1 Samuel 20:3
But David again vowed, "Your father knows very well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said, 'Jonathan must not know of this, or he will be grieved.' As surely as the LORD lives and as you yourself live, there is but a step between me and death."
Sermons
But a StepSpurgeon, Charles Haddon1 Samuel 20:3
Certainty of DeathT. Macconnel.1 Samuel 20:3
Mortal PerilD. Fraser 1 Samuel 20:3
Only a StepB. Dale 1 Samuel 20:3
Solemn NewsT. Kelly.1 Samuel 20:3
The Mystic StopJ. Dunlop.1 Samuel 20:3
The Nearness of DeathJ. Parker, D. D.1 Samuel 20:3
The Intercourse of FriendsB. Dale 1 Samuel 20:1-10
A Friendly Prince a Princely FriendH. E. Stone.1 Samuel 20:1-42
David and JonathanW. G. Blaikie, D. D.1 Samuel 20:1-42


1 Samuel 20:3. (GIBEAH.)
Our path in life lies along the brink of a river or the edge of a cliff; and we may by a step - a single step - at any moment meet our fate. The asseveration of David may be regarded as the expression of a strong conviction ("As Jehovah liveth," etc.) of -

I. THE SOLEMNITY OF DEATH. The event is a serious one. To leave familiar scenes and beloved friends, to "be missed" from our accustomed place is a saddening thought. But what gives solemnity to death as well as life is its moral aspect, its spiritual and Divine relations.

1. It terminates our earthly probation - severs our immediate connection with the privileges, means, and opportunities by which character is proved and the soul prepared for another state. When this step is taken, all these things belong to the past.

2. It ushers us into the Divine presence; no longer partially concealed by the veil of material things, but fully revealed in light, which reveals the moral attitude of every human spirit and judges it "in righteousness." "After death" (and following close upon it) "the judgment" (Hebrews 9:28). "We must all be manifest before the judgment seat of Christ," etc. (2 Corinthians 5:10).

3. It fixes our future destiny, in weal or woe. "What is a man profited," etc.

II. THE UNCERTAINTY OF LIFE. The step must be taken, but when we know not. That we may be duly impressed by a truth which all admit, but few adequately realise, consider -

1. The frailty of the body, and the innumerable dangers to which it is exposed. "Between us and hell or heaven there is nothing but life, the most fragile thing in existence (Pascal).

2. The facts of daily observation. What occurs to others so often, so suddenly and unexpectedly, may occur to ourselves. We have no guarantee that it will not. "Man's uncertain life is like a raindrop on the bough, amid ten thousand of its sparkling kindred, and at any moment it may fall."

3. The declarations of the Divine word. "Man knoweth not his time," etc. (Ecclesiastes 9:12). "Ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life?" etc. (James 4:14). Why should we be left in such uncertainty?

(1) To teach us the sovereignty of God and our dependence upon him.

(2) To accord with our present probationary position, which necessitates the proper adjustment of motives to our freedom and responsibility.

(3) To enable us properly to perform the ordinary duties of life, in connection with which we are appointed to serve God here and prepare for his service hereafter.

(4) To check presumption in devoting undue attention to the affairs of this life and neglecting those of the life to come.

(5) To lead us not to put the event out of our minds altogether, but rather to constant preparation for it and for the life that lies beyond. "The last day is kept secret that every day may be watched" (Augustine). "Take ye heed, watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is" (Mark 13:33). "Be ye therefore ready also, etc. (Luke 12:40).

III. THE NECESSITY OF WATCHFUL PREPARATION. Seeing that at any instant the step may be taken, it plainly behoves us to be always ready.

1. By seeking and maintaining a right state of heart (John 3:2, 14).

2. By diligent, faithful, and persevering performance of duty.

3. By constant and prayerful committal of our souls into the hands of God. So, whenever the step is taken, it will be "only a step" out of the shadows and sorrows Of earth into the glory and joy of heaven. - D.









There is but a step between me and death.
Notice the views and feelings that will naturally possess a man who believes "there is but a step between him and death," or that his end is near.

I. THE WORLD, WITH ITS PLEASURES, PURSUITS, AND PROSPECTS, WILL, APPEAR SMALL. The mask is taken off now.

II. HE WILL FEEL THAT HIS OWN PERSONAL SALVATION IS TO HIM ABOVE ALL THINGS ELSE IN POINT OF IMPORTANCE.

III. NEXT TO HIS OWN SALVATION IN POINT OF IMPORTANCE, WILL BE THAT OF HIS FAMILY.

IV. HE WILL NOT FEEL AT HOME IN THE COMPANY OF THE WICKED, OR IN ANY PURSUIT OR PLEASURE UPON WHICH HE COULD NOT ASK THE BLESSING OF GOD.

V. HE WILL DESIRE TO SETTLE ALL, DISPUTES AND OLD GRUDGES, AND FORGIVE HIS ENEMIES.

VI. A MAN WHO BELIEVES "THERE IS BUT A STEP BETWEEN HIM AND DEATH" WILL DESIRE TO MAKE HIS WILL.

(T. Kelly.)

This was David's description of his own condition. King Saul was seeking to destroy him. The bitter malice of that, king would not be satisfied with anything short of the blood of his rival.

1. There is a sense in which this text is no doubt literally TRUE OF EVERY MAN — There is but a step between me and death; for life is so short that it is no exaggeration to compare it to a step.

2. But, in another sense, there is but a step between us and death, namely, that life is so uncertain. How unexpectedly it ends.

3. And this is all the more true when we consider that there are so many gates to the grave. We can die anywhere, at any time, by any means. Not alone abroad are we in danger, but at home in security we are still in peril. Wherever you are, you may well feel, "There is but a step between me and death."

II. THAT TO SOME THIS IS SPECIALLY TRUE. To persons who have reached a ripe old age this is most certainly true: "There is but a step between me and death"? Now, do not object to think about it and talk about it. If you are all right with God, it can be no trouble to you to remember that as your years multiply, there must be so many the fewer in which you are to abide here below.

III. SUPPOSE IT IS NOT SO. There may be some here that will live to a very great age. Well, what then? If so, I should recommend you to follow the Scriptural advice, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness." Suppose that it is not true that there is but a step between you and death; nevertheless, while death is at a distance, health and strength furnish the best time for coming to Christ.

IV. But now SUPPOSE THAT IT IS SO. Suppose that it is so, and suppose, as yet, that you have no good hope. If there is but a step between you and death, yet there is only a step between you and Jesus. There is only a step between you and salvation. God help you to take that step. Suppose that it is so, that you are moon to die; then set your house in order.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. IT IS A CERTAIN STEP. All must take it.

II. IT IS AN UNCERTAIN STEP.

1. When we must take it we cannot tell.

2. Where we must take it is altogether hid from us.

III. IT IS A FINAL STEP. It is final because it puts an end to human distinctions.

IV. IT IS A PARTING STEP.

1. It parts us from this world of matter. We must bid farewell to flower and star.

2. It parts us from friends near and dear to us.

3. It parts us from ourselves. That tender union that subsists between soul and body is rudely torn asunder,

V. IT IS A SOLITARY STEP. Death is a lonely thing.

VI. IT IS ALTOGETHER A SOLEMN STEP.

1. The step of birth is solemn.

2. The step of prayer is solemn.

3. Not less solemn is the step of death. Lord, prepare me for taking this step.

(J. Dunlop.)

This is true physically, morally, socially, influentially.

1. Physically — Breath is in the nostrils; we know not our narrow escapes from death; the point of a needle may destroy the life of the body, etc.

2. Morally — Character may be ruined in a moment; one sin broke up human history into ruin and sorrow, etc.

3. Socially — When character is ruined, society is closed against a man, etc.

4. Influentially — A man's influence should be the measure of his moral standing; by one false step influence may be impaired or destroyed. The fact that there is but a step between life and death should do five things: —

I. IT SHOULD GIVE HIGH SIGNIFICANCE AND VALUE TO TIME. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do," etc.

II. IT SHOULD AWAKEN THE MOST ANXIOUS VIGILANCE. Only one step, and it may be the next!

III. IT SHOULD STIMULATE TO PREPAREDNESS FOR THE FUTURE.

IV. IT SHOULD IMPART A TENDERER INTEREST TO ALL THE RELATIONSHIPS OF LIFE.

V. IT SHOULD LEAD TO THE RIGHT USE OF TEMPORAL POSSESSIONS.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

IT WAS SEEMINGLY TRUE CONCERNING DAVID.

1. This teaches us how liable we are to be wrong in our judgments. We can only judge from appearances; therefore we should draw all inferences of importance with caution.

2. Yet this judgment of David's, perhaps, was the instrumental cause of his preservation. It made him cautious. Thus Providence sports with our calculations; "man knoweth not his appointed time, but is like the fishes ensnared in an evil net."

II. THE TEXT IS REALLY TRUE CONCERNING SOME INDIVIDUALS NOW IN THE WORLD.

1. Let us in the first place look at the great number of the sick scattered over the face of this well-peopled world.

2. Go into the gloomy ceils of condemned criminals, whose life must, pay the forfeit of their crimes on the coming morning.

3. Look at the combatants that are now preparing for deadly battle; their country's cause palpitates at their heart, and burns on their tongue. They are destined to fall in the struggle.

4. Listen to the cries of those mariners in distress; "they are going up to the heavens, and now down to the depths."

5. View those men of apoplectic structure. How precarious the hold they have of life! Fresh and hale one minute — the next dead.

III. THE DECLARATION IN THE TEXT MAY BE TRUE WITH REGARD TO SOME OF US.

1. Sentence of death has been passed on all men.

2. This sentence has never been repealed. It has not become obsolete; it is not like the antiquated page of an almanac of past times.

3. But this respite is not for any given length of time. It is frugally extended only from moment to moment. A respited criminal knows the length of his respite; we do not.

(T. Macconnel.)

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