The Book of 1 Samuel - "Searchlights from the Word" by G. Campbell Morgan.
If Thou wilt … give ... I will give.
1 Samuel 1:11
These words constitute the central terms of the vow which Hannah vowed to Jehovah. The story is full of human interest, but there is much Divine light upon it. The proper and beautiful passion for motherhood drove this devout woman of the Hebrew people to Jehovah in prayer; and He made it His way of raising up for His people one who was to be their leader in strangely difficult times. Whatever may have been the motive of Hannah's desire, the method she followed is one which is very full of suggestiveness. This pre-natal dedication of a life to the service of God, was an act of faith; and it was one which, by the working of wonderful and mysterious laws, produced definite results in the life of the child. The question is still sometimes asked as to when we should begin to deal with our children as to their relationship with God. Does not this story afford a somewhat startling answer to the inquiry? Here was a woman who by an act of solemn faith deliberately dedicated her child to God, not only before he was born, but while he was not yet conceived. In such an act what remarkable dedication of motherhood was manifested! With all the spiritual influence of such a vow upon her, how carefully Hannah would guard, first herself and then her child, in order that he might be worthy of the high service to which he was thus dedicated! The old-fashioned mothers who still believe that "children are a heritage of Jehovah" are those who give them - the children - opportunities in life which are denied to those who are thought of in other wise. Such dedications of children by mothers, cannot ensure the dedication of themselves by the children, but it makes it very difficult for the children to go wrong ultimately. This is a great subject, and worthy of careful pondering.
Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child, girded with a linen ephod.
1 Samuel 2:18
The words "being a child" are inscribed by the chronicler to emphasize the fact that Samuel at this time was quite a young boy. He is placed in contrast quite definitely with the sons of Eli. They, the appointed priests of Jehovah as sons of Eli, were desecrating their office, and bringing the whole religious life into contempt by their evil courses. Here in the Tabernacle precincts was a lad being prepared for such high service as would restore these religious facts to their true place in the thought of the people. We must remember that at this time the boy was by no means conscious of the ultimate meaning of his life. So far he had no knowledge of God based upon personal and first-hand communion with Him. His service of Jehovah was that of his natural and simple waiting upon Eli in all the details of everyday life, under the inspiration of his love for his mother. This is the true line of religious life and activity for children. The Boy of Nazareth, long afterwards, surely ministered before Jehovah, when He went down with His parents and was subject unto them. It should ever be the aim of parents, and all who have charge of the little ones, to help them to understand the sacred beauty of doing all the natural everyday things as to the Lord. It is by such devotion in the ordinary things, that they are being prepared for some hour when the call of God will come to them directly, and so the way be opened for direct communion and co-operation with Him on their part.
Speak; for Thy servant heareth. - 1 Sam. 3:10
These were the words in which Samuel yielded himself to God, for the reception of His word, on behalf of Israel. The boy, dedicated to the service of God before his birth, and having ministered to Jehovah simply and naturally by serving Eli, was now brought into a closer relation with Jehovah. He was still very young - Josephus says about twelve years of age. That was the age at which the Hebrew boy came to be a son of the Law, that is, began to be directly responsible. At this juncture God spoke to him. Instructed by Eli, he answered the call, and thus submitted himself of his own will to God. Thus yielded, he became the instrument of Divine action in a remarkable way, for, like Moses, he was not judge only, he was prophet and priest. Simple as these words are, they reveal the one true attitude of those who are called of God to deliver His word to men. That attitude must ever be that of the wholly-surrendered life, and that of waiting to hear the word of God. Too often we fail because we do not listen before we speak. With all best intentions we attempt to interpret the will of God by a general knowledge, and the observation of the circumstances of the hour. It is ever a mistake. God still waits to speak to, those through whom He would make known His will; and it is for them to wait until His revelation comes. Only thus can there be anything like authority in the message delivered.
The glory is departed from Israel; for the ark of God is taken.
1 Samuel 4:22
It was indeed a dark hour for Israel when the Philistines routed them in battle. There fell of Israel thirty thousand foot-men; the two sons of Eli were slain; and the Ark of God was captured. A woman in the anguish of child-birth understood the central tragedy. Her husband was slain, but the more terrible fact was that the Ark was taken. The glory had departed from Israel. That Ark had been at once the symbol and pledge of the Presence of Jehovah in the midst of His people To that Presence they owed everything. If that was gone, Israel had no glory, for she had neither might nor wisdom apart from her relationship to God. The perpetual spiritual significance of this is patent. The people of God, in every age, have no glory save that of the actual and manifested Presence of the Lord in their midst. If that is lacking, they are poor indeed. They may be, as to earthly matters, rich and increased with goods, and having need of nothing; but they are poor, blind, naked, miserable, when the living Lord is not patently present among them. And there is no mistaking the absence. Men of the world know when the elaborate and spectacular organization is devoid of the power of the living Presence; and when it is so, they hold it in contempt. The sense of the Presence of the Lord today may be mystic, defying our explanation, but it is the one and only thing which gives us distinction, and creates our power in the affairs of men. When it is absent, there is no glory - we are Ichabod.
Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go again to its own place. – 1 Sam. 5:11
This short chapter is full of interest, in that it shows how God is able to become His own witness when His people fail in their testimony to Him among the nations. All that is essential in this story is of abiding application. To Israel the ark was the centre and symbol of their national life. In itself it was devoid of power. In the hour of peril from Philistine attack, and hoping to save themselves, the people had brought this Ark into the midst of the fight. That was an entirely superstitious use thereof, and had proved utterly unavailing. The Ark was not a charm equal to delivering disobedient Israel. But God would not permit the enemies of His people to trifle with it. If men hold their peace, stones will cry out; and if chosen witnesses are unfaithful to God, then He will make the Ark, which is the symbol of His presence, the occasion of His judgment upon His enemies. Thus Philistia was made to feel that if she had been able for the moment to conquer and break the power of Israel, she had still to deal with the God of Israel, and that was a different matter. This cry of the people to the Philistine lords to send the Ark away was the result of this conviction. Thus God constantly breaks through on human consciousness directly, not always in ways which we describe as supernatural, but always with certainty and conviction. This fact may give us encouragement, but it must not be used as an excuse for the infidelity of those who should be His witnesses. Had Israel been obedient, Philistia had never taken the Ark of God.
And the kine took the straight way by the way to Beth-shemesh.
1 Samuel 6:12
These words constitute the record of a remarkable fact, which to Philistia was a conclusive proof of the action and power of God. As the result of the clamour of the people that the Ark should be sent away, a council was called; and the help of the diviners was asked. It is intensely interesting to see how definitely they recognized the Divine action. Whatever the long years had done for Israel, it is certain that the fear and dread of Jehovah had been implanted in the heart of the surrounding nations. The counsellors advised the sending back of the Ark, accompanied by offerings which would indicate their recognition of the fact that the plagues which had fallen upon them had come by the act of God. The method of sending the Ark was of the nature of an experiment, and the sequel shows how their own test must have conclusively proved to them that God was at work. That the kine took their way directly to Beth-shemesh was clear evidence of His overruling. That they should go quietly, lowing as they went, was a most remarkable fact, for they were "milch kine," not trained to draw loads. That they should travel away from their calves was the more remarkable. That they should take their way to the first city of Israel was conclusive. To those who have eyes to see, God constantly bears witness to Himself by turning the natural courses of men and things into extraordinary and unnatural lines of activity.
Hitherto hath the Lord helped us. - 1 Sam. 7:12
A dark period of twenty years is passed over without detailed record. It would seem that for all that time Israel was suffering oppression under the power of Philistia. There was no definite centre of worship; for while the Ark was resting in the house of an individual, the Tabernacle was probably dismantled. During this period Samuel passed from youth to man-hood, and now approached the hour of his definite leadership. This was ushered in by the lamenting of the people after God. Of this Samuel took advantage, calling them to return to Him and put away all strange gods. At Mizpeh by a direct Divine intervention the power of Philistia was broken, and her cities were restored to Israel. Samuel erected an altar, and called it Ebenezer. In connection with this, he uttered this great word: "Hitherto hath Jehovah helped us." The significant word is "Hitherto." It included all the experiences through which they had passed, not the victories only, but the discipline and suffering also. This man of clear vision recognized the government of God, and its beneficent purpose and method. Through chastisement God had brought them to lamentation after Himself; through such lamentation, to the condition in which it was possible for Him to deliver them. This is ever so. To look back honestly, is to see that God has always been acting for our highest welfare, even through the dispensations which have been those of calamity and sorrow. The light of that backward look should be allowed to fall upon the present, and give us confidence for the future.
Make us a king to judge us like all the nations. – 1 Sam. 8:5
In this chapter we come to the dividing-line in the national history of the children of Israel. They had been created by God a Theocracy. That was the peculiar character and glory of their national life. They had no king other than Jehovah. In proportion as they had realized the ideal, they had witnessed to other nations as to the perfection of His government. Their realization had been, so far as they were concerned, most imperfect. Through persistent deflections, they had created the necessity for the raising up of the judges, and thus had approximated towards a human king. Now the hour came when they definitely asked for such a king. The very terms of their request revealed the evil of it. They asked for a king like the nations. Their glory and their power had 'consisted in their unlikeness to the nations in this very fact. By reason of their failure to submit themselves completely to the rule of God, they had failed, themselves, to realize all the breadth and beneficence of that rule. And so they sought conformity to the ways of the nations. It was a sad fall. There is but one King who is able to govern humanity perfectly, and that is God. Man's only hope of realizing all freedom and all fullness of life is that of return to the Kingdom of God. Never will there be final peace and prosperity on earth, until humanity has rid itself of all human kings, and yielded to God as the one and only King. God has appeared in human history as Man, and He has appointed a day in which He will govern the world in righteousness through that Man. That is the fact which makes it certain that men will find liberty and life in all strength and fullness.
I have looked upon My people, because their cry is come unto Me.
1 Samuel 9:16
These words were spoken by Jehovah to Samuel in explanation of His action in giving them a king. His perfect counsel for them was that they should have no king other than Himself. They had failed to realize this high possibility. Their God knew them; He had looked upon them. Their cry for a king had come up to Him. That cry should be answered. He would give them a king, in order that, in the long processes of experience, they might learn the folly of their choice. In this is revealed a constant method of the Divine government. When men fail to rise to the height of the purpose of God, and clamour for something lower, He gives them what they ask, and then watches over them and guards them as they work out their low choice to its ultimate conclusion, and thus are eventually brought back to His purpose with a full understanding of its perfection. The grace of the method is discovered in the fact that, while God gave them up to the discipline of their choice, He selected the king. If there be one thing more important than any other in our lives, it surely is that we should begin all our praying by petitions which ask that we may be taught to desire only what God desires for us. When desire is out of harmony with the will of God, He constantly grants its petitions, and then in justice and mercy watches over us until we have discovered in experience how much better is His way.
God save the King.
1 Samuel 10:24
This was the cry of the people when Saul was presented to them as the chosen of Jehovah. The literal translation would be, "Let the king live." It was simply an expression of desire for the long life of the one thus appointed. This first expression of the Hebrew people has passed into the current speech of all peoples who live under monarchic government. In this earliest use of it, it expressed the satisfaction of the people that their request was granted, their recognition of God in the appointment, and their submission to the authority of the appointed one. Such submission was wholly right. If men desire a king, their first duty is to obey the king. Paul recognized this when he clearly enjoined obedience to kings and all in authority. On the side of the king it was, and is, necessary that he recognize the fact that his authority is a delegated authority, that the powers that be are ordained of God. If he fail to do so, and govern without righteousness and justice, then the time will inevitably come when God will act through the people for his dethronement, and if necessary for his death. Not only this Bible history, but all human history testifies to the truth of these things. In them we discover the persistence of the Divine government. Man with all his choosing and planning never escapes from that final authority and power. This is the one and only ground for confidence in human affairs, and it is a rock foundation.
There shall not a man be put to death this day; for today the Lord hath wrought deliverance in Israel. - 1 Sam. 11:13
It would seem as though Saul, going down to his house at Gibeah, did not take up the active responsibilities of his king-ship until the Ammonite invasion stirred within him, as the Spirit of God came upon him, a sense of responsibility. He, at once, in the presence of danger, and under the constraint of the Spirit, gathered the people and led them to victory. The closing sentences of the previous chapter reveal the fact that there were certain men who did not agree to his appointment. In the day of his victory the people suggested the punishment of these men. The possibility of greatness in Saul is manifested in that he refused thus to mar the days of God's victory. When we contrast this attitude of the man with that of the days when, the evil spirit being upon him, he sought by every means in his power to destroy David, we realize how great was his fall. At this time he had a true outlook. He took no credit to himself for his victory. He knew that deliverance had come by the act of God. Therefore what right had he to put men to death because they were not loyal to him? The sense of God corrects all the things of a human-life. Where it is acute, there is no room for the passion of revenge. There is not even a care to fight for one's own rights. To realize the Divine government is always to be patient and magnanimous in one's dealings with other men; and let it never be forgotten that such magnanimity will do more to make a throne secure than all the methods of oppressive tyranny.
As for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.
1 Samuel 12:23
Let us be very careful not to misread these words of Samuel, for rightly apprehended they are most arresting and revealing. 'Samuel did not say: "Far be it from me that I should sin against you, in ceasing to pray for you." There is a secondary sense in which he might have said that, for we do certainly sin against men when we cease to pray for them. But that is so for the very reason which is revealed in what Samuel did actually say, namely: "Far be it from me that I should sin against Jehovah in ceasing to pray for you." His thought was that if he ceased to pray for Israel he would be sinning against God. What a remarkable truth is involved in that conception concerning prayer. Quite simply stated, it is that in prayer we create conditions which make it possible for God to act in ways otherwise impossible to Him. When we cease to pray we limit God. When we pray we open His way to act. We may not be able to account for this philosophically. It may seem to us as though our praying could not possibly make any difference to the putting forth of the Divine power, even though it might possibly affect His will. As a matter of fact, the reverse is true. No prayer of mine can change the will of God, which is ever "good and acceptable and perfect." But my prayer can and does make it possible for His power to operate in ways impossible apart from it. When I cease to pray for men, I sin against God first, because I hinder Him in that I do not help Him. Therefore I grievously sin against men when I cease to pray for them.
Thou hast done foolishly. – 1 Sam. 13:13
What had this man done? A reference to a previous statement (10:8) will show that in the day of his anointing Saul had been implicitly instructed by Samuel as to what would take place at Gilgal, and as to what line of action he was to follow. Many years had passed, but undoubtedly that command had been the revelation of a rule of conduct for the king, viz. that he was to undertake no enterprise, apart from the making known of the Divine Will through the prophet, in connection with the offering of burnt-offerings and peace-offerings. The circumstances in which Saul found himself were particularly trying. The people were filled with fear in the presence of the Philistines and were scattering. Saul waited seven days, according to instructions, and then, in order to stop the rout, he arrogated to himself the function which was that of the prophet only. This was his foolishness. It is an arresting story. The action seems plausible; judged by ordinary political standards, it was justifiable. As a matter of fact, it was an action which denied the root principle of theocratic monarchy. It was an act of insubordination to the one King, Jehovah. It cost this man his kingship. We may learn from it that plausibility is no justification for disobedience. However dark the day, or difficult the circumstances, we are never justified in following our own reasonings, when they bring us into conflict with the Divine order. That order is always that of the utmost wisdom, and anything which controverts it is foolishness, however much it may seem to be in harmony with reason.
The people rescued Jonathan, that he died not.
1 Samuel 14:45
In this act the true Theocracy, that is, the people God-governed, and so the true democracy, asserted their will against that of the king, and setting aside his ruling, prevented a great wrong. Saul's oath was one of rashness, and was wholly wrong. As Dr. Kirkpatrick has pointed out, it led to three evil results, viz.; It hindered rather than helped the pursuit of the enemy ; it involved Jonathan in involuntary trespass; it indirectly occasioned the sin of the people. When the result threatened was the death of Jonathan, all the deepest things in national life found expression, and the king was gloriously disobeyed. It is an arresting and assuring fact that this has often happened in human history. Deep down in the human heart there is that which understands the right; and over and over again, under stress of circumstances, that understanding becomes active. When it does, it is invincible. Nothing can stand before it. Kings, rulers, parliaments, are swept aside, and the right is done. Those who desire to lead men in right ways may always appeal to this deepest fact in human consciousness. That is not to say that the appeal will always be obeyed. There are times when the voice of the people is by no means the voice of God. In such cases however we may know that the voice of the people is contradicting the deepest knowledge of the people. God has never left Himself without witness in the human soul, and whenever we appeal for righteousness and truth, we may know that there is an answering appeal within the human conscience.
Thou hast rejected the word of the Lord; He hath also rejected thee from being king.
1 Samuel 15:23
The appointments of God are always conditional. If the conditions upon which they are made are not fulfilled, they cease. Saul was surely chosen of God, and by Him appointed to the office of king over this people. But that position had been clearly defined for him from the beginning. If the people had rejected Jehovah from being their King (see 8:7), He had not given them up, nor resigned His position as their King. Granting them their request for a king, He had not for a moment ceased to reign. From the first, Saul had been instructed by Samuel that he was but to reveal and exercise the Divine authority. His one law in all his exercise of the Kingly office must be the word of Jehovah. When, leaning to his own understanding, he failed to act according to that word, he forfeited his right to rule. Therefore God rejected him from being king. It is ever so. In His grace God calls men to positions of high responsibility and authority; and in doing so, ever makes clear the conditions upon which they will be able to discharge that responsibility and exercise that authority. If they fail in any degree to fulfil those conditions, they are unable to do the work to which they are appointed. Then without any compromise they are rejected of God from the position. There are no appointments in the economy of the Kingdom of God which are perpetual, save as those holding them are carrying out the appointed work by fulfilling the revealed conditions. However successful in the higher senses a servant of God may be, if he or she depart from the law of God conditioning that service, they will become "castaway" from that service.
There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep.
1 Samuel 16:11
In these words Jesse expressed what he considered the disqualifications of David for the kingly office. The fact that he was the youngest removed him furthest from the possibilities of responsibility; and the fact that he was doing the most menial work of the family made it most unlikely that he should in any sense be fitted for such responsibility. So completely was David out of the running in his father's thought, that he had not even been sent for. Yet he was the chosen of Jehovah. The deepest reason is given earlier (verse 7), "Jehovah looketh on the heart." Thus even here in these olden times we are brought face to face with a matter which even yet men have hardly come to realize. All the things which men count as privileges, and therefore as creating fitness for position and high service, are in themselves of no value in the sight of God. He looketh on the heart. He considers the deepest fact in personality, the inner and hidden impulse, desire, affection. Perhaps there is a yet deeper note in the story. The very supposed disadvantages in the case of David were advantages. The youngest son would naturally, from the discipline of those earlier years, be more free from arrogance than Eliab the first-born. The shepherd-boy was, in the very work of that position, learning the true art of kingship. Homer said: "All kings are shepherds of the people," and that certainly is the Biblical conception. God's choices and appointments are ever based upon the highest wisdom.
Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a javelin: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, which thou hast defied.
1 Samuel 17:45
The contrast in these words is between the equipment of the two men. Looking at them apart from this equipment, the contrast between them proved the inequality of the combat. Goliath stood somewhere in the neighbourhood of ten feet high, and was massive in proportion. David was by comparison a stripling. On that level of observation an onlooker would say that this was not war, it was murder. The youth could have no chance. This was not his own conception of things, as these words show; and the reason was, that he took account of the equipment of each. The man came armed with offensive weapons, all in the realm of the physical. The youth had also material weapons of a simple, primitive nature, but he did not name them. He was armed with the profound sense of the righteousness of his cause. The armies defied, were the armies of Jehovah of hosts. In His name then, he went forth to conflict. The sequel we know. The material weapons of David were needed, and on that level, they were superior to those of the giant, for they operated ere the sword, the spear, or the javelin could be brought into use. But it was the sense of the righteousness of his cause which gave inerrancy and strength to the slinging of David. The truth is of abiding application.
And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.
1 Samuel 18:9
Saul became suspicious and jealous of David. The reason is given later (verse 12): "Saul was afraid of David, because Jehovah was with him, and was departed from Saul." This is an inexpressibly sad and tragic story. This man was set aside from a position of trust, through his own sin, and now was filled with hatred of the man who was called to assume the position, and fulfil the responsibilities from which he had been rejected. The processes of sin are terrible indeed. Out of the first act, others inevitably grow, until the whole nature becomes corrupted. Saul stooped to the basest acts in his hatred of David, and sought every method to rid himself of the man whom he considered his rival. In all this, we see the blindness which results from sin. Saul seems to have had no consciousness that in his persecution of David he was still fighting against God. Here we need to watch and pray. If through our failure, the Divine discipline operates, we deepen our sin by fighting against it. Our true attitude should be that of accepting it, and yielding to it. What a different story would that of Saul have been if he had submitted to the chastisement of God, and received David as the appointed king! Through such acquiescence in the chastening of the Lord the soul may be restored to fullness of life. Even though the opportunity of some special service is lost for ever through disobedience, the life of fellowship may be restored and maintained; and in some other way God may still make use of those who, thus having failed, are yet responsive to the deepest intentions of His discipline.
An evil spirit from the Lord was upon Saul.
1 Samuel 19:9
This evil spirit came upon Saul when the Spirit of Jehovah departed from him (see 16. 14). There is no doubt that Saul suffered through all this period from a mental disorder. His actions were those of a madman, over and over again. What is remarkable in the narrative is, first, that this malady is attributed to the action of an evil spirit, who found its opportunity when the Spirit of the Lord was withdrawn; and secondly, that this evil spirit is declared to have been under the government of God also, in that it is described as "from Jehovah." This is all very suggestive. The tendency of modern thinking, to deny the actuality of the influence of spirits on human life, is entirely out of harmony with Scripture teaching. Therein; the fact is always recognized. Two things, however, are illustrated in this story, and the whole Biblical revelation corroborates them. The first is, that the spirits that have access to the soul of man are all evil; they are the spirits of lawlessness. There is but one Spirit Who brings to the soul influences of purity and wisdom and strength, and that is the Spirit of God. The second fact is, that these evil spirits are also under the control of God. They are permitted to act, but ever only within His government. Satan must seek permission to tempt Job; he must obtain the Apostles by asking, if he would sift them as wheat. The messenger of Satan may buffet, but only within the limitations fixed by God. Finally, no created being, whether angelic or human, escapes the government of God.
For he loved him as he loved his own soul.
1 Samuel 20:17
The story of David and Jonathan is one of the most beautiful idylls in the Bible, and so also in all literature. Its beauty is enhanced in the sacred Scriptures because it is set in relation to an exceedingly dark background. Love is always beautiful, but the full richness of its colours is only discovered in the presence of suffering and of adversity. From the account of the beginnings of this friendship (chapter it would seem that Jonathan's love for David was earlier than (and the inspiring cause of) David's love for Jonathan. Indeed, the whole story seems to warrant us in saying that love had an even finer expression m Jonathan than in David. There was less, perhaps, of selfishness in it. He was heir-apparent to the throne, but he knew that God had chosen David for that position, and without any pang of regret he acquiesced in the Divine will, and remained the friend of David, loving him more rather than less because he was the anointed of Jehovah. Jonathan loved David as he loved his own soul. That is the basis of real friendship. It is the love of complete selflessness, which substitutes the interests of the loved one for those of self. Such love is not common. It is, however, often manifested, and it shines with all beauty. Experience does not find, in all life's course, many such friends. Happy is the man or woman who has found one such. And yet, perhaps, there is a higher happiness, that, namely, of being such a friend to someone else. David was blessed in Jonathan, but in the deep experience of his own soul Jonathan was supremely blessed in such love for David.
David ... was sore afraid of Achish. – 1 Sam. 21:12
This is a strange story about David; and vet it is not strange, in that it is so true to human experience. Fear and faith are constantly antagonistic. The triumph of the one is always the defeat of the other. This is the record of a period in the life of David when fear triumphed over faith. In fear of Saul he fled to Achish, the enemy of the people of God. There he was filled with fear of Achish, and we have the sad picture of God's anointed man feigning madness in order to protect himself. There can be no question that these were days of great strain for David; and judging simply on the ground of what man is able to endure in his own strength, we cannot wonder that the tension reacted upon him. But there was no need for him to depend upon himself. Faith might have triumphed over fear of Saul. Had it done so, he would never have sought refuge with Achish, and would not have been reduced to such unworthy expedients for securing safety. Surely all these things were written for our learning; and while the experience of David calls out our sympathy, because we have so often yielded to fear, and then resorted to foolish methods to find escape from danger, nevertheless the lesson which is patent is that we have no right to take refuge from any peril among those who are the enemies of the Divine purpose. That means, finally, that fear is wrong. Faith in God is the strength of righteous action, and there is no reason for any other attitude of mind than that of perfect confidence in Him.
Every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him.
1 Samuel 22:2
The story of Adullam is a great story. Thither David went when he left Achish. Whether his going there was the final act of his fear, or the return to faith perhaps, it is hard to decide. In any case, he had now abandoned the attempt to seek safety among the enemies of his people. The cave became a rallying ground, and the result is found later in the character of the mighty men who were gathered about him. In many ways it was a sorry crowd that went down to join him there. Men in distress, in debt, and discontented, gathered about him. From the view-point of Saul they were the unfit men, who were a menace to the existing order of things. The probability is that they were what they were as a result of the chaotic condition of the kingdom; their distress resulting from the false method of government; their debt due to oppressive taxation; their discontent a righteous discontent with the prevailing wrongs. The true kingliness of David is seen in the effect he produced upon these men. They became an orderly company of mighty men, filled with the high heroic spirit which is capable of splendid loyalty and glorious deeds. It is almost impossible to escape from the parabolic value of this story. Our King is still rejected of men, though appointed by God. In His rejection He is gathering about Him those in distress, in debt, discontented; and He is changing them by His rule into the men of might, who will stand by Him until the day of His earthly coronation. The phrase "cave of Adullam" has become the description of all sorts of associations of discontented men. Well, if these men are gathering about God's King, their discontent is being made the dynamic of human deliverance.
Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand. - 1 Sam. 23:14
Thus the historian declares a great fact .about the history of David. He was the object of Saul's bitter hatred, but be was perfectly safe in the keeping of God. The scores of happenings recorded in the chapter reveal the difficulty of David's position. Saul, still nominally king, was devoting all his strength to the persecution of this man, while the affairs of the kingdom were in the most hopeless confusion. While David in exile was most certainly the popular idol of the people, their fickleness was manifested in the despicable treachery of both the Keilites and the Ziphites. David, with the true spirit of patriotism, waged war against the Philistines. It is yet evident that his exile and persecution were telling upon him, and nervous fear was at work in his heart. Nevertheless, his trust in God triumphed at this time, and to Him he made his appeal in this hour of trial. In that hour of communion he learned that the Divine government would not mean that he would be free from persecution, but it did mean that he would be delivered therefrom. To be in the will of God among men who disobey that will, is inevitably to be persecuted. They will ruthlessly seek to harm and destroy. But they are powerless. God will never deliver His servants ultimately into the hands of His enemies. There came the hour when great David's greater Son was delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, but that deliverance was into the pathway that led to final victory.
The Lord avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee. - 1 Sam. 24:12
In this chapter we have the account of how circumstances suddenly put Saul in the power of David. It would have been perfectly easy for him to take the life of his enemy, and so put an end to the bitter experiences through which that enemy was compelling him to pass. From the standpoint of worldly wisdom, he missed his opportunity, and so prolonged his own suffering. From the standpoint of the true wisdom, that which results from faith in God, he acted rightly. To have slain Saul would have been to have taken things into his own hands, and to do that is always to bring disaster. It is ever better to wait for God than to 'attempt to hurry His purposes by actions dictated only by the appearance of fortuitous circumstances. It is perhaps one of the hardest lessons for the human heart to learn, and yet more harm than we think is done in the enterprises of the Divine Kingdom by the zeal which is without knowledge. The hour comes when we have such a chance of getting level with our foes, of wiping out old scores, of ending our suffering by some swift act in the dark. Let us be very much afraid of such hours. They almost always conceal perils far greater than those from which they seem to afford opportunity of escape. It is ever better to wait for God. He sees all. We see but a part. We are always safer waiting for Him.
The soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God.
1 Samuel 25:29
Thus Abigail gave expression to her understanding, of the place of David in the will and power of God. The first and simple meaning of the declaration was that the life of the man chosen of God to be king, was safe in His keeping. The truth was beautifully expressed. The phrase, "the bundle of life," described the sum total of things precious to God, and therefore held together in His preserving power. Very suggestive is the idea of close fellowship with God expressed in the statement that Jehovah God Himself is included in that bundle of life. The soul of David was bound up in that bundle with Jehovah God. How perfectly safe is any soul when it is thus bound up together with God Himself. The strength of that bundle of life is not that of bindings or tackling superimposed. It is that of the identification of God with all included in the bundle. In these words there flashes through, on the page of the Old Testament, that great conception of fellowship with God, which finds its full exposition in the New Testament. In Christ, God has identified Himself with man; in Christ, God has identified man with Himself. That is the meaning of eternal life. Those who have that life are indeed bound up in the bundle of life with God. They live one life with Him. In that is their safety. Because of that union, no bitterness in the heart of Saul, no churlishness in the attitude of Nabal, can harm those who are included; neither can any force of evil prevent such from coming ultimately to the realization of all that is in the will of God for them.
Behold, I have played the fool. - 1 Sam. 26:21
Saul said this in a moment of mental and spiritual illumination. Once again his life had been in the hands of David, and David had refused to slay him. Moreover, he had expostulated with Saul as to the unreasonableness and wickedness of his persistent persecution. Then suddenly the whole truth flamed out upon this man. He saw himself and his actions in the light of actual truth, and under the impulse of the revelation; he told the truth about himself as he said: "I have played the fool." In these words we have a perfect autobiography. In them, the complete life-story of this man is told. Their interpretation is found in the whole narrative, and the explanation of that narrative is contained in them. From the very beginning Saul had failed. To him there had been given the greatest of opportunities; and his way had been made easy for him by all the resources placed at his disposal. There had been given to him the Spirit of God, the friendship of Samuel, and the devotion of men whose hearts God had touched. He had so acted that the Spirit had departed from him: Samuel had been unable to help him; and the hearts of his people had been turned away from him. The whole secret was that he had leaned to his own understanding, had failed to obey, and so had become the evil-tempered man he was, mastered by hatred, and fighting against God. He verily had played the fool. And so every man plays the fool when he forgets that the fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom. The very gifts of God are of no value, when they are not received and held in that holy cleansing fear.
David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul. - 1 Sam. 27:1
Once more we see David possessed by fear, and passing over to dwell for a time among the Philistines. Again we have to say that we can understand his action. Long and weary indeed had been his period of suffering. There came upon him the sense of depression. For the moment he forgot that his soul was bound up in the bundle of life with Jehovah God. It is easy to forget this, "when all around tumultuous seems." Looking at circumstances, there seemed to David no hope. And so he went to live in Gath. It was a sorry period. He made occasional raids upon other ancient enemies of his race, and with success. In order to hide this from those among whom he dwelt, he was driven to telling untruths. When a man is mastered by fear through failure of faith, and consequently occupies a false position, he is always in grave danger of violating some principle of his loyalty. It is impossible to see David taking refuge in Gath, without recognizing that he had lost for the time being the clear vision of God which made him strong against Goliath. The reading of this story inevitably suggests a contrast between David and his greater Son. David was the anointed king, and he was persecuted by the rejecting king. All this was repeated in the history of Jesus. The contrast, however, is marked. No fear ever made the Anointed One quail. He never crossed over to the enemy to find personal safety. He often spoke of the fact that men would kill Him, but always ended such foretelling with the prophecy of His ultimate triumph.
The Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine adversary.
1 Samuel 28:16
Perhaps there is no chapter in Old Testament history more tragic than this. Saul's visit in the day of his trouble to the witch of Endor, was the last manifestation of his degradation. Yet what a testimony it affords to that inherent capacity of man for the spiritual! In the day of his direst calamity, he knew the insufficiency of his own wisdom, the uselessness of human advice, and he longed for a voice from the spirit world. In order to secure it, he turned to a woman whose practices were condemned by the law of God. This is the history of spiritism always. It is more than strange how this story has been quoted in defence of things occult. As a matter of fact it condemns them. Let it be carefully read, and it becomes perfectly evident that this woman had nothing to do with the bringing up of Samuel. Still practising her black art, she commenced to practise the deceptions with which she was familiar. When Samuel appeared, she was startled beyond measure. That he did appear to Saul, there can be no question, but he did not come in response to her call. He was sent of God, for the express purpose of rebuking Saul for his unholy traffic with these evil things, and to pronounce his doom. The words are full of solemn import. God, departed from a man, becomes his adversary, and that in the necessity of the case. God never departs from a man until the man has departed from Him. Then, in the interest of righteousness, God is against that man.
The princes of the Philistines were wroth with him.
1 Samuel 29:4
These princes were wroth with Achish for allowing David to accompany the Philistines in their campaign against Israel. David's sojourn with Achish had resulted in his being compelled to join the Philistine army in its preparation for attacking the Israelites. The Philistine lords seemed suddenly to have realized the danger of this proceeding. They were familiar with the song which had celebrated his prowess, and his victories over them; and they felt that they dared not trust him in the day of battle. It is perhaps idle for us to speculate as to what the result would have been, had he been allowed to remain. On the basis of policy their objection was probably justified. Achish seems to have formed a high estimate of him, and a strong affection for him, but he was compelled to yield to the majority. There can be no doubt that it was not in the purpose of God that His anointed king should be placed in circumstances of such difficulty. Here, then, along the line of perfectly natural emotions, God is seen acting on behalf of His servant. He made the wrath of the princes praise Him, in that it accomplished His purpose. When once we have seen the fact of the Divine government, it seems impossible not to see it. It operates everywhere. It controls all circumstances, and all men, in spite of themselves, and often unknowingly to them, so that they contribute to the realization of the will of God, and the accomplishment of His purposes.
As his share is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his share be that tarrieth by the stuff; they shall share alike.
1 Samuel 30:24
David, delivered by the overruling of God from his relation with the Philistine army, returned to Ziklag. In his absence it had been sacked by the Amalekites. The true spirit of patriotism flamed within him, and he moved forward, after seeking counsel of God, to punish the wrong-doers. He was completely successful, punishing his foes, and rescuing all his own. In the course of his action, which was rapid and strenuous, two hundred of his company of six hundred men were exhausted, and so were compelled to remain at Besor, while the rest went forward. When the four hundred returned victorious, there were those among them who would have withheld any portion of the spoils from those who had been unable to accompany them all the way. This David sternly forbade, and laid down a law which was to apply for all time. The rectitude of the decision is unquestionable. The measure of personal responsibility in the campaign of righteousness is ever that of the putting forth of the whole of one's strength. That, these men had done. They were "dead-beat" ere they paused. They had done their utmost. Those who went all the way had done no more. Therefore they were to share the spoils. The story has warning and comfort in it. If a man shall tarry and rest at Besor while he have any strength to go forward, he is renegade; and no share of the spoils should come to him. If a man put all his strength into the enterprise, and stop at Besor, because he has no more that he can do, he has done all; and honourably may share in the triumph.
So Saul died.
1 Samuel 31:6.
This closing chapter of the Book is draped in sackcloth, and covered with ashes. It tells the tragic story of the last act in the career of a man who was a ghastly failure. Defeat at the hands of the Philistines drove Saul to uttermost desperation. Wounded in the final fight, and fearing that the last blow might be struck by an enemy, he called upon his armour-bearer to slay him. Upon his refusing to do so, Saul died by his own hand physically, as he had already perished as to purpose and possibility by his own sin and his own folly. Suicide is always the ultimate action of cowardice. In the case of Saul, and in many similar cases, it is perfectly natural; but let it never be glorified as heroic. It is the last resort of the man who dare not stand up to life. Schopenhauer once said that suicide is not the result of hatred of life, but rather of love of it. A man loves life and because he cannot live, as he considers, full life, he will not live at all. There is a great element of truth in that; but still it leaves the brand of the coward upon the suicide. It ever seems to me that the chief spiritual value of this first Book of Samuel lies in the solemn lessons taught by the story of the life and failure of this man Saul. It proclaims in clarion tones the arresting and searching truth, that great advantages and remarkable opportunities are in themselves no guarantees of success. Unless the heart be firm and steady in its allegiance to principle and its loyalty to God, these things will only be weights and burdens, crushing the soul, and assuring the uttermost ruin of the man to whom they come.