free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!
CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES—
1 Samuel 19:1. “And Saul spake … that they should kill David.” Rather, “that he intended to kill David.”
1 Samuel 19:2. “Until the morning.” Rather, “in the morning.”
1 Samuel 19:3. “In the field.” “David was to conceal himself in the field, near to where Jonathan would converse with his father about him; not that he might hear the conversation in his hiding-place, but that Jonathan might immediately report to him the result of his conversation, without there being any necessity for his going far away from his father, so as to excite suspicion that he was in league with David.” (Keil.)
1 Samuel 19:5. “He did put his life in his hand.” “The Hebrew word means the palm or hollow of the hand—the hand as receptacle, not as instrument. Perhaps alluding to David’s hand which swung the sling against the giant, upon the firmness and certainty of which his life depended.” (Lange’s Commentary.)
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH—1 Samuel 19:1-7
JONATHAN’S INTERCESSION FOR DAVID
I. The man who is related both to the offended person and to the offender is specially qualified to be a mediator between them. If a man would be a successful intercessor he must be acquainted with the nature and disposition of him with whom he intercedes, and he must have sympathy with the person for whom he intercedes. If he is linked by the ties of blood or friendship to one or both parties, he will know much better than a stranger how to frame his petition—he will be acquainted with the arguments which will be most influential with the one on behalf of the other, and his own relationship to both and his consequent interest in both will of itself form a reason why his suit should be regarded. David was fortunate in having for his intercessor the man who, above all others in Israel, was most fitted to mediate between him and Saul. His love for David had brought him into such near fellowship with him that he was qualified to be a judge of the aims and motives which actuated him and to pronounce him innocent or guilty, and he was so near akin to Saul that he could approach him with freedom and without fear of being suspected of having any motive prejudicial to his father’s honour and welfare. Hence his appeal was listened to, and David was, at least for a time, restored to favour. The relation of Christ to men on the one hand, and to His Divine Father on the other, constitutes His special and peculiar qualification to be the Mediator between God and man. Having been made like unto His brethren, He can sympathise with human frailties and understand human needs, and as the only-begotten of the Father he can have access to Him as no finite creature can.
II. Those who truly love will find that in human life occasions of proving their love will not be wanting. So many and so great are human needs, and so varied the experiences through which most men are called to pass, that those who love us will often find opportunity of showing their unselfish regard, and of proving that they are friends indeed by being friends in need. And if the love is a reality it will be equal to the demand made upon it, and will rejoice in being able, by self-denial, to help its object in the day of adversity. Jonathan had made a covenant with David in the day when the young shepherd was the hero of the hour, and when Saul himself looked favourably upon him; but now the clouds are beginning to gather around him, and Jonathan finds an occasion to show his love in a manner which involves much more self-denial than the giving of “his garments even to his sword and his bow.” It needed much courage for even a son to face a man like Saul and to assert the innocence of him who had now begun to be an object of suspicion and jealousy. When men are so entirely governed by their passions and moods it is a dangerous thing to tell them that they are in the wrong, especially if they are in the possession of so much irresponsible power as an Eastern monarch is. Yet this Jonathan dared to do not only on this occasion but on others when his father’s temper was more implacable than even now, and he thereby proved that his love for his friend was real and very strong.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
How good it is to hear such words as these spoken by Jonathan, which, in their peaceful, gentle tone, their reverential utterance, contradicting in nothing the duty of a child, and in their noble purpose breathe already something of the spirit of New Testament times. And yet, as John at a later period testifies in his Gospel, “The Holy Ghost was not yet given,”—a truth which we ought particularly to keep in mind in all the opinions and estimates we form of the morals of the men of Old Testament times. The hereditary nature of man, fallen in Adam, had then allowed to it a much wider scope than in the post-pentecostal days of the New Covenant. The natural affections and passions shot forth, when once they broke through the barriers of the Divine commandments, into monstrous, gigantic manifestations and wild forms, which may be compared to the luxurious growth of the primeval forests. Saul, with his colossal hatred, and his jealousy breathing forth fire and flames, may be regarded as a witness of this fact.… Yet it is undoubtedly true that, even during the Mosaic economy, individual personages appeared like shining meteors, lovely and rich in promise, who present themselves before us as prophetic types of believers of a future age. To this class belonged Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and certainly now also our Jonathan. The example of disinterested friendship, rooting itself in love to God, which the latter presents to us, remains at least as a fitting model for Christian times, wherein even its equal is not frequently to be found.—Krummacher.
1 Samuel 19:6. How could Saul say, he should die, whom he could accuse of nothing but faithfulness? Why should he design him to death, which had given life to all Israel? Ofttimes wicked men’s judgments are forced to yield unto that truth against which their affections maintain a rebellion. Even the foulest hearts do sometimes entertain good motions: like as, on the contrary, the holiest souls give way sometimes to the suggestions of evil. The flashes of lightning may be discerned in the darkest prisons. But if good thoughts look into a wicked heart, they stay not there; as those that like not their lodging, they are soon gone: hardly anything distinguishes betwixt good and evil, but continuance. The light that shines into a holy heart is constant, like that of the sun, which keeps due times, and varies not his course for any of these sublunary occasions.—Bishop Hall.
Draw from this the extreme danger of trifling with the name and attributes of God—of using imprecations and oaths, as mere expletives in ordinary conversation, without either reverence or meaning … An irreverent familiarity with sacred things, as in all other instances, is but one step removed from contempt. Such, unhappily, was the case with Saul. “As the Lord liveth,” was an expression so frequently on his lips, that, it may be feared, its solemn import was soon but little felt or understood. Hence, we perceive in the chapter before us with what facility he disregarded the obligation of his oath, when exposed to temptation.… He who is not afraid thus solemnly to trifle with his Maker, will not fear to violate the most sacred obligations towards his neighbour … Beware, then, of destroying, or weakening in any degree, your reverence for God, which is the foundation of all religion and all morality. Be assured, there is no more certain way of effecting this, than a profane and inconsiderate use of His holy name.—Lindsay.
CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES—
1 Samuel 19:9. “The evil spirit from the Lord (Jehovah).” “While this evil spirit is in 1 Samuel 16:15 and 1 Samuel 18:10 referred to Elohim, the Deity in general Jehovah is here affirmed to be its sender, because Saul’s condition, which was there only ascribed in general to a higher Divine causality in respect to his person, is here regarded as a judgment of the Covenant-God of Israel on the reprobate king who hardens his heart against God.” (Erdmann.)
1 Samuel 19:11. “To slay him in the morning.” “We may guess that only the fear of alarming the town, and of rousing the populace to rescue their favourite hero, prevented Saul from directing them to break into the house and slay David there.” (Kitto.)
1 Samuel 19:13. “Image.” Literally, the teraphim as in Genesis 35:2, evidently household gods which were still in use to some extent among the Israelites. See Judges 17:5; Judges 18:14, etc. “The plural here represents a single image which it seems must have had the human form, at least as to head and face, though the size may have varied since Rachel concealed it under the camel-saddle.” (Erdmann.) “Pillow.” The word so rendered occurs only here, and is derived from the Hebrew verb Cabar, to plait or braid. Hence it means something bound together or woven, evidently a portion of the bed-furniture, which Michal so arranged as to make her deception more complete.
1 Samuel 19:17. Michal evidently here pretends that her own life would have been in danger from her husband if she had not allowed him to escape.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—1 Samuel 19:8-17
DAVID’S FIRST FLIGHT
I. Human transgressors axe surrounded by divinely raised barriers intended to prevent their departure from the right way. A soldier weary of the hardships of the camp forms a plan to desert his regiment, and thus to expose himself to dishonour and to punishment. But all around him are stationed sentinels who stand to prevent him from doing what would ruin all his prospects for life. It is well for him if the thought of the cold steel which encompasses him leads him to dismiss the idea from his mind—if the opposition which he knows he should meet with makes him pause and allow the purpose to die. But should he persist he will not succeed in making good his escape without encountering many a bayonet and bullet, each of which is a witness against him bearing testimony that he is a transgressor against martial law. In like manner God puts sentinels in the path of men which are intended to keep them from breaking through moral laws, and by the opposition which they offer to transgression to convince them of the self-destroying nature of sin. First and foremost stands the voice of conscience, and then, it may be, the pleadings of family affection, the arguments of reason and even the warnings of self-interest. Saul was surrounded by such divinely raised barriers, which he broke down one after another. His conscience and his reason echoing the remonstrance of Jonathan, had but lately stood across his path, and for a time had turned him from his purpose. But he had silenced them again, and now the opposition of his daughter, like another sentinel, rises up before him, and hinders him from staining his hands with innocent blood. Michal’s interposition surely reminded him that the man whose life he sought was not an obscure subject and a stranger but one whom his own act had made the husband of his daughter and a member of the royal household, and therefore one who, from family and political interests, had a claim upon him even if he was not open to influence from higher motives. Each admonition and hindrance which Saul encountered was a witness against him, and warned him that he was pursuing a path of self-destruction.
II. Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake may serve God better by fleeing than by fighting. It costs a courageous man much more to flee than to fight, and yet there are times and circumstances when the voice of duty commands the former rather than the latter. The commander may feel a strong desire to encounter the enemy, and yet he may feel that a retreat for the present may ensure a victory with less loss of life in the future. Or he may long to attack a certain stronghold and yet he may feel assured that if he delay, it will shortly be surrendered without bloodshed. In both cases he will be acting wrongly if he allows his physical courage and martial ardour to get the better of his humanity. It will be better to expose himself to the charge of cowardice than to do that which will be least for the honour of his God and his country. Up to this period of his life David had never turned his back upon an enemy, or retreated when exposed to personal danger, excepting so far as to avoid the javelin of Saul. It must have been harder for him to flee with the help of a woman than it would have been to remain and face the messengers of the king. But he doubtless felt that the course which was least in accordance with his feelings was most in accordance with his duty. If he had come forward in open opposition to Saul he could scarcely have failed to rally many friends to his side, but a civil war might have been the result. He therefore chose the course which, though more apparently humiliating to himself, was most conducive to the welfare of his country, and therefore most pleasing to God. In all cases of a similar nature—whenever a servant of God finds himself the subject of unjust treatment—it becomes him to consider not his own personal feelings first, nor even his personal and present reputation merely, but the welfare of his country and the honour of his God.
III. Even good men are sometimes under obligations to unscrupulous and godless persons. Michal was destitute of the pure and lofty motives which governed David, yet at this time she was the instrument of his deliverance. In bringing about the end she desired she did not hesitate to endeavour to clear herself at the expense of her husband, and thus to deprive herself of all claim to our admiration and sympathy. Yet, as David was then situated, he was compelled to be indebted to her exertions, and to let her misrepresentation of his character go unchallenged. There is more than one way of testifying our regard for a friend in a position similar to that in which David war then placed. We may be bold enough openly to avow our affection for them, and take the consequences of so doing. Or we may prefer to show our love by sharing their misfortunes—by casting in our lot with theirs, and being willing to fare as they fare. Or we may only have so low a regard for them as to be willing to serve them only so far as we can do it without involving ourselves in trouble for their sakes. This last kind of regard was all apparently that Michal had for David. Jonathan did not scruple openly to seek to save his friend’s life, and to risk his father’s displeasure in so doing. Michal was willing to save his life if she could do it without exposing herself to Saul’s anger; she loved him enough to aid his escape, but not enough to take the blame upon herself. She did not even love him enough to share his exile, although she probably knew that he was the anointed king of Israel; she had some regard for his life, but none for his honour, or she would not have charged the absent hero with threatening to become her murderer (1 Samuel 19:17), and so have shielded herself under his blackened reputation. It mattered not to her that she was thus giving Saul some pretext for seeking his life—that she was thus wounding her husband in a more deadly manner than her father’s sword would have done. The meanness of the act shows us to what a contemptible instrument a noble man may sometimes be indebted for a service. Michal’s conduct, in contrast with that of her brother, gave David just ground to say in after days, “Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women” (2 Samuel 1:26).
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
As the crystal vessel, though cast into its proper and permanent form, is unfit for use until it has been recommitted to the furnace, and, by the process of annealing, adapted for the rough process of ordinary usage, so the character of David, elevated and beautiful although it had already appeared, was as yet too soft for the strain and pressure of a royal position; years had to be spent in annealing it.… The great purpose of God, in David’s early trials, seems to have been to develop and mature those gifts and graces that were to fit him for a royal position.…
1. In this view, first of all it was most necessary that the spirit of trust in God, and all the graces depending on it and derived from it, should be exercised and nurtured to the highest measure of strength and endurance … and no discipline could have been better fitted than David’s for impressing this lesson …
2. Another important grace which David’s early trials seem designed to promote was the spirit of calm self-government under circumstances the most trying and agitating. The germ of this grace (as of the former) was exhibited in the combat with Goliath; but it too required to be strengthened into a steady, constant habit, ere he was qualified to hold the reins of government.…
3. The close and painful contact into which he was brought in these early trials with his predecessor, Saul, was obviously designed to serve a very important purpose. The same trials endured at the hand of another man would not have had the same effect.… If anything could have made him shudder at the thought of a ruler abandoned by God, and driving at nothing but the gratification of his own base passions, it was being himself the victim of those passions, receiving in his own person the blows aimed by Saul’s ungovernable fury.—Blaikie.
1 Samuel 19:16. The falsehood of Michal, by which she deceived her father Saul, was a retribution on him; it was the fruit of his own evil example, teaching her to practise deceit by his own acts: see 1 Samuel 18:17; 1 Samuel 18:19-21. His falsehood and treachery recoiled on himself, as Laban’s falsehood and treachery against Jacob recoiled on Laban himself by the conduct of his daughters to him (Genesis 31:14-20; Genesis 31:35). Saul had cheated David of his wife, as Laban had cheated Jacob of his wife. The daughters of Laban and Saul practised against their fathers the lessons of deceit which they had learned at their own homes.—Wordsworth.
1 Samuel 19:17. But how shall Michal answer this mockage unto her furious father? Hitherto she hath done like David’s wife; now she begins to be Saul’s daughter: “He said to me, Let me go, or else I will kill thee.” She, whose wit had delivered her husband from the sword of her father, now turns the edge of her father’s wrath from herself to her husband. His absence made her presume of his safety. If Michal had not been of Saul’s plot, he had never expostulated with her in those terms: “Why hast thou let mine enemy escape?” Neither had she framed that answer, “He said, Let me go”.… As she loved her husband better than her father, so she loved herself better than her husband: she saved her husband by a wile; and now she saves herself by a lie, and loses half the thank of her deliverance by an officious slander. Her act was good, but she wants courage to maintain it, and therefore seeks to the weak shelter of untruth. Those that do good offices, not out of conscience, but good nature or civility, if they meet an affront of danger, seldom come off cleanly, but are ready to catch at all excuses, though base, though injurious; because their grounds are not strong enough to bear them out in suffering for that which they have well done.—Bishop Hall.
CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES—
1 Samuel 19:18. “Naioth.” “This word signifies dwellings, but it is here in a certain sense a proper name applied to the coenobium of the pupils of the prophets who had assembled round Samuel in the neighbourhood of Ramah. The plural form points to the fact that this coenobium consisted of a considerable number of dwelling-places or houses, connected together by a hedge or wall.” (Kiel.)
MAIN HOMILETICS OF 1 Samuel 19:18-19
DAVID’S VISIT TO RAMAH
I. The godly naturally seek the society of the godly in times of trouble. A desire to conform to the will of God is the basis of all true godliness, and those who are ruled by this desire are bound together by a common bond and are often involved in a common persecution. Under such circumstances it is natural and wise for them to seek each other’s society that they may strengthen each other by mutual sympathy and help, and especially that those who have had much experience may encourage and advise those who have but lately entered upon life. Sailors who in tempestuous weather put into harbour are likely to find sympathy and help from veteran seamen who once themselves ploughed the ocean—while they listen to the tale of their experience they gain fresh courage to meet new storms and perhaps valuable hints as to the best means of steering their vessel in dangerous waters. The common desire to serve their common God had created a strong tie between the aged prophet Samuel and the youthful warrior David, and when the latter found himself compelled by Saul’s envy to flee from home, it was natural he should seek the abode of one who had been driven into retirement by the same godless man. We can imagine what help David would gain from his aged friend at this time—how Samuel would strengthen his faith and animate his courage by reminding him of the word of the Lord which had come to him as God’s prophet in past days (1 Samuel 16:1), and how he would likewise, out of the experience of a long public life, give David much valuable counsel concerning not only the future immediately before him, but touching that more distant day when he should no longer be an outcast fleeing for his life but the ruler of Israel. During his short stay at Ramah he was strengthened for the long sojourn in the wilderness that came after, and he doubtless fully realised the truth that, “as iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” And in such times of communion the gain is never on one side only. If the younger are helped and instructed by the elder, the elder are cheered and comforted by the younger. The veteran servants of God are gladdened by the energy and fervour of the younger men, and rejoice when they see others rising up to fill the places which they once occupied. We may be sure that Samuel gladly welcomed his young friend even although the visit was brought about by painful circumstances. In his retirement he doubtless often still grieved over the failure of his hopes concerning Saul, but when he saw David he would be cheered by the certainty that here was one who would not disappoint his expectations but would prove himself a faithful ruler of Israel.
II. When the godly find each other thus mutually helpful one great end of the existence of the visible church is attained. One great aim of every wise human father is to make his children mutually helpful to each other. Indeed one great reason for the existence of the family seems to be the formation of such strong and tender ties between the brothers and sisters, as shall enable them by the love which they bear to each other to lighten each other’s burdens as they journey through life. Those who are the objects of such love know well how often it has cheered them in the day of adversity and nerved them to face fresh trials and perplexities. And the children of God ought to look upon themselves as part of the one great “family in heaven and earth,” and to count it their duty to extend their sympathy and counsel to every afflicted member of that family. For this is indeed one of the great reasons why God’s children are required to form themselves into a community, and are required to make public profession of their faith in him. By so doing they become known to each other and are enabled to animate each other’s love and stimulate each other to persevere in the ways of godliness.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Besides this intercourse with Samuel, the pursuits of the sons of the prophets, alike in their practice of music and poetry, and in the study of the Word of God, were just such as David would most thoroughly enjoy, and as would most materially tend to soothe his spirit after the trials through which he had just passed, and brace it for the difficulties which lay before him. I do not presume to fix either the date or the authorship of all the productions which have been brought together into the one book of the Psalms, but if the 119th Psalm came from the pen of David, as multitudes believe, then I do not wonder that many have connected its composition with his residence in the school of the prophets at Naioth. The calm in which he then found himself, and the studies which he then prosecuted, might well have led his musings in the direction of that alphabetic ode, while there are in it not a few expressions which, to say the least, may have particular reference to the dangers out of which he had so recently escaped, and by which he was still threatened. Such, for example, are the following: “Princes also did sit and speak against me; but thy servant did meditate in thy statutes.” “The proud have had me in derision, yet have I not declined from thy law.” “Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me; yet thy commandments are my delights.” Then, in regard to his present enjoyment, we may quote these lines: “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” “The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold or silver;” and in reference to God’s dealings with him, he says, “I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.” “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” Dr. W. M. Taylor.
CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES—
1 Samuel 19:20. “Prophets.” “It is to be noted that we have here prophets who in inspired discourse give forth their inner life, filled with the Holy Ghost, not sons of the prophets as in 2 Kings 4:38, etc., who as scholars and learners sit at the feet of their master and teacher. The prophetic community here, therefore, under Samuel as head, is not yet a prophetic school to educate young men for the prophetic calling, but is a prophetic seminary in which, under Samuel’s guidance, in an externally strictly ordered, yet internally free association, the prophetic powers are practised and strengthened, mutually incite, nourish, and further one another, and the prophetic charisma finds ever new nourishment and new growth by this common holy discipline.” (Erdmann.) See also notes on Chap. 10 “They also prophesied.” “The condition of Saul’s messengers is that of ecstatic ravishment, into which they were brought by the overpowering might of the inspired song, or word of the prophets.” (Erdmann.)
1 Samuel 19:22. “A great well,” etc. Rather, “The great cistern,” some well-known spot in a locality now unknown.
1 Samuel 19:23. “Prophesied until he came,” etc. “The difference between Saul and his messengers was simply that the inspiration came on him as he was approaching the residence of the prophet, and that it attained a higher grade, and lasted longer, completely suppressing his self-consciousness.” (Erdmann.)
1 Samuel 19:24. “Lay naked,” i.e., divested of his robe or upper garment. “The throwing off of the clothing was the effect of the heat of the body produced by internal excitement.” (Erdmann.)
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—1 Samuel 19:20-24
SAUL AMONG THE PROPHETS
I. Institutions for the study of the oracles of God are the outcome of human need. Each individual man is a creature of manifold needs. Being a compound of matter and mind, possessing a material and a spiritual nature, he has many wants—bodily wants, intellectual wants, and moral wants. There is a wide field open, therefore, to those who devote their lives to ministering to his wants. They may make it their business to feed or clothe his body, and in doing so their special object is to supply that material which shall be best adapted for the purpose; or they may make bodily health the object of their aim, and spend their lives in studying how to promote or restore it. Others study man’s intellectual needs, and endeavour to find out how best to develop his mental powers, or to satisfy his mental appetites. But man is more than body and intellect, he is also conscience, and unless he finds satisfaction for this moral part of his being, he goes through life with his deepest need unsatisfied. It is only natural therefore that some men should feel called upon to devote their lives and energies to endeavouring to show their fellow creatures how this deepest and most pressing of all their many needs can be met. And as there are institutions whose object it is to fit men to be useful to others in respect of their bodily and intellectual wants, it seems fit and proper that there should be similar institutions calculated to render men more fit to deal with the moral wants of their fellows. If there are schools for the training of bodily healers, and for those who are to educate the intellectual part of man, there ought surely to be schools for those who desire to be instrumental in healing and in training his moral nature. Such institutions seem to be the natural outcome of human need. The one object of study in such communities is, of course, the only book which can meet man’s spiritual wants—that book which contains a revelation of the Divine will and purpose concerning him. Other things are studied, but all tending to the one end, that of throwing light upon the Divine oracles. As the schools of the prophets found in Israel were born of the human needs of that earlier day, so our modern religious training institutions are the outcome of a felt present need. And although they differ greatly in many respects they agree in having for their aim the study of the Word of God, and the diffusion of its truths among mankind, so that the needs of each soul may be met.
II. Such institutions ought to be places in which the operation of the Spirit of God is very manifest. Men who have to deal with this greatest need of fallen humanity have to encounter obstacles which are not met with by those who seek to supply the needs of man’s lower nature. Men are willing and eager to satisfy their bodily appetites, and to be healed of their bodily diseases, and many are glad to obtain food and training for their minds, but the majority of men are indifferent as to their spiritual needs and turn with aversion from any effort made to heal their moral diseases. Hence those who essay to labour for this end must be aided by a power which is more than human, even by that power of the spirit of God which is mighty in convincing of sin and in healing the sinner. Every prophet of God, in whatever age he lives, must be able, in some degree, to adopt the words of the greatest and the Divine Prophet when He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19). Without this mighty reinforcement he will not prevail against the natural opposition of the human heart to God and goodness. This mighty spirit evidently rested in a special and remarkable manner upon the school of the prophets over which Samuel presided, it worked in and through the first New Testament prophets in a similar manner, and without the influence of that same Divine Person no man, however richly he may be endowed in other respects, can be instrumental in communicating spiritual life to others. While, therefore, all godly men in all ages need and possess the help of the spirit of God, the sons of the prophets need His help in a special manner, and there is every reason for them to expect to receive it if the conditions for its reception be fulfilled.
III. Men may be wrought upon by the Spirit of God without becoming morally better. This was not the first time that Saul had been found among the prophets, and had been the subject of that supernatural influence which was present with them. On the first occasion it seems likely that he was a willing subject of this Divine influence, and that he gladly yielded himself to its power. That first endowment was probably an earnest of what might have been bestowed on him had he continued willing to be guided by the Holy Ghost. He would then have been from time to time favoured with these special manifestations of the Divine presence in such a way as would have enlightened his spiritual understanding, and altogether exalted his moral nature and made him more and more fit to be the representative of God to the people of Israel. But such had not been the case, and this last exercise of the Spirit of God upon him seems to have been at least without the consent of his will and possibly against it. It has rather the aspect of a visitation of Divine judgment than of Divine favour, and is a solemn illustration of the truth that even this great gift of the Father of Lights may be bestowed in a certain form and degree, without its receiver becoming a renewed man. “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22-23).
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
1 Samuel 19:20-21. By these “prophesyings” we are not to understand, as we are already aware, a foretelling of future things, but a pouring forth of the heart under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, in lively songs of praise of God, and of His wonderful works. With anointed lips, and with an animated oratory, they praised the mighty deeds through which Jehovah had from of old made Himself glorious to His people. In responsive chorus they sang—with the harmonious accompaniment of harps, flutes, cymbals, and trumpets—sacred songs to the honour of God, and called down in earnest prayers upon themselves and all the people the blessings of the Almighty, and the fire-streams of His Spirit. From time to time it pleased God, in the days of the Old Covenant, to bring into prominence the exalted life of His own children in contrast with the children of this world, abandoned by the Spirit, and unable to rise above the earth, in so unmistakable and overpowering a manner, that in view of it even the most blinded among the people might gain some apprehension of the depth to which they had fallen from the elevated height of their former calling. At the same time, from these inspired ones there went forth among the people a light to show in what sense the Lord, by the coming of the Messiah—for whom they were then waiting—would create a “new thing in the earth,” and what was meant by the regeneration and purifying of the world, which would be brought about by the advent of the Messiah.… Even among the roughest and wildest spirits in Israel, the religious feeling was in only a few instances so completely dead that it could not be kindled up out of its ashes, although only temporarily, when touched by the right spark. There are even at the present day, in our own fatherland, districts of the Church where almost a similar thing may be said of those who belong to it. In times of great spiritual awakening, or even of only solemn Church festivals, one sees persons who, on account of their spiritual dulness and their thorough worldliness of character, were believed to be incapable of being lifted up into the kingdom of God, suddenly glow with devotion and with zeal for the service of God when brought into fellowship with believers. This sudden religious elevation to which they are thus drawn along with them, shows itself, as a rule, to be by no means steadfast and enduring. But they also “prophesy” a while with the congregation of the saints, and perhaps even rise higher than many of them, in the heat and enthusiasm of their religious profession. It not seldom happens even that they who are only passing travellers, when they breathe the air of such a district, feel themselves, before they are aware of it, deeply interested in religious and ecclesiastical matters. Moreover, the religious elevation of mind on the part of the royal messengers at Naioth may be attributed partly to the appearance of the aged Samuel, the man of God, known and highly venerated throughout the whole land. It is enough that at that time they could not venture on any account to rush with violence into the midst of of the solemn scenes to which they had come. How could they by any possibility lay hands on him whom Saul hated in so unrighteous a manner, and who was so visibly under the protecting care of God,—the young hero by the side of Samuel?—Krummacher.
1 Samuel 19:24. Mark here, how men who are themselves godless observe and criticise the characters of those who join themselves with the people of God. “Is Saul also among the prophets?” said the wits of Israel, when they heard of what occurred at Naioth. Now this might have been as honourable to Saul, as it came to be dishonourable to him, if only he had in his after history proved himself sincerely resolved to do the will of God. Thus, when we say of another Saul, “Is Paul also among the apostles?” we mean no reproach to the man of Tarsus, but only desire thereby to magnify the riches of divine grace, which transformed him from a persecutor of the Church into a preacher of the Gospel; and had this occasion been the turning-point in the history of the King of Israel, as the prostration at Damascus was the crisis in the life of the Christian apostle, the proverb before us would have been one of honour, and not of disgrace. Unhappily, however, by his after conduct Saul gave occasion to men to speak of his insincerity and wickedness, and so, “Saul among the prophets” is, even yet, jeeringly said by us, when we mean to indicate that a godless, Christless man has found his way into the membership or ministry of the Church. Now this proverb, thus understood, is two-edged. It speaks to those who are as yet outside of the Church, and says to them, “If you are not really and truly Christ’s; if you do not love the Lord and desire to serve him, then do not seek to enter the Church.” But it speaks also to those who are within, and says to them, “If in your hearts you are conscious that you are none of Christ’s, and if in your conduct you are dishonouring his name, then go out from the Church. It is not for such as you; and your continuance in it will only make men say, ‘Is Saul among the prophets?’ They who have named the name of Christ should depart from iniquity.”—Dr. W. M. Taylor.
In reviewing the narrative over which we have come, we are impressed with the proof, which is here furnished, of the diversified resources which Jehovah has at command for the protection of His people. Again and again Saul attempts to take David’s life, but always without success; and each time the means by which David was delivered are different. At first he is defended by God’s blessing on his own valour against the Philistines; then he is indebted for his safety to the mediation of Jonathan; then to the agency of Michal; and finally to the miraculous work of God’s own Holy Spirit. In the subsequent portion of the history, we shall find that the same principle holds, and that in each new peril he is preserved by some new instrumentality. When God purposes to protect a man, He is at no loss for the means of carrying out His design. He may find them in what seems to us mortals the most unexpected places, and they may work in what appears to us to be a very strange—it may be, also, a very sinful manner; yet the purpose is accomplished, while yet the liberty of the different agents is not infringed.—Dr. W. M. Taylor.
1 Samuel 19:24. In connection with chap 1 Samuel 10:11. There has been some moment, some one fleeting moment, in the life of every man, even the most thoughtless, when he has had dreams of better things, when he has heard the voices of the prophets coming with their harp and their tabret down the hill, when he has joined their company and caught their strains. There may have been a time when it has been said of him, “What! is he too among the prophets?” Has he found that life is real.… That hour, that moment, was the hour, the moment of thy life, friend and brother. To that God would raise, assimilate the whole of it. Oh! do not let the sluggish turbid current of your ordinary days seem to you that which truly represent to you what you are, what you are able to be.… but if you should have succeeded in quenching that voice of love which you once heard speaking in your heart, and now can hear nothing but hoarse and dissonant voices of evil omen,—oh yet be sure that the spirit of God does not desert the work of His own hands, that He is still hovering about the habitation in which He desires to dwell. And if, when you meet with old friends from whom you have been long estranged, there should come back something of the youthful impulse, some of those heart yearnings and songs of hope you poured forth then, though mixed with turbulence and confusion, and hardly to be distinguished from madness, yet the question may be asked again, “Is he too among the prophets?” and it is a God will answer the question as it was not answered before, if you desire not the power of the prophets, but their obedience, not that you may speak inspired words, but that you may have the humble and contrite heart which He does not despise.—Maurice.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 19". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent