1 Samuel 18:29


I. EXEMPLARY CONDUCT UNDER TRIAL. One can hardly imagine a course of events more likely to turn a young man's head and make him giddy with elation than the rapid promotion of the youthful David. Brought at once from comparative obscurity into the full blaze of public admiration as a national hero, appointed as an officer of high rank in the army, made son-in-law to the king, and at the same time trusted and honoured by the people, the son of Jesse had much to tempt him to self-complacence. It is a sign that the Lord was with him that he bore himself meekly, circumspectly, and with "sublime repression of himself." A man who is conscious of fitness for a great position can afford to wait. It must come to him, if he lives long enough; and if he is not to live, why should he fret his few years with an idle ambition? David had something better than such a consciousness; he knew himself to be anointed and ordained of God to fill an eminent place in his service. True, that nothing seems to have been said about the kingship at the private anointing in Bethlehem; and David's gift of sacred song seemed to point him out as successor of Samuel rather than of Saul. But kings, not prophets, were anointed; and the thought of being king, especially after the exploit at Elah, must have passed and repassed through the young hero's mind. Yet because he believed God he did not make haste. If the high and perilous seat of a king of Israel was destined for him, let it come; but he would not grasp it, or climb into it by dispossessing its first occupant. Not by him would Saul be dethroned, or any dishonour done to a head which had received a holy anointing. God would give what he pleased, as and when he might see fit. Enough that David should act wisely and justly in the station to which he was assigned. This was no fatalism. The history shows that David used all lawful (and some rather questionable) endeavours to preserve his own life, and that he missed no opportunity to advance his public interest. He was far from inferring that, as God had marked out for him a destiny, he must not give any heed to his way or to his safety, because God would bring his own purpose to pass. On the contrary, he knew that the fulfilment of the destiny must be through his own discretion, valour, and proved fitness for the royal dignity. Therefore, while David would not push his way ambitiously to the throne, he was careful to do nothing that would make such promotion impossible. In fact David took the course which may be recommended to every young man who desires to rise in the esteem and confidence of others. He did well whatever was given him to do. He behaved himself wisely as a minstrel, as a soldier, as a prince. The historian marks the steps of his advance "wisely," "very wisely," "more wisely than all the servants of Saul" (vers. 14, 15, 30). If we read "prospered," "prospered exceedingly," prospered more, the lesson remains the same. We are reminded of the youthful Joseph, always prosperous in administration, whether in Potiphar's house, in charge of the prison, or in the government of Egypt. It was because the Lord was with him (Genesis 39:2, 23). Yet the promotion of Joseph was through his well approved discretion and fidelity winning for him more and more confidence (Genesis 39:39-41). So David prospered; every step of his elevation bringing out more clearly to view his fine combination of boldness and discretion, and his consequent fitness to rise yet higher, and to be the leader and ruler of all Israel. Happy the nation where such proved fitness counts for more than the highest birth or the strongest interest! If survival of the fittest be a rule in nature, selection of the fittest is the true principle for the public service. Not that every one who holds an inferior position well is fit to hold a higher and rise toward the highest. Men have their range, beyond which they are ill at ease and incapable. But this is certain, that men who ale fit for a leading position will reveal their capacity while serving in a subordinate place. Only in judging of this account must be taken not of brain power and acquired knowledge merely, but of character, and that moral influence which character and conduct give. Is it not on this principle that God promotes the heirs of glory? All who have received his grace are anointed ones; but they have to serve before they rule, and to be tested in labours and patience before they can reign with Christ. Has not our Saviour taught in parables that his people must be servants till he returns, and that only good and faithful servants are to enter into the joy of their Lord? Has not St. Paul spoken of eternal life as given to those "who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, honour, and immortality"? Behold the way to "the honour that comes from God only." Behave wisely in the present sphere of duty. Do well, and do it with patience. Make not your advancement in this world, or even in the world to come, a matter of passionate anxiety. Foster and obey the sense of duty, attend conscientiously to the obligations of your present station, and fear not but the Lord will give you as much elevation as is good for you in this present time, and in the age to come a place and a portion with the King and with his saints.

II. THE IMPRESSION WHICH DAVID PRODUCED.

1. On the people. They were captivated by his gallantry and his discretion. Both in martial skill and in civil administration he surpassed all the public men of his country, and was fast becoming a popular idol. It is too true that, notwithstanding this, Saul was able to drive him into exile, and found soldiers enough to pursue him for his life. Popular favour did not protect him from such outrage. Yet two facts are worth noting.

(1) That David gave clear evidence of a man who could, and therefore should, sooner or later, lead his countrymen. This early approval of himself to all observers, however obscured or disparaged during the days of his persecution, was not forgotten by the people, and helped his ultimate elevation to the throne.

(2) That, though many turned against him at the bidding of Saul, David from this very time drew to himself friends that would not forsake him, for they saw in him the hope of Israel; and, following him to the caves among the rocks of Judah, and even to the land of the Philistines, were the companions, first of his tribulation, and then of his kingdom and glory.

2. On the king. The effect of David's well doing on Saul was sinister and shameful. The good points which had once appeared in this unhappy man now recede from view, and the bad points of his character come out in strong relief under the baleful influence of jealousy. When he was himself the sole hero, and the eyes of all Israel turned to him, he could be gracious and even humble in his bearing. But elevation had made him proud; power had made him wilful; and a bad conscience made him hate and fear a well doer near the throne. He felt that this youth from Bethlehem was far the better man, and he suspected that the nation thought so too. Envy completed the moral ruin of Saul. As the worm seeks out the best fruit to eat the heart of it, so envy fastens on the best and noblest persons to hate and hurt them. It goes by quick steps to injury - even to murder. "Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David." O cursed envy! O hideous ingratitude! O foul and furious jealousy!

III. THE TREATMENT OF JESUS CHRIST FORSHADOWED. The Son of David lived unblamably, answered discreetly, behaved himself wisely. The people gathered to him in multitudes, with eyes and ears of admiration. They judged him worthy to be made their king. It is true that the fickle populace took part with their rulers against our Lord, just as the fickle subjects of Saul took part with him against the son of Jesse. But, in the one case as in the other, some hearts clave to the persecuted One. And as all the malice that pursued David failed to keep him from the kingdom to which God had destined him and for which God had fitted him, so the rejection, betrayal, and crucifixion of Jesus could not keep him from the throne far above all principality and power which was his in virtue of an eternal covenant. The rulers bated him without a cause; his very wisdom and goodness irritated them, and they took counsel together how they might slay him. For envy they delivered him up to judgment, and demanded that he should be crucified. At the period described in our text a crisis had arrived in Israel. Men were forced to choose between Saul and David, for these were contrary the one to the other, and could not live in unity. We know what side such a man as Doeg took. But David had his friends, who dared everything rather than renounce his cause. Better, in their opinion, to be exiles and pilgrims with him than to remain with the moody tyrant from whom the Lord had departed. So, in the days of his showing to Israel, many refused Jesus, but some clave to him. Better, in their opinion, to be cast out of the synagogues, to go forth without the gate, bearing his reproach, than to take part with the world that hated him, especially with that hard and gloomy Judaism from which the Lord had departed. The crisis continues. Before all men the alternative lies - for Christ, or against him. Oh, receive him whom the world has rejected; give him your hearts; identify and associate yourselves with the "once despised Jesus." - F.







And Saul became David's enemy continually.
1. The possible doings of one sinful feeling. Jealousy was first awakened in the heart of Saul on that day when Hebrew females sung the praises of the young conqueror of Goliath. "Jealousy is cruel as the grave." So it proved. At that moment when the dark feeling rose to consciousness it might not seem as if the new guest were endowed with any special capacities. But it soon swelled out to a proportion which dwarfed and overshadowed all the rest. What tremendous energies of evil lurk in our fallen natural. If God judicially let one slip, and cease to hedge it round with inward remonstrances and providential restraints, it will quickly grow to a tyranny beyond resistance, that shall desolate the soul, and sweep away before it the scruples of conscience, the dictates of prudence, the lingering power of affection, friendly counsels, and the pleadings of honour, interest, or decency. Oh, there are within us materials enough to make earthquakes and volcanoes of the soul! Let us pray that they be not "set on fire of hell." Think not that you are not in danger because neither Saul's circumstances nor special tendencies are yours. Jealousy is one of a gang. Envy, pride, lust, intemperance, love of money, are notorious confederates. They operate singly or in company. Often quarrelling, they are horribly unanimous in destroying the soul's purity and joy. O for Heaven's healing hand to keep them down, to preserve the soul in holy equipoise, to stablish it in self-governing power, and impel it by restraining love.

2. The reality of an invisible power of evil. This is affirmed plainly and frequently. "The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him." The Holy Spirit who had been striving with him for good was provoked away. His deserted soul was occupied by an evil spirit. And how untiring! The foul and cruel inspiration was no passing breath. It prompted many efforts. It suggested many varieties of operation. It absorbed all other energies into one lordly passion. And all this is sustained for years, in growing power, in spite of many obstacles. How awful this persistent malevolence! O what shall break the spell of this terrible witchery? Who shall put an end to this terrible possession? What power shall awaken fear, and bestow a scrupulous caution, and inspire a holy ardour to be free from the galling thraldom, and endow with a holy strength to resist it and to shut up all those avenues of indulgence through which on-waiting spirits of evil issue from their dwelling of darkness! "Thanks be unto God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." "He hath destroyed the works of the devil."

3. The beautiful character to which Divine grace can frame the human soul. I suppose it will be regarded as sober truth to say that the world's annals present no parallel to the character which the great persecution developes in David. Whence came that marvellous self-government, which kept him equally from despair and violence? The power that girt up all his faculties was from above. Men speak of virtue and its endurance, of heroism and its daring deeds. Both are good — but in the balance of the sanctuary they are electroplate, and nothing more. To be even ideally complete, a human character must have godliness as its central power. Practically to reach the highest level of what men call the virtues is impossible without the mighty presence of supreme regard to God, maintained by His own quickening Spirit. This it was that nerved the heart of the Hebrew outlaw with an enduring vigour that bore him on amid floods of sorrow, and formed his heart to a fortitude beside which the models of Greece and Rome look dim. Did ever Stoic endure so much with meekness so conspicuous? Did ever Epicurean show a sensibility so delicate and so pure as that which wept on the neck of Jonathan? Did the world's men of honour ever spare an enemy as David did the tyrant who thirsted for his blood? I trow not. Such triumphs of noble feeling are wrought only by heavenly grace.

4. The opposition between the Church and the World. It will not be questioned that Saul belonged to the latter and David to the former. Nor, on reflection, will it be doubted that this is the secret of Saul's irreconciliable enmity. The two are ranged on opposite sides. Grace would have quenched the smouldering embers of jealousy. Had the feeling not been rooted in an unsanctified nature, prayer and pains would have dug it up to wither on the surface. And in the bitter, impious and unrelenting nature of this persecution we may see mirrored forth in fearful clearness the world's irreconciliable opposition to the Church. The circumstances of Saul give us the advantage of seeing this feeling honestly displayed. He did not fear God; and as an absolute monarch he did not need to regard men. But, one way or other, the body of believers may count on meeting the world's opposition, aye and until the conflict ceases by the everlasting separation of the parties. Every step of her earthly way lies through a wilderness haunted by enemies, whose hostility is sincere and operative, whether they strive to corrupt her like Midian, or meet her boldly with the Amorite.

5. God's benignant care of His people. To one who looked only on the surface, and took into view nothing more than ordinary human probabilities, it would no doubt have appeared a hopeless folly for David to seek escape from Saul. A private man against a king; a Solitary man against one who had a nation's forces at his back; a scrupulous man, whose conscience forbad violent resistance, against a reckless man, under the impulse of an over-mastering passion. David's life lay constantly in the vicinity of death. He walked as if on a narrow ledge, over a frowning gulf. That he was "preserved from falling" is attributable to nothing but an over-ruling care which could not be surprised, defeated, or wearied out. Almighty energy, working in the service of love, wove the tangled texture of events round the living David, and secured his perfect safety.

(P. Richardson, B. A.).

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