Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David.Religious Enthusiasm, True and False
1 Samuel 19:18-24
This is a sort of subject that needs to be thought out and discreetly treated. And yet it can never be made quite plain. It goes off into mystery on every side; for the action of the nervous system is involved in this, and the whole question of contagious emotion which not the best physiologists thoroughly understand. But without going into physiological questions, there are here things very plain which ought to be known by all intelligent Christians.
I. There is a religious excitation or excitement which may not have any moral quality or influence whatever. It is not affected—it is real. It is not insincere; it is sincere. I mean a person who really is lifted up and carried along with a rush of sacred enthusiasm. He cries for mercy, and he sings loudly of salvation. I do not say that all excitement is useless, but I say that there is an excitement that only amounts to this. God forbid that we should for a moment deny that there are cases in which people get real permanent good. But the excitement is only the accompaniment; it is not the change. The only thing of real value is the exercise of conscience, and enlightenment of the understanding, the turning of the affections and the will to God in Christ and to righteousness.
II. The degree in which religious emotion overpowers the body is generally proportioned to the ignorance of the mind, or to its alienation or estrangement from God. David joined the company of these prophets without any excitement or frenzy. Why was that? Because David had more of the matter in him than Saul. He was a man of God himself, and the religious emotions flowed through him without resistance—found in him a congenial recipient. But Saul was in an evil mood. Envy and murder were in his heart, and when this pure sacred impulse came upon him it met with the stronger resistance. Then there was this bodily manifestation, this falling down upon the ground, which far from being a sign of grace, was rather indicative of the lower moral state in which the man was found, and the resistance that his mind and heart made to the spirit upon him.
III. If this is right, and surely this is right—it is historical—this case should teach those persons who have at various times made a great ado over prostrations and trances and long fastings as signs of the work of grace to be somewhat more cautious in their utterances. These things occur almost always in the case of a morbid hysterical temperament, in which case they are only a sign of disease, not of health; or in the case of a very ignorant person who is overwhelmed with things of which he has no intelligent conception; or in cases where there has been a very awful estrangement from God, and the Word of His grace finds an obstruction. The Bible teaches us to be calm and fervent, fervent and calm. Let the evidence of our Christian faith and character be found not in any passing mood of excitement, but in the moral excellence that we exhibit in the fruit of the light and of the spirit that we daily bring forth.
—D. Fraser, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. II. p. 178.
References.—XIX. 24.—F. D. Maurice, Prophets and Kings, p. 14. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi. No. 1870. XIX. W. M. Taylor, David King of Israel, p. 52.
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:
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.
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 theeward very good:
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?
And Saul hearkened unto the voice of Jonathan: and Saul sware, As the LORD liveth, he shall not be slain.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and fled, and escaped.
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.
And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, He is sick.
And Saul sent the messengers again to see David, saying, Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may slay him.
And when the messengers were come in, behold, there was an image in the bed, with a pillow of goats' hair for his bolster.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?