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PERSONAL RELATIONS OF SAUL AND DAVID (CHS. 18-27). FRIENDSHIP OF DAVID AND JONATHAN (CHS. 18-20).
JONATHAN LOVES DAVID (1 Samuel 18:1-5).
1 Samuel 18:1
When he had made an end of speaking. This conversation took place as soon as the pursuit of the Philistines and the collecting of the spoil were over. There would then be a muster of the Israelites, and Abner would naturally present the youthful champion to the king, who is represented as having virtually forgotten him, and as anxious to learn his history; nor had his stay been long enough for Abner to remember him. As this conversation is narrated as an introduction to the account of Jonathan's friendship for David, the last four verses of 1 Samuel 17:1-58. ought to be prefixed to 1 Samuel 18:1-30. A new beginning commences with them, in which we are told of the commencement of this friendship, of the growth of Saul's hatred, and of the trials which befell David, proceeding on the king's part from bad to worse, till at last he was driven away and compelled to lead the life of an outlaw. But by his envy, cruelty, and bad government Saul was alienating the minds of the people from him, and preparing the way for his own downfall and David's ultimate triumph. The episode of Jonathan's love is as beautiful as Saul's conduct is dark, and completes our admiration for this generous and noble hero. The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David. These kindred spirits had so much in common that, as David with modest manliness answered the king's questions, an intense feeling of admiration grew up in the young warrior's heart, and a friendship was the result which ranks among the purest and noblest examples of true manly affection. The word rendered knit literally means knotted, tied together firmly by indissoluble bonds.
1 Samuel 18:2-4
Saul took him that day. Bent solely on war, Saul gladly took so promising, a young soldier as David to be one of his bodyguard (1 Samuel 14:52), and henceforward he was constantly with him. Thus in two ways, first as a musician, and now as a soldier, David was forced into those intimate relations with Saul, which ended so tragically. For a while, however, those happier results ensued summed up in 1 Samuel 16:21. Jonathan and David made a covenant. We are not to suppose that this happened immediately. David continued on friendly terms with Saul for a considerable period, during which he went on many expeditions, and grew in military renown (see 1 Samuel 16:5). And thus the love which began with admiration of David's prowess grew deeper and more confirmed by constant intercourse, till this solemn bond of mutual friendship was entered into by the two youthful heroes, by which they bound themselves under all circumstances to be true and faithful to one another. How nobly Jonathan kept the bond the history proceeds immediately to tell us; nor was David subsequently unmindful of it (2 Samuel 9:1-13 :l, 7). Jonathan stripped himself of the robe, etc. In confirmation of the bond Jonathan gave David first his robe, the meil, which, as we have seen on 1 Samuel 2:19, was the ordinary dress of the wealthier classes; and next his garments, his military dress (see on 1 Samuel 17:38, 1 Samuel 17:39), worn over the meil, and which here seems to include his accoutrements,—the bow, sword, and girdle,—though elsewhere distinguished from them (2 Samuel 20:8). In thus clothing David in his own princely equipments Jonathan was showing his friend the greatest personal honour (Esther 6:8), and such a gift is still highly esteemed in the East.
1 Samuel 18:5
David went out. I.e. went on military expeditions. As the verb has thus a technical signification, it makes a complete sense, and the verse should be translated, "And David went forth (i.e. on warlike enterprises); whithersoever Saul sent him he prospered, and Saul set him over the men of war." These expeditions were not upon a very large scale; for it is not until 1 Samuel 18:13 that we read of David being made "captain over a thousand." Still, even while only a centurion in rank, yet, as being in constant attendance upon the king, he would often temporarily have the command of larger bodies of men, or would go on campaigns as one of the king's officers. As it is mentioned that his promotion caused no envy because of his great merits, it follows that it was rapid enough to have given occasion to ill will under ordinary circumstances. Behaved himself wisely. This is the primary meaning of the verb; but as success is the result of wise conduct, it constantly signifies to prosper. This verse is a summary of events which may have occupied a very considerable space of time. It was only gradually that David's fame became so great as to rouse all the worst feelings in Saul's mind.
SAUL'S HATRED OF DAVID (1 Samuel 18:6-16).
1 Samuel 18:6
When David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine. Or more probably, as in the margin, "of the Philistines." The allusion is not to the combat with Goliath, but to one of the expeditions referred to in 1 Samuel 18:5, in which David had gained some decisive victory. The women would not have described the slaughter of one champion as the slaying of ten thousand, nor would there have been any contrast between this act and the military enterprises of Saul. Probably he too would have looked with indifference upon this Oriental exaggeration of the daring bravery of a boy; but what galled him was David's continual success in repeated campaigns. The Philistine means the whole people of that name; and as the war between them and Saul lasted all the days of Saul's life, and was his main kingly work, he saw with envy the rapid growth of David's reputation; and when, after some noble achievement, the women gave David an ovation, and declared in their songs that he had achieved a success ten times as great as Saul, an outburst of ill feeling was the result. Saul suddenly became aware that the young captain on whose shoulders he had devolved the chief labours of the war had supplanted him in the popular estimation, and hatred took the place of the good feeling which he had previously entertained towards him. The women came out of all cities of Israel … to meet king Saul. It is evident that this refers to some grand occasion, and probably to the conclusion of a peace between the two nations. The battle in the valley of Elah was probably followed by several years of warfare, during which David developed those great military qualities which made him subsequently the founder of the wide empire over which Solomon reigned. It was unendurable for Saul, himself a great soldier, to find, when the war at last was over, that the people recognised in his lieutenant higher military qualities than they had discovered in himself. With tabrets. See on 1 Samuel 10:5. With joy. As this is placed between the names of two instruments of music, it must mean some kind of joyous shouting or singing to the sound of their tabrets. With instruments of music. Hebrew, with triangles, a very ancient but effective instrument for an outdoor procession accompanied with dancing.
1 Samuel 18:7
The women answered. I.e. they sang alternately. It was this alternate singing which led to the psalms being composed in parallel sentences, and not in metre; and we from the temple service have inherited our method of chanting antiphonally. As they played. The word is ambiguous, and to an English reader would suggest the idea of the women playing upon the musical instruments. It usually refers to merriment, and so in Zechariah 8:5 it is used of the children playing in the streets, but especially it refers to dancing. Thus in 2 Samuel 2:14 it is used of a war dance ending in a real conflict; and again (2Sa 6:5, 2 Samuel 6:21; 1 Chronicles 13:8; 1 Chronicles 15:29) of David dancing to instruments of music, before the ark. Michal probably would not have despised David for playing an instrument of music during a religious ceremony; it was the posturing of the dance which seemed to her beneath the dignity of a king. So these women danced in alternate choruses to the beating of their tambourines and triangles. In Judges 16:25, where, however, it is in a different conjugation, the verb is translated "to make sport." Really Samson was compelled to dance Israel's national war dance before the Philistines.
1 Samuel 18:8, 1 Samuel 18:9
What can he have more? etc. Literally, "And there is beside for him only the kingdom. Though many years had passed since Samuel pronounced Saul's deposition, and the choice of another in his place (1 Samuel 15:28), yet it was not a thing that a king could ever forget. No doubt he had often looked out for signs of the person destined to be his successor; and now, when he had stood powerless before the enemy, a shepherd boy had stepped forth and given him the victory. And this stripling, taken to be his companion in arms, had shown so great qualities that the people reckoned him at ten times Saul's worth. Had Saul been the high-minded man he was when appointed to the kingdom (1 Samuel 11:13), he would have thrust such thoughts from him. But his mind had become cankered with discontent and brooding thoughts, and so he eyed David from that day and forward. In many nations the eye of an envious man is supposed to have great power of injury. Here it means that Saul cast furtive glances at David full of malice and ill will.
1 Samuel 18:10, 1 Samuel 18:11
It came to pass on the morrow. The day had been a time of public triumph, and yet one of the chief actors goes home to a sleepless couch, because he thinks that another has received higher honour than himself. His melancholy deepens till a fit of insanity comes on. For the evil spirit from God came upon Saul. Literally, " an evil spirit (breath) of God descended mightily upon Saul" (see 1 Samuel 16:15). Just as all mighty enthusiasms for good come from God, so do strong influences for evil, but in a different way. In all noble acts men are fellow workers with God; when evil carries them away it is of God, because he it is who has made and still maintains the laws of our moral nature; but it is by the working of general laws, and not by any special gift or grace bestowed by him. Saul had brooded over his disappointment, and cherished feelings of discontent at his own lot and of envy at the good of others to such an extent that his mind gave way before the diseased workings of his imagination. And so he lost all control over himself, and prophesied. The conjugation employed here (Hithpahel) is never used of real, true prophecy (which is always the Niphal), but of a bastard imitation of it. Really Saul was in a state of frenzy, unable to master himself, speaking words of which he knew not the meaning, and acting like a man possessed. In all this there was something akin to the powerful emotions which agitated the true prophet, only it was not a holy influence, but one springing from violent passions and a disturbed state of the mind. In order to soothe him David played with his hand, as at other times, but without the desired effect. On the contrary, Saul brandished the javelin, which he carried as a sort of sceptre in his hand, with such violence that David twice had to escape from this threat of injury by flight. It is not certain that Saul actually threw the javelin. Had he done so it would be difficult to account for David escaping from it twice. After such an act of violence he would scarcely have trusted himself a second time in Saul's presence. Instead of Saul cast the javelin, the Septuagint in the Alexandrian codex and the Chaldee render lifted, i.e. retaining the same consonants, they put vowels which refer the verb to another root. But even with the present vowels it may mean "made as though he would cast," or aimed "the javelin." On a later occasion Saul actually threw the javelin, and struck the wall where David had been sitting (1 Samuel 19:10).
1 Samuel 18:12-16
Saul was afraid of David. new feeling. To his jealousy succeeded a sense of powerlessness, as knowing that a higher power was with David, while he had lost the Divine protection. This miserable feeling grew upon the unhappy king, till before the battle of Gilboa we find him with all his old heroic spirit gone, a miserable wreck, seeking for comfort at the hands of a woman of the most worthless kind (1 Samuel 28:5, 1 Samuel 28:7, 1 Samuel 28:20). In this despondent state of mind he dismisses David from attendance upon him, but in an honourable manner, giving him the command of a thousand men, at the head of whom he went out and came in before the people, i.e. in a public capacity, as an officer of state. As Saul seems entirely to have neglected the internal administration of the kingdom, this would refer to military expeditions (see on 1 Samuel 18:5); and in these David behaved himself wisely. Rather, "prospered" (see on 1 Samuel 18:5). His great success only increased Saul's fears; but both Israel and Judah loved David, now that in this higher command they had full opportunities for judging of his high qualities. Thus again his removal from his place in Saul's bodyguard only served to make him better known. The separate mention of Israel and Judah is an indication of the Books of Samuel having been written at a post-Solomonic date, though the distinction was a very old one (see on 1 Samuel 11:8).
SAUL, UNDER PRETENCE OF A MARRIAGE WITH HIS DAUGHTER, PLOTS DAVID'S DEATH (1 Samuel 18:17-30).
1 Samuel 18:17, 1 Samuel 18:18
Behold my elder daughter Merab. Saul had promised that he would give his daughter in marriage to whosoever should slay the giant (1 Samuel 17:25); and not only was there in this the honour of a close alliance with the royal house, but, as it was usual to give large presents to the father in return for the daughter's hand, the gift had also a substantial value. After long delay Saul now refers to this promise, not so much with the intention of fulfilling it, as of leading David on to enterprises which might cost him his life. The marriage may have been deferred at first on account of David's youth; the subject is now revived, but with evil intentions. My eider daughter is literally "my daughter, the great one," while Michal is "the little one," a way of speaking used only where there are but two daughters. Be thou valiant, etc. This exhortation would be natural under the circumstances; but Saul hoped that David, in order to secure so great a prize, would be encouraged to undertake rash adventures. For Saul said. I.e. in himself; his purpose was to urge David to perpetual fighting, that so in some rash undertaking he might be slam. Thus Saul s malice grows, and though not prepared as yet to put David to death himself, he would have felt relief if he had died by the fortune of war. David answers modestly and discreetly that he is not worthy of so great an honour. We are not to suppose that he discerned Saul's treachery, which only came-to light afterwards. What is my life,—i.e. my condition,—or my father's family? The or is not in the Hebrew, and the meaning is, What is my condition, even my father's family? etc. David's condition or rank in life was settled by the rank which his father held.
1 Samuel 18:19
Merab … was given unto Adriel. A large dower was doubtless offered to Saul in return for his daughter, and, as he had never wished David to have her, he proved untrue to his word. For the unhappy death of the sons of Merab and Adriel see 2 Samuel 21:8.
1 Samuel 18:20, 1 Samuel 18:21
Michal … loved David. Probably there was some short lapse of time between Merab's marriage and the growth of this affection, the news of which pleased Saul. He was not an ungenerous man, and possibly may have felt ashamed at having acted so meanly by David after having exposed him to danger. And yet evil thoughts again are uppermost, and his purposes are selfish; for either way Saul will be the gainer. David will probably be slain, he thinks, in trying to get the dowry asked of him; and if not, at all events he will himself be cleared of the stain of public dishonesty now resting upon him. Therefore Saul said to David. Not in person, which accounts for David giving no answer, but through his servants, as is recounted more fully afterwards.
1 Samuel 18:22, 1 Samuel 18:23
Commune, etc. This is a more full and exact account of what was said summarily in 1 Samuel 18:21. We cannot suppose that Saul first spoke to David himself, and then told his servants to coax him, as this would also require us to suppose that when offered her by Saul, David refused Michal in marriage. But we may well believe that he was displeased at having been deceived, and that the renewed proposal of marriage with one of the king's daughters had to be made carefully, as he might naturally think that there was danger of his being cajoled a second time. David replies, in fact, very discreetly, saying that to be the king's son-in-law was indeed a great honour, but that he was too poor to provide a sufficient dowry. Strictly the promises given in 1 Samuel 17:25 bound Saul to give her without dowry; but it appears quite plainly from David's words that he had lost Merab because not able to purchase her as Adriel had done. For the custom of giving large sums to the bride's father see Genesis 34:12; Exodus 22:16, Exodus 22:17.
1 Samuel 18:24, 1 Samuel 18:25
David's answer exactly fell in with Saul's purposes, and he forthwith asked as a dowry proof of David having slain a hundred Philistines. As this slaughter would have to be effected not in regular warfare, but in a sort of private raid, there would be every likelihood of David being overpowered by a rapid gathering of the Philistines and slain in attempting it. It marks the unscrupulous character of ancient warfare that the lives of enemies should thus be taken, without any public provocation, for private purposes (comp. Judges 14:19).
1 Samuel 18:26, 1 Samuel 18:27
It pleased David well to he the king's son-in-law. Besides the great honour, David, not suspecting any malicious purpose on Saul's part, may have hoped that this relationship would put an end to the miserable state of things which existed between him and Saul. He harboured no treasonable purposes, and would have gladly served Saul faithfully if he had been permitted. The nature also of the dowry fell in with his adventurous and war-loving disposition. The days were not expired. Wherefore, etc. A difficulty arises here from the wrong division of the verses, and from our translators having rendered the clauses as if they were independent of each other. The Hebrew is, "And the days were not full, and David arose, etc. The dowry was to be given within a fixed time, and before it had expired David, who had been forming his plans, set out with his men and made an incursion into the Philistine territory, whence he brought back to the king twice as many foreskins as had been stipulated; and thereupon Michal became David's wife.
1 Samuel 18:28, 1 Samuel 18:20
The failure of his evil purpose, and the knowledge that Michal loved her husband, and would protect him against his intrigues, and that the marriage had brought rank and influence to David, made Saul hate him all the more bitterly, because he could not now openly put to death one so closely connected with him.
1 Samuel 18:30
The princes of the Philistines went forth. See on 1 Samuel 18:5. This new war was the result of David's raid, but it only led to an increase of his fame and popularity. For he behaved himself more wisely. I.e. was more successful and skilful than any of Saul's other officers.
1 Samuel 18:1-4
The facts are—
1. Jonathan, on becoming acquainted with David, forms a strong attachment for him.
2. Saul, to show his gratitude for David's aid, constrains him into his service.
3. Jonathan and David enter into a solemn covenant of friendship. It is obvious that David desired to retire to the quietude of rural life, thus displaying simplicity of purpose and freedom from the ambition charged on him by Eliab (1 Samuel 18:28), as also superiority to the temptation of success. Saul's will that he should "go no more home to his father's house" was fraught with a long train of consequences which told on the development of the higher qualities of the coming king. The first of these was the formation of that beautiful friendship with Jonathan, which shines as a welcome light amidst the gloom of the last years of Saul's reign. There are in this section two matters deserving special attention.
I. AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE HARMONIES OF PROVIDENCE. On a priori grounds we may conclude that always, in all things, however apparently clashing, there is an interior harmony in the ordinations and unfoldings of Providence. In many instances we seem to hear discord; faith only enables us to refer the discord to our defective organs of knowledge. But here, as in some other instances, we can trace the exquisite harmony between David's detention by Saul, involving his friendship with Jonathan, and David's subsequent entrance on the duties and dignities foreshadowed by the anointing by Samuel. Unquestionably, as seen in the history and in the Psalms composed during the period, David's trials and the public position arising out of this forced detention by Saul were, in their effects on his character and abilities, wonderfully harmonious with his pre-ordained kingship. Moreover, this providential opportunity for forming personal friendship beautifully harmonises with both the cutting off of Saul's line (1 Samuel 15:27-29) from the succession and the acquisition by David of the title, in virtue of his religious and general qualities. Such friendship, formed on the purest religious basis, and before developments with respect to the succession were made, would save both David and Jonathan from the possibility of regarding each other as rivals, and would also be a blessed counterpoise to David's unmerited sorrows during Saul's violent persecutions. Jonathan never lived to see the throne taken by another; but his life was not embittered by the griefs of jealousy, because of the deep love he had for his friend. David, while in the decree of God destined to be king, loved Jonathan too well to think of setting him aside. Beautiful providence that could insure a succession out of the line, and yet sweeten and ennoble the lives of those whose interests were involved in it! It would be easy for Jonathan to resign to David, should they both survive Saul's decease; for did he not love him with a love passing that of women? (2 Samuel 1:26). And it would be far from David's desire to set him aside, seeing the loving esteem in which he was held. Yea, was there not an instinctive homage paid to David's character, as though the pure soul saw in him the coming king, when Jonathan stript himself of his princely attire and placed it on David? Harmonies of Providence are constant, if only we had the eye to discern them. Paul's early training worked into his life's mission, though at first tending another way. The flight of Mary and Joseph into Egypt no doubt checked a premature notoriety of the child Jesus.
II. AN ILLUSTRATION OF A TRUE RELIGIOUS FRIENDSHIP. Friendship in some degree is a necessity of man's life. A perfectly solitary being, whose feelings cling to no one, and around whom no one clings, is truly lost. Ordinary friendships are based on the existence of natural affinities and contrarieties. That similarity of mind is the basis of friendship is only true in a limited sense, for one is drawn to another not only by the affinity of common tastes and qualities, but because of a recognition and admiration of qualities that are lacking in self. We seek to supplement the deficiencies of our own life by taking into ourselves, as far as possible, the excellences of another life, and friendship is the means to this end. This is not indeed a full rationale of friendship, nor must it be inferred that cool calculation of personal profit enters into it. The love, the sympathy, the tender, undefinable interest and absolute trust cannot be disentangled from the perception of qualities supplementary to one's own. The friendship of David and Jonathan embraced all that enters into ordinary friendship,—appreciation, love, confidence, tenderness, fidelity, unsuspicious intercourse,—with an additional religious element. This religious friendship may be considered as to—
1. Its nature. In David and Jonathan we recognise, besides the usual essentials of friendship, the responsive action of a common faith in God and delight in his service. Each saw in the other, as by a higher spiritual insight, a spiritual kinship. The circumstances of the age intensified this mutual attraction. As holy, consecrated young men, they cherished a secret sorrow over the unhappy spiritual condition of their countrymen; and their joy in the recent victories was joy in God and the holy cause for which Israel was chosen out from among the nations. Among Christians the same religious feeling operates in the formation and maintenance of friendships. It is true that all are one in Christ, and each sees in every other a member of the household of faith: religiously there is a common interest in all (1 Corinthians 12:26, 1 Corinthians 12:27). So far, therefore, there is a friendship subsisting between each member of Christ's body and every other, as distinguished from his interest in men of the world. But affection needs for its own life concentration; and while, therefore, we are in general friendship with all Christ's people, and are conscious of a blessed and indestructible bond, the necessities of our life lead to the formation of personal friendships in which all ordinary feelings are intensified and beautified by the infusion of a spiritual element. Some modification of the view just given is requisite in considering the friendship of Christ for John and the family at Bethany. But although the perfect Saviour saw not in others qualities deficient in himself, he did see in the ardent John and the tender sympathy and fine appreciation of the family at Bethany that which he was so eagerly in quest of in this rough, unspiritual world. His weary heart delighted to rest in such pure love and sympathy, and he returned the affection a hundredfold.
2. Its maintenance. The noblest form of friendship needs culture if it is to be permanent. How David and Jonathan nourished theirs is a matter of history, and should be noted. Few things are more sad to reflect on than a broken friendship—it means the embitterment and sad solitariness of two human beings. No detailed rules can be set for nourishing that which in its very nature overleaps all formalities and rigid lines. Ordinarily we may strengthen our friendships by cherishing a conviction of their sacredness—not to be rudely handled and lightly thought of; by making it a point to secure sufficient intercourse or interchange of feeling (Proverbs 18:24); by a studied respect for the minor differences which advancing age and changed circumstances may develop; by prayer for the blessing of God on each other; and, if possible, by sharing in some common work for Christ. Why should not friendships continue through life?
1. Knowing the force of impulse and the growth of interest when once aroused, we should be careful in placing youth in such circumstances as may lead to the formation of true and lasting friendships.
2. It should be a question for each how it is that Christian feeling does not enter so fully as it ought into the friendships of some professedly religious people.
3. It would be an instructive study for young and old to trace out in history some of the achievements in religious work and fidelity promoted by the maintenance of strong personal friendships.
1 Samuel 18:5-11
Some dangers of persistent sin.
The facts are—
1. David, behaving wisely in his public position, wins favour with the people, and in the welcome to him on his return from the battle the women ascribe to him, in their song, higher praise than to Saul.
2. The fact excites Saul's envy henceforth.
3. In a fit of envious rage Saul seeks to smite David. The victory over Goliath brought Saul and David into a proximity highly favourable to the development of their respective characters. Their mutual influence acted powerfully on the main springs of life; and as these were so utterly different in moral quality, so the sequel reveals very diverse conduct, We have in this section an instance of—
I. MISINTERPRETED PROSPERITY. The decisive words of Samuel (1 Samuel 15:26) and his entire separation from Saul (1 Samuel 15:34, 1 Samuel 15:35), as also the threatening attitude of the Philistines, were certainly enough to depress the spirit of the king; and his melancholy was but the outward sign to men of his painful secret. But the appearance of David, and the consequent defeat of the enemy, was an unlooked for gleam of light, and at once raised hopes which of late had been lost. He even set David over his men of war. The old prosperity was returning; the kingdom was saved; Saul was not dishonoured in battle. After all, with such helpers as David, might not the dreaded doom be avoided? Thus do we see a man, conscious of moral degeneracy, and sensible of being rejected, putting an interpretation on events according to his wishes, and not from a perception of their real bearing. The heart, when destitute of the spirit of true repentance, obstinately clings to unwarranted hope, and, by its own perverse ingenuity, obliterates or weakens the force of hard facts and moral laws (1 Samuel 15:26-29). In the eye of God the recent victory was the public presentation of the "neighbour," as a preliminary to his supplanting Saul; in the eye of Saul it was the postponement, if not the rendering void, of the dreaded doom. The tendency thus to misinterpret facts is common to sinful men. An impenitent heart is unwilling to believe in the vindication of justice. Not being in moral sympathy with the purposes of God, it will not, if possible, see those purposes.in process of realisation. The very riches of goodness are perverted into an occasion for persistence in sin (Romans 2:4), and the temporal prosperity of life, despite the voice of conscience and the clear word of God, is supposed to be a sign that the issue will not be so fearful as was anticipated (Psalms 10:6, Psalms 10:11; Hebrews 2:3).
II. THE SOUNDNESS AND the DEFECTS OF POPULAR INSTINCTS. The mass of the people were quick in recognising the fact that David was the hero of the day, and only expressed the real truth in ascribing to him his "ten thousands," and to Saul his "thousands." Their instincts led them to honour above the king the man who was proved to be better than the king. But while correct in their appreciation of fact, they had no adequate, if any, perception of the moral bearings of it. Samuel, probably Jesse, and a few other devout men, would trace in David's exaltation of the "name of the Lord" (1 Samuel 17:45-47) a spiritual power and a spiritual man destined to work wonders for Israel. It is a good philosophy that trusts the popular mind in reference to the recognition of the broad facts of life. It is this faith which lies at the foundation of constitutional governments and the judicial administration of our own country. The common sense of mankind is a safe guide in ordinary matters of fact. But by reason of the low condition of man's spiritual life, and his inveterate proneness to look at the "things that are seen," the mass of men do not recognise quickly the moral and spiritual bearings of facts. There is a moral and spiritual "intention," to use a logical term, in human facts; they carry with them qualities that determine the future; they exhibit to the spiritually enlightened powers that will germinate, and that, too, not always in the form desired by the populace (Matthew 16:3).
III. THE LIABILITY OF MEN, WHEN WARRING AGAINST PROVIDENCE, TO FALL INTO NEW SINS. We have seen (1 Samuel 15:24-31) that Saul cherished impenitent feelings when told of his sin. As a consequence, he tried not to believe that the threatened disaster would come. One of the consequences of this mental condition was, that as soon as he heard the honest, popular approval of David's prowess, he, dreading lest after all the decree might be fulfilled, eyed David as a rival, and fell into the grievous sin of ceaseless and cruel envy. The grievous character of this sin is seen if we notice its manifestation, and the main features are true of all envy.
1. It blinded him to actual facts. It was true that David had slain "his ten thousands," as compared with Saul's "thousands;" but to the envious eye this was as though it were not. Its reality must not be tolerated. The Pharisees in like manner were wilfully blind to the fact that Christ had opened the eyes of the blind.
2. It led to the imputation of base motives. He at once charged David with readiness for treasonous designs on the kingdom. The pure man was deemed impure. This is the common practice of narrow and base men, as appeared in the instance of Joseph (Genesis 37:8, Genesis 37:11), and of Christ (John 7:20).
3. It made himself perfectly wretched. His life lost all joy and hope, and suspicion and fear entered in. And whoever falls into this sin finds that it slayeth him (Job 5:2), and is as rottenness to the bones (Proverbs 14:30).
4. It impelled to deeds of blood. The thrust of the javelin was virtual murder. The same process wrought in the heart of Cain, of the scribes and Pharisees, and is active in many who are guilty of no overt act (1 John 3:15). The dark thoughts, the unspoken intents of envious minds; who shall declare them? How true it is that he who hardeneth his heart, not bowing in true penitence, submissive to all God's judgments, falleth into mischief (Proverbs 28:14) again and again, till at last he is destroyed suddenly and without remedy (Proverbs 29:1; cf. 1 Samuel 31:3, 1 Samuel 31:4).
1. All human judgments on the course of Providence are to be discounted in so far as sin is cherished in the life.
2. The key to the future of the individual and national life is to be sought in moral conditions
3. It is important that the popular mind should be trained to estimate things in their moral relations.
4. Christians should strive to be entirely free from the spirit of envy, both in relation to worldly prosperity and to position in the Church of God (Psalms 37:1; 1 Corinthians 13:4; 1 Peter 2:1).
5. In so far as we indulge in any envy we lay ourselves open to temptations to further sins.
1 Samuel 18:12-16
The disturbing power of goodness.
The facts are—
1. Saul, seeing the signs of God's presence with David, fears him, and removes him to a distance.
2. Increasing wisdom of David adds to Saul's fear, and secures the favour of the people.
3. The departure of God from Saul explains his self-abandonment to the Influence of this fear. We have here a statement of the diverse relation of God to David and Saul,—he was with the one and was departed from the other,—and the consequences ensuing thereon in their respective lives. Each man made his own position, and was answerable for the state he was in and attained to; nevertheless, the presence and absence of God accounted for much. Thus, also, we have the diverse effect of the same wise and holy life upon different persons—the diversity arising from the moral condition of the persons acted upon.
I. The RELATION OF GOD TO MAN IS NOT IN EVERY INSTANCE THE SAME. There are certain natural relationships which God sustains to all men, in all time, irrespective of their character. His power upholds them in life; his equitable rulership is never withdrawn. All this was true in reference to David and Saul, while it was equally true that God was to the one what he was not to the other. There was the relation of moral nearness and support to David, and of moral abandonment and disapproval to Saul. The Lord "knoweth the way of the righteous" (Psalms 1:6). His delight is in his people (Psalms 22:8). "The proud he knoweth afar off" (Psalms 138:6), and is "angry with the wicked every day" (Psalms 7:11). The effects of moral nearness and support are seen in the instance of David:—piety was sustained and rendered beautiful in development; abilities, under such favouring influences, were more fully and evenly exercised; the vision being cleared, practical sagacity found wider scope; and the Divine energy acting everywhere in harmony with moral ends, opportunities would be created for usefulness, and the minds of men disposed to favour. On the other hand, moral nearness and support being wanting to Saul, the evils long cherished found more unrestrained exercise; conscience became more remorseful; natural abilities were impaired in their development, and foolish deeds became habitual.
II. The DIVERSE RELATION OF GOD TO MAN ARISES FROM MAN'S PREVIOUS CONDUCT, The recent history of David shows that from a youth he had quietly and consistently followed the measure of light vouchsafed to him; while Saul's course reveals a deliberate and persistent preference of his own will to the revealed will of God. Grace was added to valued grace. Light disregarded had become darkness. In this diverse consequence there is nothing unusual. It is the New Testament law that "to him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not shall be taken away even that he hath" (Matthew 13:12; Hosea 11:8; Luke 19:42; John 12:35-40; 1 Timothy 4:8).
III. A RECOGNITION OF THE DIVERSE RELATION OF GOD TO MAN IS AN OCCASION OF TROUBLE TO THE DELIBERATELY WICKED. While David won the affection of the mass of the people, his name and presence were disturbing to Saul. "Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, and was departed from Saul." The reasons for this effect on Saul are obvious. David's holy life and glorying in the name of the Lord (1 Samuel 17:45-47) revealed by contrast the spiritual condition of Saul to himself; and, being destitute of the spirit of repentance, he trembled under the silent rebuke. There was also a reminder of joys and privileges once within reach, but now gone forever; and he could not but associate the rising character of David with the predicted doom of his own monarchy. It is a well known fact that goodness does exercise a disturbing influence in the domain of sin. Goodness in its own nature is a repellant power. It creates a commotion whenever it enters the realms of darkness. The powers of evil know it as their natural foe, and quail in consciousness of its predestined triumph. There appears to have been fear and excitement among the evil spirits when the holy Saviour drew near to their sphere of influence on earth. While the natural effect of embodied goodness on minds not bent on sin is to soothe, to cheer, and to gladden, as when Christ drew near to the poor and needy, the sick and penitent, and as we all feel when a very wise and holy man enters a home or a sick chamber, yet the effect is the reverse when sin is being deliberately practised. It is in this way that we may understand Herod's fear on mention of the name of John, Ahab's fear of Elijah, and the evident uneasiness of scribes and Pharisees at the presence of Christ.
1. We see the value to the ordinary affairs of life of a consciousness of the favour of God (Psalms 30:1-12.).
2. The development of our powers is intimately connected with our faithfulness in spiritual things.
3. In proportion as we attain to true holiness of life will the power of our presence and actions be recognised.
4. We must expect the actual antagonism of those who have rejected God in so far as we come into contact with them, but this should be regarded as proof of the truth of our religion.
1 Samuel 18:17-30
The plot and its lessons.
The facts are—
1. Saul, in hopes of compassing the death of David, promises him his eldest daughter to wife, on condition that he is valiant against the Philistines.
2. David expresses his unworthiness of so great an honour.
3. Saul, having broken this promise by giving Merab to Adriel, offers David his daughter Michal.
4. On David intimating that, being poor, he was not able to provide a becoming dowry, Saul is content with proof of the death of a hundred enemies of Israel.
5. David presents double the number required, and takes Michal to wife.
6. In spite of his devices, Saul sees the growing prosperity of David, and becomes more than ever afraid of him. This section further unfolds, on the one side, the downward progress of the man who has wilfully sinned under circumstances favourable to obedience, and has consequently been left to the tendencies of his impenitent heart; and, on the other side, the steady advance in wisdom and aptitude for affairs of the man who gloried only in the "name of the Lord of hosts." The narrative relates events as they appeared to observers at the time, and introduces statements of the sacred historian designed to indicate how those events were regarded by God. The outward acts are connected with the hidden motive, and so made to bear their proper moral character.
I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PLOT. Did we not know Saul's entire history, there is much in the narrative of this section which might suggest to a casual reader no thought of a plot. The addition of statements unveiling the hidden purpose of his words and deeds changes the moral bearing of the whole, and sets forth the triple characteristics of the plot.
1. Cleverness. It is said that insane persons often display unusual cunning and skill in compassing their ends; and also the "devices" of the wicked, both in relation to God and to man, are in Scripture proverbial (Job 5:12; Psalms 10:2; Psalms 33:10). The incipient madness and settled wickedness of Saul at this period of his life indicate the truth of these remarks; for consider the plausibility of his conduct.
(1) There was a fair appearance of truthfulness. He had virtually promised his daughter to the man who should slay Goliath (1 Samuel 17:25). To keep one's word was becoming a king and due to a youthful hero.
(2) There was an obvious display of magnanimity. For the recent violent attempt on the life of David (1 Samuel 18:11) must have produced an impression of injustice on both David and the people. What then more proper than that a fit of unreasonable anger should be followed by some expression of the wrong done, and some effort to render compensation.
(3) Religions feeling was conspicuous. Had not David appeared on the arena to fight the battle of the Lord? (1 Samuel 17:47). Was it not proper, after the signal victory in the Lord's name, that the king should recognise the conflict with the heathen oppressor in its theocratic aspect, and encourage the valiant youth still to go forth in the same holy name?
(4) Personal interest was natural. Saul's instructions to the courtiers to endeavour to induce David to accept of Michal had an appearance of naturalness, as it was important to honour so able a man and to ally him with the interests of the monarchy, as also to remove any chagrin on account of Merab having been given, probably for state reasons, to Adriel.
(5) There was a kindly consideration for David's position. A sense of poverty is hard to bear when it stands in the way to honour and influence. David felt that, despite his services, he was too poor to comply with custom in offering as dowry what became a suitor to a king's daughter. It was, therefore, very thoughtful on the part of Saul to ask as dowry what certainly few men could provide, but what the conqueror of Goliath would, no doubt, readily and with increasing honours secure. A kindly, considerate bearing disarms suspicion. The plot was clever, like all the plots whereby our great adversary, the devil, seeks to ensnare the innocent. A parallel might be developed without much difficulty.
2. Vileness. The cleverness is discovered by tracing the course apparent to men; the vileness by the light thrown upon that course by the Searcher of hearts. We are enabled to look beneath the surface, and to estimate words and deeds by their relation to motive. The vileness is seen in—
(1) The deliberate intent to commit murder. The whole procedure originated in a determination to insure David's death. Blood was shed in intent. The true universe is the unseen, for it is enduring. In that sphere Saul slew, before the clear, searching eye of God, the best friend he ever had next to Samuel.
(2) The covering of murderous intent, with professions of kindness and esteem. Open hostility is bad enough in an evil cause, but to play the hypocrite for compassing a cruel purpose is the blackest of crimes (Psalms 10:7). To be clothed as an angel of light is not confined to Satan.
(3) The attempt to make Providence subservient to a secret intent. Saul dare not lay hands on David, but he dare lay a train of circumstances by which Providence should be charged with doing what all men would deplore except himself. Man would make God the servant of his vile designs. Cowards wish Providence to do what they have not the courage to avow.
3. Foolishness. It is no uncommon thing for the cunning and skill of the wicked to turn out the veriest foolishness. Such is the force of right and justice, that wicked wisdom is always found in the issue to be mad folly. That it was so in this case is seen by observing—
(1) God knew all from the first. It is a proof of the utter stupidity of the sinful heart that it acts as though God were not. This unreasonableness enters into all sin. The wicked heart retires into its own darkness, and says, "He will never see it" (Psalms 10:11).
(2) The plot secured to David the special protection promised to the innocent.' God pledges his care to the poor and needy when they walk in innocency. He "sayeth the upright in heart (Psalms 7:10). The "needy shall not alway be forgotten" (Psalms 9:18; Psalms 37:32, Psalms 37:33). Saul ought to have known that a holy man, one who had been blessed in conflict, would not be left to himself in the day of danger.
(3) It issued in David's advantage. Saul really fell into a pit prepared for another. The man who was to be put down rose higher, while Saul himself sank in the esteem of all. The scheme brought out in clear and beautiful form David's personal integrity (1 Samuel 18:18, 1 Samuel 18:23). Its issue gave him greater influence with Israel (1 Samuel 18:30). He became a greater terror to his enemies (1 Samuel 18:27), and his marriage with Michal subsequently proved a great help in escaping the snares of Saul (1 Samuel 18:21; cf. 1 Samuel 19:12).
II. THE GENERAL TRUTHS IT TEACHES. Among the many truths set forth in the plot of Saul and escape of David, the following may be specially noticed:—
1. The moral value of conduct? seen when the light of God shines on it. Saul's conduct, as watched by casual observers ignorant of the secret between him and Samuel (1 Samuel 15:26-28, 1 Samuel 15:30), would have attached to it a moral value quite inconsistent with real truth. It is the light which God enabled the historian to pour on the inner motive that reveals the whole as vile. Our estimate of conduct is necessarily approximate. A measure of doubt or suspense attends our judgments of character. There is no principle more clearly held than that the secret intent, the private, unexpressed, and often inexpressible motive, is the real determinant of moral character in actions. Yet such are the depths and intricacies of human thought and feeling, that every man is largely an unknown being to his fellows. This uncertainty creates a belief in a future manifestation of character, when every man shall receive from all exactly his due. Otherwise justice is defeated, and moral worth is cheated of its honour. Scripture assures us of the truth that the day will come when the true spring of conduct shall be manifested; the inner real man will be known. The day is coming on when men shall see themselves and others in that all-revealing light (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 10:26; Matthew 25:31, Matthew 25:32). Hence the good cheer of the upright in heart whose actions are misinterpreted, whose position is obscure, who suffer from the scorning of the proud, and whose outward success in life is not commensurate with the largeness and purity of their desires. Hence, also, the warning for those who cover up a defiled heart beneath an attractive exterior.
2. Integrity is the best human defence against wicked craft. The manifest integrity of David in all his relations to Saul and the people was better to him than all possible contrivances to cunningly checkmate the movements of his enemy. There was a moral power in his blameless, unaffected conduct which caused his secret foe to dwell in fear. Looking back on this period, he could say, "I have walked in mine integrity" (Psalms 26:1); and doubtless, knowing the value of such defence in the past, he could say, in view of future dangers, "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me" (Psalms 25:21). It is ever so. As simple truth is mightier than all ramifications of falsehood, so an upright heart, an innocent life, is, in the issue, more than a match for all cunning combinations of evil. Were men more simple in purpose, less given to mere policy, keeping their hearts free from petty jealousies and ambitions, their foot would be less often caught in a snare, and their reputation would take care of itself.
3. God takes care of his faithful servants who have a work to do in the world. David's innocence was an object of interest to God, and received his protection; but David was a chosen servant in course of unconscious preparation for high and important duties. He, therefore, was cared for by God in the midst of unknown dangers. Nor was there anything exceptional in this, for such is the heritage of all who fear the Lord. Bodily suffering, and even death, may come on the innocent and true, but these are not the worst of evils. There is a more fearful fall; and in this respect, such is the care of God, that though a thousand fall at the side of the faithful, the great spiritual evil does not touch him (Psalms 91:7, Psalms 91:14). Every one has a charmed life in Christ's service as long as his work is not finished. No weapon formed against David could prosper before he became king. No power was allowed to take away our Saviour's life till he had finished the work the Father gave him to do. No stones and lying in wait of wicked men were of any avail against Paul before he had preached the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15, Acts 9:23, Acts 9:24; 2 Corinthians 11:24-27).
4. The ulterior object of a sinful course is never attained. One object of Saul s cunning was to get rid of David. History tells us how this object was frustrated. The Lord was with David. Disappointment, vexation, intenser misery were the result to Saul. It is not too wide an assertion to affirm that the ulterior object is never attained in a sinful course. A careful analysis of the workings of sin in every instance will show that the end in view is to secure a pleasure deemed greater and more welcome than any supposed to result from obedience to God's will. If sin in its origin be self-assertion, as against conformity to a supreme will, the object in view is evidently to attain to a state of being superior to that involved in conformity. It seeks a rise, and, behold, it is itself a fall. It is always self-defeated. This can be shown to be true of all who wilfully refuse to have rest in God—they miss the bliss they sought in rebellion; of all who prefer to be saved by other means than by the one Mediator—they never attain to the pardon and purity which alone constitute salvation; of all who sacrifice Christian principle to acquire wealth or power—they get the wealth and power, but not the satisfaction of soul which their possession was believed to insure. It cannot be insisted on too strongly, that not only is sin essentially evil and degrading, however fascinating its form, but is also in its issue a bitter disappointment. "He that sinneth against me 'wrongeth his own soul' (Proverbs 8:36). The desire, the expectation, the way of the wicked "shall perish" (Psalms 1:6; Psalms 112:10; Proverbs 10:28).
5. Exalted piety and simplicity of life are consistent with pre-eminence in secular affairs. It is often supposed that a very pious man, and one of simple purpose in life, cannot compete with men less spiritual in character. The language of Christians has sometimes given sanction to this belief. But facts and reason are against it. David, the most pious of men, attained to a capacity for affairs far in advance of others (1 Samuel 18:30). Newton was not a worse mathematician and astronomer for his deep and simple piety. It is reasonable that a mind pure, devout, calm in sense of God's favour, free from the distraction induced by waywardness of will, and enjoying the promised blessing of God, should, when called by Providence to any sphere of activity, excel those of equal natural powers, but destitute of the spiritual tone. If such men do not attain to highest public stations, it may be because Providence has other work for them to do; or if only a few rise to pre-eminence, it may be because the combination of great piety and great natural aptitude for special pursuits is rare.
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
1 Samuel 18:1-30. (GIBEAH.)
David's life at court.
On his victory over Goliath, David was conducted by Abner (1 Samuel 14:50) into the presence of Saul, "with the bead of the Philistine in his hand." He appears to have been unrecognised by the king, perhaps because of the alteration that had taken place in his personal appearance. Henceforth he resided at Gibeah (1 Samuel 18:2), where he remained for two or three years. The court of Saul, while unlike that of Solomon, half a century later, was not destitute of worldly show, and was marked by the obsequiousness, self-seeking, emulation, and intrigue which too often prevail in such places, especially when the monarch is capricious, proud, and without the fear of God (1 Samuel 22:6, 1 Samuel 22:7). David's connection with it was of great importance in relation to the position which he was destined by Divine providence to occupy; continued his education for it; and afforded
against the enemies of Israel, and ultimately from loyal obedience to royal rule.
II. ACQUAINTANCE WITH MEN, and the knowledge of human nature. David was familiar with "fields, and flocks, and silent stars," but needed training in another school.
1. There are few things more valuable than an accurate and extensive knowledge of men: their divers temperaments, tendencies, and capacities; their peculiar excellences and defects; their varied wishes and aims; and underneath all the great principles of humanity that are the same in all.
2. Some circumstances afford special opportunity for the attainment of such knowledge. What a field of observation were the court and camp of Saul to one of such mental activity and profound insight as David!
3. The knowledge of men produces in the heart that is sincere, devout, and acquainted with itself a large sympathy with them in their sorrows, joys, imperfections, and strivings after higher things. Of this sympathy the psalms of David are a wonderful expression.
4. It is necessary to the knowledge of the most effectual methods of dealing with them—one of the most needful and desirable qualifications in a ruler.
III. THE TRIAL OF PRINCIPLE. David, no less than Saul, must be put to the test, and his fidelity to Jehovah tried as silver "in a furnace of earth."
1. Trial is needful to prove the reality of principle, and manifest its strength and brightness.
2. One trial is often followed by another and a greater. The royal favour into which David was suddenly raised was as suddenly succeeded by royal jealousy, hatred, and craft. Surely no man was ever more fiercely assailed by temptation.
3. When endured aright, in faith and obedience, trial, however painful, is morally beneficial.
4. The victory which is gained over one temptation is an earnest of a victory over the next. The triumph of humility in David was followed by that of simplicity, patience, and forbearance.
IV. ADVANCEMENT IN POPULAR FAVOUR (1 Samuel 18:7, 1 Samuel 18:16, 1 Samuel 18:30), which, in the case of David, paved his way to the throne; though he neither coveted nor, during the life of Saul, put forth any effort to gain that object.
1. A course of wise and prosperous action, as it well deserves, so it generally obtains the approbation of the people.
2. Such a course of action ought to be aimed at, rather than the popular favour with which it is attended.
3. The favour of the people is to be valued only in subordination to the favour of God, and in so far as it accords with it.
4. Popular favour should be regarded not as an end in itself, but as a means of promoting the Divine glory and human welfare.—D.
1 Samuel 18:1-4. (GIBEAH.)
(References:—1 Samuel 19:1-5; 1 Samuel 20:1-23; 1 Samuel 23:16-18.)
1. Friendship is a mutual affection between persons of congenial minds, arising out of their esteem for each other's excellence, and expressing itself in kindly offices. Attachment to kindred is in some respects surpassed by that which is felt towards the friend "who is even as thine own soul" (Deuteronomy 13:6). In allusion to it "Abraham was called the friend of God" (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23)—possibly in the first instance by God himself; and "God spake to Moses as a man to his friend" (Exodus 33:11). The Book of Proverbs abounds in statements concerning the worth and claims of friendship (Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 18:24; Proverbs 27:6, Proverbs 27:9, Proverbs 27:10, Proverbs 27:17). And Jesus said to his disciples, "I have called you friends" (John 15:15).
2. Much that is usually called friendship is not worthy of the name. "There are three things that engender friendship—profit, pleasure, virtue. The first two do not beget true friendship, for as soon as the profit or pleasure ceaseth, friendship is gone; but virtue only maketh love and friendship to continue" (Willet).
3. The true friendship which subsisted between Jonathan and David "shines for all ages an eternal type." It is "the first Biblical instance of such a dear companionship as was common in Greece, and has been since in Christendom imitated, but never surpassed, in modern works of fiction" (Stanley). The most celebrated of the instances referred to were those of Orestes and Pylades, Damon and Pythias, Nisus and Euryalus.
4. The friendship of Jonathan toward David (the formation of which is here described) was Divinely provided as a means of guarding the life of the latter from the attacks of Saul, and of preserving his loyalty to the king and his faith in God. "Thy love to me was wonderful" (2 Samuel 1:26). On the other hand, that of David toward Jonathan exerted an elevating and sanctifying influence upon him. Of true friendship observe that—
I. IT EXISTS ONLY IN NOBLE SOULS. Both Jonathan and David were virtuous, generous, and devout. They were one in "the love of virtue and the fear of God." Persons destitute of these principles can neither esteem the excellence of others nor be esteemed for their own. "We are so formed by nature that there should be a certain social tie among all; stronger, however, as each approaches each. Now friendship is nothing else than a complete union of feeling on all subjects, Divine and human, accompanied by a kindly feeling and attachment. The entire strength of friendship consists in an entire agreement of inclinations, pursuits, and sentiments" (Cicero, 'On Friendship').
"A generous friendship no cold medium knows,
Burns with one love, with one resentment glows" (Homer).
"A good man in the best friend, and therefore soonest to be chosen, longest to be retained, and, indeed, never to be parted with, unless he ceases to be that for which he was chosen" (Jeremiah Taylor).
II. IT IS FOUNDED UPON MUTUAL ESTEEM. When David "had made an end of speaking unto Saul," in which he doubtless said much more than is recorded, the soul of Jonathan was knit (linked or chained) with the soul of David, etc. (verse 1). Nothing is said of Jonathan at the time of David's conflict with Goliath. He may have been absent; or, if present, not permitted to risk his life in the encounter. Perhaps his faith and courage were not strong enough. But "he loved that which went beyond his own spirit, yet was of the same heroic order. He saw in David a higher and greater Jonathan, the ideal of his own actual life, himself transfigured and perfected. What he had dreamt he might be he beheld in David" (B. Kent). He admired the faith, courage, modesty, and moral excellence which lay beneath the "outward appearance." "Now they are worthy of friendship in whom there exists a reason why they should be loved; a rare class, for in truth all that is excellent is rare" (Cicero).
III. IT CONSISTS OF DISINTERESTED AFFECTION. "Jonathan loved him as his own soul "(verses 1, 3; 1 Samuel 20:17); with the same kind and the same measure of affection. Hence the sympathy, generosity, fidelity, and constancy which he displayed. A friend is "another self." "Though judgment must collect the materials of the goodly structure of friendship, it is affection that gives the cement" (Melmoth). "It really seems to consist in loving rather than being loved. It is the wishing a person what we think good for his sake, and not for our own, and, as far as is in our power, the exerting ourselves to procure it. And a friend is he who entertains and meets a return of this feeling" (Aristotle, 'Ethics,' 8.; 'Rhetoric,' 2). "I hope I do not break the fifth commandment if I conceive I may love my friends before the nearest of my blood, even those to whom I owe the principles of life. I have loved my friend as I do virtue, my soul, my God" (Sir T. Browne, 'Religio Medici').
IV. IT UNITES IN A STEADFAST BOND. Knit—sincerely, closely, firmly joined, grappled together "as with hooks of steel." "A friend loveth at all times," in adversity as well as in prosperity; and his friendship endures the strain caused by conflicting interests, misrepresentation, and many imperfections; it may even be said to be "one soul dwelling in two bodies." "Now the foundation of that steadfastness and constancy which we seek in friendship, is sincerity; for nothing is steadfast which is insincere" (Cicero). Friendship founded on worldly principles is natural, and, though composed of the best elements of nature, is not exempt from its mutability and frailty; but friendship founded on religion is spiritual, and therefore unchanging and imperishable" (R. Hall, 'Works,' 5.).
V. IT IS CONFIRMED BY A SOLEMN COMPACT. "And Jonathan and David made a covenant," etc. (verse 3; 1 Samuel 20:16, 1 Samuel 20:17). In it they gave and received assurance of affection, agreed to be faithful to each other under all circumstances, and called the Lord in whom they trusted to be witness between them; to it they were impelled by the strength of their love and "a loftier necessity of finding and loving in one another, if possible in a yet higher degree, the purely Divine power already felt within, and thus mutually living under its influence" (Ewald); and by it their friendship was rendered sacred and strong and permanently established. In times when "the love of many waxes cold and iniquity abounds," men of a common faith and love toward God do well to draw closely together and strengthen each other's hearts and hands by sacred vows.
VI. IT IS MANIFESTED IN GENEROUS GIFTS. "And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him," etc. (verse 4). He gave him what best expressed the gift of himself, and what would continually remind David of his friend and increase his confidence and love. It was little that David could give him in return of an outward kind, but he gave him confidence for confidence, love for love, life for life. Friendship is practical, self-sacrificing, and helpful, and gives of its best. "David is seen in Jonathan's clothes that we may take notice he is Jonathan's second self. Our Lord Jesus Christ has thus showed his love to us, that he stripped himself to clothe us, humbled himself to enrich us. Nay, he did more than Jonathan—he clothed himself with our rags, whereas Jonathan did not put on David's" (M. Henry).
1. Seek friendship only among the wise and good. If you would have a true friend, make a friend of him who is a friend of God.
2. Strive to be as worthy of the friendship of the good as David was of the friendship of Jonathan.
3. Be as sincere and faithful to your friend as Jonathan was to David.
4. Value the friendship of Christ beyond all other.—D.
1 Samuel 18:4
"He loved him as his own soul" (1 Samuel 18:3). Human friendship is a shadow of Divine. The greatest and best Friend is God in Christ Jesus. Happy is every one who can say from the heart, "This is my beloved, and this is my friend" (So 5:16). Consider—
I. ITS CONDITIONS, on the part of man.
1. Rationality: capacity of thought, voluntary choice, moral esteem. "Amidst the ashes of our collapsed nature there slumber certain sparks of celestial fire" (Owen).
2. Reconciliation; inasmuch as man is alienated from God, and under condemnation.
3. Renewal in righteousness and true holiness, so that we may be "partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). "Friendship is a union of souls, and souls can be united only where there is more or less accord" (Amos 3:3).
II. ITS CHARACTERISTICS, on the part of the Lord. All his perfections render it in every respect transcendently excellent. But notice more particularly—
1. Its disinterestedness. "He first loved us," with a pure, free, condescending, self-sacrificing love. "Greater love hath no man," etc. (John 15:13).
2. Its faithfulness.
3. Its constancy. "The love of friends of this world is defective in three respects—they begin to love late, cease early, love little. But the love of God is an unequalled love. He loves us without beginning, without intermission, and without end" (Nouet).
III. ITS BENEFITS, or the blessings enjoyed by those who have fellowship with him.
1. Counsel, warning, rebuke. Reproofs are "the graver looks of love."
2. Defence, support, and effectual help.
3. Sympathy, encouragement, and everlasting consolation. "And now," said Jonathan Edwards, on his death bed, turning from his earthly friends toward the approaching darkness, "where is Jesus of Nazareth, my true and never failing Friend?"
IV. ITS CLAIMS, or the duties of those who enjoy such benefits and desire their continuance.
1. To cherish proper feelings toward him—confidence, affection, and delight in intercourse with him.
2. To do those things that please him. "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you."
3. Not to be ashamed of him, but to confess his name before men; to love and serve his friends for his sake, and to seek in all things his honour and glory.—D.
1 Samuel 18:6-16. (GIBEAH)
"And Saul eyed David from that day forward" (1 Samuel 18:9). How extraordinary are the moral contrasts which are often presented in human life! The friendship of Jonathan here stands in opposition to the envy of Saul. Hardly had David experienced the one before he was exposed to the other. "His victory had a double issue, Jonathan's love and Saul's envy, which God so mixed that the one was a remedy of the other" (Hall). On the day of public rejoicing the seeds of jealousy, envy, and hatred were sown in his heart. He eyed David not with favour, as before, but with dislike on account of the honour given to him beyond himself. The general suspicion which he entertained in consequence of the intimations of Samuel concerning his successor also seems to have fastened on him as the man; and henceforth he looked upon him as a dangerous rival. "Mingling with his constitutional malady, it poisoned his whole future relations with David." Of envy notice that -
I. IT TAKES ROOT IN AN EVIL HEART. In the case of Saul the soil was congenial and ready prepared by—
1. Alienation from God and conviction of his disfavour.
2. Selfishness and morbid concentration of thought upon himself.
3. Self-will, pride, and worldly ambition, still continuing and increasing.
4. Wrathful passion. He was very wroth, and the saying displeased him (1 Samuel 18:8). "He who is apt to feel indignation, feels pain at those who are undeservedly successful; but the envious man, going beyond him, feels pain at every one's success" (Aristotle, 'Ethics').
II. IT GROWS IS THE SHADE OF ANOTHER'S PRE-EMINENCE in—
1. Popular estimation. "They have ascribed unto David ten thousands," etc. (1 Samuel 18:8). "What properly occasions envy is the fruit of the accomplishments of others; the pre-eminence which the opinion of the world bestows, or which we dread it will bestow, on their talents above ours" (Blair).
2. Successful achievements, from which such preference proceeds. "The bright day brings out the adder." Prosperity is generally attended by envy.
3. Personal excellences. David "behaved himself wisely" (1 Samuel 18:5); "very wisely" (1 Samuel 18:15); "more wisely than all" (1 Samuel 18:30). He acted prudently, cautiously, skilfully, and therefore prosperously.
"Base envy withers at another's joy,
And hates the excellence it cannot reach"
4. Divine approbation, which appears in prosperous enterprises. "And Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him," etc. (1 Samuel 18:12). "And Cain was very wroth," etc. (Genesis 4:5; 1 John 3:2). The envy felt at the favour shown to another by God is peculiarly criminal, because of its opposition to God himself.
III. IT IS MARKED BY MANY ODIOUS FEATURES.
2. In most cases ingratitude. David had conferred a great benefit on Saul and Israel by his victory over Goliath; he "went out whithersoever Saul sent him," and fought his battles; and often soothed his melancholy with the music of his harp (1 Samuel 18:10).
3. Injustice. He did him "shame" (1 Samuel 20:34) by entertaining suspicions of his loyalty and treating him as a traitor.
4. Ungodliness and all uncharitableness. "Charity envieth not." "Envy is the worst of all passions, and feedeth upon the spirits, and they again upon the body; and so much the more because it is perpetual, and, as it is said, keepeth no holidays" (Bacon, 'Essays').
IV. IT IS PRODUCTIVE OF MUCH DEADLY FRUIT, in relation both to others (Proverbs 27:4) and to the envious man himself (Proverbs 14:30); partly of hatred and partly of grief. "As it shows itself in hatred it strikes at the person envied; but as it affects a man in the nature of grief it recoils and does execution upon the envier. It lies at the heart like a worm, always gnawing and corroding and piercing it with a secret, invisible sting and poison" (South, 'Sermons,' 58.). In Saul it produced unrest of soul, increased subjection to the power of evil—"it came to pass on the morrow," etc. (1 Samuel 18:10); ungovernable rage—"he poised the javelin" twice; craft and hypocrisy; fear (1 Samuel 18:11, 1 Samuel 18:15); continual enmity (1 Samuel 18:21); deliberate avowal of murderous intentions (1 Samuel 19:1); open and unceasing persecution; despair and self-destruction. "When in the last judgment envy is placed at the bar of God, what an indictment will he laid against the evil spirit! The insulting anger of Eliab, the cruelty of Joseph's brethren, the murderous wrath of Cain, and the greatest share in the greatest crime in the world—the crucifying of the Lord of glory—will be charged upon him. To cast this demon out of our bosoms before that final condemnation is one purpose of Jesus, and with all our hearts we should pray for his complete and. speedy victory" (C Vince).
Conclusion:—In order to the cure or prevention of this evil passion, seek a renewed heart; dwell much on the Divine love "that spurns all envying in its bounty;" estimate aright temporal advantages; entertain lowly thoughts of self; learn to admire excellence in others, and regard it as if it were your own; check the first impulse of jealous or envious feeling; and "commit thy way unto the Lord."
"O man! why place thy heart where there doth need
Exclusion of participants in good?
Heaven calls, And, round about you wheeling, courts your gaze
With everlasting beauties. Yet your eye
Turns with fond doting still upon the earth.
Therefore he smites you who discerneth all"
(Dante, 'Purg.' 14.).—D.
1 Samuel 18:17-30. (GIBEAH.)
There is a simplicity which springs from ignorance, and is displayed in folly and presumption (Proverbs 22:3). There is also a simplicity which is the fruit of innocence, truthfulness, and goodness, and appears in an ingenuous mind, a guileless disposition, and straightforward speech and conduct. In its best sense (simplicitas—without fold or twist) it is opposed to duplicity, deception, and "cunning craftiness" (Romans 12:8; Rom 16:19; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 11:3); and it was exemplified, in an eminent degree, by David, especially in his earlier intercourse with Saul; for, through familiarity with court life, and much more in consequence of the straits to which he was reduced by the craft and persecution of the king, the simple-minded, open-hearted shepherd youth once and again turned aside:from the right path (1 Samuel 21:2). Consider simplicity as—
I. BESET BY THE WORKING or CRAFT. Having given way to envy, and in a violent fit of madness threatened the life of David, Saul continued to hate and fear him (Mark 11:18), and sought to get rid of him, though indirectly from restraint of conscience and secretly from fear of the people (Mark 6:20; Luke 22:2). Sin works in the dark. Malicious craft often—
1. Seeks to accomplish ends which it may not dare to avow. Springing from jealousy for personal position and renown, it aims at the depreciation of every one by whom they seem to be endangered; and at his removal, whether accidentally by the hands of others, or by his committing some overt act which may justify his open punishment (1 Samuel 18:17, 1 Samuel 18:21, 1 Samuel 18:25). And toward these ends it works with ever greater directness and less concealment; for that which is hidden in the heart must sooner or later come to light.
2. Makes use of fair professions, and uses pretexts which are specious, false, and hypocritical. David was assured that no harm was really meant him, and made "captain over a thousand" (1 Samuel 18:13); whereas he was removed from the presence of the king because he was hated and feared, and that he might be exposed to greater danger. His not receiving the fulfilment of Saul's promise (1 Samuel 17:25) was probably accounted for by his lack of wealth and social status (1 Samuel 18:25); but the promise was repeated insincerely. "Only be thou valiant for me" (expose thyself to every hazard)," and fight the Lord's battles" (with zeal for Jehovah, which I know thou hast), and (sub voce) "let not my hand be upon him," etc. (1 Samuel 18:17). On the loss of Merab he was consoled by the promise of Michal (1 Samuel 18:21), but only as "a snare," and her love was made use of for the purpose. And at length (when the king had formed his plan, and felt sure of its success), he was told by his servants (as if in confidential communication), "Behold, the king hath delight in thee," etc. (1 Samuel 18:22), "desireth not any dowry," etc. (1 Samuel 18:25); "but Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines."
3. Adopts means which are unworthy, base, and godless. Scheming, plotting, murderous attempts on life under the sanctities of affection and religion; at heart, infatuated opposition to the will of God. If it were not the Divine purpose that David should be king, why fear him? if it were, of what avail would resistance be?
II. DISPLAYED IN THE MIDST OF CRAFT. The snares that were woven around David seem plain enough to us; but there is no reason to suppose that they were at first observed by him. The simple-hearted man—
1. Is accustomed to look upon others as sincere like himself, regards their statements and assurances as truthful, and is slow to suspect their evil intentions. Even to the last David could hardly believe that Saul, of his own accord, sought his life (1 Samuel 26:19). He is "simile concerning evil." Large experience makes men cautious; but it is better to be deceived a hundred times than to lead a life of continual suspicion.
2. Entertains modest and lowly views of himself, takes contempt and disappointment without complaint, and accepts humbly and cheerfully whatever honour may be conferred upon him (1 Samuel 18:18, 1 Samuel 18:23). "Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not" (Jeremiah 45:5). "A pious man is even in prosperity humble in heart."
3. Is intent upon the honest, faithful, and efficient discharge of the duty that lies before him, and fears danger little because he fears God much (1 Samuel 18:5, 1 Samuel 18:14, 1 Samuel 18:27). "David's calm indifference to outward circumstances affecting himself were very strikingly expressed in his conduct. Partly from his poetic temperament, partly from his sweet, natural unselfishness, and chiefly from his loving trust in God, he accepts whatever happens with equanimity, and makes no effort to alter it" (Maclaren). It has been remarked that "genius is rumply the carrying into the maturity of our powers the simplicity and ardour of childhood."
III. PRESERVED FROM THE DEVICES OF CRAFT. It is the best means of preservation, inasmuch as—
1. It affords the least occasion for an adversary to take an advantage. Although the ingenuous man may appear to lie open to attack, yet he is really most effectually guarded against it.
2. It attracts the respect of other men (1 Samuel 18:16), gains the love of those who warn and help him (1 Samuel 18:28; 1 Samuel 19:11), and makes it difficult for his enemies to prevail over him.
3. It insures the favour of God. "The Lord was with him" (1 Samuel 18:12, 1 Samuel 18:14, 1 Samuel 18:28) to guide, defend, and help him (Psalms 37:24, Psalms 37:33). "In thee do I trust."
IV. RESULTING IN AN END OPPOSED TO THAT OF CRAFT.
1. Instead of returning no more from the conflict, he returns in triumph, and receives an unwilling honour from the hand that was lifted up against him (1 Samuel 18:27, 1 Samuel 18:28; Revelation 3:9).
2. Instead of being less an object of terror to the wicked, he is more so (1 Samuel 18:29).
3. Instead of being deprived of the love of the people of God (1 Samuel 18:16 : "All Israel and Judah loved David"), he is more completely enthroned in their hearts (1 Samuel 18:30).
1. How ineffectual are the devices of the wicked against "the upright in heart."
2. How beneficial may even their devices become when met with "simplicity and godly sincerity."
3. How inexpressibly beautiful is the character of the Son of David—"meek and lowly in heart."
4. How necessary is the "anointing of the holy One," that we may become like unto him.—D.
HOMILIES BY G. WOOD
1 Samuel 18:1-9
Love and jealousy.
One great exploit performed in the sight of two armies took David at once and forever out of obscurity. Thenceforth he was a man much observed. The quiet pastoral life at Bethlehem was ended, and could never be resumed. Sudden success brings rapid distinction, but also brings trials and risks from which the obscure are free. David leaped at a bound into honour and fame, but for that very reason he found himself at the beginning of his troubles. Well that, before those troubles began to press him, he knew the Lord as his refuge; well, too, that he won to himself in the very sphere of danger a loving and faithful friend.
I. JONATHAN'S LOVE. If there was a man in Israel who had reason to be jealous of David, it was the Prince Jonathan. He was a gallant soldier, and here was a greater hero to eclipse him. He had by personal valour gained a signal victory over the Philistines, and here was a personal courage still more brilliant, and a discomfiture of the enemy more easy and more complete. He was the heir to the throne, and if this youth should aspire to rule as well as deliver Israel, it was Jonathan whom he would supplant. Yet in this generous prince there appeared not even a shade of envy. He saw in the young shepherd a congenial spirit—a temper adventurous as his own, with a faith in God firm and ardent as his own. The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David. It was good for Jonathan to find a friend who could evoke an admiration and affection so intense. He could no longer look up to his own father with respect or confidence. In the circle or court about the king the finer qualities of Jonathan's nature found no harmony, no encouragement. But here was one who could understand him, and in whom he could see and admire what a leader in Israel ought to be. It was good for David, too, to find that he was cared for, that his pure and devout patriotism was appreciated, and that he had the fraternal sympathy of at least one in that higher grade of life on which he was now so suddenly to enter. The time was at hand when such strong and faithful love would be very precious.
II. SAUL'S JEALOUSY. At first it appeared as though David was to have nothing but honour. The king obeyed his good impulse, and gave the young hero high promotion among his officers, with the evident approval of the soldiers and all the people. But a black cloud of jealousy soon gathered. Saul could not bear to hear this new champion praised more than himself; and he began to brood over the thought that this might be the man at whom Samuel hinted, to whom the Lord would give the kingdom. "What can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day forward." We soon read of the jealous king trying to take David's life. Oh, cruel envy! No worthiness, no goodness is a defence against it. The sight of good excites it to evil. It is the passion of a mean spirit; or, if it fastens on a character which has some great qualities, it tends to weaken and degrade it. Indeed, no more wretched fate can befall any man than to be filled with envy, and so to chafe and jibe at all who surpass him; to become a prey to jealousy, and mistrust or disparage all who seem to please God or man more than he. How fatal for Saul himself was this jealous passion! By the help of David the king might have recovered something of his lost health and happiness, and repaired some of the errors of his reign. But once jealousy took possession of him all this was impossible. Saul became gloomy, crafty, and cruel; and the more David did for the kingdom, hearing himself wisely in camp and court, the more was he watched with envious eyes, and pursued with sullen hatred. "Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?" This seemed an ominous beginning for David; but it served its purpose in the training through which God meant him to pass. After Saul was anointed he was put through no such ordeal. The slight opposition which was made to his sudden elevation was soon surmounted, and the son of Kish stepped up to the throne of Israel with very little difficulty. But this was really ominous. It was a sign that God was to have little service or glory from King Saul. The son of Jesse had a higher destiny, and therefore he was tried and proved. His faith was tested as by fire; his discretion was ripened by the knowledge that jealous eyes were watching him; his patience was perfected; his staying power developed through an experience hard and harassing.
III. SUGGESTIONS OF JESUS CHRIST, LOVED AND HATED. As David in his youth, and on the threshold of his public career, overcame the strong enemy of Israel in single combat, so Jesus in youth, and on the threshold of his public life, encountered the adversary of the people of God, and overcame the tempter in the wilderness. Then, as David endured much before he reached the throne, so Jesus Christ endured much before God raised him up and gave him glory. And during that time of his lowly suffering Jesus was, like his human ancestor David, solaced by love and pursued by envy.
1. Loved. The Son of David had the applause of the multitude, and bore himself so wisely that the keenest observers could find no fault in him. Withal he had the power of knitting souls to himself, so as to make them willing to forsake all for his sake. Now this was always a strong characteristic of David—a charm of character and bearing which attached to him many lovers and friends. Jonathan loved him in youth as his own soul. His warriors were so devoted to him, that he had but to wish for water from the well of Bethlehem, and three heroes dashed through the ranks of the Philistines to draw water and bring it to their chief. Ittai the Gittite and others are evidences that David retained this attaching power even in old age. And did not the Son of David, with an attraction which we cannot analyse or define, draw to himself the sons of Zebedee, and the sons of Jonas, the brother and sisters at Bethany, Mary of Magdala, and many more who found in his companionship and favour all that their hearts desired? Did he not afterwards draw to himself the persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, and engage the all-enduring loyalty and love of Paul? And are there not thousands on thousands who, though they have not seen him, love him, and in whose eyes he is never more worthy of love than when contemplated as One despised and rejected of men, "a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief"? It was a solace to Jesus in his deepest suffering that they who knew him best loved him. How often he dwelt on it, on the night in which he was betrayed 1 "If ye love me keep my commandments" "He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father." "The Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me." Just as it comforted David when hunted and proscribed to know that Jonathan loved him truly and well, so it comforted the Son of David, that though men might hate and kill him, there were those who loved him truly and well, and whom neither death nor life could separate from his love.
2. Hated. We have seen how David's courage and discretion stirred Saul's jealousy. A man so rare in his qualities, so evidently fitted for greatness, drew after him eyes of cruel envy. So it befell the Son of David. Because Jesus drew to him disciples and friends, the priests and rabbis hated him. Because he was followed by multitudes, the rulers took counsel together against him. Because he answered and acted wisely, the scribes and Pharisees were filled with malice against him. Wherever he went, jealous eyes watched him, and crafty questions laid wait for him. The Scripture was fulfilled: "They hated me without a cause." Pontius Pilate easily detected the motive (no just cause)which led the Jewish Council to arraign the Son of David at his judgment seat. "He knew that for envy they had delivered him." So it is today. Jesus Christ is proclaimed as mighty to save. The world is being filled with his name, and everywhere cries ascend of "Hosanna to the Son of David." And how is it taken? Some love, but some also hate. Some feel as Jonathan did. They are quite drawn out of themselves to the Lord Jesus. He is, he must be, their Beloved and their Friend. And how significant of his greatness it is that he, now unseen, awakens in human hearts a faith as strong, an attachment as ardent, as thrilled the breasts of apostles who accompanied him and women who ministered to him in Galilee! Paul, who had not seen him in the flesh, loved him as truly and served him as enthusiastically as Peter and John, who had. Christians of the eleventh century, like Bernard of Clairvaux, or of the fifteenth, like him who wrote as Thomas a Kempis, clave to him as devoutly as the Fathers who lived within a few generations of the apostles. And comparative moderns, like Herbert, Bengel, Rutherford, Madame Guyon, Brainerd, Whitefield, the Wesleys, Toplady, Hervey, Henry Martyn, McCheyne, Adolph Monod, have held him as precious as did the most fervent spirits of earlier times. Jesus Christ has always known how to draw men to himself, and hold them by cords of spiritual attraction, so that they have loved him as their own souls. Others, however, eye him as Saul eyed David, in order to find fault with him. Oh, what a triumph it would give to a certain class of men if they could only find a blot in the Lord Jesus; if they could show him to have been no better or higher than ether men! But it cannot be done. His way is perfect. His character, however closely scrutinised, reveals no flaw. It comes to this, that men hate him because he is so good. They love the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds are evil.—F.
1 Samuel 18:29, 1 Samuel 18:30
David proved and tried.
I. EXEMPLARY CONDUCT UNDER TRIAL. One can hardly imagine a course of events more likely to turn a young man's head and make him giddy with elation than the rapid promotion of the youthful David. Brought at once from comparative obscurity into the full blaze of public admiration as a national hero, appointed as an officer of high rank in the army, made son-in-law to the king, and at the same time trusted and honoured by the people, the son of Jesse had much to tempt him to self-complacence. It is a sign that the Lord was with him that he bore himself meekly, circumspectly, and with "sublime repression of himself." A man who is conscious of fitness for a great position can afford to wait. It must come to him, if he lives long enough; and if he is not to live, why should he fret his few years with an idle ambition? David had something better than such a consciousness; he knew himself to be anointed and ordained of God to fill an eminent place in his service. True, that nothing seems to have been said about the kingship at the private anointing in Bethlehem; and David's gift of sacred song seemed to point him out as successor of Samuel rather than of Saul. But kings, not prophets, were anointed; and the thought of being king, especially after the exploit at Elah, must have passed and repassed through the young hero's mind. Yet because he believed God he did not make haste. If the high and perilous seat of a king of Israel was destined for him, let it come; but he would not grasp it, or climb into it by dispossessing its first occupant. Not by him would Saul be dethroned, or any dishonour done to a head which had received a holy anointing. God would give what he pleased, as and when he might see fit. Enough that David should act wisely and justly in the station to which he was assigned. This was no fatalism. The history shows that David used all lawful (and some rather questionable) endeavours to preserve his own life, and that he missed no opportunity to advance his public interest. He was far from inferring that, as God had marked out for him a destiny, he must not give any heed to his way or to his safety, because God would bring his own purpose to pass. On the contrary, he knew that the fulfilment of the destiny must be through his own discretion, valour, and proved fitness for the royal dignity. Therefore, while David would not push his way ambitiously to the throne, he was careful to do nothing that would make such promotion impossible. In fact David took the course which may be recommended to every young man who desires to rise in the esteem and confidence of others. He did well whatever was given him to do. He behaved himself wisely as a minstrel, as a soldier, as a prince. The historian marks the steps of his advance "wisely," "very wisely," "more wisely than all the servants of Saul" (1Sa 18:14, 1 Samuel 18:15, 1 Samuel 18:30). If we read "prospered," "prospered exceedingly," prospered more, the lesson remains the same. We are reminded of the youthful Joseph, always prosperous in administration, whether in Potiphar's house, in charge of the prison, or in the government of Egypt. It was because the Lord was with him (Genesis 39:2, Genesis 39:23). Yet the promotion of Joseph was through his well approved discretion and fidelity winning for him more and more confidence (Gen 39:1-23 :39-41). So David prospered; every step of his elevation bringing out more clearly to view his fine combination of boldness and discretion, and his consequent fitness to rise yet higher, and to be the leader and ruler of all Israel. Happy the nation where such proved fitness counts for more than the highest birth or the strongest interest! If survival of the fittest be a rule in nature, selection of the fittest is the true principle for the public service. Not that every one who holds an inferior position well is fit to hold a higher and rise toward the highest. Men have their range, beyond which they are ill at ease and incapable. But this is certain, that men who ale fit for a leading position will reveal their capacity while serving in a subordinate place. Only in judging of this account must be taken not of brain power and acquired knowledge merely, but of character, and that moral influence which character and conduct give. Is it not on this principle that God promotes the heirs of glory? All who have received his grace are anointed ones; but they have to serve before they rule, and to be tested in labours and patience before they can reign with Christ. Has not our Saviour taught in parables that his people must be servants till he returns, and that only good and faithful servants are to enter into the joy of their Lord? Has not St. Paul spoken of eternal life as given to those "who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, honour, and immortality"? Behold the way to "the honour that comes from God only." Behave wisely in the present sphere of duty. Do well, and do it with patience. Make not your advancement in this world, or even in the world to come, a matter of passionate anxiety. Foster and obey the sense of duty, attend conscientiously to the obligations of your present station, and fear not but the Lord will give you as much elevation as is good for you in this present time, and in the age to come a place and a portion with the King and with his saints.
II. THE IMPRESSION WHICH DAVID PRODUCED.
1. On the people. They were captivated by his gallantry and his discretion. Both in martial skill and in civil administration he surpassed all the public men of his country, and was fast becoming a popular idol. It is too true that, notwithstanding this, Saul was able to drive him into exile, and found soldiers enough to pursue him for his life. Popular favour did not protect him from such outrage. Yet two facts are worth noting.
(1) That David gave clear evidence of a man who could, and therefore should, sooner or later, lead his countrymen. This early approval of himself to all observers, however obscured or disparaged during the days of his persecution, was not forgotten by the people, and helped his ultimate elevation to the throne.
(2) That, though many turned against him at the bidding of Saul, David from this very time drew to himself friends that would not forsake him, for they saw in him the hope of Israel; and, following him to the caves among the rocks of Judah, and even to the land of the Philistines, were the companions, first of his tribulation, and then of his kingdom and glory.
2. On the king. The effect of David's well doing on Saul was sinister and shameful. The good points which had once appeared in this unhappy man now recede from view, and the bad points of his character come out in strong relief under the baleful influence of jealousy. When he was himself the sole hero, and the eyes of all Israel turned to him, he could be gracious and even humble in his bearing. But elevation had made him proud; power had made him wilful; and a bad conscience made him hate and fear a well doer near the throne. He felt that this youth from Bethlehem was far the better man, and he suspected that the nation thought so too. Envy completed the moral ruin of Saul. As the worm seeks out the best fruit to eat the heart of it, so envy fastens on the best and noblest persons to hate and hurt them. It goes by quick steps to injury—even to murder. "Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David." O cursed envy! O hideous ingratitude! O foul and furious jealousy!
III. THE TREATMENT OF JESUS CHRIST FORSHADOWED. The Son of David lived unblamably, answered discreetly, behaved himself wisely. The people gathered to him in multitudes, with eyes and ears of admiration. They judged him worthy to be made their king. It is true that the fickle populace took part with their rulers against our Lord, just as the fickle subjects of Saul took part with him against the son of Jesse. But, in the one case as in the other, some hearts clave to the persecuted One. And as all the malice that pursued David failed to keep him from the kingdom to which God had destined him and for which God had fitted him, so the rejection, betrayal, and crucifixion of Jesus could not keep him from the throne far above all principality and power which was his in virtue of an eternal covenant. The rulers bated him without a cause; his very wisdom and goodness irritated them, and they took counsel together how they might slay him. For envy they delivered him up to judgment, and demanded that he should be crucified. At the period described in our text a crisis had arrived in Israel. Men were forced to choose between Saul and David, for these were contrary the one to the other, and could not live in unity. We know what side such a man as Doeg took. But David had his friends, who dared everything rather than renounce his cause. Better, in their opinion, to be exiles and pilgrims with him than to remain with the moody tyrant from whom the Lord had departed. So, in the days of his showing to Israel, many refused Jesus, but some clave to him. Better, in their opinion, to be cast out of the synagogues, to go forth without the gate, bearing his reproach, than to take part with the world that hated him, especially with that hard and gloomy Judaism from which the Lord had departed. The crisis continues. Before all men the alternative lies—for Christ, or against him. Oh, receive him whom the world has rejected; give him your hearts; identify and associate yourselves with the "once despised Jesus."—F.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 18". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter