David, however, said to himself, "One of these days now I will be swept away by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will stop searching for me all over Israel, and I will slip out of his hand."
I. THE FAULT OF DAVID WAS UNBELIEF. It was not his habit; but it came upon him as a fit or mood, and, while it lasted, led him into actions unworthy and umwise.
1. He broke down at a strong point, as men often do. His faith rose to a heroic pitch in the valley of Elah, when the stripling, as a believer, encountered the blaspheming giant. But when he was put among princes his faith failed under apprehensions of mortal peril, and he fled to Nob, and thence to the Philistine town of Gath. He recovered his faith in God, and, assured of Divine protection, refused to injure Saul when the king on two occasions was within his power. But again his faith failed, and he was afraid. There is no mention of his having prayed, or consulted God through the priest as at other times. In his unworthy fear he took counsel with himself, and "said in his heart" that he would surely perish. Such is man. He falls at a strong point. Noah stood in his integrity against a whole world of sinners, but when he had no world to stand against he fell, and disgraced himself by intemperance. Moses was the meekest of men and most observant of the word of the Lord, and yet he erred at Kadesh in respect of self-control and fidelity to the Divine command, so forfeiting his entrance into Canaan. Hezekiah was eminent for prayerfulness and humility, and yet he fell in not spreading a matter before the Lord, but giving way to vain boasting. Simon Peter was all ardour and devotion to his Master, and yet, just after honest protestations of attachment, he lost courage, and denied his Lord. In like manner strong believers may fall into a fit of unbelief, in which past blessings are forgotten, promises are doubted or let slip, dangers are exaggerated, and the heart, instead of asking counsel of the Lord, takes counsel with itself, and suggests all sorts of folly.
2. Unbelief seems to have been the sin to which David was most tempted in his youth. We infer this both from this history and from the Psalter. The former tells how he more than once despaired of his life, and how Jonathan exerted himself to reassure his desponding mind. The latter reveals to us with touching candour the apprehensions of his youth in those psalms which plainly refer to his wanderings and hairbreadth escapes. The sorrows of death had compassed him, and the floods of the ungodly made him afraid, lie saw his enemies ready to swallow him up. And though he was naturally brave, unbelief enfeebled and distracted him, so that. his "heart was sore pained" within him. Indeed David's cries to God in the Psalms, and his way of repeating to himself that God was on his side, and was able to defend and deliver him, indicate not obscurely his inward struggle. If he had felt no fear he would not have thought of writing, "I will not fear what man can do to me." If he had known no failure of faith he would not have said so much as he has of crying after God and putting his trust in him. We read of Abraham simply that he believed. He fell on his face and listened to the voice of God; then he acted, journeyed, obeyed in faith; but we do not find him speak of his believing. David had a struggle to hold fast his confidence, and therefore has he given so much expression to the life of faith and its conflict with doubt and fear.
II. UNBELIEF LEADS A SERVANT OF GOD TO UNWORTHY DEVICES. "Nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines." Now we know that God did order and overrule this flight for the good of David and of Israel; but none the less was it, on the part of his servant, an unworthy action springing from unbelief. Better surely to have lived by faith in the forests and caves of Judaea than live by sight and behave like a freebooter in the land of the heathen Philistines. His stay at Ziklag, the town assigned to him by the king Achish, marks a bad period in the life of David. His incursion into the territory of certain southern tribes was most unjust and cruel. The injustice, indeed, may not have been apparent to his mind; for David and his men had, of course, been educated in the ideas of their own age and country, and had no scruple about invading and laying waste any territory of the heathen. They had also little, if any, respect for the lives of the heathen. Yet David must have sinned against his conscience in the cruel massacre of the southern tribes. One sin leads to another. And the son of Jesse added deceit to cruelty, and exulted in covering the first sin by the second, leaving no man or woman alive to contradict the tale he told to the Philistine king. Lord, what is man? When thou didst not hold up the goings of thy servant, into what miry places did he stray, into what a ditch did he fall! When his faith failed, what a breakdown of his character and conduct! Restraint of prayer, self-direction, then rapine, bloodshedding, and falsehood! What are we that we should have immunity from similar deterioration of character, if we give way to unbelief? A Christian in good repute takes some course that we should have thought incredible and impossible. We ask in amazement, What infatuation seized him? or, Can it be that he was always insincere; and wicked at heart under a cloak of seeming goodness? The real clue to his misconduct lies here - that he lost hold of God and fell through unbelief, allowed himself to doubt whether God would or could keep him in some strait, and took to trusting and keeping himself. So he fell into unworthy company, or betook himself to unworthy devices; and the end is what you see - dishonesty, duplicity, prevarication. Remember that nothing is so hard to be extirpated from the heart as unbelief. In his book of the Holy War Bunyan shows that when the town of Mansoul was in the devil's power, Incredulity was first made alderman, then lord mayor. When Immanuel took the town, Incredulity (unbelief) was doomed to execution, but managed to break out of prison, and lurked in hiding places where he could not be found. When the devil assaulted the town in hopes to retake it, "Old Incredulity" reappeared, and was made general of the army. After the assailing army was defeated, and many of the officers and soldiers in it were put to death, Unbelief still evaded capture. He did yet dwell in Mansoul, though he "hid in dens and holes." Application: -
1. Let believers beware. It is easy to slip off the way of faith, and it may seem to answer well for a time. You may get your Ziklag to dwell in, and find it more comfortable than the hold at Engedi or the hill of Hachilah, but you are in a state of declension from God, and on the way, as David was, to commit presumptuous sin. Matthew Henry remarks in his sententious way, "Unbelief is a sin that easily besets even good men. When without are fightings and within are fears, it is a hard matter to get over them. Lord, increase our faith!"
2. Let unbelievers be warned. If unbelief be so damaging when it prevails even temporarily over a servant of God, what ruin must it work in those who lie always under its power! "He that believeth not in the Son of God shall not see Life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." - F.
I. OBSERVE HIS FEAR. It was the language, not, of his lips, but of his feelings — he "said in his heart, I shall now one day perish by the hand of Saul." If a man hawks about his trouble from door to door, we may be assured be will never die of grief. Profound sorrow, like the deep river, flows noiseless; the man wounded at heart, like the smitten deer, leaves the herd for the shade. "I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul." And suppose be had? This was all the injury he could have done him: and we are forbidden to fear those that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. He must have died, according to the course of nature, in a few years: and what is death, in any form, to a good man, but falling asleep or going home? He ought then, you say, to have risen above the fear of death. But David was in no danger of perishing by the hand of Saul. Saul was indeed a malicious and powerful enemy; but he was chained, and could do nothing against him except it was given him from above. And the Lord was on David's side: And he had the promise of the throne, which implied his preservation. And he had already experienced many wonderful deliverances. You would do well to take the advice of an old writer. "Never," says he, "converse with your difficulties alone."
1. This incident in David's life is most instructive. It shows us the folly of endeavouring to remove evils under which we labour, by unlawful means; and especially of resorting to such expedients in our moments of discouragement; and may further teach us, that under all circumstances, the path of duty is the path of safety.
And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul.I. THE GLOOM AND DESPONDENCY OF DAVID'S HEART. How variable is the Christian's experience! Few pass on long without changes; the more equable Christians are generally those of the slightest attainment. The little tree is but moved by the breeze, the ponderous oak with its outstretching branches feels ice full weight; the tiny lake then only presents a small surface is but rippled, the sea is heaved and lashed into a fury. The powerful passion is generally allied to the corresponding intellect and acts as a counterbalancing power. David was a large-souled and large-hearted man, his experience is ever-varying, the slightest circumstance stirs him to the depths.
II. THE CAUSES OF THIS DESPONDENCY. God never willeth that we should be cast down; it is attributable to ourselves. Some men exclude themselves from the rays of the sun; it shines nevertheless.
1. The first cause here is his regarding man as a primary instead of a secondary agent. "I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul." Why? Is there anything in Saul that came not from God? Is he a man? God made him. A king? God appointed him. Has he power? It also belongs to God, and when His arm is removed, Saul at once becomes the helpless child. Another cause is found: —
2. In communing with his heart instead of with God. "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man," is as much true of ourselves as others. The earth kept by the centripetal and centrifugal forces never wanders too far from, or goes too near, the sun; let them cease but for one moment and we should with lightning speed rush into collision, or be lost in endless space. So man's heart under Heavenly guidance is, and must be right. Die by the enemy, go into the land of the Philistines. The enemy within suggested it.
III. DAVID ERRED IN COMPARING HIS OWN WITH HIS ENEMY'S FORCES. Compare the suggestions of sense and faith. Sense says, what can six hundred with a valiant captain do against the army of Saul? Sense sees the host of Satan's emissaries encamped before the solitary soul and says, Fly, for thy life fly, ere they overtake. Faith goes beyond, stoops not to count the opposing forces, and gives assurance of the victory. Sense says, "I shall one day fetish by the hand of Saul." Faith says, Greater is be that is for me titan all that can be against me. "Stand still and see the salvation of God."
IV. ANOTHER CAUSE OF HIS DESPONDENCY WAS HIS FORGETFULNESS OF THE DIVINE PROMISES. Had not Samuel, the prophet of the Lord, visited his father's house and anointed him king? Had not this choice again and again been ratified? Had not Saul, his enemy, been forced to acknowledge him as his successor? Yet Saul is to kill him.
V. SEE THE CONSEQUENCE OF ACTING ON SUCH CONVICTIONS. It may be that some of us have found our way into the land of the Philistines, have gone for peace and found war, gone for safety and have been more exposed. Why? Because we have acted against the Spirit and the Word. Take David's experience as confirmatory of such results. Listen no more to such misleading assertions. Die! yes, you will, as far as a separation of the body from the spirit is concerned; but by the hand of the enemy, never, no, never.
(J. H. Snell.)
2. This lesson is one which we greatly need. Under the pressure of trials we naturally seek relief; and if no lawful means present themselves, we are tempted to use those which are unlawful; and by a delusive reasoning satisfy ourselves that that is right, which under other circumstances we should ourselves condemn as wrong. We often have cause to repent of resolutions taken, like David's, under the pressure of trials and the influence of discouraged feeling. The fact is that despondency borders on insanity. "It makes a man his own executioner, and leads to suicidal acts." Everything, therefore, we do under the influence of such feeling will be pretty sure to be wrong, and to give us work for after repentance.
3. Again, our subject may be applied to another class of hearers. There are those who have made many efforts to gain the hope of the Christian, but have failed in all. They say, "that they have sought most earnestly to believe and feel as the people of God do: that they have prayed, inquired, and done all that they knew ought to be done, but still do not enjoy a 'hope of acceptance;'" and now they are discouraged, and that discouragement leads them into a very sinful resolution. This is a very common case, and one with which ministers and Christians do not sympathize as they ought! We are disposed, when we see one lingering in neglect of religion, to condemn him as if nothing but obstinacy and rebellion prevented his surrender of himself to God. We bear down harshly upon him with the terrors of the law, when the man needs encouragement. Such severity only tends to exasperate and harden. The Jews in Jeremiah's time said "There is no hope," and added, "we will walk after our own devices." "The beggar will sometimes knock at a door until he finds that no notice is likely to be taken of his application, and then rail at those who live within; and so let the sinner fear that God's heart is hardened against him, and his own heart will soon be hardened against God." Let Christians, then, beware of taking away hope from the inquiring soul, by condemning all delay as obstinacy and obduracy, for it may arise from discouraged feeling; and the sinner may lie in the mire of sin, because be has made many efforts to get out, only to fall back again into the ditch.
4. And let the inquirer beware of yielding to discouragement, and thence to sin. "He may say, "I have sought, and prayed so many times, and found no relief; must I still continue to seek?" Even so, for what better can you do? If you finally and entirely cease from all effort, you are certainly lost; if you persevere you may be saved, and certainly will be in the end. Rise, discouraged soul, renew thy prayers, and if a lifetime of blind perplexed inquiries and in thine everlasting salvation, count the blessing cheaply won.
5. The same advice may apply to the backslidden Christian or to those who sometimes hope they are accepted in Christ, but lack the clear evidence of it.
(W. H. Lewis, D. D.)
II. REMINDED OF DAVID'S FOLLY. "There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines." But nothing could have been worse. For by this step — he would alienate the affections of the Israelites from him — be would justify the reproaches of the enemy — he would deprive himself of the means of grace and the ordinances of religion — he would grieve his soul with the vice and idolatry of the heathen — he would put himself out of the warrant of Divine protection — and lay himself under peculiar obligation to those whom he could not serve without betraying the cause of God.
1. How much depends on one improper step. The effects may be remediless, and give a complexion to all our future days. Our reputation, our comfort, our usefulness, our religion, our very salvation, may binge upon it.
2. Let us learn how incompetent we are to judge for ourselves.
I. LET US EXAMINE THIS SUDDEN RESOLUTION.
1. It was the suggestion of worldly policy. "David said in his heart." Never act in a panic; nor allow man to dictate to thee; calm thyself and be still; force thyself into the quiet of thy closet until the pulse beats normally and the scare has ceased to perturb. When thou art most eager to act is the time when thou wilt make the most pitiable mistakes.
2. It was very dishonouring to God. Surely, then, it, was unworthy of David to say, in effect: "I am beginning to fear that God has undertaken more than He can carry through. True, He has kept me hitherto; but I question if He can make me surmount the growing difficulties of my situation. Saul will. sooner or later, accomplish his designs against me; it is a mistake to attempt the impossible. I have waited till I am tired; it is time to use my own wits, and extricate myself while I can from the nets that are being drawn over my path." How much easier it is to indicate a true course to others in hours of comparative security, than to stand to it under a squall of wind!
3. It was highly injurious. Philistia was full of idol temples and idolatrous priests (2 Samuel 5:21). What fellowship could David look for with the Divine Spirit who had chosen Israel for his people and Jacob for the lot of his inheritance? How could he sing the Lord's songs in a strange land?
4. It was the entrance on a course that demanded the perpetual practice of deceit. The whole behaviour of David at this time was utterly unworthy of his high character as God's anointed servant.
5. It was also a barren time in his religious experience. No psalms are credited to this period. The sweet singer was mute.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)I. THE THOUGHT OF DAVID'S HEART WAS FALSE. He said, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul."
1. We might conclude it to be false upon the very face of it, because there certainly was no evidence to prove it. On no one occasion had the Lord deserted his servant. Now, mark. When you and I doubt God's Word there is this to be said of it, we mistrust it without a cause.
2. But, again, what David said in his heart was not only without evidence, but it was contrary to evidence. What reason had he to believe that God would leave him? Rather, how many evidences had he to conclude that the Lord neither could nor would leave him?
3. This exclamation of David was contrary to God's promises. Samuel had poured the anointing oil on David's head — God's earnest and promise that David should be king. Let David die by the hand of Saul, how can the promise be fulfilled?
4. But further, this wicked exclamation of David was contrary to what he himself had often said. Yet once more, this exclamation of David was contrary to the facts. I mean not merely contrary to the facts that were in evidence, but contrary to the facts that were transpiring at that very moment. Where was Saul?
II. HOW WAS IT THAT DAVID CAME TO THINK THUS OF HIS GOD?
1. The first answer I give is, because he was a man. The best of men are men at the best; and man at the best, is such a creature that well might David himself say, "Lord, what is man?"
2. But again, you must consider that David had been exposed to a very long trial; not for one week, but for month after month, he had been hunted like a partridge upon the mountains. Now, a man could bear one trial, but a perpetuity of tribulation is very hard to bear.
3. Then again, you must remember, David had passed through some strong excitements of mind.
III. WHAT WERE THE ILL-EFFECTS OF DAVID'S UNBELIEF?
1. It made him do a foolish thing, the same foolish thing which he had rued once before. He goes to the same Achish again! Yes, and mark ye, although you and I know the bitterness of sin, yet if we are left to our own unbelief, we shall fall into the same sin again.
2. But next: for the beginning of sin is like the letting out of water, and we go from bad to worse, he went over to the Lord's enemies. He that killed Goliath sought a refuge in Goliath's land; he who smote the Philistines trusts in the Philistines; nay, more, he who was Israel's champion, becomes the chamberlain to Achish.
3. That not only thus did David become numbered with God's enemies, but that he actually went into open sin. David did two very evil things. He acted the part of a liar and deceiver. He went out and slew the Geshurites, and sundry other tribes, and this he did often. When he came back, Achish asked him where he had been, and he said he had been to the south of Judah — that is to say, he made Achish believe that his incursions were made against his own people, instead of being made against the allies of Philistia. This he kept up for a long time; and then, as one sin never goes without a companion, for the devil's hounds always hunt in couples, he was guilty of bloodshed, for into whatsoever town he went he put all the inhabitants to death; he spared neither man, nor woman, nor child, lest they should tell the king of Philistia where he had been. So that one sin led him on to another. And this is a very sorrowful part of David's life. He that believes God, and acts in faith, acts with dignity, and other men will stoop before him and pay him reverence; but he who disbelieves his God, and begins to act in his own carnal wisdom, will soon be this, and that, and the other, and the enemy will say, "Aha, aha, so would we have it," while the godly will say, "How are the mighty fallen! how hath the strong man been given up unto his adversary!"
4. Furthermore, not only was David guilty of all this, but he was on the verge of being guilty of still worse sin — of covert acts of warfare against the Lord's people; for David having become the friend of Achish, when Achish went to the battle against Israel, David professed his willingness to go. We believe it was only a feigned willingness; but then, you see, we convict him again of falsehood.
5. The last effect of David's sin — and here it blessedly came to close — was this: it brought him into great trial. While David was away with king Achish, the Amalekites invaded the south, and attacked Ziklag, which was David's town. For some reason or other they did not put to death any of the inhabitants, but they took away the whole of the men, the few who were left, the women and children, all their household goods, and stuff, and treasures; and when David came back to Ziklag, there were the bare walls and empty houses, and Ahinoam and Abigail, his two wives, were gone, and all the mighty men who were with him had lost their wives and little ones; and as soon as they saw it, they lifted up their voice and wept. It was not that they had lost their gold and silver, but they had lost everything. That exiled band had lost their own flesh and blood, the partners of their lives. Then they mutinied against their captain, and they said, "Let us stone David." And here is David, a penniless beggar, a leader deserted by his own men, suspected by them probably of having traitorously given up the town to the foe. And then it is written — and O how blessed is that line! — "And David encouraged himself in the Lord his God." Ah! now David is right; now he has come back to his proper anchorage. Sin and smart go together; the child of God cannot sin with impunity. Other men may. Ye that fear not God may go add sin as ye like, and often meet with very little trouble in this world as the consequence of it; but a child of God cannot do that.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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