Then Saul stripped off his robes and also prophesied before Samuel. And he collapsed and lay naked all that day and night. That is why it is said, "Is Saul also among the prophets?"
1 Samuel 19:22-24. (RAMAH.)Exodus 10:16; 1 Kings 18:16; Acts 25:24). Besides the three men just mentioned, there was also present One infinitely greater, and, although invisible, his power was displayed in a marvellous manner. Considered in relation to the Divine power, the narrative sets before us -
I. AN AGED PROPHET IMBUED WITH FEARLESS DIGNITY. His danger was great. What Saul might do may be judged from the fear which Samuel expressed on a former occasion (1 Samuel 16:2), and from what he actually did not long afterwards (1 Samuel 22:18, 19). But the prophet went on with his holy service calm and undismayed. He was inwardly sustained by Divine power, as others have since been in danger and suffering (Acts 16:25). Such fearlessness is possessed by God's servants in connection with -
1. A firm persuasion that they are in the path of duty. They have within "a peace above all earthly dignities, a still and quiet conscience." If conscience "does make cowards of us all," it also makes us heroes. And
"He that hath light within his own clear breast
2. A vivid realisation of the presence and might of the Lord. Faith "sees him who is invisible" and "the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire" (2 Kings 6:17).
3. A strong assurance of deliverance from their adversaries.
II. A PERSECUTING MONARCH TURNED INTO A HARMLESS ENTHUSIAST. The Divine power was exerted first upon Saul's messengers and then upon himself. In a somewhat similar manner, if not to the same extent, it is often exerted upon evil and persecuting men -
1. In connection with the utterances of the praises of God by his servants (2 Chronicles 20:22; Psalm 149:6). Instances are not unknown in which "one that believeth not" has come into their assembly, and, hearing their praises, has fallen down on his face and worshipped God (1 Corinthians 14:24, 25). This was not the first time that Saul was so affected, and the recollection of his earlier experience had probably some influence upon him. But then it was a sign that the power of God was for him, now that it was against him.
2. In order to restrain the wicked from carrying out their evil designs. He who holds the hearts of men in his hand thereby says, "Do my prophets no harm" (1 Chronicles 16:22).
3. In order to restore them to the right way. It was to Saul more than a warning that he was fighting against God. "He was seized by this mighty influence of the Spirit of God in a more powerful manner than his servants were, both because he had most obstinately resisted the leadings of Divine grace, and also in order that, if it were possible, his hard heart might be broken and subdued by the power of grace. If, however, he should nevertheless continue obstinately in his rebellion against God, he would then fall under the judgment of hardening, which would be speedily followed by his destruction" (Keil).
III. AN INNOCENT FUGITIVE RESCUED FROM IMPENDING DESTRUCTION. David was saved from the hand of Saul, and even (as it would appear) formally reconciled to him (1 Samuel 20:18, 27). The putting forth of the power of God was to him -
1. An indication of the varied and abundant resources of God to protect in the greatest peril.
2. An assurance of Divine approbation in the way of trust and obedience.
3. An encouragement to patient endurance. He might be tempted to reach the goal for which, as he was now probably fully aware, he was destined (1 Samuel 20:15; 1 Samuel 23:17) by violent measures; but ever as he thought on this scene, together with the counsel and the whole course of the venerable prophet, he would feel that "the way of order is the best."
"The way of order, though it lead through windings,
And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel.
1. There is a religious excitation or excitement which may not have any moral quality or influence whatever. It is not affected; it is real. It is not insincere; it is sincere. I despise the man who would play a part and pretend to be religiously excited when he is not. He is too base a creature. But I mean a person who really is lifted up and carried along with a rush of sacred enthusiasm. He cries for mercy, and he sings loudly of salvation. When he was alone he could not pray at all. He was carried along with the prophets. He had a wonderful fervour, his emotions were all aglow, and his brain was excited with a sort of sacred ecstasy. Now, this happens all the more easily if a man has a constitution accessible to such influences. I do not say that all excitement is useless, but I say that there is an excitement that only amounts to this. God forbid that we should for a moment deny that there are cases in which people get real permanent good. But the excitement is only the accompaniment; it is not the change. Excitement wears itself out. Paroxysms and ecstasies pass away.
2. The second thing is this: the degree in which religious emotion overpowers the body is generally proportioned to the ignorance of the mind, or to its alienation or estrangement from God. David joined the company of these prophets without any excitement or frenzy. I do not read a word about his lying naked upon the ground for a day and a night. Why was that? Because David had more of the matter in him than Saul. There was no resistance in David, therefore his body was not overpowered. But Saul was in an evil mood. He had come down to Naioth in a very evil mood. Envy and murder were in his heart, and when this pure sacred impulse came upon him, it met with the strongest resistance. If this is right, and surely this is right, this case should teach those persons who have at various times made a great ado over prostrations and trances and long lastings as signs of the work of grace, to be somewhat more cautious in their utterances. These things occur almost always in the case of a morbid hysterical temperament, in which case they are only a sign of disease, not of health; or in the case of a very ignorant person who is overwhelmed with things of which he has no intelligent conception; or in cases where there has been a very awful estrangement from God, and the Word of His grace finds an obstruction. There is a sympathy between the body and the spirit. They suffer together, they rejoice together. The body is not overpowered because the spirit of the man is open to the teachings of the Spirit of God. Mark you, it is Saul, not David, that cast off his garments in his excitement, and that threw himself in fanatical exhaustion upon the ground, if you reflect now and consider this, that this Bible is a collection of Eastern books, and remember that the East has always been the home of strange religious extravagance, do not you recognise a new proof of the Divine wisdom that pervades this Bible, that it is really inspired of the Holy Ghost in its well-balanced sobriety of mind? The Lord Jesus, Whom the Bible sets forth as the Holy One, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners — Jesus Whom the Bible calls us to admire and love and follow, is full of the grandest enthusiasm. God was with Him. If ever there was a man full of Spirit it was the Man Christ Jesus. He was filled with the Holy Ghost, and went everywhere led by the Spirit, and at the same time full of sweet self-possession, full of meekness and wisdom, and so answered all questions on the spur of the moment in the wisest possible manner, and set forth perfectly the cause of righteousness. The Bible teaches us, and especially to be calm and fervent, fervent and calm.
(Donald Fraser, D. D.).
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