I Samuel 19

 

 

     SUCCESSIVE ATTEMPTS UPON DAVID’S LIFE FRUSTRATED BY

 THE LOVE OF JONATHAN AND MICHAL, AND FINALLY BY FLIGHT

 

 

     JONATHAN’S LOVE FOR DAVID (vs. 1-7).

 

1 “And Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should

kill David.”  The translation of the last clause is untenable; it really means “about

killing David,” and so both the Septuagint and the Syriac render it. The descent of

men once full of noble impulses, as was the case with Saul, into open crime

is gradual, and with many halts on the way. Saul first gave way to envy,

and instead of struggling against his bad feelings, nourished them. Then,

when scarcely accountable for his actions, he threatened David’s life; and

next, with growing malice, encouraged him in dangerous undertakings, in

the hope that in one of them he might be slain. And now he goes one step

farther. He talks to Jonathan and his officers concerning the many reasons

there were for David’s death; argues that without it there will be no

security for himself and his dynasty; represents David probably as a traitor,

with secret purposes of usurping the throne; and reveals what hitherto had

been but the half-formed wishes of his heart. But even now, probably, he

still spoke of David’s death as a painful necessity, and had many misgivings

in his own mind. But he was really encouraging himself in crime, and by

cherishing thoughts of murder he was gradually descending towards

THE DARK ABYSS INTO WHICH HE FINALLY FELL!

 

2 “But Jonathan Saul’s 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:  3 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.” Until the morning. Rather, “in the

morning.” Saul’s purpose was taking shape, and as there are always men too

ready to commit crime at the bidding of a king, there was the danger that

secret murder might be the quick result of Saul’s open communication of his

wishes to his men of war. Jonathan, therefore, warns David of the king’s

malice, and urges him to hide himself until he has made a last entreaty for

him. This was to take place in the field, the open common land. There was

no idea of David overhearing the conversation, but when the king took his

usual walk Jonathan was to join him, and hold a conference with him apart

in the unenclosed hill pastures. After probing his father’s real feelings he

would continue his walk, and, without awakening any suspicions, would

meet David and communicate to him the result. What I see, that I will tell

thee. More exactly, “I will see what (he says), and will tell thee.”

 

4 “And Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul his father, and said

unto him, Let not the king sin against his servant, against David;

because he hath not sinned against thee, and because his works

have been to thee-ward very good:  5 For he did put his life in his hand,

and slew the Philistine, and the LORD wrought a great salvation for all

Israel: thou sawest it, and didst rejoice: wherefore then wilt thou sin

against innocent blood, to slay David without a cause?  6 And Saul hearkened

unto the voice of Jonathan: and Saul swear, As the LORD liveth, he shall not

be slain.  7 And Jonathan called David, and Jonathan shewed him all those

things. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence,

as in times past.”  In the field Jonathan intercedes for David, assures his father

of his friend’s innocence, reminds him of his noble exploit, and of Saul’s

own joy at it, and beseeches him not to shed innocent blood. And Saul,

fickle and selfish, yet not destitute of noble feelings, repents of his purpose,

and with characteristic impetuosity takes an oath that David’s life shall be

spared. Whereupon a reconciliation takes place, and David resumes his

attendance upon the king’s person.

 

 

Open Enmity and Open Friendship (vs. 1-7)

 

The facts are:

 

1. Saul reveals his purpose to kill David.

2. This being made known to Jonathan, he arranges with David to let him

learn the result of an effort to turn Saul from his purpose.

3. He pleads with Saul David’s good services and personal risks, God’s

approval, and the king’s own joy therein.

4. Saul yields to persuasion, resolves not to shed “innocent blood,” and

recalls David into his personal service.

 

The historian traces the progress of Saul to ruin, and of David to royal honors,

and here brings out the aroused hostility of Saul on the one side, and the open

services of Jonathan’s friendship on the other. Father and son are at cross

purposes concerning the life of one who in the providence of God is to supplant

both. Each performs his part with perfect naturalness; and in the progress

of the conflict between enmity and friendship there is a revelation not only

of the individual characteristics of the men, but also of principles in

constant operation. We have here an instance of:

 

  • THE INEVITABLE GROWTH OF SECRET SIN. Except in occasional

seasons of moodiness, Saul’s conduct towards David had not found formal

expression. His servants probably set down his violence (ch. 18:11) to

irritability, and we have seen how cleverly Saul had striven to throw

on Providence the slaying of David while he was doing him honor

(ibid. vs.17-30). The frustration of these secret schemes brought out

the fact that the sin so long cherished in the heart, and for very shame

concealed, had, by that very nurture, gained such power over the entire

man as to force its way into open day, regardless of all considerations of

prudence and self-respect. The murder in intent became murder avowed.

The ruling passion of the inner life now became the acknowledged master,

and a public avowal of servitude to it is therefore voluntarily made. Saul’s

experience is but an instance of the experience of multitudes. Progress in

wickedness is from within outwards. Lust, when it hath conceived, brings

forth sin (James 1:15). Every deliberate murder, theft, deed of adultery,

fraud, and rebellion against Christ’s authority was at first germinal in the

heart. Each stage of internal growth lessened the power of the will over its

progress, till at last it revealed its evil nature in open acts. This

psychological genesis of sin is an awful fact, and may well cause those to

tremble whose dalliance with secret evil becomes habitual. Truly he who

committeth sin is “the servant of sin” (John 8:34), and every consideration

of duty and interest should urge us to cry daily for a “clean heart,” and that

sin may have “no more dominion” over us (Psalm 139:23; Romans 6:14).

 

  • THE STUPIDITY CONSEQUENT ON THE DOMINION OF SIN.

Facts prove that all sin is a species of madness. Adam and Eve imagined

that a thicket would hide them from God. Saul’s clearness of intellect

suffered by his first public disobedience; and now that the evil passion had

gained ascendancy, extreme stupidity appears in his soliciting the aid, in

the execution of his cruel purpose, of Jonathan, David’s bosom friend

(ch. 18:1-4; 19:1). If he knew nothing of their friendship, which is very

improbable, he ought to have known enough of so good and devout a son

as to be sure that he would be no party to a base and villanous deed. If he

imagined that Jonathan was likely to be actuated by jealousy of a rival, he

performed the stupid act, common to base men, of thinking that reasons

which have force with themselves have force with others. In proportion to

the power of sin over the will is the effect of it on the intellect. Even the

most clever sinners, when seeking to cover their sin from man, manifest

some infatuation or folly which affords the clue to their crime. But it is

especially in relation to God and the future issues of sin that this stupefying

effect appears. It is only this blinded spirit that explains the ease with which

men read of the coming “terrors of the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:10-11; 4:3-4;

Hebrews 2:3).

 

  • THE DOMESTIC SORROWS CREATED BY SIN. It was with a

sad, heavy heart that Jonathan had witnessed the gradual decay of his

father’s character, but the saddest blow was when the father sought to

make the son partaker in his sin. The grief of the son would be

proportionate to his piety. To be tempted by a father, to have filial

obedience tested in deeds of evil, to see the utter ruin of a parent’s moral

character, was a bitter trial; and, as a true son, Jonathan could not but bear

these sorrows as a fearful secret. In how many families are there sorrows

of this kind! How many a child has to watch the decay of a father’s

reputation, to bear inducements to sin, and to hide deeds and intentions of

evil! A parent is far gone when children are prompted to wrong. A child is

indeed a “child of sorrow” when compelled to carry on a pure heart the

secrets of a sinful home.

 

  • THE TRIUMPH OF RELIGIOUS FRIENDSHIP. It is scarcely likely

that Saul would speak to Jonathan about killing David without pointing out

how dangerous a rival he was to both father and son. It raised in

Jonathan’s mind the conflict of worldly interest and fidelity to a friend. Not

a few have yielded to such temptations. But Jonathan’s pure soul was

equal to the occasion. His conduct was marked by exquisite delicacy of

feeling and wisdom. He would not so degrade his father as to tell David

that he had been asked to slay his friend, while he assured David of his real

danger. While not assuming the tone of an advocate, he skillfully handled

facts so as to achieve the end in view. The point of the temptation was to

sacrifice friendship to private and public interests. There are persons still

subject to the same trial. May we not also see something analogous to the

common temptations of Christians to renounce the “Anointed One” for

reasons pertaining to earthly wealth and glory? Where there is real oneness

of heart with Christ, no blandishments of sin, no prospect of greater

worldly distinction, avail to break the sacred bond.

 

  • THE FORCE OF TRUTH ON THE CONSCIENCE. Jonathan simply,

in a kindly, gentle way, conversed with his father on the matter, and called

his attention to a few facts, — David’s risks, services, and evident approval

by God, and Saul’s own joy in his victories, — and then asks whether such

innocent blood should be shed. The effect even on the impenitent Saul is to

soften his hard heart and draw forth the declaration that he shall be spared.

Happy the son who has such influence with an unhappy, wicked father! In

dealing with hardened sinners three things are necessary.

 

Ø      Truth to present to the conscience. That David was innocent Saul knew;

but ordinarily passion blinded him to the due recognition of it. If we can

hold forth “the word of life,” the actual truth concerning Christ, so that it

shall shine straight in upon the conscience, men cannot but acknowledge its

power, and it will exercise some restraint on their conduct.

 

Ø      A kindly, unaffected manner. It was the manner of Jonathan that secured

an attentive hearing and disarmed Saul’s suspicion. Harsh language tends

to arouse antagonism. The secret of success lies in so presenting the truth

that it stands forth alone, unmixed with disturbing elements from our

personality. (“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle

unto all me, apt to teach, patient.” – II Timothy 2:24; and to speak the

“truth in love” – Ephesians 4:15 – CY – 2016)  He that winneth souls

is wise” (Proverbs 11:30).

 

Ø      Prayerfulness of spirit. We may be sure that Jonathan as well as David

prayed in spirit on this occasion. The tone of our mind is wonderfully

affected by prayerfulness. We then speak for God and man with a gentle

force which guilty men cannot but feel.

 

 

The Proof of True Friendship (vs. 1-7)

 

Adversity is the touchstone of friendship, as of many other things; and its

experience, sooner or later, is certain. Notwithstanding the secret jealousy

and plotting of Saul, the prosperity of David continued to increase; and at

length, unable to endure the sight of it, he “spoke to Jonathan his son, and

to all his servants, about killing David.” Persons in high places are

generally attended by some men who, like Doeg (ch. 21:7; 22:22) and

Cush (Psalm 7, inscription), are ready to carry out their evil wishes.

 

Psalm 7

 

TITLE. "Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the Lord, concerning the word of Cush

the Benjamite."—"Shiggaion of David." As far as we can gather from the observations of

learned men, and from a comparison of this Psalm with the only other Shiggaion in the

Word of God, (Habakkuk 3:1), this title seems to mean "variable songs," with which also

the idea of solace and pleasure is associated. Truly our life-psalm is composed of variable

verses; one stanza rolls along with the sublime meter of triumph, but another limps with the

broken rhythm of complaint. There is much bass in the saint's music here below. Our

experience is as variable as the weather in England.  From the title we learn the occasion

of the composition of this song. It appears probable that Cush the Benjamite had accused

David to Saul of treasonable conspiracy against his royal authority. This the king would be

ready enough to credit, both from his jealousy of David, and from the relation which most

probably existed between himself, the son of Kish, and this Cush, or Kish, the Benjamite.

He who is near the throne can do more injury to a subject than an ordinary slanderer.

This may be called the SONG OF THE SLANDERED SAINT. Even this sorest of evils

may furnish occasion for a Psalm. What a blessing it would be if we could turn even the

most disastrous event into a theme for song, and so turn the tables upon our great enemy.

Let us learn a lesson from Luther, who once said, "David made Psalms; we also will make

Psalms, and sing them as well as we can to the honor of our Lord, and to spite and mock

the devil."  (excerpt from Treasury of David, C.H. Spurgeon - # 1255 – this website –

CY – 2016)

 

The danger of David was now imminent. And with the revelation

of it to him by Jonathan his troubles began. Whilst adversity shows the

insincerity and worthlessness of false friends, it also shows the sincerity and

worth of true. “In adverse hours the friendship of the good shines most.”

The proof of true friendship appears in:

 

  • THE STEADFASTNESS OF ITS ATTACHMENT. “Jonathan

delighted much in David.” Notwithstanding:

 

Ø      Misrepresentation on the part of enemies. There can be no doubt that

Saul spoke of David as treacherously aiming at the throne. The mouths of

others were full of detraction and calumny, by which they sought to

destroy him as with sharp swords (Psalm 59:7).

 

Ø      Urgent claims on the part of friends and kindred. A father’s wishes are

sometimes opposed to a friend’s welfare.

 

Ø      Self-interest. If David were spared Jonathan’s accession to the throne

would be jeopardized. But true friendship stands the test. It thinketh

no evil” (I Corinthians 13:5) of a friend, will do him no wrong,

nor admit the least feeling of jealousy or envy. The wintry storm

only serves to strengthen its attachment. “Yet these two charges

of inconstancy and of weakness condemn most men: either in their

prosperity they despise a friend, or in his troubles they desert him”

(Cicero).

 

  • THE FAITHFULNESS OF ITS COMMUNICATIONS. “And

Jonathan told David,” etc. (vs. 2-3).

 

Ø      It reveals the whole truth and conceals nothing. “If you think any one

your friend in whom you do not put the same confidence as in yourself

you know not the real power of friendship” (Seneca).

Ø      It gives the best counsel in its power.

Ø      It promises aid as it may be needed.

 

  • THE SELF-DEVOTION OF ITS ENDEAVORS. “And Jonathan

spake good of David,” etc. (vs. 4-5).

 

Ø      It undergoes personal risk in undertaking the cause of a friend.

 

Ø      It makes earnest entreaty on behalf of the absent one; asserting his

innocence, enumerating his services, setting forth his claims upon

gratitude and esteem, and remonstrating against his being injured

without cause” (v. 5; John 15:25).

 

Ø      It shows a prudent and respectful regard for those whom it wishes to

influence. In Jonathan prudence and principle were combined. “Prudence

did not go so far as to make him silent about the sin which Saul was

purposing to commit; principle was not so asserted as to arouse his father’s

indignation” (W.M. Taylor).

 

  • THE VALUE OF ITS ACHIEVEMENTS. “And Saul hearkened,”

etc. (vs. 6-7). “How forcible are right words!” (Job 6:25)  Even the heart

of Saul is moved, and his better feelings gain the ascendancy. How often

by a generous and prudent attempt at peace making is:

 

Ø      A threatening evil averted.

 

Ø      A reconciliation, of the alienated effected.

 

Ø      Communion between friends renewed, “as in times past.” “Blessed

are the peacemakers,” etc. (Matthew 5:9). “There are four, young

man (says an Eastern sage), “who, seeming to be friends, are

enemies in disguise:

 

o       the rapacious friend,

o       the man of much profession,

o       the flatterer, and

o       the dissolute companion.

 

These four, young man, are true friends:

 

o       the watchful friend,

o       the friend who is the same in prosperity and adversity,

o       the friend who gives good advice, and

o       the sympathizing friend.”

 

 

  RENEWED ATTEMPT TO SLAY DAVID FRUSTRATED BY MICHAL

   (vs. 8-17).

 

8 “And there was war again: and David went out, and fought with the

Philistines, and slew them with a great slaughter; and they fled from him.

9 And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his

house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand.

The — more correctly an evil spirit from Jehovah. The

friendly relations between Saul and David continued for some time; but

when at length war broke out again, David acquitted himself with his usual

ability and success, whereupon Saul’s envy and jealousy returned, and fits

of melancholy, deepening into insanity, once again over clouded his

reason. It is no longer called “an evil spirit from God,” as in ch.18:10, but

from Jehovah, as in ch. 16:14, suggesting that it was no longer a natural

influence, but that Saul, having broken his covenant relations with Jehovah,

was now punished by Him. While in this moody state the same temptation to

slay David with his javelin came over him, but with such violence that he was

no longer able to restrain his evil intent.

 

10 “And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin:

but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, and he smote the

javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night.

11 Saul also sent messengers unto David’s house, to watch him, and

to slay him in the morning: and Michal David’s wife told him, saying,

If thou save not thy life to night, to morrow thou shalt be slain.

12 So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and

fled, and escaped.”  Saul sought to smite David. The verb used here is

not that rendered cast in ch.18:11, where probably we had the

record of a purpose threatened, but not carried out. Here Saul actually

threw his javelin at David with such violence that it was fixed into the wall.

But David, though playing some instrument of music at the time, was on

his guard, and slipped away. And David fled, and escaped that night. As

usual, the historian gives the ultimate results of Saul’s violence first, and

then returns and gives the particulars; for plainly David first went home,

and it was only when he found that the house was surrounded by Saul’s

emissaries that he fled away to find refuge with Samuel. Saul also sent

messengers. As is often the case, this outbreak of violence on Saul’s part

broke down all the former restraints of upright feeling and conscience. He

had lost his self-respect, was openly a murderer as regards everything but

the success of his attempt, and he determined that that should not be long

wanting. He sends persons, therefore, to watch David’s house, with orders

that when in the morning he came out, suspecting no danger, they should

fall upon him and slay him. But Michal in some way or other became aware

of her husband’s danger. Possibly she had been at her father’s house in the

afternoon, and with quick observation had noticed that more than usual

was going on, and seeing that her own house was the object of these

preparations, had divined their intent; or possibly Jonathan may have given

her information, and so she warned David of his danger. As the entrance

was guarded, he was let down through a window, like Paul afterwards

(Acts 9:25),  and so began the weary life of wandering which lasted

through so many troubled years.

 

13 “And Michal took an image, and laid it in the bed, and put a pillow

of goats’ hair for his bolster, and covered it with a cloth.”

Michal took an image. Literally, “the teraphim,” a plural

word, but used here as a singular. Probably, like the corresponding Latin

word penates, it had no singular in common use. It was a wooden block

with head and shoulders roughly shaped to represent a human figure.

Laban’s tera-phim were so small that Rachel could hide them under the

camel’s furniture (Genesis 31:34), but Michal’s seems to have been

large enough to pass in the bed for a man. Though the worship of them is

described as iniquity (ch. 15:23), yet the superstitious belief that

they brought good luck to the house over which they presided, in return

for kind treatment, seems to have been proof against the teaching of the

prophets; and Hosea describes the absence of them as on the same level as

the absence of the ephod (Hosea 3:4). A pillow of goats’ hair for his

bolster. More correctly, “a goat’s skin about its head.” So the Syriac and

Vulgate. The object of it, would be to look at a distance like a man s hair.

The Septuagint has a goat’s liver, because this was supposed to palpitate

long after the animal’s death, and so would produce the appearance of a

person’s breathing. But this involves a different reading, for which there is

no authority; nor was Michal’s deception intended for close observation.

She would of course not let any one disturb David, and all she wanted was

just enough likeness to a man to make a person at a distance suppose that

David was there. Soon or later her artifice would be found out, but her

husband would have had the intervening time for effecting his escape. As

the word rendered pillow, and which is found only here, comes from a root

signifying “to knot together,” “to intertwine,” some commentators think

that it means a network of goats’ hair, perhaps to keep off flies. But this is

a mere guess, and not to be set against the combined authority of the two

versions. With a cloth. Hebrew, beged. This beged was David’s every day

dress, and would greatly aid Michal in her pious artifice. It was a loose

mantle, worn over the close-fitting meil (see ch. 2:19). Thus Ezra (Ezra

9:3,5)  says, “I rent my beged and my meil,” which the Authorized Version

with characteristic inexactness translates “my garment and my mantle.” In

Genesis 28:20, where it is rendered raiment, Jacob speaks of it as the

most indispensable article of dress; and in ibid. ch. 39:12, where it is

rendered garment, we find that it was a loose plaid or wrapper. In those

simple days it was used for warmth by night as well as for protection by

day, and it is interesting to find David in his old age still covered up for

warmth in bed by his beged (I Kings 1:1), where it is translated clothes.

 

14 “And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, He is sick.

15 And Saul sent the messengers again to see David, saying, Bring

him up to me in the bed, that I may slay him.  16 And when the messengers

were come in, behold, there was an image in the bed, with a pillow of goats’

hair for his bolster.  17 And Saul said unto Michal, Why hast thou deceived

me so, and sent away mine enemy, that he is escaped? And Michal answered

Saul, He said unto me, Let me go; why should I kill thee?”  When, after waiting

till the usual hour for David’s appearance, he came not, the watchers send and

inform Saul, who now orders his open arrest. But Michal despatches a messenger

to tell her father that he is sick. Upon this Saul orders bed and all to be brought,

that he may slay him. As an Oriental bed is usually a mere strip of carpet, this

would be easy enough. But when the messengers force their way through, in

spite of every obstruction which Michal can devise to waste time, and come up

close to the sleeping figure, “Lo, teraphim in the bed, and a goatskin at its

head.” They carry the news to Saul, who sends for Michal, and reproaches

her for letting his enemy go. And she, afraid of bringing her father’s anger

upon herself, answers with a falsehood, such as we find David also too

readily having resort to; for she tells Saul that his flight was David’s own

doing, and that she had taken part in it only to save her life. Why should I

kill thee? She pretends that David had told her not to force him to kill her

by refusing to give her aid in his escape. Saul, no doubt, saw that she had

been a willing agent; but as she professed to have been driven to do what

she had done by David’s threats, he could say no more.

 

 

Revived Sins and Troubles (vs. 8-17)

 

The facts are:

 

1. The fresh fame of David arouses the latent ill-will of Saul, who seeks in

vain to smite him with a javelin.

2. David fleeing to his house, Saul sends men to lie in wait for and slay him.

3. Michal warns him of danger, and during the night aids his escape.

4. By a clever device she diverts his enemies from an immediate pursuit,

and on being accused of aiding her father’s enemy, she pleads self-preservation.

 

The troubles of life are but temporarily overcome. It was destined for David to

smite the national enemy, since he went forth as none other did, strong in the

name of the Lord.” The fame of his exploits no sooner reached the ears of

Saul than the effect of Jonathan’s recent endeavor to reconcile him to David

was utterly lost; and hence arose a series of new troubles for persecutor and the

persecuted. We see here:

 

  • THAT A RADICAL CHANGE OF DISPOSITION IS THE ONLY

GUARANTEE OF CONDUCT AND CHARACTER. The change

wrought in Saul by Jonathan’s recent presentation of truth was only

superficial. The old sin was loved and not confessed! The nature of the

man was alienated from the life of God; and hence on the slightest

approach of temptation the old spirit broke forth. It is universally true that:

 

Ø      no intellectual recognition of truth,

Ø      no acquiescence of conscience in the injustice of a course,

Ø      no reformation consequent on human influence over the feelings or

Ø      the intelligence,

 

will make man, or enable him TO BE WHAT HE OUGHT TO BE!

The fundamental disposition must be renewed.  (As Jesus said, “Ye must

be born again!”  - John 3:7 – CY – 2016)  There are instances of this in

Christian history. The lion becomes a lamb. A Saul of Tarsus becomes an

apostle of Christ. It is in the nature of things that so it should be. For in the

ordained subordination of the powers of the mind there is a ruling disposition

to which all bend: if it be pure all will move in a holy direction; if it be impure

the whole life will he stained. Out of the heart are the issues of life. (Proverbs

4:23)  It is the weakness of all systems of morality that they exalt virtue

and teach the evils of vice, but furnish no adequate power to render the life

virtuous in the highest sense of the term. Moralists may be immoral.

The doing of truth is not involved in a knowledge of it. Here it is

that the New Testament comes in to supplement man’s knowledge, and to

perfect codes of morality. By the gift of the Holy Spirit He builds up

outward character from within, and insures that at last sin shall have no

dominion over us. There is danger of men overlooking this truth, especially

when many run to and fro, and knowledge is increased. (Daniel 12:4) 

Civilization, by securing a presentable exterior, diverts attention from the

hidden man of the heart.”  (I Peter 3:4)  The indirect effect of Christianity is

to incorporate with the ordinary character many of the virtues nourished only by

itself, and hence men imagine that society would be what it is without

Christianity. It is extremely important, therefore, to insist on the New Testament

teaching of the need of a radical change by the power of the Holy Spirit; to

seek to bring our children early under His renewing power, and to pray

constantly that men may be renewed and become new creatures in

CHRIST JESUS!

 

  • THAT THE AFFLICTIONS OFTEN BEFALLING THE SERVANTS

OF GOD PUT A SEVERE STRAIN ON THEIR FAITH. If Psalm 59 was

written in reference to this persecution, we can see the propriety of the

assertion, “Not for my transgression, and not for any sin of mine”

(Psalm 59:3), do they “set themselves.” To a young man conscious of

his integrity, and not without hope of being accepted of God, it must have

seemed a strange providence which allowed his life to be so troubled.

Could Samuel’s anointing really have a Divine significance? (ch. 16:13).

Was it not a mistake to have left the quiet sheepfold for the scene

of conflict? (ch. 17:20). Would it not be well even now to retire

into private life? Why should an innocent, sincere soul have such constant

reason to cry, “Awake to help me, and behold?” (Psalm 59:4). The

experience is not confined to David. One greater than David, when in

pursuit of His higher work in the world, was a “Man of sorrows, and

acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3)  And likewise for many a year His

Church, when pursuing her holy and beneficent course, was exposed to

relentless persecution. It is still true that “many are the afflictions of the

righteous(Psalm 34:19) but the Lord delivereth out of them all, and that

through much tribulation” (Acts 14:22) we enter the kingdom. But all

this is not a matter of chance, nor an indication of imperfect wisdom and

love. The world is evil, and goodness can only live in it by conflict. It is

part of the great battle of the universe that sin shall be exterminated by

endured sorrows. History proves that the purest lives and most

beautiful virtues have flourished in times and by means of severe trial.

Every sufferer knows how blessed it is to be driven nearer to God. The

tribulation is only for a brief space, and works out a far more exceeding

and eternal weight of glory. (II Corinthians 4:17)  Hence faith can bear

the strain; the more so as God does succor and delight the soul with His

comforts (Psalm 59:17; 94:19).

 

  • THAT THOSE WHO DEVISE EVIL AGAINST THE SERVANTS

OF GOD ARE SOMETIMES CAUGHT IN THEIR OWN DEVICES. In

the exercise of his low cunning Saul gave Michal to David that she might

be a snare to him (ch.18:21), her character and tendencies being such as

might in his judgment bring him into trouble. It now turned out that

the snare for David became a snare for Saul (Psalm 7:14-15). Wicked

men cannot always reckon safely on their instruments. Men laid snares for

Christ, but were entangled in their own talk (Matthew 22:15-22).

Pharaoh thought he would find Israel “entangled in the land” (Exodus

14:3), and he found himself ensnared therein to his own destruction. Snares

are laid for the Church of God in modern times, and some of these will

doubtless prove the reverse of the original intent. We are invited with

persuasive voice to enter the pathway of severe historical criticism and of

physical science, and it is hoped thereby to disenchant us of the fascination

of a supernatural Christianity. Men are as confident of the result as was

Saul when he gave Michal to David (ch. 18:21); but we have

nothing to fear, for criticism and science thus far only bring out the truth

that the CHRIST is unexplainable on any hypothesis but that of the

supernatural; and hence, on the ordinary principles of scientific research,

men are bound to accept that hypothesis, or else declare themselves

unscientific. “He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet”

(I Corinthians 15:25).

 

  • THAT ALTHOUGH IMPERFECT MORAL CONDUCT MAY

SUBSERVE THE INTERESTS OF GOD’S SERVANTS, IT

NEVERTHELESS IS DISHONOURING TO THEM. Michal acted a lie,

and also told deliberate lies, in order to shield David and then herself. The

issue was advantageous to David, as it put a wide distance between him

and his pursuers. The statement of the facts in Scripture is by no means

identical with approval of them. God’s purposes have sometimes been

furthered by the actions of imperfect men, but the actions have been their

own, and never have had Divine approval. It is true still that many a

defective “earthen vessel” is the instrument of good. Indeed, were God to

refrain from working out His blessed purposes of mercy till we were all

pure as the angels, the prospects of the world would be dark enough. The

safe rule is “not to do evil that good may come.” (Romans 3:8)  Good does

come often in spite of evil, as when God’s truth is diffused in spite of the

mixed motives and strife of those engaged in His service, and when comfort

and joy flow to the poor from money given even for purposes far from

benevolent. The command of God is “Lie not one to another” (Leviticus

19:11). It is not for us to say that dangers will be avoided by occasional lies.

The principle involved in truth speaking is of vast importance in all times and

places, and is worth the sacrifice of much for its vindication. Suppose a

man is slain rather than utter a lie, does not his martyrdom for truth, in the

enduring moral sphere, bring greater good to moral beings and himself than

could have come from trampling on a sacred principle for a present

advantage? God, moreover, does not leave His servants when they do right.

Had Michal stated the facts she would have saved her husband from

slander, and there were ten thousand ways by which God could have

frustrated the purpose of the men and shielded David. Our duty is to be

true and leave consequences to God. GOD DOES NOT LIE! — We are

children of God; CHRIST DID NOT LIE!  — We are followers of Christ.

We may be sure that permanent good must ensue on our being conformed

TO CHRIST, THE IMAGE OF GOD!  There is a gain which is loss, and a

loss which is gain (Psalm 37:3-8, 27-28; Mark 8:36; Ephesians 5:9; 6:14).

We need not fret and be uneasy about the snares of the wicked if only

we are in God’s service, as time is on our side (Psalm 37).  Christians

should strive to put down all practical forms of falsehood prevalent in

society (thereby fulfilling the charge of Christ to be “the salt of the earth!”

(Matthew 5:13), and train children in a severe love of truth at any cost.

 

 

Michal (vs. 11-17)

 

The women mentioned in the Books of Samuel are, for the most part,

distinguished for their eminent piety. But what shall be said of Michal, the

wife of David? She was a daughter of Saul, inherited much of his

temperament and disposition, and (unlike Jonathan) was without the

religious principle by which they might have been controlled and sanctified.

She was:

 

1. Impressionable and impulsive. Fascinated by his personal appearance

and popularity, the young princess “loved David,” and made no secret of

her affection; but she does not appear to have perceived anything of his

highest qualities. The relation of husband and wife, no less than that of

friends, is firmest when sanctified by common faith and love toward God.

 

2. Capable of a noble action. Under the influence of strong feeling she

warned David of his danger and aided his escape, at the risk of her own life.

 

3. Designing and deceptive. Her quick wittedness devised the means of

escape, deceived the messengers of Saul to gain time, and invented a ready

story to disarm her father’s wrath. Her fear of her father was greater than

her love for truth; and her love for her husband greater than her hatred of

sin. “She could tell lies for David, but she had not the courage and the faith

to go with him into suffering, or to tell the truth for him” (W. M. Taylor).

 

4. Superstitious. Teraphim (ch.15:23). See Bible Dictionaries. It

is not said that David knew of her possession of these idolatrous objects.

 

This word occurs only in the plural, and denotes images connected with magical rites.

The derivation of the name is obscure. In one case -- ( here vs. 13,16 ) - a single statue

seems to be intended by the plural. The teraphim, translated "images" in the Authorized

Version, carried away from Laban by Rachel were regarded by Laban as gods, and it

would therefore appear that they were used by those who added corrupt practices to the

patriarchal religion. Teraphim again are included among Micah’s images. (Judges 17:3-5 ;

Judges 18:17-18, 20 ) Teraphim were consulted for oracular answers by the Israelites,

(Zechariah 10:2 ) compare ch.15:22-23; here vs.13,16, Septuagint,  Judges 18:5-6; and

II Kings 23:24  and by the Babylonians in the case of Nebuchadnezzar. ( Ezekiel 21:19-22 )

                                                                        (Smith’s Bible Dictionary)

 

5. Changeable and wayward. During the wanderings of David she was

given in marriage to Phalti, apparently without reluctance (ch.25:44); and

(as appears when restored to David) “she had evidently gained

his affections; he most likely had won hers” (II Samuel 3:16).

 

6. Proud, jealous, and scornful. Proud of her birth and rank, jealous of her

rivals, Abigail and Ahinoam (II Samuel 6:16, 20-23; Blunt, ‘Script.

Coincidences,’ p. 126), and scornful toward her husband. “She despised

him in her heart.”

 

“Preceding the blest vessel, onward came,

With light dance leaping, girt in humble guise,

Israel’s sweet harper; in that hap he seemed

Less and yet more kingly. Opposite

At a great palace, from the lattice forth

Looked Michal, like a lady full of scorn

And sorrow” (Dante, ‘Purg.’ 10.).

 

7. Unspiritual, and destitute of sympathy with the feelings of boundless

gratitude, joy, and adoration expressed before the Lord.

 

 

       DAVID’S FLIGHT TO SAMUEL AT RAMAH

(vs. 18-24).

 

18 “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.”  David...came to Samuel. We have seen that there is every

reason to believe that David had been taught and trained by Samuel among

the sons of the prophets, and now, conscious of his innocence, he flees for

refuge to his old master, trusting that Saul would reverence God’s prophet,

and give credence to his intercession and his pledge that David was

guiltless. He and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth. Rather in Nevayoth,

as in the written text. This is not the name of a place, but signifies

“dwellings,” “lodgings,” and is always translated in the Chaldee “house of

study,” i.e. student’s lodgings. Somewhere near to Ramah Samuel had

erected buildings to receive his young men, who were called “sons of the

prophets,” not because their fathers were prophets, but because they were

under prophetic training, with prophets for their teachers, though not

necessarily intended to be prophets themselves. At first Samuel, we may

suppose, built one nevath, one simple hospice for his students, and then, as

their numbers grew, another, and yet another, and so the plural, nevayoth,

came into vogue as the name of the students’ quarters.

 

 

David’s Escape from Court (vs. 8-18)

 

“And David fled, and escaped that night” (v. 10). “There was war again”

(ch. 17.; 18:5, 30), victory by David again, an evil spirit upon Saul

again (ch. 16:23; 18:10); and, as David once more sat in the palace,

playing with his hand,” the king not merely brandished his spear as

before, but hurled it at him. It was his last attempt of the kind. After what

had taken place he might not be trusted again; and David fled, first to his

own house, and during the night from the city. It is one of the memorable

nights of the Bible.

 

1. That night was the commencement of his open persecution by Saul, and

of the long and varied troubles he experienced as an outlaw. He had been at court

some three or four years, and now at three and twenty went forth to his seven years’

wanderings (II Samuel 5:5: “He lived seventy years” - Josephus).

 

2. That night was, as is commonly thought, the occasion of the

composition of the first of David’s psalms. PSALM 59., ‘the refuge of the

persecuted,’ “is perhaps the oldest of the Davidic psalms that have come

down to us” (Delitzsch). It is not necessary to suppose that it was actually

written on the night of his escape. The thoughts and feelings then

entertained may have been penned subsequently; perhaps while he

continued at Ramah with Samuel and “the prophets” (vs. 18, 20). Other

psalms have been referred by some to the same occasion — viz., Psalm 6.,

7., 11. “His harp was his companion in his flight, and even in the midst of

peril the poet’s nature appears which regards all life as materials for song,

and the devout spirit appears which regards all trials as occasions of

praise” (Maclaren). How wide and deep was the stream of sacred song of

which this was the commencement!

 

Psalm 59

 

To the Chief Musician. Strange that the painful events in David's 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. Altaschith. Another "destroy not" Psalm.

Whom God preserves Satan cannot destroy. The Lord can even preserve

the lives of his prophets by the very ravens that would naturally pick out

their eyes. David always found a friend to help him when his case was

peculiarly dangerous, and that friend was in his enemy's household; in this

instance it was Michal, Saul's daughter, as on former occasions it had been

Jonathan, Saul's son. Michtam of David. This is the Fifth of the Golden

Secrets of David: God's chosen people have many such. When Saul sent,

and they watched the house to kill him. Great efforts were made to carry

the Psalms away to other authors and seasons than those assigned in the

headings, it being the fashion just now to prove one's learning by

disagreeing with all who have gone before. Perhaps in a few years the old

titles will be as much reverenced as they are now rejected. There are

spasms in these matters, and in many other things among the would be

"intellectuals" of the schools. We are not anxious to show our readiness at

conjecture, and therefore are content with reading this Psalm in the light of

the circumstances here mentioned; it does not seem unsuitable to any

verse, and in some the words are very appropriate to the specified

occasion.  (excerpt from Treasury of David, C.H. Spurgeon - # 1308 – this website –

CY – 2016)

 

3. That night afforded one of the most remarkable instances of the

protecting and guiding providence of God by which the life of David was

manifestly ordered. Notice:

 

  • HIS DANGER, and the anxiety and distress by which it was naturally

attended (vs. 11, 14, 17, compared with Psalm 59.). Adversity:

 

Ø      Often follows closely upon prosperity. In the morning David occupied a

position of high honor as the king’s son-in-law, the successful general,

the popular hero; at night he was hiding in secret and fleeing for his life.

Vicissitude is the law of life; and none, however exalted, may boast of their

security or continuance (Job 29:18).

 

Ø      Appears sometimes to fall most heavily upon the godly man. “Not for

my transgression nor for my sin” (Psalm 59:3). Why should it be

permitted? To test, manifest, strengthen, and perfect his character. David

had been tried by prosperity, he must also be tried by adversity.

 

Ø      Is due, in great measure, to the opposition and persecution by the

ungodly. What a picture is here presented of the enemies of David, “when

Saul sent messengers, and they watched the house to kill him”! (Psalm

59:3, 6, 14). And what a revelation does it make of the wickedness of the

human heart, which was consummated in THE CRUCIFYING OF THE

LORD OF GLORY!  “As then he that was born after the flesh,” etc.

(Galatians 4:29).  The conflict is renewed in every age and in every

individual life. “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer

persecution!” etc.  (II Timothy 3:12).

 

Ø      Leads the good man to more entire trust in God and more earnest

prayer. This is one of its chief purposes.

 

“Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God!

O Jehovah, God of hosts, God of Israel! ....

O my Strength, on thee will I wait,

For God is my Fortress?’

 

Ø      Is never so bitter to him as trouble to the wicked, for he has peace

within and undying hope. How different was it with David in this respect

from what it was with Saul]

 

Ø      However long the good man may suffer from the persecution of the

wicked, his deliverance is certain for “God is Ruler in Jacob unto

the ends of the earth.”  (Psalm 59:13). “By Him actions are weighed.”

(ch. 2:3)

 

  • HIS DELIVERANCE (vs. 11-12, 17-18). The interposition of

Providence, to which it was due:

 

Ø      Is not made without the watchful and diligent use of appropriate means.

David did not presumptuously wait in the palace or his own house, but

availed himself of the opportunity of escaping. “When they persecute you,”

etc. (Matthew 10:23).

 

Ø      Is shown in turning to good what was meant for evil. The snare that was

woven for his soul (v.11; ch.17:21; Psalm 59:3) aided his escape.

 

Ø      Often fills the wicked with disappointment and confusion when most

confident of success (v. 17).

 

Ø      Provides a home for the good man when driven out of their society.

“Came to Samuel and told him all,” etc. That night he was received by his

revered friend, to whose instructions he had doubtless often listened; and

with whom else could he have found such sympathy and shelter?

 

Ø      Causes him to render praise to God.

 

“But, as for me, I will sing of thy strength,

Yea, I will shout aloud of thy mercy in the morning;

For thou hast been a Fortress to me,

And a Refuge in the day when I was in distress:

O my Strength, unto thee will I harp,

For God is my Fortress, my merciful God.”

 

Ø      Conduces to the benefit of many. These Psalms of David — the result

(under “an unction from the Holy One”) of his distresses and deliverances

— are among our greatest spiritual treasures. “They are for all time. They

never can be outgrown. No dispensation while the world lasts and

continues what it is can ever raise us above the reach or the need of them.

They describe every spiritual vicissitude, they speak to all classes of minds,

they command every natural emotion. They are:

 

o        penitential,

o        jubilant

o        adorative,

o        deprecatory; they are:

§         tender,

§         mournful,

§         joyous,

§         majestic;

ü      soft as the descent of dew;

ü      low as the whisper of love;

ü      loud as the voice of thunder;

ü      terrible as the almightiness of God!

(Binney, ‘Service of Song in the House of the Lord’).

 

19 “And it was told Saul, saying, Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.

20  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.”

On hearing where David was, Saul sends messengers to

arrest him, and we thus incidentally gain a most interesting account of the

inner condition of Samuel’s schools. Evidently after Saul had become king

Samuel devoted his main energies to this noble effort to raise Israel from

the barbarous depths into which it had sunk; and when the messengers

arrive they enter some hall, where they find a regularly organized choir,

consisting not of “sons of the prophets,” young men still under training, but

of prophets, men who had finished their preparatory studies, and arrived at

a higher elevation. The Chaldee Paraphrast calls them scribes; and

doubtless those educated in Samuel’s schools held an analogous position to

that of the scribes in later days. And Samuel himself was standing — not

as appointed over them; he was the founder and originator of these

schools, and all authority was derived from him. What the Hebrew says is

that he was “standing as chief over them,” and they, full of Divine

enthusiasm, were chanting psalms to God’s glory. So noble was the sight,

that Saul’s messengers on entering were seized with a like enthusiasm, and,

laying aside their murderous purpose, joined in the hearty service of the

prophetic sanctuary. Instead of they saw the Hebrew has “he saw,” but as

all the versions have the plural, it is probably a mere mistake. The Hebrew

word for company is found only here. By transposing the letters we have

the ordinary word for congregation, but possibly it was their own technical

name for some peculiar arrangement of the choir.

 

 

Samuel the President (v. 20)

 

Of Samuel one more glimpse is afforded before his life closes. After his

separation from Saul he appears to have devoted himself to the training of

a body of younger men to carry on his prophetic work. The flight of David

to him shows that an intimate relationship had previously subsisted

between them. He went to him for counsel and sanctuary, and the

meeting of the young hero with the old prophet is full of suggestion.

Samuel might have advised him to make armed resistance against the

godless tyranny of Saul; in which, with his great popularity, he might have

succeeded, but only at the cost of a long and ruinous civil war. As at the

rejection of Saul he avoided violent measures in support of the theocracy,

so now he counseled the same course, and took David with him from his

own house to Naioth (dwellings), or the common residence of “the

company of the prophets” (ch. 10:10), in the neighborhood of

Ramah. It was the chief home of order, light, and religion; the center of

spiritual influence. “He found there only temporary safety, indeed, from

Saul’s persecution, but abiding consolation and strength in the inspired

prophetic word, in the blessings of the fraternal community, and in the

consoling and elevating power of the holy poetic art, whereby he doubtless

stood in peculiarly intimate connection with the community” (Erdmann).

“God intended to make David not a warrior and a king only, but a prophet

too. As the field fitted him for the first and the court for the second, so

Naioth shall fit him for the third (Hall). How long he continued is not

stated; but, on hearing of his refuge, Saul sent three times to take him by

force, and ultimately went himself for the purpose. The messengers found

an assembly (lahak, used here only, probably by a transposition of letters,

i.q. kahal Gesenius) of prophets engaged in religious exercises under

the presidency of Samuel. It is not necessary to suppose that the service,

which may have had a special character, was conducted in a large hall,

though there may have been such; it was probably in the open air, and

capable of being seen and heard from a distance (v. 22). With respect

more particularly to Samuel, notice:

 

  • HIS HONOURED POSITION“standing as appointed over them,” or

as leader; not probably appointed by any official act of theirs, but generally

recognized and honored, and directing their holy exercises. The honor in

which he was held was due to:

 

Ø      The pre-eminent authority he possessed as a prophet of the Lord (ch. 3:19).

Ø      The high character he had so long sustained in that office, and the

course of labor he had pursued.

Ø      The special work he had accomplished in gathering around him such

young men as seemed to be qualified by their gifts and piety to act as

prophets in Israel, and forming them into a school or college of prophets.

He was the venerable founder of their order, and reaped the reward of his

labors in their reverence and affection, and still more in their devotion to

Jehovah and their zeal for His honor.

 

  • HIS PROPHETIC ASSOCIATES. They were “prophets,” not “sons”

or disciples “of the prophets” (II Kings 2:3), who seem to have

occupied in later times a more dependent and inferior position. They were

a union or free association of men “endowed with the Spirit of God for the

purpose of carrying on their work, the feeble powers of junior members

being directed and strengthened by those of a higher class” (Kitto, ‘Cyc. of

Bib. Lit.’). Among them probably were Gad (ch. 22:5; II Samuel 24:11),

Nathan (ibid. ch. 7:2; 12:1), and Heman, the grandson of Samuel

(I Chronicles 6:33; 25:5; “the king’s seer,” etc.).

 

Ø      They had been under his instruction in the knowledge of God and his

law, and, as subservient to this, in reading and writing, poetry, music, and

singing. “Education is not a panacea for all human ills, but it is an

indispensable condition both of individual and of national progress”

(‘Expositor,’ 3:344).

 

Ø      They were in sympathy with his purposes concerning the true welfare of

the people of Israel, and strove to carry them into effect. They formed “a

compact phalanx to stand against the corruption which had penetrated so

deeply into the nation, and to bring back the rebellious to the law and the

testimony (Keil).

 

Ø      They were endowed, like Samuel himself, with a peculiar measure of the

Divine Spirit for the accomplishment of their work. By His influence they

were drawn together, variously gifted, and sometimes impelled to ecstatic

utterances.

 

  • HIS DEVOUT OCCUPATION. He presided over the prophets, and

took part with them in “prophesying,” or uttering with a loud voice the

praises of God. His last recorded act was one of worship, and under his

influence David’s intense love for public worship was probably acquired.

The service was:

 

Ø      Accompanied with music (as in ch. 10:10). “A principal part

of their occupation consisted — under the guidance of some prophet of

superior authority, and more peculiarly under the Divine influence, as

moderator and preceptor — in celebrating the praises of Almighty God, in

hymns and poetry, with choral chants, accompanied by stringed

instruments and pipes” (Lowth).

 

2. Edifying. Whilst their utterance expressed their inward feeling, it was

also the means of teaching and exhorting one another, and of “awakening

holy susceptibilities and emotions in the soul, and of lifting up the spirit to

God, and so preparing it for the reception of Divine revelations.”

 

3. United. Which tends by the power of sympathy to intensify feeling,

strengthen faith, enlarge desire, and perfect those dispositions in

connection with which worship is acceptable to God.

 

  • HIS POWERFUL INFLUENCE. “The Spirit of God came upon the

messengers,” etc. The immediate effect was to transform these men, to

protect David from their power, and to afford a sign of the opposition of

God to the designs of Saul. More generally, the influence of Samuel was

put forth in and through the “company of prophets” for:

 

Ø      The maintenance of the principle of the theocracy, which was imperiled

by the conduct of Saul. The prophets were its true representatives and

upholders in every subsequent age.

 

Ø      The elevation of the people in wisdom and righteousness. Their work

was to teach, reprove, and exhort those with whom they came into contact;

and “through such a diffusion of prophetic training the higher truths of

prophecy must have been most rapidly diffused among the people, and a

new and higher life formed in the nation” (Ewald).

 

Ø      The preparation of men for a better time:

 

o        the advent of Christ,

o        the outpouring of the Spirit, and

o        the proclamation of the gospel.

 

The prophets, not the priests, were the true forerunners of

the gospel ministry.

 

21 “And when it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they

prophesied likewise. And Saul sent messengers again the third

time, and they prophesied also.  22 Then went he also to Ramah, and

came to a great well that is in Sechu: and he asked and said, Where are

Samuel and David? And one said, Behold, they be at Naioth in Ramah.

23 And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was

upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in

Ramah.  24 And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before

Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night.

Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?”

Saul sends messengers a second and even a third time with

the same result, and finally determines to go in person. Having set out, he

came to a — more correctly the great well that is in Sechu — more

probably the cistern or tank there. From the value of water it was no doubt

a well known spot at the time, but in the present ruined state of the country

all such works have perished. Sechu, according to Conder (‘Handbook’),

was probably on the site of the present ruin of Suweikeh, immediately

south of Beeroth. Having there made inquiries whether Samuel and David

were still at Ramah, courageously awaiting his coming, he proceeds on his

way. But even before arriving in Samuel’s presence, with that

extraordinary susceptibility to external impressions which is so marked a

feature in his character, he begins singing psalms, and no sooner had he

entered the Nevavoth than he stripped off his clothes — his beged and

meil and lay down naked i.e. with only his tunic upon him — all

that day and all that night. His excitement had evidently been intense,

and probably to the chanting he had added violent gesticulation. But it was

not this so much as the tempest of his emotions which had exhausted him,

and made him thus throw himself down as one dead. And once again the

people wondered at so strange an occurrence, and called back to mind the

proverb, Is Saul also among the prophets?  (ch. 10:11)  When first used

Saul’s enthusiasm was an outburst of piety, genuine but evanescent,

and which had long since passed away. What was it now? The Chaldee, as

explained by Rashi, says he was mad. More probably, in the violent state of

excitement under which Saul had for some time been laboring, the

thought of seeing Samuel, from whom he had been so long separated,

brought back to his mind the old days when the prophet had loved and

counseled him, and made him king, and been his true and faithful friend.

And the remembrance overpowered him. What would he not have given to

have continued such as he then was! And for a time he became once again

the old Saul of Ramah; but the change was transient and fitful; and after

these twenty-four hours of agony Saul rose up, full perhaps of good

intentions, but with a HEART UNCHANGED, and certain, therefore,

very quickly to disappoint all hopes of real amendment, and to become

a still more moody and relentless tyrant.

 

 

Saintly Refuge and Spiritual Restraint (vs. 18-24)

The facts are:

 

1. David takes refuge with Samuel at Naioth in Ramah.

2. The messengers sent by Saul to take David are restrained in the presence

    of Samuel and the prophets, and themselves begin to prophesy.

3. Other messengers come under the same influence.

4. Saul, venturing to go himself, on approaching the place, also falls under

the prophetic influence, and is utterly overcome by it in the presence of

Samuel. 

 

Human wisdom may be almost confounded by the prominent facts

of this section, but this must not be taken as proof of our infallibility, nor of

the unfitness of the event with the order of Divine providence. Had it been

left to man to invent and regulate the process by which the earth and life

upon it arrived at the forms now familiar to us, would he have introduced

some of those ancient physical conditions and changes which must have

been so utterly unlike what now prevail? The convulsions, the

transformations, the climatic conditions, the huge forms of life of some

past ages are as much unlike the present facts as the spiritual

manifestations of the prophetic schools are unlike the orderly course of

Christian influence. It is only of late years that men have in some degree

traced the naturalness of the physical process, and even now there is

diversity of opinion on the subject. It is not to be wondered at, therefore,

if, in man’s comparative ignorance of the unseen spiritual sphere in which

the great development of God’s purpose in Christ really occurs, he should

not be able to supply all the links connecting the spiritual manifestations of

the era of Samuel with the rigid legal era of Moses and the more calm and

orderly methods of the Christian dispensation.

 

“Blind unbelief is sure to err,

And scan His work in vain;

God is His own interpreter,

And He will make it plain.”

 

Looking at the teaching of the section, we see:

 

  • AS IMPORTANT SPIRITUAL POWER BEING NOURISHED

AMIDST THE TURMOIL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS. While battles were

being fought, and the kingdom was troubled with the unsatisfactory

condition of the court, Samuel was quietly gathering around himself a band

of men who, devoting attention to the records of Israel’s history, the

exercise of psalmody and music, and the spiritual interests of men, were

becoming a power to influence the national life in days to come. The extent

and strength of that influence cannot be minutely traced, because of its

spiritual nature; but the higher tone of national life during the reigns of

David and Solomon was doubtless largely due to it. Centers of spiritual

influence are formed when the great political world is intent on its wars

and intrigues. Notably, Christianity arose and found its first nourishment

amidst the quiet valleys and hills of Palestine while Roman imperialism was

intent on conquests and ignorant almost of its existence. The band of men

and women who met for prayer in an upper room (Acts 1:13-14)

cultivated there the power which afterwards penetrated into all parts of the

Roman empire. The quiet retreats and colleges of the middle ages in some

respects were the seats of an influence which the world could ill spare.

During the close of the last century (18th)  small bodies of Christians nourished

here and there the missionary spirit which has since affected the destinies of

millions in the East and South. Amidst all the conflicts of politics and

controversies of science and worry of commerce there are quiet fellowships

of Christians devoted to the nourishment of a life destined to conserve and

elevate the national life. The Christian Church has need to form and

sustain “schools of the prophets” to meet the demands of the age.

(This occurred during the early years of the United States when many of

the elite universities were basically seminaries, i.e. – Yale, Harvard,

Princeton, William and Mary, etc. – “but not no more” - CY – 2016). 

Samuel’s course and the injunctions of Paul to Timothy (I Timothy

3:1-7; 5:21-22; II Timothy 2:4; compare Ephesians 4:11-15) suggest that

it is the duty of the Church as a whole, and not to be left as a private

enterprise to a few zealous individuals, to provide for the training of men

for spiritual service. Had more care been devoted to this in years past it

had been well for the world.

 

  • THE SORROWFUL SOUL SEEKS REFUGE FROM THE CARES

AND TROUBLES OF LIFE IN FELLOWSHIP WITH THE DEVOUT.

It was a spiritual instinct that drew David to Samuel. The penalties of

public life had already fallen heavily upon him. He had found, even in the

beginning of his career of service to mankind, that “offences must needs

come.”  (Matthew 18:7)  The whole tone of life around the throne was out of

accord with his most cherished aspirations. He was conscious of being mis-

understood and misrepresented. The earlier days of quiet service and holy

communion with God were now but sweet memories, bringing the bitter

realities of daily life into stronger relief. With bounding heart and rapid

flight, therefore, did he seek consolation, counsel, and rest with the honored

man who once anointed him to some unexplained service. Many have been,

and still are, in full sympathy with the troubled David. The devout heart is

brave, and dares not shun to fight the holy battles of the Lord in daily life.

Religion is to flourish in face of evil and care, and not away in solitude.

The business of life must not be left to the greedy and the vile. The great

prayer was not that the disciples should be taken from the world, but that

they should be kept from its evil (John 17:15; compare I Corinthians

5:10). Yet human nature cries out under the strain; the spiritual mind is

disgusted with the sins it witnesses; the sense of belonging to a higher

citizenship rises in force; sympathy with kindred spirits is longed for; the

support of stronger natures is a pressing need; and opportunities for

prayer and for contemplation on the loftier aims of life are earnestly

desired.  Under this common inspiration, Jacob and Moses and Elijah sought

each his Bethel,” and found strength for the coming trials and relief from

present cares. It was in the same participation in human infirmities and

sorrows that Christ loved to retire from the alien world to seek solace with

His Father and with His people (Matthew 14:23; 17:1; Mark 6:31;

John 11:3, 32-36; 12:1-2; Hebrews 5:7). For the same reason we

love to retire from the turmoil of life to the fellowship of a pious home, a

meeting for prayer and counsel, and the service of the sanctuary. It is

helpful to court occasional retirement. The “communion of saints” should

be more than an article in our creed.

 

  • A DIVINE RESTRAINT IS PUT ON THE ENEMIES OF GOD’S

SERVANTS. Saul’s wicked desperation was great when he sent to Naioth

to take David, and at its highest pitch when, after three despatches of men,

he ventured to go to the abode of Samuel on a cruel errand. Hitherto Saul

appeared to be fighting solely against David; but now that the mysterious

spirit of prophecy came upon his messengers and rendered them harmless,

it ought to have been obvious to him that in persecuting David he was at

war with God. The knowledge of this mysterious restraint on them could

not but add to his mental confusion, though it was not sufficient to the

subjugation of his wild passion. Yet Saul was not bereft of reason; and

could he have traveled to Ramah on such an errand without passing in

review events prior and subsequent to his last contact with Samuel?

(ch.15:26-35). Must he not have gone back in thought to the

fearful day when the prophet declared the doom of his reign; the earlier

days when as king he received the cheers of the people and the instructions

of the prophet (ch. 10:24-25); and the still earlier time when,

fresh from his anointing, on meeting a band of prophets, the spirit of

prophecy came on him and turned him into another man? (ch. 10:5-9).

And now, after long separation, he was drawing near to that

revered man of God and the company of the prophets, not the former Saul,

full of hope and courage, but a man sinking deeper and deeper in sin, and

with only the courage bred of remorse. If he was to be restrained and

rendered harmless, what more natural method — more in harmony with the

characteristics of the age and locality, and the psychological facts — than

that for a season the old prophetic excitement should come upon him? It is

no solitary fact that the mental and moral atmosphere of a place exercises

power over men. The main truth, however, is that God restrains. Divine

restraint enters into all things. The nature of things is but their limit

assigned by God. The original relation of forces in the physical world is so

settled by God that their interaction shall be bounded by definite results.

To every effect wrought out in the development of the material universe it

has been virtually said, “Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther.” (Job 38:11)

Scripture makes known the restraint which God puts on’ hearts and on moral

beings:

 

Ø      Lions dare not touch a Daniel.

Ø      Evil spirits beg permission of Christ before they can go forth.

Ø      Men sent to seize the Saviour were unable to fulfill their mission

(John 7:46), and

Ø      soldiers were powerless in His presence (John 18:3-6).

 

The history of the Church and of individual Christian life

brings out instances of the restraining power which silently lays hold of

man and renders his enmity innocuous. “It shall not come nigh thee”

(Psalm 91:7) has often been verified. In all these instances we have but

glimpses of that unseen Power by which in due time all principalities and

powers, and whatever opposeth itself to God and His Church, shall be

either turned unto Him or deprived of their power of injury (Isaiah 11:9;

35:9-10; I Corinthians 15:24-26; Philippians 2:9-11; Colossians 1:19-20;

Revelation 21:22-27).

 

 

The Meeting of Three Remarkable Men (vs. 22-24)

 

This appears to have been the only occasion on which Samuel, Saul, and

David were present at the same time and place. The meeting was a notable

one, and may be compared with others:

 

Ø         Pharaoh, Moses and Aaron (Exodus 10:16); 

Ø         Obadiah, Ahab and Elijah (I Kings 18:16;

Ø         Festus, King Agrippa and Paul (Acts 25:24).

 

Besides the three men just mentioned, there was also present

ONE infinitely greater, and, although invisible, His power was

displayed in a marvelous manner. Considered in relation to the Divine

power, the narrative sets before us:

 

  • AN AGED PROPHET IMBUED WITH FEARLESS DIGNITY. His

danger was great. What Saul might do may be judged from the fear which

Samuel expressed on a former occasion (ch. 16:2), and from

what he actually did not long afterwards (ch. 22:18-19). But the

prophet went on with his holy service calm and undismayed. He was

inwardly sustained by Divine power, as others have since been in danger

and suffering (Acts 16:25). Such fearlessness is possessed by God’s

servants in connection with:

 

Ø      A firm persuasion that they are in the path of duty. They have within “a

peace above all earthly dignities, a still and quiet conscience.” If conscience

does make cowards of us all,” it also makes us heroes. And

 

“He that hath light within his own clear breast

May sit in the centre and enjoy bright day;

But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts

Benighted walks under the midday sun”

(Milton, ‘Comus).

 

Ø      A vivid realization of the presence and might of the Lord. Faith “sees

Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27) and “the mountain full of horses

and chariots of fire” (II Kings 6:17).

 

Ø      A strong assurance of deliverance from their adversaries.

 

  • A PERSECUTING MONARCH TURNED INTO A HARMLESS

ENTHUSIAST. The Divine power was exerted first upon Saul’s

messengers and then upon himself. In a somewhat similar manner, if not to

the same extent, it is often exerted upon evil and persecuting men:

 

Ø      In connection with the utterances of the praises of God by His servants

(II Chronicles 20:22; Psalm 149:6). Instances are not unknown in

which “one that believeth not” has come into their assembly, and, hearing

their praises, has fallen down on his face and worshipped God (I Corinthians

14:24-25). This was not the first time that Saul was so affected, and the

recollection of his earlier experience had probably some influence upon him.

But then it was a sign that the power of God was for him, now that it was

against him.

 

Ø      In order to restrain the wicked from carrying out their evil designs. He

who holds the hearts of men in His hand thereby says, “Do my prophets no

harm (I Chronicles 16:22).

 

Ø      In order to restore them to the right way. It was to Saul more than a

warning that he was fighting against God. “He was seized by this mighty

influence of the Spirit of God in a more powerful manner than his servants

were, both because he had most obstinately resisted the leadings of Divine

grace, and also in order that, if it were possible, his hard heart might be

broken and subdued by the power of grace. If, however, he should

nevertheless continue obstinately in his rebellion against God, he would

then fall under the judgment of hardening, which would be speedily

followed by his destruction” (Keil).

 

  • AN INNOCENT FUGITIVE RESCUED FROM IMPENDING

DESTRUCTION. David was saved from the hand of Saul, and even (as it

would appear) formally reconciled to him (ch. 20:18, 27). The

putting forth of the power of God was to him:

 

Ø      An indication of the varied and abundant resources of God to protect in

the greatest peril.

 

Ø      An assurance of Divine approval in the way of trust and obedience.

 

Ø      An encouragement to patient endurance. He might be tempted to reach

the goal for which, as he was now probably fully aware, he was destined

(ch. 20:15; 23:17) by violent measures; but ever as he thought on

this scene, together with the counsel and the whole course of the

venerable prophet, he would feel that “the way of order is the best.”

 

“The way of order, though it lead through windings,

Is the best. Right forward goes the lightning

And the cannon ball; quick, by the nearest path,

They come, opening with murderous crash their way

To blast and ruin! My son, the quiet road

Which men frequent, where peace and blessings travel,

Follows the river’s course, the valley’s bendings;

Modestly skirts the cornfield and the vineyard,

Revering property’s appointed bounds,

And leading safe, though slower, to the mark”

(Schiller,Wallenstein).

 

 

Religious Consolation and Religious Excitement (vs. 18-24)

 

The consolation was tasted by David; the excitement was shown by Saul.

 

  • CONSOLATION. We are not surprised to learn that David, when

driven from his house by the deadly malice of the king, betook himself to

the prophet Samuel at his residence in Ramah. In reporting the treatment

he had received to the venerable prophet, he reported it to God, whose

authority was represented by Samuel. The path of his life seemed to be

blocked by the undeserved ill will of Saul. Was there any further instruction

for him from the Lord? There is no evidence that Samuel had held any

communication with David from the time of his visit to Bethlehem to

anoint the young shepherd; but it may be assumed that he had kept a

watchful eye on his career, and prayed much for a youth with so great a

destiny. Some painter ought to show us their meeting: the aged prophet,

his countenance traced with sorrow for his own unworthy sons, and not

less for the untoward career of Saul, receiving with outstretched arms and

ready sympathy the fugitive David, in the very perfection of his gallant

youth, yet coining with weary steps and dejected visage. The old man took

the young chief to shelter with him in Naioth, where was a settlement of

prophets — a group of dwellings where servants of God lived in retreat

and cultivated sacred song and fraternal fellowship. David was not to tarry

long in such a refuge, but it was good for him to visit it. It solaced and

strengthened his spirit in God. Undisturbed by the jealousies of the court

and the dangerous frenzy of the king, surrounded by an atmosphere of

devotion, mingling not merely with aged seers like Samuel, but also with

young men of his own age whose time was spent in sacred study and

brightened with music and song, David must have been in his best element.

He was a good soldier, and happy at the head of his troops, charging the

Philistines. But he was still more a thinker, a poet, a minstrel, a prophet, a

man of fervent spirit toward God, and so must have been happier in the

goodly fellowship of the prophets at Naioth than in the rush of battle and

the pride of victory. There is no record of the words of consolation and

counsel which Samuel spoke to him; but doubtless we have traces and

echoes of them in those psalms in which David has discussed the afflictions

of the servants of Jehovah, and sung of their ultimate deliverance and

reward. Psalm 59. is traditionally ascribed to the period when the armed

men sent by Saul surrounded David’s house to put him to death. As it is

highly artificial in structure, it can hardly have been composed on the spur

of the moment. Very probably it was written at Naioth while the

impression of the danger was fresh, and was sung among the prophets

there. In the case of David we read of no agitation or excitement. It would

be little surprising if he, fleeing for his life, had been overcome by emotion

when he found himself in safeguard. But all we read of his bearing is

rational and calm.

 

  • EXCITEMENT. It was in the servants of Saul, and subsequently in

Saul himself, that a religious excitement appeared. Three successive bands

were dispatched by the king to seize his son-in-law, but with a strange

result. As each band saw the venerated Samuel stand forth at the head of

the prophets, they feared to do violence to one under such august

protection. Nay, more; the spiritual enthusiasm of the prophets

communicated itself to them and overmastered them, so that they forgot

their errand and joined in the burst of holy song. King Saul himself,

provoked by the failure of his emissaries, went to Naioth, and he was more

completely overpowered than they. We have seen already that his

temperament was exceedingly amenable to the impressions of music and

song. We remember how he had flung himself among the prophets in the

very outset of his history; and although sadly deteriorated in character, he

still retained his early sensibilities. Indeed, through the very disorder of his

faculties he had become more susceptible than ever of religious excitement;

so when he reached Naioth he was quite beyond himself. The spiritual

electricity of the place was too much for him, and he fell into a very

paroxysm of enthusiasm. At first when, on the way to Naioth, he lifted his

voice m some sacred chant, it was well, and the historian does not hesitate

to say that “the Spirit of God was upon him.” But at Naioth he behaved

like a fanatical devotee of some heathen god, or a wild dervish of the East.

He threw off his royal tunic, and after long and exhausting exercise of body

and spirit lay in nothing but his under dress, prone and probably

motionless, on the ground for “all that day and all that night.” But though

among the prophets,” he was not of them. It was a mere fit of fervor

soon to pass away. The heart of Saul was by this time hopelessly “jangled

and out of tune.” The subject of temporary religious excitement needs to

be carefully thought out and discreetly handled. But it can never be fully

explained — at all events not till more is known of the action of the

nervous system, and till more light falls on the mysterious question of

contagious emotion and imitative cerebral stimulation. One or two things,

however, are plain enough, and deserve to be noted; e.g.:

 

Ø      There is a religious excitation which carries with it no moral influence

whatever. It is not feigned or insincere. He who is the subject of it is really

lifted up or carried along as with a rush of earnest feeling. He cries for

mercy; he prays with strong supplication; or he sings of pardon and of

unutterable joys. His emotions are all aglow, and his brain is stirred to

unusual activity. This occurs the more easily if one who is constitutionally

accessible to such gusts of feeling falls among others who are much in

earnest. He finds himself where prayers burst forth from importunate souls,

and hymns are sung with a swing of enthusiasm. At once he feels as those

around him do. Yet there is no change of his moral nature; he is merely a

person of susceptible or imitative constitution, who has caught the

contagion of religion from others, yet has not come, and may never come,

to repentance. It is not for a moment to be denied that in many cases a real

moral and spiritual change is produced in the midst of much excitement;

but the excitement is only an accompaniment of the change — perhaps

necessary for some minds, but always fraught with some degree of danger.

The only thing of lasting value is the exercise of conscience, and the

turning of the affections and will TO GO IN CHRIST!

 

Ø      The degree in which new religious emotion overpowers the body is

generally proportioned to the previous ignorance of the mind, or its

estrangement from God. David at Naioth fell into no frenzy, lay in no

swoon, because he was a man of God, and devout feeling flowed through

him unimpeded, found in him a congenial heart. But Saul had been in an

evil mood; envy and murder were in his breast. So, when a pure and sacred

impulse came upon him, it met resistance; and there were bodily

manifestations which, far from being marks of grace, were signs of a moral

state at variance with the Spirit of God. This case should teach caution in

ascribing any religious value to prostrations, trances, and long fasts. These

things most frequently recur in cases of a morbid hysterical temperament,

or in very ignorant persons who are disturbed and terrified, or in instances

where religious feeling, suddenly flowing in on unprepared minds,

encounters obstinate obstruction. When the mind is thoughtful and refined,

or when the heart is gentle and open to any good influx, religious fervor

seldom causes any disorder in the nervous system or the physical

constitution. We may be reminded here that David could show no small

excitement, for he danced before the ark in the sight of all Israel

(II Samuel 6:14). True; but in all the enthusiasm of that great occasion King

David was sober minded and self-possessed. He had good reasons for

leading the sacred processional dance, as may afterwards be shown; but,

far from giving way to excitement, or losing his senses like Saul, he went

calmly through the duties of an eventful and fatiguing day. He offered

burnt offerings and peace offerings. Then he blessed the people, causing

provisions to be distributed among them. And after all this “David returned

to bless his house.” Such is the enthusiasm we desire. To be full of joy

before the Lord, but at the same time to be of a healthy mind, ready for

public or private duty hour by hour. But we see no good in nervous

excitement or hysterical ecstasy. When we consider that the Bible is a

collection of Eastern books, and that the East has always been the home of

strange religious extravagances, we recognize in the well balanced sobriety

of mind which pervades the Bible a new proof of its Divine inspiration. It

takes notice of the varied phenomenal effects of strong religious feeling on

the human frame; it tells of long prostrations, excited movements, and

prophetic trances; but it always attaches moral significance and value not

to such abnormal conditions, but to the effects which appear and remain in

character and life. The greatest of all, the Man Christ Jesus, the Lord

whom we are to love and follow, is shown to us full of a sublime

enthusiasm, but full at the same time of meekness and of wisdom. The

Scriptures teach us to be calm and fervent, fervent and calm. If rushes of

devout emotion come upon us, be it so. If men who have no faith call us

fanatical and mad, be it so. Such men said of our Master, “He rageth, and

hath a demon” (John 10:20); and Festus said of Paul, “Thou art beside

thyself.” (Acts 26:24)  But let the evidence of our Christian faith and

principle be found not in any moods of excitement, but in:

 

o        the moral  excellence we exhibit, and

o        the fruit of the Spirit we bring forth.

 

So shall we find consolation and strength when others only expose their

weakness; and every pause at Naioth, or the place of prayer and holy

fellowship, will brace our spirits for the trials that must yet befall

us before we are perfected and “we all come in the unity of the faith,

and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto

the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ!”  (Ephesians 4:13)

 

 

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