Friday, March 31st, 2023
the Fifth Week of Lent
the Fifth Week of Lent
There are 9 days til Easter!
Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible Kelly Commentary
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Kelly, William. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ wkc/ 1-samuel-16.html. 1860-1890.
Kelly, William. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 16". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://studylight.org/
- Henry's Complete
- Clarke Commentary
- Bridgeway Bible Commentary
- Coffman's Commentaries
- Bullinger's Companion Notes
- Bell's Commentary
- College Press
- Smith's Commentary
- Dummelow on the Bible
- Constable's Expository Notes
- Ellicott's Commentary
- Expositor's Dictionary
- Meyer's Commentary
- Gaebelein's Annotated
- Morgan's Exposition
- Gill's Exposition
- Everett's Study Notes
- Geneva Study Bible
- Haydock's Catholic Commentary
- Commentary Critical
- Commentary Critical Unabridged
- Gray's Concise Commentary
- Parker's The People's Bible
- Sutcliffe's Commentary
- Trapp's Commentary
- Kretzmann's Commentary
- Lange's Commentary
- Grant's Commentary
- MacLaren's Expositions
- Henry's Complete
- Henry's Concise
- Poole's Annotations
- Pett's Commentary
- Peake's Commentary
- Preacher's Homiletical
- Poor Man's Commentary
- Benson's Commentary
- Sermon Bible Commentary
- The Biblical Illustrator
- The Expositor's Bible Commentary
- The Pulpit Commentaries
- Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
- Wesley's Notes
- Whedon's Commentary
- Keil & Delitzsch
- Layman's Bible Commentary
- Kelly Commentary
Now that we have heard the prophet's judgment of king Saul, there follows next the choice of Jehovah. The chapter gives us in a very striking manner the manifest sentence of death on all the thoughts of man. Then can lessons be more solemnly instructive than the contrast between Saul, universally admired and chosen because of outward appearance, and David, who even by his own father was entirely forgotten, and this when the question was raised by the prophet? He was of no account in the eyes of a single member of the family; yet this was the man destined to the throne. And indeed we have not to put our own construction on the incident; for God Himself has given us His. It is expressly and in this connection said, "Man looketh at the outward appearance, but Jehovah looketh at the heart."
Thus the true king was now anointed; but it pleased God that the manner of his ascending the throne should be as peculiar as the choice. There never was such another since the world began, always excepting the One who in all things has the pre-eminence. Who ever trod such a pathway to the throne? Some, no doubt, have gone through trials severe enough; others have known what it was to suffer in their measure from enemies within till they reigned, from foes without afterwards. I do not speak now of those only whom God was pleased to select at various times for the special purpose of reigning over Israel; but even among men, as is known, it is no such uncommon circumstance. The like has happened at various times, and in almost all countries; but there was more than this with David. It is not merely that he who had rendered the greatest services to the king and the people was set aside and persecuted unrelentingly without any just cause; but the truth is that God ordered it so that he who had been chosen by the prophet at His own bidding, and already had the anointing of Jehovah, should be sustained for a considerable period for the express purpose of bringing out those most worthy qualities which were the fruit of His grace, tried as he was after a fiery sort, and put to the proof before all Israel, not so much in great feats as in dependence on the manifest intervention of Jehovah's care and wisdom and goodness.
There was another way we have to notice in which David was tried, and I believe still more difficult to the spiritual judgment, and of greater price with God that delicacy of consideration in which his heart was formed in the presence of his worst foe in one who was still the king of Israel, whom he of all men respected most, not even excepting Jonathan; for as there was more love in David's heart than in Jonathan's, so, I doubt not, he had even a keener sense of allegiance, and a deeper consideration of what was due to the king; and yet all the while Saul was a doomed man, and, as we have seen, before David was called he had been proved and found wanting. It will be made evident, as indeed scripture furnishes ample proofs, that, after the call of David and his designation to the throne on God's part, Saul did not remain the same man as before. We shall find that he comes under the power of Satan from the moment that God had set apart David to Himself. We must not confound as a rule or principle the fact of man's corrupt nature on the one side with Satan's power on the other. They are distinct. At the same time, what is of man corrupted always paves the way for Satan to enter in. Here, nevertheless, we may see the working of the principle plainly enough. We shall find also that it is not only that Satan enters from this point, but that he acquires increasing power over Saul. Just as God on the one hand brings out His servant David, and shows his fitness for the great and honourable task to which he was called, making him to be very specially before Himself, and in the eyes of those who love Him, to be the witness of Christ as sufferer as well as king; so on the other hand Saul falls more and more deeply under the power of the adversary. This then we shall look at a little in the present lecture.
In the very first chapter where the point of change is brought before us we read "Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren; and the Spirit of Jehovah came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah. But the Spirit of Jehovah departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from Jehovah troubled him." It is plain therefore that there is pointed out to us the awful counterpart when the Spirit of Jehovah departs, and an evil spirit troubles the one in the presence of divine blessing and favour resting on the other. The same thing may be in principle always true; but it will be verified in Christendom on a gigantic scale, and the time is fast hastening for that catastrophe. For the flesh having long despised the testimony of God and the grace of the Holy Ghost, there will be a marked change when the power of Satan will be let loose from such restraint as now hinders. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-17) And indeed it must always be so. For it is impossible that Satan could work in his full energy till the full power of good had first come, and next, we may add, is gone.
Accordingly the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we know, was the signal for an immense step in the manifestation of the power of the devil. He is never called "the prince of the world," or "the god of this world," till after the advent of our Lord. And so I have no doubt at all that the truth of the gospel and call of the church of God have furnished an occasion for Satan, not for such displays of demon activity as confronted Him who is the power of God, but to bring out that which is for the present his masterpiece in spiritual deceit and poisonous error. The reign of ordinance and tradition, the antichurch, owes its idea to the church of God, but of course corrupted so as to dishonour God and destroy man; as again, when the Lord is about to bring in the first-begotten into the world, Satan, knowing right well what is coming, will try to anticipate in Antichrist, and so carry the world into his final delusions.
There is an incident before us in the end of the chapter much to be weighed, and I think highly instructive. David, although he had not yet exhibited a single sign before man of that to which he was separated by God from the midst of his brethren, is nevertheless put forward for a remarkable service. Saul, as we are now told, was troubled with an evil spirit. "And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me. Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and Jehovah is with him. Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, which is with the sheep." This is the first circumstance which brings the anointed of Jehovah into the company of Saul. It appears to have been but the most passing acquaintance that was formed with the king.
But the Lord takes care not long after, as we learn in the next chapter (1 Samuel 17:1-58), that a far more urgent need, not merely personal but connected with the whole people, and in opposition to the power that the enemy put forward at this very time, should bring David publicly and permanently on Israel's behalf into the king's court.
Was not this a very suggestive fact? It was a part of the dealing of God that David's circumstances should entirely change; but, you will observe, this he did not seek himself. It is not by the will of the one chiefly concerned that the Lord brings to pass His plans. See how He wrought in Joseph's case. Yet we know that Joseph at thirty years of age became prime minister of Egypt. Now I ask any man, what could have brought about such an issue so well? Granting all the ability with which God had invested Rachel's son, granting all the wisdom and faith and integrity to be appreciated as they were shown in his conduct and ways, if his whole life had been bent on becoming the greatest man in Egypt (even supposing now for God's glory, and to seek the good of his brethren), could it have been done otherwise as well, or even as rapidly as God did it? This ought to be a great comfort, and not least surely to those who do not seek great things. Where the eye is bent simply on doing the will of God, which is the only thing of price in this world, how happy it is to leave everything with God! So we find in David's history. Had David sought to be a courtier, he could scarcely have gained it; but without one thought on his part, the Lord in a simple and suited way brings him to the presence of the king. This is the first move.
But there is another thing that I should remark upon for a moment, before we pass on to the great and signal circumstances of 1 Samuel 17:1-58. Saul very quickly lost all thought, all memory, of David. He no doubt profited by him, but he soon forgot him. This is the more remarkable because in the end of 1 Samuel 17:1-58, as we shall see, the king is all bewildered, and makes inquiry of those around who the stripling is. I shall notice it there, only calling attention to the fact that on this occasion, when David came to Saul and stood before him, he loved him greatly; but his affection was evanescent: we shall see why ere long.
But if God was moving in the scene, the enemy was too, and this in particular by those whom Saul had been raised up to put down. For if king of Israel, he was responsible to be the servant of God; but he was not. He was the creature of man's choice, however God might move sovereignly above all. Morally speaking, Saul accomplished in nothing the end for which he was chosen; he only showed the futility and fruitlessness of man. Sentenced now, though not yet gone, he gives occasion for the mighty and gracious power of God to form His chosen one to accomplish His work. "Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them. And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. And he had a helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass. And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders. And the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam; and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him. And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together." Here was his ruin "I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together." He left God out.
For this was just the question that was coming to speedy and solemn issue; whether God indeed had a people on earth in Israel, whether the name of Jehovah bound up with that of Israel is a truth or a falsehood, a living power or a sham. The Philistine took the side of nature, founded on appearances. And indeed there was little to show that Israel were the people of God. Their condition deplorable, their degradation all but complete, the Philistine could find abundant reasons to believe it was all the merest assumption. What could their past deliverance from Egypt and passage through the desert, not to speak of the conquest of Canaan, be but the lying legends of their priests? There might have been great men and circumstances to favour them in times past; but as to that spiritless race of slaves being the people of God in any practical sense, it was folly to think of it. It is thus that unbelief usually reasons from appearances.
On the other hand there was nothing more melancholy to one judging by faith than to see how little Israel took their stand on God how they too had forgotten even the mercy that had been vouchsafed not so long before by Jonathan. I grant you there was a vast difference between the circumstances of that day and of this. It was a great deliverance wrought in faith; but no Goliath had then appeared to challenge all Israel and defy Jehovah.
Now that David is about to be brought to the front on God's part, Satan stirs up the enemy. "When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid. Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Beth-lehem-judah, whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men for an old man in the days of Saul. And the three eldest sons of Jesse went and followed Saul to the battle: and the names of his three sons that went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next unto him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. And David was the youngest: and the three eldest followed Saul. But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem." He was again in the plain path of humble daily duty. No road is really so good as this, and none where God's honour will be more found when His time comes. It was there that God anointed him for the throne; it was thence that God called him to the court of Saul; and it was now from the same tending of his father's flock that God wrought so as to bring him into the great field of action where the question had to be decided between the Philistines and the living God.
David, then, sent by his father on a simple errand of duty, was to be in the grace of God the instrument of His victory: "And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days." What astonishing patience on God's part! Every day, of course, increased the self-confidence of the uncircumcised champion. Every day added to the dismay of Israel. There was one heart at least that knew no such unworthy fear; but what shame and grief! "And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren; and carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand, and look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge. Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle. For Israel and the Philistines had put the battle in array, army against army. And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren. And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them."
And once more "all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid." Indeed it is evident from the description that the terror of Israel was visibly increasing. "And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father's house free in Israel. And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him." David could scarcely understand it. He is amazed that there should be such a reward held out in what to him was such a simple business
The reason of David's calm confidence is evident. It was not that David measured himself against Goliath, but that he perceived it to be a question between God and the Philistine. This therefore was what filled him with astonishment, as he beheld the abject terror of the men of Israel, and as he talked to them and heard all again and again; for he required to be really assured that they were serious in such statements. His elder brother overheard, and, as one can understand in such a case, his anger was kindled against David. He may have had some suspicion probably before this, although time enough had elapsed since Samuel had anointed David with oil for the circumstance to make but comparatively little impression upon the minds of others; for Samuel's words were few. There was not much said on that occasion. The act itself was most important and significant; but the meaning of it was little explained. Nevertheless there is always in those who think of themselves a disposition to take offence at others; and even the nearest relationship will not hinder this, but rather give opportunities for it. Eliab therefore, full of displeasure at David, asked him, "Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle." Indeed he was there present for much more; he was come down to fight the battle; but Eliab did not know this any more than the lowly faith of David's heart. "And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause? And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner."
And thus the fact of one man walking in quiet and simple confidence in the Lord gradually forced itself on the host of the Israelites, so that news came to the king of that one soul whose heart of faith was undaunted by the Philistine. "And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before Saul: and he sent for him. And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him." David is not content merely with being above fears personally, but would cheer every one with that reliance on Jehovah which gave him assurance; he wants to fill them with the same simplicity of looking to God which was no new thing to his own soul. "Thy servant," said he, "will go and fight with this Philistine."
The king is astonished; he too looked to appearances: David knew in whom he believed. He had proved it good already. "And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth. And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: and I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God." This was humility, because there was self-forgetfulness. It was a genuine thing, and not a mere desire after it, because God was present to the spirit of David. And unless there be these two things, beloved brethren, depend on it that we deceive ourselves in this weighty matter. There is nothing that really ensures such simplicity in acting for the Lord as that lowliness of mind which is the fruit of faith. This, I need scarcely repeat, is precisely what breathes in David's words. He counted on the fidelity of God to Israel spite of all circumstances.
But, further too, it is very notable that the Spirit of God has not said one word about these facts before, as also it would appear that David himself never spoke about them even in his family. The time was come now. He mentions them not so much to show why he himself looked for victory, as why Saul should have confidence. It might well remove the difficulties of king Saul, who was inclined to think as a Gentile, with no more faith than a Philistine. The answer was simply an unstudied and divinely-suggested testimony to the king when the right moment was come. It was God that had been the strength of David's heart and hand. Was He not just the same now as ever? This was the way in which David reasoned; and he was right. God gave him wisdom.
But moreover he declares, "Jehovah that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine." There is not a thought of himself in the matter. He is God's object of care, for so faith always reasons; he is His object of interest, and so much the more as his only desire was the glory of Jehovah. "And Saul said unto David, Go, and Jehovah be with thee." He was struck by the young man's answer. "And Saul armed David with his armour ;" but this was of no use. David essayed to go, but soon found out that the pieces of armour were but hindrances, and in no way a help to him. "And David put them off him." He had not proved them, as he told him. "And he tool: his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he ha], even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand." They were the well-proved weapons of his warfare; they were the weapons in which he had often looked up to Jehovah in the course of his ordinary work day by day.
"And he drew near to the Philistine. And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him. And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance. And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field." David's answer was most worthy of one who knew what and who Jehovah is to His people. "Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of Jehovah of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will Jehovah deliver thee into mine hand;" for faith has no difficulties, and sees clearly in the hour of danger according to God I may say, the end from the beginning. "And I will smite thee," says he, "and take thine head from thee;" a word most punctually and quickly fulfilled. "And I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines" for his faith rises higher still "I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God," not with David only, but "in Israel."
There was faith; and there was along with it too, not only the strength, but the self-forgetfulness, of faith. He saw and held fast the bond between God and Israel. There is a larger and higher faith in this than that which sees no more than a bond between God and me, though it is freely granted that it is no use to talk about faith in God's feeling toward Israel until I know what He is to myself. The wrongness is in stopping here. We must begin with it, however, and in fact may well distrust the language of a so-called faith that tries to leap into great doings all at once. It is not so that the Lord leads; but the truth is that David was no such raw soldier of faith. He was a young man, but a greater veteran in the path and conflict of faith than any man in the armies of Israel. There was not a man there that knew so much of God or of the power that opposes God and His people, not even Jonathan, although Jonathan had been already tried, and although he had won too in the battles of the Lord. Yet even Jonathan himself had never yet acquired that simple confidence; but David had. David, I say, had proved what the Lord was in the hour of difficulty and danger repeatedly; and he proved it also most distinctly when all other hearts failed through fear. Confidently could he add, "And all this assembly shall know that Jehovah saveth not with sword and spear." And this he counts on. It was not only all the earth in general, but his confidence and his delight was that God would bless His people by it. "And all this assembly shall know that Jehovah saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is Jehovah's, and he will give you into our hands."
"And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted." There was far more alacrity on his part than proud on the Philistine's. "And he ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone" (God loves to accomplish great results by the simplest means), "and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled. And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines." They won the victory according to the faith of David.
Then comes the further triumph of David when he takes the head of the Philistine and brings it to Jerusalem. "And when Saul saw David" (he saw David go forth against the Philistine indeed even before), "he said unto Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this youth? And Abner said, As thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell. And the king said, Enquire thou whose son the stripling is. And as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. And Saul said to him, Whose son art thou, thou young man? And David answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite."
This has often perplexed worldly scholars, who find great difficulty in adjusting the passage with the previous chapter. And at first sight it sounds exceedingly strange that David should have been already employed to soothe the king when under the affliction of an evil spirit from Jehovah, and Saul should have to make such an inquiry. David had indeed formerly and not long before ministered to his necessities; but his disordered state might well confuse his memory; and a great captain might be excused for never giving a look or thought to a minstrel boy brought in for such an occasion to play on the harp to the king. And my opinion is that, so far from this being a just tumbling-block, so far from its being legitimate to dislocate the fact previously named from the place where it stood, as some learned persons have suggested, there is to my mind no small beauty in the incidents being recorded exactly as they are. Indeed it would be false to take out these latter verses of 1 Samuel 17:1-58, and insert them at the end of 1 Samuel 16:1-23, or even to transpose the end of 1 Samuel 16:1-23 to the end of 1 Samuel 17:1-58 as has been proposed.
The truth is that one may be employed by God to minister relief to him who is carried away by the power of the enemy, without the least communion of spirit; and such a servant may be soon forgotten: as man says, "out of sight, out of mind." There is no real knowledge of the person who walks with God on their part who are far from Him. There could not but be a sense of the relief ministered and enjoyed. Saul perfectly well knew at the time when he was soothed by David's playing on the harp that so it was; but David, although he was then loved of Saul, left no impression whatever on his spirit. There never was a real bond between them. Saul loved David in the sense of valuing the one who relieved him, and felt gratitude for it at the time; but there was no real basis of sympathy between the king and David.
Hence it is that when David, as we read here, now comes forward in the service of Jehovah, he is a stranger to king Saul, whatever he may have been in the service of the king. He may have been known passingly, but now that he comes forward in the service of Jehovah, he is an unknown stranger to the king. It is familiar to us how perfectly true this was of Jesus. We know how the Lord Jesus ministered to the men of this world; how they partook of His bountiful provision for their wants, were relieved in their bodily distresses, and delivered from the frightful power that Satan exercised over them by evil spirits. The Lord Jesus proved the supremacy of divine grace moving in and out among the multitudes that were thus healed; but they were of the world, and He was in the world who made it, yet the world knew Him not. Was it not on account of the self-same principle? though no doubt there was a mighty difference in the depth of the case: but the principle was the same on which the world knew not Jesus, and Saul knew not David.
There was one, however, who from that day learnt to know him, and this was Jonathan; and what was it then that made the difference? Why was it that Saul, who had such far more abundant reason to remember David, should have so quickly forgotten him? How comes it, on the other hand, that Jonathan's soul was at once knit to David? The reason was the faith of Jonathan, which wrought by love consequently in his heart, and thus left him free to appreciate the excellent fruit of the grace of God in David. Nothing was lost that day on Jonathan, whose soul was knit with David's when he ceased speaking to Saul. How much there was in David that stamped him as a man after God's own heart, and made him an object of the deepest interest and affection to Jonathan! Had it not been for this divine link, David must have seemed, for Jonathan's interests, a dangerous rival and interloper. Granted that this too was precisely the reason for which we shall find Saul allowed a feeling to arise in his heart which at length gained complete mastery over him. But this very fact shows Jonathan's delightful spirit the more, and the disinterestedness which grace produces. For it is plain that the more Jonathan's soul realized, not only the qualities of his friend, but the destinies to which God had assigned him, David grew day by day in the love of Jonathan's heart. The Spirit of God dwells for our instruction on this attractive tale. How differently fared an incomparably greater than David! Deserted when He most needed sympathy, yet Himself cherishing the most gracious appreciation of those whom He had watched over with unfailing love! Yet He says, "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations."
1 Samuel 18:1-30. "And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house." This gave opportunity for Jonathan to know more of him; and very soon indeed the Spirit of God records an act which marks precisely both what was so lovely in Jonathan, and what was so suitable to David. "Then Jonathan and David," it is said, "made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle." This then was the corresponding fruit of the divine Spirit in Jonathan. Those are greatly mistaken who suppose that it was merely a question of personal affection. This there was; but Jonathan was a man of faith, and there is no affection for character, power, or permanence such as that which has faith for its animating principle.
Further, we learn that "David went out whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely." He had shown himself to be a man whom Jehovah had girded with strength in a most remarkable manner; but I think that the gracious and prudent wisdom of David, as for instance with Saul, is even more astonishing. The prowess with which Jehovah had clothed his arm was but a passing thing, comparatively speaking; at any rate, the calls for it were only now and then. The dependence on God on which it depended, one cannot doubt, was ingrained in his habitual character; so that it was only occasional, the transient expression on what was in fact always true of David. But his going in and out from the king, the prudent, delicate, truly refined, and admirable part of David at the court of Saul, is a most instructive lesson for our souls. "David went out" then, "whithersoever Saul sent him." He had been called to be a servant in a new place altogether. He had not had the smallest experience of the court, excepting his forgotten service with the harp in early days. But this makes little difference to the Spirit of God.
It is well to remember that our habits and our natures make a vast difference for the temptations of Satan but very little indeed to the Spirit of God. Thus when we go wrong, when we fall into a bad state, Satan always suits himself to our characters and ordinary ways, and thus acts on our nature in short, as well as on what may have been formed by a long course of conduct. There it is that Satan shows what he must particularly take into account, because he is a creature after all. On the other hand the Holy Spirit, we must always remember, is God; and, whatever people may say of the force of character and habit, it is to my mind a divine truth of still greater moment to remember that the Holy Ghost is supreme. It is not the fact that He merely takes up a character or habits in order to give them another direction, and thus fit them for the service of the Lord. He loves to impart a fresh character; He can give altogether new qualities. It is granted freely that the old tendencies are there still; but they are there, not to be yielded to, but to be mortified, to be watched against, to be treated as a part of that flesh of man on which the oil cannot be poured; still less can it be presented to the Lord.
In short, we ought most particularly to look for in a saint of God, and we ought especially to be jealous as to ourselves, that the very traits we may have shown naturally in this or that direction be still most sedulously watched against when we are children of God. It would be perfectly hopeless if there were not the Spirit of God; but for our comfort, as well as admonition, let us remember that God has already given us a new and divine nature, which nature, as it is Christ in whom we live, has the Holy Ghost to work in and by it.
David by grace was enabled to walk in this wisdom. He had none of the habits of a court. This made only the better opportunity for the Spirit of God! The reason is simple. What is the spring of a believer's lowliness, of his obedience, of his generous kindness, of his unflinching courage? It is not at all a question of what the man was of old in the flesh, but of what God makes Christ Himself to him by faith. All else, depend on it, my brethren, however esteemed among men, is good for nothing in the sight of God; and this shows us that for us the absolute necessity of our spiritual being, if indeed there is to be well-being, is dependence on God. Otherwise we merely manifest what we are, instead of being witnesses of Christ
"David" then "went out whithersoever Saul sent him." This was his duty now. He had been before where his father sent him, and there Jehovah had blessed him and put honour on him. Now he was in a new position; but it was the place, not that he chose, but that God had given him in a sphere that he had never sought. He therefore "went out," as it is said, "whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely: and Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul's servants. And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of musick. And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. And Saul was very wroth."
The sense of the great service that David had wrought faded quickly away from Saul's spirit. And why? Because his object, his idol, was himself, and David's name that day interfered with it. "Saul had slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands." The women, having more particularly sensitive spirits, according to their nature, seized and uttered the simple truth. It was not that they tailed to honour the king, but certainly they paid honour to the one to whom honour was due. They felt who was the instrument of the mighty deliverance in Israel. This roused the jealous susceptibility of the king, "and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day and forward." Yes, and it was an evil eye, nor did Satan fail to take advantage of what the occasion furnished. "And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul's hand." But mark, the old remedy that soothed the king, music, had lost its effect now. When the evil spirit first came upon him, it yielded to the sweet sounds of David's harp and hand. It was no longer so. The progress of evil in presence of the good it hates is apt to be rapid and deep. "And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice." The king not merely disliked David, but was afraid of him, "because Jehovah was with him, and was departed from Saul. Therefore Saul removed him from him, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people."
But God took care that every step that Saul took to humble David, or to show his own ill-feeling, or even worse, should be only a means in God's hands to fit David the more for the kingdom. "David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and Jehovah was with him." Jehovah was with him in the house of Saul and preserved him; Jehovah was with him out of the king's house, and there he approved himself before the people as his servant, the better because he was Jehovah's servant. "Wherefore when Saul saw that he behaved himself very wisely, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them. And Saul said to David, Behold my elder daughter Merab, her will I give thee to wife: only be thou valiant for me, and fight Jehovah's battles." This was a mere pretence. "For Saul said, Let not mine hand be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him." It only furnished David opportunity for fresh victories. "And David said unto Saul, Who am I?" for he was unaffectedly humble still God wrought on his behalf in fresh ways. "Who am I? and what is my life, or my father's family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?" But there was no truth nor conscience toward God in Saul any more than care for David or regard for the plighted promise of a king. "But it came to pass at the time when Merab Saul's daughter should have been given to David, that she was given unto Adriel the Meholathite to wife. And Michal Saul's daughter loved David: and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him."
In order to ensnare David to his destruction, the king demanded a fresh price for his other daughter's hand. "Wherefore Saul said to David, Thou shalt this day be my son-in-law in the one of the twain. And Saul commanded his servants, saying, Commune with David secretly, and say, Behold, the king hath delight in thee, and all his servants love thee: now therefore be the king's son-in-law.
And Saul's servants spake those words in the ears of David. And David said, Seemeth it to you a light thing to be a king's son-in-law, seeing that I am a poor man, and lightly esteemed?" Not a word about the previous wrong that had been done him not a syllable about Merab given to Adriel or of the king's having failed in his royal word during the hour of peril, so solemnly pledged in the valley of Elah, or personally renewed later still for fresh services.
The fact was that David looking to God was far more jealous of the king's honour than the king himself; and so it always is and should be wherever there is faith. As long as God sustains even that which is altogether unworthy of Himself or His people, faith bears with it, and pays frankly all worthy respect. This is not folly, my brethren; nor is it cringing; though it be far from this generation. It is faith. And Saul's servants therefore told him how David had spoken; "and Saul said, Thus shall ye say to David, The king desireth not any dowry." He wanted the death of a hundred Philistines. "But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king's son-in-law." His simple mind still crave to the king's honour. The word so often broken in his own case provoked no sneer. He feared God and the king; and if the king really so thought of David, he valued it. Such was the feeling of his generous heart. "And the days were not expired. Wherefore David arose and went, he and his men, and slew of the Philistines two hundred men" double the number the king had demanded; "and David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full tale to the king, that he might be the king's son-in-law. And Saul gave him Michal his daughter to wife."
What was the effect upon Saul's spirit? "And Saul saw and knew that Jehovah was with David, and that Michal Saul's daughter loved him. And Saul was yet the more afraid of David; and Saul became David's enemy continually." The king was impervious to good and implacable to David. How came this to pass? Satan held him fast. The very things that even nature would have respected and valued were turned by the enemy only to feed his hatred and his malice continually. Such is the power, such the way, of Satan. And this is the solemn lesson of the history, of which we shall find there is a counterpart in the second Book of Samuel, where we shall have to see it in another form. In short we have here not merely what was of man, but what was of the devil; and this only since the great witness of Christ was come. You cannot have the antichrist without Christ. If there is a witness of Christ in David, there is also a growing embodiment of the qualities of the antichrist, yet to be energized by the devil, and then partially prefigured in king Saul.
"Then the princes of the Philistines went forth: and it came to pass, after they went forth, that David behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul; so that his name was much set by. And Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David." Thus we see how the design, the hidden snare, the carefully laid plans to overthrow David, all come to nought. First there was corruption, then violence equally vain. Saul was now bold enough to speak to Jonathan and all "that they should kill David." The liar and murderer was at his accustomed work. "But Jonathan, Saul's son, delighted much in David." Is it not refreshing, in so melancholy a picture as this of king Saul, to observe how that the Holy Ghost who wrought all that was then of God, and afterwards sketched for us the history, has shown us also that God does not leave Himself without witness of His grace? He who withdraws the veil from the most secret iniquity of Saul lets us see the devotedness of Jonathan. He tells the tale of what God works in love, Satan in murderous hatred and pride.
Jonathan then only the more cleaves to David because of the enmity of his father; and these things will be both true in Israel; for Jonathan sets before us rather the godly remnant of the Jews, not those called out of the earth to heavenly things. What we have in all these chapters is Christ, but Christ in connection with the kingdom; and we must leave room for the kingdom just as much as for the church. Of course we have a very especial interest in the body of Christ, the church of God. It is perfectly intelligible therefore, that the fulness of our sympathies should flow in this channel, not merely because we are concerned directly, but because the richest displays of Christ's glory and the deepest grace and wisdom of God are found in it. But, my brethren, it is never a proof of the great power of the Holy Ghost where we only find our joy in our own things. It is manifestly a better sign where things are valued because they concern the glory of Christ, rather than because they are ours. And I am sure that you will not find that the delight in all which gives glory to Christ, and which manifests the ways of God in respect to Him, could in any degree really impair relish for and delight in the ways of God with His church, or the counsels of glory He has for us. It is a healthful and God-glorifying hold of scripture, as centering round Christ for heaven and earth which is most for the glory of God by and in us. What we want is to have Christ Himself more before us, and not merely therefore what belongs to us in personal privilege at any time.
The truth is, we are so blessed, we are so fully and richly endowed in Christ, that we ought to be able in the measure of our faith to enter unjealously and without distraction into everything that glorifies the Lord Jesus. This consequently should be our standard. Whatever glorifies Him this is enough for us; for in truth, although the kingdom be a lower level, still we have on the one hand a most important connection, inasmuch as we are to reign with Christ, as surely as we have on the other hand a more special place of blessedness as united to Christ. Both are true of us; and the apostle Paul preached both, each in due season, as we should also. Thus in the Acts of the Apostles it is easy to see indeed rather more of his preaching the kingdom. In the Epistles naturally, where the church was addressed, we have its own special portion very particularly brought out. But still they were both there; and it is a great mistake to suppose that we gain any better appreciation of the church of God by neglecting any other truth. More particularly this becomes more urgently momentous as the coming of the Lord draws near. On the contrary, this distinction will be better understood where we are willing just to follow the current of the Spirit of God throughout all His word; and we need this, let me say, beloved brethren, as much as any. It has helped on the ruin of the church of God to treat a small part of the truth as if it were the whole. The grand and best means of deliverance is, when we have received Christ, and seen that He is the secret of blessing, to cultivate occupation not merely with the church but with Christ. Then it is that the church, the kingdom, and every part of the dealings of God, stand out in the fullest light before our souls.
In reading these Books of Samuel then, we must bear in mind what has been already remarked that the main connection is with the kingdom, and not properly speaking the church. Indeed this is a far more general principle; for it is so throughout the Old Testament. But in these later historical books it is emphatically the king. Doubtless Christ Himself is set out, but it is He in relation to the kingdom. There may be typical illustrations now and then which go beyond that, but scarcely more.
1 Samuel 19:1-24. Jonathan then, Saul's son, shows us, it seems to me, those in whom the Spirit of Christ will work in the midst of Israel, whereas Saul shadows for us that part of Israel which goes more and more into the depths of dark evil because of the non-appreciation of Christ, and consequently falls thoroughly at last under the power of the devil. "But Jonathan Saul's son delighted much in David: and Jonathan told David, saying, Saul my father seeketh to kill thee: now therefore, I pray thee, take heed to thyself until the morning, and abide in a secret place, and hide thyself: and I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where thou art, and I will commune with my father of thee; and what I see, that I will tell thee." There was a loving heart that sought to render this needed service to David, even though his father himself were in question, manifest alas! in murderous malice.
"And Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul his father, and said unto him, Let not the king sin against his servant, against David; because he hath not sinned against thee, and because his works have been to thee-ward very good: for he did put his life in his hand, and slew the Philistine, and Jehovah wrought a great salvation for all Israel: thou sawest it, and didst rejoice: wherefore then wilt thou sin against innocent blood, to slay David without a cause? And Saul hearkened unto the voice of Jonathan: and Saul sware, As Jehovah liveth, he shall not be slain." It is not therefore that we do not find relentings of heart in Saul (for indeed we do from time to time); but he was no longer in any way master of his movements; he was only a slave of Satan, little as he realized it himself.
And now we shall have to trace how every effort to escape from the slavery of the devil but proves how much he is the stronger of the two, and that flesh in the highest place only the more certainly and speedily brings under the power of the enemy. Hence, in spite of his oath, and Jonathan's acting upon it, "Jonathan called David, and Jonathan showed him all those things. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as in times past. And there was war again: and David went out, and fought with the Philistines, and slew them with a great slaughter; and they fled from him. And the evil spirit from Jehovah was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand. And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin; but he slipped away out of Saul's presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night."
So we find subsequently, not now in Jonathan's case, but through Michal, that there was deliverance yet more for David; and when it was told Saul, he "sent messengers unto David's house, to watch him, and to slay him in the morning: and Michal David's wife told him, saying, If thou save not thy life to night, to morrow thou shalt be slain. So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and fled, and escaped. And Michal took an image, and laid it in the bed, and put a pillow of goats' hair for his bolster, and covered it with a cloth. And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said? He is sick. And Saul sent the messengers again to see David, saying, Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may slay him. And when the messengers were come in, behold, there was an image in the bed, with a pillow of goats' hair for his bolster. And Saul said unto Michal, Why hast thou deceived me so, and sent away mine enemy, that he is escaped? And Michal answered Saul, He said unto me, Let me go; why should I kill thee?"
1 Samuel 20:1-42. "So David fled, and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth. And it was told Saul, saying, Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah. And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. And when it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also. Then went he also to Ramah, and came to a great well that is in Sechu: and he asked and said, Where are Samuel and David? And one said, Behold, they be at Naioth in Ramah. And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah."
He is none the better for it. The power of the Spirit of God only makes a man's case the more desperate, if he be not born of God. Who are the most awful instances in the New Testament recorded by the Holy Ghost? Not the people that never had the Spirit, but those that had. There are men who find a great difficulty inHebrews 6:1-20; Hebrews 6:1-20. It seems astonishing that Christians who have understanding of the ways of God can find anything peculiar there. There is such a thing as the possession of every Christian privilege in power, not life, ending in apostasy. It is a universal principle. We find it here in the Old Testament; it is not otherwise in the New. Only those can be thoroughly wicked, after this sort (and it is the worst), who have borne Christ's name, and abandoned Him with contempt and blasphemy. Only those can fall into the deepest gulfs of the devil's power over the soul who had once the power of God's Spirit working in them.
But then, be it well observed, it is not said that those of whom Heb. vi. speaks were ever born of God. This is often forgotten. People do not distinguish between the quickening of the Spirit and His various operations of power. Where is there such a thing in the scriptures as one who is quickened by the Spirit thus hopelessly falling into the power of the enemy? Freely is it acknowledged that the power of the Spirit looks a vast deal more for a time than the quickening of the Spirit. That power, as indeed in itself its working is most precious, enables one to have great intelligence in scripture, and imparts not only intelligence but energy even to use it for others; yet there is one thing that power in itself does not give to turn the eye of the inner man on self to judge it thoroughly before God, or consequently to lay hold of Christ in the depth of the soul's need. There it is not power that is wanted but repentance and faith. What the sinner really needs is to be made nothing of, and this is always the case when one is quickened. Then, in real sense of need, Christ becomes the object, and self is judged. But in this case you will never find persons who fall in the same way under the power of Satan. But there may be only what I call the external power of the Spirit, without any dealing with the conscience before God. One has never in this case been brought to God never really felt what sin is; and without this there is no new life.
It is one thing to talk about the sins of other people; but really to feel one's own, to come with the sense of one's own guilt and nothingness before God, is another matter altogether. This goes with quickening, and in such a case accordingly the way in which the truth shows it has really entered is by repentance towards God, as well as by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Now in the description of Hebrews 6:1-20 there is not a word about it. The persons there described are enlightened perhaps to the highest. They have received the powers of the world to come. They have tasted the good word of God. They have had the heavenly gift Christ on high before them. All this may be: the sweetness of truth, God's wisdom in it, the harmony of His ways, and all that. It is quite possible: nature is equal to all. In point of fact flesh is rather exalted by it; and man may think a little better of himself in consequence of it, though all the while talking of the old man being buried, and himself risen with Christ. The mind may be charmed with all these wonders. Surely the truth of God is incomparably grander for the intellect of man than human speculation or fables. Does not the history of Jesus something infinitely better, even for the mind, than the bitter selfishness of Juno and the disgusting crimes of Jupiter, of which beings no sensible heathen could even think in the light of the gospel without seeing their abominable stupidity as well as wickedness? On the contrary, in the Lord Jesus there is that which even to the natural mind and conscience has the highest moral sublimity in it.
Hence it is that any one who can pretend to be well read in the history of human thought must know that there have been the most determined enemies of the Lord Jesus, who nevertheless professed great respect for and admiration of Him. They would kiss Him just as lovingly as Judas; they would give a witness to Him no less than Pilate. Alas! the flesh is enmity against God; it violates law, it rejects or corrupts grace. There is no reality before God. There is no entrance of the word into the conscience till one is quickened; there is no meeting God about our own sinfulness; and without this, and believing how Christ meets that need, there is no faith in God's love any more than love towards God. Hence, as God is not trusted for eternal life, so there is nothing in man to trust. The affections may be touched, but affections are apt to pass away and change. Mind more particularly may be exercised; but what is the good of that where it is a question of sin with God? It is not eternal life; but the reception of Christ in an awakened conscience is inseparable from the possession of that new nature. When conscience is pierced and wretched, and the name of Christ penetrates the heart, then indeed it is another thing. Now in such cases we never hear of them falling into a state where they cannot "renew themselves unto repentance." Rather is it a description of those who have outwardly received the truth, and consequently become objects for the power of the Spirit of God to work in or work by; for all this is quite possible without renewal. Such persons may, as I believe they do, fall thoroughly under the power of the devil. It was so of old as in Balaam, and in Hebrews 6:1-20. we see it in New Testament times and form.
Here we have it in Saul. He is brought before us as prophesying among the prophets. It was therefore a power entirely superior to his own working by him. Was he the better for that? Much worse. We may notice that after this his progress in evil is appalling. "And David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said before Jonathan, What have I done? what is mine iniquity?" for David did not trust this. David did not think himself safer because Saul had been prophesying. "What have I done? what is mine iniquity? and what is my sin before thy father, that he seeketh my life? And he said unto him, God forbid; thou shalt not die: behold, my father will do nothing either great or small, but that he will show it me: and why should my father hide this thing from me? it is not so." So fondly thought Jonathan; for he was not aware what would be the result of the power that had been upon Saul where there was not the smallest conscience toward God. "And David sware moreover, and said, Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes; and he saith, Let not Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved: but truly as Jehovah liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death. Then said Jonathan unto David, Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee;" and accordingly a new test was proposed and carried out.
The result is, that "Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, Let Jehovah even require it at the hand of David's enemies. And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul. Then Jonathan said to David, Tomorrow is the new moon: and thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty. And when thou hast stayed three days, then thou shalt go down quickly, and come to the place where thou didst hide thyself when the business was in hand, and shalt remain by the stone Ezel. And I will shoot three arrows on the side thereof, as though I shot at a mark. And, behold, I will send a lad, saying, Go, find out the arrows. If I expressly say unto the lad, Behold, the arrows are on this side of thee, take them; then come thou: for there is peace to thee, and no hurt; as Jehovah liveth. But if I say thus unto the young man, Behold, the arrows are beyond thee; go thy way: for Jehovah hath sent thee away. And as touching the matter which thou and I have spoken of, behold, Jehovah be between thee and me for ever."
"So David hid himself in the field: and when the new moon was come, the king sat him down to eat meat. And the king sat upon his seat, as at other times, even upon a seat by the wall: and Jonathan arose, and Abner sat by Saul's side, and David's place was empty. Nevertheless Saul spake not anything that day: for he thought, Something had befallen him, he is not clean; surely he is not clean. And it came to pass on the morrow, which was the second day of the month, that David's place was empty: and Saul said unto Jonathan his son, Wherefore cometh not the son of Jesse to meat, neither yesterday, nor today? And Jonathan answered Saul David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Beth-lehem: and he said, Let me go, I pray thee; for our family hath a sacrifice in the city; and my brother, he hath commanded me to be there: and now, if I have found favour in thine eyes, let me get away, I pray thee, and see my brethren. Therefore he cometh not unto the king's table."
We see the wonderful dignity of scripture, beloved friends, and the wisdom of it too. That is, scripture does not comment upon these tales which are often mixed much that was not true with what was true. I grant you unbelief can use this against the word of God. But unbelief is ever superficial, and its malicious haste to condemn is short-sighted. It is not open adversaries that are to be dreaded most, but professed friends who apologise for the scriptures. Where there is not confidence in the truth, they naturally try to excuse what they do not understand, and are somewhat ashamed of in their ignorance. But the calmness of truth can tell out things exactly as they are without the smallest apology for anything. It is an unhappy sign, and always a weakness in those who, whatever happens, are ready to palliate themselves. On the other hand, where there is an habitual looking to the Lord, there is a facility in leaving things more simply in His hands. Why should we trouble about them? When challenged, no doubt it may be all well to explain but it is a far happier proof of faith where the heart can leave God to vindicate.
In this case then "Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan;" for now the evil heart of unbelief that was departing so rapidly from the living God burst out in rage against his own son, and against him because of his love for David. Thus Jonathan shares the vengeance that Saul felt towards one who had by God's sovereign disposal supplanted him in the kingdom. Certainly it was a fine fruit of faith which shows itself in the son where the father's want of it was becoming more and more apparent. "And he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman." Ah, it would have been a good thing if he had only felt that he was the son of a perverse rebellious man.' but this was the last thing that could now enter his heart. "Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother's nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom."
There was thus the instinct that dreaded what was coming; for unbelief has its instincts just as truly as faith; and as faith knows the good that is coming before it comes, so unbelief has the sense that these good things are slipping away from its grasp for ever. Now the unseen is revealed, the future as the present. "Thou in thy lifetime hadst thy good things." How wretched the prospect that was before Saul in his miserable contest with God. "Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die. And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said unto him, Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done? And Saul cast a javelin at him to smite him: whereby Jonathan knew that it was determined of his father to slay David. So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger." It was not for himself, but for David. He saw clearly the murderous hatred of his father that nothing could turn aside. And he "ate no meat the second day of the month: for he was grieved for David." How admirable! "He was grieved for David, because his father had done him shame. And it came to pass in the morning, that Jonathan went out into the field at the time appointed with David, and a little lad with him. And he said unto his lad, Run, find out now the arrows which I shoot. And as the lad ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. And when the lad was come to the place of the arrow which Jonathan had shot, Jonathan cried after the lad, and said, Is not the arrow beyond thee? And Jonathan cried after the lad, Make speed, haste, stay not. And Jonathan's lad gathered up the arrows, and came to his master. But the lad knew not anything: only Jonathan and David knew the matter. And Jonathan gave his artillery unto his lad, and said unto him, Go, carry them to the city. And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded. And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of Jehovah, saying, Jehovah be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever. And he arose and departed: and Jonathan went into the city." It was not easy, but faith working by love finds how to conciliate what one owes a guilty father or any other with what is due to God's witness in any crisis. And this Jonathan shows here. How disinterested too is faith; for Jonathan well knew that David's rise was fatal to the house of Saul. But he knew that this was of God; and that it is vain, if it were not wicked, to fight against Him.
I shall hope in another lecture to finish this portion of the deeply interesting, and I trust profitable, history. Assuredly it is our own fault, our own unbelief, if we do not gather from God for our souls. May our God Himself give His children to make it their own! This is what one most of all desires, that we may have each his heart drawn out by scripture to Him of whom it speaks to us. All that can be pretended to in so cursory a sketch is to act as a kind of finger-post, and indicate according to one's measure the points of special blessing in the precious word of God as they rise before the eye.