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DAVID ANOINTED AS THE FUTURE KING, AND HIS FIRST INTRODUCTION TO SAUL. (1 Samuel 16:1-23)
CHOICE OF DAVID AS SUCCESSOR TO SAUL (1 Samuel 16:1-13).
1 Samuel 16:1
How long writ thou mourn? The grief of Samuel was prolonged almost to a sinful extent, nor can we wonder at it. We who see Saul's whole career, and know how deeply he fell, are in danger of discrediting his high qualities; but those who were witnesses of his military skill and prowess, and saw him and his heroic son raising the nation from its feebleness and thraldom to might and empire, must have given him an ungrudging admiration. Both David's dirge (2 Samuel 1:19-27) and Samuel's long mourning, and the unqualified obedience which he was able so quickly to extort from a high-spirited people unused to being governed, bear decisive testimony to his powers as a ruler and commander in war. But God now warns Samuel to mourn no longer. Saul's rejection has become final, and God's prophet must sacrifice his personal feelings, and prepare to carry out the purpose indicated in 1 Samuel 13:14; 1 Samuel 15:28. We must not, however, conclude that Samuel's sorrow had only been for Saul personally; there was danger for the whole nation in his conduct. If wilfulness and passion gained in him the upper hand, the band of authority would be loosed, and the old feebleness and anarchy would return, and Israel become even more hopelessly a prey to its former troubles. Samuel, therefore, is to go to Bethlehem and anoint there a son of Jesse. As this place lay at some distance from Ramah, and out of the circuit habitually traversed by Samuel as judge, he probably had but a general knowledge of the family. Evidently he had no acquaintance with David (1 Samuel 15:11, 1 Samuel 15:12); but as Jesse was a man of wealth and importance, his reputation had probably reached the prophet's ears.
1 Samuel 16:2
And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. Saul was actually king, and the anointing of another in his stead would be regarded as an act of open treason, and the stirring up of civil war. This was not indeed intended. The anointing of David was a prophetic indication of the man whom God, in his own way and at his own time, would place upon Saul's throne, without either scheming or action thereto on the part either of Samuel or of David. Its value would chiefly lie in the careful training he would receive from Samuel; but when David was king, it would also greatly strengthen his position; for it would be known that from his boyhood he had been marked out for his high office. Never did man mount a throne with purer hands than David; and if Saul would have permitted it, he would have been a faithful and loyal servant to the last. It was Saul really who thrust the kingdom upon David. As regards Samuel's fears, headstrong as Saul was, he owed too much to the prophet to have put]aim to death; but he would have visited the act upon Jesse and his family with revengeful violence, and Samuel would henceforward have lost all freedom of action, even if he were not cast into prison, or banished from the land. God therefore commands him to take an heifer with him, and say, I am come to sacrifice to Jehovah. The question has been asked, Was there in this any duplicity? In answer we may ask another question: Is it always necessary, or even right, to tell in all cases the whole truth? If so, quarrels and ill-feeling would be multiplied to such an extent that social life would be unendurable. All charitable, well disposed persons suppress much, and keep a guard over their lips, lest they should stir up strife and hatred. Now here there was to be no treason, no inciting to civil war. David, still a child, was to be set apart for a high destiny, possibly without at the time fully knowing what the anointing meant, and certainly with the obligation to take no step whatsoever towards winning the crown that was to descend upon his head. This was his probation, and he bore the trial nobly. And what right would Samuel have had, not merely to compel David to be a traitor, but to place Jesse and his family in a position of danger and difficulty? To have anointed David publicly would have forced Jesse to an open rupture with the king, and he must have sought safety either by fighting for his life, or by breaking up his home, and fleeing into a foreign land. David in course of time had thus to seek an asylum for his parents (1 Samuel 22:3, 1 Samuel 22:4), but it was through no fault of his own, for he always remained true to his allegiance. Even when David was being hunted for his life, he made no appeal to Samuel's anointing, but it remained, what it was ever intended to be, a secret sign and declaration to him of God's preordained purpose, but of one as to which he was to take no step to bring about its fulfilment. It was a pledge to David, and nothing but misery would have resulted from its being prematurely made known to those who had no right to know it. God wraps up the flower, which is in due time to open and bear fruit, within many a covering; and to rend these open prematurely is to destroy the flower and the fruit that is to spring from it. And so to have anointed David openly, and to have made him understand the meaning of the act, would have been to destroy David and frustrate the Divine purpose.
1 Samuel 16:3-5
Call Jesse to the sacrifice. The word used is zebach, and means a sacrifice followed by a feast, at which all the elders of the town, and with them Jesse and his elder sons, would be present by the prophet's invitation. It is plain that such sacrifices were not unusual, or Saul would have demanded a reason for Samuel's conduct. As the ark remained so long in obscurity at Kirjath-jearim, and the solemn services of the tabernacle were not restored until Saul at some period of his reign removed it to Nob, possibly Samuel may have instituted this practice of occasionally holding sacrifices, now at one place and now at another, to keep alive a sense of religion in the hearts of the people; and probably on such occasions he taught them the great truths of the law, thus combining in his person the offices of prophet and priest. Nevertheless, the elders of the town trembled at his coming. More literally, "went with trembling to meet him." Very probably such visitations often took place because some crime had been committed into which Samuel wished to inquire, or because the people had been negligent in some duty. And though conscious of no such fault, yet at the coming of one of such high rank their minds foreboded evil. He quiets, however, their fears and bids them sanctify themselves; i.e. they were to wash and purify themselves, and abstain from everything unclean, and put on their festal garments. It is added, He sanctified Jesse and his sons, i.e. he took especial care that no legal impurity on their part should stand in the way of the execution of his errand.
1 Samuel 16:6-10
When they were come. I.e. to the house of Jesse, apparently in the interval between the sacrifice and the feast. The latter we learn in 1 Samuel 16:11 did not take place until after David had been sent for. But many hours would elapse between the sacrifice and the feast, as the victim had to be skinned and prepared for roasting, and finally cooked. This interval was spent in Jesse's house; and when he saw there Eliab, the first born, and observed his tall stature and handsome face, qualities which Samuel had admired in Saul, he said, i.e. in himself, felt sure, that the goodly youth was Jehovah's anointed (see on 1 Samuel 2:10, 1 Samuel 2:35; 1 Samuel 10:1, etc.), but is warned that these external advantages do not necessarily imply real worth of heart; and as Jehovah looketh on the heart, his judgment depends, not on appearances, but on reality. As Eliab is thus rejected, Jesse makes his other sons pass before the prophet. Next Abinadab, who has the same name as a son of Saul (1 Samuel 31:2); then Shammah, so called again in 1 Samuel 17:13, but Shimeah in 2 Samuel 13:3, and Shimma in 1 Chronicles 2:13, where, however, the Hebrew is exactly the same as in 2 Samuel 13:3. After these four other sons follow, of whom one apparently died young, as only seven are recorded in 1 Chronicles 2:13-15, whereas these with David make eight. To all these seven the Divine voice within Samuel gave no response, and he said unto Jesse, Jehovah hath not chosen these.
1 Samuel 16:11, 1 Samuel 16:12
Are here all thy children? The word literally is lads, na'arim. The elder sons must have been nearly or quite grown up, but David was probably a mere boy, and as such had not been thought worthy of an invitation, but had been left with the servants keeping the sheep. The prophet now orders him to be summoned, and marks his value in God's sight by saying, We will not sit down till he come hither. The verb literally means, we will not surround, i.e. the table, though at this time the Jews did sit at meals, instead of reclining on couches, as in the days of Amos and our Lord. We gather, moreover, from Samuel's words that the selection of the son that was to be anointed took place while the preparations were being made for the feast. At the prophet's command David is fetched from the flock, which was probably near the house, and on his arrival the prophet sees a ruddy boy, i.e. red-haired, correctly rendered in the Vulgate rufus, the colour loved by all painters of manly beauty, and, from the delicacy of complexion which accompanies it, especially admired in the East, where men are generally dark-haired and sallow-faced. Moreover, he was of a beautiful countenance. The Hebrew says, "with beautiful eyes," and so the Syriac and Septuagint rightly. He was also goodly to look to, i.e. to look at. These last words give the general idea of the beauty of his face and person, while his bright hair and delicate complexion and the beauty of his eyes are specially noticed in the Hebrew.
1 Samuel 16:13
Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren. Did he or they understand the meaning of the act? We think not. Certainly Eliab (1 Samuel 17:28) had no idea of any special greatness being in store for his brother. Most probably both Jesse and his sons regarded David as simply selected to be trained in Samuel's schools; and there can be little doubt that he was so trained. Samuel gave unto David that which Saul had not received—long and careful training; and David profited by it, and at Naioth in Ramah perfected his skill, not only in reading and writing, but in poetry and music. Saul and David were both men of extraordinary natural ability; but the one is always shy, awkward, and with all the defects of an uneducated man; while David is altogether the contrary. But Samuel gave his youthful pupil something better than accomplishments—he carefully educated him in the law of God, and led his mind onward to all that was good. It was Samuel's last and crowning work. Prophecy and monarchy were both of his institution, as orderly elements of the Jewish state; he also trained the man who more nearly than any other approached unto the ideal of the theocratic king, and was to Israel the type of their coming Messiah. It was Samuel's wisdom in teaching his young men music which gave David the skill to be the sweet singer of the sanctuary; and we may feel sure also that when David arranged the service of the house of God, and gave priests and Levites their appointed duties (1Ch 23-26.), the model which he set before him was that in which he had so often taken part with Samuel at Ramah. As Eliah, Abinadab, and Shammah were but lads (1 Samuel 16:11), David must have been very young, and many years have elapsed between his anointing and his summons to Saul's presence and combat with Goliath; and they were thus well spent in the prophet's company, whence at, proper intervals he would return to his father's house and resume his ordinary duties. The Spirit of Jehovah came upon David from that day forward. In modern language we should say that David's character grew and developed nobly, both intellectually and morally. With far more ethical truth the Israelites saw in the high qualities which displayed themselves in David's acts and words the presence and working of a Divine Spirit. It was a "breathing of Jehovah" which moved David onward, and fostered in him all that was morally great and good, just as it was "the breath of God" which at the creation moved upon the face of the waters to call this earth into being (Genesis 1:2). Samuel rose up and went to Ramah. His mission was over, and he returned to his ordinary duties; but, doubtless, first he made arrangements that David should in due time follow him thither, that he might be trained for his high office under Samuel's direct influence and control.
DAVID'S INTRODUCTION TO KING SAUL (1 Samuel 16:14-23).
1 Samuel 16:14, 1 Samuel 16:15
From this time forward David is the central figure of the history. Saul has been rejected, and though, as being the actual king, he must still play his part, more especially as his decline goes on side by side with David s growth in every kingly quality, yet the record of it is no longer given on Saul's account. Interesting, then, as may be the information concerning the mental malady with which Saul was visited, yet the object of this section is to acquaint us with the manner in which David was first brought into connection with him. From the description given of David in 1 Samuel 16:18 it is evident that there has been a considerable interval of time between this and the previous section. David is no longer a child, but a "mighty valiant man." The connection is ethical, and lies in the contrasted moral state of the two men, as shown in the two parallel statements: "the Spirit of Jehovah came upon David;" "the Spirit of Jehovah departed from Saul." There was a gradual decline and debasement of his character; and as David grew from a child into a hero in war and a scholar in peace, so Saul, from being a hero, degenerated into a moody and resentful tyrant. An evil spirit from Jehovah troubled him. Really, as in the margin, terrified him; that is, San] became subject to fits of intense mental agony, under which his reason gave way, and temporary insanity, accompanied by outbreaks of violence, came on. It is very difficult for us with our richer language to give the exact force of the Hebrew; for the word rendered spirit is literally wind, air, breath. A student of Hebrew can trace the word ruach through all its modifications, from its physical signification as the material wind, to its metaphysical meaning as an influence from God; and then still onward up to the beings who minister before God, and of whom the Psalmist says, "He maketh his angels to be winds" (Psalms 104:4); till finally we reach up unto the third person of the blessed Trinity: and then, as with this full knowledge of the Divine nature we read backward, we find the presence of the Holy Ghost indicated, where to the Israelite probably there was mention only of a material agency. Jost, in his 'History of the Jews since the time of the Maccabees,' vol. 1. p. 12, says that Saul suffered under that form of madness called hypochondria, and that the Jews gave this the name of bad air, the words translated here "evil spirit;" for they held, he says, that "the devil inhabited the air." So St. Paul speaks of the "wicked spiritual beings that are in high places," i.e. in the loftier regions of the atmosphere (Ephesians 6:12). A study of Saul's character makes it probable that, as is often the case with men of brilliant genius, there was always a touch of insanity in his mental constitution. His joining in the exercises of the prophets (1 Samuel 10:10-12) was an outburst of eccentric enthusiasm; and the excitement of his behaviour in the occurrences narrated in 1 Samuel 14:1-52. indicate a mind that might easily be thrown off its balance. And now he seems to have brooded over his deposition by Samuel, and instead of repenting to have regarded himself as an ill-used man, and given himself up to despondency, until he became a prey to melancholy, and his mind was overclouded. His servants rightly regarded this as a Divine punishment, but their words are remarkable. Behold, an evil spirit from God terrifieth thee. And so again, in 1 Samuel 14:16, the evil spirit from God, as if they were unwilling to ascribe to Jehovah, their covenant Deity, the sending of this evil "influence," while rightly they saw that evil as well as good must come from the Almighty, inasmuch as all things are in his hand, and whatever is must be by his permission. The writer of the book has no such scruples; he calls it "an evil spirit from Jehovah," because it was Jehovah, their own theocratic King, who had dethroned Saul, and withdrawn from him his blessing and protection.
1 Samuel 16:16-18
A cunning player on an harp. Literally, one skilful in striking the chords on the harp. In Saul's case music would have a soothing influence, and turn the current of his thoughts. His officers suggest, therefore, that search should be made for an expert musician, and Saul consents; whereupon one of the servants recommended the son of Jesse. The word used here is not the same as that found in 1 Samuel 16:15, 1Sa 16:16, 1 Samuel 16:17. There we have Saul's officers; here it is na'arim, "young men." Thus it was a youth of David's own age, who had probably been with him at Naioth in Ramah, that described him to Saul. The description is full and interesting, but it has its difficulties. David is not only skilful in music, of which art he would have had ample scope to manifest his powers in the service of the sanctuary at Ramah, but he is also a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, or, rather, intelligent in speech, as well as handsome and successful. Nevertheless, in 1 Samuel 17:33-36 David appears as a youth about to make his first essay in fighting; and though the two exploits mentioned there, of killing the lion and the bear, might justify his friend in calling him a mighty valiant man, literally, "a hero of valour," they do not justify the words a man of war. It is strange, moreover, that Saul should be so entirely ignorant of David's person and lineage as he is represented in the narrative in 1 Samuel 17:1-58, if thus David was court musician, though reference is made there to this visit of David to Saul in 1 Samuel 17:15. Possibly, however, David and this youth may have served together in repelling some marauding expedition of the Philistines, and though David may not have actually done much,—nothing, at all events, so well worth repeating to Saul as the combats with the wild beasts,—yet he may have achieved enough to convince his friend that he had in him the qualities of a man of war, i.e. of a good soldier. For the rest, we must conclude that this first visit of David was a very short one, and that after playing before Saul and being approved of, he then returned home, ready to come again whenever summoned, but that Saul's malady did not immediately return, and so a sufficient interval elapsed for Saul not to recognise him when he saw him under altered circumstances. Saul's question, "Whose son is this stripling?" (1 Samuel 17:56) seems to imply that he had a sort of confused idea about him, without being able exactly to recall who he was. The ultimate consequences of this introduction to Saul, as well as its immediate effect, are all narrated here after the usual manner of Old Testament history (see 1 Samuel 7:13).
1 Samuel 16:19, 1 Samuel 16:20
Saul sent messengers to fetch David, the description of him as a brave soldier being even more to the king's liking (see 1 Samuel 14:52) than his skill in music. As a great man might not be approached without a present (1 Samuel 9:7; 1 Samuel 10:4), Jesse sends one consisting of produce from his farm. It consisted of an ass of bread—a strange expression; but there is little doubt that a word has been omitted, and that we should read, with the Syriac, "And Jesse took an ass, and laded it with bread, and a skin of wine, and a kid." It was not an ass laden with bread, as in the A.V; but all three things were placed upon the animal.
1 Samuel 16:21-23
David came to Saul, and stood before him. The latter phrase means, "became one of his regular attendants." This, and his being appointed one of Saul's armour bearers, happened only after the lapse of some time. The armour bearer, like the esquire in the middle ages, had to carry his lord's lance, and sword, and shield, and was always a tried soldier, and one whom the king trusted. It was apparently after the combat with Goliath that Saul sent to Jesse, and asked that David might be always with him; and until his jealousy burst forth David was very dear to him, and his music exercised a soothing influence upon his melancholy. At first, probably, these fits of insanity came upon Saul only at distant intervals, but afterwards more frequently, and with such loss of self-control that he more than once tried to murder David, and even Jonathan, his own son. We have, then, here a summary of the relations of Saul to David until the unfortunate day when the king heard the women ascribe to the youthful soldier the higher honor (1 Samuel 18:7); and thenceforward these friendly feelings gave way to a growing dislike which deprived Saul of a faithful servant, and finally cost him his crown and life on Mount Gilboa.
1 Samuel 16:1-5
The progression of Providence.
The facts are—
1. Samuel is aroused from his sorrow for Saul by a command from God to anoint a son of Jesse.
2. Being in fear, be is directed to go and offer sacrifice and await further instructions.
3. Arriving at Bethlehem, he quiets the trembling elders and makes preparation for the sacrifice. It was natural for Samuel in his retirement to cherish sorrow for Saul; and his brooding over disappointment would become more habitual as no active measures were as yet taken to provide a successor. The section before us introduces a new phase in the development of God's purposes. The part which Samuel was called on to play, and the spirit in which he set about it, bring out some truths of general import.
I. PROVIDENCE PROCEEDS IN ITS ORDERLY COURSE IRRESPECTIVE OF PERSONAL DISAPPOINTMENTS AND FAILURES. Saul was a failure; Samuel was disappointed; and to human appearance a pause of very uncertain duration must be made in the progress of events. The attitude of Samuel was one of sorrowful waiting. He could only nurse his grief. To man it was as though a break had occurred in the continuous unfolding of the Divine purposes in relation to the Messianic kingdom. But this was only in appearance. God will not have his great purpose in Christ arrested in realisation by the failure of one or the brooding grief of another. During the separation of Samuel from Saul the unseen hand had been guarding and guiding a youth at Bethlehem, and now that his age and the circumstances of the family were ripening for action, the sorrowing prophet must rouse himself to share actively in the coming order of events. In every age God has his purposes to fulfil, and they continue to unfold notwithstanding the unfaithfulness of some and the complaining voice of others. The changes experienced by men are only incidents of a moment; the providence of God is one and continuous. In the process of establishing the Messianic kingdom, one by one men and kingdoms rose and disappeared,—the people raged and submitted, wept and rejoiced, were now true and now false,—but all the while the one Will was working on to the setting of the true King in Zion. In the history of the Christian Church, men of the type of Saul have been discarded and others of Samuel's spirit have wept in solitude; but neither the failure nor the protracted sorrow have been allowed to arrest the silent, sure progression towards the goal of human existence. A careful survey shows, that as the wholesome economy of the globe is preserved and its ultimate issue being attained amidst and even by the storms of life, so there is a wise and merciful Providence working on in unbroken lines towards the realisation of the promise made to Abraham: "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed."
II. GOD'S SERVANTS SHOULD ADAPT THEMSELVES TO THE PROGRESSION OF HIS PROVIDENCE. Men of Samuel's type must rouse themselves and join freely and confidently in the blessed progression. New conditions are daily arising. The instruments for the realising of the Divine purpose are limited only by his creative power. The earth is his, and he raises up a David when a David can best furnish the next link in the unbroken chain. Faculties and aptitudes need only circumstances to develop them into direct forces in the Messianic line. Samuel must brace himself to this aspect of things, and share in the honour and the toil of covering the failures of some by drawing out the better qualities of others. We must guard against the tendency to settle down into a mournful, inactive mood because, forsooth, the lines of Providence seem to us to be involved and past all disentanglement. There are men whose delight it is always to sing in the minor key. They overlook the fact that God's will is being wrought out in spite of necessarily imperfect creatures. There is a voice calling on all such to arise, to cease to feed their soul on regrets, to believe that the "covenant is ordered in all things, and is sure."
III. WE SHOULD AVOID A PREJUDGMENT OF GOD'S WAYS BASED ON PARTIAL KNOWLEDGE. The fear of Samuel finds its counterpart in the fear of many when called to undertake arduous duties. In his case it was based on partial information, and, therefore, while natural, was unreasonable. He appears to have concluded beforehand that he was to go and at once set up an actual king, and summon Israel to turn their allegiance from Saul to the new monarch. No doubt this would be exasperating to Saul, and by many might be regarded as treason. His reference to Saul's killing him would not, therefore, express mere fear of death so much as his view of consequences which it was desirable to avoid by a less obtrusive policy. Samuel had no right to prejudge the appointment of God. He was simply told to go to Bethlehem with his horn of oil, for that a king was to be forthcoming from the sons of Jesse. We possess only partial information concerning many of the purposes and methods of God. We are not justified in forming a judgment of all his acts by what is made known to us. The morality of all he commands is ever the same, whatever the future developments may be. Every day will bring its light. We must not put more into God's words than he intends. If he says, "Fill thine horn with oil and go to Jesse," we must not make that mean that we are to raise a standard of rebellion and place ourselves in peril. Men do put into Scripture what is not there, and then see consequences which arouse anxiety.
IV. DUTY REQUIRES THAT WE PLACE OURSELVES IN A POSITION TO OBTAIN FURTHER LIGHT. Samuel, instead of dwelling on his fear, arising from an unwise prejudgment of God's acts, was directed to go and do the one thing, and then look out for what next to do (1 Samuel 16:3). He was to obey, and so be in a position to learn whether the next step was to raise publicly a standard of rebellion around a new king, or privately to anoint the coming man and let him await the removal by death of the people's leader. We have here an important practical rule. By doing each duty fully as it comes we qualify for more light and greater aptitude for succeeding duties. When bent on the performance of duty, which in its issues may involve consequences serious and untraceable, it is well to associate religious exercises with them. It is as true for us as for Samuel that, in our sphere, the Lord will show us what next to do. Faithfulness day by day in small things will make us keen to recognise the Divine voice with reference to greater things.
1 Samuel 16:6-13
Human and Divine judgments contrasted.
The facts are—
1. Samuel, being impressed with the appearance of Eliab, concludes that he is the coming king.
2. An intimation is given that Eliab is not the man, and the reason assigned for the imperfect judgment of Samuel is, that man looks on the outward appearance, but God on the heart.
3. It being found that the other sons were not chosen of God, inquiry is made concerning the absent one.
4. On the youngest being brought, Samuel at once recognises him as the chosen of God, and, in obedience to the voice of God, anoints him in the midst of the family.
5. Henceforth the Spirit of the Lord rests on David. We have here the introduction of an entirely new feature in the development of Israel's mission in the world. The former choice of a king was virtually man's. The initiation of the choice was taken in the desire to have a king to embody their idea of government (1 Samuel 8:5, 1 Samuel 8:19, 1 Samuel 8:20). In this case the people are not consulted or heeded. God selects the man according to his knowledge of what is best. The human device had failed; the Divine choice can now come in with impressiveness. Yet human instrumentality brings to pass God's purpose. Samuel, however, is influenced by the appearance of things, and has to learn that even the judgment of the wise and good is liable to err. The essential imperfection of man s judgment as compared with God's is explained by the fact that man's knowledge does not enter into the realities of things as does God's.
I. LIFE IS A SERIES OF JUDGMENTS. In every act of perception there is involved an intuitive judgment; and in every comparison of different objects, as also in every course of silent reasoning, a decision is arrived at which helps to form the stock of ideas constituting our knowledge. Thus do we acquire opinions respecting the value of men and things. In some persons there is a tendency to criticise human actions and words, and to proceed from what is clear to the senses to a deliberate judgment on the invisible; but in all there is a necessity of nature by which, apart from criticism, some estimate is formed of every one coming under our observation. This necessity of our nature is full of advantage. It is the means of enrichment to the mind; it furnishes a basis for friendship; it preserves from treachery; it facilitates the intercourse of life; and when the series of judgments is formed, under the guidance of such light as Christ gives, it constitutes an imperishable fount of enjoyment when this life is past.
II. GOD ALSO HAS HIS JUDGMENT OF THINGS. It is not correct to speak of God's knowledge in the terms applicable to man; for he does not pass from the small to the great, the obscure to the clear, the sensible to the invisible. Yet it may be said of God that there is in his mind a clear judgment respecting each, as to what it essentially is, and what its value in the great economy of the universe. To say that God knows us altogether is another way of saying that he has a judgment of our character and position. It is a solemn fact for us that the Eternal adjudges our actions and thoughts one by one as they arise (Revelation 20:12), and the day of judgment will be a summary of the judgments passed on our actions one by one as they occur. If men only had more faith in God, and did but let a knowledge of his estimate of actions influence their lives, what wonders we should see!
III. MAN'S JUDGMENT AND GOD'S JUDGMENT ARE OFTEN VERY DIFFERENT. Possibly, while the distinction between infinite and finite exists, there can never he a perfect coincidence of the human and Divine judgment, in the strictest sense of the term. But apart from this there are several aspects of the truth affirmed and illustrated in the case of Samuel.
1. The constitution of things. We know and judge only of the appearance of things. The material universe, even when subjected to the scrutiny of the most correct scientific appliances, and reduced to the last analysis of elements, is only known on the outside. What the ultimate relation of the primary forces to the one almighty Power, and why they work in certain observed lines to which we give the name "laws," we know not. The same is true of mind. It is a vast world, on the outer fringe only of which we at present can gaze. Not so God's. As Author and Upholder of all, he has an estimate of the internal, essential constitution of things more perfect than our estimate of the outward appearance. Hence the folly of men professing to say what cannot be; or that the universe, as seen by us in operation, is to be and has been always thus. Hence the wisdom of submitting to the revealed truth of God when it touches on his relation to the order of things and the mysteries of his own ineffable Being (Matthew 28:19; John 7:28).
2. The worth of lines of action. Man's judgment is freely expressed in reference to certain lines of action pursued by what are called the "great." The heroes of the world have often won admiration for deeds which, had man's judgment been based on a finer perception of what constitutes greatness, would have been buried in oblivion. Have not the most costly monuments been raised to warriors? Is not the world's idea of "glory" that of conquering by force of arms, or the enjoyment of wealth and splendour? The judgment of God is not thus. Be looks on the heart of things. True greatness lies in saving, healing, curing, elevating, purifying, binding in bonds of peace and goodwill. Imagine Jesus Christ raising an Arc de Triomphe! Imagine him conferring highest honours on men of great and bloody victories I Imagine him pointing to wealth as the goal of a youth's ambition! The noblest men are those who best reproduce the spirit and deeds of the Son of God.
3. Human character. Man's judgment of character is necessarily imperfect; for words are not always a revelation of the inner man, but the reverse, and the seat of motive is not pierced by the human eye. There is often a worse heart than appears on the surface of a man's conduct, and, also, a better heart than a marl sometimes gets credit for, We are too apt to be influenced by prejudice, social considerations, personal interests, and to estimate the principles of others by the narrow standard of our own. Some men are suspicious, or self-righteous, or limited in their area of observation, and therefore they can never be sure of their judgment of other men. Others are easily caught by what is fair and conformable to custom, and, like Samuel, they spring to hasty conclusions. It is better often to fall into the hands of God than of man. On the other hand, God's judgment of us is perfect. The most secret avenue of thought and feeling is naked and open to his eye. He reads us entirely. His knowledge is not inferential from words and actions, but is that of the disposition and hidden motive (Psalms 139:1-24.).
4. Fitness for position. Samuel was in error in supposing that the qualities which might be inferred from his outward appearance to exist in Eliab would enable him to perform the part required of a true king in Israel. God alone knew the high spiritual work to be done by the coming king, and he alone could see the latent qualities in David by which it could be performed. At best our judgment is guess work. We especially feel this in seeking to fill up secular offices, and more so when making appointments to spiritual duties (Acts 1:24; 1 Timothy 5:22).
1. There is abundant scope in life for caution, patience, charity in our estimate of others.
2. The best qualities of life are not always those which come to the surface on first acquaintance.
3. It should be an effort to be inwardly such as God will approve, and then all else will follow in due course.
4. Reticence in reference to the character of others is the sign of a proper estimate of our powers.
5. It should be a spring of comfort to the sincere that God knows them and approves when man errs in judgment.
1 Samuel 16:12, 1 Samuel 16:13
The coming king.
The facts are—
1. The personal appearance of David is pleasing.
2. Samuel is instructed to anoint him as the chosen of God.
3. Subsequent to the anointing the Spirit of God rests on David.
4. Samuel, having performed this important duty, retires to Ramah.
Samuel, like many a servant of God in public affairs, carried in his heart a great secret. He sought the coming king, but not a word was said to indicate to the family of Jesse the specific object of his mission. For anything they knew, the selection of one of the family might be designed for some purpose connected with Samuel's work not yet made plain. The command to anoint was based, not on any discovery of qualities from mere outward appearance, though these were not unfavourable, but on God's knowledge of the inner life. Man's king had been chosen because of his being an average representative of the age, and an embodiment of the physical and mental qualities agreeable to the people. The coming king was chosen because God knew him to be the best representative of the spiritual vocation of Israel in the world. The coming king may be regarded as—
I. A TYPE. Events under the Old Testament dispensation were so ordered of God as to shadow forth the Christ, and both Old and New Testaments especially speak of David as the type of the true King in Zion. This is seen in several respects.
1. In qualities. Of course no man, no words, no institutions can adequately set forth the qualities of the "express image" of the Father's person. But, in comparison with others, David certainly shadowed forth more than any one some of the features of character so prominent in Christ. Negatively, there was an absence of the qualities on which men were accustomed to depend. Great physical strength, lofty stature, overpowering physique were not his. And so in Christ there was an absence of the outward form which men of tow type count powerful. He was not apparently competent to subdue the world by the only force which men take count of. But, positively, there was in this coming king an adumbration of the higher spiritual qualities which shone so brightly in Christ. The allusions to his personal appearance are both to indicate that he was not the embodiment of mere physical force, and that he did possess what was of more value, namely, vigour and freshness, capable of buoyant effort in any good endeavour; grace of spirit—gentle, approachable, one of whom the poor and needy need not be afraid; sincerity and ingenuousness of mind, free from double motives and self-seeking; love of what is right and good because right and good, uncorrupted by long and dubious association with the world's business; sympathy with God that finds joy in quiet fellowship with him by prayer or holy psalm; aspirations after the future elevation of mankind to a holier life; subordination of spirit to a higher will, for the working out of the covenant made with his people. He who sees not as man sees knew that these qualities were actually or germinally in the youngest son of Jesse. How fully the same were in Christ is evident from his life and words and sacrificial work.
2. In object. Saul's reign was a failure in so far as concerned the elevation of the nation to its proper position. The object for which the coming king was anointed was to deliver Israel from thraldom, fear, and degradation, and enable them to more worthily subserve the ulterior spiritual ends of their existence as a nation. In large measure David did this. In this he was certainly a type of him who was chosen for the deliverance of a larger community from worse evils; and that, too, with reference to a permanent order of things stretching beyond the day of judgment (John 17:1-26.; 1 Corinthians 15:1-58.).
3. In call and preparation. Leaving out the fact that Bethlehem was the place of birth to David and Christ, we may notice two or three correspondences. This youth was specially chosen of God irrespective of popular voice; he grew up in quietude, awaiting the opening of events before entering on his predestined work; and was anointed with the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, and so gradually became qualified for his important duties. Emphatically, Christ was "the Chosen One," "Elect," "Precious;" in youth he grew in wisdom and stature, far removed from the worries of public business, and received the anointing of the Spirit "without measure."
II. A MODEL. Confining attention to the qualities of this coming king, and the objects that in due course he set before himself, he may be regarded as the model king. It had been well for Israel had all subsequent kings shared these qualities and kept before them the same lofty spiritual ends. And although civilisation in the West differs from that of the East in David's age, yet it would be a great boon to the nations if all kings and queens would adopt and manifest the same principles, and seek to harmonise all the people's habits and aspirations with Messiah's kingdom. Likewise, as each Christian is to be a "king" unto God (Revelation 1:5), we may see in the qualities and aspirations of this model king what manner of persons we ought to be.
III. A CONTRAST. This is obvious. Saul was man's man; David was God's. Saul was man's device for saving the people (1 Samuel 8:5, 1 Samuel 8:19, 1 Samuel 8:20); David was God's provision for raising them to the Messianic standard. Man's device failed—the instrument partook too largely of the weaknesses of the people to be raised; God's provision succeeded, in so far as related to national freedom, higher spiritual elevation, and actual furtherance of Messianic purposes. The contrast is suggestive of a wider expedient and a more blessed provisions. Mankind was in need of deliverance from the evils consequent on sin. During long ages the human expedient of "wisdom'' was tried, but in vain. But "after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." The CHRIST has become the Deliverer. His gospel is the power of God unto salvation. By him the highest and most blessed issues are wrought out for mankind. The contrast may be traced, also, in respect to our personal deliverance and elevation to the loftiest position attainable by human nature. Our bare human reason, human morality, human force of will must issue in trouble. We need the Anointed One, the God given Saviour. He transfusing our natural powers with his glorious energy, will make us "more than conquerors."
1. Great natures may be nurtured in lowly places while engaged in quiet pursuits.
2. Amidst the intricacies of life God keeps his eye on his loved ones, and calls them forth in due time.
3. Aspirations are awakened, but insight into the future is not perfected at once. David was stimulated, but knew not all at first.
4. Full confidence is felt when God reveals his call: then the "horn," not the vial (1 Samuel 10:1), may be used.
5. To God's true servants the Holy Spirit comes as abiding Helper, to teach, sanctify, comfort, and elevate.
1 Samuel 16:14-23
Disquietude caused by sin.
The facts are—
1. Saul, being left to himself, is troubled by an evil spirit from the Lord.
2. His servants, in their concern for his peace, suggest music as an alleviation, and obtain permission to provide it.
3. David, being famed for music, is sent for, and finds favour with Saul.
4. The music of David brings relief to Saul's troubled spirit. The narrative relates the effect of God's judicial abandonment of Saul to the impenitent spirit he had deliberately cherished (1 Samuel 15:23-29). The transaction between him and Samuel in reference to his sin and rejection had been private, and during the interval from the departure to Ramah (1 Samuel 15:34) up to the date of the reference in 1 Samuel 16:14, the secret knowledge of this fact had wrought its subjective effect on the mind of Saul. The secrecy of the business is a clue to much that follows. It matters not to our purpose what sense be put on "an evil spirit from the Lord;" the fact is clear that disquietude of mind follows on transgression duly brought home to conscience yet not repented of, and that this disquietude is aggravated by secrecy.
I. THE CAUSES OF MENTAL DISQUIETUDE. There are instances of mental disquietude (Psalms 42:5; John 12:27; John 14:1) differing in character and cause from that before us. In the case of Saul there was a strange blending of sullen remorse, despondency, instability, passion, fear, and desperation. He was sometimes beyond self-control, and his outbursts aroused the apprehensions of his attendants. The manifestations of a disquieted spirit will be partly determined by natural temperament, and partly by external conditions, and partly by bodily health. But of the class of which Saul's is an example, the general causes are akin to those which operated in him.
1. A secret consciousness of sin. That Saul had done wrong in the matter of the sacrifice (1 Samuel 13:13), the rash vow (1 Samuel 14:45), and the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:18, 1 Samuel 15:19) he knew full well; that the people knew that something was amiss with him is evident from their deliverance of Jonathan and Samuel's slaying of Agag; but that their knowledge of Saul's conduct was coextensive with his own is not probable. The more private interviews with Samuel had brought him face to face with sin as it appeared to the Lord. His admission, "I have sinned" (1 Samuel 15:24), being a conviction without true repentance, remained in his memory after his final separation from Samuel. The fact that his people did not know all only served to make the sad secret of guilt more distressing. Now it is impossible for a man's spirit to be at ease when he carries with him at home and abroad a thorough conviction of being guilty before God. His sin haunts him as a ghost. It creates a desire to flee from himself. It causes him to feel theft he is a disgraced, degraded being, the bearer of a dark secret, the subject of a remorse that will not die.
2. Knowledge of loss of a goodly heritage. Saul's mind dwelt much in the past. He remembered the comparative innocence of rural life, when seeking his father's asses; the unexpected honour shadowed forth by the prophet; the private anointing; the bestowment of special gifts that won the confidence of the sons of the prophets; the high and elevating intercourse concerning the manner of the kingdom, and the solemn proclamation of his kingship over the chosen race. Now all that was gone. It was of the past in a double sense. The splendid prospects had faded; the rejection by God had been privately announced by one whose word never failed. But the future had to be feared, and Saul, when daring to look into it, saw and felt that Providence was against him. The same elements of disappointment, bitter regret, and fearful foreboding enter into the life of others. How many a man in crowded cities is forced by conscious secret guilt to look back on a splendid heritage of good gone forever! How many feel that, though friends and the world may flatter, God has turned away his face, and that, being bent on their secret guilty way, the whole force of Providence is against them in the future!
3. Fear of exposure. Samuel took no steps to dethrone Saul or to alienate the people from him.. He kept the secret of rejection, and expressed the Divine will only in ceasing to hold official intercourse with Saul, and in quietly selecting David as one favoured of God. Saul knew his coming doom in rough outline. The dread of this was foreshadowed in the prayer that Samuel would not openly dishonour him before the people (1 Samuel 15:30). A moody temperament, naturally subject to impulse, would easily be urged, under this dread, now to desponding and melancholy, and now to the sudden grasping at a shadow of hope; and the alternations of hope and despair could not but induce a nervous condition which, while a guilty secret was covered, might express itself in painful irritability. The fear of exposure drives men in upon themselves, and induces an abnormal condition of mind and nerve. Guilty men, who will not sincerely repent and seek rest in Christy know that judgment is coming, but they take care to hide that truth from others, and often bear a terrible strain on their spirits.
4. Secret persistence in wrong. Saul had said, "I have sinned," but he never repented. No doubt he regretted the consequences that flowed from his preference of self to the will of God; but he still loved to have his own way. The spirit that prompted to set aside God's command for his own choice was unchanged. It in itself was a state of war; but still it was restive, unsubdued; it chafed under restraint and conviction of rejection, and sometimes would break out in fury that its preferences should thus be chastised. "As a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke." It is this element of cherished sin, this persistent continuance in the original state of mind that contracted guilt, which poisons the entire life. It sets the whole man at war with God, and renders irksome what to a penitent, lowly heart would be meekly borne. Truly when men sin, and "will have it so," they are so far left to themselves as to work out in their life all manner of miseries.
II. TEMPORARY ALLEVIATIONS OF MENTAL DISQUIETUDE. The servants of Saul were true philosophers in seeking diversion for their master. In cases of trouble, diversion from self and the causes of trouble always affords relief. This is recognised by guilty men, who seek diversion in business, or pleasure, or public affairs. It is a rule with some wicked men to plunge more deeply into .public or private business in proportion as conscience has to be quieted. The diversion was of a nature to soothe the nervous system. Music has in it something refined and pure and remote from the turmoil and confusion of sinful life. As a curative or alleviative element in certain sicknesses its power has not been sufficiently developed. Saul felt the charm, and for a while the irritation consequent on internal conflict was toned down. The diversion would have increased effect if associated with spiritual song. There is evidence that David cultivated psalmody in his early years; and who can tell the subduing influence on the restless Saul as David poured forth to his harp strains of love and trust and hope in God! We see constantly that even the boldest of impenitent sinners are touched by sweet, simple hymns, which seem to call back a lost purity, and open up a gleam of hope for the most depraved. The songs of Zion are as the echo to many of long lost music. Their power over men should be diligently used. But in all cases of mere diversion the benefit is transitory. The old enmity remains. The old fears come back in force. The true remedy has not been sought.
III. THE RADICAL CURE IS ONE AND CONSTANT. What would have been the course of Providence had he truly repented we know not. But looking at his sin and the rejection from the kingdom in the light of Scripture, we can see what would have been the safe and happy course. Had Saul been true to the passing impulse of tenderness, he would have ceased in his persistence in sin, and have humbled himself before God, and sought mercy in the appointed way. Retirement to private life would then have been no great burden, but rather a willing, loving homage to the holiness of God. The troubled spirit would have found rest. The cure for the internal miseries of men lies in self-renunciation and placing the soul at the mercy of the great Saviour. We must cease to seek rest and peace apart from his loving embrace.
1. We should faithfully search out how much of our restlessness in daily life is due to unforgiven sin.
2. In all our efforts to alleviate mental distress we should pay due regard to moral causes.
3. The longer the delay in repenting of sin, the more difficult it becomes.
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
1 Samuel 16:1. (BETHLEHEM.)
David's parentage and education.
(References:—Family register—1Ch 1-3.
I. Early life: shepherd, harper, champion—chs, 16, 17.
II. Courtier and outlaw life—1 Chronicles 18:1-17 -31; 2 Samuel 1:1-27.
III. Royal life in Hebron and Jerusalem—2Sa 2-24; 1 Kings 1:1-53, 1 Kings 2:1-46; 1Ch 10-29.)
While Saul pursued his own way at Gibeah, and Samuel mourned for him at Ramah, there dwelt at Bethlehem (twelve miles from the latter place) a shepherd youth who was destined to attain peerless renown as "a man of war," a ruler over men, an inspired poet and prophet, and (because of his fulfilling the idea of a truly theocratic king more perfectly than any other) a type of One to whom is given "a name which is above every name." Once and again the prophet had declared that Saul would be replaced by a worthier successor (1 Samuel 13:14; 1 Samuel 15:28); but who that successor should be he knew not until the inner voice said, "Arise, anoint him: for this is he" (1 Chronicles 29:12). DAVID (the beloved) was sixteen or eighteen years of age. His personal appearance is minutely described. In comparison with the gigantic Saul, and even his eldest brother, he was of short stature (1 Chronicles 29:7). He had reddish or auburn hair, and a fresh, florid complexion, which were rare among his black locked and swarthy countrymen; a pleasing countenance, keen, bright eyes, and a graceful form. He also possessed great physical strength, courage, intelligence, sagacity, and power of expression (1 Chronicles 29:18); above all, a firm trust in God and ardent love toward him. Many influences combined to make him what he was, and to develop his extraordinary gifts; which, after his anointing, advanced rapidly towards perfection. "It is impossible to draw a line of distinction between his life before and after his designation by Samuel; but we may well believe that those elements of character were already forming which began to shine forth when the Spirit of Jehovah came upon him." "Royalty was inborn in him." Among the formative influences referred to were those of—
I. FAMILY RELATIONSHIP.
1. He belonged to one of the most honourable families in Judah, the foremost tribe of Israel. His ancestor, Nahshon, was prince of the tribe (Numbers 2:3; Numbers 7:12); another, Salmon, married Rahab, "who received the spies in peace" (Matthew 1:5); another, Boaz (great-grandfather of David), married Ruth the Moabitess, "a truly consecrated flower of heathendom turning longingly to the light of Divine revelation in Israel" (Ruth 4:17). His father, Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), who would often speak of them, had attained "a good old age" (1 Samuel 17:12), was in prosperous circumstances, had eight sons, of whom David was the youngest, and two daughters-in-law (2 Samuel 17:25), whose children—Abishai, Joab, and Asabel (sons of Zeruiah), and Amass (son of Abigail)—were old enough to be his companions. Peculiar physical, mental, and moral qualities often characterise certain families, are transmitted from one generation to another, and are sometimes concentrated in a single individual; and great family traditions tend to excite noble impulses and aspirations.
2. He was connected (through Tamar, Rahab, Ruth) with several Gentile races. This served to enlarge his sympathies, and accounts for his friendly intercourse with them (1 Samuel 22:3; 1 Kings 5:1). "No prince of Israel was ever on such friendly, intimate terms with the heathen about him" ('Expositor,' Ruth 2:9).
3. He received a godly training. Jesse was a man of simple piety (verses 1, 5; 1 Samuel 20:6); his mother (whose name has not been recorded) was a "handmaid of Jehovah" (Psalms 86:16; Psalms 116:16). "How much David owed to her we cannot doubt. The memory of it abode with him through all the trials and all the splendours of his subsequent career; and hence, whilst nowhere does he mention his father, he seems in these passages to appeal to the memory of his mother's goodness, as at once a special token of the Divine favour to himself, and an additional reason that he should prove himself the servant of God" (W.L. Alexander).
II. ORDINARY OCCUPATION. Whilst his brothers cultivated fields and vineyards on the slopes of Bethlehem, he kept his father's sheep "in the wilderness" of Judah (1 Samuel 17:28), and his lowly occupation—
1. Was adapted to nurture physical strength, agility, and endurance; to call forth energy, self-reliance, and courage amidst numerous perils in a wild country, from beasts of prey and hill robbers (1 Chronicles 7:21); to make him expert in the use of the sling, like the neighbouring Benjamites (Judges 20:16; 1 Samuel 17:50; 1 Chronicles 12:9.); and to prepare him to rule over men by developing a sense of responsibility, and leading him to seek the welfare and study the increase and improvement of the flock (Psalms 78:70-72).
2. Left him much alone, and afforded him leisure for meditation and the cultivation of a taste for music, by playing on the hand harp, which he could easily carry with him when he "followed the flock," and the rare gift of song, in both of which he may have greatly improved, after his anointing, by attendance at the school of the prophets at Ramah (1 Samuel 19:18). To his musical skill he owed his first introduction to the court of Saul, and by its means he became "the sweet singer of Israel." "With his whole heart he sang songs, and loved him that made him" (Ec 47:8).
3. Furnished him with the suggestive imagery of many of his psalms, especially Psalms 23:1-6.—'The Divine Shepherd.' "It is the echo of his shepherd life, and breathes the very spirit of sunny confidence and of perfect rest in God."
III. THE NATURAL CREATION. To him the visible universe was a manifestation of the glory of the invisible, immanent, ever-operating God (Psalms 104:1-35.). He regarded nature "not as an independent and self-subsisting power, but rather as the outer chamber of an unseen Presence—a garment, a veil, which the eternal One is ever ready to break through" (Shairp, 'Poetic Inter. of Nature'). Brought into direct and constant communion with it, he felt a boundless delight in contemplating
"The silence that is in the starry sky,
The sleep that is among the lonely hills;"
in listening to its mysterious voices, and watching its ever varying aspects; and poured forth the thought and feeling of his heart in songs of adoration and praise; as in Psalms 19:1-13—'The heavens by day;' Psalms 8:1-9.—'The heavens by night; Psalms 29:1-11.—'The thunderstorm.' "What we call the love of nature is in fact the love and admiration of the Deity (so far forth as he is perceived in external nature). The enthusiasm with which men survey the endless vicissitudes which the spectacle of the universe exhibits is nothing else than the devotional temper, moderated and repressed by the slight veil which sensible objects interpose between us and their author" (D. Stewart).
IV. HISTORIC REVELATION. He was instructed in "the law of the Lord" (Psalms 19:7-14—'The moral law'), and in the wonderful works which he had wrought on behalf of his people in past time (Psalms 105:1-45.); whilst the scenes amidst which his life was spent formed a pictorial Bible, by which they were more deeply impressed on his memory. His acquaintance with the contents of the sacred records then existing would be greatly increased under the teaching of Samuel. "Thy creatures have been my books, but thy Scriptures much more" (Bacon).
V. PROVIDENTIAL PRESERVATION. The same special care which had been exercised by Jehovah over Israel he was taught to recognise in the lowly course of his own individual life. Once and again he was preserved in imminent danger (1 Samuel 17:37), and thus his faith in the ever watchful presence and providence of the Great Shepherd grew strong. "Every Hebrew might consider himself alone in the presence of God; the single being to whom a great revelation had been made, and over whose head an exceeding weight of glory was suspended. His personal welfare was infinitely concerned with every event that had taken place in the miraculous order of Providence His belief in him could not exist without producing, as a necessary effect, that profound impression of passionate individual attachment which in the Hebrew authors always mingles with and vivifies their faith in the Invisible" (A.H. Hallam).
VI. RELIGIOUS INSPIRATION. Led by Divine grace from his earliest years into direct and loving communion with Jehovah, he was endowed with unusual spiritual power, which, as he faithfully surrendered himself to it, wrought in him more and more mightily, and prepared him for his high destiny. And all true spiritual life, as well as the peculiar endowments of the prophets and apostles, is a Divine inspiration (John 3:8; Acts 2:17). "The morning of his day this extraordinary man spent not in colleges nor camps nor courts, but in following, the sheep among the pastures of Bethlehem. There, under the breathings of spring and the blasts of winter; there, in fellowship with fields and flocks and silent stars; there, with the spirit of nature and of God fresh upon him; there, in the land of vision, miracle, and angels—there it was that his character was formed, a character which afterwards exhibited so rare a combination of simplicity and grandeur, sensibility and power" (C. Morris).
Application (to the young):—
1. The morning of life is the appropriate season for education—physical, mental, moral. If neglected, the evil cannot be repaired.
2. No educational advantages can be of service without your own diligent cooperation.
3. All circumstances—adverse as well as propitious, solitude and society, work and recreation—may be helpful to your highest progress.
4. "Have faith in God," the secret of all David's greatness.—D.
1 Samuel 16:4-13. (BETHLEHEM)
David chosen and anointed.
"Arise, anoint him: for this is he" (1 Samuel 16:12). In the exercise of his prophetic office Samuel appears to have been accustomed to visit one place or another, rebuking crime and sin. Hence his presence at Bethlehem (clad in a mantle, his white hair flowing over his shoulders, holding a horn of consecrated oil in his hand, and attended, perhaps, by a servant), driving before him a heifer for sacrifice, filled the elders with consternation. Having quieted their fears, he showed special honour to Jesse and his sons by inviting them to be his principal guests at a sacrificial feast. By the express direction of God he allowed his seven sons, who were introduced to him, to pass by without any mark of distinction; and, having delayed the feast until his youngest son came, poured upon his head the sacred oil, and "anointed him from amongst his brethren." "As far as outward appearances go he simply chooses him as his closest companion and friend in the sacrifice" (Ewald). The act may have been regarded as "somehow connected with admission to the schools of the prophets, or more probably with some work for God in the future, which at the proper time would be pointed out." Its main significance was known only to the prophet, and was not revealed by him at the time to any one else. Consider the Divine choice of David (representing that of others) to eminent spiritual service and honour, as—
I. DIFFERING FROM THE NATURAL JUDGMENT OF MEN (1 Samuel 16:6, 1 Samuel 16:7). They are accustomed—
1. To judge according to the "outward appearance," which alone is clearly perceived, which is often deemed of greater worth than properly belongs to it, and which is erroneously supposed to be united with corresponding inward reality. On this account Saul suited the popular desire.
2. To prefer the eldest before the youngest; an arrangement which is an imperfect one, and often set aside by the choice of God, who thus exhibits his superior knowledge and maintains his sovereign right.
3. Even the oldest and wisest of men fall into error when left to themselves. Not only did Jesse and the brethren of David look upon him as unfit for anything but the lowliest occupation (1 Samuel 17:28), and unworthy to be called to the sacred feast, but Samuel himself thought at first that in Eliab the Lord's anointed was before him. The stone which the builders refuse becomes (by the operation of God, and to the surprise of men) "the head stone of the corner."
II. DETERMINED BY A RIGHT STATE OF HEART, which—
1. In the sight of God is of greater value than anything else, and essential to the worth of everything else.
2. Implies such qualities as sincerity, humility, trust, fidelity, courage, purity? and unselfish, generous, entire devotion, which were eminently displayed by David.
3. Renders capable of noble service, prompts to it, and prepares for the highest honour. "Is thy heart right?" (2 Kings 10:15). Whatever great things may lie in the future, right heartedness is the first condition of attaining them. "My son, give me thine heart."
III. DISTINGUISHING ITS OBJECT IN A SPECIAL MANNER (1 Samuel 16:11, 1 Samuel 16:12).
1. By his separation from others, and by directing their attention to his worth, which had been previously unrecognised. "We will not sit down till he come hither." Circumstances often constrain attention to those who have been despised. "The stone which is fit for the building will not be left in the road."
2. By indications of his being providentially destined to future eminence. David did not himself understand the chief purpose of his anointing, but he must have inferred from it that he was not always to continue in "the sheepfolds" (Psa 68:1-35 :70), and have been impelled to look forward to a higher service on behalf of Israel. Possibly it was afterwards explained to him by Samuel in more familiar intercourse.
3. By communications of Divine grace and strength to his inner life. "And the Spirit of Jehovah came upon David from that day forward." It is recorded of Samson that "the Spirit of Jehovah began to move him at times in the camp of Dan;" it was the same in the case of David (1 Samuel 17:34), and in a much higher manner (see 1 Samuel 10:1, 1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 11:6). "The natural basis for this symbolism of oil is its power to dispense light and life, joy and healing; by which it sets forth the Spirit's dispensation of light and life, and the gifts and powers therein contained" (Bahr).
IV. DELAYED IN THE FULFILMENT OF ITS ULTIMATE AIM. Many years must sometimes elapse before one who is chosen by God for a special work is fully called to its performance. Why such delay? For—
1. The removal of obstacles that lie in his path. Saul must be suffered to go to the natural termination of his melancholy career.
2. The occurrence of circumstances that make it necessary and cause it to be generally desired. The people must learn by experience the folly of their former choice, and their need of another and different kind of ruler.
3. His own instruction, discipline, and preparation. The proper course for him who is impelled to higher service is patiently to bide his time in the humble and faithful discharge of the duty that lies immediately before him. "David's peculiar excellence is that of fidelity to the trust committed to him; a firm, uncompromising, single-hearted devotion to the cause of God, and a burning zeal for his honour. This characteristic virtue is especially illustrated in the early years of his life. Having borne his trial of obedience well, in which Saul had failed, then at length he was intrusted with a sort of discretionary power to use in his Master's service" (J.H. Newman).—D.
1 Samuel 16:7 (BETHLEHEM)
God's regard to the heart.
"The heart is the centre of
(1) the bodily life;
(2) the spiritual-psychical life—will and desire, thought and conception, the feelings and the affections; and
(3) the moral life, so that all moral conditions—from the nighest mystical love of God to the self-deifying pride and the darkening and hardening—are concentrated in the heart as the innermost life circle of humanity". The declaration that "Jehovah looketh on the heart" is profitable for—
I. THE CORRECTION OF ERRORS into which we too commonly fall in relation to others.
1. The adoption of an imperfect standard of human worth:—"the outward appearance," personal strength and beauty; wealth and social position; cleverness, education, and refinement of manners; external morality, ceremonial observances, and religious zeal. These things are not to be despised, but they may exist whilst the chief thing is wanting—a right state of heart. "One thing thou lackest."
2. The assumption that we are competent judges of the character and worth of others. But we cannot look into their hearts; and what we see is an imperfect index to them, and liable to mislead us.
3. The formation of false judgments concerning them. How common this is our Lord's words indicate (Matthew 7:1).
II. THE INCULCATION OF TRUTHS which are often forgotten in relation to ourselves.
1. That we are liable to be deceived concerning the real state of our hearts, and to think of ourselves "more highly than we ought to think" (Romans 12:3).
2. That the heart of each of us lies open to the inspection of God: certainly, directly, completely, and constantly. He beholds its deepest motive, its supreme affection and ruling purpose. However we may deceive ourselves or others, we cannot deceive him (1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalms 44:21; Proverbs 15:11; Jeremiah 17:9, Jeremiah 17:10; Luke 16:15; Revelation 2:23).
3. That only a right state of heart can meet with his approval. It is the effect of his grace, and he cannot but take pleasure in his own work; but "the heart of the wicked is little worth" (Proverbs 10:20).
III. THE ENFORCEMENT Or DUTIES which ought to be diligently fulfilled in relation both to ourselves and others.
1. To seek supremely that our own hearts be set right; and kept right—by self-examination, self-restraint, and fervent prayer to him "who searcheth the reins and the hearts" (Psalms 51:10; Psalms 139:23, Psalms 139:24; Jeremiah 31:33).
2. To endure patiently the wrong judgments that others may form and utter concerning us. If we sometimes judge wrongly of them, need we wonder that they should judge wrongly of us? "Unto God would I commit my cause" (Job 5:8).
3. To judge charitably of their motives, character, and worth. A judgment must sometimes be formed (Matthew 7:15-20); but "let all your things be done with charity" (1 Corinthians 16:14).—D.
1 Samuel 16:14-16. (GIBEAH.)
Mental and moral effects of transgression.
The soul is an arena where light and darkness, good and evil, heaven and hell, strive for mastery. But it is not an unconscious scene or passive prize of the conflict. It is endowed with the power of freely choosing right or wrong, and, with every exercise of this power, comes more or less under the dominion of the one or the other. Saul was highly exalted, but by his wilful disobedience sank to the lowest point of degradation. His sin was followed by lamentable effects in his mental and moral nature, and (since soul and body are intimately connected, and mutually affect each other) doubtless also in his physical constitution. His malady has been said to be "the first example of what has been called in after times religious madness" (Stanley). His condition was, in many respects, peculiar; but it vividly illustrates the mental and moral effects which always, in greater or less degree, flow from persistent transgression, viz.:—
I. THE WITHDRAWAL OF THE DIVINE SPIRIT. "And the Spirit of Jehovah departed from Saul" (1 Samuel 16:14; 1 Samuel 10:10).
1. His presence in men is the source of their highest excellence. What a change it wrought in Saul, turning him into "another man." It imparts enlightenment, strength, courage, order, harmony, and peace; restrains and protects; and, in the full measure of its influence, quickens, sanctifies, and saves (Isaiah 11:2; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9).
2. His continuance in them depends on the observance of appropriate conditions. He is often compared with the wind, water, and fire, the most powerful forces of the natural world; and as there are conditions according to which they operate, so there are conditions according to which he puts forth his might. These are, humble and earnest attention to the word of the Lord, sincere endeavour to be true, just, and good, and believing and persevering prayer.
3. His departure is rendered necessary by the neglect of those conditions. "They rebelled and vexed his Holy Spirit," etc. (Isaiah 63:10; Acts 7:51; Ephesians 4:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). And with his departure the effects of his gracious influence also depart. Hence David prayed so fervently, "Take not thy Holy Spirit from me."
II. SUBJECTION TO AN EVIL INFLUENCE. "And an evil spirit from Jehovah troubled him." The expression is only used once before (Judges 9:23),—"God sent an evil spirit between the men of Abimelech and the men of Shechem" (producing discord, treachery, and strife),—and denotes a breath, influence, agency, or messenger (1 Kings 22:22) which—
1. Prevails only after the withdrawal of the Divine Spirit. When the soul ceases to be governed by God, it lies open to the power of evil, and comes under its dominion.
2. Is sent in just retribution for sin. "No man living needs a heavier chastisement from the Almighty than the letting his own passions loose upon him" (Delany). But the expression means more than this. "It is a spiritual agency of God, which brings to bear upon Saul the dark and fiery powers of Divine wrath which he has aroused by sin" (Delitzsch). Even that which is in itself good becomes evil to those who cherish an evil disposition. As the same rays of the sun which melt the ice harden the clay, so the same gospel which is "a savour of life unto life" in some is "a savour of death unto death" in others (2 Corinthians 2:16). And it is God who appoints and effectuates the forces of retribution. "The punitive justice of God is a great fact. It is stamped on all the darker phenomena of human life—disease, insanity, and death. It is in the nature of sin to entail suffering, and work itself, as an element of punishment, into all the complicated web of human existence" (Tulloch).
3. Implies the domination of the kingdom of darkness. Josephus, speaking according to the common belief of a later age, attributes the malady of Saul to demoniacal agency. "It was probably a kind of possession, at least at times, and in its highest stage. As a punishment for having given himself willingly into the power of the kingdom of darkness, he was also abandoned physically to this power" (Henstenberg). How fearful is that realm of rebellion, evil, and disorder to which men become allied and subject by their sin!
III. THE EXPERIENCE OF UNCONTROLLABLE FEAR; "troubled him"—terrified, choked him.
1. In connection with the working of peculiar and painful thoughts: brooding over the secret of rejection, which might not be revealed to any one; the sense of disturbed relationship with God, and of his displeasure, the removal of which there was no disposition to seek by humble penitence and prayer.
2. In the darkening aspect of present circumstances and future prospects; suspicion and "royal jealousy, before which vanish at last all consistent action, all wise and moderate rule" (Ewald).
3. In occasional melancholy, despondency, and distress, irrational imaginations and terrors (Job 6:4), and fits of violent and ungovernable passion (1 Samuel 18:10, 1 Samuel 18:11). "There are few more difficult questions in the case of minds utterly distempered and disordered as his was than to determine where sin or moral disease has ended, and madness or mental disease has begun" (Trench). Sin not only disturbs the moral balance of the soul, but also disorders the whole nature of man. It is itself a kind of madness, from which the sinner needs to "come to himself" (Luke 15:17). "Madness is in their hearts," etc. (Ecclesiastes 9:3; 2 Peter 2:6).
IV. THE TENDENCY TO RAPID DETERIORATION.
1. In the case of the malady occasioned by sin there is no self-healing power in man, as in many bodily diseases, but it tends to become worse and worse.
2. Its fatal course may often be distinctly marked. "These attacks of madness gave place to hatred, which developed itself in full consciousness to a most deliberately planned hostility" (Keil). His courage gave place to weakness and cowardice; general fear and suspicion fixed on a particular object in envy and hatred, displayed at first privately, afterwards publicly, and becoming an all-absorbing passion. "The evil spirit that came upon him from or by permission of the Lord was the evil spirit of melancholy, jealousy, suspicion, hatred, envy, malice, and cruelty, that governed him all the after part of his life; to which he gave himself up, and sacrificed every consideration of honour, duty, and interest whatsoever" (Chandler).
3. It is, nevertheless amenable to the remedial influences which God, in his infinite mercy, has provided.
"All cures were tried: philosophy talked long
Of lofty reason's self-controlling power;
He frowned, but spake not. Friendship's silver tongue
Poured mild persuasions on his calmer hour:
He wept; alas! it was a bootless shower
As ever slaked the desert. Priests would call
On Heaven for aid; but then his brow would lower
With treble gloom. Peace! Heaven is good to all;
To all, he sighed, but one,—God hears no prayer for Saul.
At length one spake of Music" (Hankinson).
1 Samuel 16:19, 1 Samuel 16:20. (BETHLEHEM.)
Setting out in life.
David, setting out from his father's house at Bethlehem to go to the court of Saul at Gibeah (a distance of about ten miles), presents a picture of many a youth leaving home for more public life—to enter a profession, learn a business, or occupy a responsible position. Notice—
I. THE PECULIAR CHARACTER of the step.
1. Some such step is necessary. A young man cannot always continue under the paternal roof. He must go forth into the world, be thrown on his own resources, and make his own way.
2. Its nature and direction are commonly determined by his ability and tastes, and the use he makes of early advantages (1 Samuel 16:18).
3. It is also greatly influenced by the wishes of others. David was sent for by Saul, and sent to him by his father.
4. It is ordered by Divine providence. This was plainly the case with David. And we are as truly the children of providence as he was. God has a purpose concerning each of us.
"There's a Divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough hew them as we will."
5. It opens a wider field for the exercise of natural or acquired abilities, and the attainment of desired objects.
6. It determines in most instances, the subsequent course of life. It is like the commencement of a river; or like the rolling of a stone down the mountain side, the course of which is determined by the direction and impulse which it first receives.
II. THE PROPER SPIRIT in which it should be taken.
1. Due consideration; not thoughtlessly or rashly.
2. Lowly and loyal obedience to rightful claims.
3. Cheerful anticipation of new scenes, duties, and enjoyments.
4. Not unmingled with misgiving and self-distrust at the prospect of new difficulties and trials, and watchfulness against new and strong temptations.
5. Simple trust in God and fervent prayer for his guidance.
6. Firm determination to be true to oneself faithful to God, and useful to men.
"Now needs thy best of man;
For not on downy plumes, nor under shade
Of canopy reposing, fame is won;
Without which whosoe'er consumes his days
Leaveth such vestige of himself on earth
As smoke in air, or foam upon the wave"
(Dante, 'Inferno,' 24.).
1. That life itself is a setting out in a course which will never terminate.
2. That the manner in which this step is taken will decide your future destiny.—D.
1 Samuel 16:23. (GIBEAH.)
The soothing influence of music.
All men, with rare exceptions, are susceptible to the influence of music; some men peculiarly so. It was thus with Saul (1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 19:23); and on this account, perhaps, his servants suggested the sending for a skilful musician to soothe his melancholy. The visit of David had the desired effect, and he "went and returned" (was going and returning) "to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem" (1 Samuel 17:15, 1 Samuel 17:55-58; 1Sa 16:21, 1 Samuel 16:22—a general, and to some extent prospective, summary of his early relations with Saul). Consider the soothing influence of music as—
I. PROVIDED BY DIVINE PROVIDENCE. It is one of the manifold indications of the goodness of God in the adaptation of man to his surroundings so as to derive enjoyment from them. The world is full of music. In trouble and agitation especially it soothes and cheers. "It brings a tone out of the higher worlds into the spirit of the hearer" (Koster). Its direct influence is exerted upon the nervous system, which is intimately connected with all mental activity. As the condition of the brain and nerves is affected by it, so also it affects the state of the mind.
"There is in souls a sympathy with sounds;
Some chord in unison with what we hear
Is touched within us, and the heart replies" (Cowper).
"Pythagoras quieted the perturbations of the mind with a harp" (Seneca, 'On Anger'). Elisha, when chafed and disturbed in spirit, called for a minstrel, and was prepared by the soothing strains of his harp for prophetic inspiration (2 Kings 3:5). Divine providence ordered the visit of David to Saul, over whom mercy still lingered. He was not only freed from the immediate pressure of fear and despondency, but also restored to a mental condition which was favourable to repentance and return to God. Music is a means of grace, and when rightly used conveys much spiritual benefit to men. It is "one of the fairest and most glorious gifts of God, to which Satan is a bitter enemy; for it removes from the heart the weight of sorrow and the fascination of evil thoughts" (Luther). "It is a language by itself, just as perfect in its way as speech, as words; just as Divine, just as blessed. All melody and all harmony, all music upon earth, is beautiful in as far as it is a pattern and type of the everlasting music which is in heaven" (C. Kingsley).
II. PRODUCTIVE OF EXTRAORDINARY EFFECTS. "Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him." "The music was more than a mere palliative. It brought back for the time the sense of a true order, a secret, inward harmony, an assurance that it is near every man, and that he may enter into it" (Maurice).
"He is Saul, ye remember in glory,—ere error had bent
The broad brow from the daily communion; and still, though much spent
Be the life and the bearing that front you, the same, God did choose,
To receive what a man may waste, desecrate, never quite lose"
Many other instances of a similar nature, both in ancient and modern times, have been recorded. One of the most noteworthy is that of Philip V. of Spain, who was restored from profoundest melancholy by the magical voice of Farinelli (see Bochart; Burton, 'Anat. of Mel.;' Kitto, 'D.B. Illus.;' Jacox, 'Script. Texts Illus.;' Bate, 'Cyc. of Illus.'). "Psalmody is the calm of the soul, the repose of the spirit, the arbiter of peace. It silences the wave and conciliates the whirlwind of our passions. It is an engenderer of friendship, a healer of dissension, a reconciler of enemies. It repels the demons, lures the ministry of angels, shields us from nightly terrors, and refreshes us in daily toil" (Basil).
III. PERFECTED BY SPECIAL ENDOWMENTS possessed by the musician. David's harp was the accompaniment of his voice as he sang "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (see Josephus), expressive of the sympathy, confidence, hope, and joy of his soul; "the prelude to the harpings and songs which flowed from the harp of the future royal singer." His musical and poetic gifts were great, and they were consecrated (as all such gifts should be) to the glory of God and the good of men. "Did the music banish the demon? Not so. But the high frame of mind into which the king was brought by it sufficed to limit at least the sphere of the operation of the evil spirit within him; while the full, clear, conscious life of faith on the part of Saul would have altogether destroyed the power of the wicked one. Besides, the silent intercessions of David sent up to heaven on the wings of the music of his harp must have contributed not a little to the results with which his melodies were crowned" (Krummacher). "The Lord was with him" (1 Samuel 16:18).
IV. PARTIAL AND TEMPORARY IN ITS WHOLESOME POWER. Saul was not completely cured of his malady. A breathing space was afforded him for seeking God, and if he had faithfully availed himself of it he might have been permanently preserved from its return. But he failed to do so. On the indulgence of envy, "the evil spirit from God came upon him" again (1 Samuel 18:10; 1 Samuel 19:10) with greater power than before (Matthew 12:45), and that which formerly calmed and gladdened him now excited him to demoniacal frenzy and murderous passion. "It is said that the evil spirit departed, but not that the good spirit returned. Saul's trouble was alleviated, but not removed. The disease was still there. The results of David's harp were negative and superficial. So is it with the sinner still. There are many outward applications which act like. spiritual chloroform upon the soul. They soothe and calm and please, but that is all; they do not go below the surface, nor touch the deep seated malady within. Our age is full of such appliances, literary and religions, all got up for the purpose of soothing the troubled spirits of men. Excitement, gaiety, balls, theatres, operas, concerts, ecclesiastical music, dresses, performances, what are all these but man's appliances for casting out the evil spirit and healing the soul's hurt without having recourse to God's remedy" (Bonar, 'Thoughts and Themes').
1. That the excellent gift of music should excite our admiration of the Giver, "the First Composer," and our devout thankfulness to him.
2. That it ought not to be perverted from its proper intention, and employed, as it too frequently is, in the service of sin (Isaiah 5:12; Amos 6:5).
3. That the soothing and elevating effect of a "concord of sweet sounds" must not be mistaken for the peace and joy of true religion.
4. That nothing but the gospel of Christ and the power of his Spirit can effect the moral and spiritual renewal of man, and restore him to "his fight mind" (Mark 5:15).—D.
HOMILIES BY D. FRASER
1 Samuel 16:12, 1 Samuel 16:13
The chosen one.
The Lord is never without resource. If Saul fail, the God of Israel has another and a better man in training for the post which Saul discredited. This new personage now appears on the page of history, and he will occupy many pages. It is David, the hero, the musician, the poet, the warrior, the ruler, a many-sided man, a star of the first magnitude.
1. Not chosen according to the thoughts of men. Samuel, who at first hesitated to go to Bethlehem on so dangerous an errand as the Lord prescribed to him? when he did go was inclined to be over hasty. Assuming that a new king who should supplant Saul ought to be not inferior to him in stature and strength, the prophet at once fixed on Eliab, the eldest son in Jesse's family, as the one who should be the Lord's anointed. Here was a man able to cope with, or worthy to succeed, the almost gigantic son of Kish. But the Lord corrected his servant's mistake. The time was past for choosing a leader on the score of "outward appearance." The Lord sought for the regal position a man whose heart would be true and obedient. Now Eliab's heart, as the next chapter shows, was small, though his body was large; his temper was vain and overbearing. So he had to pass; and all his brothers who were present at the feast had to pass. Not one of them had such a heart as the Lord required; and it is a significant fact that we never read of any of these men in after years as playing any honourable or memorable part in the history of their country, unless the Septuagint reading of 1 Chronicles 27:18 be right, and the Eliab here mentioned held the office of a tribal chief under his royal brother.
2. Chosen according to the thoughts of God. When the young shepherd, being sent for by his father, entered the chamber with his bright hair and fair countenance, fresh from the fields, the Lord bade Samuel anoint him. "This is he." The selection of the youngest son is in keeping with what we find in many Bible stories. Divine choice traversed the line of natural precedence. The Lord had respect to Abel, not to Cain; to Jacob rather than to Esau; to Joseph above his eider brethren. Ephraim was blessed above Manasseh; Moses was set over Aaron; Gideon was the youngest in his father's house. In this there is something so pleasing to the imagination that it has passed into the tales and legends of many nations. Of three brothers, or seven brothers, it is always the youngest who surpasses everyone, accomplishes the difficult task, and rises to be a king. David's superiority to his brothers was intrinsic, and the result not of luck, but of grace. The Lord had drawn his heart to himself in the days of youth. Accordingly, where such men as Saul and Eliab were weak David was strong. He revered and loved the Lord, and could therefore be depended on to do God's will. "To whom also," says Stephen, "he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, who shall fulfil all my will." The last clause in this extract shows what is intended by the one which goes before. David was a man after the Lord's heart in loyally doing his will. He was not without fault; he certainly displeased God more than once; but he thoroughly apprehended what Saul never could understand—that a king of Israel must not be an autocrat, but should without question or murmur carry out the paramount will of God. In this respect David never failed. He had many trials and temptations, afflictions that might have made him discontented, and successes that might have made him proud; but he continued steadfast in his purpose of heart to be the Lord's, to consult the Lord about everything, and carry out his revealed will.
3. Prepared in retirement for future eminence. There is a sort of augury of his career in his father's words, "Behold, he keepeth the sheep." Saul first came before us going hither and thither in search of asses that were astray, and not finding them. So, as a king, he went up and down, restless and disappointed. But David kept the flock intrusted to him, and, as a king, he shepherded the flock of God. "So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands."
(1) As a shepherd David formed habits of vigilance. He had to think for the flock, lead the sheep to pasture, see that they were regularly watered, watch that none strayed or were lost, and look well after the ewes and the tender lambs. All this served to make him in public life wary, prudent, thoughtful for others, a chieftain who deserved the confidence of his followers. Saul bad little or none of this. He went to and fro, and fought bravely, but evinced none of that unselfish consideration for his people which marks a kingly shepherd. David showed it all through his career. He watched over his subjects, thought for them, instructed and led them. Near the end of his reign he committed an error which brought disaster on Israel; and it is touching to see how the true shepherd's heart was grieved that the flock should suffer through his fault. He Cried to the Lord, "Lo, I have sinned, and have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done?"
(2) As a shepherd David proved and improved his courage. Shepherds in Palestine, in those days, were obliged to protect their flocks from prowling beasts of prey. How many encounters of this kind David may have had we do not know; but we learn from himself that, while yet a stripling, he had fought and slain both a lion and a bear rather than give up one lamb or kid of the flock. His was the best sort of courage—natural intrepidity of a true and brave spirit, sustained and elevated by unquestioning trust in God. While encountering the wild beasts in defence of his flock David was being fitted, though he knew it not, to face an armed giant in behalf of Israel, and in many battles afterwards to beat down the enemies of his country. The springs of his courage were in God. "Jehovah is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear? Jehovah is the strength of my life: of whom shall I be afraid?"
(3) As a shepherd David had leisure for music and poetry. As he kept the sheep he learned to play on his harp with a skill which was the occasion of his first rise from obscurity; and he composed and sang sweet lyrics, pious and patriotic. Whether he looked up to the sky, or looked round on the hills and valleys, or recalled to mind famous passages of his nation's history, everything gave him a song to Jehovah. Every poet writes juvenile pieces, which, though defective, show the bent of his genius; and in after years, if he has not rashly published them, he is able to recast them into new and more perfect forms as his mind grows and his skill improves. So, doubtless, the son of Jesse, in the pastoral solitude at Bethlehem, began to compose lyrics which in more mature life, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he threw into the forms of those Psalms which carry down his fame to the end of time. What a contrast to the unhappy son of Kish! Saul had the impulse of music and song upon him more than once; but he had to be acted on by others, and his own spirit had no inward harmony. As the years advanced his life became more and more unmelodious and out of tune; whereas David's early addiction to devout song and minstrelsy prepared him to be something better than a gruff warrior in his manhood. Born with genius and sensibility, he grew up a man of some accomplishment, and when called to the throne, elevated the mental and spiritual tone of the nation, and was, through a long reign, himself a very fountain of musical culture and sweet poetic thought.
4. Anointed without and within. Samuel anointed the youth outwardly, pouring oil over his head; Jehovah anointed him inwardly, for "the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward." The old prophet is a figure of John the Baptist, another Nazarene, and one who came to prepare the way of the King. David suggests Another, a descendant of his own, born in the same Bethlehem, and, like himself, lightly esteemed. As Samuel poured oil on the head of David, so John poured water on the head of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Then Samuel retired from view. So John too retired, and made way for him whom he had baptized. "He must increase, but I must decrease." The parallel goes still further. David had been a child of grace, but on that day the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he got what Samuel could not impart—a Divine qualification for the work and dignity to which he was destined. Jesus had been holy, harmless, and undefiled from his mother's womb; but on the day of his baptism the Spirit, as a dove, descended and rested upon him, and he got what John could not impart—the Divine qualification of his humanity for the work and dignity to which he was destined as the Christ, the Lord's Anointed. "Now know I that the Lord sayeth his anointed." Therefore He will save us who follow the King. Only let the name of the King be our watchword, his righteousness our righteousness, his strength our strength, his mind our mind, his anointing our anointing. So shall we see him and be with him in his kingdom and glory.—F.
1 Samuel 16:23
The king and the minstrel.
I. THE COMPLICATION OF MENTAL AND MORAL DISORDER. Saul was the victim of cerebral disease, but not an innocent victim. His unhingement of mind was due in large measure to causes for which he was morally responsible. The expression, "an evil spirit from the Lord was upon him," is just an Old Testament way of saying that the state into which he fell, as a result mainly of his own misconduct, bore the character of a Divine retribution. From the beginning there seems to have been a morbid tendency in the mind of Saul. He was at once very impulsive and very obstinate; and as his troubles and anxieties increased, the original weakness or unhealthiness of his brain became more and more apparent.
He had an evil conscience because of his disobedience to Divine commands, and though faithfully reproved by the prophet Samuel, he does not appear to have ever sought pardon or healing. Thus the purpose of God to give the kingdom to another and a better man weighed on him as a dreadful secret, and his native melancholy deepened. The thing preyed on his mind till he became wretchedly suspicious and jealous, and at times gave way to homicidal mania. For considerable periods, as during the active struggle with the Philistines, this evil spirit left the king; but he fell back into his passionate gloom. As we trace his course, the better lines of his character fade away, and the worse become deeper and more obvious.
II. THE REMEDY APPLIED—ITS SUCCESS AND ITS FAILURE. In so far as there was mental disease, the case called for medical treatment; in so far as it was complicated with and grounded on moral disorder, it needed a moral corrective. But even if there had been any scientific treatment of insanity known at the period, it would have been difficult to apply it to King Saul, and it occurred to his attendants to try the soothing charm of music. This might be the opiate to assuage the anguish of the spirit—
"The soft insinuating balsam, that
Can through the body reach the sickly soul."
So David was brought to the court to allay, if he could not cure, the malady of the king by his skilful minstrelsy. It was a wise experiment. From the readiness of Saul to catch the fervour and join in the strains of the sons of the prophets, and from the fact that in his frenzy he "prophesied in the midst of the house," we infer that his temperament was peculiarly open to musical impression, and are not surprised that the sounds of David's lyre and voice, especially when chanting some Divine and lofty theme, affected and in some degree controlled the unhappy king. As he listened his spirit became more tranquil, and wicked thoughts and jealousies lifted from off him, as clouds lift from a mountain for a while, even though they gather again. The refining and calming effect of music and song no wise man will disparage. It is not religion, but it may legitimately and powerfully conduce to moral and religious feeling. Elisha called for a minstrel, that his mind might be attuned and prepared to receive the prophetic impulse. Martin Luther found the inspiration of courage in the same manner. "Next to theology," he said, "I give the first place and the greatest honour to music." Milton, too, delighted in such musical service
"As may with sweetness, through mine ear,
Dissolve me into ecstasies,
And bring all heaven before mine eyes."
David sang before the clouded face of Saul, and "played with his hand." So let sweet and sacred minstrelsy confront the sin and sorrow of the world. It is better than the fabled power of Orpheus, who, when he touched his lyre, moved the very trees and rocks, and gathered the beasts of the forest to listen to his notes. Another myth regarding Orpheus has indeed a noble meaning beneath the surface of the story. When the Argonauts passed the island of the sirens, Orpheus, on board their ship, loudly chanted the praises of gods and heroes, so as to drown the voices from the shore, and so he and his comrades passed the fatal spot in safety. The moral is obvious. The sirens represent pleasures of sense, which begin with blandishment, but end in cruel destruction; and a powerful resistance to sensual temptation is to be found in preoccupation of mind and heart with holy and heroic song. Yet the moral power thus exerted has its limit, and we see this clearly in the case of Saul. The king was acutely sensitive to the influence of David's minstrelsy, but he was only charmed, not cured; and even while the youth played before him he attempted his life in a paroxysm of jealousy. So is many a man thrilled with delight by sacred music wedded to holy words in an oratorio or in Church service who is not delivered thereby from some evil spirit or base passion that has mastered him. Alas, how many men of musical taste and sensibility, some of them of poetic capacity also, have been quite unable to shake off the yoke of that most conspicuous evil spirit of our time and nation, the love of strong drink! This infatuation may be quieted or checked for a time, but it is not expelled by music ever so good and true. The harp, even David's harp, cannot subdue the power of sin. This requires the power of David's God. There is need of a prayer of David, such as Saul seems never to have offered up: "Create in me a clean heart; Lord, renew a right spirit within me." There is need to apply to the Son of David, who cast out unclean spirits by his word, and brought men to their right mind, and now in the power of the Holy Spirit not only controls, but corrects and cures all the evils which prey on the mind or defile the heart of man. The blackness of envy, the foulness of hatred, the demons of deceit, avarice, intemperance, and cruelty are expelled by nothing less than the grace of Christ.
"And his that gentle voice we hear,
Soft as the breath of even,
That checks each fault, that calms each fear,
And speaks of heaven."—F.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany