1 Samuel 24:16
When David had finished saying these things, Saul called back, "Is that your voice, David my son?" Then Saul wept aloud
A Triple VictoryJ. T. Woodhouse.1 Samuel 24:16
The Reconciliation of SaulJ. Parker, D. D.1 Samuel 24:16
David Sparing His EnemyT. W. Hooper, D. D.1 Samuel 24:3-22
David Sparing His EnemyMonday Club Sermons1 Samuel 24:3-22
Saul and David in the CaveH. E. Stone.1 Samuel 24:3-22
Evil Overcome by GoodD. Fraser 1 Samuel 24:16, 17
The Goodness of Bad MenB. Dale 1 Samuel 24:16-22

And Saul lifted up his voice and wept (ver. 17). The opportunity given to David to avenge himself on Saul was a severe test of principle, but by the use he made thereof it became a means of his further advancement. His forbearance was also another test of the character of Saul, over whom Divine mercy still lingered, and toward whom it was in such forbearance shown afresh. Igor was it without effect. The heart of the man who had ordered the massacre of eighty-five priests and was bent on the destruction of his most faithful servant relented at the words addressed to him; his voice trembled with emotion, tears flowed down his cheeks, he wept aloud, acknowledged his guilt, and turned from his purpose. It seemed as if he had undergone a sudden transformation and become a new man. But his heart remained unchanged. And his goodness, as on former occasions, was like that of those to whom the prophet said, "Your goodness" (fits of piety) "is as the morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away" (Hosea 6:4). Concerning such goodness, notice that -

I. IT IS NOT UNFREQUENTLY DISPLAYED. There is in the worst of men some capacity of moral and spiritual impression; and those who might be least expected to be moved are often most powerfully affected by -

1. The force of a powerful appeal, in which the truth is set before their minds and brought home to their hearts and consciences (vers. 9-15). They walk in the darkness of error and illusion, and the light breaks suddenly upon them, revealing what they could not or would not see before. It is made so plain that they are unable to deny its reality or resist its impression.

2. The exhibition of unusual generosity and superior excellence, which shows by contrast their own defects, shames and subdues them, overcomes not only them, but also, in some degree, the evil that is in them - their envy, hatred, and sin. "The simple self-presentation and self-witness of moral purity and truth has a great missionary power, and often makes a mighty impression on spiritually darkened and morally perverted natures, in such wise that the Divine in them is freed from the binding power of evil, and the religious moral element of the conscience, which is concealed deep under religious moral corruption, breaks freely forth, at least in some bright and good moments, in order to point to the way of salvation and show the possibility of deliverance, provided the man is willing to he saved and renewed" (Erdmann).

3. The apprehension of an extraordinary escape from danger and death (ver. 18). Saul had been placed by the hand of God within reach of the stroke of death, and if David had acted as men would ordinarily have done he would not have been now alive (ver. 19). The heart must be hard indeed if it be not melted by such things as these.

II. IT IS APPARENTLY GENUINE; the proof of a radical change of disposition. In tears and words and actions there is -

1. The presence of strong emotion. It is evidently not simulated, but real.

2. The operation of an awakened conscience (ver. 17), which produces the recognition of what is right, the vindication of one who has been wronged, the confession of sin, and prayer for the blessing of God on one who has been regarded as an enemy (ver. 19).

3. The conviction of the Divine purpose. "And now, behold, I know well," etc. (ver. 20). That purpose had been indicated to Saul by Samuel and by the course of events; but he refused to recognise it, sought to change it, and fought against it. Now he acknowledges its inevitable fulfilment on the ground of the superior worth of David (1 Samuel 15:28), submits to it without complaint, and even seeks a solemn pledge of forbearance toward his house on its accomplishment (ver. 21). He says in effect, "The will of the Lord be done."

4. The abandonment of evil designs. His amendment goes beyond good resolutions, and appears in his actually leaving off the pursuit of David and returning home to Gibeah (ver. 22). When good actions follow good words, what more can be needed? Yet Saul among the saints, like Saul among the prophets, was Saul still.

III. IT IS REALLY WORTHLESS. Although the signs of repentance and reformation in Saul were greatly valued, they were not absolutely relied upon by David, who had experience of his impulsive and changeable nature, and "knew what was in man." The most promising signs may be, and often are, connected with a goodness which is -

1. Superficial; the depth of the heart being still hard and stony.

2. Defective, in hatred of sin, renunciation of self, return to God, surrender of the will, true faith, inward renewal, and spiritual strength to resist temptation.

3. Transient. "They soon forgat his works," etc. (Psalm 106:13). Not long afterwards Saul was again in pursuit of David, and his heart was more obdurate than ever (1 Samuel 26:1). Transient goodness issues in permanent destruction. "Water that riseth and fioweth from a living spring runneth equally and constantly, unless it be obstructed or diverted by some violent opposition; but that which is from thunder showers runs furiously for a season, but is quickly dried up. So are those spiritual thoughts which arise from a prevalent internal principle of grace in the heart; they are even and constant unless an interruption be put upon them for a season by temptations. But those which are excited by the thunder of convictions, however their streams may be filled for a season, they quickly dry up and utterly decay" (Owen, 'Spiritual-Mindedness'). Consider that -

1. Men may be near the kingdom of God and yet never enter into it.

2. We are liable to be deceived by the appearance of goodness in others, and even in ourselves.

3. Whilst we should "search and try our hearts," we should also pray, "Search me, O God," etc. (Psalm 139:23, 24). "Create in me a clean heart," etc. (Psalm 51:10). - D.

And Saul lifted up his voice and wept.
Those who form the most careful plans for the defeat of others are often defeated themselves. Pharaoh persecuted and pursued the children of Israel, but he perished through his own folly — Haman and Mordecai — Judas mad Christ. Saul hunted for David like a thirsty bloodhound, but imperilled his own life lay entering the cave in which David and his men had concealed themselves. How did David treat his enemy in the hour of his weakness?

I. DAVID SHOWED THE MOST GRACIOUS TREATMENT TO AN INVETERATE ENEMY. We may learn two things from this gracious forbearance.

1. That it is the duty of Christian men to forgive their enemies.

2. Christian men are benefited by forgiving their enemies. Forgiveness improves both the heart of the offended and the offender. Life is ennobled by little acts of forbearance, and the heart made bright and glad. A desire for revenge is a sure sign of weakness. Revenge is its own torment.

II. DAVID GAINED A MOST DECISIVE VICTORY OVER AN INVETERATE ENEMY. Kindness conquered. Love won. "Saul lifted up his voice and wept."

1. Saul was convinced of sin. The hardest heart is sometimes softened. The iceberg melts before the sun. Awakened, ashamed, but not reclaimed.

2. Saul confessed his sin. "Thou art more righteous than I, for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil." Bad men must confess their sin. They may conceal their true character for a time, but "truth will out." The secret diary of the heart will be opened and read.


1. He conquered by constant vigilance.

2. He conquered by earnest prayer.

(J. T. Woodhouse.)

I. WHILST THE GOOD MAN SEES HIS OWN PERILS, LET HIM ALSO SEE THE RESTRAINTS WHICH ARE PUT UPON THE WICKED. Saul is mighty; Saul has servants; Saul is accustomed to dip his sword in human blood; yet he cannot hit David!

II. LET THE SAD MAN PUT TO HIMSELF SOME SERIOUS QUESTIONS RESPECTING THE RESTRAINTS WHICH LIMIT HIS POWER. Saul should have learned a good deal from the failures which followed each other in rapid succession. Why do the heathen so furiously rage? Evil is a gigantic failure: is there not a cause?

III. THOUGH MEDIATION MAY FAIL IS CARRYING OUT ITS PURPOSES, YET LET NO WISE MEDIATOR SUPPOSE THAT HIS WORK IS IN VAIN. Jonathan was mediator between Saul and David. Looking at it on one side, he might well have abandoned his work as a failure. What of its influence upon David? How it cheered him like a light! Be some man's true friend. No word of love is lost. No true ministry is a failure, though it may have aspects which are discouraging.

IV. OBSERVE THE INFINITE SUPERIORITY OF POWER THAT IS MORAL, AS COMPARED WITH POWER THAT IS PHYSICAL. Saul went to seek David upon the rocks of the wild goats. In his pursuit he came to the sheepcotes where there was a cave, and into that cave he entered, little knowing who was there! Said lifted up his voice and wept! What a difference between this and a mere fight of hostile weapons!

1. In the worst men there is something that may be touched.

2. In every life there is at least one opportunity of showing the real quality of the heart. David seized it! This is the sublime appeal of the Gospel! God does not crush us by mere power. Love, truth, persuasion — these are the weapons of God's warfare!

(J. Parker, D. D.).

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