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The history of Saul's pursuit of David, is continued in the opening of this chapter. But, in this pursuit, the Lord brought Saul into David's hand: his followers advise David to avail himself of the advantage; but David refuses. He takes occasion, however, to remonstrate with Saul, by bidding him take notice what he might have done, and how he forbore. Saul seems pricked to the heart, in the relation: confesses his sin to David, and obtains from David, a promise of kindness to his house. They part.
(1) ¶ And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi. (2) Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats.
What an awful view doth the character of Saul afford, of the desperately wicked state of the heart of man by nature, void of grace. With what unremitting, unabated fury, doth Saul hunt after the life of David. Reader! recollect the instance of the Jews hunting after the life of Jesus, of whom, in this point no doubt David was a type.
(3) And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet: and David and his men remained in the sides of the cave.
Covering his feet, in these hot countries, most probably means sleep, (though some have thought another relief of nature). No doubt a sleep from the Lord, in order to deliver his servant from his hand. If the Reader, while he reads this chapter, will consult Psalms 57:0 , he will perceive what a very precious moment in the life of David this was. David wrote that Psalm, concerning this very period. I do not say that he in the same moment did it. But what then passed in his mind, at that period, was what he afterwards committed to writing. So that he might be said to have composed it when he had enough to have discomposed his mind, and no doubt but for God's presence and grace, would have been discomposed indeed. It was very properly called Michtam of David, meaning golden, precious words of David, for nothing can be more so. But I refer the Reader to it. And he will there discover how a full and an entire confidence in the Lord, bore him up to do as he did. This Engedi was in the wilderness, a barren rocky place. Yet even here, Saul's jealousy and rage could not allow David to live peaceably.
(4) And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which the LORD said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul's robe privily. (5) And it came to pass afterward, that David's heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul's skirt. (6) And he said unto his men, The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD'S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD. (7) So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. But Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way.
The Lord had given David many precious promises, that he would be with him to deliver him at all times. And the Lord had done so. Indeed the anointing him to the throne, implied all this. But there was no one promise of a particular day when the Lord would deliver Saul into his hand. Therefore this was a temptation of the enemy. And it is plain that afterwards David saw it in this point of view, when his heart smote him for only having cut off the skirt of Saul's robe. But Reader, when you have paid all due attention to this example of David, in the forbearance of resentment for injuries received, (for it is a very sweet one, and may serve to show us that true believers in Christ cannot take the government even of their own wrongs into their own hand, for they are themselves the Lord's property, and the Lord's care;) when I say, you have paid all due respect to this view of the subject, turn your thoughts to one infinitely higher, and in the person of David's Lord on the cross, see how Jesus, in his unequalled forbearance, prayed for mercy on his murderers; and no doubt, from these prayers of Jesus, several of those who crucified the Lord of life and glory, were afterwards made the happy partakers of redemption in his blood. Think, Reader, of the manifold wisdom of God in this, and behold how that prayer was literally fulfilled, though in a way the very reverse in which it was uttered; when they said, his blood be upon us and upon our children. Compare Matthew 27:25 , with Acts 2:37-41; Acts 2:37-41 .
(8) David also arose afterward, and went out of the cave, and cried after Saul, saying, My lord the king. And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself. (9) ¶ And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest thou men's words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt? (10) Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the LORD had delivered thee today into mine hand in the cave: and some bade me kill thee: but mine eye spared thee; and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the LORD'S anointed. (11) Moreover, my father, see, yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand: for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee not, know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee; yet thou huntest my soul to take it. (12) The LORD judge between me and thee, and the LORD avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee. (13) As saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked: but mine hand shall not be upon thee. (14) After whom is the king of Israel come out? after whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after a flea. (15) The LORD therefore be judge, and judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand.
Reader! I do request you will remark with me, how all the finer feelings of the Christian, and the man, are blended in this address of David. What could he have said; what ought he to have said more? He first calls upon him as his sovereign; next as his father; so as to plead the double claim that he had upon him to kindness. He then, in a most graceful manner, would have set up an apology for Saul's unkindness, in taking for granted that he had ill-advisers. It could not be Saul; whom I have served; whom I have loved; whose battles I have fought; whose subject, nay, whose son-in-law I am. It must be some base adviser. And after this, as if to bid defiance to every barefaced insinuation which might have been made against him, he holds up the skirt of Saul's robe, and says, See! what greater evidence would my lord and father desire, that I value and wish to preserve his life, when in the same moment I cut off thy skirt, I might have cut off thine head. He then points out the degradation of a king to pursue such a poor fugitive as himself, as if the death of a flea, or a dog, could give comfort to a character so high and exalted as a king. But, as if to show Saul the awfulness of such a conduct, twice in his speech, he dwells upon the certainty of the decision from a righteous God, to whom he makes appeal. As much as to say; if nothing can prevail upon one from whom I have a right to expect love, to soften his resentment so unjustly bestowed upon me; the Lord will do me justice, and the event will be most tremendous to mine enemy. Reader! do not fail to remark with me, the happiness of such a frame of mind, which is its own reward: for the conversion of our natural passions into gracious deeds, is bringing a very heaven into the soul. But while you and I look at the effects, never let us overlook the cause. It is Jesus which inspires the whole; and not only makes one man differ from another, but makes a man differ even from himself. In proof of this, compare David's conduct here, with his heart smitten for only cutting off Saul's robe; and look at him in the case of his conduct to Uriah, where after murder and adultery, his heart never smote him for nine whole months together. And would not have smitten him then, if the Lord in mercy had not sent grace to awaken by the ministry of the Prophet. If the Reader be not able to mark the difference, and to know where, and to whom to ascribe all the praise, I can but pity him. But if, happily, the Lord be his Teacher, I know his heart will rejoice with me, to behold all the pride of man laid low, and let God have what is his just due, the whole glory. See 2 Samuel 12:5-9 .
(16) ¶ And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, Is this thy voice, my son David? And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept. (17) And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil. (18) And thou hast shewed this day how that thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when the LORD had delivered me into thine hand, thou killedst me not. (19) For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? wherefore the LORD reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day. (20) And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand. (21) Swear now therefore unto me by the LORD, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father's house. (22) And David sware unto Saul. And Saul went home; but David and his men gat them up unto the hold.
Is it not matter of astonishment, that after such a palpable act of mercy as David had shown Saul, that his mind should still retain hatred to the person of David, as we find in the sequel of the history it did? And is it not yet more astonishing that Saul should even weep, confess his baseness, and yet soon dry up the tears and hate more than ever. Reader! I beg it of you as a favour, though your welfare, not mine, is concerned in the request, look inward, search that depth of corruption lodged in your own heart! depend upon it, the Lord did not ask that question by the prophet, without full cause, when pronouncing the heart deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, he added who can know it? meaning no doubt that none can thoroughly know it, but the Lord. See Jeremiah 17:9-10 . No man hath ever yet penetrated to the bottom of the wickedness and deceit of his own heart; neither have all the foldings in which foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, been laid open to any man's view. Proverbs 22:15 . But wherefore have I adverted to this subject; or requested the Reader to look so narrowly within? Believe me, it is not that any pleasure can be derived to him that writes, more than to him that reads, from ripping open the bosom of either, when both are alike unclean. But it is to endear Jesus; it is to render him yet more sweet and more precious. It is, to convince, by an evidence so decided, and palpable as a man's own bosom, that there is salvation in no other. The tears of Saul, the tears of Esau; nay, all the tears which have been shed from the days of Adam to this hour, have no efficacy to change the heart, or wash away sin. And though I make a wide difference between these tears of Saul, in the same unregenerated state, and the tears of Peter, when the Lord had renewed him to repentance; yet the tears of Peter, were only precious evidences of his being renewed, and his heart changed; not the means of his acceptance. Neither those tears, nor that repentance, became the cause of his recovery, or of the Lord's favour. This mercy wholly sprung from the fountain of mercy, God's grace in Jesus Christ. Oh! for testimonies in my soul that I am become a new creature in Christ Jesus, by the sweet fruits of faith, repentance, and a new life. But with all these precious gifts in full exercise in my soul, I pray God that I may lay no stress upon either, but wholly seek to be accepted in the person and complete redemption-work of Jesus Christ. As Paul counted all things but dross to win Christ, and be found in him; so would I pray to be found, living and dying to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made poor sinners accepted in the Beloved. See Philippians 3:7-9 ; Ephesians 1:6-7 .
READ, my soul, in the character of this deluded, wretched, and unwise king of Israel, the sad history of every unrenewed man, by nature. Blind to all his own real interest and happiness; and giving himself up to work all malice with greediness. And is not every man in this state, that goes forth to the pursuit of persecution, and regardless of his own happiness. He sees not the light of life. He knows nothing of Jesus and his righteousness, but is full of envy, hatred, and every evil work. Alas! what shall open his eyes, or awaken his mind to the proper apprehension of good and evil?
Read, my soul, in the unwearied persecutions of poor David, the happy state, notwithstanding all outward circumstances, of the godly in Christ Jesus. Though cast out, and fugitives, and vagabonds, too frequently, in the sight of men, or, as David speaks, like a flea, or a dead dog, of no value; yet chosen of God, and precious. They are crucified with Christ; exposed to the rage and violence of Satan and bad men; and worse than all, to the remains of indwelling corruption in their own nature. But, O dearest Lord, how sweet and refreshing is the thought, more is He that is with us, than all that are against us. All the Sauls, which now persecute us, know as he did concerning David, that the Lord hath established his kingdom in the hearts of his people. Let this, O my God, be my everlasting comfort under every trial. Poor, wretched, persecuted, and deeply tried, as I may be in myself, yet Jesus will plead my cause, and bear me out through every difficulty. Lord! do thou carry me through all the caves of En-gedi, and the mountains, and wilderness state of my warfare; support me under every burden; lighten every care; bear one up under every trial; lead me through every opposition; bring me constantly near thy throne of grace, and finally bring me home to thy throne of glory.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 24". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany