these words we gather that Saul had been successful in turning back the invading Philistines. This illustrates a solemn principle which is often lost sight of: human success is no proof of divine approbation. The mere fact that a man is prospering outwardly, does not, of itself, demonstrate that his life is pleasing unto the Lord. No one but an infidel would deny that it was God who enabled Saul to clear his land of the Philistines, yet we err seriously if we conclude from this that He delighted in him. As oxen are fattened for the slaughter, so God often ripens the wicked for judgment and damnation by an abundance of His temporal mercies. The immediate sequel shows clearly what Saul still was.

"And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi." This may be regarded as a testing of Saul, for every thing that happens in each of our lives tests us at some point or other. Miserably did Saul fail under it. Nothing in the outward dispensations of God change the heart of man: His chastisements do not break the stubborn will, nor His mercies melt the hard heart. Nothing short of the regenerating work of the Spirit can make any man a new creature in Christ Jesus. The success with which God had just favored Saulís military enterprise against the Philistines, made no impression upon the reprobate soul of the apostate king. Pause for a moment, dear reader, and face this question, Has the goodness of God brought you to repentance?

"Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats" (1Sa_24:2). What a terribly solemn illustration does this verse supply of what is said in Ecc_8:11, "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." Wicked men are often interrupted in their evil courses, yet they return unto them when the restraint is removed, as if deliverance from trouble were only given that they should add iniquity unto iniquity. It was thus with Pharaoh: time after time God sent a plague which stayed that vile monarchís hand, yet as soon as respite was granted, he hardened his heart again. So Saul had been providentially blocked while pursuing David, by the invading Philistines; but now, as soon as this hindrance was removed, he redoubled his evil efforts. O, unsaved reader, has it not been thus with you? Your course of self-pleasing was suddenly checked by an illness, your round of pleasure-seeking was stopped by a sick-bed. Opportunity was given you to consider the interests of your immortal soul, to humble yourself beneath the mighty hand of God. Perhaps you did so in a superficial way, but what has been the sequel? Health and strength have been mercifully restored by God, but are they being used for His glory, or are you now vainly pursuing the phantoms of this world harder than ever?

Ought not the very invasion of the Philistines to have changed Saulís attitude toward the one whom he was so causelessly and relentlessly pursuing? Ought he not to have realized now more forcibly than ever, that he needed David at the head of his army to repulse the common enemy? And O unbelieving reader, is not the case very much the same with thee? The faithful servant of God, who has your best interests at heart, you despise; that Christian friend who begs you to consider the claims of Christ, the solemnities of an unending eternity, the certain and terrible doom of those who live only for this life, you regard as a "kill-joy." Saul is now in the torments of Hell, and in a short time at most you will be there too, unless you change your course and beg God to change your heart.

Let us turn our thoughts once more unto David. As we saw at the close of our last chapter, in answer to believing prayer, God granted him a striking deliverance from the hand of his enemy. Yet that deliverance was but a brief one. Saul now advanced against him with a stronger force than before. Does not every real Christian know something of this in his own spiritual experience? It is written that "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Act_14:22). Troubles come, and then a respite is granted, and then new troubles follow on the heels of the old ones. Our spiritual enemies will not long leave us in peace; nevertheless, they are a blessing in disguise if they drive us to our knees. Very few souls thrive as well in times of prosperity as they do in seasons of adversity. Wintersí frosts may necessitate warmer clothes, but they also kill the flies and garden pests.

David had now betaken himself unto "The rocks of the wild goats." Thither Saul and his large army follow him. Once more God undertook for him, and that in a striking way. "And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet: and David and his men remained in the sides of the cave" (1Sa_24:3). In that section of Palestine there are large caves, partly so by nature, partly so by human labor, for the sheltering of sheep from the heat of the sun; hence we read in the Son_1:7 of "where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon." In one of these spacious caverns, David, and some of his men at least, had taken refuge. Thither did Saul, separated apparently from his men, now turn, in order to seek repose. Thus, by a strange carelessness (viewed from the human standpoint), Saul placed himself completely at Davidís mercy.

"And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which the Lord said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee" (1Sa_24:4). Davidís men at once saw the hand of the Lord in this unexpected turn of events. So far, so good. None but an infidel believes in things happening by chance, though there are many infidels now wearing the name of "Christian." There are no accidents in a world which is governed by the living God, for "of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen" (Rom_11:36). Therefore does faith perceive the hand of God in every thing which enters our lives, be it great or small. And it is only as we recognize His hand molding all our circumstances, that God is honored, and our hearts are kept in peace. O for grace to say at all times, "It is the Lord: let Him do what seemeth Him good" (1Sa_3:18).

"And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which the Lord said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee." It is not difficult to trace the line of thought which was in their minds. They felt that here was an opportunity too good to be missed, an opportunity which Providence itself had obviously placed in Davidís way. One stroke of the sword would rid him of the only man that stood between him and the throne. Not only so, but the slaying of this apostate Saul would probably mean the bringing back of the whole nation unto the Lord. How many there are in Christendom today who believe that the end justifies the means: to get "results" is the all-important thing with them ó how this is done matters little or nothing. Had such men been present to counsel David they had argued, "Be not scrupulous about slaying Saul, see how much good it will issue in!"

"What a critical moment it was in Davidís history! Had he listened to the specious counselors who urged upon him to do what Providence, seemingly, had put in his way, his life of faith would have come to an abrupt end. One stroke of his sword, and he steps into a throne! Farewell poverty! Farewell the life of a hunted goat. Reproaches, sneers, defeat, would cease; adulations, triumphs, riches would be his. But his at the sacrifice of faith; at the sacrifice of a humbled will, ever waiting on Godís time; at the sacrifice of a thousand precious experiences of Godís care, Godís provision, Godís guidance, Godís tenderness. No, even a throne at that price is too dear. Faith will wait" (C. H. Bright).

But there is a deeper lesson taught here, which every Christian does well to take thoroughly to heart. It is this: we need to be exceedingly cautious how we interpret the events of Providence and what conclusions we draw from them, lest we mistake the opportunity of following out our own inclinations for Godís approbation of our conduct. God had promised David the throne, had His time now come for removing the one obstacle which stood in his way? It looked much like it. Saul had shown no mercy, and there was not the least likelihood that he would do so; then was it Godís will that David should be His instrument for taking vengeance upon him? It seemed so, or why should He have delivered him into his hand! David had cried to God for deliverance and had appealed unto divine justice for vindication (Psa_54:1), had the hour now arrived for his supplication to be answered? The unexpected sight of Saul asleep at his feet, made this more than likely. How easy, how very easy then, for David to have made an erroneous deduction from the event of Providence on this occasion!

God was, in reality, testing Davidís faith, testing his patience, testing his piety. The testing of his faith lay in submission to the Word, which plainly says, "thou shalt not kill," and God had given him no exceptional command to the contrary. The testing of his patience lay in his quietly waiting Godís time to ascend the throne of Israel: the temptation before him was to take things into his own hands and rush matters. The testing of his piety lay in the mortifying of his natural desires to avenge himself, to act in grace, and show kindness to one who had sorely mistreated him. It was indeed a very real testing, and blessed is it to see how the spirit triumphed over the flesh.

The application of this incident to the daily life of the Christian is of great practical importance. Frequently God tests us in similar ways. He so orders His providences as to try our hearts and make manifest what is in them. How often we are exercised about some important matter, some critical step in life, some change in our affairs involving momentous issues. We distrust our own wisdom, we want to be sure of Godís will in the matter, we spread our case before the Throne of Grace, and ask for light and guidance. So far, so good. Then, usually, comes the testing: events transpire which seem to show that it is Godís will for us to take a certain step, things appear to point plainly in that direction. Ah, my friend, that may only be God trying your heart. If, notwithstanding your praying over it, your desires are really set upon that object or course, then it will be a simple thing for you to misinterpret the events of Providence and jump to a wrong conclusion.

An accurate knowledge of Godís Word, a holy state of heart (wherein self is judged, and its natural longings mortified), a broken will, are absolutely essential in order to clearly discern the path of duty in important cases and crises. The safest plan is to deny all suggestions of revenge, covetousness, ambition and impatience. A heart that is established in true godliness will rather interpret the dispensations of Providence as trials of faith and patience, as occasions to practice self-denial, than as opportunities for self-indulgence. In any case, "he that believeth shall not make haste" (Isa_28:16). "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass . . . Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him" (Psa_37:5-7). O for grace to do so; but such grace has to be definitely, diligently and daily sought for.

 

15 HIS ADDRESS TO SAUL (1 Sam 24)

In our last chapter we left the apostate king of Israel asleep in the cave of Engedi, the very place which had been made a refuge by David and his followers. There Saul lay completely at the mercy of the man whose life he sought. Davidís men were quick to perceive their advantage, and said to their master "Behold the day of which the Lord said unto thee, Behold I will deliver thine enemy into Wine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee" (1Sa_24:4). A real temptation presented itself to the sweet Psalmist of Israel, and though he was not completely overcome by it, yet he did not emerge from the conflict without a wound and a stain. "Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saulís robe privily." How true it is that "evil communications corrupt good manners" (1Co_15:33)! Did this incident come back to his mind when, (probably) at a later date, the Spirit of God moved him to write, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly" (Psa_1:1)? Possibly so; at any rate, we find here a solemn warning which each of us does well to take to heart.

"And it came to pass afterward that Davidís heart smote him, because he had cut off Saulís skirt" (1Sa_24:5): which means, his conscience accused him, and he repented of what he had done. Good is it when our hearts condemn us for what the world regards as trifles. Though David had done no harm to the kingís person, and though he had given proof it was in his power to slay him, nevertheless his action was a serious affront against the royal dignity. No matter what be the personal character of the ruler, because of his office, God commands us to "honor the king" (1Pe_2:17). This is a word concerning which all of us need reminding, for we are living in times when an increasing number "despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities" (Jdg_1:8). God takes note of this!

"Davidís heart smote him, because he had cut off Saulís skirt." With this should be compared 2Sa_24:10, "And Davidís heart smote him after that he numbered the people. And David said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech Thee, O Lord, take away the iniquity of Thy servant; for I have done very foolishly." From these passages it is evident that David was blest with a tender conscience, which is ever a mark of true spirituality. In solemn contrast therefrom, we read of those "having their conscience seared with a hot iron" (1Ti_4:2), and of some "being past feeling" (Eph_4:19), which is a sure index of those who have been abandoned by God. David soon regretted his rash action and realized he had sinned. May God graciously grant unto reader and writer a sensitive conscience.

"And he said unto his men, The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lordís anointed, to stretch Forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord" (1Sa_24:6). How honest of David! He not only repented before God of his rash conduct, but he also confessed his wrong-doing unto those who had witnessed the same. It requires much grace and courage to do this, yet nothing short of it is required of us. Moreover, we know not to whom God may be pleased to bless a faithful and humble acknowledgement of our sins. David now let his men know plainly that he was filled with abhorrence for having so insulted his sovereign Lord. Observe how that it was his looking at things from the divine viewpoint which convicted him: he now regarded Saul not as a personal enemy, but as one whom God had appointed to reign as long as he lived.

"So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul" (1Sa_24:7). "Stayed" here signifies, pacified or quieted them, hindering them from laying rough hands upon the king. The first word of this verse is deeply significant: "So," in this manner, by what he had just said ó how evident that God clothed his words with power! Few things have greater weight with men than their beholding of reality in those who bear the name of the Lord. David had honored God by calling the attention of his men to the fact that Saul was His "anointed," and now He honored David by causing his honest confession to strike home to the hearts of his men. Thus, by restraining his followers David returned good for evil to him from whom he had received evil for good.

"But Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way" (1Sa_24:7). Utterly unconscious of the danger which had threatened him, the king awoke, arose, and went forth out of the cave. How often there was but a step betwixt us and death, and we knew it not. Awake or asleep, our times are in Godís hands, and with the Psalmist faith realizes "Thou holdest my soul in life" (Psa_66:9). None can die a moment before the time his Maker has appointed. Blessed is it when the heart is enabled to rest in God. Each night it is our privilege to say, "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety" (Psa_4:8). But how unspeakably solemn is the contrast between the cases of the godly and the wicked: the one is preserved for eternal glory, the other is reserved unto everlasting fire. Such was the difference between David and Saul.

"David also arose afterward and went out of the cave, and cried after Saul, saying, My lord the king" (1Sa_24:8). "Though he would not take the opportunity to slay him, yet he wisely took the opportunity, if possible, to slay his enmity, by convincing him that he was not such a man as he took him for" (Matthew Henry). In thus revealing himself to Saul, David intimated that he still entertained an honorable opinion of his sovereign: this was further evidenced by the respectful language which he employed. "And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself." How surprised the blood-thirsty monarch must have been in hearing himself addressed by the one whose life he sought! The posture of David was not that of a cringing criminal, but of a loyal subject. In what follows we have one of the most respectful, pathetic and forcible addresses ever made to one of earthís rulers.

"And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest thou menís words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt?" (1Sa_24:9). It is beautiful to see how David commenced his speech to the king, wherein he endeavors to show how much he was wronged in being so relentlessly persecuted, and how much he desired Saul to be reconciled to him. Most graciously did David throw the blame upon Saulís courtiers, rather than upon the king himself. In the question here asked Saul, it was suggested that his prejudice against David had been provoked by slanderous reports from others. Herein important instruction is furnished us as to what method to follow when seeking to subdue the malice of those who hate us: proceeding on the assumption that it is not the individualís own enmity against us, but that it has been unjustly stirred up by others. Particularly does this apply to those in authority: respect is due unto them, and where they err, due allowance should be made for their having been ill-informed by others.

It is the practical application of the teaching of Scripture to the details of our own lives which is so much needed today. Of what real value is a knowledge of its history or an understanding of its prophecies, if they exert no vital influence upon our conduct? God has given us His Word not only for our information, but as a law to walk by, and every chapter in it contains important rules for us to appropriate and put into practice. What is before us above supplies a timely case in point. How often differences arise between men, breaches between friends, and misunderstandings between fellow-Christians; and how rarely do we see the spirit displayed by David unto Saul, exercised now in efforts to effect a reconciliation! Let us earnestly seek grace to profit from the lovely and lowly example here set before us.

"Behold, this day, thine eyes have seen how that the Lord had delivered thee today into mine hand in the cave: and some bade me kill thee: but mine eyes spared thee; and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord, for he is the Lordís anointed" (1Sa_24:10). First, David had refrained from reproaching or sharply expostulating Saul, now he shows that there was no ill-will in his own heart against him. He appealed to the most decisive proof that he had no intention of injuring him. The king had been completely at his mercy, and his men had urged him to dispatch his enemy, but pity for the helpless monarch had restrained him. Moreover, the fear of God governed him, and he dared not to lay violent hands upon His "anointed." By such mild measures did David seek to conciliate his foe. Let us take a leaf out of his copybook, and seek by acts of kindness to prove unto those that harbor false thoughts against us that Satan has misled them.

"Moreover, my father, see, yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand: for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee not, know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee; yet thou huntest my soul to take it" (1Sa_24:11). "He produceth undeniable evidence to prove the falseness of the suggestion upon which Saulís malice against him was grounded. David was charged with seeking Saulís hurt: Ďsee,í saith he, Ďyea, see the skirt of thy robe:í let this be a witness for me, and an unexceptional witness it is; had that been true which I am accused of, I had now had thy head in my hand, and not the skirt of thy robe; for 1 could as easily have cut off that as this" (Matthew Henry). Well for us is it when we can go to one filled with unjust suspicions against us, and confirm our words with convincing proofs of our good-will.

It is touching to see David here reminding Saul that there was a more intimate relation between them than that of king and subject; he had been united in marriage to his daughter, and therefore does he now address him as "my father" (1Sa_24:11). Here was an appeal not only to his honor, but to his affection: from a monarch one may expect justice, but from a parent we may surely look for affection. David might have addressed Saul by a hard name, but he sought to "overcome evil with good." Blessedly did he here prefigure his Lord, who, at the time of his arrest in the garden, addressed the treacherous Judas not as "Betrayer" or "Traitor," but "Friend." Nothing is gained by employing harsh terms, and sometimes "A soft answer turneth away wrath" (Pro_15:1).

"The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee" (1Sa_24:12). David now appealed unto a higher court. First, he desires that Jehovah Himself shall make it appear who was in the right and who in the wrong. Second, he counts upon the retribution of Heaven if Saul should continue to persecute him. Third, he affirms his steadfast resolution that no matter what he might suffer, nor what opportunities might be his to avenge himself, he would not do him hurt, but leave it with God to requite the evil. This was indeed a mild method of reasoning with Saul, and the least offensive way of pointing out to him the injustice of his conduct. If men would deal thus one with another how much strife could be avoided, and how many quarrels be satisfactorily ended!

"As saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked: but mine hand shall not be upon thee" (1Sa_24:13), This intimates that it is permissible for us to make a right use of the wise sayings of others, particularly of the ancients, even though they are not directly inspired of God. Such aphorisms as "Look before you leap," "Too many cooks spoil the broth," "All is not gold that glitters," are likely to stand us in good stead if they are stored in the memory and duly pondered. In days gone by, such proverbs were frequently spoken in the hearing of children (we are thankful that they were in ours), and the general absence of them today is only another evidence of the decadence of our times.

"As saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked: but mine hand shall not be upon thee." The use which David here made of this proverb is obvious: he reminds Saul that a man is revealed by his actions. As a tree is known by its fruits, so our conduct makes manifest the dispositions of our hearts. It was as though David said, "Had I been the evil wretch which you have been made to believe, I would have had no conscience of taking away your life when it was in my power. But I could not: my heart would not let me." Though the dog barks at the sheep, the sheep do not snap back at the dog.

"After whom is the king of Israel come out? after whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after a flea" (1Sa_24:14). Here David descends and reasons with Saul on the lowest grounds: in your own judgment I am a worthless fellow, then why go to so much trouble over me! Is it not altogether beneath the dignity of a monarch to take so much pains in hunting after one who is not worthy of his notice? In likening himself to a "flea," David, by this simile, depicts not only his own weakness, but the circumstances he was in: obliged to move swiftly from place to place, and therefore not easily taken; and if captured, of no value to the king. Why then be so anxious to give chase to one so inconspicuous? "To conquer him would not be his honor, to attempt it only his disparagement. If Saul would consult his own reputation he would slight such an enemy (supposing he were really his enemy), and would think himself in no danger from him." If Saul had a spark of generosity in him, the humble carriage of David here would surely abate his enmity.

"The Lord therefore be Judge, and judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand" (1Sa_24:15). Having pleaded his case so forcibly, David now solemnly warned his enemy that Jehovah would judge righteously between them, deliver him out of his hand, and avenge his cause upon him. When we are innocent of the suspicions entertained against and preferred upon us, we need not fear to leave the issue with God. This is what our Lord Himself did: "When he suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously" (1Pe_2:23). Assured that God would, in due time, vindicate him, David acted faith upon Him and rested in His faithfulness. The justice of God should ever be the refuge and comfort of those who are wrongfully oppressed: the day is coming when the Judge of all the earth shall recompense every evil-doer, and reward all the righteous.

A brief analysis of what we may term Davidís "defense" teaches us what methods we should follow when seeking to show a person that we have given no cause for his malice against us. First, David asked Saul if he had not been unjust in listening to slanders against him (1Sa_24:9)? Second, he pointed out that because the fear of God was upon him, he dared not sin presumptuously (1Sa_24:10). Third, he appealed to his own actions in proof thereof (1Sa_24:11). Fourth, he affirmed he had no intention to retaliate and return evil for evil (1Sa_24:12). Fifth, he argued that the known character of a person should prevent others from believing evil reports about him (1Sa_24:13). Sixth, he took a lowly place, shaming pride by humility (1Sa_24:14). Seventh, he committed his case unto the justice of God (1Sa_24:15).

 

 

 

16 HIS VICTORY OVER SAUL (1 Sam 24)

"He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city" (Pro_16:32). A man who is "slow to anger" is esteemed by the Lord, respected by men, is happy in himself, and is to be preferred above the strongest giant that is not master of self. Alexander the Great conquered the world, yet in his uncontrollable wrath, slew his best friends. Being "slow to anger" is to take time and consider before we suffer our passions to break forth, that they may not transgress due bounds; and he who can thus control himself is to be esteemed above the mightiest warrior. A rational conquest is more honorable to a rational creature than triumph by brute force.

The most desirable authority is self-government. The conquest of ourselves and our own unruly passions, requires more regular and persevering management than does the obtaining of a victory over the physical forces of an enemy. The conquering of our own spirit is a more important achievement than the taking of a foeís fortress. He that can command his temper is superior to him that can successfully storm a fortified town. Natural courage, skill and patience, may do the one; but it requires the grace of God and the assistance of the Holy Spirit to do the other. Blessedly was all this exemplified by David in that incident which has occupied our attention in the last two chapters. He had been sorely provoked by Saul, yet when the life of his enemy was in his hand, he graciously spared him, and returned good for evil.

"A soft answer turneth away wrath" (Pro_15:1). Strikingly was this illustrated in what is now to be before us. A child of God is not to rest satisfied because he has not originated strife, but if others begin it, he must not only not continue it, but endeavor to end it by mollifying the matter. Better far to pour oil on the troubled waters, than to add fuel to the fire. "The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy" (Jam_3:17). We are to disarm resentment by every reasonable concession. Mild words and gentle expressions, delivered with kindness and humility, will weaken bitterness and scatter the storm of wrath. Note how the Ephraimites were pacified by Gideonís mild answer (Jdg_8:1-13). The noblest courage is shown when we withstand our own corruptions, and overcome enemies by kindness.

"Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us" (Luk_11:4). Wherein does this forgiving of others consist? First, in withholding ourselves from revenge. "Forbearing one another and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any" (Col_3:13): "forbearing and forgiving" are inseparably connected. Some men will say, We will do to him as he has done to us; but God bids us, "Say not I will do so to him as he hath done unto me, I will render to the man according to his work" (Pro_24:29). Corrupt nature thirsts for retaliation, and has a strong inclination that way; but grace should check it. Men think it a base thing to put up with wrongs and injuries; but this it is which gives a man a victory over himself, and the truest victory over his enemy, when he forbears to revenge.

By nature there is a spirit in us which is turbulent, revengeful, and desirous of returning evil for evil; but when we are able to deny it, we are ruling our own spirit. Failure so to do, being overcome by passion, is moral weakness, for our enemy has thoroughly overcome us when his injuring of us prevails to our breaking of Godís laws in order to retaliate. Therefore we are bidden "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom_12:21): then is grace victorious, and then do we manifest a noble, brave and strong spirit. And wondrously will God bless our exemplifications of His grace, for it is often His way to shame the party that did the wrong, by overcoming him with the meekness and generosity of the one he has injured. It was thus in the case of David and Saul, as we shall now see.

"And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, is this thy voice, my son David? And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept" (1Sa_24:16). Though his mind was so hostile to David, and he had cruelly chased him up and down, yet when he now saw that the one he was pursuing had forborne revenge when it was in his power, he was moved to tears. In like manner, when the captains of the Syrians, whom the prophet had temporarily blinded, were led to Samaria, fully expecting to be slain there, we are told that the king "prepared great provisions for them: and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away." And what was the sequel to such kindness unto their enemies? This; it so wrought upon their hearts, their bands "came no more into the land of Israel" (2Ki_6:20-23). May these incidents speak loudly unto each of our hearts.

"And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, is this thy voice, my son David? And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept." Let us pause and adore the restraining power of God. Filled with wrath and fury, so eager to take Davidís life, Saul, instead of attempting to kill him, had stood still and heard Davidís speech without an interruption. He who commands the winds and the waves, can, when He pleases, still the most violent storm within a human breast. But more; Saul was not only awed and subdued, but melted by Davidís kindness. Observe the noticeable change in his language: before, it was only "the son of Jesse," now he says, "my son, David." So deeply was the king affected, that he was moved to tears; yet, like those of Esau, they were not tears of real repentance.

"And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil" (1Sa_24:17). Saul was constrained to acknowledge Davidís integrity and his own iniquity, just as Pharaoh said, "I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you" (Exo_10:16); and as many today will own their wrong-doing when shamed by Christians returning to them good for evil, or when impressed by some startling providence of God. But such admissions are of little value if there is no change for the better in the lives of those who make them. Nevertheless, this acknowledgment of Saulís made good that word of Godís upon which He had caused His servant to hope: "He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday" (Psa_37:6). They who are careful to maintain "a conscience void of offense toward God and man" (Act_24:16), may safely leave it unto Him to secure the credit of it.

"This fair confession was sufficient to prove David innocent, even his enemy himself being judge; but not enough to prove Saul himself a true penitent. He should have said, ĎThou art righteous, and I am wicked,í but the utmost he will own is this, ĎThou art more righteous than I.í Bad men will commonly go no farther than this in their confessions: they will own they are not so good as some others are; there are that are better than they, more righteous" (Matthew Henry). Ah, it takes the supernatural workings of Divine grace in the heart to strip us of all our fancied goodness, and bring us into the dust as sell-condemned sinners, it requires too the continual renewings of the Holy Spirit to keep us in the dust, so that we truthfully exclaim, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy and for Thy truthís sake" (Psa_115:1).

"And thou hast showed this day how that thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when the Lord had delivered me into thine hand, thou killest me not" (1Sa_24:18). This is striking: even the most desperate sinners are sometimes amenable to acts of kindness. Saul could not but own that David had dealt far more mercifully with him, than he would have done with David if their position had been reversed. He acknowledged that he had been laboring under a misapprehension concerning his son, for clear proof had been given that David was of a far different stamp than what he had supposed. "We are too apt to suspect others to be worse affected towards us than they really are, and than perhaps they are proved to be; and when afterwards our mistake is discovered, we should be forward to recall our suspicions as Saul doth here" (Matthew Henry).

"And thou hast showed this day how that thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when the Lord had delivered me into thine hand, thou killest me not." In view of the later sequel, this is also exceedingly solemn. Saul not only recognizes the magnanimity of David, but he perceives too the providence of God: he owns that it was none other than the hand of Jehovah which had placed him at the mercy of the man whose life he had been seeking. Thus it was plain that God was for David, and who could hope to succeed against him! How this ought to have deterred him from seeking his hurt afterwards; yet it did not: his "goodness was as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away" (Hos_6:4). Alas, there are many who mourn for their sins, but do not truly repent of them; weep bitterly for their transgressions, and yet continue in love and league with them; discern and own the providences of God, yet do not yield themselves to Him.

"For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away?" (1Sa_24:19). No, this is not the customary way among men. "Revenge is sweet" to poor fallen human nature, and few indeed refuse to drink from this tempting cup when it is presented to them. And if there be more lenity shown unto fallen enemies today than there was in past ages, it is not to be ascribed unto any improvement in man, but to the beneficent effects of the spread of Christianity. That this is the case may be clearly seen in the vivid contrasts presented among nations where the Gospel is preached, and where it is unknown: the "dark places" of the earth are still "full of the habitations of cruelty" (Psa_74:20).

"For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? wherefore the Lord reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day" (1Sa_24:19). Strange language this for a would-be murderer! Yes, even the reprobate have spurts and flashes of seeming piety at times, and many superficial people who "believeth every word" (Pro_14:15) are deceived thereby. "Seemingly pious" we say, for after all, those fair words of Saul were empty ones. Had he really meant what he said, would he not personally and promptly have rewarded David himself? Of course he would. He was king; he had power to; it was his duty to reinstate David in the bosom of his family, and bestow upon him marks of the highest honor and esteem. But he did nothing of the sort. Ah, dear reader: do not measure people by what they say; it is actions which speak louder than words.

"And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand" (1Sa_24:20). The realization that God had appointed David to succeed him on the throne, was now forced upon Saul. The providence of God in so remarkably preserving and prospering him, his princely spirit and behavior, his calling to mind of what Samuel had declared, namely; that the kingdom should be given to a neighbor of his, better than he (1Sa_15:18) ó and such David was by his own confession (1Sa_15:17); and the portion cut off his own robe ó which must have been a vivid reminder of Samuel rending his mantle, when he made the solemn prediction; all combined to convince the unhappy king of this. Thus did God encourage the heart of His oppressed servant, and support his faith and hope. Sometimes He deigns to employ strange instruments in giving us a message of cheer.

"Sware now therefore unto me by the Lord, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my fatherís house" (1Sa_24:21). Under the conviction that God was going to place David upon the throne of Israel, Saul desired from him the guaranty of an oath, that he would not, when king, extirpate his posterity. What a tribute this was unto the reality of Davidís profession! Ah, the integrity, honesty, veracity of a genuine child of God, is recognized by those with whom he comes into contact. They who have dealings with him know that his word is his bond. Treacherous and unscrupulous as Saul was, if David promised in the name of the Lord to spare his children, he was assured that it would be fulfilled to the letter. Reader, is your character thus known and respected by those among whom you move?

"Sware now therefore unto me by the Lord, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my fatherís house." How tragically this reveals the state of his heart. Poor Saul was more concerned about the credit and interests of his Family in this world, than he was of securing the forgiveness of his sins before he entered the world to come. Alas, there are many who have their seasons of remorse, are affected by their dangerous situations, and almost persuaded to renounce their sins; they are convinced of the excellency of true saints, as acting from superior principles to those which regulate their own conduct, and cannot withhold from them a good word; yet are they not thereby humbled or changed, and sin and the world continue to reign in their hearts until death overtakes them.

"And David sware unto Saul. And Saul went home: but David and his men gat them unto the hold" (1Sa_24:22). David was willing to bind himself to the promise which Saul asked of him, and accordingly swore to it on oath. Thus he has left us an example to "be subject unto the higher powers" (Rom_13:1). His later history evidences how he respected his oath to Saul, by sparing Mephibosheth, and in punishing the murderers of Ishbosheth. It is to be noted that David did not ask Saul to sware unto him that he would no more seek his life. David knew him too well to trust in a transient appearance of friendliness, and having no confidence in his word. Nor should we deliberately place a temptation in the way of those lacking in honor, by seeking to extract from them a definite promise.

"And Saul went home; but David and his men gat them up unto the hold." David did not trust Saul, whose inconstancy, perfidy and cruel hatred, he full well knew. He did not think it safe to return unto his own house, nor to dwell in the open country, but remained in the wilderness, among the rocks and the caves. The grace of God will teach us to forgive and be kind unto our enemies, but not to trust those who have repeatedly deceived us; for malice often seems dead, when it is only dormant, and will ever long revive with double force. "They that, like David, are innocent as doves, must thus, like David, be wise as serpents" (Matthew Henry). Note how 1Sa_24:22 pathetically foreshadowed Joh_7:53 and Joh_8:1.

Here then is the blessed victory that David gained over Saul, not by treacherous stealth, or by brute force but a moral triumph. How complete his victory was that day, is seen in the extent to which that haughty monarch humbled himself before David, entreating him to be kind unto his offspring, when he should be king. But the great truth for us to lay hold of, the central lesson here recorded for our learning is that David first gained the victory over himself, before he triumphed Over Saul. May writer and reader be more diligent and earnest in seeking grace from God that we may not be overcome by evil, but that we may "overcome evil with good."

 

17 HIS AFFRONT FROM NABAL (1 Sam 25)

The incident which is now to engage our attention may seem, at first sight, to contain in it little of practical importance for our hearts. If so, we may be sure that our vision is dim. There is nothing trivial in Holy Writ. Everything which the Spirit has recorded therein has a voice for us, if only we will seek the hearing ear. Whenever we read a portion of Godís Word, and find therein little suited to our own case and need, we ought to be humbled: the fault is in us. This should at once be acknowledged unto God, and a spiritual quickening of soul sought from Him. There should be a definite asking Him to graciously anoint our eyes (Rev_3:18), not only that we may be enabled to behold wondrous things in His Law, but also that He will make us of quick discernment to perceive how the passage before us applies to ourselves ó what are the particular lessons we need to learn from it. The more we cultivate this habit, the more likely that God will be pleased to open His Word unto us.

It is the practical lessons to be learned from each section that all of us so much need, and this is uppermost in our mind in the composing of this present series. What, then, is there here for us to take to heart? David, in his continued wanderings, applies to a well-to-do farmer for some rations for his men. The appeal was suitably timed, courteously worded, and based upon a weighty consideration. The request was presented not to a heathen, but to an Israelite, to a member of his own tribe, to a descendant of Caleb; in short, to one from whom he might reasonably expect a favorable response. Instead, David met with a rude rebuff and a provoking insult. Obviously, there is a warning here for us in the despicable meanness of Nabal, which must be turned into prayer for divine grace to preserve us from being inhospitable and unkind to Godís servants.

But it is with David that we are chiefly concerned. In our last three chapters we have seen him conducting himself with becoming mildness and magnanimity, showing mercy unto the chief of his enemies. There we saw him resisting a sore temptation to take matters into his own hands, and make an end of his troubles by slaying the chief of his persecutors, when he was thoroughly in his power. But here our hero is seen in a different light. He meets with another trial, a trial of a much milder nature, yet instead of overcoming evil with good, he was in imminent danger of being overcome with evil. Instead of exercising grace, he is moved with a spirit of revenge; instead of conducting himself so that the praises of God are "shown forth" (1Pe_2:9), only the works of the flesh are seen. Alas, how quickly had the fine gold become dim! How are we to account for this? And what are the lessons to be learned from it?

Is the reader surprised as he turns from the blessed picture presented in the second half of 1 Samuel 24 and ponders the almost sordid actions of David in the very next chapter? Is he puzzled to account for the marked lapse in the conduct of him who had acted so splendidly toward Saul? Is he at a loss to explain Davidís spiteful attitude toward Nabal? If so, he must be woefully ignorant of his own heart, and has yet to learn a most important lesson: that no man stands a moment longer than divine grace upholds him. The strongest are weak as water immediately the power of the Spirit is withdrawn; the most mature and experienced Christian acts foolishly the moment he be left to himself; none of us has any reserve strength or wisdom in himself to draw from: our source of sufficiency is all treasured up for us in Christ, and as soon as communion with Him be broken, as soon as we cease looking alone to Him for help, we are helpless.

What has just been stated above is acknowledged as true by Godís people in general, yet many of their thoughts and conclusions are glaringly inconsistent therewith ó or why be so surprised when they hear of some eminent saint experiencing a sad fall! The "eminent saint" is not the one who has learned to walk alone, but he who most feels his need of leaning harder upon the "everlasting arms." The "eminent saint" is not the one who is no longer tempted by the lusts of the flesh and harassed by the assaults of Satan, but he who knows that in the flesh there dwelleth no good thing, and that only from Christ can his "fruit" be found (Hos_14:8). Looked at in themselves, the "fathers" in Christ are just as frail and feeble as the "babes" in Christ. Left to themselves, the wisest Christians have no better judgment than has the new convert. Whether God is pleased to leave us upon earth another year or another hundred years, all will constantly need to observe that word, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Mat_26:41).

And God has many ways of teaching us the "weakness" of the flesh. One of these receives striking illustration in the incident to be before us, and which has no doubt been painfully realized in the experience of each Christian reader: that in some great crisis we have been enabled to stand our ground, strong in faith, whereas before some petty trial we have broken down and acted as a man of the world would act. It is thus that God stains our pride, subdues our self-sufficiency, and brings us to the place of more real and constant dependence upon Himself. It is the "little foxes" (Son_2:15) that spoil the vines, and it is our reaction unto the lesser irritations of everyday life which most reveal us to ourselves ó humbling us through our failures, and fitting us to bear with more patience the infirmities of our brethren and sisters in Christ.

Who would have thought that he who had taken so meekly the attacks of the king upon his life, should have waxed so furious when a farmer refused a little food for his men! Rightly did Thomas Scott point out, "David had been on his guard against anger and revenge when most badly used by Saul, but he did not expect such reproachful language and insolent treatment from Nabal: he was therefore wholly put off his guard; and in great indignation he determined to avenge himself." Lay this well to heart, dear reader: a small temptation is likely to prevail after a greater has been resisted. Why so? Because we are less conscious of our need of Godís delivering grace. Peter was bold before the soldiers in the Garden, but became fearful in the presence of a maid. But it is time for us to consider some of the details of our passage.

"And Samuel died; and all the Israelites were gathered together and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah" (1Sa_25:1). How often will people sorrow outwardly for one when dead to whom they did not care to listen when living. There had been a time when Samuel was appreciated by Israel, particularly when they were feeling the pressure of the Philistine yoke; but more recently he has been despised (1 Sam. 8). They had preferred a king to the prophet, but now Saul was proving such a disappointment, and the breach between the king and David showed no signs of being healed, they lamented the removal of Samuel.

"And David arose, and went down to the wilderness of Paran" (1Sa_25:1). David too was despised by the greater part of the nation. Once he had been the hero of their songs, hut now he was homeless and outlawed. Few cared to own him. Learning of Samuelís death, he probably thought that his danger was greater than ever, for the prophet was more than friendly disposed toward him. He no doubt concluded that Saulís malice would be now more unrestrained than ever. Taking advantage of "all the Israelites" being gathered together, to mourn the death of Samuel, he left Engedi to sojourn for a while in other parts. But let us note well the ominous hint given in the words "and went down to the wilderness of Paran."

We have next presented to our notice the one to whom David made his appeal (1Sa_25:2-3). From the character given to him by the Holy Spirit, not much good might be expected from him. His name was "Nabal" which signifies "a fool," and none is a greater fool than he who thinks only of number one. He was a descendant of Caleb, which is mentioned here as an aggravation of his wickedness: that he should be the degenerate plant of so noble a vine. We are told that this man was "very great": not in piety, but in material possessions, for he had very large flocks of sheep and goats. His wife was of a beautiful countenance "and of good understanding," but her father could not have been so, or he would not have sacrificed her to a man who had nothing better to recommend him than earthly wealth. Poor woman! She was tied to one who was "churlish and evil in his doings": greedy and grasping, sour and cross-tempered.

"And David heard in the wilderness that Nabal did shear his sheep. And David sent out ten young men, and David said unto the young men, Get you up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name" (1Sa_25:4-5). The season for shearing the sheep was a notable one, for wool was a leading commodity in Canaan. With such a very large flock, a considerable number of extra hands would have to be hired by Nabal, and a plentiful supply of provisions prepared. From 2Sa_13:23 it appears that it was the custom in those days to combine feasting and merriment with the shearing: compare also Gen_38:13. It was a time when men were generally disposed to be hospitable and kind. As to how far David was justified in appealing to man, rather than spreading his need before God alone, we undertake not to decide ó it is certainly not safe to draw any inference from the sequel.

"And thus shall ye say to him that liveth, Peace be both to thee, and peace be to thine house, and peace be unto all that thou hast. And now I have heard that thou hast shearers: now thy shepherds which were with us, we hurt them not, neither was there ought missing unto them, all the while they were in Carmel. Ask thy young men, and they will show thee. Wherefore let the young men find favour in thine eyes: for we come in a good day: give, I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thine hand unto thy servants, and to thy son David" (1Sa_25:6-8). The request to be presented before Nabal was one which the world would call respectful and tactful. The salutation of peace bespoke Davidís friendly spirit. Reminder was given that, in the past, David had not only restrained his men from molesting Nabalís flocks, but had also protected them from the depredations of invaders ó compare 1Sa_25:14-17. He might then have asked for a reward for his services, but instead he only supplicates a favor. Surely Nabal would not refuse his men a few victuals, for it was "a good day," a time when there was plenty to hand. Finally David takes the place of a "son," hoping to receive some fatherly kindness From him.

But as we examine this address more closely, we note the low ground which was taken: there was nothing spiritual in it! Moreover, we fully agree with Matthew Henryís comments on the opening words of 1Sa_25:6, "Thus shall ye say to him that liveth" . . . "as if those lived indeed that lived as Nabal did, with abundance of the wealth of this world about them; whereas, in truth, those that live in pleasure are dead while they live (1Ti_5:6). This was, methinks, too high a compliment to pass upon Nabal, to call him the man that liveth: David knew better things ó that Ďin Godís favour is life,í not in the worldís smiles; and, by the rough answer, he was well enough served for this too smooth address to such a muckworm."

"And when Davidís young men came, they spake to Nabal according to all those words in the name of David and ceased" (1Sa_25:9). This verse serves to illustrate another important principle: not only are Godís children more or less revealed by their reaction to and conduct under the varied experiences they encounter, but the presence of Godís servants tests the character of those with whom they come into contact. It was so here. A golden opportunity was afforded Nabal of showing kindness to the Lordís "anointed," but he seized it not. Alas, how many there are who know not the day of their visitation. Nabal had no heart for David, and clearly was this now made manifest. So too the selfishness and carnality of professors frequently becomes apparent by their failure to befriend the servants of God, when chances to do so are brought right to their door. It is a grand and holy privilege when the Lord sends one of His prophets into your neighborhood, yet it may issue in a fearfully solemn sequel.

"And Nabal answered Davidís servants, and said, Who is David? And who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master. Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh, that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?" (1Sa_25:10-11). What an insulting answer to return unto so mild a request! To justify a refusal he stooped to heaping insults on the head of David. It was not a total stranger who had applied to him, for Nabalís calling him "the son of Jesse" showed he knew well who he was; but, absorbed with schemes of selfish acquisition he cared not for him. Let it be duly noted that in acting in such a heartless manner Nabal clearly disobeyed óDeu_15:7-11. Nabalís repeated use of the word "my" in 1Sa_25:11 reminds us of the other rich "fool" in Luk_12:18-20.

"So Davidís young men turned their way, and went again, and came and told him all those sayings" (1Sa_25:12). Highly commendable was their conduct. "Young men" are often hot-blooded and hot-headed, and act impetuously and rashly; but they admirably restrained themselves. The language of Nabal had been highly offensive, but instead of returning railing for railing, they treated him with silent contempt and turned their backs upon him: such churls are not entitled to any reply. It is blessed to see they did not use force, and attempt to take what ought to have been freely given to them. Never are the children of God justified in so doing: we must ever seek grace to maintain a good conscience, "in all things willing to live honestly" (Heb_13:18). Ofttimes the best way for overcoming a temptation to make a wrathful reply, is to quietly turn away from those who have angered us.

"And came and told him all those sayings." Here we are shown how the servants of Christ are to act when abused. Instead of indulging the spirit of revenge, they are to go and spread their case before their Master (Luk_14:21). It was thus the perfect Servant acted: of Him it is written, "Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed His cause to Him that judgeth righteously" (1Pe_2:23). Ofttimes God brings us into trying situations to reveal unto us whether we are "acknowledging Him in all our ways" (Pro_3:6), or whether there is still a measure of self-sufficiency at work in our hearts ó our response to the trial makes manifest which be the case.

And what was Davidís response? How did he now react unto the disappointing tidings brought back by his men? Did he, as the servant of God, meekly bear Nabalís taunts and cutting reproach? Did he cast his burden on the Lord, looking to Him for sustaining grace (Psa_55:22)? Alas, he acted in the energy of the flesh. "And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; And David also girded on his sword" (1Sa_25:13). David neither betook himself to prayer nor reflected upon the matter, but hurriedly prepared to avenge the insult he had received.

True, the ingratitude which Nabal had shown, and the provoking language he had used, were hard to endureó too hard for mere flesh and blood, for human nature ever wants to vindicate itself. His only recourse lay in God: to see His hand in the trial, and to seek grace to bear it. But momentarily David forgot that he had committed his cause unto the Lord, and took matters into his own hands. And why did God permit this breakdown? That no flesh should glory in His presence (1Co_1:29). "This must be the reason why such-like episodes are found in the lives of all the Lordís servants. They serve to demonstrate that these servants were not any better flesh than other men, and that it was not more richly endowed brains that gave them faith of devotedness, but simply the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit" (C. H. Bright).

 

18 HIS CHECK FROM ABIGAIL (1 Sam 25)

In our last chapter we saw how that God submitted David unto a testing of quite another character and from a different quarter than those he had previously been tried by. Hitherto, the thorn in his side had been none other than the king of Israel, to which we may add the callous indifference toward him of the nation at large. But now he was unexpectedly rebuffed by an individual farmer, from whom he had sought some victuals for his men. "His churlish soul, adding insult to injury, dismissed the messenger of David with contumely and scorn. It is a hard thing to endure. David had endured, and was enduring much. He was suffering from the active enmity of Saul, and from the dull apathy of Israel. But both were great, and so to speak, dignified enemies. Saul was Israelís king; and Israel were Godís people. It seemed comparatively honourable to be persecuted by them: but it was a far different thing to endure the reproach of one so despicable as Nabal. ĎSurely in vain,í said David, Ďhave I kept all that this fellow hath in the wildernessí" (B. W. Newton).

What made the trial more poignant to Davidís soul, was the fact that he himself had acted honorably and kindly toward Nabal. When, on a previous occasion, he had sojourned in those parts, he had not only restrained his own men from preying upon Nabalís flocks, but had been a defense to them from the wandering bands of the Philistines. It was, then, the least that this wealthy sheep owner could do, to now show his appreciation and make present of a little food to Davidís men. Instead, he mocked them. Ingratitude is always trying to flesh and blood, but more so when it is coupled with gross injustice. Yet often God is pleased to try His people in this way, calling upon them to receive treatment which they feel is quite "uncalled for," yea, positively "unjust." And why does God permit this? For various reasons: among others, to furnish us opportunities to act out what we profess!

The reaction of David unto this trial is recorded for our learning: for us to lay to heart, and turn into earnest prayer. "And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword" (1Sa_25:13). Well may we ask, Had he been so long in the school of affliction and not yet learned patience? "He forgot that all suffering, all reproach, that is for Godís sake, is equally honourable, whether it come from a monarch, or from a churl. His proud spirit was roused, and he who had refused to lift up his hand against Saul, and had never unsheathed his sword against Israel: he who was called to fight, not for his own sake, against his own enemies, but for the Lordís sake against the Lordís enemies, he ó David, forgot his calling, and swore that Nabal should expiate his offence in blood" (B. W. Newton).

And how are we to account for his lapse? Wherein, particularly, was it that David failed? In being unduly occupied with the second cause, the human instrument; his eyes were upon man, rather than upon God. When his men returned with their disappointing tidings he ought to have said with Job, "Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job_2:10). Ah, it is easy for us to say what David ought to have said, but do we act any better when we are similarly tested? Alas, has not both writer and reader full reason to bow his head in shame! Far be it from us, who thoroughly deserve them ourselves, to throw stones at the beloved Psalmist. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit has faithfully recorded his failures, and the best way for us to profit from them is to trace them back to their source, and seek grace to avoid repeating them.

Above we asked the question, Had David been so long in the school of affliction and not yet learned patience? This leads us to enquire, What is patience? Negatively, it is meekly receiving as from God whatever enters our lives, a saying from the heart, "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" (Joh_18:11). Positively, it is a persevering continuance in the path of duty, not being overcome by the difficulties of the way. Now to accept as from God whatever enters our lives requires us to cultivate the habit of seeing His hand in every thing: just so long as we are unduly occupied with secondary causes and subordinate agents, do we destroy our peace. There is only one real haven for the heart, and that is to "rest in the Lord," to recognize and realize that "of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things" (Rom_11:36): ever seeking to learn His lesson in each separate incident.

It is blessed to know that "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord," and that "though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth his hand" (Psa_37:23-24). Yes, and ofttimes though we trip, He keeps us from falling. Where it is the genuine desire of the heart to please the Lord in all things, He will not let us go far wrong; where the will is sincerely bent Godwards, He will not suffer Satan to prevail. Thus it was here with David. To answer the fool [Nabal] according to his folly (Pro_26:4) was just what the devil desired, and momentarily he had gained an advantage over him. But the eyes of the Lord were upon His tempted servant, and graciously did He now move one to deter him from accomplishing his vindictive purpose. Let us admire His providential workings.

First, we are told that, "But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabalís wife, saying, Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to salute our master; and he railed on them. But the men were very good unto us, neither missed we any thing, as long as we were conversant with them, when we were in the fields: They were a wall unto us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore know and consider what thou wilt do; for evil is determined against our master, and against all his household: for he is such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him" (1Sa_25:14-17). One of Nabalís servants acquainted his mistress with what had transpired, confirming, be it noted, what was said, by Davidís men in 1Sa_25:7. He probably drew the logical inference that David would avenge his insult, and anxious for his own safety, as well as for the other members of the household, and yet not daring to voice his fears unto Nabal, he informed Abigail.

How wondrously God makes all things "work together" for the good of His own. How perfect are His ways: fulfilling His own secret and invincible designs, yet leaving quite free the instruments, who unconsciously, fulfill them. The providential machinery to restrain the impetuous David was now set in motion. A servant of Nabalís, moved by nothing higher than the instinct of self-preservation (so far as his consciousness went), warns his mistress of their impending danger. Now mark, secondly, her response: she did not laugh at the servant, and tell him his fears were groundless; nor was she suddenly paralyzed by feminine fright at the alarming tidings. No, a hidden Hand calmed her heart and directed her mind. Accepting the warning, she acted promptly, setting out at once with an elaborate present to placate the angry David; a present that would meet the immediate needs of his hungry men: see 1Sa_25:18-19.

There are some who have criticized this action of Abigailís, dwelling upon the last clause of 1Sa_25:19 : "But she told not her husband Nabal." Such a criticism is a very superficial conclusion. What Abigail did was necessary for the protection of the family. Perceiving that Nabalís stubbornness would ruin them all, the exigencies of the situation fully justified her conduct. It is true she owed allegiance to her husband, but her first and great duty was to take measures to protect their lives: inferior interests must always be sacrificed to secure the greater ó our property to preserve our lives, our very lives to preserve our souls. As we shall see, 1Sa_25:24-28 make it clear that she acted from no disloyalty to Nabal. Nevertheless, it is an extraordinary case which is here before us, and so not to be used as an example.

And what of David at this time? Was he recovered from his outburst of anger? No, indeed, or there had been no need for Abigailís mission of conciliation. The words of Nabal were still rankling within his heart. Hear him as he petulantly declares, "Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him: and he hath requited me evil for good" (1Sa_25:21). He repented of the kindness shown Nabal, feeling now that it had been wasted upon him, that he was devoid of gratitude and incapable of appreciating the good turn shown him. But God is "kind to the unthankful and to the evil," and bids us "Be ye therefore merciful" (Luk_6:35-36). Ah, to cultivate that attitude we must seek grace to mortify the spirit of pride which desires recognition, and that bitterness which rises when we are slighted.

Not only was David chafing under the ingratitude and taunts of Nabal, but he was still bent on revenge: as 1Sa_25:23 shows, he had determined to slay every male in Nabalís household. This was unjust and cruel in the extreme, and if God had suffered him to carry out such a design, would have greatly sullied his character and given his enemies an immense advantage against him. So determined was he, that he confirmed his intention with an oath, which was rash and savored of profanity. See here, dear reader, what even the child of God is capable of when grace is not active within him. The realization of this ought to make us walk softly, and work out our salvation with "fear and trembling." It is for this reason that God so often withdraws from us the power of His Spirit: that we may know what is yet in our hearts (2Ch_32:31), and be humbled before Him.

How blessedly God times His mercies. Here was David premeditating evil, yea, on the point of carrying out his wicked purpose. But there was one, sent by the Lord, already on the way to deliver him from himself. Ah, dear reader, have not you and I often been the recipient of similar favors from Heaven? Were there not times, be they recalled to our deep shame, when we had determined upon a course dishonoring to our Lord; when, all praise unto Him, some one crossed our path, and we were delayed, hindered, deterred? That some one may not have spoken to us as definitely as Abigail did unto David: rather perhaps their errand was of quite another nature, which at the time we may have resented as a nuisance for interrupting us; but now, as we look back, do we not see the kind hand of God withholding us from carrying out an evil purpose!

Apparently David was already on his way to execute his evil intention when Abigail met him (1Sa_25:20). Blessed it is to see the place which she now took: "When Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face and bowed herself to the ground; and fell at his feet" (1Sa_25:23-24). This was not mere adulation, and it was something more than an oriental salutation: it was faithís acknowledgment of the "anointed of the Lord." Nabal had insulted him as a runaway slave, but his wife owns him as a superior, as her king in the purpose of God. Her address to him on this occasion (1Sa_25:24-31) is deserving of close study, but we can only offer a few brief remarks upon it.

It is to be carefully noted that Abigail did not upbraid David for cherishing the spirit of revenge and tell him that it ill became his character and calling: that had not been seemly for her to do; rather did she leave it for his conscience to accuse him. She did not excuse her husbandís conduct, nor did the present case allow her to hide his infirmity, but she sought to turn his well-known character for rashness and insolence (1Sa_25:25) into an argument with David, why he should lay aside his resentment. ĎShe intimated that Nabal (whose name means Ďfollyí), intended no peculiar affront to him, but only spoke in his usual way of treating those who applied to him; and it was beneath a person of Davidís reputation and eminence to notice the rudeness of such a man" (Thomas Scott).

Abigailís piety comes out clearly in 1Sa_25:26. Possibly she perceived a change in Davidís countenance, or more probably she felt in her spirit that the object before her was now gained; but instead of attributing this unto her pleading, or the present she had brought, she ascribed it solely unto the restraining grace of God: "the Lord hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand." Thus alone is God honored and given His proper place, when we freely impute unto His working all that is good in and from our fellow-creatures. Beautiful too is it to behold how she shields her churlish husband: "upon me, my lord, upon me, let this iniquity be" (1Sa_25:24), "I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine hand maid" (1Sa_25:28). She took upon herself the blame for the illtreatment of his men, and says, If thou wilt be angry, be angry against me, rather than with my poor husband.

Next, we behold her strong faith: "the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house" (1Sa_25:28). She makes reference unto the future to draw his heart from the present. As another has said, "To the heir of a kingdom, a few sheep could have but little attraction; and one who knew that he had the anointing oil of the Lord upon his head, might easily bear to be called a runaway servant." Ah, it is ever the office of faith to look beyond present circumstances and difficulties, on to the time of deliverance; only thus do we begin to judge things from Godís viewpoint. Then she pointed out that David was fighting "the battles of the Lord" (1Sa_25:28), and therefore it was not for him to think of avenging an insult to himself.

Her closing words in 1Sa_25:29-31 are very beautiful. First, she makes reference to the relentless persecution of Saul, but in becoming loyalty to the throne speaks of him as "a man" rather than "the king," and assures David in most striking language that his life should be preserved (1Sa_25:29). Second, looking away from his abject condition, she confidently contemplated the time when the Lord would make him "ruler over Israel": how heartening was this unto the tried servant of God! Thus too does God often send us a word of comfort when we are most sorely tried. Third, she pleaded with David that he would let his coming glory regulate his present actions, so that in that day, his conscience would not reproach him for previous follies. If we kept more before us the judgment-seat of Christ, surely our conduct would be more regulated thereby. Finally, she besought David to remember her, his "handmaid," when he should ascend the throne.

"ĎAs an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient earí (Pro_25:12). Abigail was a wise reprover of Davidís passion, and he gave an obedient ear to the reproof according to his own principle: ĎLet the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindnessí (Psa_141:5): never was such an admonition either better given or better taken" (Matthew Henry). Herein are the children of God made manifest; they are tractable, open to conviction, willing to be shown their faults; but the children of the devil ("sons of Belial") are like Nabal ó churlish, stubborn, proud, unbending. Ah, my reader, lay this to heart: if we will listen to faithful counselors now, we shall be delivered from much folly and spared bitter regrets in the future.

God blessed this word of Abigailís to David, so that he was now able to view the whole transaction and his own bitter spirit and purpose, in a true light. First, he praises God for sending him this check in a sinful course (1Sa_25:32): it is a true mark of spirituality when we discern and own the Lordís hand in such deliverances. Second, he thanked Abigail for so kindly interposing between him and the sin he was about to commit (1Sa_25:33): ah, we must not only receive a reproof patiently, but thank the faithful giver of it. Note that instead of speaking lightly of the evil he premeditated, David emphasized its enormity. Third, he dismissed her with a message of peace, and accepted her offering. The whole shows us wise men are open to sound advice, even though it comes from their inferiors; and that oaths must not bind us to do that which is evil.

Finally, let us point out for the benefit of preachers, that we have in the above incident a blessed picture of an elect soul being drawn to Christ.

1. Abigail was yoked to Nabal: so by nature we are wedded to the law as a covenant of works, and it is "against us" (Col_2:14).

2. She was barren to Nabal (see Rom_7:1-4).

3. It was tidings of impending doom which caused her to seek David (1Sa_25:17).

4. She took her place in the dust before him (1Sa_25:23).

5. She came to him confessing "iniquity" (1Sa_25:24).

6. She sought "forgiveness" (1Sa_25:28).

7. She was persuaded of Davidís goodness (1Sa_25:28).

8. She owned his exaltation (1Sa_25:30).

9. She, like the dying thief, begs to be "remembered" (1Sa_25:31).

David granted her request, accepted her person, and said, "Go in peace" (1Sa_25:35)!

 

 

 

19 HIS MARRIAGE TO ABIGAIL(1 Sam 25)

"Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner" (Pro_11:31). This is a most appropriate verse with which to introduce the passage that is to engage our attention, for each of its clauses receives striking illustration in what is now to be before us. The closing verses of 1 Samuel 25 supply both a blessed and a solemn sequel to what is found earlier in the chapter. There we saw the wicked triumphing, and the righteous being oppressed. There we saw the godly wife of the churl, Nabal, graciously and faithfully befriending the outcast David. Here we behold the hand of Godís judgment falling heavily upon the wicked, and the hand of His grace rewarding the righteous.

"Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner." Of all the hundreds of Solomonís inspired proverbs this is the only one which is prefaced by the word "Behold." This at once intimates that a subject of great importance is here in view, bidding us fix the eyes of our mind upon the same with close and admiring attention. That subject is the providential dealings of God in human affairs, a subject which has fallen sadly into disfavor during the last two or three generations, and one concerning which much ignorance and error now widely prevails. Three things are clearly signified by Pro_11:31 : first, that God disposes the affairs of all His creatures; second, that He pleads the cause of the innocent and vindicates His oppressed people; third, that He plagues and overthrows evildoers.

Practically all professing Christians believe that there is a future day of retribution, when God shall reward the righteous and punish the wicked; but comparatively few believe God now does so. Yet the verse with which we have opened expressly declares that "The righteous shall be recompensed in the eaRuth" It is impossible to read the Scriptures with an unprejudiced mind and not see this truth exhibited in the history of individuals, families and nations. Cain murdered Abel: a mark was set upon him by God, and he cried, "my punishment is greater than I can bear." Noah was a just man and walked with God: he and his family were preserved from the flood. Pharaoh persecuted the Hebrews, and was drowned at the Red Sea. Saul thirsted for Davidís life, and was slain in battle. Of the Lord we must say, "Verily, He is a God that judgeth in the earth" (Psa_58:11).

And now comes one with this objection: All that you have said above obtained during the Old Testament dispensation, but in this Christian era it is not so; we are shut up to faith. How ridiculous. Has God vacated His throne? Is He no longer shaping human affairs? Is His governmental justice no longer operative? Why, the most signal example in all history of Godís "recompensing" the wicked and the sinner in the earth, has transpired in this Christian dispensation! It was in A.D. 70 that God publicly executed judgment upon Jerusalem for the Jewsí rejection and crucifixion of their Messiah, and the condition of that people throughout the earth ever since, has been a perpetual exemplification of this solemn truth. The same principle has been repeatedly manifested in the establishment of Christianity upon the ruins of its oppressors. As to Christians being "shut up to faith," so were the Old Testament saints just as much as we are: Hab_2:1-4.

But let us notice a more formidable objection. Have there not been many righteous souls who were falsely accused, fiercely persecuted, and who were not vindicated on earth by God? Have there not been many of the wicked who have prospered temporally, and received no retribution in this life? First, let it be pointed out that God does not always respond immediately. The writer has lived long enough to see more than one or two who traded on the Sabbath, oppressed widows, and despised all religion, brought to want. Second, there is a happy medium between denying (on the one hand) that God is not now acting at all in the capacity of Judge, and insisting (on the other hand) that every man fully reaps in this life what he has sown.

Here, as everywhere, the truth lies between two extremes. If God were to visibly reward every righteous act and punish every evil-doer in this life, much of the work pertaining to the great Day of Judgment would be forestalled. But if God never honors in this world those who honor Him, or punishes those who openly defy Him, then we should be without any pre-intimations of that Great Assize, other than what is revealed in those Scriptures of Truth which very few so much as read. Therefore, in His providential government of the world, God wisely gives sufficiently clear manifestations of His love and righteousness and hatred of unrighteousness, as to leave all without excuse concerning what may be expected when we stand before Him to be fully and finally judged. While there are sufficient cases of godliness apparently passing unrewarded and examples of evil-doers prospering, as to leave full room for the exercise of faith that the righteousness of God shall yet be completely vindicated; nevertheless, there are also a sufficient number of clear demonstrations before our eyes of Godís vengeance upon the wicked to awe us that we sin not.

"And Abigail came to Nabal; and behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabalís heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken: wherefore she told him nothing, less or more until the morning light" (1Sa_25:36). Recall the circumstances. Only a little while previously Nabal had offered a gross insult to one who was in dire need, and who had several hundred men under his command. Measured by the standards of the world that insult called for retaliation, and so felt the one who had received it. David had sworn to revenge himself by slaying Nabal and every male member of his household, and 1Sa_25:23 makes it plain that he was on his way to execute that purpose. But for the timely intervention of his wife, Nabal had been engaged in a hopeless fight to preserve his life; and here we see him feasting and drunken!

As Abigail furnishes a typical illustration of a needy sinner coming to Christ and being saved by Him (see close of last chapter), so Nabal affords us a solemn portrayal of one who despised Christ and perished in his sins. Let preachers develop the leading points which we here note down in passing. See the false security of sinners when in dire danger: Ecc_8:11. Observe how one who grudges to give to God for the relief of His poor, will lavishly spend money to satisfy his lusts or make a fair show in the flesh: Luk_16:19-21. O how many there are more concerned about having what they call "a good time," than they are in making their peace with God: Isa_55:2. So sottish are some in the indulging of their appetites that they sink lower than the beasts of the field: Isa_1:3. It is adding insult to injury when the sinner not only breaks Godís laws but abuses His mercies: Luk_14:18-20. Remember people are intoxicated with other things besides "wine" ó worldly fame, worldly riches, worldly pleasures.

Yes, the fool Nabal vividly portrays the case of multitudes all around us. The curse of Godís broken law hanging over them, yet "feasting" as though all is well with their souls for eternity. The sword of divine justice already drawn to smite them down, yet their hearts "merry" with "the pleasures of sin for a seaSong." The Water of Life neglected, but "drunken" with the intoxicating things of this perishing world. A grave awaiting them in a few daysí time, but flirting with death during the brief and precious interval. In such a benumbed and giddy state, that it would be the casting of pearls before swine for the godly to speak seriously unto them. O how securely the devil holds his victims! O the beguiling and paralyzing effects of sin! O the utterly hopeless condition of the unbelieving, unless a sovereign God intervenes, works a miracle of grace, and snatches him as a brand from the burning!

"But it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became as a stone" (1Sa_25:37). The day of danger had been spent in reveling, the night in intoxicated stupefaction, and now he is called, as it were, to account. The sacred narrative records no reproaches that Abigail made: they were not necessary ó the guilty conscience of Nabal would perform its own office. Instead, she merely told her husband of what had transpired. Her words at once dispelled his dreams, shattered his peace, and sank his spirits. Most probably, he was overcome with fright, that notwithstanding his wifeís kindly overtures, David would swiftly take vengeance upon him. Filled with bitter remorse, now it was too late to repent, giving way to abject despair, Nabalís heart "became as stone." See here a picture of the poor worldling when facing death, and the terrors of the Almighty overwhelming him. See here the deceitfulness of carnal pleasures: overnight his heart merry with wine, now paralyzed with horror and terror. Yes, the "end of that mirth is heaviness" (Pro_14:13); how different the joys which God gives!

"And it came to pass about ten days after, that the Lord smote Nabal, that he died" (1Sa_25:38). What a fearfully solemn termination to a wasted life! Nabalís course was one of folly, his end was that of "the fool." Here was a man "very great" (1Sa_25:2), who had boastfully spoken of "my bread, my flesh, my shearers" (1Sa_25:11); who had scorned David, and spent his time in excessive self-gratification now arrived at the close of his earthly journey, with nothing before him but "the blackness of darkness forever." He seems to have lain in a senseless stupor for ten days, induced either by the effects of his intoxication, or from the horror and anguish of his mind, and this was completed by the immediate stroke of the power and wrath of God, cutting him off out of the land of the living. Such is, my reader, the doom of every one who despises and rejects Christ as Lord and Saviour.

"And it came to pass about ten days after, that the Lord smote Nabal, that he died." Not only is the case of Nabal a solemn example of a careless, giddy, reckless sinner, suddenly cut off by God whilst giving himself up to the indulgence of the flesh, when the sword of divine judgment was suspended over his head; but we also see in his death an exhibition of the faithfulness of God, an illustration of Rom_12:19 : "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." Not only is it sinful for the saint to avenge himself when unjustly insulted and ill treated, but it is quite unnecessary. In due time Another will do it far more effectually for him.

"And when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, Blessed be the Lord, that has pleaded the cause of my reproach from the land of Nabal, and hath kept His servant from evil: for the Lord hath returned the wickedness of Nabal upon his own head" (1Sa_25:39). It is not that David was guilty of unholy glee over the wretched end of one who had wronged him, but that he rejoiced in the display of Godís glory, of the exercise of divine justice, and the triumphing of piety over iniquity. Therein lies the real key to a number of passages which many of our moderns suppose breathe only a vengeful spirit: as though God erected a lower standard of holiness in Old Testament times than is now given to us. Such was not the case: the law, equally with the Gospel, required love for the neighbor.

As this subject has been so sadly wrested by "Dispensationalists," let us add a few words here. Take for example Psa_58:10, "The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked." Superficial people say, "But that is altogether contrary to the spirit of this dispensation!" But read on: "So that a man shall say. Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily He is a God that judgeth in the earth" (Psa_58:11). It was not the exercise of a spirit of malice, which took delight in seeing the destruction of their foes: no indeed: for in the Old Testament the divine command was, "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth" (Pro_24:17). Instead, it was the heart bowing in worship before the governmental dealings of God, adoring that Justice which gave unto the wicked their due. And where the heart is not completely under the dominion of maudlin sentimentality, there will be rejoicing today when some notoriously wicked character is manifestly cut down by the holy hand of God: so it will be at the end of this era: see Rev_18:20; Rev_19:1-2.

Ere passing on to the next verses, let us take notice of Davidís thankful acknowledgment of Godís restraining grace: "Blessed be the Lord, that hath pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and hath kept His servant from evil" (1Sa_25:39). If we carefully reviewed the details of each day, we should frequently find occasion to admire the sin-preventing providences of God. We may well adopt the language of the Psalmist at the close of a beautiful illustration of the divine mercies: "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord" (Psa_107:43). Let us never miss an opportunity of praising God when He graciously keeps us from committing any evil we had premeditated.

"And David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife. And when the servants of David were come to Abigail to Carmel, they spake unto her, saying, David sent us unto thee, to take thee to him to wife" (1Sa_25:39-40). The stroke of Godís judgment had freed Abigail from a painful situation, and now the workings of His providence rewarded her righteousness. God gave her favor in the eyes of His anointed. David was charmed not only with the beauty of her person and the prudence of her character, but also with her evident piety ó the most valuable quality of all in a wife. Abigail being now a widow, and Davidís own wife living in adultery, be sent messengers with a proposal of marriage to her. This line in the type is strikingly accurate: the Lord Jesus does not court His wife immediately, but employs the ministers of the Gospel, endued with the Holy Spirit, to woo and win sinners unto Himself.

"And she arose, and bowed herself on her face to the earth and said, Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord" (1Sa_25:41). Very beautiful is it to see the great modesty and humility with which such a wealthy woman received the advances of David, deeming herself unworthy of such an honor, yea, having such respect for him that she would gladly be one of the meanest servants of his household. She accepted his proposal, and thereby added still another line to this typical picture of conversion: note how in the margin of 2Ch_30:8 faith is represented as to "give the hand unto the Lord"!

"And Abigail hasted, and arose, and rode upon an ass, with five damsels of hers that went after her; and she went after the messengers of David, and became his wife" (1Sa_25:42). Most blessed is this. At the time, David was an homeless wanderer, outlawed; yet Abigail was willing not only to forsake her own house and comfortable position, but to share his trials and endure hardships for his sake. Nevertheless, she knew it would be only for a brief season: she married in faith, assured of the fulfillment of Godís promises (1Sa_25:30) and confident that in due course she would "reign with him"! And this is what true conversion is: a turning of our back upon the old life, willing to suffer the loss of all things for Christ, with faith looking forward to the future.

"David also took Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they were also both of them his wives. But (or "for") Saul had given Michal his daughter, Davidís wife, to Phalti the son of Laish, which was of Gallim" (1Sa_25:43-44). Polygamy, though not in accord with either the law of nature or the law of God, was a custom which prevailed in those degenerate days, which some good men gave in to, though they are not to be commended for it. In taking Ahinoam of Jezreel to wife (and later several others: 2 Sam. 3), David followed the corruption of the times, but from the beginning it was not so, nor is it permissible now since Christ has ushered in "the times of reformation" (Mat_19:4-6).

20 HIS CHASTENING (1 Sam 26)

Some of our readers may wonder why we have given to the present chapter such a title, and what bearing it has upon the contents of 1 Samuel 26; if so, we would ask them to thoughtfully ponder the closing verses of the preceding chapter. Much is lost by many readers of the Bible through failing to observe the connection between the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another; even when incidents which are totally distinct and different follow each other, a spiritual eye may often discern an intimate moral relation between them, and therein many valuable lessons may be learned. Such is the case here. At first glance there appears to be no logical link uniting the further uncalled-for attack of Saul upon David, and his having taken unto himself a wife a little before; but the two things are related as is effect to cause, and here is to be found the key which opens to us the Divine significance of what is now to be before us.

"The way of transgressors is hard" (Pro_13:15). No doubt the primary reference in these words is to the wicked, yet the principle of them unquestionably holds good in the case of the redeemed. In the keeping of Godís commandments there is "great reward" (Psa_19:11), in this life (1Ti_4:8) as well as in that which is to come; but in the breaking of Godís commandments bitter chastening is sure to follow. Wisdomís ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace (Pro_3:17), but he who departs from Wisdomís ways and follows a course of self-will, must expect to smart for it. So it was now in the experience of David. It is true that in case of marital infidelity the Mosaic law permitted the innocent one to obtain a divorce and marry again; but it made no provision for a plurality of wives, and that was what David was now guilty of; and for his sin he was sorely chastised.

Ah, my reader, let this truth sink deep into thine heart: God is exercising a moral government over the believer as well as the unbeliever, and He will no more wink at the sins of the one than He will of the other. David was saved by grace through faith apart from any good works as tile meritorious cause, as truly as we are; but he was also called to be holy in all manner of conversation or behavior, as we are. Grace does not set aside the requirements of Divine holiness, instead, it reigns "through righteousness" (Rom_5:21). And when one who has been saved by grace fails to deny "ungodliness and worldly lusts" (Tit_2:12), then the chastening rod of God falls upon him, that he may be a "partaker of His holiness" (Heb_12:10). And this, be it noted, is not only a part of the Fatherís dealings with His children, but it is also a part of his ways with His subjects as the Moral Ruler of this world.

As we suggested in the seventh chapter of this hook, it was Davidís being united in marriage to the unbelieving Michal which accounts for the painful experiences he passed through while a member of Saulís household. Trials do not come upon us haphazardly; no, they come from the hand of God. Nor does He act capriciously, but according to the righteous principles of His government. In an earlier chapter we saw how that God graciously protected David when the devil-driven king sought his life, and how that He moved him to return home. Why, then, should His restraining hand be removed, and Saul allowed to go forth again on a blood-thirsty mission? Why should the brief respite David had enjoyed now be so rudely broken? The answer is that God was again using his enemy to chasten David for his recent sin, that he might, by painful experience, learn anew that the way of transgressors is hard.

"O that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea" (Isa_48:18). What a difference it makes whether the ways of a Christian please or displease the Ruler of this world: it is the difference of having God for, or having Him against us ó not in the absolute sense, not in the eternal sense, but in His governmental dealings with us. When the heart be right with God, then He shows Himself strong on our behalf (2Ch_16:9). When our ways please Him, then He makes even our enemies to be at peace with us (Pro_16:7). Then how diligently should we guard our hearts and ponder the path of our feet (Pro_4:23-26). Carelessness invites disaster; disobedience ensures chastening; sinning will withhold good things from us (Jer_5:25).

It is very important to see that while the penal and eternal consequences of the Christianís sins have been remitted by God, because atoned for by Christ, yet the disciplinary and temporal effects thereof are not cancelled ó otherwise the saints would never be sick or die. It is not God in His absolute character, acting according to His ineffably holy nature, but God in His official character, acting according to the principles of His righteous government, which deals with the present conduct of His people, rewarding them for their obedience and chastening for disobedience. Hence, when God makes use of the devil and his agents to scourge His people, it is not unto their ultimate destruction, but unto their present plaguing and disciplining. And this is exactly what we see in our present lesson: Saul was allowed to disturb Davidís rest, but not to take his life. In like manner, the devil is often permitted to whip us, but never to devour us.

"And the Ziphites came unto Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself in the hills of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon?" (1Sa_26:1). The reader may remember that the Ziphites had shown themselves unfriendly towards David on a former occasion. Was it not then a hazardous thing for him to return unto those parts! How are we to account for his acting so injudiciously, and thus courting danger? Ah, let us recall what was pointed out under 1Sa_21:1 in Chapter 8 of this book. When the soul is out of touch with God, when fellowship with Him has been broken by giving way to the lusts of the flesh, the judgment is dulled, and imprudent conduct is sure to be the effect. It is not without reason that godliness is so often designated "wisdom" (i.e. Psa_90:12), and that a course of evil doing is termed "folly."

David had acted imprudently in marrying Abigail; he had committed a grave sin in taking unto wife Ahinoam. We say he had acted "imprudently" in marrying Abigail. The time was not propitious for that. He was then a homeless wanderer, and in no condition to give unto a wife the care and devotion to which she is entitled. Holy Scripture declares, "to everything there is a season" (Ecc_3:1). While on this point, let it be said that, in the judgment of the writer, young men who are out of work and have no good prospects of soon obtaining any, are acting imprudently, yea, rashly, in getting married. Let them possess their souls in patience (Luk_21:19) and wait a more favorable season, and not tempt God.

"And the Ziphites came unto Saul of Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself in the hills of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon?" If we venture upon the enemyís territory we must expect to be harassed by him. It is probable these Ziphites were fearful that should David succeed Saul on the throne, then he would avenge himself upon them for their previous perfidy: if so, they were now the more anxious that he should be captured and slain. Afraid to tackle him themselves, they sent word to the king of Davidís present whereabouts. Their message presented a temptation for Saul to return again unto that evil course which he had abandoned, temporarily at least: thus does one evil-doer encourage another in wickedness.

"Then Saul arose, and went down to the wilderness of Ziph, having three thousand chosen men of Israel with him, to seek David in the wilderness of Ziph" (1Sa_26:2). Poor Saul, his goodness was as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it vanished away. "How soon do unsanctified hearts lose the good impressions which their convictions have made upon them, and return with the dog to their vomit" (Matthew Henry). O what need has even the Christian to pray earnestly unto God, that since he still has so much of the tinder of corruption left within, the sparks of temptation may be kept far from him, lest when they come together they are "set on fire of hell" (Jam_3:6). The providential restraint of God in causing Saul to leave off pursuing David because the Philistines were invading his territory, had wrought no change within him: his evil disposition towards Godís anointed was the same as ever; and now that the favorable opportunity to seize David presented itself, he gladly made the most of it.

The action of Saul here provides a solemn illustration of a well known principle: if sin be not dethroned and mortified, it will soon recover its strength, and when a suitable temptation is presented, break out again with renewed force. How often do the servants of God witness souls under deep conviction, followed by a marked reformation, which leads them to believe that a genuine work of grace has taken place within them; only to see them, a little later, return to their sins and become worse than ever. So here: upon receiving word from the Ziphites, Saulís enmity and malice revived, and, like Pharaoh of old, he again hardened his heart, and determined to make another effort to remove his rival. And thus it is with many a one who has been sobered and awed by the Word: after a brief season, Satan and his agents suggest such thoughts as tend to rekindle the smothered flame, and then the lusts of the flesh are again allowed free play. O my reader, beg God to deepen your convictions and write His law on your heart.

"And Saul pitched in the hill Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon, by the way. But David abode in the wilderness, and he saw that Saul came after him into the wilderness. David therefore sent out spies, and understood that Saul was come in very deed" (1Sa_26:3-4). "David neither fled, nor went out to meet Saul, when he was fully certified that he was actually come forth to destroy him! Had a much greater army of uncircumcised Philistines marched against him, he would doubtless have forced them with his small company, and trusted in God for the event; but he would not fight against the ĎLordís anointedí" (Thomas Scott).

"David therefore sent out spies, and understood that Saul was come in very deed." From the previous verse it would seem David had perceived that some large force was advancing into that part of the country where he and his men were now quartered. Though not certain as to who was at the head of the approaching army, he probably suspected that it was none other than Saul, and therefore did he now send out spies to make sure. He would not fully believe that the king had again dealt so basely with him, till he had the clearest proof of it: thereby does he set us an example not to believe the worst of our enemies till we are really forced to do so by incontestable evidence.

"And David arose, and came to the place where Saul had pitched; and David beheld the place where Saul lay, and Abner the son of Net, the captain of his hosts; and Saul lay in the trench, and the people pitched round about him" (1Sa_26:5). Most likely it was in the dusk of the evening that David now went forward to reconnoiter, surveying from close range the order of Saulís camp and the strength of its entrenchments. Though he knew the Lord was his Protector, yet he deemed it necessary to be upon his guard and make use of means for his safety. Well for us when we act as wisely as serpents, but as harmless as doves. It is to be noted that David did not entrust this critical task unto any of his underlings, but performed it in perSong. The leader ought always to take the lead in the most difficult and dangerous tasks.

"Then answered David and said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Abishai the son of Zeruiah, brother to Joab, saying, Who will go down with me to Saul to the camp? And Abishai said, I will go down with thee" (1Sa_26:6). David now addressed himself unto two of those who were, most likely, his closest attendants, asking who was bold enough to volunteer in accompanying him on an exceedingly dangerous enterprise ó that of two men entering a camp of three thousand soldiers. There is little room for doubt that David was prompted by the Spirit to act thus, from whom he probably received assurance of divine protection: thereby he would be afforded another opportunity of demonstrating to Saul and Israel his innocency. Ahimelech was probably a proselyted Hittite, and not having that faith in the God of Israel which such a severe testing called for, held back, but Abishai, who was Davidís own nephew (1 Chronicles 15:1-16), readily agreed to accompany David.

"So David and Abishai came to the people by night: and, behold, Saul lay sleeping within the trench, and his spear stuck in the ground at his bolster: but Abner and the people lay around about him" (1Sa_26:7). What an extraordinary situation now presented itself before the eyes of David and his lone companion? Where was the guard? Had the watchmen failed at their point of duty? There was none to sound an alarm: the entire camp was wrapped in slumber so profound that, though the two uninvited visitors walked and talked in their midst, none was aroused. Ah, how easily can God render impotent an entire host of enemies! All the forces of nature are under His immediate control: He can awaken from the sleep of death, and He can put the living into such a heavy sleep that none can awaken them. There was Saul and all his forces as helpless as though they were in fetters of iron.

"Then said Abishai to David, God hath delivered thine enemy into thine hand this day: now therefore let me smite him, I pray thee, with the spear even to the earth at once, and I will not smite him the second time" (1Sa_26:8). In view of what had transpired in the cave (1Sa_24:4-6), no doubt Abishai thought that though David scrupled to kill Saul with his own hand, yet he would allow one of his officers to slay him: thus would an end be put to the difficulties and dangers unto himself and his adherents, by cutting off at one blow their inveterate persecutor; the more so, since Providence had again placed Saul in their power, apparently for this very purpose. This illustrates the fact that often it requires as much godly resolution to restrain the excesses of zealous but unspiritual friends, as it does to stand firm against the rage of incensed enemies.

A powerful temptation was here set before David. Had their positions been reversed, would Saul hesitate to slay him? Why, then, should David allow sentiment to prevail? Moreover, did it not look as though God had arranged things to this very end? The previous opportunity was not nearly so strongly marked as this one: Saul had, as it were, accidentally wandered into the cave, but here was something extraordinary ó the entire camp was wrapped in a supernatural slumber. Furthermore, his attendant urges upon him that it was the will of God to now take things into his own hand. But David was not to be moved from his loyalty to the throne. First, he told Abishai that it would be sinful to lay violent hands upon one whose person was sacred (1Sa_26:10), for Saul had been appointed by God and anointed for his office. Second, he declared it was unnecessary: God would, sooner or later, cut him off (1Sa_26:10-11). Remembering how the Lord had just before smitten Nabal, he left it to Him to avenge his cause.

"So David took the spear and the cruse of water from Saulís bolster; and they gat them away, and no man saw it, nor knew it, neither awaked; for they were all asleep; because a deep sleep from the Lord was fallen upon them" (1Sa_26:12). Here we see David as a type of Christ in His wonderful forbearance toward His enemies, and in His faith in God: 1Pe_2:23. Davidís procedure was an effective method of convincing Saul that he could have slain him. And what a proof to the king that the Lord had departed from him, and was protecting David! "Thus do we lose our strength and comfort when we are careless and secure, and off our watch" (Matthew Henry), gives the practical lesson for us in Saulís losing his spear and cruse of water.

 

21 HIS FINAL WORDS WITH SAUL (1 Sam 26)

"There are few periods in the life of David in Which his patient endurance was displayed more conspicuously than in his last interview with Saul. Saul had once more fallen into his power; but David again refused to avail himself of the advantage. He would not deliver himself by means that God did not sanction, nor stretch out his hand against the Lordís anointed. Recognition of the excellency of David, and confession of his own sin, was extorted, even from the lips of Saul" (B. W. Newton).

In the preceding chapter we followed David and his lone attendant as they entered the camp of Saul, and secured the kingís spear and the cruse of water which lay at his head. Having accomplished his purpose, David now retired from his sleeping enemies. Carrying with him clear evidence that he had been in their very midst, he determined to let them know what had transpired, for he was far from being ashamed of his conduct ó when our actions are innocent, we care not who knows of them. David now stations himself within hailing distance, yet sufficiently removed that they could not come at him quickly or easily. "Then David went over to the other side and stood on the top of an hill afar off; a great space being between them" (1Sa_26:13). This was evidently on some high point facing the "hill of Hachilah" (1Sa_26:3), a wide valley lying between.

"And David cried to the people, and to Abner the son of Ner, saying, Answerest thou not, Abner?" (1Sa_26:14) David now hailed the sleeping camp with a loud voice, addressing himself particularly unto Abner, who was the general of the army. Apparently he had to call more than once before Abner was fully aroused. "Then Abner answered and said, Who art thou that criest to the king?" Probably those were words both of anger and contempt: annoyance at being so rudely disturbed from his rest, and scorn as he recognized the voice of the speaker. Abner had so lightly esteemed David and his men, that he had not considered it necessary to keep awake personally, nor even to appoint sentinels to watch the camp. The force of his question was, Whom do you think you are, that you should address the monarch of Israel! Let not the servants of God deem it a strange thing that those occupying high offices in the world consider them quite beneath their notice.

"And David said to Abner, art not thou a valiant man? and who is like to thee in Israel? wherefore then hast thou not kept thy lord the king? for there came one of the people in to destroy the king thy lord" (1Sa_26:15). David was not to be brow-beaten. "The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion" (Pro_28:1). Where the fear of God rules the heart, man cannot intimidate. Paul before Agrippa, Luther before the Diet of Worms, John Knox before the bloody Queen Mary, are cases in point. My reader, if you tremble before worms of the dust, it is because you do not tremble before God. David boldly charged Abner with his criminal neglect. First, he reminded him that he was a valiant "man," i.e. a man in office, and therefore duty bound to guard the person of the king. Second, he bantered him in view of the high position he held. Third, he informed him of how the kingís life had been in danger that night as the result of his culpable carelessness. It was tantamount to telling him he was disgraced forever.

"This thing is not good that thou hast done. As the Lord liveth ye are worthy to die, because ye have not kept your master, the Lordís anointed" (1Sa_26:16). By martial law Abner and his officers had forfeited their lives. It should be duly noted that David was not here speaking as a private person to Saulís general, but as the servant and mouthpiece of God, as is evident from "as the Lord liveth." "And now, see where the kings spear is, and the cruse of water that was at his bolster." David continued to banter him: the force of his word was, Who is really the kingís friend ó you who neglected him and left him exposed, or I that spared him when he was at my mercy! You are stirring up Saul against me, and pursuing me as one who is unfit to live; but who, now, is worthy to die? it was plainly a case of the biter being bit.

"And Saul knew Davidís voice, and said, Is this thy voice, my son David?" (1Sa_26:17) The king at once recognized the voice of him that was denouncing Abner, and addressed him in terms of cordial friendship. See here another illustration of the instability and fickleness of poor fallen man: one day thirsting after Davidís blood, and the next day speaking to him in terms of affection! What reliance can be placed in such a creature? How it should make us the more revere and adore the One who declares, "I am the Lord, I change not" (Mal_3:6). "And David said, it is my voice, my lord, O king" (1Sa_26:17). Very beautiful is this. Though David could not admire the variableness and treachery of Saulís character, yet he respected his office, and is here shown paying due deference to the throne: he not only owned Saulís crown, but acknowledged that he was his sovereign. Tacitly, it was a plain denial that David was the rebellious insurrectionist Saul had supposed.

"And he said, Wherefore doth my lord thus pursue after his servant? for what have I done? or what evil is in mine hand?" (1Sa_26:18). Once more (cf. 1Sa_24:11, etc.) David calmly remonstrated with the king: what ground was there for his being engaged in such a blood-thirsty mission? First, David was not an enemy, but ready to act as his "servantí and further the courtís interests; thus he suggested it was against Saulís own good to persecute one who was ready to do his bidding and advance his kingdom. Equally unreasonable and foolish have been other rulers who hounded the servants of God: none are more loyal to the powers that be, none do as much to really strengthen their hands, as the true ministers of Christ; and therefore, they who oppose them are but forsaking their own mercies.

Second, by pursuing David, Saul was driving him from his master and lawful business, and compelling to flee the one who wished to follow him with respect. Oh, the exceeding sinfulness of sin: it is not only unreasonable and unjust (and therefore denominated "iniquity"), but cruel, both in its nature and in its effects. Third, he asked, "What have I done? or what evil is in mine hand?" Questions which a clear conscience (and that only) is never afraid of asking. It was the height of wickedness for Saul to persecute him as a criminal, when he was unable to charge him with any crime. But let us observe how that by these honest questions David was a type of Him who challenged His enemies with "which of you convicteth Me of sin?" (Joh_8:46), and again, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou Me?" (Joh_18:23).

"Now therefore, I pray thee, let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If the Lord have stirred thee up against me, let Him accept an offering" (1Sa_26:19). It is likely that David had paused and waited for Saul to make reply to his searching queries. Receiving no answer, he continued his address. David himself now suggested two possible explanations for the kingís heartless course, First, it might be that the Lord Himself was using him thus to righteously chastise His servant for some fault. It was the divine side of things which first engaged Davidís mind: "If the Lord hath stirred thee up against me." This is a likelihood which should always exercise the conscience of a saint, for the Lord "does not afflict willingly" (Lam_3:33), but usually because we give Him occasion to use the rod upon us. Much of this would be spared, if we kept shorter accounts with God and more unsparingly judged ourselves (1Co_11:31). It is always a timely thing to say with Job, "Show me wherefore Thou contendest with me" (Job_10:2).

Should the Lord convict him of any offense, then "let him accept an offering": David would then make his peace with God and present the required sin offering. For the Christian, this means that, having humbled himself before God, penitently confessed his sins, he now pleads afresh the merits of Christís blood, for the remission of their governmental consequences. But secondly, if God was not using Saul to chastise David (as indeed He was), then if evil men had incited Saul to use such violent measures, the divine vengeance would assuredly overtake them ó they were accursed before God. It is blessed to note the mildness of David on this occasion: so far from reviling the king, and attributing his wickedness unto the evil of his own heart, every possible excuse was made for his conduct.

"But if they be the children of men, cursed be they before the Lord; for they have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, Go, serve other gods" (1Sa_26:19). This was what pained David the most: not the being deprived of an honorable position as servant to Saul, not the being driven from home, but being exiled from Canaan and cut off from the public means of grace. No longer could he worship in the tabernacle, but forced out into the deserts and mountains, he would soon be obliged to leave the Holy Land. By their actions, his enemies were saying in effect, "Go, serve other gods": driving him into a foreign country, where he would be surrounded by temptations. It is blessed to see that it was the having to live among idolaters, and not merely among strangers, which worried him the more.

Ah, nought but the sufficiency of divine grace working in Davidís heart could, under such circumstances, have kept him from becoming utterly disgusted with the religion which Saul, Abner, and his fellows professed. But for that, David had said, "If these be ĎIsraelites,í then let me become and die a Philistine!" Yes, and probably more than one or two readers of this chapter have, like the writer, passed through a similar situation. We expect unkind, unjust, treacherous, merciless, treatment at the hands of the world; but when they came from those whom we have regarded as true brethren and sisters in Christ, we were shaken to the very foundation, and but for the mighty power of the Spirit working within, would have said, "If that is Christianity, I will have no more to do with it!" But, blessed be His name, Godís grace is sufficient.

"Now therefore let not my blood fall to the earth before the face of the Lord: for the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains" (1Sa_26:20). In these words David completed his address to Saul. First, he gave solemn warning that if he shed his blood, it would fall before the face of the Lord, and He would not hold him guiltless. Second, he argued that it was far beneath the dignity of the monarch of Israel to be chasing the son of Jesse, whom he here likens unto "a flea" ó an insignificant and worthless thing. Third, he appeals again to the kingís conscience by resembling his case to men hunting a "partridge" ó an innocent and harmless bird, which when attacked by men offers no resistance, but flies away; such had been Davidís attitude. Now we are to see what effect all this had upon the king.

"Then said Saul, I have sinned: return, my son David; for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day; behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly" (1Sa_26:21). This is more than the wretched king had acknowledged on a former occasion, and yet it is greatly to be feared that he had no true sense of his wickedness or genuine repentance for it. Rather was it very similar to the remorseful cry of Judas, when he said, "I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood" (Mat_27:4). These words of Saulís were the bitter lament of one who, too late, realized he had made shipwreck of his life. He owned that he had sinned ó broken Godís law ó by so relentlessly persecuting David. He besought his son to return, assuring him that he would do him no more injury; but he must have realized that his promises could not be relied upon. He intimated that Davidís magnanimity had thoroughly melted his heart, which shows that even the worst characters are capable of recognizing the good deeds of Godís people.

"Behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly." O what a fool he had been: in opposing the man after Godís own heart, in alienating his own son, in so sorely troubling Israel, and in bringing madness and sorrow upon himself! And how exceedingly had he "erred": by driving away from his court the one who would have been his best friend, by refusing to learn his lesson on the former occasion (1 Sam. 24), by vainly attempting to fight against the Most High! Unbelieving reader, suffer us to point out that these words, "I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly," are the wail of the lost in Hell. Now it is too late they realize what fools they were in despising the day of their opportunity, in neglecting their soulsí eternal interests, in living and dying in sin. They realize they "erred exceedingly" in ignoring the claims of God, desecrating His holy Sabbaths, shunning His Word, and despising His Song. Will this yet be your cry?

"And David answered and said, Behold the kingís spear! and let one of the young men come over and fetch it" (1Sa_26:22). This at once shows the estimate which David placed on the words of the king: he did not dare to trust him and return the spear in person, still less accompany him home. Good impressions quickly pass from such characters. No good words or fair professions entitle those to our confidence who have long sinned against the light. Such people resemble those spoken of in Jam_1:23-24, who hear the word and do it not, and are like unto a man "beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was." Thus it was with Saul; he now said that he had sinned, played the fool and erred exceedingly, yet this deterred him not from seeking unto the witch of Endor!

"The Lord render to every man his righteousness and his faithfulness: for the Lord delivered thee into my hand today, but I would not stretch forth mine hand against the Lordís anointed" (1Sa_26:23). This was very solemn, David now appealed to God to be the Judge of the controversy between himself and Saul, as One who was inflexibly just to render unto every man according to his works. Davidís conscience is quite dear in the matter, so he need not hesitate to ask the righteous One to decide the issue: good for us is it when we too are able to do likewise. In its final analysis, this verse was really a prayer: David asked for divine protection on the ground of the mercy which he had shown to Saul.

"And, behold, as thy life was much set by this day in mine eyes, so let my life be much set by in the eyes of the Lord, and let Him deliver me out of all tribulation" (1Sa_26:24). It is to be noted that David made no direct reply to what Saul had said, but his language shows plainly that he placed no reliance on the kingís promises. He does not say, "As thy life was much set by this day in mine eyes, so let my life be much set by in thine eyes," but rather, "in the eyes of the Lord." His confidence was in God alone, and though further trials awaited him, he counted upon His power and goodness to bring him safely through them.

"Then Saul said to David, Blessed be thou, my son David: thou shalt both do great things, and also shalt still prevail" (1Sa_26:25). Such were the final words of Saul unto David: patient faith had so far prevailed as to extort a blessing even from its adversary. Saul owned there was a glorious future before David, for he who humbleth himself shall be exalted. There was a clear conviction in the kingís mind that David was favored by God, yet that conviction in nowise checked him in his own downward course: convictions which lead to no amendment only increase condemnation. "So David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place" (1Sa_26:25). Thus they parted, to meet no more in this world. Saul went forward to his awful doom; David waited Godís time to ascend the throne.

22 HIS UNBELIEF (1Sa_27:1-12)

After Saulís departure (1Sa_26:25), David took stock of his situation, but unfortunately he left God out of his calculations. During tedious and trying delays, and especially when outward things seem to be all going against us, there is grave danger of giving way to unbelief. Then it is we are very apt to forget former mercies, and fear the worst. And when faith staggers, obedience wavers, and self-expedients are frequently employed, which later, involve us in great difficulties. So it was now with the one whose varied life we are seeking to trace. As David considered the situation he was still in, remembered the inconstancy and treachery of Saul, things appeared very gloomy to him. Knowing full well the kingís jealousy, and perhaps reasoning that he would now regard him with a still more evil eye, since God so favored him, David feared the worst.

"The moment in which faith attains any triumph, is often one of peculiar danger. Self-confidence may be engendered by success, and pride may spring out of honour that humility has won; or else, if faithfulness, after having achieved its victory, still finds itself left in the midst of danger and sorrow, the hour of triumph may be succeeded by one of undue depression and sorrowful disappointment. And thus it was with David. He had obtained this great moral victory; but his circumstances were still unchanged. Saul yet continued to be king of Israel: himself remained a persecuted outcast. As the period, when he had before spared the life of Saul, had been followed by days of lengthened sorrow, so he probably anticipated an indefinite prolongation of similar sufferings, and his heart quailed at the prospect" (B. W. Newton).

Solemn is it to mark the contrast between what is found at the close of 1 Samuel 26 and that which is recorded in the opening verses of the next chapter. To question the faithfulness and goodness of God is fearful wickedness, though there are some who regard it as a very trivial offense; in fact, there are those who well-nigh exalt the doubts and fears of Christians into fruits and graces, and evidences of great advancement in spiritual experience. It is sad indeed to find a certain class of men petting and pampering people in unbelief and distrust of God, and being in this matter unfaithful both to their Master and to the souls of His saints. Not that we are an advocate for smiting the feeble of the flock, but their sins we must denounce. Any teaching which causes Christians to pity themselves for their failings and falls, is evil, and to deny that doubting the loving kindness of God is a very heinous offense, is highly reprehensible.

"And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines" (1Sa_27:1). "And yet the hour of Saulís fall and of his own deliverance was close at hand. The Lord was about to interfere, and to extricate His faithful servant from his long and sore afflictions. Almost the very last hour of his trial under Saul had come, yet at that last moment he failed: so hard is it for Ďpatience to have her perfect work.í David had just said, ĎLet the Lord deliver me out of all tribulation.í It was a strong, and no doubt a sincere expression of confidence in God; but the feeling of the heart, as well as the expression of the lips, may often exceed the reality of our spiritual strength, and therefore, not unfrequently, when strong expressions have been used, they who have used them are tested by some peculiar trial; that so, if there be weakness, it may be detected, and no flesh glory in the presence of God" (B. W. Newton).

"And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul." Such a conclusion was positively erroneous. There was no evidence in proof thereof: he had been placed in perilous positions before, but God had never deserted him. His trials had been many and varied, but God had always made for him "a way to escape" (1Co_10:13). It was therefore contrary to the evidence. Once he had said, "thy servant slew both the lion and the bear, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them" (1Sa_17:36). Why not reason like that now? and say "Thy servant slew Goliath, was delivered from the javelin of a madman, escaped the evil devices of Doeg, and so he shall continue to escape out of the hand of Saul!" Moreover, Davidís rash conclusion was contrary to promise: Samuel had poured upon his head the anointing oil as Godís earnest that he should be king ó how then could he be slain by Saul?

How is Davidís unbelief to be accounted for? "First, because he was a man. The best of men are men at the best, and man at his best is such a creature that well might David himself say, ĎLord, what is man?í . . . If faith never gave place to unbelief, we might be tempted to lift up the believer into a demigod, and think him something more than mortal. That we might see that a man full of faith is still a man, that we might glory in infirmities, since by them the power of God is the more clearly proved, therefore God was pleased to let the feebleness of man grievously show itself. Ah, it was not David who achieved those former victories, but Godís grace in David; and now, when that is removed for a moment, see what Israelís champion becomes!

"Second, David had been exposed to a very long trial; not for one week, but for month after month, he had been hunted like a partridge, upon the mountains. Now a man could bear one trial, but a perpetuity of tribulations is very hard to bear. Such was Davidís trial: always safe, but always harassed; always secure through God, but always hunted about by his foe. No place could give him any ease. If he went unto Keilah, then the citizens would deliver him up; if he went into the woods of Ziph, then the Ziphites betrayed him; if he went even to the priest of God, there was that dog of a Doeg to go to Saul, and accuse the priest; even in Engedi or in Adullam he was not secure; secure, I grant you, in God, but always persecuted by his foe. Now, this was enough to make the wise man mad, and to make the faithful man doubt. Do not judge too harshly of David; at least judge just as hardly of yourselves.

"Third, David had passed through some strong excitements of mind. Just a day or so before he had gone forth with Abishai in the moonlight to the field where Saul and his hosts lay sleeping. They passed the outer circle where the common soldiers lay, and quietly and stealthily the two heroes passed without awakening any. They came at last to the spot where the captains of the hundreds slept, and they trod over their slumbering bodies without arousing them. They reached the spot where Saul lay, and David had to hold back Abishaiís hand from slaying him; so he escaped from this temptation, as he had aforetime. Now, brethren, a man may do these great things helped by God, but do you know it is a sort of natural law with us, that after a strong excitement there is a reaction! It was thus with Elijah after his victory over the prophets of Baal: later, he ran from Jezebel, and cried ĎLet me die.í

"But there was another reason, for we are not to exculpate David. He sinned, and that not merely through infirmity, but through evil of heart. It seems to us that David had restrained prayer. In every other action of David you find some hint that he asked counsel of the Lord . . . But this time what did he talk with? Why, with the most deceitful thing that he could have found ó with his own heart . . . Having restrained prayer, he did the foolís act: he forgot his God, he looked only at his enemy, and it was no wonder that when he saw the strength of the cruel monarch, and the pertinacity of his persecution, he said ĎI shall one day fall before him.í Brothers and sisters, would you wish to hatch the egg of unbelief till it turns into a scorpion? Restrain prayer! Would you see evils magnified and mercies diminish? Would you find your tribulations increased sevenfold and your faith diminished in proportion? Restrain prayer!" (Condensed from C. H. Spurgeon).

"I shall now perish one day." Ah, has not this been the cry of many a Satan-harassed saint! He looks within and sees what God has done for him: that he has desires and aspirations which he never had before conversion, so that the things he once hated he now loves. He realizes there has been a radical change, such as mere nature could not possibly affect, and his spirit rejoices in the hope set before him. But he also sees so very much corruption within him, and finds so much weakness that aids and abets that corruption; he sees temptations and sore trials awaiting him, and cold despondency falls upon his heart, and doubts and questions vex his mind. He is tripped up and has a bad fall, and then Satan roars in his ear, "Now God has forsaken thee," and he is almost ready to sink into despair.

"And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch king of Gath" (1Sa_27:2). Under the pressure of trials, relief is what the flesh most desires, and unless the mind be stayed upon God, there is grave danger of seeking to take things into our own hands. Such was the case with David: having leaned unto his own understanding, being occupied entirely with the things of sight and sense, he now sought relief in his own way, and followed a course which was the very opposite to that which the Lord had enjoined him (1Sa_22:5). There God had told him to depart from the land of Moab and go into the land of Judah, and there He had marvelously preserved him. How this shows us what poor weak creatures the best of us are, and how low our graces sink when the Spirit does not renew them!

In what is here before us (1Sa_27:2), we are shown the ill effects of Davidís unbelief. "First, it made him do a foolish thing; the same foolish thing which he had rued once before. Now we say a burnt child always dreads the flame; but David had been burnt, and yet, in his unbelief, he puts his hand into the same fire again. He went once to Achish, king of Gath, and the Philistines identified him, and being greatly afraid, David feigned himself mad in their hands, and they drove him away. Now he goes to the same Achish again! Yes, and mark it, my brethren, although you and I know the bitterness of sin, yet if we are left to our own unbelief, we shall fall into the same sin again. I know we have said, ĎNo; never, never; I know so much by experience what an awful thing this is.í Your experience is not worth a rush to you apart from the continual restraints of grace. If your faith fail, everything else goes down with it; and you hoary-headed professor, will be as a big fool as a very boy, if God lets you alone.

"Second, he went over to the Lordís enemies. Would you have believed it: he that killed Goliath, sought a refuge in Goliathís land; he who smote the Philistines trusts in the Philistines; nay, more, he who was Israelís champion, becomes the chamberlain to Achish, for Achish said, ĎTherefore will I make thee keeper of my head forever,í and David became thus the captain of the body-guard of the king of Philistia, and helped preserve the life of one who was the enemy of Godís Israel. Ah, if we doubt God, we shall soon be numbered among Godís foes. Inconsistency will win us over into the ranks of His enemies, and they will be saying, ĎWhat do these Hebrews here?í ĎThe just shall live by faith, but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in himí ó the two sentences are put together as if the failure of our faith would surely lead to a turning back to sin.

"Third, he was on the verge of still worse sin ó of overt acts of warfare against the Lordís people. Davidís having become the friend of Achish, when Achish went to battle against Israel, he said to him, ĎKnow thou assuredly, that thou shalt go with me to battle, thou and thy mení; and David professed his willingness to go. We believe it was only a feigned willingness; but then, you see, we convict him again of falsehood. It is true that God interposed and prevented him fighting against Israel, but this was no credit to David, for you know, brethren, we are guilty of a sin, even if we do not commit it, if we are willing to commit it. The last effect of Davidís sin was this: it brought him into great trial" (C. H. Spurgeon).

O my readers, what a solemn warning is all of this for our hearts! How it shows us the wickedness of unbelief and the fearful fruits which that evil root produces. It is true that David had no reason to trust Saul, but he had every reason to continue trusting God. But alas, unbelief is the sin of all others which doth so easily beset us. It is inherent in our very nature, and it is more impossible to root it out by any exertions of ours, than it is to change the features of our countenances. What need is there for us to cry daily, "Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief" (Mar_9:24). Let me see in David myself, my very nothingness. O to fully realize that in our best moments, we can never trust ourselves too little, nor God too much.

"And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath" (1Sa_27:2). Here we see David not only forsaking the path of duty, but joining interests with the enemies of God: this we must never do; no, not even for self-preservation, or out of care for our family. As another has said, "It is in one sense, a very easy matter to get out of the place of trial; but then we get out of the place of blessing also." Such is generally, if not always the case, with the children of God. No matter how sore the trial, how pressing our circumstances, or how acute our need, to "rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him" (Psa_37:7), is not only the course which most honors Him, but which, in the long run, spares us much great confusion and trouble which results when we seek to extricate ourselves.

"And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household" (1Sa_27:3). Davidís circumstances upon entering into Gath this time were decidedly different from what they had been on a previous occasion (1Sa_21:10-15): then he entered secretly, now openly; then as a person unknown, now as the recognized enemy of Israelís king; then alone, now with six hundred men; then he was driven hence, now he probably had been invited thither. Apparently he met with a kindly reception ó probably because the king of Gath now hoped to use him in his own service: either that he could employ David against Israel, or secure an advantageous alliance with him, if ever he came to the throne. Thus the plan of David appeared to meet with success: at least he found a quiet dwelling-place. Providence seemed to be smiling upon him, and none but an anointed eye could have discerned otherwise.

"And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, even David with his two wives: Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the Carmelitess, Nabalís wife" (1Sa_27:3). Ah, has not the Holy Spirit supplied the key (in the second half of this verse) which explains to us Davidís sad lapse? It was his "two wives" which had displeased the Lord! We entitled the last chapter but one Davidís "chastening" and sought to point out the connection between what is found at the end of 1 Samuel 25 and that which is recorded in 1 Samuel 26, namely, the renewed attack of Saul upon him. That divine "chastening" was now continued, and may be discerned by the spiritual eye in a variety of details.

In this chapter we have sought to show the awfulness of unbelief, and the evil character of the fruits that issue from it; and how that the graces of the strongest Christian soon became feeble unless they are renewed by the Spirit. But let it be now pointed out that God does not act capriciously in this: if our graces be not renewed, the fault lies in ourselves. It is by working backward from effect to cause, that we may here learn the most important lesson of all.

(1) David sinned grievously in seeking refuge among the enemies of the Lord.

(2) He went to them without having sought divine guidance.

(3) He leaned unto his own understanding, and reasoned that it was best for him to go to Gath.

(4) He acted thus because he had given way to unbelief.

(5) He gave way to unbelief because his faith was not divinely renewed and prayer in him had been choked.

(6) His faith was not renewed because the Holy Spirit was grieved over his sin! Re-read these six points in their inverse order.

 

23 - HIS STAY AT ZIKLAG (1Sa_27:1-12)

One of the chief differences between the Holy Spiritís description of Biblical characters and the delineations in human biographies is, that the former has faithfully presented their failures and falls, showing us that they were indeed men of "like passions with us"; whereas the latter (with very rare exceptions) record little else than the fair and favorable side of their subjects, leaving the impression they were more angelic than human. Biographies need to be read sparingly, especially modern ones, and then with due caution (remembering that there is much "between the lines" not related), lest a false estimate of the life of a Christian be formed, and the honest reader be driven to despair. But God has painted the features of Biblical characters in the colors of reality and truth, and thus we find that "as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man" (Pro_27:19).

The practical importance (and it is that which should ever be our first and chief quest as we read and ponder the Scriptures) of what has just been pointed out should preserve both preacher and hearer from a one-sided idea of Christian experience. A saint on earth is not a sinless being; nor, on the other hand, does sin have complete dominion over him. In consequence of both the "flesh" and the "spirit" still indwelling him, in "many things" he offends (Jam_3:2), and in many things he pleases God. The "old man" is not only still alive (though the Christian is to "reckon" it as being judicially dead before God: Rom_6:11), but is constantly active; and though divine grace restrain it from breaking forth into much outward evil, yet it defiles all our inner being, and pollutes our best endeavors both Godward and manward (Rom_7:14-25). Nevertheless, the "new man" is also active, producing that which is glorifying to God.

It is because of this dual experience of the Christian that we are ever in danger of concentrating too much on the one aspect, to the ignoring of the other. Those with a pessimistic turn of mind, need to watch against dwelling too much on the gloomy side of the Christian life, and spending too much time in Job and the Lamentations, to the neglect of the later Psalms and the epistle to the Philippians. In the past, a certain class of writers occupied themselves almost exclusively with the contemplation of human depravity and its fearful workings in the saint, conveying the idea that a constant mourning over indwelling sin and groaning over its activities was the only mark of high spiritual experience. Such people are only happy when they are miserable. We counsel those who have been strongly influenced by such teaching, to turn frequently to Johnís Gospel, chapters 14 to 17, and turn each verse into prayer and praise.

On the other side, those with a buoyant temperament and optimistic turn of mind need to watch against the tendency to appropriate and meditate upon the promises to the almost total ignoring of the precepts of Scripture; to strive against lightness and superficiality, and to be careful they do not mistake exuberance of natural spirits for the steadier and deeper flow of spiritual joy. To be all the time dwelling upon the Christianís standing, his privileges and blessings, to the neglect of his state, obligations and failures, will beget pride and self-righteousness. Such people need to prayerfully ponder Romans 7, the first half of Hebrews 12, and much in 1 Peter. Sinful self and all its wretched failures should be sufficiently noticed so as to keep us in the dust before God. Christ and His great salvation should be contemplated so as to lift us above self and fill the soul with thanksgiving.

The above meditations have been suggested by that portion of David s life which is now to engage our attention. The more it be carefully pondered, the more should we be delivered from entertaining an erroneous conception of the experience and history of a saint. Not that we are to seize upon these sad blemishes in David to excuse our own faults ó no indeed, that would be wickedness of the worst kind; but we are to be humbled by the realization that the same evil nature indwells us, and produces works in you and me equally vile. Those who are surprised that the Psalmist should act as he here did, must be woefully ignorant of the "plague" of their own hearts, and blind unto sins in their own lives which are just as abominable in the sight of the Holy One as were those of Davidís.

In our last chapter we saw that unbelief and fear so gained the upper hand over David, that he exclaimed, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines" (1Sa_27:1). And yet, probably only a short while before, this same David had declared, "Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident" (Psa_27:3). Yes, and has not the reader, when in close communion with the Lord, and when the sails of faith were fully spread and filled with the breeze of the Spirit, said or felt the same? And, alas that it should be so, has not this confidence waned, and then disappeared before some fresh trial! How these sad lapses should show us ourselves, and produce real humility and self abasement. How often expressions from our own lips in the past condemn us in the present!

Then we pointed out that, "under the pressure of trial, relief is what the flesh most desires." Perhaps the reader may ask, "but is not that natural?" Yes indeed, but is it spiritual? Our first desire in trial, as in everything else, should be that God may be honored, and for this, we should earnestly seek grace to so conduct ourselves that we may "glorify the Lord in the fires" (Isa_24:15). Our next concern should be that our soul may profit from the painful experience, and for this we should beg the Lord to graciously sanctify it unto our lasting good. But alas, when unbelief dominates us, God is forgotten, and deliverance, our own case, obsess the mind; and hence it is that ó unless divine grace interpose ó we seek relief in the wrong quarter and by unspiritual means. Thus it was here with David: he and his men passed over unto Achish, the king of Gath.

"And David dwelt with Achish, he and his men, every man with his household" (1Sa_27:3). From these words it seems that Achish, the Philistine, made no demur against David and his men entering his territory; rather does it look as though he met with a friendly and kindly reception. Thus, from present appearances ó the obtaining, at last, a quiet dwelling-place ó it seemed that the fleshly plan of David was meeting with real success, that Providence was smiling upon him. Yes, it is often this way at first when a Christian takes things into his own hands: to carnal reason the sequel shows he did the right thing. Ah, but later on, he discovers otherwise. One false step is followed by another, just as the telling of a lie is usually succeeded by other lies to cover it. So it was now with David: he went from bad to worse.

"And it was told Saul that David was fled to Gath: and he sought no more again for him" (1Sa_27:4). This too would seem to confirm the thought that David had acted wisely, and that God was blessing his worldly scheme, for his family and people now rested safely from the approaches of their dreaded foe. But when everything is going smoothly with the Christian, and the enemy ceases to harass him, then is the time, generally speaking, when he needs to suspect that something is wrong with his testimony, and beg God to show him what it is. Nor was Saulís cessation of hostility due to any improvement of character, but because he dared not to come where David now was. "Thus many seem to leave their sins, but really their sins leave them; they would persist in them if they could" (Matthew Henry).

"And David said unto Achish, If I have now found grace in thine eyes, let them give me a place in some town in the country, that I may dwell there: for why should thy servant dwell in the royal city with thee?" (1Sa_27:5). David knew from experience how jealous were kings and their favorites, so to prevent the envy of Achishís courtiers he deemed it well not to remain too near and receive too many favors at his hands. Probably the idolatry and corruption which abounded in the royal city made David desirous of getting his family and people removed therefrom. But in the light of the sequel, it seems that the principle motive which prompted him to make this request was, that he might have a better opportunity to fall upon some of the enemies of Israel without the king of Gath being aware of it. The practical lesson for us is, that when we forsake the path of Godís appointment a spirit of restlessness and discontent is sure to possess us.

David presented his request to Achish very modestly: "give me a place in some town in the country that I may dwell there, where they could enjoy greater privacy and more freedom from the idolatry of the land. Six hundred men and their families would crowd the royal city, and might prove quite a burden; while there was always the danger of the subjects of Achish regarding David as a rival in state and dignity. But to what a low level had Godís anointed descended when he speaks of himself as the "servant" of Achish! How far from communion with the Lord was he, when one of the uncircumcised is to choose his dwelling-place for him! A child of God is "the Lordís free man" (1Co_7:22): yes, but to maintain this in a practical way, he must walk in faith and obedience to Him; otherwise he will be brought in bondage to the creature, as David was.

"Then Achish gave him Ziklag that day:" (1Sa_27:6). Originally this city had been given to the tribe of Judah (Jos_15:31), then to Simeon (Joh_19:5), though it seems that neither of them possessed it, but that it came into the hands of the Philistines. "Wherefore Ziklag pertained unto the kings of Judah unto this day." Being given unto David, who shortly after became king, this section was annexed to the crown-lands, and ever after it was part of the portion of the kings of Judah: so that it was given to David not as a temporary possession, but, under God, as a permanent one for his descendants. Truly, the ways of the Lord are past finding out.

"And the time that David dwelt in the country of the Philistines was a full year and four months" (1Sa_27:7). "But rest reached by self-will or disobedience is anything rather than peace to the heart that fears God, and loves His service. David could not forget that Israel, whom he had forsaken, were Godís people; nor that the Philistines, whom he had joined, were Godís enemies. He could not but remember his own peculiar relation to God and to His people ó for Samuel had anointed him, and even Saul had blessed him as the destined king of Israel. His conscience therefore, must have been ill at ease; and the stillness and rest of Ziklag would only cause him to be more sensible of its disquietude" (B. W. Newton).

"And David and his men went up, and invaded the Geshurites, and the Gezrites, and the Amalekites: for those nations were of old the inhabitants of the land" (1Sa_27:8). "When the consciences of Godís servants tells them that their position is wrong, one of their devices not unfrequently is, to give themselves, with fresh energy, to the attainment of some right end; as if rightly directed, or successful energy, could atone for committed evil, and satisfy the misgivings of a disquieted heart. Accordingly, David, still retaining the self-gained rest of Ziklag, resolved that it should not be the rest of inactivity, but that he would thence put forth fresh energies against the enemies of God and of His people. The Amalekites were nigh. The Amalekites were they of whom the Lord had sworn that He would have war with Amalek from generation to generation. David therefore went up against them, and triumphed" (B. W. Newton).

Those which David and his men invaded were some of the original tribes which inhabited Canaan, and were such as had escaped the sword of Saul, and had fled to more distant parts. His attack upon them was not an act of cruelty, for those people had long before been divinely sentenced to destruction. Yet though they were the enemies of the Lord and His people, Davidís attack upon them was ill timed, and more likely than not the chief motive which prompted him was the obtaining of food and plunder for his forces. "Nothing could be more complete than his success: ĎHe smote the land, and left neither man nor woman alive; and took away the sheep, and the oxen, and the asses, and the camels, and the apparel.í Ziklag was enriched with spoil, and that the spoil of the enemies of the Lord. What prosperity then could be greater ó what apparently more immediately from God?" (B. W. Newton)

A solemn warning, which we do well to take to heart, is pointed for us in 1Sa_27:8-9, namely, not to measure the right or wrong of a course of conduct by the success which appears to attend it. This principle is now being flagrantly disregarded, the scripturalness or unscripturalness of an action concerns few professing Christians today: so long as it seems to produce good results, this is all that matters. Worldly devices are brought into the "church," fleshly and high-pressure methods are adopted by "evangelists," and so long as crowds are drawn, the young people "held," and "converts" made, it is argued that the end justifies the means. If "souls are being saved," the great majority are prepared to wink at almost anything today, supposing that the "blessing of God" (?) is a sure proof that nothing serious is wrong. So the children of Israel might have reasoned when the waters flowed from the rock which Moses disobediently smote in his anger. So David might have concluded when such success attended his attack upon the Amalekites! To judge by visible results is walking by sight; to measure everything by Holy Writ and reject all that is out of harmony therewith, is walking by faith.

"And David smote the land, and left neither man nor woman alive, and took away the sheep, and the oxen, and the asses, and the camels, and the apparel, and returned and came to Achish" (1Sa_27:9). Mark well the closing words of this verse: one had thought that Achish was the last man whom David would wish to see at this time. It had been far more prudent had he returned quietly to Ziklag, but as we pointed out in a previous chapter, when a saint is out of communion with God, and controlled by unbelief, he no longer acts according to the dictates of common sense. A striking and solemn illustration of that fact is here before us. O that writer and reader may lay this well to heart: faith and wisdom are inseparably linked together. Nothing but folly can issue from an unbelieving heart, that is, from a heart which has not been won by divine grace.

"And Achish said, Whither have ye made a road today?" (1Sa_27:10). No doubt the king of Gath was surprised, as he had reason to be, when he saw David and his men so heavily laden with their booty, and therefore does he inquire where they had been. Sad indeed is it to hear the reply given: "And David said, Against the south of Judah, and against the south of the Jerahmeelites, and against the south of the Kenites." Though not a downright lie, yet it was an equivocation, made with the design of deceiving, and therefore cannot be defended, nor is to be imitated by us. David was not willing that Achish should know the truth. He did not now play the part of a madman, as he had on a former occasion, but fearful of losing his self-chosen place of protection, he dissembled unto the king. The Amalekites were fellow-Canaanites with the Philistines, and if not in league with them, Achish and his people would probably be apprehensive of danger by harboring such a powerful foe in their midst, and would want to expel them. To avoid this, David resorted to deception. O what need has writer and reader to pray daily, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

24 - HIS SORE DILEMMA (1 Sam 28)

Following his local incursion upon and victory over the Amalekites, David, instead of quietly making for Ziklag, most imprudently "came to Achish" (1Sa_27:9). Seeing him so heavily laden with the spoils which had been taken, the king inquired where he had been. David feared to tell Achish that he had been destroying Israelís enemies and the Philistinesí friends, and therefore returned a misleading answer. David had taken precaution to cover his tracks, for we are told that he "saved neither man nor woman alive, to bring tidings to Gath, saying, Lest they should tell on us, saying, So did David, and so will be his manner all the while he dwelleth in the country of the Philistines" (1Sa_27:11). Forgetful of God and the many tokens he had already received of His protecting care, David dissembled. Achish was thoroughly deceived, for we read, "Achish believed David, saying, He hath made his people Israel utterly to abhor him; therefore he shall be my servant forever" (1Sa_27:12).

Probably it was his persuading Jonathan to tell his father that he had gone about his business, telling Ahimelech an untruth, his prevarications before Achish, and some other instances, which caused David, when later he penitently reflected upon them, to pray "Remove from me the way of lying" (Psa_119:29). This seems to have been Davidís "besetting sin," or the particular inclination of his corrupt nature. Now when we are foiled by any sin, we should take careful pains lest we settle into a "way" or course of sinning; for as a brand which has once been in the flame is now more susceptible to fire, so the committing of any sin renders us more liable to form a habit of that evil.

Humiliating as may be the acknowledgment of it, the fact remains that every one of us needs to cry fervently unto God "Remove from me the way of lying." Because we are descended from parents who, at the beginning, preferred the devilís lie to Godís truth, we are strongly inclined unto lying; yea, it is so much a part of our fallen nature that none but God can remove it from us. How many indulge in exaggeration, which is a form of lying. How many deceive by gestures and actions, which is another form of it. How many make promises (in their letters, for example, vowing they will soon write again) which they never fulfill. Worse still, how many lie unto God by false appearances: going through the form of prayer, feigning to be very pious outwardly, when their hearts and minds are upon the things of the world. Of old God said, "Ephraim compasseth Me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit" (Hos_11:12): God sees through all vain shows, and will not be mocked.

The consequences of Davidís lie soon became apparent. "And it came to pass in those days, that the Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare, to fight with Israel. And Achish said unto David, Know thou assuredly, that thou shalt go out with me to battle, thou and thy men" (1Sa_28:1). Probably this was about the last thing he expected. Poor David! He was indeed in a tight place now, so tight that it seemed impossible for him to turn either way. On the one hand, to refuse the kingís request would not only be to run the danger of angering him, with what that would most likely entail, but would appear the height of ingratitude in return for the kindness and protection which had been given to him and his people. On the other hand, to accept Achishís proposal meant being a traitor to Israel.

This sore dilemma in which David found himself, is recorded for our learning. It is a solemn warning of what we may expect if we forsake the path of Godís precepts. If we enter upon a wrong position, then, trying and unpleasant situations are sure to arise ó situations which our consciences will sharply condemn, but from which we can see no way of escape. When we deviate from the path of duty, in the slightest degree, each circumstance that follows will tend to draw us farther aside. Once a rock starts downhill, it gains momentum with every bound that it takes. Then how watchful we need to be against the first false step; yea, how earnestly should we pray, "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe" (Psa_119:117)! Satan rests not satisfied for the Christian to yield one "little" point, and knows full well our doing so greatly lessens our resistance to his next temptations.

For the sake of younger readers, let us enlarge a little more upon this point. To go anywhere we ought not, will bring us into temptations that it will be almost impossible to resist. To seek the society of non-Christians is to play with fire, and to accept favors from them will almost certainly result in our getting burned. To compromise one point, will be followed by letting down the bars at others. For a young lady to accept the attentions of an undesirable young man, makes it far harder to reject his later advances. Once you accept a favor ó even if it be but a "joy-ride" in an auto ó you place yourself under an obligation, and though you be asked to pay a high price in return, yet if you demur, "ingratitude" is what you are likely to be charged with. Then go slow, we beg you, in accepting favors from any, especially from those who are likely to take an unfair advantage of you.

David had done wrong in seeking protection from Saul in the land of the Philistines, and now the king of Gath required service from him in return. War being determined against Israel, Achish asks the assistance of David and his men. Yes, when the Christian turns unto the world for help, he must expect to be asked to pay the worldís price for the same. Needless intimacies with the avowed enemies of godliness, and the receiving of favors from them, quickly causes us to be unfaithful to God or ungrateful to our benefactors. To what a strait had the false position of David reduced him: if he promised to fight against Israel, and then broke his word, he would be guilty of treachery; if he fought against Israel, he would alienate the affections of his own people, and expose himself to the reproach of having slain Saul. It seemed impossible that he should extricate himself from this dilemma with a good conscience and clear reputation.

"And David said to Achish, Surely thou shalt know what thy servant can do" (1Sa_28:2). Probably David was quite undecided how to act, and cherished a secret hope that the Lord would help him out of his great difficulty; yet this by no means excused him for returning an insincere and evasive answer. "And Achish said to David, Therefore will I make thee keeper of mine head forever." The king of Gath understood his reply as a promise of effectual assistance, and so determined to make him the captain of his bodyguard. At the time David was too much swayed by the fear of man to refuse attendance upon flesh.

"Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city" (1Sa_28:3). This seems to be brought in for the purpose of intimating why the Philistines should make an attack upon Israel at this time: the knowledge of the prophetís death had probably emboldened them. When death has removed ministers of God, or persecution has banished them (as it had David), a land is deprived of its best defense. "And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land" (1Sa_28:3). This is mentioned as an introduction to what follows unto the end of the chapter: it serves to emphasize the inconstancy of Saul: it illustrates the worthlessness of the temporary reformation of professors, who ultimately return to their wallowing in the mire.

"And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled" (1Sa_28:4-5), Had he been in communion with God, there would be no need for such a fear, but he had provoked the Holy One to forsake him. Saulís excessive terror arose chiefly from a guilty conscience: his contempt of Samuel, his murdering the priests and their families, his malicious persecution of David. Probably he had a premonition that this attack of the Philistines foreboded his approaching doom.

"And when Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not" (1Sa_28:6). Unspeakably solemn is this: the case of one abandoned by God. It was under urgent terror, and not as a preparation for repentance, that Saul now sought unto the Lord. He did not "inquire" of Him till his doom was sealed, till it was too late, for God will not be mocked. O unbelieving reader, heed that call, "seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near" (Isa_55:6); otherwise, God may yet say of thee, as of those of old, "These men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?" (Eze_14:3).

"And when Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not" (1Sa_28:6). Some see a contradiction between this statement and what is said in 1Ch_10:13-14, "So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord, against the word of the Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking of a familiar spirit, to enquire; and enquired not of the Lord." The "literalists" of the day, those who are incapable of seeing beneath the bare letter of the Word, may well be tripped up by a comparison of the two passages; but he who is taught the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures perceives no difficulty. There is much that passes for "prayer" among men (when they are in great physical distress) which unto God is no more than the "howling" of beasts: see Hos_7:14. Saul "enquired" in a hypocritical manner, which the Lord would not regard at all. The ear of the Lord is open unto none save those of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

"Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor" (1Sa_28:7). Here we behold the fearful wickedness of one who was righteously abandoned by God. Fearful presumption was it for Saul to deliberately and definitely resort unto one who practiced diabolical arts. Only a little before, he had banished from the land those who had "familiar spirits" (1Sa_28:3), known today as "mediums." It illustrates the fact that apostates frequently commit those very sins which they once were most earnest in opposing. We shall not follow Saul through the remainder of this chapter, but pass on to the twenty-ninth, where the Holy Spirit continues the narrative about the Philistines and David.

"Now the Philistines gathered together all their armies to Aphek; and the Israelites pitched by a fountain which is in Jezreel. And the lords of the Philistines passed on by hundreds, and by thousands; but David and his men passed on in the rereward with Achish" (1Sa_29:1-2). "If David had told the truth, Achish would never have dreamed of enrolling him amongst the hosts of the Philistines. It was his own contrivance that had brought him there. He, who so well knew how to discriminate between the Philistines and the armies of the living God; and who, on the ground of that distinction, had so often sought and obtained the assistance of the God of Israel, now found himself leagued with the enemies of God for the destruction of Godís people. He who had so distinctly refused to stretch out his hand against the Lordís anointed, was now enrolled with those very hosts who were about to shed the blood of Saul, and of Jonathan too, upon the mountains of Gilboa. Such were the terrible circumstances in which David suddenly found himself. He seems to have looked upon them as hopeless, nor do we read of his attempting any remedy.

"But David had not ceased to be the subject of care to the great Shepherd of Israel. He had wandered, and was to be brought back. The secret providence of God again interfered, and separated him from the camp of the Philistines" (B. W. Newton). Yes, manís extremities are (so to speak) Godís opportunities, and from the dilemma out of which David could see no way of escape, He graciously extricated him; without his having to move a finger, a door was opened for his deliverance. The means which the Lord employed upon this occasion should cause us to bow in adoration before the High Sovereign over all, and deepen our trust in Him.

"Then said the princes of the Philistines, What do these Hebrews here? And Achish said unto the princes of the Philistines, is not this David, the servant of Saul the king of Israel, which hath been with me these days, or these years, and I have found no fault in him since he fell unto me unto this day?" (1Sa_29:3) God has various ways of delivering His people from their difficulties. While the ungodly pursue their own purposes and follow out their own plans, God secretly influences them to such determinations as subserve the good of His saints.

The esteem and affection of the wicked often becomes snares mediate court of Achish, but lords of other principalities, who were confederates with him. These now opposed the design of Achish to use David and his men in the forthcoming battle.

"And the princes of the Philistines were wroth with him: and the princes of the Philistines said unto him, Make this fellow return, that he may go again to his place which thou hast appointed him, and let him not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he be an adversary to us: for wherewith should he reconcile himself unto his master? should it not be with the heads of these men? Is not this David, of whom they sang one to another in dances, saying, Saul slew his thousands, and David his ten thousands?" (1Sa_29:4-5). "Though God might justly have left David in his difficulty, to chasten him for his folly, yet because his heart was upright with Him. He would not suffer him to be tempted above what he was able, but with the temptation made a way for his escape (1Co_10:13). A door was opened for his deliverance out of this strait. God inclined the hearts of the Philistine princes to oppose his being employed in this battle, and to insist upon him being dishonoured; and thus their enmity befriended him, when no friend he had was capable of doing him such a kindness" (Matthew Henry).

The esteem and affection of the wicked often become snares to us; but reproaches, contempt, injurious suspicions, prove beneficial, and the ill-usage of the ungodly by which we are driven from them, is much better for us than their friendship which knits us to them. "When worldly people have no evil to say to us, but will bear testimony to our uprightness, we need no more from them; and this we should aim to acquire by prudence, meekness, and a blameless life. But their flattering commendations are almost always purchased by improper compliances, or some measure of deception, and commonly cover us with confusion. It is seldom prudent to place great confidence in one who has changed sides, except as the fear of God influences a real convert to conscientious fidelity" (Thomas Scott). It is striking to note the particular thing which God made use of to influence those Philistine lords against David: it was the song which the women of Israel had sung in Davidís honor, and which now for the third time brought him into dishonor ó so little are the flatteries of people worth! They stir up jealousy and hatred in others; yet in the hand of God it became the instrument of Davidís deliverance.

Achish now summoned David into his presence and said, Wherefore now return, and go in peace, that thou displease not the lords of the Philistines" (1Sa_29:7). No doubt David secretly rejoiced at this deliverance from his sore dilemma, yet he was unwilling that the king of Gath should know it; he prevaricated again, making an appearance of concern for being so summarily dismissed. "And David said unto Achish, But what have I done? and what hast thou found in thy servant so long as I have been with thee unto this day, that I may not go fight against the enemies of my lord the king" (1Sa_29:8). Sad it is to see the anointed of God dissembling and speaking in such a manner of His people. But Achish was not to be moved, and said, "Wherefore now rise up early in the morning with thy masterís servants that are come with thee; and as soon as ye be up early in the morning and have light, depart" (1Sa_29:10). Marvelous deliverance was this from his ensnaring service, yet without the slightest credit to David: it was nought but the sovereign grace of God which freed him from the snare of the fowler.

25 HIS SORROW AT ZIKLAG (1Sa_29:1-11 and 30)

"Preserve me, O God: for in Thee do I put my trust" (Psa_16:1). This is a prayer which, in substance at least, every child of God frequently puts up to his heavenly Father. He feels his own insufficiency, and calls upon One who is all-sufficient. He realizes how incompetent he is to defend and protect himself, and seeks the aid of Him whose arms are all-mighty. If he is in his right mind, before starting out on a journey, when any particular danger threatens him, and ere settling down For the nightís repose, he commits himself into the custody and care of Him who never slumbers or sleeps. Blessed privilege! Wise precaution! Happy duty! The Lord graciously keep us in a spirit of complete dependence upon Himself.

"The Lord preserveth all them that love Him" (Psa_145:20). Most Christians are readier to perceive the fulfillment of this precious promise when they have been delivered from some physical danger, than when they were preserved from some moral evil; which shows how much more we are governed by the natural than the spiritual. We are quick to own the preserving hand of God when a disease epidemic avoids our home, when a heavy falling object just clears our path, or when a swiftly-moving auto just misses the car we are in; but we ought to be just as alert in discerning the miraculous hand of God when a powerful temptation is suddenly removed from us, or we are delivered from it.

"But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil" (2Th_3:3). The Lordís people are surrounded with a variety of evils within and without. They have sin in them, and it is the cause and fountain of all the evil and misery which they at any time feel and experience. There is the evil one without, who endeavors at times to bring great evil upon them. But the Lord "keepeth His people from evil," not that they are exempted wholly and altogether from evil. Yet they are kept from being overcome by and engulfed in it. Though they fall, they shall not he utterly cast down, for the Lord upholdeth them with His debt hand.

Wondrous are the ways in which God preserves His saints. Many a one has been withheld from that success in business on which he had fondly set his heart: it was God delivering him from those material riches which would have ruined his soul! Many a one was disappointed in a love affair: it was God delivering from an ungodly partner for life, who would have been a constant hindrance to your spiritual progress! Many a one was cruelly treated by trusted and cherished friends: it was God breaking what would have proved an unequal yoke! Many a parent was plunged into grief by the death of a dearly loved child: it was God, in His mercy, taking away what would have proved an idol. Now we see these things through a glass darkly, but the Day will come, dear reader, when we shall perceive clearly that it was the preserving hand of our gracious God thus dealing with us at those very times when all seemed to be working against us.

The above meditations have been suggested by what is recorded in 1Sa_29:1-11. At the close of our last chapter we saw how mercifully God interposed to deliver His servant from the snare of the fowler. Through his unbelief and self-will, David found himself in a sore dilemma. Seeking help from the ungodly, he had placed himself under obligation to the king of Gath. Pretending to be the friend of the Philistines and the enemy of his own people, David was called upon by Achish to employ his men upon the attack which was planned against Israel. Then it was that the Lord interposed and preserved the object of His love from falling into much graver evil. He now graciously made "a way to escape" (1Co_10:13), lest His poor erring child should be tempted above that which he was able.

And how was that "way to escape" opened for him? Ah, this is the point to which we wish to particularly direct our attention. It was not by means of any visible or outward work, but through the inward and secret operations of His power. The Lord turned against David the hearts of the other "lords of the Philistines" (1Sa_29:3-5); and in consequence, Achish was obliged to part with his services. Ah, my reader, how often was the Lord secretly working for you, when He turned the heart of some worldling against you! If we were more spiritual, this would be perceived more clearly and frequently by us, and we should then render unto our gracious Deliverer the praise which is His due. Davidís discharge from the service of Achish was just as much a miracle as was his deliverance from the enmity of Saul; it was as truly the working of Godís preserving power to rouse the jealousy and enmity of the Philistine lords against David, as it was to shield him from the javelin which the demon possessed king hurled at him (1Sa_18:11).

"So David and his men rose up early to depart in the morning to return into the land of the Philistines. And the Philistines went up to Jezreel" (1Sa_29:11). Commanded by the king of Gath so to do (1Sa_29:10). there was no other prudent alternative. Thus the snare was broken, and David was now free to return unto his own city, not knowing (as yet) how urgently his presence was needed there. Stealing away amid the shadows of the dawn, the flight of David and his men was scarcely any less ignominious than was the banishment of backslidden Abraham from Egypt (Gen_12:20). Though God often extricates His people from the dangerous situations which their unbelief brings them into, nevertheless, He makes them at least taste the bitterness of their folly. But, as we shall see, the shame which the Philistine lords put upon David, turned to his advantage in various ways. Thus does God. sometimes, graciously over-rule unto good even our failures and falls.

"So David and his men rose un early to depart in the morning to return into the land of the Philistines. And the Philistines went up to Jezreel." Delivered from a sore dilemma, a heavy burden removed from his shoulders, we may well suppose it was with a light heart that David now led his men out of the camp of Achish. Blithely unconscious of the grievous disappointment awaiting them, David and his men retraced their steps to Ziklag, for it was there he had deposited all that was chiefly dear to him on earth: his wives and his children were there, it was there he had formed a rest for himself ó but, apart from God! Ah, how little do any of us know what a day may bring forth: how often is a happy morning followed by a night of sadness: much cause have we while in this world to "rejoice with trembling" (Psa_2:11).

Though David had now been delivered from his false position as an ally of Achish against Israel, not yet had he been brought back to God. Deep exercises of heart were required for this, and He who preserveth His people from fatal backsliding saw to it that His erring servant should not escape. Though He is the God of all grace, yet His grace ever reigns "through righteousness," and never at the expense of it. Though His mercy delivers His saints from the sad pitfalls into which their folly leads them, usually, He so orders His providences, that they are made to smart for their wrong-doing; and the Holy Spirit uses this to convict them of their sins, and they, in turn, condemn themselves for the same. The means employed by God on this occasion were drastic, yet surely not more so than the case called for.

"And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the south, and Ziklag, and smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire" (1Sa_30:1). After a three daysí march from the camp of Achish, hoping to find rest in their homes and joy in the bosom of their families, here was the scene upon which the eyes of David and his men now fell! What a bitter moment must this have been for our hero! His little all had vanished: he returns to the place where his family and possessions were, only to find the city a mass of smoking ruins, and those whom he loved no longer there to welcome him. When we leave our families (though it be for only a few hours) we cannot foresee what may befall them, or ourselves, ere we return; we ought therefore to commit each other to the protection of God, and to render unto Him unfeigned thanks when we meet again in peace and safety.

"And had taken the women captives, that were therein: they slew not any, either great or small, but carried them away, and went on their way" (1Sa_30:2). Let us learn from this that it is the part of wisdom, on all occasions, to moderate our expectation of earthly comforts, lest we should by being over-sanguine, meet with the more distressing disappointment. Behold here the restraining power of the Lord, in preventing the Amalekites from slaying the women and children. "Whether they spared them to lead them in triumph, or to sell them, or to use them for slaves, Godís hand must be acknowledged, who designed to make use of the Amalekites for the correction, but not for the destruction, of the house of David" (Matthew Henry). Blessed is it to know that even in wrath God remembers "mercy" (Hab_3:2).

"And had taken the women captives, that were therein: they slew not any, either great or small, but carried them away, and went on their way." From this we may also see how sorely David was now being chastened for being so forward to go with the Philistines against the people of God. Hereby the Lord showed him he had far better have stayed at home and minded his own business. "When we go abroad, in the way of our duty, we may comfortably hope that God will take care of our families, in our absence, inst not otherwise" (Matthew Henry). No, to count upon the Lordís protection, either for ourselves or for our loved ones, when we enter forbidden territory, is wicked presumption and not faith. It was thus the devil sought to tempt Christ: Cast Thyself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and the angels shall safeguard Thee.

"So David and his men came to the city, and behold it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives. Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep" (1Sa_30:3-4). Ah, now he was tasting the bitterness of being without the full protection of God. As a homeless wanderer, hunted like a partridge upon the mountains, despised by the Nabals who dwelt at ease in the land, yet never before had he known the like of this. But now, under the protection of the king of Gath, and with a city of his own, he learns that without Godís shelter, he is exposed indeed. Learn from this, dear reader, how much we lose when we enter the path of self-will. In the first shock of disappointment, David could only weep and wail; all appeared to be irrevocably lost.

"It was indeed no wonder that Davidís heart was stricken. He had never before known what it was to be smitten like this by the chastening hand of God. Of late he had seemed even more than ordinarily to be the subject of His care: but now the relation of God seemed suddenly changed into one of severity and wrath. During the year that David had watched his fatherís flock, during his residence in the courts of Saul, during the time of his sorrowful sojourn in the wilderness, during his late eventful history in Ziklag, he had never experienced anything but kindness and preservation from the hand of God. He had become so long accustomed to receive sure protection from Godís faithful care, that he seems to have calculated on its uninterrupted continuance. He had lately said. ĎThe Lord render unto every man his righteousness. . . and let Him deliver me out of all tribulation.í But now the Lord Himself seemed turned into an enemy, and to fight against him. Nor could the conscience of David have failed to discern the reaSong. It must have owned the justice of the blow. Thus, however, the bitterness of his agony would be aggravated, not lessened" (B. W. Newton).

"And Davidís two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite" (1Sa_30:5). Why did the historian, after specifically stating in 1Sa_30:2 that the Amalekites had "taken the women captives," enter into this detail? Ah, is the answer far to seek? Is it not the Holy Spirit making known to us the prime cause of the Lordís displeasure against David? His "two wives" was the occasion of the severing of his communion with the Lord, which, as we have seen, was at once followed by Saulís renewed attack (see 1Sa_25:43-44 and 1Sa_26:1-2), his unbelieving fear (1Sa_27:1), and his seeking help from the ungodly (1Sa_27:2-3). We mention this because it supplies the key to all that follows from 1Sa_25:44, and so far as we know no other writer has pointed it out.

"And David was greatly distressed: for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved (bitter), every man for his sons and for his daughters" (1Sa_30:6). Poor David! one trouble was added to another. Heartbroken over the loss of his family, and the burning of his city, additional distress was occasioned by the murmuring and mutiny of his men. They considered the entire blame rested upon their leader, for having journeyed to Achish and left the city of Ziklag defenseless, and because he had provoked the Amalekites and their allies (1Sa_27:8-9) by his inroad upon them, who had now availed themselves of the opportunity to avenge the wrong. "Thus apt are we, when in trouble, to fly into a rage against those who are in any way the occasion of our troubles, when we overlook the Divine providence and have no due regard to Godís hand in it" (Matthew Henry).

"On all past occasions he had ever found some to sympathize with, and to console him in his afflictions. In the house of Saul, he had had the affection of Jonathan, and the favor of many beside: even in the wilderness, six hundred out of Israel had joined him, and had faithfully struggled with him through many a day of difficulty and danger: but now, they too abandon him. Enraged at the sudden calamity (for they also were bereaved of everything) ó stung to the quick by a sense of its bitter consequences ó imputing all to David (for it was he who had guided them to Ziklag) ó even they who shrunk not from the sorrows of the cave of Adullam, and who had braved all the dangers of the wilderness, forsook him now. They all turned fiercely upon him as the author of their woe, and spake of stoning him. Thus stricken of God, execrated by his friends, bereaved of all that he loved, David drank of a cup which he never tasted before. He had earned it for himself. It was the fruit of his self-chosen Ziklag" (B. W. Newton).

And what was the Lordís purpose in these sore trials which now came upon David? It was not to crush him and sink him into despair. No, rather was it with the design of moving him to "humble himself beneath His mighty hand" (1Pe_5:6), confess his wrong-doing, and be restored to happy fellowship. Godís heaviest chastenings of "His own" are sent in love and for the benefit of their subjects. But to enter into the good of them, to afterward enjoy "the peaceable fruit of righteousness" therefrom, the recipient of those chastenings must be "exercised thereby" (Heb_12:11): he must bow beneath the rod, yea, "hear" and "kiss" it, before he will be the spiritual gainer. Thus it was with the subject of these chapters, as will appear in the immediate sequel.

26 HIS RECOURSE IN SORROW (1 Sam 30)

In our last we directed attention to the gracious manner in which the Lord put forth His interposing hand to deliver David from that snare of the fowler into Which his unbelief and folly had brought him. Ere passing on to the immediate sequel, let us pause and admire the blessed way in which God timed His intervention. "To everything there is a season . . . He hath made everything beautiful in His time" (Ecc_3:1, Ecc_3:11): equally so in the spiritual realm as in the natural. Probably every Christian can look back to certain experiences in life when his circumstances were suddenly and unexpectedly changed. At the time, he understood not the meaning of it, but later was able to perceive the wisdom and goodness of Him who shaped his affairs. There have been occasions when our situation was swiftly altered, by factors over which we had no control, which called for us to move on: but the sequel showed it was God opening our way to go to the help of others who sorely needed us. So it was now with David.

"My times are in Thy hand" (Psa_31:15). Yes, my "times" of tarrying and my "times" of journeying; my "times" of prosperity and my "times" of adversity; my "times" of fellowship with the saints and my "times" of isolation and loneliness; each and all are ordered by God. It is blessed to know this, and more blessed still when the heart is permitted to rest thereon. Nothing is more quieting and stabilizing to the soul than the realization that everything was ordained by omniscience and is now ordered by infinite love: that He who eternally decreed the hour of my birth has fixed the day of my departure from this world; that my "times" of youth and health and my "times" of infirmity and sickness are equally in Godís hands. He knows when it is best to bring me out of a distressing situation, and His mercy opens the way when it is His time for me to make a move.

While David and his men were in the camp of Achish, the Amalekites took advantage of their absence, fell upon the unprotected Ziklag, burned it, and carried away captive all the women and children. Their husbands and fathers knew nothing of this: no, but God did, and He had designs of mercy toward them. Their sad case seemed a hopeless one indeed, but appearances are deceptive. Though they were unaware of the fact, God had already set moving the means for their deliverance. Unlike us, God is never too early, and He is never too late. Had David and his men been discharged by Achish a week sooner, they had been on hand to defend Ziklag, and a needed chastisement and a great blessing from it had been missed! Had they returned home a week later, they had probably been too late to recover their loved ones. Admire, then, the timeliness of Godís freeing David from the yoke of the Philistines.

"So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives. Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep" (1Sa_30:3-4), Observe, there was no turning unto God, or seeking to cast their care upon Him! They were completely overwhelmed by shock and grief. Perhaps the reader knows something of such a state from painful experience. A heavy financial reverse which plunged the soul into dark gloom; or a sudden bereavement came, and in the bitterness of grief all seemed to be against you and even the voice of prayer was silenced. Ah, David and his men are not the only ones who have been overwhelmed by trouble and anguish.

"And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons, and every man for his daughters" (1Sa_30:6). The turning against him of his faithful followers was the final ingredient in the bitter cup which David was now called on to drink. But even this was of God: if one stroke of His chastening rod avails not, it must be followed by another; and if necessary, yet others, for our holy Father will not suffer His wayward children to remain impenitent indefinitely. So it was here: the sight of Ziklag in ruins and the loss of his family did not bring David to his knees; so yet other measures are employed. The anger of his men aroused him from his lethargy, the menacing of his own life by intimate friends was the way God took to bring him back unto Himself.

"But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God" (1Sa_30:6). Here is where light broke into this dark scene, yet care needs to be taken lest we make a wrong use of the same. No one sentence in Godís Word is to be interpreted as an isolated unit, but scripture must be compared with scripture. Much is included in the words now before us, far more than any human writer is capable of fully revealing. Attention needs to be directed unto three things: first, what is pre-supposed in Davidís "encouraging himself in the Lord"; second, what is signified thereby; third, what followed the same. If we take into consideration the real character of David as "the man after Godís own heart," if we bear in mind the whole context recounting his sad lapses, and, above all, if we view our present verse in the light of the Analogy of faith, little difficulty should be experienced in "reading between the lines."

"But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God." Ah, much is implied here. David could not truly "encourage himself in the Lord" until there had been previous exercises of heart: conviction, contrition, confession, necessarily preceded comfort and consolation. "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy" (Pro_28:13): that enunciates an unchanging principle in Godís governmental dealings, with unconverted and converted alike. Had there been no repentance on Davidís part, no unsparing condemnation of himself, no broken-hearted acknowledgment unto God of his failures, he would have been "encouraging himself" in sin and that would be "turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness." Not only has Christ died to save His people from the penalty of their sins, but He has also procured the Holy Spirit to work in them a hatred for the vileness of their sins! And as there is no forgiveness and cleansing for the saint without confession (1Jo_1:9), so there is no acceptable "confession" save that which issues from a contrite heart.

There is great need today for the above principles to be explained unto and impressed upon professing Christians. Neither Godís glory will be maintained nor the good of His people promoted, if we conceal and are silent about the requirements of His righteousness. Godís mercy is exercised in a way of holiness: where there is no repentance, there is no forgiveness; where there is no turning away from sin, there is no blotting out of sins. Something more is required than simply asking God to be gracious unto us for Christís sake. There are many who quote "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1Jo_1:7), but there are few indeed who faithfully point out that that precious promise is specifically qualified with, "IF we walk in the light as He is in the light." If we avoid the searching light of Godís holiness, if we hide, excuse, repent not of and refuse to make daily confession of our sins, then the blood of Christ certainly does not "cleanse" us from all sin. To insist on the contrary is grossly dishonoring to the Blood, and is to make Christ the Condoner of evil!

Weigh well the following: "If they pray toward this place, and confess Thy name, and turn from their sin, when Thou afflictest them: then hear Thou in Heaven, and forgive the sin of Thy servants . . . If Thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever Thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the Lord toward the city which Thou hast chosen, and toward the house that I have built for Thy name: Then hear Thou in Heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause. If they sin against Thee (for there is no man that sinneth not), and Thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near; Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto Thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness; and so return unto Thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto Thee . . . Then hear Thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven Thy dwelling-place, and maintain their cause, and forgive Thy people that have sinned against Thee" (1Ki_8:35-36, 1Ki_8:44-50). And God is still the same. No change of "dispensation" effects any alteration in His character, or in anywise modifies His holy requirements: with Him there is "no variableness neither shadow of turning" (Jam_1:27).

"But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God." Having sought to indicate what is pre-supposed by those words, let us now briefly consider what is signified by them. The same Holy Spirit who convicts the backslidden saint of his sins, works in him a sincere repentance, and moves him to frankly and freely confess them to God, also gives him a renewed sense of the abounding mercy of God, strengthens faith in His blessed promises, and reminds him of His unchanging faithfulness (1Jo_1:9): and thus the contrite heart is enabled to rest in the infinite grace of God; and being now restored to communion with Him, the soul "encourages" itself in His perfections. Thus, just as the Holy Spirit delivers the saint from heeding Satanís counsel to hide his sins, so also does He rescue him from Satanís attempts to sink him in despair after he is convicted of his sins.

"But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God." This means that he reviewed afresh the everlasting covenant which God had made with him in Christ, that covenant "ordered in all things and sure." It means that he recalled Godís past goodness and mercy towards him, which reassured his heart for the present and the future. It means that he contemplated the omnipotency of the Lord, and realized that nothing is too hard for Him, no situation is hopeless unto His mighty power, for He is able to overrule evil unto good, and bring a clean thing out of an unclean. It means that he remembered Godís promises to bring him safely to the throne, and though he knew not how his immediate trouble would disappear, without doubting, he hoped in God, and confidently counted upon His undertaking for him. O Christian reader, when we are at our witís end, we should not be at faithís end. See to it that all is right between your soul and God, and then trust in His sufficiency.

When all things were against him, Davidís faith was stirred into exercise: he turned unto the One who had never failed him, and from whom he had so sadly departed. Ah, blessed is the trial, no matter how heavy; precious is the disappointment, no matter how bitter, that issues thus. To penitently return unto God means to be back again in the place of blessing. Better, far better, to be in the midst of the black ruins of Ziklag, surrounded by a threatening mob, than to be in the ranks of the Philistines fighting against His people. Have we, in any way, known what bitter disappointment means? And have we in the midst of it turned unto Him who has smitten us, and "encouraged" ourselves in Him? If so, then like David, we may say, "Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now have I kept Thy Word" (Psa_119:67).

O that it may please the Lord to bless this chapter to some sorely distressed soul, who is no longer enjoying the light of His countenance, but who is beneath His chastening frowns. You may be borne down by sorrow and despondency, but no trouble is too great for you to find relief in God: in the One who has, in righteousness, sent this sorrow upon you. Humble yourself beneath His mighty hand, acknowledge to Him your sins, count upon the multitude of His mercies, and seek grace to rest upon His comforting promises. When faith springs up amidst the ruins of blighted hopes, it is a blessed thing. What has just been before us marked a turning-point in Davidís life; may it be so in yours. "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee" (Psa_55:22).

O my reader, be you a believer, or an unbeliever, none but God can do you good, relieve your distress, remove the load From your heart, and bring blessing into your life. If you refuse to humble yourself before Him, lament the course of self-will which you followed, and turn from the same, you are your own worst enemy and are forsaking your own mercies. But if you will, take your place before Him in the dust, repent of your wickedness, and seek grace to live henceforth in subjection to His will, then pardon, peace, joy, awaits you. No matter how sadly you have failed in the past, nor what light and favors you sinned against, if you will own it all in brokenness of heart unto the Lord, He is ready to forgive.

"And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelechís son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David. And David enquired at the Lord, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them?" (1Sa_30:7-8). Here we see the first result which followed Davidís turning back unto God. It is blessed to observe that the Holy Spirit has thrown a veil of silence over what took place in secret between David and the Lord, as He has over Christís private interview with Peter (1Co_15:5). But after telling us of Davidís encouraging himself in the Lord, He now reveals the reformation which took place in his conduct. Nothing was said of Davidís seeking counsel from God when he journeyed to Achish (1Sa_27:2), but now that he is restored to happy fellowship, he will not think of taking a step without asking for divine guidance.

Very blessed indeed is what is recorded in 1Sa_30:7-8. Moses had laid it down as a law that the leader of Israel should "stand before" (Eleazar) the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in" (Num_27:21), and in compliance therewith, David turned to the priest, and bade him seek the mind of the Lord as to how he should now act in this dire emergency. Learn from this that obedience to the revealed will of God is the best evidence of having been restored to communion with Him. Of course it is, for it is the very nature of love to seek to please its object. Let us test, then, our practical relation to God, not by our feelings nor by our words, but by the extent to which we are in actual subjection to Him, and walking in a spirit of dependency upon Him.

Notice here how indwelling grace triumphed over the promptings of the flesh. Mere nature would urge that Davidís only possible course was to rush after the Amalekites and seek to rescue any of the women and children who might yet be alive. But David was now delivered from his impetuous self-confidence; his soul was again "like a weaned child." God was now to order all the details of his life. Alas, most of us have to receive many hard knocks in the by-paths of folly, before we are brought to this place. It is indeed much to be thankful for when the feverish restlessness of the flesh is subdued, and the soul truly desires God to lead us step by step: progress may not seem so swift, but it certainly will be more sure. The Lord graciously lay His quieting hand upon each of us, and cause us to look unto and rest in Himself alone.

 

27 - HIS PURSUIT OF THE AMALEKITES (1 Sam 30)

We are now to be engaged with the blessed sequel to Davidís putting matters right between his soul and God, and his encouraging himself in the Lord. At the close of the preceding chapter we saw that the first result of his returning to God was that he summoned the high priest with his ephod, and "enquired of the Lord" whether or not he should pursue after those who had burned Ziklag and carried away his wives captive. This exemplifies a principle which is ever operative when there has been a true reformation of heart: our own wisdom and strength are disowned, and divine help and guidance are earnestly sought. Herein are we able to check up the state of our souls and discover whether or not we are really walking with the Lord. Backsliding and a spirit of independency ever go together; contrariwise, communion with God and dependence upon Him are never separated.

As we pointed out in our last, the Mosaic law required that Israelís ruler should stand before the priest, who would ask counsel for him as to whether he should go out or no (Num_27:21). In like manner, the saint today is bidden to "Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass" (Psa_37:5). No step in life should be taken, be it great or small, without first waiting upon God for direction: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (Jam_1:5). To seek not wisdom from above, is to act in self-sufficiency and self-will; to honestly and earnestly apply for that wisdom, betokens a heart in subjection to God, desirous of doing that which is pleasing to Him.

"In all thy ways acknowledge Him": if this be faithfully done, then we may be fully assured that "and He shall direct thy paths" (Pro_3:6). The serious trouble into which David fell when he sought refuge in the land of Gath, had arisen immediately from failure to enquire of the Lord; but now he consulted Him through the high priest: "Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them?" (1Sa_30:8). Blessed indeed is this. Would that we might learn to imitate him, for our fleshly efforts to undo the consequences of our unbelief and folly only cause us to continue going on in the same path which brought Godís chastening upon us; and this is certain to end in further disappointment. "Be still, and know that I am God" is the word we need to heed at such a time: to unsparingly judge ourselves, and suffer the hand that has smitten to now lead in His path, is the only way to recovery. Only then do we give evidence that disappointment and sorrow have been blest to our souls.

Unspeakably precious is it to note the Lordís response to Davidís inquiry: "And He answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all" (1Sa_30:8). "See the goodness and perfectness of the grace of God. There was no delay in this answer ó no reserve ó no ambiguity; more even was told than David had asked. He was told not only that he might pursue, but that he should surely recover all. In a moment the black cloud of sorrow that had hung so darkly over Davidís soul was gone: agony gave place to joy: and he whom his companions had been dooming to death, stood suddenly before them as the honoured servant of the Lord his God, commissioned to pursue and to conquer. He did pursue, and all was as God had said" (B. W. Newton).

"So David went, he and the six hundred men that were with him" (1Sa_30:9). The force of this can only be perceived and appreciated by recalling what was before us in 1Sa_30:6 : "David was greatly distressed, for the people spake of stoning him"! What a change we behold now! The enmity of his men has been stilled, and they are again ready to follow their leader. Herein we see the third consequence of Davidís spiritual return and encouraging himself in the Lord. First, he had submitted to the divine order, and sought guidance from God. Second, he had promptly received a gracious response, the Lord granting the assurance he so much desired. And now the power of God fell upon the hearts of his men, entirely subduing their mutiny, and making them willing, weary and worn as they were, to follow David in a hurried march after the Amalekites. O how much do we lose, dear reader, when we fail to right matters with God!

"So David went, he and six hundred men that were with him." Here is Davidís response to the word he had received from God through the high priest. Without taking rest or refreshment, he at once set out in pursuit of the ravagers. Tired and weak as he well might be, David was now nerved to fresh endeavors. Ah, is it not written, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary: they shall walk, and not faint" (Isa_40:31)? So it ever is. If we truly desire spiritual guidance of the Lord, and humbly and trustfully seek it from Him, our inner man will be renewed, and we shall be empowered to follow the path of His ordering.

"And came to the brook Besor, where those that were left behind stayed" (1Sa_30:9). This teaches us that when we are in the current of the revealed will of God, all will not, necessarily, be plain sailing. We must be prepared to meet with difficulties and obstacles even in the path of obedience. It was by faith in the word that he had received from Jehovah that David turned from the ruins of Ziklag, and faith must be tested. A severe trial now confronted David: fatigued from their former journey and their spirits further depressed by the sad scene they had gazed upon, many of his men, though willing, were unable to proceed farther; and he left no less than two hundred behind at the brook of Besor.

"But David pursued, he and four hundred men: for two hundred abode behind, which were so faint that they could not go over the brook Besor" (1Sa_30:10). Considerate of the state of his men, David would not drive or force those who were faint to accompany him. Further proof was this that our hero was now again in communion with God, for "He knoweth our frame, He remembereth that we are dust" (Psa_103:14) ó alas, how often do those who profess His name seem to forget this. But though his company was now reduced by one third, and, as 1Sa_30:17 plainly intimates, was far inferior to the Forces of the Amalekites, yet David relied implicitly on the Word of the Lord, and continued to push forward.

"And they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David, and gave him bread, and he did eat; and they made him drink water. And they gave him a piece of a cake of figs, and two clusters of raisins; and when he had eaten, his spirit came again to him: for he had eaten no bread, nor drunk any water, three days and three nights. And David said unto him, To whom belongest thou? and whence art thou? And he said, I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite; and my master left me, because three days ago I fell sick. We made an invasion upon the south of the Cherethites, and upon the coast which belongeth to Judah, and upon the south of Caleb; and we burned Ziklag with fire. And David said to him, Canst thou bring me down to this company? And he said, Sware unto me by God, that thou wilt neither kill me, nor deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will bring thee down to this company" (1Sa_30:11-15). We shall consider these verses from two angles: as they add to what has been before us above; as they contain a lovely gospel picture.

In the verses just quoted we may perceive the seventh consequence which followed Davidís righting things with God. First, he encouraged himself in the Lord: 1Sa_30:6. Second, he submitted to the divine order and sought guidance from God: 1Sa_30:7-8. Third, he obtained light for his path and assurance of Godís help: 1Sa_30:8. Fourth, the power of God fell upon the hearts of his men, subduing their mutiny: 1Sa_30:6 and making them willing to follow him on a difficult and daring enterprise: 1Sa_30:9. Fifth, the renewing of Davidís strength, so that he was able to start out on a forced and swift march: 1Sa_30:9. Sixth, grace granted him to overcome a sore trial of faith: 1Sa_30:10. And now we are to observe how the Lord showed Himself strong on their behalf by ordering His providences to work in Davidís favor. Such are some of the divine mercies which we may confidently expect when the channel of blessing between our souls and God is no longer choked by unjudged and unconfessed sins.

A most remarkable intervention of divine providence is here before us. David was pursuing the Amalekites, and from this incident we gather that he knew not in which direction they had gone, nor how far ahead they were. God did not work a miracle for them, but by natural means provided him with a needed guide. The men of David came across one, who was sick and famished, in a field. He turned out to be an Egyptian slave, whom his master had barbarously abandoned. Upon being brought to David, he furnished full particulars, and after receiving assurance that his life should be spared, agreed to conduct David and his men to the place where the Amalekites were encamped. Let us admire the various details in this wondrous secret provision which God now made for David, and the combined factors which entered into it.

First, stand in awe of the high sovereignty of God which suffered this Egyptian slave to fall sick: 1Sa_30:13. Second, in permitting his master to act so inhumanly, by leaving him to perish by the wayside: 1Sa_30:13. Third, in moving Davidís men to spare his life: 1Sa_30:11, when they had every reason to believe he had taken part in the burning of Ziklag. Fourth, in the fact that he was himself an Egyptian and not an Amalekite: 1Sa_30:11óhad he been the latter, they were bound to kill him (Deu_25:19). Fifth, in moving David to show him kindness: 1Sa_30:11. Sixth, in causing the food given to so quickly revive him: 1Sa_30:12. Seventh, in inclining him to freely answer Davidís inquiries and be willing to lead him to the camp of the Amalekites. Each of these seven factors had to combine, or the result had never been reached: God made "all things work together" for Davidís good. So He does for us: His providences, day by day, work just as wondrously on our behalf.

Approaching(1Sa_30:11-15) now from another angle, let us see portrayed in them a beautiful type of a lost sinner being saved by Christ. There are so many distinct lines in this lovely gospel picture that we can here do little more than point out each one separately.

1. His citizenship: "And they found an Egyptian in the field" (1Sa_30:11). In Scripture Egypt is a symbol of the world: the moral world to which the unregenerate belong and in which they seek their satisfaction. As another has said, "It had its beginning in Cainís day, when he Ďwent out from the presence of the Lord,í and he and his descendants builded cities, sought out witty inventions of brass and iron, manufactured musical instruments, and went in for a good time generally, in forgetfulness of God. And that continues to this day. The land of Egypt figures this. There Pharaoh, type of Satan, ruled and tyrannized."

2. His woeful condition: "I fell sick" (1Sa_30:13). Such is the state of every descendant of fallen Adam. An awful disease is at work in the unregenerate: that disease is sin, and "sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (Jam_1:15). It is sin which has robbed the soul of its original beauty: darkening the understanding, corrupting the heart, perverting the will, and paralyzing all our faculties so far as their exercise Godward is concerned. But not only was this Egyptian desperately sick, he was starving: he had had nothing to eat or drink for three days. Well might he cry, "I perish with hunger" (Luk_15:17).

3. His sad plight: "my master left me, because three days ago I fell sick" (1Sa_30:13). He was a slave, and now that his master thought he would be of no further use to him, he heartlessly abandoned him and left him to perish. "And that is the way the devil treats his servants. he uses them as his tools as long as he can. Then, when he cannot use them any more, he leaves them to their folly. Thus he treated Judas, and hosts of others before and since" (C. Knapp).

4. His deliverance: "And brought him to David" (1Sa_30:11). No doubt he was too weak and ill to come of himself; and even had he the ability, he had never used it thus, for David was an utter stranger to him! Thus it is with the unregenerate sinner and that blessed One whom David foreshadowed. Therefore did Christ say, "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him" (Joh_6:44). Each of Godís elect is "brought" to Christ by the Holy Spirit.

5. His deliverer: No doubt this half-dead Egyptian presented a woe-begone spectacle, as he was led or carried into the presence of the man after Godís own heart. But his very ruin and wretchedness drew out the compassion of David toward him. Thus it is with the Saviour: no matter what ravages sin has wrought, nor how morally repulsive it has made its victim, Christ never refuses to receive and befriend one whom the Father draws to Him.

6. His entertainment: "And gave him bread, and he did eat; and they made him drink water. And they gave him a piece of a cake of figs, and two clusters of raisins" (1Sa_30:11-12). Precious line in our picture is this of the divine grace which is stored up in Christ. None brought to Him by the Spirit are ever sent empty away. How this reminds us of the royal welcome which the prodigal received and the rich fare that was set before him.

7. His confession: When David asked him to whom he belonged and whence he came, he gave an honest and straightforward reply: "He said, I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite" (1Sa_30:13). Strikingly did this adumbrate the fact that when an elect sinner has been brought to Christ, and been given the bread and water of life, he takes his proper place, and candidly acknowledges what he was and is by nature. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us" (1Jo_1:9).

8. His obligation: "And David said, Canst thou bring me down to this company?" (1Sa_30:15). In this we may see how David pressed his claims upon the one whom he had befriended, though it is blessed to mark that it was more in the form of an appeal than a direct command. In like manner, the word to the believer is, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom_12:1).

9. His desire for assurance: "And he said, Sware unto me by God, that thou wilt neither kill me, nor deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will bring thee down to this company" (1Sa_30:15). There could be no joy in the service of his new master until assured that he should not be returned unto the power of his old one. Blessed is it to know that Christ delivers His people not only from the wrath to come, but also from the dominion of sin.

10. His gratitude: "And when he had brought him down" (1Sa_30:16). He was now devoted to the interests of David, and did as he requested. So Christians are told, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Eph_2:10). O for grace to serve Christ as ardently as we did sin and Satan in our unregenerate days.

28 HIS RECOVERY OF HIS WIVES (1 Sam 30)

"And when he had brought him down, behold, they were spread abroad upon all the earth, eating and drinking, and dancing, because of all the great spoil that they had taken out of the land of the Philistines and out of the land of Judah. And David smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, which rode upon camels, and fled" (1Sa_30:16-17). We resume at the point where we left off in our last chapter. These verses form a solemn sequel to those previously pondered, and set before us the other side of the picture which was then considered.

The Amalekites, in all probability, knew that the Israelites and Philistines were engaged in fighting each other a considerable distance away, and supposed that David and his men were assisting the king of Gath. Deeming themselves secure, they imprudently began to riot and make merry over the abundance of spoils they had captured, without so much as placing guards to give notice of an enemyís approach. They lay not in any regular order, much less in any military formation, but were scattered in groups, here and there. Consequently, David and his little force came upon them quite unawares, and made a dreadful slaughter of them. How often when men say, "Peace and safety, sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape" (1Th_5:3).

Just as the sick and abandoned Egyptian who was befriended by David typified one of Godís elect being saved by Christ, so these flesh-indulging Amalekites portray careless sinners who will yet be destroyed by Him. Solemnly is this announced in 2Th_1:7-9, "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power." And again, "Behold, the Lord cometh, with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds, which they had ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him" (Jdg_1:14-15).

Yet, such unspeakably solemn warnings as those which God has given in His Word have no restraining effect upon the unconcerned and Satan-drugged world. The vast majority of our fellows live as though there were no eternity to come, no judgment day when they must appear before God, give an account of the deeds they have done in the body, and be sentenced according to their works. They know full well how brief and uncertain this life is: at short intervals their companions are cut down by the hand of death, but no lasting serious impressions are made upon them. Instead, they continue in their pleasure-loving whirl, impervious to the divine threatenings, deaf to the voice of conscience, disregarding any entreaties or admonitions which they may receive from Christian friends or the servants of God.

O how tragically true to the present-day life of the world is the gay scene presented to us in the verses we are now pondering. Those care-free Amalekites were "eating and drinking and dancing." In their fancied security they were having what the young people of this degenerate age call "a good time." There was an abundance of food to hand, why then should they deny those lusts of the flesh which war against the soul? They had been successful in spoiling their neighbors, why then should they not "celebrate" and make merry? All were in high spirits, why then should they not fill the air with music and laughter? Yes, similar is the fatal reasoning of multitudes today. But mark well the fearful sequel: "And David smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day." Alas, what was their carnal security worth!

David was just as truly a type of Christ in his slaying of the Amalekites as he was in befriending the poor Egyptian. Ah, dear reader, he who saves those who submit to Him as their Lord and trust in Him as their Redeemer, shall as surely judge and destroy them who despise and reject Him. He will yet say, "But those Mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay before Me" (Luk_19:27). How will it fare with you in that day? The answer to this question will be determined by whether or not you have truly received Him as Prophet to instruct you, as Priest to atone for your sins, as King to regulate and reign over your heart and life. If you have not already done so, seek grace from above to throw down the weapons of your warfare against Him and surrender yourself wholly to Him.

"The young man of Egypt was with David when he came upon the Amalekites. He once belonged to their company and was one of them. Had he not been separated from them he would have surely shared their fate. If unconverted, you are of that world of sinners Ďwhose judgment now for a long time lingereth not.í Turn from it now ere the vengeance of God destroys you with it. God has borne with it long. The sins of Christendom reach up to heaven, and cry for vengeance. Christ is your only refuge. Come to Him now, and, like Noah in the ark and Lot in the mountain, you will be safe from the sweeping storm. Like the young man of Egypt, you will be taken out of the world and away from this scene before the stroke descends. You will appear with Christ, along with those ten thousand holy ones who accompany Him when He comes to earth to war and judge" (C. Knapp).

Let us now return to our narrative and seek its practical teaching for the Christian today. "And when he had brought him down, behold, they were spread abroad upon all the earth, eating and drinking, and dancing, because of all the great spoil that they had taken out of the land of the Philistines, and out of the land of Judah" (1Sa_30:16). How many miles it was that the befriended Egyptian led David and his men we do not know, but probably some considerable distance: that they were supernaturally strengthened for their strenuous exertions after their previous fatigue, we cannot doubt. Justly did God make use of this poor Egyptian, basely abandoned, as an instrument of death to the Amalekites.

"And David smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, which rode upon camels and fled. And David recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away: and David rescued his two wives. And there was nothing lacking to them, neither small nor great, neither sons nor daughters, neither spoil nor anything that they had taken to them: David recovered all" (1Sa_30:17-19). Here is the blessed sequel to all that has occupied us in the preceding verses of this chapter. What a proof that Davidís heart was now perfect toward the Lord, for most manifestly did He here show Himself strong on his behalf, by granting such signal success to his endeavors. Ah, when our sins are forsaken and forgiven, and we act by the Lordís directions, we are just as likely to recover what we lost by our previous folly.

"And David took all the flocks and the herds, which they drave before those other cattle, and said, This is Davidís spoil" (1Sa_30:20). The seeming ambiguity of this language is removed if we refer back to what is said in verse 16: the Amalekites had successfully raided other places before they fell upon Ziklag. The spoil they had captured was kept separate, and the cattle which they had taken in the territory of Philistia and Judah David claimed for his own portion: the noble use which he made of the same we shall see in a moment.

"And David came to the two hundred men which were so faint that they could not follow David, whom they had made also to abide at the brook Besor: and they went forth to meet David, and to meet the people that were with him: and when David came near to the people, he saluted them" (1Sa_30:21). The expression "whom they had made to abide by the brook Besor" shows plainly that those fatigued men earnestly desired to follow David further, and had to be constrained not to do so. Typically, it tells us that all Christians are not equally strong in the Lord: compare 1Jo_2:13. The Hebrew word for "saluted" signifies "he asked them of peace," which means, he inquired how they did, being solicitous of their welfare. Though all Christians are not alike spiritually robust, all are equally dear unto Christ.

"Then answered all the wicked men and men of Belial, of those that went with David, and said, Because they went not with us, we will not give them ought of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away, and depart" (1Sa_30:22). In the most favored company there will be found selfish men, who being ungrateful to God for His kindness and favors will desire to enrich and pamper themselves, leaving their fellows to starve, for all they care. Even amid Davidís band, were certain sons of Belial, wicked men, of a covetous and grasping disposition. No doubt they were the ones who took the lead in suggesting that David be "stoned" (1Sa_30:6). Their real character was here made quite evident: in their evil suggestion we may see how the heart of David was tested.

"Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the Lord hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand" (1Sa_30:23). Davidís reply to the selfish suggestion of some of his grasping followers was meek, pious and righteous, and it prevailed unto their silencing. Note how gently he replied even to the sons of Belial, addressing them as "my brethren"; but observe that he, at the same time, maintained his dignity as the general-in-chief, by directly denying their request. Yet it was not a mere arbitrary assertion of his authority: he followed his "Ye shall not do so" with powerful reasonings.

First, he reminded these selfish followers that the spoil which had been taken from the Amalekites was not theirs absolutely, but that "which the Lord hath given us." Therein David inculcated an important principle which is to regulate us in the discharge of our Christian stewardship: freely we have received from God, and therefore freely we should give unto others. Miserliness in a child of God is a practical denial of how deeply he is indebted unto divine grace. Second, he reminded them of how mercifully the Lord had "preserved" them when they attacked a people who greatly outnumbered them, and how He had also "delivered" the Amalekites into their hands. They must not ascribe the victory unto their own prowess, and therefore they could not claim the booty as wholly belonging unto themselves. It is not a time to give way to a spirit of greed when the Lord has particularly manifested His kindness to us.

Third, he pointed out that their evil suggestion most certainly would not commend itself unto any wise, just and right-thinking people: "For who will hearken unto you in this matter?" (1Sa_30:24). When the people of God are in the majority, they will vote down the propositions of the covetous; but when the unregenerate are allowed to outnumber them in their assemblies, woe unto them. Fourth, David reminded them that those who tarried at Besor did so out of no disloyalty or unwillingness: they had fought valiantly in the past, and now they had faithfully done their part in guarding the "stuff" or baggage, and so were entitled to a share of the spoils: "But as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike" (1Sa_30:24).

The whole of the above illustrates the fact that when a backsliding believer has been restored to communion with God, he is now in a state of soul to enjoy his recovered possessions: they will no longer be a snare unto him. When God takes something from us to teach us a needed lesson, He can, after we have learned that lesson, restore it to us again. Often, though not always, He does so. Faith is now dominant again, and receives the recovered blessings from the hand of God. One who has been truly restored, like David, who knew what his own failure has been, will permit of no such selfishness as the sons of Belial advocate. Those who had stayed at home, as it were, should share in the victory. That was true largeness of heart, which ever marks one who has learned in Godís school.

But there are always some who would wish to stint those possessing less faith and energy, yet he who realizes something of his own deep indebtedness to divine grace rejoices to give out to others what he has gained. When the Lord is pleased to open up some part of His precious Word unto one of His servants he, with enlarged heart, welcomes every opportunity to pass on the same to others. But how often are those who seek to pour cold water on his zeal, urging that it is not "wise" or "timely," yea, that such teaching may prove "dangerous." While it is not fitting that we should take the childrenís bread and cast it to the dogs, on the other hand it is sinful to withhold any portion of the Bread of Life from hungry souls. If God has restored to us any portion of His truth, we owe it to the whole Household of Faith to impart it unto as many as will receive it.

"And when David came to Ziklag, he sent of the spoil unto the elders of Judah, even to his friends, saying, Behold a present for you of the spoil of the enemies of the Lord" (1Sa_30:26). "David not only distributed of the spoil to all who had followed him in the wilderness, and shared his dangers there ó he also remembered that there were some, who, though they had refused to quit their position in Israel, and had shrunk (as well they might) from the cave of Adullam, did nevertheless love and favour him. Yet though they had drawn back from following him, and had declined to partake of his cup of sorrow, David, in the hour of his triumph, refused not to them participation in his joy. Such is the liberality of a heart that has sought and found its portion in grace" (B. W. Newton).

Very blessed is what we find recorded in these closing verses of 1 Samuel 30. Those who view God as the Giver of their abundance will dispense of it with equity and liberality: they will seek to restrain injustice in others (1Sa_30:23), establish useful precedents (1Sa_30:25), and share with friends (1Sa_30:26-31). The Amalekites had spoiled some of those parts of Judah mentioned in 1Sa_30:26-31 (see 1Sa_30:14-16), and therefore did David now send relief to those sufferers: it was the part of justice to restore what had been taken from them. Moreover, he had a grateful remembrance of those friends who secretly favored him during the time of Saulís persecution, and who had sheltered and relieved his men in the time of this distress (1Sa_30:31). Instead of selfishly enriching himself, he generously befriended others, and gave them proof that the Lord was with him.

Fearfully divergent may be the effects produced on different persons who pass under the same trials and blessings. The "sons of Belial" companied with David during the night of his sorrow (as Judas did with Christ), and were also made the recipients of his mercies; yet they now evidenced a state of soul which marked them in Godís sight as "wicked men" (1Sa_30:22). What more abhorrent to God than that which would narrow the expansiveness of grace: what more hateful in His sight than a selfishness which sought to extract out of His free favors an excuse for enriching itself by despising others ó cf. Joh_12:4-6. But how different with David: from the ruins of Ziklag he rose, step by step, to a higher faith: manifesting dependency upon God, seeking His guidance, obtaining energy to pursue the enemy, and exercising largeness of heart in sharing the spoils with all. Thereby did he furnish an eminent foreshadowing of Him who Ďtook the prey from the mighty" (Isa_49:24), "led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men" (Eph_4:8).

 

 


Part II - Davidís Reign

 

29 HIS LAMENTATIONS FOR SAUL (1Sa_31:1-13 & 2 Samuel 1)

The final chapter of 1 Samuel presents to us an unspeakably solemn and terrible scene, being concerned not with David, but with the termination of Saulís earthly life. In these chapters we have said little about him, but here one or two paragraphs concerning his tragic career and its terrible close seem in place. A solemn summary of this, from the divine side, is found in Hos_13:11, when at a later date, God reminded rebellious Israel, "I gave them a king in Mine anger, and took him away in My wrath": the reference being to Saul.

The history of Saul properly begins at the eighth chapter. There we behold the revolted heart of Israel, which had departed further and further from Jehovah, desiring a human king in His stead. Though Samuel the prophet faithfully remonstrated, and space was given them to repent of their rash decision, it was in vain: they were determined to have their own way. "Nevertheless the people . . . said, Nay, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles" (1Sa_8:19-20). Accordingly, God, "in His anger," delivered them up to their own heartsí lusts and suffered them to be plagued by one who proved a disappointment and curse to them, until, by his godless incompetency, he brought the kingdom of Israel to the very verge of destruction.

From the human side of things, Saul was a man splendidly endowed, given a wonderful opportunity, and had a most promising prospect. Concerning his physique we are told, "Saul was a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people" (1Sa_9:2). Regarding his acceptability unto his subjects, we read that when Samuel set him before them, that "all the people shouted, and said, God save the king" (1Sa_10:24): more, "there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched" (1Sa_10:26), giving the young king favor in their eyes. Not only so, but "the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul" (1Sa_11:6), equipping him for his office, and giving proof that God was ready to act if he would submit to His yoke.

Yet notwithstanding these high privileges, Saul, in his spiritual madness, played fast and loose with them, mined his life, and by disobeying and defying God, lost his soul. In the thirteenth chapter of 1 Samuel we find Saul tried and found wanting. The prophet left him for a little while, bidding him go to Gilgal and wait for him there, till he should come and offer the sacrifices. Accordingly we are told "he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed." And then we read, "but Samuel came not to Gilgal, and the people were scattered from him" ó having lost their confidence in the king to lead them against the Philistines to victory. Petulant at the delay, Saul presumptuously invaded the prophetís prerogative and said, "Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings, And he offered the burnt offering" (1Sa_13:9). Thus did he forsake the word of the Lord and break the first command he received from Him.

In the 15th chapter we see him tested again by a command from the Lord: "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not: but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass" (1Sa_15:2-3). But again he disobeyed: "But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them" (1Sa_15:9). Then it was that the prophet announced, "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king" (1Sa_15:22-23). From that point Saul rapidly went from bad to worse: turning against David and relentlessly seeking his life, shedding the blood of Godís priests (1Sa_22:18-19), till at last he scrupled not to seek the aid of the devil himself (1Sa_28:7-8).

And now the day of recompense had come, when he who had advanced steadily from one degree of impiety to another, should miserably perish by his own hand. The divine account of this is given in 1Sa_31:1-13. The Philistines had joined themselves against Israel in battle. First, Saulís own army was defeated (1Sa_31:1); next, his sons, the hopes of his family, were slain before his eyes (1Sa_31:2); and then the king himself was sorely wounded by the archers (1Sa_31:3). Fearful indeed is what follows: no longer able to resist his enemies, nor yet flee from them, the God-abandoned Saul expressed no concern for his soul, but desired only that his life might be dispatched speedily, so that the Philistines might not gloat over him and torture his body.

First, he called upon his armor-bearer to put an end to his wretched life, but though his servant neither feared God nor death, he had too much respect for the person of his sovereign to lift up his hand against him (1Sa_31:4). Whereupon Saul became his own murderer: Saul took a sword and fell upon it"; and his armor-bearer, in a mad expression of fealty to his royal master, imitated his fearful example. Saul was therefore the occasion of his servant being guilty of fearful wickedness, and "perished not alone in his iniquity." As he had lived, so he died: proud and jealous, a terror to himself and all about him, having neither the fear of God nor hope in God. What a solemn warning for each of us! What need is there for both writer and reader to heed that exhortation, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living of God" (Heb_3:13).

The cases of Ahithophel (2Sa_17:23), Zimri (1Ki_16:18) and Judas the traitor (Mat_27:5) are the only other instances recorded in Scripture of those who murdered themselves. The awful sin of suicide seems to have occurred very rarely in Israel, and not one of the above cases is extenuated by ascribing the deed unto insanity! When the character of those men be examined, we may perceive not only the enormity of the crime by which they put an end to their wretched lives, but the unspeakably fearful consequences which must follow the fatal deed. How can it be otherwise, when men either madly presume on the mercy of God or despair of it. in order to escape temporal suffering or disgrace, despise His gift of life, and rush headlong, uncalled, unto His tribunal? By an act of direct rebellion against Godís authority (Exo_20:13), and in daring defiance of His justice, suicides fling themselves on the bosses of Jehovahís buckler, with the guilt of unrepented sin on their hands.

"And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in mount Gilboa. And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of their idols, and among the people. And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan" (1Sa_31:8-10). Though Saul had escaped torture at their hands, his body was signally abused ó adumbrating, we doubt not, the awful suffering which his soul was now enduring, and would continue to endure forever. Saulís self-inflicted death points a most solemn warning for us to earnestly watch and pray that we may be preserved from both presumption and despair, and divinely enabled to bear up under the trials of life, and quietly to hope for the salvation of the Lord (Lam_3:26), that Satan may not tempt us to the horrible sin of self-murder for which the Scriptures hold out no hope of forgiveness.

"Now it came to pass after the death of Saul, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, and David had abode two days in Ziklag" (2Sa_1:1). David had returned to Ziklag, where he was engaged with dividing the spoil he had captured and in sending presents to his friends (1Sa_30:26-31). "It was strange he did not leave some spies about the camps to bring him early notice of the issue of the engagement (between the Philistines and the army of Saul): a sign he desired not Saulís woeful day, nor was impatient to come to the throne, but willing to wait till those tidings were brought to him, which many a one would have sent more than half way to meet. He that believeth does not make haste, takes good news when it comes, and is not weary while it is in the coming" (Matthew Henry).

"It came even to pass on the third day, that, behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul with his clothes rent and earth upon his head: and so it was, when he came to David, that he fell to the earth, and did obeisance. And David said unto him, From whence comest thou? And he said unto him, Out of the camp of Israel am I escaped. And David said unto him, How went the matter? I pray thee, tell me. And he answered, That the people are fled from the battle, and many of the people also are fallen and dead; and Saul and Jonathan his son are dead also" (2Sa_1:2-4). This Amalekite presented himself as a mourner for the dead king, and as a loyal subject to the one who should succeed Saul. No doubt he prided himself that he was the first to pay homage to the sovereign-elect, expecting to be rewarded for bringing such good news (2Sa_4:10); whereas he was the first to receive sentence of death from Davidís hands.

"And David said unto the young man that told him, How knowest thou that Saul and Jonathan be dead? And the young man that told him said, As I happened by chance upon mount Gilboa, behold, Saul leaned upon his spear; and, lo, the chariots and horsemen followed hard after him. And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called unto me. And I answered, Here am I. And he said unto me, Who art thou? And I answered him, I am an Amalekite. And he said unto me again, Stand, I pray thee, upon me, and slay me, for anguish is come upon me, because my life is yet whole in me. So I stood upon him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live after that he was fallen: and I took the crown that was upon his head, and the bracelet that was on his arm, and have brought them hither unto my lord" (2Sa_1:5-10). This is one of the passages seized by atheists and infidels to show that "the Bible is full of contradictions," for the account here given of Saulís death by no means tallies with what is recorded in the previous chapter. But the seeming difficulty is easily solved: 1Sa_31:1-13 contains Godís description of Saulís death; 2 Samuel 1 gives manís fabrication. Holy Writ records the lies of Godís enemies (Gen_3:4) as well as the true statements of his servants.

From 1Sa_31:4 it is definitely established that Saul murdered himself, and was dead before his armor-bearer committed suicide. That is the unerring record of the Holy Spirit Himself, and must not be questioned for a moment. In view of this, it is quite evident that the Amalekite who now communicated to David the tidings of Saulís death, lied in a number of details. Finding Saulís body with the insignia of royalty upon it ó which evidenced both the conceit and rashness of the infatuated king: going into battle with the crown upon his head, and thus making himself a mark for the Philistine archers ó he seized them (2Sa_1:10), and then formed his story in such a way as he hoped to ingratiate himself with David. Thus did this miserable creature seek to turn the death of Saul to his own personal advantage, and scrupled not to depart from the truth in so doing; concluding, from the wickedness of his own heart, that David would be delighted with the news he communicated.

By the death of Saul and Jonathan the way was now opened for David to the throne. "If a large proportion of Israel stood up for the rights of Ishbosheth, who was a very insignificant person (2 Sam. 2-4), doubtless far more would have been strenuous for Jonathan. And though he would readily have given place, yet his brethren and the people in general would no doubt have made much more opposition to Davidís accession to the kingdom" (Thomas Scott). Yet so far was David from falling into a transport of joy, as the poor Amalekite expected, that he mourned and wept; and so strong was his passion that all about him were similarly affected: "Then David took hold on his clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the men that were with him: And they mourned and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the Lord, and for the house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword" (2Sa_1:11-12).

"Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth; and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth" (Pro_24:17). There are many who secretly wish for the death of those who have injured them, or who keep them from honors and estates, and who inwardly rejoice even when they pretend to mourn outwardly. But the grace of God subdues this base disposition, and forms the mind to a more liberal temper. Nor will the spiritual soul exult in the prospect of worldly advancement, for he realizes that such will increase his responsibilities, that he will be surrounded by greater temptations and called to additional duties and cares. David mourned for Saul out of good will, without constraint: out of compassion, without malice; because of the melancholy circumstances attending his death and the terrible consequences which must follow, as well as for Israelís being triumphed over by the enemies of God.

"And David said unto the young man that told him, Whence art thou? And he answered, I am the son of a stranger, an Amalekite. And David said unto him, How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the Lordís anointed? And David called one of the young men, and said, Go near, and fall upon him. And he smote him that he died. And David said unto him, Thy blood be upon thy head; for thy mouth hath testified against thee, saying, I have slain the Lordís anointed" (2Sa_1:13-16). As an Amalekite, he was devoted to destruction (Deu_25:17-19), and as the elect-king, David was now required to put the sentence into execution.

The last nine verses of our chapter record the "lamentation" or elegy which David made over Saul and Jonathan. Not only did David rend his clothes, weep, and fast over the decease of his arch-enemy, but he also composed a poem in his honour: 2Sa_1:17-27. Nor was it mere sentiment which prompted him: it was also because he looked upon Saul as Israelís "king," the "anointed" of God (2Sa_1:16). This elegy was a noble tribute of respect unto Saul and of tender affection for Jonathan. First, he expressed sorrow over the fall of the mighty (2Sa_1:19). Second, he deprecated the exultations of the enemies of God in the cities of the Philistines (2Sa_1:20). Third, he celebrated Saulís valor and military renown (2Sa_1:21-22). Fourth, he touchingly mentioned the fatal devotion of Jonathan to his father (2Sa_1:23). Fifth, he called upon the daughters of Israel, who had once sung Saulís praises, to now weep over their fallen leader (2Sa_1:24). Sixth, his faults are charitably veiled! Seventh, nothing could truthfully be said of Saulís piety, so David would not utter lies ó how this puts to shame the untruthful adulations found in many a funeral oration! Eighth, he ended by memorializing the fervent love of Jonathan for himself.

30 HIS SOJOURN AT HEBRON (2 Sam 2)

The news of Saulís death had been received by the exiled David in characteristic fashion. He first flamed out in fierce anger against the lying Amalekite, who had hurried with the tidings, hoping to curry favor with him by pretending that he had killed Saul on the field of battle. A short shrift and a bloody end were his, and then the wrath gave place to mourning. Forgetting the mad hatred and relentless persecution of his late enemy, thinking only of the friendship of his earlier days and his official status as the anointed of the Lord, our hero cast over the mangled corpses of Saul and Jonathan the mantle of his noble elegy, in which he sings the praise of the one and celebrates the love of the other. Not until those offices of justice and affection had been performed, did he think of himself and the change which had been affected in his own fortunes.

It seems clear that David had never regarded Saul as standing between himself and the kingdom. The first reaction from his death was not, as it would have been with a less devout and less generous heart, a flush of gladness at the thought of the empty throne; but instead, a sharp pang of grief from the sense of an empty heart. And even when he began to contemplate his immediate future and changed fortunes he carried himself with commendable self-restraint. At the time David was still a fugitive in the midst of the ruins of Ziklag, but instead of rushing ahead, "making the most of his opportunity," and seizing the empty throne, he sought directions from the Lord. Ah, we not only need to turn unto God in times of deep distress, but equally so when His outward providences appear to be working decidedly in our favour.

David would do nothing in this important crisis of his life ó when all which had for so long appeared a distant hope, now seemed to be rapidly becoming a present fact ó until his Shepherd should lead him. Impatient and impetuous as he was by nature, schooled to swift decisions, followed by still swifter actions, knowing that a blow struck speedily while all was chaos and despair in the kingdom, might at once set him on the throne; nevertheless, he held the flesh, carnal policy, and the impatience of his followers in check, to hear what God would say. To a man of Davidís experience it must have appeared that now was the opportune moment to subdue the remaining adherents of the fallen Saul, rally around himself his loyal friends, grasp the crown and the scepter, vanquish the gloating Philistines, and secure unto himself the kingdom of Israel. Instead, he refused to take a single step until Jehovah had signified His will in the matter.

The manner in which David conducted himself on this occasion presents an example which we do well to take to heart and punctually emulate. The important principle of action which was here exemplified has been well expressed by another: "If we would possess temporal things with a blessing, we must not eagerly seize upon them, nor be determined by favorable events or carnal counsel: but we must observe the rules of Godís Word, and pray for His direction; using those means, and those only, which He has appointed or allowed, and avoid all evil, or Ďappearance of evil,í in our pursuit of them: and then whatever else we fail in, we shall be directed in the way to the kingdom of heaven" (Thomas Scott). "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths" (Pro_3:5-6).

To "acknowledge" the Lord in all our ways means that instead of acting in self-sufficiency and self-will, we seek wisdom from above in every undertaking of our earthly affairs, beg God to grant us light from His Word on our path, and seek His honor and glory in all that we attempt. Thus it was now with David: "And it came to pass after this, that David inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?" (2Sa_2:1). This is very blessed, and should be linked with all that was before us in 1 Samuel 30:6-31. What is here recorded of David supplies further proof of his having been restored from backsliding. Previously he had left the cities of Judah "inquiring" of his own heart (1Sa_27:1), but now he would only think of returning thither as God might conduct him. Alas, that most of us have to pass through many painful and humiliating experiences ere we learn this lesSong.

"David inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?" Though the Lord had promised him the kingdom, though he had already been anointed by Samuel unto the same, and though Saul was now dead, David was not hasty to take matters into his own hands, but desired to submit himself unto Godís directions and act only according to His revealed will. This evidenced the fact that he really trusted in Him who had promised him the kingdom, to give it to him in His own due time and manner; and thus he would possess it with a clear conscience, and at the same time avoid all those appearances of evil with which he might know the remaining adherents of Saul would be ready to charge him. So fully did he fulfill the word of his early Psalm: "my Strength! upon Thee will I wait" (Psa_59:9). We never lose anything by believing and patiently waiting upon God; but we are always made to suffer when we take things into our own hands and rush blindly ahead.

"Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?" David was prepared to go where the Lord bade him. His particular inquiry about "the cities of Judah" was because that was his own tribe and the one to which most of his friends belonged. "And the Lord said, Go up": that is, from Ziklag into the territory of Judah, though He did not specify any particular city. This is usually the Lordís method: to first give us a general intimation of His will for us, and later more specific details little by little. He does not make known to us the whole path at once, but keeps us dependent upon Himself for light and strength, step by step. This is for our good, for our training, though it be a trying of our patience. Patience is a grace of great price in the sight of God, and it is only developed by discipline. May grace be diligently sought and divinely bestowed so that we shall heed that exhortation, "let patience have her perfect work" (Jam_1:4).

"And the Lord said unto him, Go up": the absence of anything more definite was a testing of David. Had the flesh been dominant in him at this time, he would have eagerly jumped to the conclusion that he was fully justified in leaving Ziklag immediately and taking prompt measures to obtain the kingdom. Blessed is it to see how he responded to the test: instead of rushing ahead, he continued to wait on the Lord for more explicit instructions, and asked, "Whither shall I go up?" (2Sa_2:1) ó to which part of Judah, Jerusalem or where? He had paid dearly in the past for taking journeys which the Lord had not ordered, and for residing in places which He had not named for him; and now he desired to move only as God should appoint. Reader, have you yet reached this point in your spiritual experience: have you truly surrendered unto the lordship of Christ, so that you have turned over to Him the entire government and disposing of your life? If not, you know not how much peace, joy and blessing you are missing.

"And He said, Unto Hebron" (2Sa_2:1). This is recorded for our encouragement. The Lord is never wearied by our asking! Nay, the more childlike we are, the better for us; the more we cast all our care upon Him (1Pe_5:7), the more we seek counsel of Him, the more He is honored and pleased. Has He not told us, "in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Phi_4:6)? That means just what it says, and we are greatly the losers, and God is dishonored, just in proportion to our disregard of that privilege and duty. The old hymn is true when it says, "O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer." The readiness of Jehovah to respond unto Davidís inquiry, is a sure intimation of His willingness to hear us; for He is "the same, yesterday, and today, and forever."

"And He said, Unto Hebron." There is a spiritual beauty in this word which can only be perceived as we compare scripture with scripture. In the Old Testament "Hebron" stands typically, for communion. This may be seen from the first mention of the word: "Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord" (Gen_13:15). Again, "So he (Jacob) sent him (Joseph, on an errand of mercy to his brethren) out of the vale of Hebron" (Gen_37:14) ó figure of the Father sending the Son on a mission of grace unto His elect. "And they gave Hebron unto Caleb" (Jdg_1:20): the place of fellowship became the portion of the man who followed the Lord "Fully" (Num_14:24). How fitting, then, that the restored David should be sent back to "Hebron" ó it is ever back unto communion the Lord calls His wandering child. O how thankful we should be when the Holy Spirit restores us to communion with God, even though it be at the cost of disappointment and sorrow (Ziklag) to the flesh.

"So David went up to Hebron" (2Sa_2:2). God had graciously granted him the needed word of guidance, and he hollowed out the same. O that all his actions had been controlled by the same rule: how much trouble and grief he had then escaped. But they were not; and this makes the more solemn the contrast presented in the next statement: "And his two wives also, Abinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail, Nabalís wife the Carmelite" (2Sa_2:2). Here was the one blot on the otherwise fair picture: the lusts of the flesh obtruded themselves; yes, immediately after his having sought guidance from God! ó what a warning for us: we are never safe a single moment unless upheld by the arm of Omnipotence. As we have seen in earlier chapters, Divine chastisement was the sequel to what we read of in 1Sa_25:44, so now we may be assured that his retention of "two wives" omened ill for the future.

"And his men that were with him did David bring up, every man with his household: and they dwelt in the cities of Hebron" (2Sa_2:3). Those who had been Davidís companions in tribulation were not forgotten now that he was moving forward toward the kingdom. Blessed foreshadowment was this of "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him" (2Ti_2:12).

"And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah" (2Sa_2:4). David had been privately anointed as Saulís successor (1Sa_16:12-13), now the principal princes in the tribe of Judah publicly owned him as their king. They did not take it upon themselves to make him king over all Israel, but left the other tribes to act for themselves. No doubt in this they acted according to the mind of David, who had no desire to force himself on the whole nation at once, preferring to obtain government over them by degrees, as Providence should open his way. "See how David rose gradually: he was first appointed king in reversion, then in possession of one tribe only, and at last over all the tribes. Thus the kingdom of the Messiah, the Son of David, is set up by degrees: He is Lord of all by divine designation, but Ďwe see not yet all things put under Himí: Heb_2:8" (Matthew Henry).

"And David sent messengers unto the men of Jabesh-Gilead, and said unto them, Blessed be ye of the Lord, that ye have showed this kindness unto your lord, even unto Saul, and have buried him" (2Sa_2:5). David expressed his appreciation of what the men of Jabesh had done in rescuing the bodies of Saul and his sons from the Philistines, and for the kindly care they had taken of them. He pronounced the blessing of the Lord upon them, which probably means that he asked Him to reward them. By thus honoring the memory of his predecessor he gave evidence that he was not aiming at the crown from any principles of carnal ambition, or from any enmity to Saul, but only because he was called of God to it.

"And now the Lord show kindness and truth unto you: and I also will requite you this kindness, because ye have done this thing" (2Sa_2:6). David not only prayed Godís blessing upon those who honored the remains of Saul, but he promised to remember them himself when opportunity afforded. Finally, he bade them fear not the Philistines, who might resent their action and seek revenge ó especially as they no longer had a head over them; but he, as king of Judah, would take their part and assist them: "Therefore now let your hands be strengthened and be ye valiant: for your master Saul is dead, and also the house of Judah have anointed me king over them" (2Sa_2:7). Thus did he continue to show his regard for the late king. By sending a deputation to Jabesh, David instituted a conciliatory measure toward the remaining adherents of Saul.

"But Abner the son of Ner, captain of Saulís host, took Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim" (2Sa_2:8). This is a solemn "But," traceable, we believe, to the "two wives" of 2Sa_2:2! David was not to come to the throne of all Israel without further opposition. Abner was general of the army, and no doubt desired to keep his position. He took Ishbosheth, apparently the only son of Saul now left, to Mahanaim, a city on the other side of the Jordan, in the territory of Gath (Jos_13:24-26): partly to keep the men of Jabesh-Gilead in awe and prevent their joining with David, and partly that he might be at some distance both from the Philistines and from David, where he might mature his plans. "Ishbosheth" signifies "a man of shame": he was not considered fit to accompany his father to battle, yet was now deemed qualified to occupy the throne to the exclusion of David.

"And made him king over Gilead, and over the Ashurites, and over Jezreel, and over Ephraim, and over Benjamin, and over all Israel" (2Sa_2:9). The nation in general had rejected the "Judges" whom God had raised up for them, and had demanded a king; and now in the same rebellious spirit, they refused the prince which the Lord had selected for them. In type it was Israel preferring Barabbas to Jesus Christ. Abner prevailed till he got all the tribes of Israel, save Judah, to own Ishbosheth as their king. All this time David was quiet, offering no resistance: thus keeping his oath in 1Sa_24:21-22!

"The believerís progress must be gradual: his faith and his graces must be proved, and his pride subdued, before he can properly endure any kind of prosperity: and for these purposes the Lord often employs the perverseness of his brethren, without their knowledge or contrary to their intention. In the professing Church few honour those whom the Lord will honour: before Jesus came, and in each succeeding generation, the very builders have rejected such as Heaven intended for eminent situations; and His servants must be conformed to Him. Ambition, jealousy, envy, and other evil passions, cause men to rebel against the Word of God, but they generally attempt to conceal their real motives under plausible pretenses. The believerís wisdom, however, consists in waiting quietly and silently under injuries, and in leaving God to plead his cause, except it be evidently his duty to be active" (Thomas Scott).

30 HIS SOJOURN AT HEBRON (2 Sam 2)

The news of Saulís death had been received by the exiled David in characteristic fashion. He first flamed out in fierce anger against the lying Amalekite, who had hurried with the tidings, hoping to curry favor with him by pretending that he had killed Saul on the field of battle. A short shrift and a bloody end were his, and then the wrath gave place to mourning. Forgetting the mad hatred and relentless persecution of his late enemy, thinking only of the friendship of his earlier days and his official status as the anointed of the Lord, our hero cast over the mangled corpses of Saul and Jonathan the mantle of his noble elegy, in which he sings the praise of the one and celebrates the love of the other. Not until those offices of justice and affection had been performed, did he think of himself and the change which had been affected in his own fortunes.

It seems clear that David had never regarded Saul as standing between himself and the kingdom. The first reaction from his death was not, as it would have been with a less devout and less generous heart, a flush of gladness at the thought of the empty throne; but instead, a sharp pang of grief from the sense of an empty heart. And even when he began to contemplate his immediate future and changed fortunes he carried himself with commendable self-restraint. At the time David was still a fugitive in the midst of the ruins of Ziklag, but instead of rushing ahead, "making the most of his opportunity," and seizing the empty throne, he sought directions from the Lord. Ah, we not only need to turn unto God in times of deep distress, but equally so when His outward providences appear to be working decidedly in our favour.

David would do nothing in this important crisis of his life ó when all which had for so long appeared a distant hope, now seemed to be rapidly becoming a present fact ó until his Shepherd should lead him. Impatient and impetuous as he was by nature, schooled to swift decisions, followed by still swifter actions, knowing that a blow struck speedily while all was chaos and despair in the kingdom, might at once set him on the throne; nevertheless, he held the flesh, carnal policy, and the impatience of his followers in check, to hear what God would say. To a man of Davidís experience it must have appeared that now was the opportune moment to subdue the remaining adherents of the fallen Saul, rally around himself his loyal friends, grasp the crown and the scepter, vanquish the gloating Philistines, and secure unto himself the kingdom of Israel. Instead, he refused to take a single step until Jehovah had signified His will in the matter.

The manner in which David conducted himself on this occasion presents an example which we do well to take to heart and punctually emulate. The important principle of action which was here exemplified has been well expressed by another: "If we would possess temporal things with a blessing, we must not eagerly seize upon them, nor be determined by favorable events or carnal counsel: but we must observe the rules of Godís Word, and pray for His direction; using those means, and those only, which He has appointed or allowed, and avoid all evil, or Ďappearance of evil,í in our pursuit of them: and then whatever else we fail in, we shall be directed in the way to the kingdom of heaven" (Thomas Scott). "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths" (Pro_3:5-6).

To "acknowledge" the Lord in all our ways means that instead of acting in self-sufficiency and self-will, we seek wisdom from above in every undertaking of our earthly affairs, beg God to grant us light from His Word on our path, and seek His honor and glory in all that we attempt. Thus it was now with David: "And it came to pass after this, that David inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?" (2Sa_2:1). This is very blessed, and should be linked with all that was before us in 1 Samuel 30:6-31. What is here recorded of David supplies further proof of his having been restored from backsliding. Previously he had left the cities of Judah "inquiring" of his own heart (1Sa_27:1), but now he would only think of returning thither as God might conduct him. Alas, that most of us have to pass through many painful and humiliating experiences ere we learn this lesSong.

"David inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?" Though the Lord had promised him the kingdom, though he had already been anointed by Samuel unto the same, and though Saul was now dead, David was not hasty to take matters into his own hands, but desired to submit himself unto Godís directions and act only according to His revealed will. This evidenced the fact that he really trusted in Him who had promised him the kingdom, to give it to him in His own due time and manner; and thus he would possess it with a clear conscience, and at the same time avoid all those appearances of evil with which he might know the remaining adherents of Saul would be ready to charge him. So fully did he fulfill the word of his early Psalm: "my Strength! upon Thee will I wait" (Psa_59:9). We never lose anything by believing and patiently waiting upon God; but we are always made to suffer when we take things into our own hands and rush blindly ahead.

"Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?" David was prepared to go where the Lord bade him. His particular inquiry about "the cities of Judah" was because that was his own tribe and the one to which most of his friends belonged. "And the Lord said, Go up": that is, from Ziklag into the territory of Judah, though He did not specify any particular city. This is usually the Lordís method: to first give us a general intimation of His will for us, and later more specific details little by little. He does not make known to us the whole path at once, but keeps us dependent upon Himself for light and strength, step by step. This is for our good, for our training, though it be a trying of our patience. Patience is a grace of great price in the sight of God, and it is only developed by discipline. May grace be diligently sought and divinely bestowed so that we shall heed that exhortation, "let patience have her perfect work" (Jam_1:4).

"And the Lord said unto him, Go up": the absence of anything more definite was a testing of David. Had the flesh been dominant in him at this time, he would have eagerly jumped to the conclusion that he was fully justified in leaving Ziklag immediately and taking prompt measures to obtain the kingdom. Blessed is it to see how he responded to the test: instead of rushing ahead, he continued to wait on the Lord for more explicit instructions, and asked, "Whither shall I go up?" (2Sa_2:1) ó to which part of Judah, Jerusalem or where? He had paid dearly in the past for taking journeys which the Lord had not ordered, and for residing in places which He had not named for him; and now he desired to move only as God should appoint. Reader, have you yet reached this point in your spiritual experience: have you truly surrendered unto the lordship of Christ, so that you have turned over to Him the entire government and disposing of your life? If not, you know not how much peace, joy and blessing you are missing.

"And He said, Unto Hebron" (2Sa_2:1). This is recorded for our encouragement. The Lord is never wearied by our asking! Nay, the more childlike we are, the better for us; the more we cast all our care upon Him (1Pe_5:7), the more we seek counsel of Him, the more He is honored and pleased. Has He not told us, "in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Phi_4:6)? That means just what it says, and we are greatly the losers, and God is dishonored, just in proportion to our disregard of that privilege and duty. The old hymn is true when it says, "O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer." The readiness of Jehovah to respond unto Davidís inquiry, is a sure intimation of His willingness to hear us; for He is "the same, yesterday, and today, and forever."

"And He said, Unto Hebron." There is a spiritual beauty in this word which can only be perceived as we compare scripture with scripture. In the Old Testament "Hebron" stands typically, for communion. This may be seen from the first mention of the word: "Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord" (Gen_13:15). Again, "So he (Jacob) sent him (Joseph, on an errand of mercy to his brethren) out of the vale of Hebron" (Gen_37:14) ó figure of the Father sending the Son on a mission of grace unto His elect. "And they gave Hebron unto Caleb" (Jdg_1:20): the place of fellowship became the portion of the man who followed the Lord "Fully" (Num_14:24). How fitting, then, that the restored David should be sent back to "Hebron" ó it is ever back unto communion the Lord calls His wandering child. O how thankful we should be when the Holy Spirit restores us to communion with God, even though it be at the cost of disappointment and sorrow (Ziklag) to the flesh.

"So David went up to Hebron" (2Sa_2:2). God had graciously granted him the needed word of guidance, and he hollowed out the same. O that all his actions had been controlled by the same rule: how much trouble and grief he had then escaped. But they were not; and this makes the more solemn the contrast presented in the next statement: "And his two wives also, Abinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail, Nabalís wife the Carmelite" (2Sa_2:2). Here was the one blot on the otherwise fair picture: the lusts of the flesh obtruded themselves; yes, immediately after his having sought guidance from God! ó what a warning for us: we are never safe a single moment unless upheld by the arm of Omnipotence. As we have seen in earlier chapters, Divine chastisement was the sequel to what we read of in 1Sa_25:44, so now we may be assured that his retention of "two wives" omened ill for the future.

"And his men that were with him did David bring up, every man with his household: and they dwelt in the cities of Hebron" (2Sa_2:3). Those who had been Davidís companions in tribulation were not forgotten now that he was moving forward toward the kingdom. Blessed foreshadowment was this of "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him" (2Ti_2:12).

"And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah" (2Sa_2:4). David had been privately anointed as Saulís successor (1Sa_16:12-13), now the principal princes in the tribe of Judah publicly owned him as their king. They did not take it upon themselves to make him king over all Israel, but left the other tribes to act for themselves. No doubt in this they acted according to the mind of David, who had no desire to force himself on the whole nation at once, preferring to obtain government over them by degrees, as Providence should open his way. "See how David rose gradually: he was first appointed king in reversion, then in possession of one tribe only, and at last over all the tribes. Thus the kingdom of the Messiah, the Son of David, is set up by degrees: He is Lord of all by divine designation, but Ďwe see not yet all things put under Himí: Heb_2:8" (Matthew Henry).

"And David sent messengers unto the men of Jabesh-Gilead, and said unto them, Blessed be ye of the Lord, that ye have showed this kindness unto your lord, even unto Saul, and have buried him" (2Sa_2:5). David expressed his appreciation of what the men of Jabesh had done in rescuing the bodies of Saul and his sons from the Philistines, and for the kindly care they had taken of them. He pronounced the blessing of the Lord upon them, which probably means that he asked Him to reward them. By thus honoring the memory of his predecessor he gave evidence that he was not aiming at the crown from any principles of carnal ambition, or from any enmity to Saul, but only because he was called of God to it.

"And now the Lord show kindness and truth unto you: and I also will requite you this kindness, because ye have done this thing" (2Sa_2:6). David not only prayed Godís blessing upon those who honored the remains of Saul, but he promised to remember them himself when opportunity afforded. Finally, he bade them fear not the Philistines, who might resent their action and seek revenge ó especially as they no longer had a head over them; but he, as king of Judah, would take their part and assist them: "Therefore now let your hands be strengthened and be ye valiant: for your master Saul is dead, and also the house of Judah have anointed me king over them" (2Sa_2:7). Thus did he continue to show his regard for the late king. By sending a deputation to Jabesh, David instituted a conciliatory measure toward the remaining adherents of Saul.

"But Abner the son of Ner, captain of Saulís host, took Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim" (2Sa_2:8). This is a solemn "But," traceable, we believe, to the "two wives" of 2Sa_2:2! David was not to come to the throne of all Israel without further opposition. Abner was general of the army, and no doubt desired to keep his position. He took Ishbosheth, apparently the only son of Saul now left, to Mahanaim, a city on the other side of the Jordan, in the territory of Gath (Jos_13:24-26): partly to keep the men of Jabesh-Gilead in awe and prevent their joining with David, and partly that he might be at some distance both from the Philistines and from David, where he might mature his plans. "Ishbosheth" signifies "a man of shame": he was not considered fit to accompany his father to battle, yet was now deemed qualified to occupy the throne to the exclusion of David.

"And made him king over Gilead, and over the Ashurites, and over Jezreel, and over Ephraim, and over Benjamin, and over all Israel" (2Sa_2:9). The nation in general had rejected the "Judges" whom God had raised up for them, and had demanded a king; and now in the same rebellious spirit, they refused the prince which the Lord had selected for them. In type it was Israel preferring Barabbas to Jesus Christ. Abner prevailed till he got all the tribes of Israel, save Judah, to own Ishbosheth as their king. All this time David was quiet, offering no resistance: thus keeping his oath in 1Sa_24:21-22!

"The believerís progress must be gradual: his faith and his graces must be proved, and his pride subdued, before he can properly endure any kind of prosperity: and for these purposes the Lord often employs the perverseness of his brethren, without their knowledge or contrary to their intention. In the professing Church few honour those whom the Lord will honour: before Jesus came, and in each succeeding generation, the very builders have rejected such as Heaven intended for eminent situations; and His servants must be conformed to Him. Ambition, jealousy, envy, and other evil passions, cause men to rebel against the Word of God, but they generally attempt to conceal their real motives under plausible pretenses. The believerís wisdom, however, consists in waiting quietly and silently under injuries, and in leaving God to plead his cause, except it be evidently his duty to be active" (Thomas Scott).

31 HIS TESTING (2 Sam 2)

It is a wonderful thing when a wayward believer is brought back to his place of fellowship with God, as David had been, though it necessarily involves added obligations. It is sin which causes us to leave that place, and though at first sin be a sweet morsel unto the flesh, yet it soon turns bitter, and ultimately becomes as wormwood and gall unto him who has yielded to it. "The way of transgressors is hard" (Pro_13:14): the wicked prove the full truth of that fact in the next world, where they discover that "the wages of sin is death" ó a death agonizing in its nature and eternal in its duration. But even in this life the transgressor is usually made to feel the hardness of that way which his own mad self-will has chosen, and especially is this the case with the believer, for the harvest of his ill sowings is reaped ó mainly, at least ó in this world. The Christian, equally with the non-Christian, is a subject under the government of God, and doubly is he made to realize that God cannot be mocked with impugnity.

Strikingly and solemnly was this fact exemplified in the history of Israel during Old Testament times, this principle supplies the key to all Godís governmental dealings with them. The history of no nation has been nearly so checkered as theirs: no people was ever so sorely and so frequently afflicted as the favored descendants of Jacob. From the death of Joshua unto the days of Malachi we find one judgment after another sent from God upon them. Famines, pestilence, earthquakes, internal dissensions and external assaults from the surrounding nations, followed each other in rapid succession, and were repeated again and again. There were brief respites, short seasons of peace and prosperity, but for the most part it was one sore trouble after another. God did not deal thus with any other nation during the Mosaic economy. It is true that heathen empires suffered, and ultimately collapsed under the weight of their lasciviousness, but in the main God "suffered all nations to walk in their own ways" (Act_14:16), and "the times of this ignorance God winked at" (Act_17:30).

Far otherwise was it with His own covenant people. This has surprised many; yet it should not. Unto Israel God said, "You only have I known of all the families of the eaRuth" Yes, and that has been commonly recognized by readers of the Old Testament, but what immediately follows has very largely been lost sight of ó "therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities" (Amo_3:2). Ah, it was not "You only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore will I wink at your sins, excuse your faults, and pass over your transgressions." No, no; far from it. It was unto Israel that God had revealed Himself, it was "in Judah He was known," and therefore would He manifest before their hearts and eyes His ineffable holiness and inflexible justice. Where they were loose and lax, despising Godís authority, and recklessly and brazenly breaking His laws, He would vindicate His honor by making it appear how much He hated sin, and hates it most of all in those who are nearest to Him! See Eze_9:6!

That is why another of Israelís prophets announced unto those who had, under a temporal covenant, been taken into a bridal relation to Jehovah, "she hath received of the Lordís hand double for all her sins" (Isa_40:2). Does that strike the reader as strange? But why should it? Are not the sins of the professing people of God doubly heinous to those committed by them who make no profession at all? What comparison was there between the sins of the nation of Israel and the sins of the heathen who were without the knowledge of the true God? The sins of the former were sins against light, against an open and written revelation from Heaven, against the abounding goodness and amazing grace of God toward them; and therefore must He, in His holiness and righteousness, make the severest example of them. Make no mistake upon that point: God will either be sanctified by or upon those who have been taken into a place of (even outward) nearness to Himself: see Lev_10:3.

Thus, Amo_3:3 becomes a prophecy of Godís dealings with Christendom. The great difference which existed between the nations of Israel and the Gentiles, finds its parallel in this era between Christendom (the sphere where Christianity is professedly acknowledged) and the heathen world. But with this additional most solemn consideration: increased privileges necessarily entail increased responsibilities. Under this Christian era a far higher and grander revelation of God has been made in and through and by the Lord Jesus Christ, than ever the nation of Israel had in Old Testament times. If then Israelís despising of God in His inferior revelation was followed by such awful consequences to the temporal welfare of their people under the old covenant, what must be the consequences of the despising of God in His highest revelation under the new covenant? "See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven" (Heb_12:25).

But what has all the above to do with the life of David? Much every way. God dealt with individual saints, who had been taken into spiritual nearness to Himself on the same principles, governmentally (that is, in the ordering of their temporal affairs), as He treated with the nation as a whole, which enjoyed only outward nearness to Himself. Hence, as David sowed in his conduct so he reaped in his circumstances. As we have seen in the last few chapters, God had acted in marvelous grace with the son of Jesse, and following his repentance and putting things right with the Lord, had unmistakably shown Himself strong on his behalf, ending by bringing him to "Hebron" which speaks of fellowship. Thus, David had now reached the point, where God said to him, as it were, "sin no more, lest a worse thing came upon thee" (Joh_5:14).

Should it be asked, "But what has all of this to do with us? We are living in the ĎDispensation of Grace,í and God deals with people now ó both nations collectively, and saints individually ó very differently from what He did in Old Testament times." That is a great mistake: a glaring and a horrible one. Glaring it certainly is, for Rom_15:4 expressly states, "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning": but what could we "learn" from the ways of God with His people of old if He is now acting from entirely different principles? Nothing whatever; in fact, in that case, the less we read the Old Testament, the less we are likely to be confused. Ah, my reader, in the New Testament also we read that "judgment must begin at the house of God" (1Pe_4:17). Christians are also warned, "Be not deceived, God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal_6:7). Horrible too is such teaching, for it represents the immutable God changing the principles of His government.

What has been pointed out in the above paragraphs is something more than an interesting and instructive item of historical information, explaining much that is to be met with in the Old Testament Scriptures, throwing light upon Godís dealings with the nation of Israel collectively and with its prominent men individually; it is also of vital moment for Christians today. "Righteousness and judgment are the habitation" of Godís "throne" (Psa_97:2), and our temporal affairs are regulated and determined according to the same principles of Godís moral government as were those of His people in by gone ages. If the distinguishing favors of God do not restrain from sin, they most certainly will not exempt us from divine chastisement. Nay, the greater the divine privileges enjoyed by us, the nearer we are brought unto God in a way of profession and favor, the more quickly will He notice our inconsistencies and the more severely will He deal with our sins.

"He that despised Mosesí law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" (Heb_10:28-29). Here is a statement of the broad principle which we have been seeking to explicate and illustrate. True, in this particular passage the application of it is made unto apostates, but the fact is plainly enough revealed that the greater the privileges enjoyed the greater the obligations entailed, and the greater the guilt incurred when those obligations are ignored. The same principle applies (though the consequences are different) in the contrast between the sins of the Christian and the non-Christian. The sins of the former are more heinous than those of the latter. How so? Because God is far more dishonored by the sins of those who bear His name than by those who make no profession at all.

The same principle, as it applies to gradation by contrast, holds good of the individual Christian in different stages of his own life. The more light God gives him, the more practical godliness He requires from him; the more favors he receives and privileges he enjoys, the more responsible is he to bear increased fruit. So too a sin committed by him may receive comparatively light chastisement; but let it be repeated and he may expect the rod to fall more heavily upon him. In like manner, God may bear long with one of his backslidden children, and though the path of recovery be a thorny one, yet will he exclaim "I richly deserved far severer treatment." But when the backslider has been restored and brought back into communion with God, another departure from Him is likely to be attended with far worse consequences than the former one was.

"But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared" (Psa_130:4). Yes, "feared," not trifled with, not that we may the more confidently give free rein to our lusts. A true apprehension of the divine mercy will not embolden unto sin, but will deepen our hatred of it, and make us more earnest in striving to abstain from it. A spiritual apprehension of Godís abounding grace toward us, so far from begetting carelessness, produces increased carefulness, lest we displease One so kind and good. It is just because the Christian has been sealed by the Spirit unto the day of redemption, that he is exhorted to watchfulness lest he "grieve" Him. The more the heart truly appreciates the infinitude of Godís wondrous love unto us, the more will its language be, "How can I do this great wickedness against Him!"

"But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared." Not a slavish and servile fear, but the fear of the Lord which is "the beginning of wisdom": that fear which reverences, loves, worships, serves and obeys Him. Genuine gratitude for Godís pardoning grace will move the soul unto suitable filial conduct: it works a fear of being carried away from the heavens of His conscious presence by the insidious current of worldliness. It is jealous lest anything be allowed that would mar our communion with the Lover of our souls. Where the pardoning mercy of God is thankfully esteemed by the soul, it calls to mind the fearful price which was paid by Christ so that God could righteously forgive His erring people. and that consideration melts the heart and moves to loving obedience.

"But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared." Yes, once more we say "feared," and not "trifled with." The word unto backsliders, who have been pardoned and graciously restored to fellowship with God, is "Let them not turn again to folly" (Psa_85:8): that is, let them beware of any cooling of their affections, and slipping back into their old ways; let them pray earnestly and strive resolutely against a sinful trading with Godís mercy and a turning of His grace into lasciviousness. We serve a jealous God, and must needs therefore be incessantly vigilant against sin. If we are not, if we do "return again to folly," then most surely will His rod fall more heavily upon us; and not only will our inward peace be disturbed, but our outward circumstances will he made to sorely trouble us.

That principle was plainly enunciated in the threatening which the Lord made unto Israel of old: "And if ye will not be reformed by Me by these things, but will walk contrary unto Me; then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins" (Lev_26:23-24). If the first sensible tokens of Godís displeasure do not attain their end in the humbling of ourselves beneath His mighty hand and the reforming of our ways, if His lesser judgments do not lead to this, then He will surely send sorer judgments upon us. Ezra recognized this principle when, after the remnant had come out of Babylon, he said, "After all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that Thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserved, and hast given us such deliverance as this; should we again break Thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not Thou be angry with us till Thou hast consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?" (Ezr_9:13-14). Then let us beware of trifling with God, particularly so after He has recovered us from a season of backsliding.

Instead of taking up the details of 2 Samuel 2:9-32 (the passage which immediately follows the verses considered in the preceding chapter), we felt this topical one would prove much more helpful in paving the way for those which are to follow. Those verses record an encounter between the rival factions, The gauntlet was thrown down by Abner, the general of the followers of Ishbosheth (Saulís son), and the challenge was accepted by Joab, who headed the military forces of David. Neither side brought their full army into the field, and the slaughter was but small (2Sa_2:30). The men of Abner, the aggressor, were routed, and at the close of the day their captain begged for peace (2Sa_2:26). Knowing the pacific intentions of David, and his-loathness to make war upon the house of Saul, Joab generously called a halt (2Sa_2:28); and each side made their way homeward (2Sa_2:29-32).

And now a word upon the title we have given to this chapter, and we must close. David was now located at Hebron, which signifies communion or fellowship. The men of Judah had made him their king (2Sa_2:4), which though a step toward it, was by no means the complete fulfillment of the promise that he should be king "over Israel" (1Sa_16:1-13). David made kindly overtures unto "the men of Jabesh-Gilead," the followers of the late Saul (2Sa_2:5), expressing the hope they would now show fealty to him (2Sa_2:7). Would the Lord continue showing Himself strong on his behalf, by turning the hearts of the rival faction toward him? The need for this was evident (2Sa_2:7-10), yet it was easy for God to heal that breach and give David favor in the eyes of all. Would He do so? How far will the present conduct of David warrant this? for God will not place a premium on sin. David is now put to the test: how he acquitted himself we must leave for the next chapter.

32 - HIS FAILURE (2 Sam 3 and 2Sa_4:1-12)

In our last chapter (so far as the application of the principles enunciated therein related to him who is the principal subject of this book) we endeavored to show that very much hinged on the manner in which David now conducted himself. A most important crisis had been reached in his life. The time which he spent at Hebron constituted the dividing line in his career. On the one side of it was what we may designate as the period of his rejection, when the great majority of the people clave unto Saul, who hounded him from pillar to post; on the other side of it, was the period of his exaltation when he reigned over the nation. When pondering the different events which happened in the first stage of his career, we sought to point out the moral connection between them, seeking to trace the relation between the personal conduct of David and the various circumstances which the governmental dealings of God brought about as the sequel. We propose, by divine aid, to follow a similar procedure in taking up the details under the second stage of his career.

In chapter twenty we saw how David displeased the Lord by his taking unto himself two wives (1Sa_25:43-44), and in chapter twenty-two we noticed how one sin led to another; while in chapter twenty-four we observed the divine chastisement which followed. In chapter twenty-six we dwelt upon Davidís putting things right with God and encouraging himself in the Lord, following which we traced out the blessed results which ensued (chapters 27, 28), terminating in his being restored to full fellowship with the Lord, as was typified by Godís directing him to "Hebron." There he received a "token for good" (Psa_86:17) in the reception which he met with from the men of his own tribe, who came and "anointed David over the house of Judah" (2Sa_2:4): that was indeed a promising intimation that if his ways continued to please the Lord, He would make "even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Pro_16:7). On the other hand, that "token for good" only becomes the more solemn in the light of all that follows.

How much there is in the later chapters of 2 Samuel which makes such pathetic and tragic reading. Few men have experienced such sore social and domestic trials as David did. Not only was he caused much trouble by political traitors in his kingdom, but, what was far more painful, the members of his own family brought down heavy grief upon him. His favorite wife turned against him (2Sa_6:20-22), his daughter Tamar was raped by her half brother (2Sa_13:14), his son Ammon was murdered (2Sa_13:28-29). His favorite son Absalom sought to wrest the kingdom from him, and then he was murdered (2Sa_18:14). Before his death, another of his sons, Adonijah, sought to obtain the throne (1Ki_1:5), and he too was murdered (1Ki_2:24-25). Inasmuch as the Lord never afflicts willingly (Lam_3:33), but only as our sins occasion it, how are these most painful family afflictions to be accounted for?

If the Holy Spirit has been pleased to furnish us with any explanation of the sore trials which David encountered in his later life, or if He has supplied us with materials that serve to throw light upon what is recorded in the second half of 2 Samuel, then that explanation must be sought for or that illuminating material must be inquired after, in the early chapters of that book. This is a principle of great importance in order to a right understanding of the Scriptures. As a general rule, God hangs the key for us right on the door itself: in other words, the opening chapters (often the first verses) contain a clear intimation or forecast of what follows. True, in some cases, this is more apparent than in others, yet concerning each one of the sixty-six books of the Bible, it will be found that the closer be the attention given unto its introduction, the easier will it be to follow the development of its theme. Such is obviously the case here in 2 Samuel.

"Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker" (2Sa_3:1). The battle referred to at the end of the previous chapter, though it went so greatly in favor of David, did not put an end to the warfare between him and Ishbosheth. Though Saul himself was no more, yet his son and subjects refused to submit quietly to Davidís scepter. For another five years they continued to manifest their defiance, and many were the skirmishes which took place between his men and the loyal subjects of David. The latter was loath to employ harsh measures against them, and probably his magnanimity and mildness were mistaken for weakness or fear, and encouraged his opponents to renew their efforts for his overthrow. But little by little they were weakened, until Ishbosheth was willing to make a league with David.

"Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker." The contents of this verse may well be taken as a type of the conflict which is experienced in the heart of the Christian. David, exalted to be king over Judah, may be regarded as a figure of one of Godís elect when he has been lifted out of the miry clay (into which the fall of Adam plunged him) and his feet set upon the Rock of ages. As 1Sa_2:8 declares, "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory." But is all now henceforth peace and joy? Far from it. Inward corruption is there, and is ever assailing the principle of grace which was imparted at regeneration: "the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh" (Gal_5:17). What is the outcome? Is the flesh victorious? No, it may annoy, it may win minor skirmishes, but little by little the flesh is weakened and the spirit strengthened, until at the last sin is completely destroyed.

"Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David." Thus the kingdom of Israel was rent asunder by civil war. That it should last so long, when David was clearly in the right, has presented quite a problem to the commentators. Personally, we regard the contents of this verse as a plain intimation that David was missing Godís best. This is an expression we use rather frequently in these pages, so perhaps a definition of it here will not be amiss. Let it be pointed out here that it is by no means equivalent to affirming that Godís counsels may be thwarted by us. No indeed, puny man can no more defeat the eternal purpose of the Almighty than he can cause the sun to cease from shining or the ocean from rolling. "But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased" (Psa_115:3).

There is a vast difference between the promises of God and His eternal decrees: many of the former are conditional, whereas the latter are immutable, dependent upon nothing for their fulfillment save the omnipotence of God. In saying that many of the divine promises recorded in Holy Writ are "conditional" we do not mean they are uncertain and unreliable, no; we mean that they are infallible declarations of what God will do or give providing we follow a certain course of conduct: just as the divine threatenings recorded in Scripture are a declaration of what God will do or inflict if a certain course be pursued. For example, God has declared "Them that honour Me, I will honour" (1Sa_2:30). But suppose we fail to "honour" God, suppose we do not obtain that enabling grace which He is ever ready to give unto those who earnestly seek it in a right way ó what then? The same verse tells us: "And they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed."

Take for instance the declaration made in Jos_1:8, "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." First, let it be pointed out that that verse has nothing whatever to do with the eternal destiny of the soul; instead, it relates only to the present life of the saint. In it God tells us that if we give His Holy Word the first place in our thoughts and affections, and regulate both our inner and outer life by its teaching, then He will make our way "prosperous" and we shall have "good success." This does not mean that we shall become millionaires, but that by heeding the rules of His Word, we shall escape those rocks upon which the vast majority of our fellows make shipwreck, and that the blessing of God will rest upon our lives in all their varied aspects and relations; an all-wise and sovereign God determining both the kind and measure of the "success" which will be most for His glory and our highest good.

Nor are the principles enunciated in Jos_1:8 to be restricted in their application to those who lived under the old covenant: inasmuch as the governmental ways of God remain the same in all ages, those principles hold good in all dispensations. From the beginning of human history it has always been true, and to the end of history it will continue so to be, that "no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly" (Psa_84:11). On the other hand, it is equally a fact that those who are not subject to Godís Word, who follow instead the devices of their own hearts and give way to the lusts of the flesh, suffer adversity and come under the rod of divine chastisement; of them it has to be said, "Your sins have withholden good things from you" (Jer_5:25). In other words, they have missed Godís best: not that they have failed to obtain any blessing which He had eternally decreed should be theirs, but they have not entered into the good of what Godís Word promises should be the present portion of those who walk in obedience thereto.

"O that My people had hearkened unto Me, and Israel had walked in My ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned My hand against their adversaries. The haters of the Lord should have submitted themselves unto Him: but their time should have endured forever. He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat; and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee" (Psa_81:13-16). What could be plainer than that! This passage is not treating of the eternal counsels of God, but of His governmental dealings with men in this life.

The key to the above verses is found in their immediate context: "But My people would not hearken to My voice; and Israel would none of Me. So I gave them unto their own heartsí lust; and they walked in their own counsels" (Psa_81:11-12). The children of Israel walked contrary ó not to the eternal purpose of Jehovah, but ó to His revealed will. They would not submit to the rules laid down in Godís Word, but in their self-will and self-pleading determined to have their own way; in consequence, they missed Godís best for them in this life, instead of His subduing their enemies, He allowed those enemies to subdue them; instead of providing abundant harvests, He sent them famines; instead of giving them pastors after His own heart, He suffered false prophets to deceive.

Many more are the passages which might be quoted from the Old and New Testaments alike, which set forth the same great fact, warning us that if we walk contrary to the Scriptures we shall certainly suffer for it, both in soul and body, both in our estate and circumstances, in this life failing to enter into those blessings ó spiritual and temporal ó which the Word promises to those who are in subjection to it. That is as true today as it was under the old economy, and it supplies the key to many a problem, and explains much in Godís governmental dealings with us. It certainly supplies the key to Davidís life, and explains why the chastening rod of God fell so heavily upon himself and his family. Bear in mind carefully what has been said above, read the passage which now follows, and then there is no reason why we should be surprised at all that is found unto the end of 2 Samuel.

"And unto David were sons born in Hebron: and his first born was Ammon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess. And his second, Chileab, of Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite; and the third, Absalom, the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur. And the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital. And the sixth, Ithream, by Eglah Davidís wife. These were born to David in Hebron" (2Sa_3:2-5). In the light of all that has been said in the preceding chapter and in this, there is little need for us to attempt any lengthy comments upon these unpleasant verses. Here we see David giving way to the lusts of the flesh, and practicing polygamy; and as he sowed to the flesh in his family life, so in the flesh he reaped corruption in his family. Three of the above-mentioned sons were murdered!

The subject of polygamy as a whole is too large a one for us to deal with here, nor can we discuss it at length as it bore upon the lives of the different patriarchs. Godís original creation of only one man and one woman indicates from the beginning that monogamy was the Divine order for man to heed (Mat_19:4-5). The first of whom we read in Scripture that had more wives than one, was Lamech (Gen_4:19), who was of the evil line of Cain. And while Moses, because of the hardness of Israelís heart (Mat_19:8) introduced the statute of divorce, yet nowhere did the Mosaic law sanction a plurality of wives. The limitation of one wife only is plainly suggested by such scriptures as Pro_5:18 and Pro_18:22.

Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose; one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother. But he shall not multiply horses to himself . . . neither shall he multiply wives of himself, that his heart turn not away" (Deu_17:15-17). Here was a definite and express law which the kings of Israel were required to obey, and thereby set before their subjects an example of sobriety and marital fidelity. And this was the commandment which David so flagrantly disobeyed, for no sooner was he anointed "king over the house of Judah" (2Sa_2:4), than he began to multiply "wives" unto himself (2Sa_3:2-5). Not only so, but when Abner sought to make a league with him, David laid it down as a condition that his first wife, Michal, who had been given to another man (1Sa_25:44) must be restored to him (2Sa_3:13), which was an open violation of Deu_24:1-4.

A little later on we read, "And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron" (2Sa_5:13). Here, then, was Davidís besetting sin, to which he yielded so freely ó little wonder that his son Solomon followed in his footsteps! And a Holy God will not tolerate evil, least of all in those whom He has made leaders over His people. Though in the main Davidís life was pleasing to God, and spiritual excellencies were found in him, yet there was this one sad weakness. His giving way to it brought down long and sever chastenings, and the record of it as a whole ó the sowing and the consequent reapingóis for our learning and warning. Learn, then, dear reader, that even when restored from backsliding and brought back to fellowship with God, your only safety lies in earnestly crying to Him daily "Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe" (Psa_119:117).

33 - HIS CORONATION (2 Sam 5)

Inasmuch as it is not our design to write a verse-by-verse commentary on the books of Samuel, but rather to study the life of David, we pass over what is found in the remainder of 2 Samuel 3 and 2Sa_4:1-12 and come to the opening verses of chapter five. In the interval between what was before us in our last chapter and the incident we are now to contemplate, the providence of God has been working on Davidís behalf. His principal opponents had met with a summary and tragic end, and the way was now cleared for the purpose of God concerning our hero, to receive its accomplishment. Viewing him typically, it is indeed striking to observe how that Davidís path to the throne was marked by bloodshedding. From the human side, Saul, Jonathan, and later, Ishbosheth, stood in the way, and none of them died a natural death; by the hand of violence was each one removed!

We cannot regard as accidental, or as a trivial detail, what has just been pointed out above. There is nothing trivial in the imperishable Word of God: everything recorded therein has a profound significance, if only we have eyes to see it. Here, the deeper meaning of these details is not hard to discern: David, in all the essential features of his history (his failures excepted), foreshadowed the Lord Jesus, and, as we know, His path to the throne was along one of bloodshedding. True, the Lord Jesus was "born King of the Jews," as David also had been born into the royal tribe of Judah. True, Christ had been "anointed" (Matthew 3; Act_10:38), prophet, priest, and king, years before His coronation; as David also had been "anointed" to the royal office (1Sa_16:13). Yet, it was not until after His precious blood was shed at Calvary, that God exalted Christ to be a "Prince" unto the spiritual "Israel" (Act_2:36; Act_5:31): as it was not until after the blood-shedding of Saul, Jonathan and Ishbosheth, that David became king.

Upon the death of Abner and Ishbosheth the tribes of Israel were left without a leader. Having had more than sufficient of the rule of Saul and Ishbosheth over them, they had no inclination to make a further experiment by setting another of Saulís family on the throne, and having observed the prosperous state of Judah under the wise and benign government of David, they began to entertain higher and more honorable thoughts of the "man after Godís own heart." That illustrates an important principle in Godís dealings with those whom He has marked out for salvation. There has to be a turning from Satan unto God, from the service of sin unto subjection to Christ. That is what true conversion is: it is a change of masters: it is a saying from the heart, "O Lord our God, other lords besides Thee have had dominion over us; but by Thee only will we make mention of Thy name" (Isa_26:13).

But conversion is preceded by conviction. There is wrought in the soul a dissatisfaction with the old master, before there is begotten desires towards the new Master. Sin is made to be realized as a bitter thing, before there is an hungering and thirsting after righteousness. The cruel bonds of Satan must be felt, before there is any longing to be made free by Christ. The prodigal son was made to feel the wretchedness of the far country, before he had any thought of journeying toward the Fatherís house. Clearly is this principle exemplified and illustrated in the case of these men who now sought unto David, desiring that he should be king over them. They had had more than enough of what the prophet Samuel had faithfully warned them (1Sa_8:11-18)! They had no desire for any other of the house of Saul to reign over them, but were now desirous of submitting themselves to Davidís scepter.

Unspeakably blessed, then, is the typical picture here presented to our view. In the voluntary coming unto David of those men of the different tribes, following their unhappy lot under the reigns of Saul and Ishbosheth, we have adumbrated the outcome of the Holy Spiritís operations in the hearts of Godís elect when He draws them to Christ. He first makes them discontented with their present lot. He gives them to realize there is no real and lasting satisfaction to be found in the service of sin and in continuing to follow a course of opposition to God and His Christ. He creates within the soul an aching void, before He reveals the One who alone can fill it. In short, He makes us thoroughly discontented with our present portion before He moves us to seek the true riches. The Hebrews must be made to groan under their merciless taskmasters in Egypt, before they were ready to start out for the promised land.

"Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spake, saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh. Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed My people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel. So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the Lord: and they anointed David king over Israel" (2Sa_5:1-3). Ah, note well the opening word, "Then": after a period of no less than seven and a half years since the death of Saul (2Sa_5:5).

After the death of the apostate king, and following Davidís recognition by the royal tribe, "It might have been expected that all Israel would have been ready to welcome him. Had it not long ago been declared by the lips of Samuel, that God had forsaken the house of Saul? Had not this been acknowledged by Saul himself? Had not God by the destruction on Gilboa, finally set His seal to the truth of His denunciations? And was it not evident, that the strength and blessing that had departed from Saul, had accompanied the dishonored sojourn of David in the wilderness? The might of Israel was there. There were they who were able to break through the host of the Philistines, and to draw from the well of Bethlehem, when Bethlehem and its waters were in the grasp of the enemy. There too, was the Psalmody of Israel. And yet, despite every indication that God had given ó careless alike of the tokens of His favor toward David, and of His displeasure toward themselves ó the tribes of Israel continued to reject the chosen servant of God; and Judah only welcomed him.

"The son of Saul, though feeble and unknown, was preferred to David; and David left the wilderness, only to be engaged in a long and destructive struggle with those who should have welcomed him as the gift of God for their blessing. So slowly does the hand of God effectuate its purposes ó so resolute are men in refusing to recognize any thing save that which gratifies the tendencies of their nature, or approves itself to the calculation of their self-interest. For seven years and six months, Abner and all the tribes of Israel fiercely assailed David: and yet afterwards, they were not ashamed to confess, that they knew that David was he whom God had destined to be the deliverer of Israel. They knew this, and yet for seven years they sought to destroy him; and no doubt, all the while, spoke of themselves, and were spoken of by others, as conscientious men fulfilling an apprehended duty in adhering to the house of Saul. So easy is it to speak well of evil, and to encourage iniquity by smooth words of falsehood.

"At last, however, God accomplished the long cherished desire of His servantís heart ó the desire that He had Himself implanted ó and David became the head and governor of Israel" (B. W. Newton). Yes, at last the hearts of these rebels were subdued; at last they were willing to submit themselves unto Davidís scepter. Ah, note well the particular character in which David was owned by them: "thou shalt be a captain over Israel." As we have pointed out in the introductory paragraphs, the surrender of the men of the eleven tribes unto David, was a type of the sinnerís conversion. This presents to us a vital and fundamental aspect of salvation which has wellnigh disappeared from modern "evangelism." What is conversion? True and saving conversion, we mean. It is far, far more than a believing that Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God, and that He made an atonement for our sins. Thousands believe that who are yet dead in trespasses and sins!

Conversion consists not in believing certain facts or truths made known in Holy Writ, but lies in the complete surrender of the heart and life to a divine PerSong. It consists in a throwing down of the weapons of our rebellion against Him. It is the total disowning of allegiance to the old master ó Satan, sin, self, and a declaring "we will have this Man to reign over us" (Luk_19:14). It is owning the claims of Christ and bowing to His rights of absolute dominion over us. It is taking His yoke upon us, submitting unto His scepter, yielding to His blessed will. In a word, it is "receiving Christ Jesus the Lord" (Col_2:6), giving Him the throne of our hearts, turning over to Him the control and regulation of our lives. And, my reader, nothing short of this is a Scriptural conversion: anything else is make-believe, a lying substitute, a fatal deception.

In the passage now before us, these Israelites, who had for so long resisted the claims of David, serving under the banner of his adversary instead, now desired the king of Judah to be their king. It is evident that a great change had been wrought in them ó wrought in them by God, though He was pleased to use circumstances to incline toward or prepare for that change: we purposely qualify our terms, for it should be quite obvious that no mere "circumstances" could have wrought such a change in their attitude toward the ruler of Godís appointment, unless He had so "used" or influenced them by the same. So it is in connection with conversion: the distressing "circumstances" of a sinner may be used of the Spirit to convict him of the vanity of everything beneath the sun, and to teach him that no real heart satisfaction is to be found in mere things ó even though those "things" may be an earthly mansion, with every thing in it that the flesh craves; but He must perform a miracle of grace within the soul before any descendant of Adam is willing to pay full allegiance to Christ as King!

"Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh" (2Sa_5:1). What a precious line in our typical picture is this! After conviction and conversion follows spiritual illumination. The Holy Spirit is given to glorify Christ: to take of the things concerning Him and reveal them to those whom He draws to the Saviour (Joh_14:16). After a soul has been brought from death unto life by His mighty and sovereign operations, the Spirit of God instructs him; shows him the marvelous relation which divine grace has given him to the Redeemer. He discovers to him the glorious fact of his spiritual union with Christ, for "he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit" (1Co_6:17). He reveals to the quickened children of Godís family the amazing truth that they are members of that mystical Body of which Christ is the Head, and thus we are "members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones" (Eph_5:30).

It is precious to see that these words of all the tribes of Israel, "we are thy bone and thy flesh," were used by them as a plea. They had long ignored his rights and resisted his claims. They had been in open revolt against him, and deserved nought but judgment at his hands. But now they humbled themselves before him, and pleaded their near relation to him as a reason why he should forgive their ill-usage of him. They were his brethren, and on that ground they sought his clemency. And this is the very ground on which the Spirit-instructed believer sues for mercy from God in Christ. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same . . . Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest" (Heb_2:14-17). What confidence does the apprehension of this impart to the penitent heart of the Satan-harassed and sin-distressed saint!

O dear Christian reader, beg God to make this transcendent and precious fact more real and moving to thy heart. The Saviour is not one who, like the cherubim and seraphim, is far removed from thee in the scale of being. True, He is very God of very God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, the King of kings and Lord of lords, but He is also one who was "born of a woman," who became Man, who is bone of thy bone and flesh of thy flesh, and therefore "He is not ashamed to call us brethren" (Heb_2:11). And for the same reason He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Heb_4:15), and "in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted" (Heb_2:18). Then hesitate not to approach Him with the utmost freedom and pour out thy heart unreservedly before Him. He will not reprove thee any more than David did his erring brethren. Take full encouragement from this endearing relation: we are the brethren of Christ; He is our kinsman Redeemed!

"Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel; and the Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed My people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel" (2Sa_5:2). This too is very blessed when we look through the type to the antitype. These humbled revolters now praised David for his former services, which before they had overlooked; and now acknowledged the Lordís appointment of him, which before they had resisted. So it is in the experience of the converted. While in the service of Saul (Satan) we have no appreciation of the work Christ has done and no apprehension of the position of honor to which God has elevated Him: the depths of humiliation into which the Beloved of the Father entered and the unspeakable suffering which He endured on behalf of His people, melted not our hearts; nor did the scepter which He now wields bring us into loving subjection to Him. But conversion alters all this!

But more: "the Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed My people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel." They not only praised David for his former services, but recognizing him as the divinely appointed shepherd of Israel they determined to put themselves under his protection, desiring that he would rule over them in tenderness and righteousness, for their safety and comfort, and that he would lead them forth to victory over his enemies. This too finds its counterpart in the history of those who are truly converted: they realize they have many foes, both within and without, which are far too powerful for them to conquer, and therefore do they "commit the keeping of their souls to Him" (1Pe_4:19), assured that "He is able to keep . . . against that Day" (2Ti_1:12). Yes, He who is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh is "mighty to save," "able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by Him" (Heb_7:25).

1 Chronicles 12:23-40 supplies fuller light upon the opening verses of 2 Samuel 5. There we are shown not only the numbers which came unto David from each tribe, and with what zeal and sincerity they came, but also the gracious reception they met with. The one whom they had so grievously wronged did not refuse to accept them, but instead gave them a hearty and royal welcome: "And there they were with David three days (typically, now on resurrection ground), eating and drinking" (1Ch_12:39) ó at perfect ease in his presence; "for there was joy in Israel" (1Ch_12:40). Blessed be God, the Saviour of sinners has declared, "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out" (Joh_6:37). Hallelujah!

34 HIS CORONATION (CONTINUED) (2 Sam 5)

The long-hunted exile has now been elevated to the throne: his principal enemies are in their graves, and David is exalted over the kingdom of Israel. There is not a little in the opening chapters of 2 Samuel which we have passed over, as being outside the scope of this series; yet they record several details that present some lovely traits in the character of our hero. As we have previously pointed out, the news of the death of Saul and Jonathan was received by David with no carnal joy, but instead with magnanimous grief (2Sa_17:1). He had never regarded the apostate king and his favorite son as standing between him and the kingdom, and his first feeling on their fall was not ó as it had been in a less generous heart ó a flush of gladness at the thought of the empty throne, but instead a sharp pang of pain that the anointed of God had been grievously dishonored and degraded by the enemies of Israel (2Sa_1:20).

Even when he began to contemplate his new prospects, there was no hurried taking of matters into his own hands, but instead, a calm and reverent inquiring of the Lord (2Sa_2:1). He would do nothing in this crisis of his fortunes, when all which had been so long a hope seemed to be nearing its realization, until his Shepherd should lead him. Curbing his naturally impetuous disposition, refusing to take swift action and subdue his remaining opponents, holding in check the impatient ambitions of his own loyal followers, he waited to hear what God had to say. Few men have exercised such admirable self-restraint as David did under the circumstances which confronted him when his long-persecuting oppressor was no longer there to contest the field with him. Blessedly did he fulfill the vow of earlier years: "my Strength! upon Thee will I wait" (Psa_59:9).

Even before the death of Saul, the strength of Davidís forces had been rapidly increased by a constant stream of fugitives from the confusion and misery into which the kingdom had fallen. Even Benjamin, Saulís own tribe, sent him some of its famous archers ó a sure token of the kingís waning fortunes. The hardy men of Manasseh and Gad, "whose faces were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as roes upon the mountains" (1Ch_12:8) sought his standard; while from his own tribe recruits "day by day came to David to help him, until it was a great host like the host of God" (1Ch_12:22). With such forces, it is evident that he could easily and quickly have subdued any scattered troops of the former dynasty. But he made no such attempt, and took no measures whatever to advance any claims to the crown. He preferred God to work out things for him, instead of by him!

When he was settled at Hebron he followed the same trustful and patient policy, not merely for a few days or weeks, but for a period of upwards of seven years. The language of the history seems to denote a disbanding of his army, or at least to their settling down to domestic life in the villages around Hebron, without any thought of winning the kingdom by force of arms. His elevation to the partial monarchy which he at first possessed was not from his own initiative, but was from the spontaneous act of "the men of Judah" who came to him and anointed him "king over the house of Judah" (1Sa_2:4). Then followed a feeble hut lingering opposition to David, headed by Saulís cousin Abner, rallying around the late kingís incompetent son Ishbosheth, whose name significantly means man of shame.

The brief narrative which we have of the seven years spent by the still youthful David at Hebron, presents him in a very lovable light. The same gracious temper which had marked his first acts after Saulís death is strikingly brought out in 2Sa_2:2-4. "He seems to have left the conducting of the (defensive) war altogether to Joab, as though he shrank from striking any personal blow for his own advancement. When he did interfere, it was on the side of peace, to curb and chastise ferocious vengeance and dastardly assassination. The incidents recorded all go to make up a picture of tare generosity, of patiently waiting for God to fulfill His purposes, of longing that the miserable strife between the tribes of Godís inheritance should end. He sends grateful messages to Jabesh-Gilead; he will not begin the conflict with the insurgents. The only actual fight recorded is provoked by Abner, and managed with unwonted mildness by Joab.

"The generosity of his nature shines out again in his indignation at Joabís murder of Abner, though he was too meek to avenge it. There is no more beautiful picture in his life than that of his following the bier where lay the bloody corpse of the man who had been his enemy ever since he had known him, and sealing the reconciliation which Death even makes in noble souls, by the pathetic dirge he chanted over Abnerís grave (2Sa_3:31). We have a glimpse of his peopleís unbounded confidence in him, given incidentally when we are told that his sorrow pleased them, Ďas whatsoever the king did pleased all the peopleí (2Sa_3:36). We have a glimpse of the feebleness of his new monarchy as against the fierce soldier who had done so much to make it, in his acknowledgment that he was yet weak (2Sa_3:39)" (Alexander Maclaren).

The final incident of Davidís reign over Judah in Hebron was his execution of summary justice upon the murderers of the poor puppet-king Ishbosheth (2Sa_4:12), upon whose death the whole resistance to Davidís power collapsed. Immediately after, the elders of all the tribes came up to Hebron, with the tender of the crown (2Sa_5:1-3). They offered it upon the triple grounds of kingship, of his military service in Saulís reign, and of the divine promise of the throne. A solemn pact was made, and David was "anointed" in Hebron "king over Israel": a king not only by divine right, but also a constitutional monarch, chosen by popular election, and limited in his powers. The evangelical significance of this event we considered in the preceding chapter; other points of interest connected therewith are now to engage our attention.

This crowning of David king over all Israel was, first, the fulfillment of one of the great prophecies of Scripture. "Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy fatherís children shall bow down before thee" (Gen_49:8). Let it be carefully noted that the clause "thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies" is placed between "thy brethren shall praise thee" and "thy fatherís children shall bow down before thee"; and that immediately following this, Judahís victories over the enemies of Godís people is again pointed out: "Judah is a lionís whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up" (Gen_49:9).

The above prophecy intimated the exalted position which Judah, when compared with the other tribes, was to occupy: Judah was to be the fore-champion in Israelís warfare against their enemies, God having empowered him with conquering power over the foes of his kingdom. The commencement of this in the life of David is plainly intimated in 2Sa_5:1-3. Davidís hand had been "in the neck of Israelís enemies": seen in his memorable victory over Goliath, the Philistine giant; following which we observe the begun-fulfillment of "thy brethren shall praise thee" in the song of the women, "Saul hath slain his thousands and David his ten thousands" (1Sa_18:6). So also here in 2 Samuel 5 the elders of the eleven tribes "bowed down before him" when they nominated him their king, and that, specifically, in view of the fact that he had triumphantly led out and brought in Israelís army in times past (2Sa_5:2)!

This leads us, in the second place, to contemplate the coronation of David as a blessed foreshadowment of the exaltation of his greater Son and Lord. This is so obvious that there is little need for us to amplify it at much lengthó though the interested reader would find it profitable to prayerfully trace out for himself other details in it. The life and activities of David are plainly divided into two main parts, though the second part was of much longer duration than the first: thus it is also in the mediatorial work of Him to whom he pointed. In the first section of his career, he who was born at Bethlehem (1Sa_16:1) and "anointed" of God (1Sa_16:13), wrought some mighty works (1Sa_17:34-36, 1Sa_17:49) which clearly demonstrated that the Lord was with him (for the antitype see Luk_2:11; Act_10:38). The fame of David was sung by many, which stirred up the jealousy and enmity of the ruling power (1Sa_18:7-8): for the antitype see Mat_21:15!

The enmity of Saul against David was exceeding bitter, so that he thirsted for his blood (1Sa_18:29): compare Mat_12:14. From that time forth David became a homeless wanderer (1Sa_22:1): compare Mat_8:20. A little company of devoted souls gathered around him (1Sa_22:2), but the nation as a whole despised and rejected him: compare Joh_1:11-12. This was the period of his humiliation, when the anointed of God suffered privation and persecution at the hands of his enemies. True, he could (as we have seen above) have taken matters into his own hands, and grasped the kingdom by force of arms; but he steadily refused to do so, preferring to meekly and patiently wait Godís time for him to ascend the throne: compare Mat_26:52. In these and many other respects, our hero blessedly foreshadowed the character and career of his suffering but greater Son and Lord.

But the time had now arrived when the season of Davidís humiliation was over, and when he entered into that position of honor and glory which God had long before ordained for him: "they anointed David king over Israel" (2Sa_5:3). In his coronation we have a precious adumbration of the ascension of Christ, and His exaltation unto "the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb_1:3), when He "took upon Him the form of a servant" and "made Himself of no reputation" was "highly exalted" and given "a Name which is above every name" (Phi_2:7-10). As we are told in Act_5:31, "Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to (the spiritual) Israel." The recorded deeds of David after he came to the throne, which will come before us in the chapters to follow, also strikingly prefigured the work and triumphs of our exalted and glorified Redeemer.

And now, in the third place, let us inquire, How did the fugitive bear this sudden change of fortune? What were the thoughts of David, what the exercises of his heart, now that this great dignity, which he never sought, became his? The answer to our question is supplied by Psalm 18 which (see the superscription) he "spoke in the day that the Lord delivered him from all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul," that is, when the Lord brought to an end the opposition of Saulís house and followers. In this Psalm the Holy Spirit has recorded the breathings of Davidís spirit and graciously permits us to learn of the first freshness of thankfulness and praise which filled the soul of the young king upon his accession to the throne. Here we are shown the bright spiritual beginnings of the new monarchy, and are given to see how faithfully the king remembered the vows which as an exile had been mingled with his tears.