1 Samuel 14:36, 37
And Saul said, Let us go down after the Philistines by night, and spoil them until the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them…
Of the fallen house of Eli, one at least, Ahiah (Ahimelech - 1 Samuel 21:1), the grandson of Phinehas, appears to have been a faithful servant of God. When the people, having ended their pursuit of the Philistines and satisfied their hunger, rested around their gleaming camp fires, and Saul proposed a nocturnal expedition against the enemy so as "not to leave a man of them, he devoutly and courageously interposed with the words, "Let us draw near hither unto God." He had already witnessed the effects of the king's rashness, feared its further results, and felt that "it was dangerous to undertake anything without asking counsel of God" (see ver. 19). His language is suggestive of -
I. THE EXERCISE OF A RELIGIOUS PEOPLE in prayer. It is -
1. A possibility. For God is "nigh at hand, and not afar off" (Deuteronomy 4:7; Psalm 145:18; Jeremiah 23:23). He has provided a way of access - an altar (Hebrews 13:10), a sacrifice, and a high priest (Hebrews 7:19; Hebrews 10:20-22; Ephesians 2:18). The throne of God is not only a throne of glory and of judgment, but also a throne of grace. "The Lamb is in the midst of the throne."
2. A privilege. What higher privilege or honour can be conferred than to hold intercourse with so glorious a Being? What greater benefit than his fellowship, counsel, and aid? (Psalm 73:28).
3. An obligation, arising out of his relationship to men, and indicated by his word, by conscience, and the deepest needs and impulses of the soul. "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you" (James 4:8; Psalm 43:4). "Ye people, pour out your heart before him" (Psalm 62:8).
II. THE VOCATION OF A FAITHFUL MINISTER with respect to this exercise. It is -
1. To bear a fearless testimony concerning it before the people: setting forth the supreme claims of God upon their homage, reminding them of their want, reproving their forgetfulness, and teaching them the good and right way (1 Samuel 12:23).
2. To exhibit a devotional spirit in his intercourse with them. He who exhorts others to pray should be himself a man of prayer, and speak to them by his example as well as by his words. Exhortation to them is often less beneficial than intercession for them. "We will give ourselves continually to prayer" (Acts 6:4).
3. To invite them to sincere union with him in seeking the face of God. "Let us draw near." "Let us pray" - not merely with the lips or in outward form, not regarding iniquity in the heart; but humbly and sincerely, with one accord, with a true heart, and in full assurance of faith (Psalm 66:18; 1 Timothy 2:8).
III. THE INFLUENCE OF TIMELY INTERVENTION On the part of a good man. "Then (when both king and people were about to set forth without seeking Divine counsel) said the priest," etc.; and he did not speak in vain (ver. 37). Such advice and prayer are generally effectual -
1. In restraining from the pursuit of a wrong course - a doubtful or dangerous enterprise, devotion to worldly objects, following selfish and revengeful inclinations, etc. A single "word in season" sometimes prevents much mischief.
2. In constraining to the performance of neglected duty. The inquiry which Saul had broken off was now formally resumed, though not on his part in a right spirit.
3. In obtaining the possession of needful good. It is not always what is sought. There may be delay or refusal in granting a definite answer; but the experience thereby gained is itself beneficial, and the necessary condition of obtaining the highest good.
IV. THE INSTRUCTIVENESS OF UNANSWERED PRAYER. "He answered him not that day" (1 Samuel 28:6, 15). The silence of God is significant. It indicates -
1. The presence of sin, which hinders the communications of Heaven, as a cloud intercepts the beams of the sun (Isaiah 59:2; Lamentations 3:44; Hosea 5:15; James 4:2, 3).
2. The duty of its discovery, by means of diligent inquiry and self-examination (Joshua 7:13; Psalm 139:23, 24; Lamentations 3:40).
3. The necessity of humiliation, removing "the accursed thing," and turning to God with full purpose of heart, so that he may cause his face to shine upon us. "Praying will either make a man leave off sinning or sinning will make him leave off praying." In the former case his path is upward into the light, in the latter it is downward into darkness and despair. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Saul said, Let us go down after the Philistines by night, and spoil them until the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them. And they said, Do whatsoever seemeth good unto thee. Then said the priest, Let us draw near hither unto God.
WEB: Saul said, "Let us go down after the Philistines by night, and take spoil among them until the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them." They said, "Do whatever seems good to you." Then the priest said, "Let us draw near here to God."