1 Samuel 13:13
"You have acted foolishly," Samuel declared. "You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.
Sermons
Tried and Found WantingD. Fraser 1 Samuel 13:13
The First Wrong StepB. Dale 1 Samuel 13:8-15
A Man After God's Own HeartR. Winterbotham, M. A.1 Samuel 13:13-14
DavidJ. C. Coghlan, D. D.1 Samuel 13:13-14
David -- BelovedR. E. Faulkner.1 Samuel 13:13-14
Folly Illustrated by the Character of SaulThomas Gisborne, M. A.1 Samuel 13:13-14
Saul and DavidCanon Liddon.1 Samuel 13:13-14
Severe Punishment for Seemingly Small SinsC. Ness.1 Samuel 13:13-14
The Character of DavidA. Gatty, M. A.1 Samuel 13:13-14
The Doom of the Unfaithful InstrumentBishop Samuel Wilberforce.1 Samuel 13:13-14
The Great Test of Character1 Samuel 13:13-14
The Man After God's Own HeartH. Goodwin, M. A.1 Samuel 13:13-14
The Prophet Rebuking the KingR. Steel.1 Samuel 13:13-14
Was David a Character After God's Own HeartHomilist1 Samuel 13:13-14


I. THE STORY. Saul's bright morning was a very short one, and his sky soon gathered blackness. Beginning with popular acclamation, succeeded after the exploit in Gilead by popular enthusiasm, he lost in a very short time the respect of his subjects. Beginning with a Divine sanction signified through the prophet Samuel, and with appearances of religious fervour, he quickly forfeited the favour of the Lord and the good opinion of the prophet. The ship of his fortunes had hardly left the harbour, with sails set and flags flying, before it ran aground on a rock of wilfulness, and though it kept afloat for years, it ever afterwards laboured uneasily in a troubled sea. The critical question for Saul was whether or not he would be content to act simply as executant of the Divine will. Samuel had pressed this upon him again and again. Would he wait on God, and act for him; or would he act for and from himself? Would he lead the people still to look up to Jehovah as their real King and Lawgiver; or would he imitate the heathen kings, who themselves took the initiative, and then called on their gods to be propitious to them, giving them success in their expeditions and victory in their combats? Would Saul do his own will, expecting the Lord to follow and favour him; or would he set the Lord always before him, follow and obey his voice? It is a great mistake to think that Saul was hardly dealt with on a point of small importance. The principle at stake was great, was fundamental. The test was definite, and was applied in the most public manner before all the army of Israel. The courage which had been roused against the Ammonite invaders of Gilead was now turned against the still more formidable Philistines. The gallant Jonathan struck the first blow, and then his royal father, knowing that the Philistine army could and would be very soon mobilised (as the modern phrase is) and hurled against Israel, summoned his people to arms. But, alas, the greater part of them were afraid to come, and in the threatened districts hid themselves. So the king found himself at Gilgal in a terrible plight, at the head of a small and dispirited force. He must have known that, unless Jehovah came to their help, all was lost. Let it not be said that it was unreasonable to judge and punish a man for anything done by him in such an emergency. Saul had received long notice of this week of patience. On the morning when Samuel anointed him three signs were given him, all of which had been exactly fulfilled. Then he had been told that he would have to tarry seven days at Gilgal for the coming of Samuel to offer sacrifice. But he had forgotten this. The word of the prophet had made no lasting impression on his mind. There was nothing profound about the man. He had no controlling reverence for God, no abiding faith. So he acted from himself, only calling on God to help him in what he was going to do, instead of waiting to know what the Lord would have him to do, and acting as his servant. He bore the strain of anxiety for days, but not till the end of the time appointed. The troops (if one may give such a designation to hastily collected and ill-armed levies) were faint hearted, and but loosely attached to the standard of their king. They wondered why the sacrifice was delayed. They feared that God would be displeased, and not fight for them. Then Saul, impulsive and unwise, ordered that the sacrifice should proceed. Rather than wait a few hours more, he violated the direction he had received from the prophet of the Lord, and betrayed once for all an unreliable character and presumptuous heart.

II. THE LESSONS.

1. God rules men on large principles, but proves them by specific tests. His law is great and equitable; the trial of obedience to it is sometimes quite minute. In the garden within the land of Eden man and woman were put under a rule of universal obedience to the voice of the Lord, and they were tested by this specific requirement, to abstain from the fruit of one of the trees in the garden. Lot, his wife, and daughters were rescued by angels from a doomed city, and enjoined to flee to the mountains; "but his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt." Hezekiah, devoutly referring everything to God, had great deliverances, and a prosperous reign; but failing to consult the Lord when a flattering embassy came to him from Babylon, he revealed vain glory lurking in his heart, and broke down the wall of defence which his previous piety had reared round his throne. Saul was tested more than once, but this one trial at Gilgal was enough to prove his unfitness to rule over God's heritage. The fact is, that one act may show character as clearly and decisively as a score or a hundred could do; not, indeed, an incidental act of inadvertence or error, but a thing done after explicit instruction and warning, lie who breaks through the line of obedience at one point, out of self-will, is not to be depended on at any point. He disentitles himself to confidence by one instance of misconduct, not because of its intrinsic importance, but on account of the key which it gives to his inward tone of character.

2. One action, hastily performed, may carry irremediable consequences. Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, and he could never reverse that fatal act. Cain struck down his brother, and was from that day a wanderer and an outlaw on the earth. Esau sold his birthright, and never could recover it. Moses erred once at the rock in Kadesh, and forfeited his entrance into the promised land. The sins of those who are penitent are forgiven; but there are consequences of sinful habits, nay, even of one sinful act, which have no cure or corrective. It is well that this should be kept sternly before the eyes of men; for the moral nature of many is slippery and self-excusing, and they are too ready to count on impunity, or on finding some easy corrective for what they do amiss. The truth is, that one action may spoil a whole life, and, indeed, may hurt not oneself only, but many others also; just as Saul's impatience at Gilgal injured not himself alone, but the nation of Israel during all his unhappy reign.

3. He whom God will exalt must first learn patience. For want of this was Saul rejected from being king. By means of this was David educated for the throne. The son of Jesse was privately anointed by Samuel, as the son of Kish had been. Thereafter he came into public notice by his promptitude and bravery against Goliath, just as Saul had come into public favour by similar qualities against Nahash. So far their paths may be said to have corresponded; but then they quite diverged. Saul, impatient, behaved foolishly, and fell. David, when tried, "behaved himself wisely," made no haste to grasp the sceptre, waited patiently till God should lift hint up. So when the time at last came for his elevation, he knew how to reign as God's king on the hill of Zion. How beautiful is this in the Son of David, the meek and lowly One, who, because he patiently observed the will of God, has now a name above every name! Jesus pleased not himself. He always spoke and acted as in behalf and by direction of his Father in heaven. Therefore has God highly exalted him.

4. It is a dangerous thing to ask for, or accept, a vicegerent of God on earth. It betrays unbelief rather than faith, and it entails tyranny and confusion. What a calamity it has been to the Latin Church to have an alleged vicar of Christ on earth! The arrangement quite falls in with the craving for a spiritual ruler who may be seen, and the uneasiness of really unspiritual men under the control of One who is invisible. So there is a Popedom, which began indeed with good intentions and impulses, as did the monarchy of Saul, but has long ago fallen under God's displeasure through arrogance, and brought nothing but confusion and oppression on Christendom. We are a hundred times better without any such vicegerent. Enough in the spiritual sphere that the Lord is King. Our Divine Saviour, now unseen, but in due time to appear in his glory, is the only as well as the blessed Potentate, Head of the Church, Captain of the host, Lord of all. - F.









And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord.
We perhaps, had we possessed no ulterior information, might have been disposed to expect that, when the Searcher of hearts cast His eye over the twelve tribes in quest of a man whom He might appoint to be ruler over His people; He would select one conspicuous for piety, and prepared by steadfast faith to meet the trials with which his exaltation would be attended. Yet why should we have expected such a choice? Is it the established order of Providence that piety should be recompensed by elevation to dignity and power? Are the rulers of the earth, whether in Pagan or in Christian lands, whether God raises them to empire by the settled course of succession, or by the storms of warfare and revolutions, usually eminent for religion beyond the mass of their subjects? The thoughts of the Most High are not as our thoughts. He knows by what governor, in any particular nation and at any particular time, His Own secret and righteous purposes, whether of mercy or of vengeance, will be most efficaciously promoted. I purpose to lay before you the leading circumstances in the conduct of Saul: and afterwards to deduce, for your edification, some of the inferences which they suggest.

I. IN THE EARLY BEHAVIOUR OF SAUL, after the period when he is introduced in the Scriptures to our notice, THERE IS MUCH TO PREPOSSESS US IN HIS FAVOUR. The fruit, however, corresponds little with the blossom. The impressions produced by early symptoms in Saul of moderation end of respect for his sovereign Benefactor are soon to be effaced. Though Saul by his disobedience respecting the sacrifice has incurred the forfeiture of the kingdom, yet God, ever merciful and long-suffering, forbears to commission Samuel to anoint a successor to the throne, and is willing to grant to the unworthy prince an opportunity of reinstating himself in the Divine favour. Samuel, by the direction of the Most High, now commands Saul to execute the long predicted vengeance. To the conduct of Saul throughout the whole of this transaction can a name more appropriate than folly be ascribed? Can any fact be ascertained more clearly than the identity of folly and sin? Saul is now an outcast from the Divine favour. He is permitted to retain the kingdom during his life; but judgment in its most terrible form delays not to overtake him. The Spirit of the Lord departs from him. How shall the life of Saul be summarily described? I have sinned; I have played the fool; I have erred exceedingly. Whose are these words? The words of Saul himself in his latter days. Do you require stronger testimony to the identity of folly and sin?

II. From the foregoing history, SEVERAL IMPORTANT OBSERVATIONS MAY BE DERIVED.

1. We learn, in the first place, not to repose blind and premature confidence on some few promising appearances as to piety. Let every symptom favourable to the supposition that religion is the ruling principle in the character of another be cordially welcomed, and judiciously encouraged. But learn to guard your willing hopes from degenerating into sanguine credulity. Conceive not that examples of religious consideration on some particular occasions are proofs that religion is firmly and durably established in the bosom. Gold is not known to be genuine, until it has stood the test of fire. The crop is not estimated by the blade, but by the harvest. Wait until religion has for some time been tried by the temptations of life, before you pronounce on its reality.

2. Consider in the next place the guilt of impatiently endeavouring to attain a present good by departing from the way of God's commandments. Everything which is not conformable to His revealed will is evil. Are you involved in difficulty or trouble? Abide thou in the track of righteousness. This is the way. Walk thou in it. Turn not aside to the right hand or to the left. Abide thou in the track of righteousness: wait thou the time of the Most High, and in His Own time and by the track of righteousness the Most High shall guide thee to peace and to salvation.

3. Behold, thirdly, the guilt of rash resolutions and vows. In concerns of importance that which is resolved hastily is commonly resolved foolishly. But whenever, like Saul, a person forms a determination, or fetters himself by an engagement, under the precipitate impulse of passion, seldom shall a considerable time elapse before he perceives reason for deep and lasting regret.

4. Mark the heinousness of fearing man rather than God. What sin is more general? What sin is more conspicuously arrayed in the attributes of folly?

5. Lastly, let the example of Saul admonish you to frequent meditation on the consequences of disobeying God.

(Thomas Gisborne, M. A.)

Michael Angelo once went into the studio of a young artist who had just executed a statue to stand in the public square. Angelo saw its grave defects, and pointed them out to his friend. The exultant artist did not appreciate the criticism of his work, and supposed the greater man to be moved with envy. So he told him, in the dim obscurity of his workshop he could not see the defects which were so apparent to the aged critic, and in passion sneered at the opinion given. "Well," said Angelo, not the least disturbed, "the light of the public square will test it." "The light of the public square will test it." Ah, year The light of the public square is to test every human life. Eternal blaze shall pour upon it, and defects unseen by the poorer light of earth will grow to ghastly deformities. The light of the public square will test it.

It is never easy, and it is always unpleasant, to become a rebuker; and when the transgressor is wealthy, or noble, or royal, the difficulty of faithfulness is enhanced. It requires considerable courage and great boldness in the faith for a man of God to reprove a king in whose hands may be his life. Many have had to imperil their lives in the discharge of this duty Some have attributed rudeness and insolence to John Knox, because he spoke the truth to the bigoted Queen Mary of Scotland; but it required courage to tell royalty that she ought to obey God. Had Saul but waited, he might have spared his soul this guilt, and Samuel would have stood at the altar and spoken authoritatively for God! But he took the step of sin, and was insnared in its wiles. He took the first false step in his public career, and his future was an incline to his tragic end. It was his first false step. The embankment of a river can keep out the waters even though they swell and beat; but if a single orifice be opened, how soon do they rush in, and sweep all away, and scatter ruin around. Such is the first sin. It is as the letting out of water. Let the reader beware of the first wrong step. It has wrecked many a soul. It has caused many domestic griefs, darkened the fairest prospects, and withered the most promising expectations. It has sent young men into a career of dishonesty which ended in a prison, and young women into shame and the streets. It has induced apostasy from the faith, and made the professor's reprobate. This first wrong step is often the crisis of a career. It is not the mere earliest development of iniquity. That comes out with our natural character; but this is the test of our good resolution, or of our profession. When a young man is intrusted with money, and is tempted to dishonesty; when a daughter is enticed by the spoiler, and is tempted to yield; when a professor has been at the table of the Lord, and is called to take up his cross; when a convalescent has to decide whether he will act upon the serious thoughts of eternity and the earnest purposes of soul which marked his illness; when a convicted soul has his old sin alluring him again; — these are times when a false step may prove the beginning of sins and sorrows.

2. He had acted foolishly. This was more than thoughtlessness. It was disobedience. "There are," says Dr. Kitto, "two kinds of fools prominently noticed in Scripture, — the fool who denies that there is any God, — the fool that saith in his heart, 'There is no God: — a text which suggests the remark, that if he is a fool who says this 'in his heart,' a much greater fool is he that utters the foolish thought. This is one. There is another, — the fool who does not obey God, though he does not deny His existence. And yet, after all, these are but one. If we probe the matter closely, we shall find that there is scarcely more than an impalpable film of real difference between the foolishness of the man who says in his heart there is no God, and that of the man who does not render Him obedience. One may as well believe that there is no God, as not obey Him.

3. The conduct of Saul was the test of his dynasty. He failed, therefore he was cut off. His house was doomed by reason of his sin. His kingdom could not be established. Samuel made the announcement of his fall to the guilty king: "Now thy kingdom shall not continue." It was not to be an absolute monarchy. It was to he dependent on the will of God, and thus far constitutional to the people. But Saul was not equal to the task of forming a model monarchy for the people of God. He had ability enough, but he lacked principle. He had advantages enough, but he lacked loyalty to God. Therefore, his dynasty was to cease in himself. On first sight, the offence seems small and the punishment heavy. And the question may arise, "Why did God so severely punish Saul for so small an offence, and that occasioned by great necessity, and done with an honest intention, as he professed?" Pool has given the following answer: "First, men are very incompetent judges of God's judgments." Men see nothing but Saul's outward act, which seems small; but God saw with how wicked a mind and heart he did this; with what rebellion against the light of his own conscience, as his own words imply; with what gross infidelity and distrust of God's Providence; with what contempt of God's authority and justice, — and many other wicked principles and motives of his heart, unknown to men. Besides, God saw all that wickedness that yet lay hid in his heart, and foresaw all his other crimes; and therefore had far more grounds for his sentence against him than we can imagine. Secondly, God doth sometimes punish small sins severely, and that for divers weighty reasons; as that all men may see what the least sin deserves, and how much they owe to God's free and rich mercy for passing by their great offences; and what need they have not to indulge themselves in any small sin, as men are very prose to do, upon vain presumptions of God's mercy, whereby they are easily and commonly drawn on to heinous crimes.

4. Conformity to the heart of God is necessary to the soul's blessedness. This was its original beatitude, and this is the result of regeneration. Without holiness we cannot see or enjoy God. The man after God's heart only can enjoy the bliss of fellowship with God. "This likeness is a vital image" — not the image only of Him that lives, the living God, but it is His living and soul-quickening image. It is the likeness of Him in that very respect, an imitation and participation of the life of God, by which, once revived, the soul lives that was dead before. It was not a dead picture, a dumb show, an unmoving statue; but a living, speaking, walking image, — that wherewith the child is like the Father, and by which it lives as God, speaks and acts conformably to him; an image, not such a one as is drawn with a pencil, that expresses only colour and figure, but such a one as is seen in a glass that represents life and motion. The hope of being thus like God gives energy to the Christian in his struggles with sin, and attraction to the many-mansioned home. This conformity is attainable in character, and it is more promotive of bliss than intellect or power. We can be born again. This experience is the introduction of the soul to the life of God. The man after God's own heart was to be the captain over His people. Saul was quite unfit for this. David was the elect of God. His heart was right.

(R. Steel.)

But now thy kingdom shall not continue.
Sometimes God punishes small sins severely, and such are set down in scripture record, for weighty reasons. As —

1. To teach us the heinous nature of sin in its self, so hateful to God, and so hurtful to men, that we may abhor all the degrees of it.

2. To show us, that indeed no sin can truly be called a little sin, because there is no little God to sin against; therefore to disobey the great God even in the smallest matters is a ground great enough, and a sin great enough to procure God's severity.

3. That we may not indulge ourselves in the least sin, as we are prone to do in presuming on God's mercy, lest God punish us for them, and lest little sins make way for greater, as little wedges make room for the more massive ones, and little thieves serve to open the doors for the grand crew.

4. That we may all learn the riches of Divine grace and free mercy, in passing by and pardoning such great iniquities in us, when we find the rigour of justice executed upon others for far lesser faults recorded in scripture.

5. That an honest intention will not warrant an unwarrantable action, as some suppose Saul had in sacrificing; two things make a godly man, good actions and good aims.

(C. Ness.)

The king, one whose character faithfully represented their own national character and desires. Like his people, he leaned to an arm of flesh. Their sin in desiring his rule was his sin in the conduct of that rule. In his darkening course and fearful end was exhibited to them that law of God's dealings of which their own national history was to be to all ages the most marvellous example whereby His chosen instruments, who refuse to fulfil the end for which He raises them up, are cast down into darkness, and their opportunity of service is given to another. In all this, so far as individuals go, the lesson is plain and inevitable. It is a law of that unseen but most certain dominion which even here, amidst the blinding showers which conceal His immediate working, the Most High is administering, that they who being set anywhere to do His will neglect to do it, are replaced by other and more faithful instruments. This is an universal and eternal law. It was evidently thus that He dealt with the chosen people, who in this, as in so many respects, were the pattern nation. What else but a declaration of this truth is their whole history as it is recorded by inspired annalists and interpreted by gifted prophets? How is this written in every page of the record of God's dealings with them, down to that last sentence of rejection pronounced by the mouth of the Apostle Paul, when charging on themselves the guilt of their own blood, he said, "Lo, we turn to the Gentiles." Here then we may see the same righteous hand which wasted Jerusalem overturning the great Assyrian Nineveh. The same law, which first exalted and then cast down the chosen people reached also to the great empires of the heathen world. They rose because they were commissioned to do a certain work; they fell, not by any mere natural process of decay, but under the weight of God's judicial sentence, executing itself through the permitted action of these secondary causes. And now let me ask you to apply this principle to our own country, and its prospects at this moment.

1. Are there then any tokens which specially mark out for us our appointed work? Now to answer this question we must glance at those distinctive features of our national life which sever us from other people. The first of these is our insular position; for this at once confines us within narrow bounds at home, and facilitates the formation of those distant settlements by which alone we can provide for increasing numbers. Further, the same cause makes it well-nigh impossible that we should be a great military nation, and naturally leads, as the condition of national defence, to our becoming strong in naval power: Further, the natural characteristics of our people tend to produce the same result. In many of the highest gifts bestowed on other tribes of men we are manifestly deficient. We have not the keen sense of beauty which has ere now enabled Greece and even Rome to exalt our race. But we have the gifts of a hardy, industrious, enterprising genius. We are fitted, apparently by innate disposition, to be great subduers of nature's rebellious and reluctant but conquerable powers. And when any external agency has threatened to destroy these powers, as when Spain and its Armada, or France at the head of a continual system of exclusion, would have destroyed our naval greatness, some direct interpositions of Providence have thwarted their designs. The natural course of such influences has led us on, first to the establishment of distant factories, and then to those factories growing into settlements, and from them turning into colonies, which hays sometimes grown into mighty nations. Now what special charge would such a national organisation seem naturally to suggest as having been providentially committed to our hands? Surely at once it suggests that we are to be employed by God as the bearers of some message to every race and tribe. Not more evidently does the possession of great military power wielded by a single despotic will, mark a people as charged with the avenger's office; not more evidently do eminent gifts of genius mark a nation as charged to educate its brethren, than do our special faculties, instincts, and relations to the great family of man mark us as the bearers of some message through the world. What then can be the message to bear which we have been so eminently fitted? Let the spiritual blessings God has given us supply the answer to this question.

2. And if here we pause but for one moment, to ask how we, as a nation, have fulfilled this our vocation, how appalling is the answer! Have we not encircled the earth with the girdle of our settlements? Is it not true that as from east to west the morning sun awakens to new life the successive nations, the drum roll of English soldiers follows round the world its rising light? And what, with all this, have we clone for God? Alas, how tardy, how scanty, how interrupted, how unsystematic, how timid, how faithless have been our services! How readily and how plentifully have we sown our vices and diseases broadcast over a suffering world! How feebly, alas, have we planted amongst its nations the living seed of God's truth in God's Church! if it be so with us, why tarries yet the day of retribution, why sleep the thunders of judgment? Is our present prosperity but the deep calm before the wild triumph of the hurricane? God only knows, my brethren, how close to us may be that fearful time of uttermost rejection. If to our startled gaze were now opened revelations such as those which fell at Patmos on the beloved St. John, we perhaps might see the mighty angels of vengeance withholding, but, as for a moment, the four winds of heaven, to see whether Britain would repent and do God's work. Here then plainly is our nation's calling and our nation's risk.

3. And if this indeed be our vocation, what are the especial duties binding upon us if we would rise up to its greatness? May it please God to bring them home in all their power to some who listen to them. Now beyond all question the first of all requisites for the delivery of such a message is that we have received it thoroughly ourselves. Here then, alike for the teacher and the taught, is our first, necessity; that the truth of God in all it, purity, with a loving spirit and a patient reiteration, be proclaimed and inculcated; that every lawful means be used, in season and out of season, to reproduce amongst, ourselves men of the true apostolic stamp. Next to this we need to learn to feel, and to make others feel, how mighty are the issues for our own people, and for a waiting world, which hang on our fidelity or faithlessness.

(Bishop Samuel Wilberforce.)

The Lord hath sought Him a man after His own heart.
The simple earnest Christian has read and learnt the Psalms of David with the greater care, and has loved them the more dearly because the sweet Psalmist of Israel was declared to be after the mind of God: and on the other hand the scoffer has pointed to David's grievous sins, and asked with scorn whether such things are the deeds of the man after God's own heart. I propose to offer to you some remarks upon the meaning of David's noble title, and to show you how he deserved it. And this I shall do principally by contrasting his character with that of Saul, a contrast which is made in the text, and which is in fact the basis of the title applied to David. And this point I must beg you especially to bear in mind, if you would understand the text aright, namely, that David is not called the man after God's own heart as distinguished from all other good men; it is not asserted that David was on the whole the purest and best man who ever lived. David is described there as being after the Lord's own heart specially in opposition to Saul, who was very far from being after the mind of God. Saul was a wilful disobedient man, the text was spoken to him on occasion of his disobedience. And if he did such things in the green tree, what would be do in the dry? if be thus ran riot while the oil of consecration was almost fresh upon him, what would he do when his kingdom was established and he became puffed up by his power? Do you not see then, that Saul had showed himself radically unfit for the charge of the Israelitish people? and therefore Samuel was charged to convey to him the voice of reproof and warning, and to tell him that whereas he had shown himself to be a man wilful and disobedient, God would not continue the kingdom to him, but would give it, to a man after His own heart, — His own heart (that is) especially in those very points in which Saul had failed. Now let me contrast a little more carefully the characters of Saul and David. I should say, that the basis of the character of the two men was exactly opposite in one to what it was in the other; and if I can show you, that the basis of the character of one was pleasing to God, and that of the other hateful to Him, then you will not be surprised that the one should be spoken of as being after the mind of God, while the other was rejected from being king. Observe, I am not saying that there may not be some passages in David's life very bad and disgraceful, and some in Saul's very good; but I am maintaining that the roots of their characters were different, the one being faith in God, the other faith in man, and that in the main the life of David was a life of faith and obedience, that of Saul one of godless independence. It would not be possible for me to call up all the passages in David's life which would illustrate the point which we have in hand; but I would refer you to those writings of his, in which he has given us a transcript of his own mind. The Psalms of David present to us a more vivid picture than can perhaps be anywhere else found of a mind waiting upon God, looking away from itself, trusting in Him, blessing Him in trouble, and blessing Him in prosperity, of a mind of which the motive principle is evidently faith in God and submission to Him. It is true that we may find in David's life at least one very fearful stain. I suppose that never was sin committed which brought such lasting contempt upon piety as that fearful fall of David; but even in this ease let us look to David's own record of his feelings, when repentance and sorrow had enabled him to see his crime in its true colours, and we shall see what a deep view be took of his sin, and what an intolerable burden it was to him You must remember that David suffered most severely in this world for his sin. "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned." You see here how every other view of sin vanishes before this, the view of it as against God; a man's vice may bring wretchedness on himself, it may ruin his health, it may bring him to beggary; and these views are very true and in their proper place valuable, but he who looks upon wickedness as God looks upon it, must see it in the light in which it appeared to David; he may regard it as noxious in itself, he may lament the unhappiness which it causes, but he regards it emphatically as sin because it is against God. Thus looking upon the character of David, I seem to see that of a man whose heart was in a very wonderful degree right with God; a man not perfect indeed, for none is perfect, and least of all must we look for Christian perfection under the imperfect dispensation of the old Covenant; but still of a man whose chief characteristics were faith in God, zeal for the honour of God, and humble submission to the will of God. And therefore I do not wonder that Samuel, as contrasting him with Saul, should describe him in the text as after God's own heart; for these are the characters of mind, which, whether in a king of Israel or in an Englishman of our own days, must aver be the source and spring of all that is pleasing to God. But now for a moment let us look at Saul. Without wishing to depreciate such good qualities as he might possess, I think one may justly hold him forth as a specimen of a man self-dependent, wilful, eminently deficient in these qualities which form the beauty of David's character, faith in God, humble waiting upon Him, quiet submission to Him. And when we contrast the two characters as I have sketched them to you, you will I think easily see, how, without speaking slightly of David's sin, we may nevertheless say with truth, that his character in the main features of it was peculiarly after the mind of God, and that David may be rightly spoken of as a man after the Lord's own heart. I have been endeavouring to show you from the example of David, what is the character of mind which God loves; God loves the man who is ever looking to and leaning upon Him, who has His honour ever in his mind, who thinks little of his own personal convenience and advantage, and delights rather to worship God and God does not love the man who ever seeks himself, the man of irreverent mind, who exalts himself above God, and the world present above the world to come; whatever qualities such a one may have which may make him popular or powerful in the world, God who knows the heart estimates such a man's deeds as those of Saul, and rejects them.

(H. Goodwin, M. A.)

The widely different judgments which Holy Scripture leads us to form respecting Saul and David is a subject which occupies much attention when we are reading the first book of Samuel. The impression which Saul makes upon an average reader, at least at first, is beyond all question a favourable impression. The salient points of his character engage our sympathy, and this sympathy is deepened when we consider the misfortunes of his later life and its tragic close. Saul, indeed, had many of these qualifications which always go to make a man popular. Of the higher qualities of Saul's natural character which inspires this affection the first was, I do not say his humility, but his modesty. Modesty, unlike humility, is not inconsistent with certain forms of pride; and it is a natural virtue which is good as far as it goes, and which is always attractive Saul was modest. It is plain from the account of his elevation to the throne that he had no wish for such a position. When a number of his new subjects despised him, and, failing in the ordinary usage of Eastern courtesy, brought him no presents, he betrayed no annoyance or irritation; "he held his peace." Closely allied to this modesty was his capacity for generosity towards opponents. Certainly, Saul was much besides all thin; he was proud, he was reserved, he was obstinate, he was haughty in his later years, he was a prey to the most capricious and irrational jealousy; but, especially in his early life, he had qualities which are always valued and valuable, and which explain the affection with which he was regarded by those who knew him. Moreover, his reign was, on the whole, and in a civil or political sense, of benefit to his country, and yet with this personal character and this note of God's assistance — for such it was under the old covenant — Saul had upon him, almost from the first, the presentiments of disaster and ruin. When we turn to David we find it difficult, at first, to explain this phrase — the man after the heart of God — thus used by Samuel by way of contrast to Saul, for David's feelings are written much in the page of Holy Scripture, and they seem, at first sight, to make such an expression unintelligible, or, at least, exaggerated. In point of natural excellence, Saul and David had, at least, while each was a young man, several points in common. If David could not rival Saul's stature, his activity and his muscular strength were exceptional; his feet, he tells us, were like the feet of the gazelle; his arms could break even a bow of steel. Both Saul and David were men of personal prowess and of personal courage, and David resembled Saul in his modest estimate of himself, and in his generous conduct upon occasions towards others. But there are dark traits in David which the Bible makes no attempts to disguise. Nothing in the annals of Oriental courts can well exceed the baseness of his intrigue with Bathsheba and the cowardly murder of Uriah. Rarely has cruelty towards a conquered enemy been greater than that with which David treated the Ammonites, and although another side of his failings has been much exaggerated by some ancient and by several modern critics, there are traces of deceitfulness in David which recall his ancestor Jacob, and which impair the nobility and the beauty of the general impression he leaves with us. And yet in contrast with Saul he has on him from the first the notes of God's special approval; his trials and misfortunes only established or renewed his prosperity; his long persecution by Saul leads to his succession to the throne; Absolom's rebellion only makes his rule more secure than ever in Jerusalem. All through there is upon David a presentiment of acceptance, just as upon Saul, especially as the years pass on, there is more and more plainly stamped a note of reprobation. If it seems at first sight that there is something arbitrary in the different estimates that Holy Scripture itself leads us to form of Saul and David, let us look once more hard at Saul, and let us ask ourselves what it is that is especially wanting in him. Is it not this, that Saul, so far as the Bible account of him goes, gives no evidence of having upon and within him the permanent influence of religion, of anything that we could call the fear and love of God in his hearty. And the same temper is observable in Saul when he was ordered to go and smite the sinners of the Amalekites and utterly destroy them and their cattle. The first particular of his disobedience was occasioned by his wish to be popular, he "feared the people and obeyed their voice"; the second was probably due to his feeling for a brother monarch — a feeling which, however natural at other times, ought not to have arrested obedience to a Divine command. Certainly, Saul's conduct in respect of Agag did not arise from any unwillingness on his part to shed blood. He had no such scruples to prevent him from attempting the extermination of the Gibeonites, although they ought in his eyes to have been protected by Joshua's oath, which pledged their safety in the midst of Israel. The truth was that he was at heart indifferent to the command of God, and thought himself at liberty to disobey just as much of it as the feeling or convenience of the moment, might suggest. And it is no objection to this view of Saul's mind, as in reality unconcerned with the claims of God and with the unseen world, that he showed himself anxious for some superhuman guidance when on the eve of his death he stole round the base of little Hermon to endeavour to consult the witch. We see the same thing every day of our lives. Men who have scornfully rejected the Christian revelation are constantly haunted by weird or grotesque superstitions. The human soul is made for faith in the unseen, and if its deep craving be not satisfied by the one supreme reality of what He has told us about Himself, it will seek satisfaction in quarters which faith would condemn more earnestly than reason. Now it was precisely in this respect that Saul presents so great a contrast to David. David, in spite of his grievous faults, had upon his heart and conscience continually the impress, awful, yet most fascinating, of the majesty, the beauty, the encompassing presence, the boundless magnificence of God. This great possession remained with him throughout his life. He has admitted us to the secrets of his soul at almost every stage of his eventful history. David associates us with his experiences not, only in his triumphs, but in his deep and unspeakable humiliations. We know what he feels and thinks after his sin with Bathsheba, what he feels and thinks as he flies a dishonoured exile before his rebellious son. And he is always true to this ruling characteristic of his life. When in his fear or his exaltation, in his penitence or in his joy, in his struggles or in his repose, in thought or in action, God has the first place in his intellect; God's approval, God's condemnation, God's works, God's will are ever his first concern. This, the preoccupation of his life, makes him, even in the camp or on the throne, a sort of enthusiast, on whom the outward world sits lightly, and who cares not for its unfavourable opinion if only he is loyal to his unseen and awful Master. "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee." One cannot imagine these words in the mouth of Saul, the cool-headed man of the world, conducting himself as did David when the ark was moved in state from the house of Obed-edom, near Kirjath-jearim, to Jerusalem. This is the reason why David is called, in contrast to Saul, "the man after God's own heart." Certainly. David's sins were not after God's own heart. May He forgive the blasphemy that would suggest that they were! But beyond and beneath those sins there was a permanent character of soul instinct with the fear and with the love of God that survived and conquered them. There was, so far as we know or can conceive, nothing corresponding to this in Saul. There is, indeed, no event in Saul's life which is at once so cruel and so base as David's sin with the wife of the murdered Uriah; but then there was nothing in Saul that could have issued forth as David's heart-broken repentance. It is the difference between cold, tranquil, decorous indifference to the real claims of God upon a human life, and a fear of God and a love of God which are upon the whole of the governing forces of the soul. Saul and David are lasting types of human character. Saul and David live in their representatives at the present day. Lives on the whole decorous, illustrated even by undoubted and high natural virtues, but based on a deep, if not a reasoned, indifference to the will of God — such lives are lived side by side with lives open to grave criticism on account of conspicuous failings, yet based at bottom on a true fear and love of God, which lasts on under and in spite of the imperfection of the service which is rendered to Him. Saul is the more popular character with the world at large. The world likes his mixture of generosity and haughtiness, his jaunty carelessness about all that points to the mystery and the responsibilities of life. David. too, is unquestionably vulnerable and keen sighted, and unfriendly critics are always hard at work upon the inconsistencies which they detect between his practice and his professions. Nevertheless, my brethren, it is better to have our part with David than with Saul; with a loyalty to God which is not always consistent, rather than with an outward propriety, if so be that it is never really loyal.

(Canon Liddon.)

I. IT IS PLAIN BY A REFERENCE TO THE CONTEXT THAT THE TITLE "AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART" WAS ONLY COMPARATIVE, NOT ABSOLUTE. Meant that, by the side of Saul, David was the man who attracted favour and confidence of God. The faith by which he walked with God; gained the victory over Goliath; became at all worthy to be God's vicegerent; remained unconquered, though not unhurt, through many a defeat and fall, through a life-long struggle.

II. TITLE WAS GIVEN HIM IN EARLY DAYS, BEFORE HIS LIFE HAD BECOME OVERCAST WITH THE CLOUD OF SIN AND ERROR. "The Lord hath sought Him a man," etc. And when God found him he was still the David of the 23rd Psalm. Do not say that God did not love him after his fall, or did not give him large praise until his death, and after his death. But he is certainly never called the man after God's own heart again.

III. DAVID'S REPENTANCE WAS FAR MORE DEEP THAN APPEARS ON THE SURFACE OF THE NARRATIVE. How deep and true it was we know from 51st Psalm, which has supplied so many millions of penitent souls with very words they wanted.

IV. IT IS MOST NECESSARY TO BEAR IN MIND, IN CONSIDERING THE CAREER OF DAVID, THE SEVERITY OF PUNISHMENT WHICH FOLLOWED UPON DAVID'S SIN. Let anyone look at David's old age, and say whether the justice of God is not an inexorable and an awful thing. For every sin there is forgiveness, but for all that it may be that every sin leaves its mark, its effect for ill.

(R. Winterbotham, M. A.)

By this glowing announcement of a "Coming Man" our expectations and our curiosity are naturally raised to the highest pitch. And I daresay that if we read it in a modern three-volume book without any knowledge of intervening occurrences, we should look on to the end of the third volume to know at once whether he was supposed to have realised the ideal. If we did so, we should find an answer in the affirmative. The main question to which I propose to address myself is this. Can God ever express his approval of the whole character of a man who has committed the blackest sins which history records or which the imagination can picture? In approaching the question I must ask you to bear in mind the immense difference between looking back at a sin and looking forward to the self-same sin. A good deal of the genuine perplexity about the case before us is caused, I am sure, by forgetting this. Men commonly think that David was necessarily a bad man, because they think, and rightly think, that they should certainly be bad men if they proposed to themselves to commit the sin which David committed. But we cannot fairly argue thus and say, "If David was a man after God's own heart, it follows that such a complication of sins as he committed is no hindrance to God's favour." It is not fair to argue thus. Why not? Because the whole of the case is not stated. The fair argument from David's case is this, "If David was on the whole a good man, it follows that great sin, followed by deep and lifelong repentance, does not exclude from God's favour, and His approval of the character as a whole." Put it thus: We see as a fact, now that the result is before us, that David did repent and was accepted. If the history had stopped short at the account of his sin, and there were no favourable notices of him, then we could not assume that he had repented. Again, if we read that he sinned deliberately, trusting in the mercy of God and fully intending to repent, then we could have but one opinion of him; and if, in that case, he were mentioned with commendation or anything remotely bordering upon it, Scripture could not, as far as I can see, possibly be defended against the charge of encouraging wickedness and teaching men to "continue in sin that grace might abound." But, as matters stand, what is the very most that can fairly be deduced from David's case? That when a man does fall into a grievous sin,(1) If he live to have an opportunity of repentance, and(2) If he make due use of that opportunity, God will pardon and receive him. Our own lives are like works coming out in numbers; "serials," as they are called. The lives in Scripture are like the lives as we see them when we have read the last number. They are more than this; they are in many cases — what we never have either in history or in fiction — the whole with the Divine verdict stamped upon them. The end of a character whom we follow with excited interest through a serial is always, of course, doubtful — doubtful to us, and often, as we learn from their biographies, doubtful to the authors themselves. What will become of a character in a serial is always more or less uncertain until the end. At the end it is settled according to man's view. In Scripture it is, in some cases, settled according to God's view. We ought not in fairness, I think, to mix the "unfinished serial" view with the "finished serial" view. We must take our choice between the two. Acting in David's case upon this rule, which we would at once apply to any character in a novel, if we heard him spoken about, you will see that we must not use all our knowledge of what in a given case occurred afterwards, in order to decide upon one particular passage in his life. You ought not to wish your judgment to be biassed. In the case of a fictitious character in whom you were interested you would say to one who had read the whole book, "Don't tell me the end; let me form my own opinion." Act towards David precisely as you would towards a character in a serial, and I shall have no doubt as to your escaping much perplexity and arriving at, a just decision upon the whole subject. God, if I may say so without irreverence, has formally and terribly released Himself from all liability in this matter. But this is not all. The sincere repentance of David is distinctly recorded. Read the number of the current month, and think of the monarch fasting, lying upon the earth all night, impervious to all solicitations from the elders of his house to rise from the ground, and tell me what, do you think now? Have you changed the opinion which you had formed when you read last month's number? You have changed it, and you were right to change it. Why? Because the man has changed. If you take David's sin, judge of it by the law of sin; if you take his repentance, you must judge of it by the law of repentance. Decide as you please upon a character at a fixed point, but do not use all your knowledge of what comes afterwards to help you in forming your opinion at that point. If you will honestly do this on the "serial" principle I believe that David and what the inspired prophet said about him will cease to be a stumbling block. We must have the closing number of the unfinished serial before we can venture to speak. We have the developed character now; it is the character of the penitent Now we can take the life as a whole, and what is it? It is a picture of what God's dealing sometimes is, in giving to the sinner opportunity to repent and "come to himself," and of what God's dealing always is to the sinner who avails himself of that opportunity and "seeks the Lord while He may be found." If this be not so, then the parable of the prodigal son, instead of being lovely, touching, and full of comfort, becomes absolutely without purpose and, indeed, without meaning. But, if it be so, then we are in a position to answer the question to which I said at the outset I meant to address myself, namely, "Can God ever express His approval of the whole character of a man who has committed the blackest sins which history records or the imagination can picture?" I have to lead up to the conclusion that He can.

(J. C. Coghlan, D. D.)

In what respects did David deserve this name?

I. AS A TYPE OF CHRIST.

1. A perpetual covenant made with Him. Isaiah 55:3. (Explained Acts 13:34).

2. Born at Bethlehem. (John 7:42; Acts 13:23).

3. Chosen out of the people (Psalm 89:19).

I. AS AN EXAMPLE TO US IN HIS OWN CHARACTER.

1. Two qualifications Godward.(1) Transparent. (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Chronicles 28:9; 1 Chronicles 29:17; John 1:47-50). This is the Old Testament grace of "perfectness," compatible with much failure and sudden falls, but implying a heart sincere in purpose and true to God. Perhaps the best illustration is the mariner's compass, the needle of which, under all circumstances, turns towards the pole.(2) Unobtrusive. 1 Samuel 16:11; Judges 6:13-16).

2. Five qualifications manward (1 Samuel 16:18).(1) Cunning in playing = talents improved.(2) A mighty, valiant man = energies developed.(3) Prudent in matters = common-sense exercised.(4) A comely person = graces manifested.(5) The Lord is with him = Godliness displayed This is how David struck a mere acquaintance. And yet he was the youngest, and occupied a lowly place in his own family. (Proverbs 15:38).

III. HE WAS GOD'S CHOICE. If God calls us to witness for Him, and we feel ever so unfitted in ourselves, let us remember John 15:16; 1 Corinthians 1:27.

(R. E. Faulkner.)

Men are apt to give their chief attention to certain moral blemishes which disfigured the life of this extraordinary servant of God; and either they deduce from them an excuse for their own intemperances, or they assume that God does not hate sin so vehemently as Scripture elsewhere represents; or else they fairly own themselves unable to reconcile the several wicked acts of David's life with that election and special favour which God was pleased to bestow upon him. Now, the conclusion that the crimes of David can ever justify similar acts of wickedness in others must be utterly delusive, if we find that David never justified them in himself. I shall, therefore, endeavour to examine the character of this very eminent person, and to account, from a general view of the subject, for that title of affectionate preference — "a man after God's own heart" — by which the prophet was commissioned to speak of him. In re. viewing, therefore, these facts, and comparing them with the privileges their author enjoyed, you may feel disposed to assume that God makes an irrespective choice of His servants, and that their moral worth does not weigh against His predetermined election. If such be the judgment you are disposed to give, from a consideration of David's career it is very certain that you have very imperfectly studied his character, and that you would strangely misinterpret the ways of our heavenly Father. For, without reckoning many extenuating circumstances in our consideration of David's evil deeds — for instance, his power and temptations as a king — his ignorance of that perfect morality which was unknown until the Gospel was preached — that disregard, too, of human life and female virtue which has always obtained in eastern countries — without, I say, reckoning any of these things in our final estimate of David's character, we may safely assert that neither in the Old or the New Testament can be found repentance so deep, humility so sincere, faith so unwavering, or generosity so noble, as the records of David's life show; and if these excellent virtues, united in the character of one person, are not sufficient to account for the Divine preference, then indeed David's privileges ate a mystery, and God's love for him is wholly unintelligible. Let us, however, consider the several qualities which I have attributed to David, and, if possible, trace in them the workings of that Spirit who alone can rescue our nature from the dominion of evil.

1. First, his repentance. This we naturally look for after his fall with Bathsheba, and the attendant conspiracy against her husband's life. Immersed for a time in guilty indulgence, David seems to have been in that common state which sensuality produces, literally unaware of the extent of his crime. Suddenly, and in the midst of this fancied security, the Prophet Nathan stood before him, and, by a parable almost, unequalled for its truth and tenderness, recalled the king to his senses. Now, if any one of you wish to express his own repentance, or to test its reality, let him use such language as this, and try how far his feelings accord with it. If you can repent in this spirit, you know indeed what repentance is. In fact, the Bible affords no language for the broken and contrite heart equal to this, and other penitential Psalms by David.

2. Now, with regard to David's unwavering faith in God, I may say at once that it was the ruling principle of his life. Everything he deliberately undertook was in simple reliance upon Divine support. Faith with David really was "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen:" it supported him through all the vicissitudes of a strangely chequered life, and spread a halo of hope around his departing spirit. After making allowance for the minute record of his human failings — a publicity which most men happily escape — and for the partial revelations which visited the times in which he lived, we find no character in Scripture so full, perhaps, of unwavering faith in the goodness and promises of God as David!

3. The last point which I shall notice in the character of this extraordinary person is his generous and noble feelings; and most, strikingly were these displayed in David's connections both with Saul and his son Jonathan. The former regarded David as his deadliest enemy; the latter loved him as his bosom friend. In the study of the life of David the lesson which has struck me, and which I would inculcate upon you, is the extraordinary difference betwixt David and mankind in general, in all the good points for which he was eminent; for it would appear that, though we can imitate him in his crimes, in his faith and humility we widely differ from him: and thus we have a sort of prurient interest about all his weaknesses, fancying we see in them some justification for our own; whilst with his excellencies we are comparatively unacquainted, because they rebuke and cry shame to us at every step in life. Why David was the favourite of God rather than any of us, is, therefore, very clear: we partake the condemning sinfulness of his fallen nature; but we do not join him in penitence, in humility, and in faith. Our repentance is commonly mere shame and worldly discomfiture; no real change of mind, and therefore requiring to be repented of, our trust we give to the world and its trifles rather than to God. In business we are lively, earnest, and active; but in prayer we are cold and doubting. The records of David's piety are before us in the Psalms — compare with these the remembrance of your best devotional exercises, and you will see how we differ from him. If there be this difference betwixt you and David which I have attempted to show you, still delude not yourselves with the fancy that a higher standard of excellence was demanded from him than is expected from you. As to this matter there is but one rule — "Be ye perfect as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect," and for this every one of you must strive. The standard for all men is the highest possible. Finally, remember one other thing, which the example of David has taught us, with regard to progression upon the heavenly road: whatever be your peculiar temptations, or your besetting sins, you must commence a spiritual reformation — you must seek the renewing of your minds by prayer and spiritual exercises, or you will seek to grow better in vain. Our Lord enjoined the Pharisees to cleanse first the inside of the cup and the platter; and David, with the same conviction, prayed — "Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me." This, believe me, is the only way to become a Christian here, or to inherit glory, immortality, and icy hereafter.

(A. Gatty, M. A.)

Homilist.
Was the character of David after God's own heart? Conventional pietists will to a man say, Yes. The most thoughtful, independent, and critical students of God's Book will to a man say, No. We say, No, for the following reasons: —

I. Because the affirmative is a REFLECTION OF GOD'S HOLINESS. Sin is the "abominable thing" which the Almighty hates, hates everywhere, and in every form David had his virtues, as most bad men have; but few men in history were guilty of more heinous crimes. He was guilty of falsehood, cruelties, adulteries, murders His whole nature at times seemed flooded and fired with the spirit of revenge. It is blasphemy to assert that such a character was after the heart of infinite purity We say, No.

II. Because the affirmative is UNSUSTAINED BY THE WORD OF GOD. The text which is the passage quoted in its favour does not mean it. The expression, "after His own heart," does not mean after His own approval, but after His own counsel. "He worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." Indeed, when these words were uttered David was not born. The Almighty used David as He used Cyrus, Alexander, Caesar, etc., after His own "heart," that is, after the counsel of His own will. We say, No.

III. Because the affirmative is FRAUGHT WITH MISCHIEF. The thoughtful worldling says, "All right; if God approves of a man whose history is so full of meanness, revenge deception, ungovernable lust, and bloodshed, we cannot be far wrong."

(Homilist.)

Links
1 Samuel 13:13 NIV
1 Samuel 13:13 NLT
1 Samuel 13:13 ESV
1 Samuel 13:13 NASB
1 Samuel 13:13 KJV

1 Samuel 13:13 Bible Apps
1 Samuel 13:13 Parallel
1 Samuel 13:13 Biblia Paralela
1 Samuel 13:13 Chinese Bible
1 Samuel 13:13 French Bible
1 Samuel 13:13 German Bible

1 Samuel 13:13 Commentaries

Bible Hub
1 Samuel 13:12
Top of Page
Top of Page