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WE have seen the reconciliation of Saul, and had some reason to believe, from the tender words which Saul said, that he and David would be friends evermore. "Saul lifted up his voice and wept; and he said unto David, Thou art more righteous than I; for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil." When a man like Saul has wept, and spoken words so morally noble, it is but fair to credit him with sincerity and permanence. We have no hesitation in crediting him with sincerity. At the time of his reconciliation he meant every word he said. Yet in a brief period we find Saul going down to the wilderness of Ziph with three thousand chosen men to seek David, who had been reported as hiding himself in the hill of Hachilah. [The incident is given in chap. xxvi.] Then came the gush of emotion upon the part of Saul. The weapon which conquered him in the first instance conquered him also in the second. Forbearance was mightier than weapons of war. The sword has slain its countless thousands, but love holds the universe in sweet and glad captivity. "Then said Saul, I have sinned: return, my son David: for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day: behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly." David knew the king better than the king knew himself. He knew too well that Saul was under the dominion of an evil spirit, so he said in his heart, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul; there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines;" and when it was told Saul that David had escaped to Gath, he sought no more for him. Our business is to read the lessons, applicable for ever, in the strange and sorrowful story of human life.
1. It is proved that the deepest and sincerest emotion may be transient in its moral effects. We left Saul reconciled; we find him again in arms. There are two things which are often mistaken for Christian feeling: (1) selfish gratitude for unexpected preservation; (2) admiration of moral nobleness in others.
See how this is applicable to hearers of the Gospel. Men hear of Jesus Christ's sympathy, love, beneficence.
Feeling may be exhausted. "Past feeling."
2. It is shown that self-control is in proportion to the estimate formed of the divine element that is in man. How was it that David withheld his hand when Saul was delivered over to him as lawful prey? Human nature said, Strike; another voice said, Forbear. Twice David might have slain Saul, and twice he spared his life. We want to know the secret of this most marvellous self-control. We find it pithily stated in the interview between Abishai and David. Abishai said, "Thine enemy;" David said, "The Lord's anointed." Two different views of the same man: the one narrow, selfish, superficial; the other profound and true. So it is with every man: he is not to be measured merely by his personal relations to ourselves. True, he may be our enemy, yet he may bear another aspect. Pray to see the highest and divinest aspect of every man's character. We shall thus be enabled (1) to hope something even of the worst; and (2) to do something in the negative work of sparing, even where we cannot do anything in the positive work of reclaiming.
Paul had respect even for a weak man, not because he was weak, but because Christ died for him. By taking the highest view of man, he was enabled to do many things for the sake of the Christ that was in him. "But when ye so sin against the brethren, and wound their weak consciences, ye sin against Christ."
3. It is shown how much better it is to trust our interests to the working out of divine laws than to care for them with narrowness of spirit. "As the Lord liveth, the Lord shall smite him: or his day shall come to die: or he shall descend into battle and perish." Why fight with thy own poor weak fist? Why prefer murder to divine retribution? Why narrow down human life to a paltry duel?
The battle is not yours, but God's. "Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?" "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head."
4. It is clearly shown that flight from danger is perfectly compatible with the highest courage. David was never chargeable with cowardice, yet he escaped like an affrighted man. "When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another." There is a time to fight (Goliath); there is a time to fly (Saul). The one was an uncircumcised Philistine; the other was the Lord's anointed. Understand that there are differences of conquest. David conquered Saul as surely as he conquered Goliath. God sees his own image in us. To recover it, he sent his Son.
Almighty God, when thou art near it is day, and when thou turnest aside it is night, in our souls. In thee is no darkness at all; dwell therefore with us, that we may live in light, and show forth all the beauty of thy presence. Withhold not thine ear from our prayer, nor close thine eyes when we come to see our Father's face. May we know how brief is the day of grace, and hasten ourselves lest we fail to serve thee with all our love. Help us to walk with God, and to have daily fellowship with the Father through his Son Jesus Christ. May we know the throne of grace as a refuge, and as the centre of our supreme delight; may we tarry there without weariness, and look upon thy face without fear. Take not thy Holy Spirit from us. Abide with us. Reign in our hearts. Put down all other lordships, and rule us altogether. We say this in the name of God the Son, who loved us and gave himself for us. Amen.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 26". Parker's The People's Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany