1 Samuel 26:21
Then Saul replied, "I have sinned. Come back, David, my son. I will never harm you again, because today you considered my life precious. I have played the fool! I have committed a grave error."
A Fool Returns to His FollyD. Fraser 1 Samuel 26:21
Playing the FoolMarcus Rainsford.1 Samuel 26:21
Playing the FoolJ. Thain Davidson, D. D.1 Samuel 26:21
Playing the FoolJ. A. Miller.1 Samuel 26:21
Playing the FoolB. Dale 1 Samuel 26:21
The Folly of ManG. Campbell Morgan, D. D.1 Samuel 26:21
The Reproach of the EnemyF. B. Meyer, B. A.1 Samuel 26:1-25
David's Last Meeting with SaulB. Dale 1 Samuel 26:13-25
Saul's Second ReconciliationJ. Parker, D. D.1 Samuel 26:21-25

1 Samuel 26:21. (THE HILL OF HACHILAH.)
Behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly. At his first wrong step it was said to Saul by Samuel, "Thou hast done foolishly" (1 Samuel 13:13); and now (a man of about sixty years of age), looking back upon a long course of disobedience and self-will, and more especially upon his recent persecution of David, he himself said, "I have sinned... Behold, I have done foolishly, and have erred exceedingly." "There is no sinner so hardened but that God gives him now and then a ray of illumination to show him all his error." And under its influence many a man, in reviewing the past, has been constrained to make a similar confession. With reference to the case of Saul, a man plays the fool -

1. When he suffers illusive thoughts and sinful passions to find a place within him. This was the root of Saul's wasted and miserable life. How different would it have been if he had adopted proper means to expel such thoughts and passions from his breast, and prevent their return! "How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?" (Jeremiah 4:14).

2. When he listens to the false representations of wicked men, insinuating, it may be, suspicions of his best friend, and urging him to regard him as his worst enemy (1 Samuel 24:9).

3. When he acts in opposition to what he knows to be right. Saul had done so continually, following the impulses of "an evil heart of unbelief, instead of the dictates of reason and conscience. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (James 4:17).

4. When he rests in feelings merely, and does not translate them into deeds (1 Samuel 24:17). They are "dead without works." Every delay to act in accordance with them weakens their power, renders it less likely that they will ever be acted upon, and prepares the way for the return of the "evil spirit."

5. When he makes good resolutions and immediately breaks them (ver. 21), thereby destroying his moral power, and hardening himself in sin.

6. When he contends against the Divine purposes in the vain hope of succeeding (ver. 25). Sooner or later he must be crushed. "Who hath hardened himself against him and prospered?" (Job 9:4).

7. When he expects to find happiness except in connection with holiness. The illusion is dispelled, if not before, at the hour of death and the dawn of eternity, and he has to confess his folly when it is too late to repair it. - D.

I have played the fool.
The greatest and most difficult problem which the Church of God has had to face in all ages, and has had to try and solve is this — how to prevent men and women playing the fool. Thank God all down history there have been those who were bold enough to put out a protest, who, in spite of tremendous difficulties, were bold enough to call upon the fools not to deal so foolishly, and to the wicked not to set up their horn. And, believe me, the protest is stiff required. In spite of all our advance, in spite of our free education, there is still a vast number of those who walk in the ways of folly. Education is not enough to prevent a man playing the fool. You find men gambling away fortunes honest men have made, and you find men who try to drown their sorrows in what is called the sparkling cup — forgetting all the time that they are drowning their souls in perdition. You have no right to charge at God's door the things that you ought to charge at the door of your own folly. It is always being done — the Lord this, and the Lord that; it is you.

1. The folly of banishing God from life. Well, now; I find in God's Word that, there are three very special forms of folly which He there points out. I don't know whether you have observed that Psalm 14 and Psalm 53 are word for word the same; and in both there is this statement: "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." Literally in the Hebrew that is not just the idea of the writer. It is, "The fool hath said in his heart, No God" — that is, "No God for me." The folly here spoken of is a much more common folly — I mean the folly of the man that says, "I do not want God in my life, I do not want God in my home, I do not want God to rule and control in my heart."

2. The envious fool. Furthermore, you find another description of a foolish person in Psalm 73 — the foolishness that is envious at the prosperity of the wicked. It is an old problem.

3. The money-grubbing fool. Another definition of a fool that I must not omit tonight comes in connection with our Blessed Lord's ministry, and that is Luke 12 — "Thou fool!" What does it mean? Oh, it means that to put much emphasis on temporal things, and to neglect eternal things, and to set much value on things that pass away, and neglect the things that do not pass away, is the act of a fool.

4. The self-important fool. We dwell upon the special foolishness which attached to Saul, King of Israel. His foolishness lay in this, that he had an overweening estimate of his own importance. Saul was head and shoulders above his people, a pity for him, because it turned his head. Oh, it is a dreadful thing to be over-conscious of your own importance. God can do nothing with a man like that till He has brought him down. down, down, down. "He bringeth down the mighty from their seats, He exalteth the humble and meek." Then there was another great mistake Saul made, he fought against David. He knew that David was indeed the Lord's anointed; he knew that David ought to have the throne; he knew that David had been infinitely kind to him. But Saul determined, in the pride of his heart, to have David's life; there was a confederacy against him, the Lord's chosen.

5. God's remedy for folly. It would be sorry work to talk about the follies of men and women if one could not tell of a remedy. The fool requires two things. He requires a revelation of wisdom, to meet his folly; and he requires a revelation of power, to overcome his weakness. Is there such a revelation? Yes, here, and nowhere else than in that book.

(Marcus Rainsford.)

Now, if Saul's folly mainly consisted in yielding to the impulses of passion, and obeying the dictates not of duty but of a selfish heart, with no regard to the consequences, certainly he has no lack of successors. A few choice specimens have come under my personal notice. My album has some rare portraits: and the first I shall name is

I. THE IDLER. If the world contains a genuine fool, it is the young man who wastes his time. Some things God gives often, others only once. Youth belongs to the latter category, and if it be thrown away is beyond recovery. Idleness is always demoralising. Almost all the moral havoc that is wrought amongst young men is effected after the office door is closed. Few men go wrong when they are busy at work. Tell me how a youth spends his evenings and his half-holidays, and I shall have a good idea of his character. The worst thing you can do of an evening is to do nothing. You may easily predict a man's future when you know how he spends his hours of leisure. The next portrait I have to present, is

II. THE BUFFOON. There are many who seem incapable of a serious thought. They jest at everything. They live in an atmosphere of hilarity. They treat life as if it were a great joke. There is scarcely a trace of gravity or good sense in them. They are to society only what bells are to horses, making plenty of jingle, but not assisting to draw. It is a poor ambition this; the habitual jester is an empty fribble. Such men have no reverence in their nature. They have not a conception of the dignity of manhood. They have scarcely respect even for religion, and some profane quotation from Holy Writ is enough to set them in a roar. Let all such characters awaken within you a feeling of revulsion. Do not associate with them. Admissible they might be in a menagerie, but life is too serious to tolerate them. The next page of my album introduces to us:

III. THE WORLDLING. The next on my list is:

IV. THE SENSUALIST. I mean the man who is a slave to his baser passions and wallows in the mire of bestiality. The pure shrink from his touch; his breath blights every innocent thing.


(J. Thain Davidson, D. D.)

I. SAUL'S HISTORY JUSTIFIES THIS EXPRESSION, INASMUCH AS HIS PUBLIC LIFE WAS MARKED BY A CONTINUED ATTEMPT AT THOROUGH INDEPENDENCE OF GOD. Here is discoverable the great secret of Saul's downfall. This was his folly, here he erred. He made the attempt to get on without God.

1. This was folly — first, because it was subversive of all that reason and wisdom suggested. For the very being of a God is of itself a fact sufficiently indicative of the place which the creatures of that God should occupy. It was attempting to alter the relative positions of the Universal Sovereign and of His subjects — the relative position of the Great Proprietor of all and of those who are entirely at His disposal. The laws of nature, in regard to matter, allow no interference with them which would subvert the relative conditions of strength and weakness, independence and dependence, without such results as expose the folly of the attempt. Let the lighter materials, of which the superstructure may be safely built, be employed for the foundation, and let the heavy blocks — the solid masses — of which the foundation should consist, be used for the superstructure, and the builder will soon have to say, "I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly." Attempt to frame a raft of some substance whose specific gravity is greater than that of water, and the moment you launch it on the waves it will sink, and imminent peril will ensue, and you will just have been "playing the fool." Or come to nature's laws as regards moral beings — indulge a course of Action which subverts these. Let the rule be that the child's will shall take precedence of the parent's, the servant's of the master's, that superior and inferior should change places, and would not the results in families and households soon prove that all this was but "erring exceedingly?" And shall there be any success where man, dependent man, thus takes or attempts to take the place of independence? Can he rid himself of God, when, at the utmost stretch of self-will, he is asking, "Who is Lord over me?"

2. Besides, if it be against all reason to put our own will into the place of God's, it is not less against our interest to do so. Saul, indeed, attempted to do as well without God as with Him; but did he succeed? Did he get on as well without God as with Him? And did ever the history of a single individual justify the supposition that this was possible? It is only "the blessing of the Lord" which "maketh rich, and he added no sorrow with it."

II. APPLICABLE AS THE SENTENCE WAS TO THE WHOLE RETROSPECT OF HIS HISTORY, IT WAS PREEMINENTLY APPROPRIATE TO THIS PORTION OF IT. In many respects he had thus erred; in one respect most especially and distressingly so. He was now addressing David, a man whom on every ground, he ought to have loved, for he was lovely in himself, and he had done Saul good service; and, moreover, he stood in very near relationship to him — the husband of his daughter, the bosom friend of his son. It is not difficult to gather the reasons of this verdict pronounced upon himself; and they demand our attention, because they expose to our view points of possible error in our own conduct. His folly and error consisted in treating a man as his enemy who was, in reality, his best friend. Have you ever, like Saul in reference to David, felt the risings of dislike to your friend, because, in some form or another, he seemed to stand in the way of your cherished plans and self-gratifying projects? Beware how you listen to the suggestions of the evil spirit. Saul's folly consisted, not simply in treating as an enemy the man who was really his best friend, but in attempting, by this very conduct towards David, to fly in the face of those Divine arrangements to which, however humiliating their character, he was bound, in meekness, to have submitted. God had assigned the kingdom to David: Saul was determined to keep it for himself and his family. It was the one purpose of Saul's life to defeat God's arrangement; and nothing promised so readily and directly to accomplish his object as the death of David, and this became, therefore, the one great point at which he aimed. Yet never does a man commit himself to a harder, and at the same time more fruitless, enterprise than when he fights against God's providential arrangements — when, for instance, God is evidently calling on him to give up some plan of his own — when God is requiring him to take a humbler level, and he will grasp tightly and hold tenaciously the position which everything combines to tell him is not for himself nor his family, but for another. "Their folly shall be made manifest to all men;" and not less shall it be felt by themselves. Submission, which they would not render voluntarily to One who has a just right to claim it, will be wrung out of them reluctantly by One against whom "none ever hardened himself and prospered." Saul, alas! admitted his error, but took no steps to turn his confession to practical advantage. Let us be careful against such a neglect. Let us proceed at once, by God's blessing, to act out our convictions.

(J. A. Miller.)

This is not the kind of thing a man would say if he gave himself time to think. It is not a statement made after preparation. Men do not speak in this wise after thought and preparation, and that fact makes the utterance the more valuable, for it is under such stress of circumstances that men often reveal the ever present, but habitually hidden, consciousness. It was so with Saul on this occasion.

1. This man was a man of good family and position in life. His father was Kish, "a mighty man of valour," and the marginal reading most strikingly catches the thought of the original word — "a mighty man of substance; a wealthy man."

2. Notice, also, that he was a man of splendid physique — a choice man is the word, a goodly man, a man standing head and shoulders above his fellows, handsome and strong. Let no man ever put any false value upon incompetency in the physical realm. Saul started with the magnificent capital of a strong physique.

3. Again, he was a man of simple life, living at home, interested in his father's affairs, by no means a prodigal.

4. He was, moreover, a man of modest disposition.

5. And then, once again, he was a man of courage, not the courage that vaunts itself, which is of the very essence of cowardice, not the courage that talks, but the courage that farms until his nation is insulted, and then strikes. Now, this is the man that says in the words of my text, "I have played the fool!"Notice Saul's opportunities.

1. He is the chosen of God; the choice is Divinely, definitely stated. He had opened before him a door, passing through which he should find the life — simple, and modest, and strong, and beautiful, that had been preparing in the past — put into a place of activity and of service, of which he had never dreamed. What scope for his powers in the kingly office! What chances to bless his fellow men! This was his opportunity.

2. Then notice another fact proving how great that opportunity was. He had the friendship of Samuel, a man of God, a seer, the leader of the people.

3. Then remember this also, in speaking of his opportunity. It is said of him that "there went with him a band of men whose hearts God had touched." This man with such glorious opportunities is the one who, coming near the end of life, surprised in a crisis, cries out, "I have played the fool!"This is not the story of a man who made final shipwreck in the early years of his life, or the story of a man who had no chance in life, who inherited forces that damned him, but the story of a man who seems to have had everything in his favour at the beginning — his own person and character were magnificent, his surroundings highly favoured and privileged, and yet this man came at last to say that he had played the fool.

1. I find the first point of that failure on the day when Samuel had come with the hosts of the people for the crowning of the man whom God had chosen to be king. Where was he? Hiding away. A man has no business to be modest when. God has anointed him for work. There is a modesty that is blasphemous. It is of the very essence of a self-centred life, and if God has anointed a man to be king, that man sins when he allows modesty to hold him back from the kingly office. What was it? Failure to follow God at all costs and against all inclinations. Here is the beginning of all the trouble that wrecked this man's character and life, that spoiled his opportunities, that drew from him that which was at once an awful confession and a wail of anguish. "Behold! I have played the fool!"

2. From that day pass over the years, and come to the day of impatient waiting at Gilgal. Samuel did not come, as he was expected, and Saul arrogated to himself the right to offer a sacrifice, an act that was not lawful to him. Underlying that act is the spirit of rebellion, the rebellion of a self-centred life.

3. Follow him still further, and notice the degeneration of character. The man who began by hiding away, and then became self-dependent, and then fell into disobedience and lying, now becomes rash, and takes an oath upon him which jeopardises the life of the fairest man in his kingdom, his own con Jonathan.

4. Mark the process still further, and see him at last. In the early years he was himself among the prophets, speaking by the inspiration of the wind of God that passed across his soul. See him now creeping in the darkness of the night to the witch of Endor, asking for some occult subtle revelation of secrets because the light of day is blotted from his life. And the — What then? Suicide! You may call it anything you like, but if I ask a man to slay me, and because he refuses I fall upon my sword, what is it, if not suicide? What are the causes? First, as we have said, lack of loyalty to God. Life makes shipwreck of itself except when the hand of God is upon the helm; no matter how fair and glorious and beautiful the promise of morning, night will bring disaster and defeat, unless there is the loyal handing over of the will of man to the will of God. But mark how this works out in life; see how the man, when once his life is taken out of the Divine government and control, neglects his beat friends, Samuel, David, Jonathan; mark how he fails to understand the opportunity of his kingship. A man who seems only to have seen in kingship an opportunity for fighting and victory and possession, forgets the greater fact, that the king is to be shepherd also, to provide for his people, protecting them from harm, feeding and leading them like a flock.Let us in a few closing words gather up what seem to be the lessons of that life.

1. First, advantages do not ensure success. The fact of your family, the fact of your disposition, the fact of your physical power, the fact of your courage, all these things are to be valued, but none of them will ensure success. I pray you, do not undervalue the fact that your father believed in God and your mother prayed. The young man that undervalues such facts is already playing the fool, and unless he learns ere it be too late the infinite value of that possession, he will do so to the end of time. Your parents gave you no capital to start in life with, do I hear you tell your friend? It is not true; your father gave you an example of cleanness and honour, your mother of devotion and prayer, and the man who wants any other capital than that should go to the workhouse and stay there! Where would some of us be if God had not barred the way for us by a mother's prayer and a father's godly life? A man may have all these, and play the fool at the end. Your disposition may be in your favour — you are the very man that will make shipwreck if you do not mind. It is not the cold, cynical man that is in danger of making shipwreck so much as the man of laughter and life, the man who is the centre of every social circle. That is the man the devil is after, because he is the man that God loves.

2. Again let me remind you that opportunities do not crown men. God may have called you to a great opportunity in life, and you may even enter upon the opportunity and yet miss it. How, then, says one man, can I live so as not to play the fool? Hear this. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Surrender to God, loyalty, obedience; these are the things that ensure a man against folly and against failure. You can never achieve the possibilities that slumber in your personality until you have exercised the kingship of your being, by putting the crown of your manhood upon the brow of the Man of Nazareth. Find your way in humility and loneliness to the Cross, and looking into the face of the world's God and King say, "Oh, Nazarene! Thou hast conquered;" then you will begin to live. No man can make shipwreck if Christ he King. No man can be lost in the swelling flood if the Pilot with the pierced hand is at the helm. Yield to Him, man, tonight. Yield to Him who alone is able to realise the possibilities of your being, and bring them at last to God's consummation.

(G. Campbell Morgan, D. D.).

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