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William M. (William Mackergo) Taylor.

David, king of Israel: his life and its lessons online

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see how mean and contemptible they look.

But the ingratitude of men only threw David back upon
the faithfulness of God. It is generally supposed that the
3ist Psalm was composed by him, in connection with the
events which we have just rehearsed, and, though there is
nothing in the title of that ode to give certainty to such an
opinion, yet the internal evidence in the song itself is very
strong in its behalf. Thus, when you remember that Keilah
was a walled city, and that Saul's purpose was to shut him up
in it, you may see a reference to these things in the follow-
ing words: "Thou hast known my soul in adversities; and
hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy : thou hast
set my feet in a large room." So, again, without any strain-
ing of the meaning, there may be an allusion to Keilah in
this verse, " Blessed be the Lord : for he hath showed me his
marvelous kindness in a strong city." Now, if on these and
similar grounds, we connect this Psalm with the events of
the narrative before us, there is much in it to reveal David's
spiritual exercise at this time. With what absolute trust he
puts himself into Jehovah's hands, saying, "Into thine hand
I commit my spirit : thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God
of truth " and again, " I trusted in thee, O Lord : I said,
Thou art my " God. My times are in thy hand." How
earnestly he pleads for deliverance, pouring out his soul in
sorrowful rehearsal of all his troubles ! And then, in the last
section of the Psalm, added, if we may indulge the conjecture,
after his escape, how joyfully he praises God for his good-
ness and chides himself for his despondency ! " For I said
in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes : neverthe-
less thou heardest the voice of my supplication when I cried



SONGS IN THE NIGHT.



123



unto thee. O love the Lord, all ye his saints : for the Lord
preserved! the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud
doer. Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your
heart, all ye that hope in the Lord." Trial thus is rich in
results, not alone to him who bears it, but to others who
come after him. He leaves words of cheer behind him,
which, falling on the ears of others, sustain and soothe them
in like circumstances. The stream that followed the Israel-
ites in their wanderings through the wilderness, had its
source in the smitten rock ; and if you trace up every rich
experimental psalm which has refreshed God's people in
their weary heritage, to its source, you will find it in some
trial-smitten heart. David was sent on through the valley
of sorrow, in advance of others, that he might furnish those
who followed with songs in their night of trouble ; and if it
is -ever permitted to the spirits of the blessed in Heaven
to know what is going on here below, then, when David from
his celestial seat heard the Redeemer on the cross relieve
his agony and dismiss his soul from its fleshly tabernacle, in
the words of this Keilah Psalm, " Into thine hands I com-
mit my spirit," he would feel that it was worth undergoing
all the miseries of his persecution ten thousand times over,
to have been thus instrumental, even in the smallest degree,
in sustaining the heart of Jesus in that climax of his anguish.
But we must hasten forward. When Saul learned that
David had gone from Keilah, he forbore to begin the siege,
and David betook himself to the wilderness, daily pursued by
Saul, and at length finding a refuge for the time in the neigh-
borhood of Ziph. This was a town in the highland district of
Judah. In the book of Joshua it is named between Carmel
and Juttah, and from the narrative before us we learn that
there was in its neighborhood a wood and a wilderness. The
wood has vanished, but the wilderness remains, and the name
Zif is found, to this day, belonging to a rounded hill of about



124 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

one hundred feet high, which is situated about three miles
south of Hebron. About half a mile to the east of this hill
are some ruins, which Dr. Robinson pronounced to be those
of Ziph, but it is more probable that the hill itself was the
site of the city.

In the adjoining wood David had a covert from observa-
tion, so that he eluded the vigilance of Saul. But what the
enmity of Saul could not do, the love of Jonathan accom-
plished, for by some means he got to know where David was,
and in this wood, sweet because stolen, and memorable be-
cause the last that was ever held between the two friends on
earth, a most affecting interview was held. As we read these
words: "Jonathan strengthened David's hands in God, and
he said unto him, Fear not : for the hand of Saul my father
shall not find thee ; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I
shall be next unto thee," our hearts thrill with admiration of
the son of Saul. What magnanimity ! what piety ! what af-
fection ! what humility ! have we in these words ; and who is
not disposed to say, amidst the trials and sufferings of earth,
Oh for such a friend ! Yet there is a better friend even than
he ; and if we will but make a covenant with Jesus, he will
strengthen our hand in God, and be to us a richer comforter
than Jonathan was to David.

But while Saul's son was proving his steadfastness to Da-
vid, the men of Ziph were plotting his destruction. They
sent and told Saul of his hiding-place, and he, in a strain of
grossest adulation, thanked them for their information, and
asked them to give him particular directions as to his move-
ments, that he might come and take him. Very soon they
found out, and told Saul that he was in the wilderness of
Maon a name which, almost unchanged, is given now to a
conical hill about seven miles south of Hebron, so that proba-
bly that is the very place here called the Hill of Maon. When
Saul heard this, he followed David, and, from the description



SONGS IN THE NIGHT. 125

given, we gather that the position of things was something
like the following: David was on one side of the hill; Saul
and his men were on the other ; but, with the view of making
sure of his adversaries' destruction, Saul caused his army to
surround the entire base of the mountain, and determined to
remain there until, by sheer necessity, David would be com-
pelled to surrender himself into his hands.

But David had a protector of whom Saul took no thought,
and to him he made appeal, for, as we learn from its title, it
was while he was thus surrounded by Saul's forces that he
wrote and sang the 54th Psalm. I can not refrain from quot-
ing it entire. " Save me, O God, by thy name, and judge me
by thy strength. Hear my prayer, O God ; give ear to the
words of my mouth. For strangers are risen up against
me, and oppressors seek after my soul : they have not set
God before them. Behold, God is mine helper : the Lord is
with them that uphold my soul. He shall reward evil unto
mine enemies : cut them off in thy truth. I will freely sacri-
fice unto thee : I will praise thy name, O Lord ; for it is good.
For he hath delivered me out of all trouble : and mine eye
hath seen his desire upon mine enemies." That is the prayer;
now read the history, and you have the answer to it : "But
there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee, and
come; for the Philistines have invaded the land. Wherefore
Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against
the Philistines : therefore they called that place Sela-ham-
mahlekoth" the Rock of Divisions, as it is given in the
margin, or, as some prefer to render it, the Rock of Escape.

Thus as, at a later date, Rabshakeh was drawn off from his
attack on Hezekiah by hearing a rumor of an assault on his
own land, and the prayer of the good Jewish king for deliv-
erance was answered ; so here, David was set free, because
Saul and his men were needed elsewhere, to repel an invasion
of the Philistines. Many would call this a mere coincidence ;



126 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

but the unprejudiced reader can not fail to see in it an an-
swer to David's supplication, and it was doubtless in the spir-
it of heartfelt gratitude to God that he called the mountain
by this significant name.

Now, in reviewing the history over which we have come,
we have clearly brought before us the good man'^ resort
in perplexity. Even the most careless must be struck with
the frequent recurrence in this chapter of the phrase, " Da-
vid inquired of the Lord ;" and although we have now no
Urim and Thummim, yet we have the Throne of Grace, to
which we can ever repair, with the assured confidence that
God will hear our cry, and send us an answer which shall
meet our need.

Many objections, indeed, have been brought, in these days,
against the possibility of God's answering prayer except by
miracle ; and learned treatises have been written on both
sides of this important question. To me, however, it seems
as if there were no room for much argument upon the sub-
ject, for if a man does not believe that there is a personal
God, standing in the relation of a father to his people on the
earth, there is no use to reason with him about prayer. You
have to begin with him farther back, and convince him first
of the folly of his atheism. If, again, a man does really and
truly believe that God is, and is the father of his people, you
will not need to argue with him, for as the son goes to his fa-
ther, he will repair to God, and expect that God's fatherhood
is a reality, and not a mere name. He will say, and no phi-
losophy in the world will prevent him, if God is my father,
then, since my earthly father hears my cry and gives me an
answer, much more will my heavenly. The whole debate
about prayer, therefore, is but a skirmish on one of the far
outposts of the field whereon the war between belief and un-
belief is waging. The real question is about God's existence
and fatherhood. Until men can say, believingly, " Our Fa-



SONGS IN THE NIGHT. 127

ther," they will never pray ; when they can say that sincere-
ly, they will pray in spite of all scientific difficulties.

But it is well occasionally to remind scientific objectors
of one of the first principles of their own inductive philoso-
phy. After Newton had elaborated one of his theories, a
friend discovered something that seemed to be inconsistent
with it, and was almost afraid to mention it to him ; but
when the philosopher heard it, he only said, " It may be so.
We must see whether what you say is a fact. There is no
arguing against a fact." Now here is a prayer offered by
David, and an answer given in the turning of Saul's force
into another direction, and there was no miracle, but you say
that was three thousand years ago ; we want something that
has occurred among ourselves. Be it so. Then take these
two instances the most recent that have come within my
own information. Being in Springfield, Massachusetts, ten
clays ago, I saw a letter written from a Western city to a con-
vict in the State-prison of Massachusetts, by one who had
been himself for some time an inmate of that jail. The per-
son to whom he wrote had committed burglary, but was hope-
fully converted in the prison, and had tried to benefit some
of his fellow -prisoners. His correspondent had been im-
pressed with his words, and was wishing, after his release, to
live another life. With this object he went West, but found
it hard to get on. His money was gone ; there seemed to
him only two alternatives either starvation, or crime ; but
and here I must tell the story in his own words, rude
though they may seem to ears polite : " I thought of what
you once said about a fellow's calling on the Lord when he
was in hard luck, and I thought I would try it once, any
how ; but when I tried it, I got stuck on the start, and all I
could get off was, ' Lord, give a poor fellow a chance to square
it for three months, for Christ's sake. Amen;' and I kept
a-thinking of it over and over as I went along. About an



128 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

hour after that I was in Fourth Street ; and this is what hap-
pened : As I was walking along I heard a big noise, and
saw a horse running away with a carriage, with two children
in it. I grabbed up a piece of box-cover from the sidewalk,
and ran in the middle of the street, and, when the horse
came up, I smashed him over the head as hard as I could
drive. The board split to pieces, and the horse checked up
a little, and I grabbed the reins, and pulled his head down
until he stopped." He then tells how the gentleman to
whom the children belonged rewarded him very handsomely,
and, after hearing his story, befriended him, and helped him
into a respectable situation where he could earn an honest
living ; so that he is now not only a good citizen, but an
humble Christian.*

From Springfield I went on to Boston, and there a well-
known member of the American Board showed me the auto-
biography of the Japanese youth Joseph, who has been in
this country for some years, and was lately the secretary of
Mr. Tenako, the member of the Japanese Embassy who was
especially charged with the subject of education. In his own
country, Joseph's father was secretary to one of the native
princes, and he himself was an officer of two swords, and had
a good education, being acquainted with two or three lan-
guages. A friend lent him an American Common School
Geography in the Chinese language and a Chinese Bible, and
these two books opened up a new world to him. He described
what he felt on reading the first verse of Genesis, which un-
folded to him an entirely new view of things, and then he went
on to tell how the desire to know Western civilization and
Christianity took possession of his soul. His first prayer



* Since the above was written, the whole letter here referred to has
been printed in the Illustrated Christian Weekly newspaper for one of the
weeks in August, 1873.



SONGS IN THE NIGHT. 129

was, " O God, if thou have eyes, look for me. O God, if thou
have ears, hear me. I want to know Bible. I want to be
civilized with Bible." He left his home, and went to Haka-
dadi, with the view of getting somehow to America, to learn
this knowledge. He went thence to China, and in the
port to which he went, he was led by God's providence to
a ship which was bound for Boston, and which was owned
by a good man whose heart was interested in the cause of
Christ. That gentleman, on the arrival of his ship, hearing
the captain's account of Joseph, was interested in him; and
his wife undertook to have him educated at her own expense.
He went first to Andover, and then to Amherst; became a
member of the Christian Church, and an excellent scholar;
and when the Japanese Embassy came to this country, he
who, like Joseph, had been sent on before them, was prepared
to be their interpreter; and who shall say what he is yet
destined to do for his benighted nation ?* Thus, winding
round the roots of that great revolution in Japan which has
so astonished and gladdened the hearts of us all, we find the
prayers of this earnest youth who was thirsting for the knowl-
edge of God. I might say much on many subjects which
this little history suggests, but I bring it up now as a fact,
indicating how really, and without a miracle, through God's
ordinary providence, prayer is answered. Truly, "more
things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of."
Let no man, therefore, ridicule and reason you out of prayer.
Here is the charter : " If any of you lack wisdom, let him
ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth
not ; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith,
nothing wavering : for he that wavereth is like a wave of the
sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man



* This youth, now the Rev. Joseph Nee Sima, is about to sail as a mis-
sionary to his native land, under the direction of the American Board.

6*



130 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord !" " Ask,
and it shall be given you ; seek, and ye shall find ; knock,
and it shall be opened unto you."

But we have, in this chapter of David's history, also a
beautiful illustration of the fruitfulness of trial when it is
rightly borne. It prunes the vine of the spiritual life, so
that the clusters that grow on it attain to larger develop-
ment. This is true of all the graces. But to-night I wish
especially to show you how David's times of trial were em-
phatically and peculiarly times of song. We have found
in the narrative over which we have come, covering only a
short space of his life, the origin of no fewer than three of
his Psalms. That which is most valuable in the writings of
any poet is the fruit of some troublous discipline. It is
questionable if the world would have ever seen " Paradise
Lost," but for the blindness of its author ; and it is at least
certain, that one of its most touching passages could not
have been written but for that terrible privation. Luther's
version of the 46th Psalm, which one has called " The Mar-
seillaise of the Reformation," was born out of the stormy
life of the great Reformer ; and Archbishop Trench, writing
of the Thirty Years' War in Germany, has said : " There is
one fact most noteworthy, as a sign of the temper in which
this great tribulation was met by those who had to drink
of its cup of pain deeper, perhaps, than any other, that very
many of the most glorious compositions in the hymn-book
of Protestant Germany date from the period of the Thirty
Years' War ; and, most noticeable of all, these contributions
are rich, not so much, as one might have expected, in threnes
and lamentations, Misereres and cries De Profundis, as in Te
Deums and Magnificats, hymns of high hope and holy joy.*

* " Thirty Years' War in Germany," by Archbishop Trench, quoted
in Saunders's " Evenings with the Sacred Poets," pp. 140, 141.



SONGS IN THE NIGHT. 131

Who knows not, also, that Paul Gerhardt's hymn, "Give to
the winds thy fears," was the cry of his soul in an hour
of greatest extremity; or that the ode of Cowper, begin-
ning, " God moves in a mysterious way," was the last sane
utterance of his mind, as the cloud which darkened his
reason was settling over his spirit ? " The dear cross," said
Rist, " has pressed many songs out of me." A friend, speak-
ing to Mr. Whittier about a well-known hymn, and express-
ing to him his appreciation of it as beyond all his other po-
ems, received this answer from the poet : " I do not wonder
at your preference ; that hymn was born out of the utter-
most anguish of my heart."* Thus the Church has been
enriched, and the souls of all its members refreshed, by
the recorded experiences of those who have clung to God
through trial. Thus, too, we are taught to hold fast by Him
who supported these sweet singers of the sanctuary, and set



* The poem here referred to is that on page 450 of the first volume
of his collected works. Some of its verses have been inserted as a
hymn in " The Sabbath Hymn-book." We quote these four stanzas :

" I ask not now for gold to gild,

With mocking shine, a weary frame ;
The yearning of the mind is stilled
I ask not now for fame.

"But, bowed in lowliness of mind,

I make my humble wishes known :
I only ask a will resigned,
O Father ! to thine own.

" In vain I task my aching brain ;

In vain the sage's thought I scan ;
I only feel how weak and vain,
How poor and blind is man !

"And now my spirit sighs for home,

And longs for light whereby to see,
And like a weary child would come,
O Father, unto thee !"



132 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

them forth before us, that they might be our helpers. Nay,
more : thus are we reminded that the very clasping of Jeho-
vah's hand by the weary and the wayworn believer is itself,
in the estimation of God, a holy hymn, a song rising up to
him out of the night, and making a deeper impression in
his heart, because of the silence and the darkness out of
which it emerges. The poetry is not in the verbal expres-
sion of the song so much as in the experience it sings ; and
if sometimes there is a powerful prayer in the falling of a
tear, be sure there is as often a sacred song in the light that
flashes from the grateful eye, or the smile that radiates the
happy countenance of him who is looking unto Jesus. Let
us bear trials as David did, trusting in the Lord. Let us go
through the world, clinging to Jesus in all our varying expe-
riences ; and though we may not be able to write psalms,
our lives shall be each a book of hymns, rising gradually up
to that new "song of pure content, aye sung before the
sapphire throne with saintly shout and solemn jubilee,"
" Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and
riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and
blessing."



VIII.

CA VE SONGS.
i SAMUEL xxiv. ; xxvi.

A FTER their escape from Saul in the wilderness of Maon,
2~\. David and his men betook themselves to " the strong-
holds of En-gedi." This place, now identified with "Ain-
Jidy," was situated on the western shore of the Dead Sea,
about midway between its northern and southern extremities.
The name literally signifies "the fountain of the goat," and
doubtless had its origin in the fact that the neighborhood
abounded in goats, attracted by the verdure which here lines
the banks of a stream that issues from the limestone rock
about four hundred feet above the level of the lake, at a tem-
perature of 81, and "rushes down the steep descent, fretted
by many a rugged crag, and raining its spray over verdant
borders of acacia, mimosa, and lotus."* The cliffs in the neigh-
borhood are full of natural caverns, in one or more of which
the company of David found a lurking-place. These caves,
says Dr. Thomson,f "are dark as midnight, and the keenest
eye can not see five paces inward ; but one who has been
long within, and is looking outward toward the entrance, can
observe with perfect distinctness all that takes place in that
direction."

We can thus easily imagine the gloomy interior. Along
the sides of the cavern, enjoying themselves in one or other
of the many ways which soldiers have of amusing themselves,

* Smith's " Dictionary," sub voce.

t " The Land and the Book," p. 603, English edition.



134 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

the motley multitude of David's men are scattered ; while far
away in the innermost recesses of the cave, David is to be
found alone, or with Gad and Abiathar as his companions,
soothing his heart with the strains of his harp, and accom-
panying the music* with the words of the 1426. Psalm, which
was first sung either here or in Adullam. Let us read it, and
see how, as in the pictures of Rembrandt, the very darkness
gives to it a character that is all its own. " I cried unto the
Lord with my voice ; with my voice unto the Lord did I make
my supplication. I poured out my complaint before him I
showed before him my trouble. When my spirit was over-
whelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way
wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me. I
looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man
that would know me : refuge failed me ; no man cared for my
soul. I cried unto thee, O Lord : I said, Thou art my refuge
and my portion in the land of the living. Attend unto my
cry j for I am brought very low : deliver me from my perse-
cutors ; for they are stronger than I. Bring my soul out of
prison, that I may praise thy name : the righteous shall com-
pass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me."

There is in all this much of that " rapid stroke as of alter-
nate wings," that " heaving and sinking as of the troubled
heart," which Ewald* has so aptly described as the essence of
the parallelism of Hebrew poetry ; while in the closing strophe
the faith which underlies the whole prayer comes forth, like a
daisy emerging from the grass, and opening its petals to the
morning sun. The night had made it bend its head, and
covered it with dew-drops ; and now, as it lifts itself up to
greet the dawn, the tears of the darkness have become the
diamonds that encircle its crimson-pointed coronet.

To the same chapter of David's life belongs the 57th

* Quoted by Stanley, "Jewish Church," vol. ii., 148.



CAVE SONGS. 135

Psalm, which we shall also read. " Be merciful unto me,
O God, be merciful unto me : for my soul trusteth in thee :
yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until
these calamities be overpast. I will cry unto God most high ;
unto God that performeth all things for me. He shall send
from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that
would swallow me up. God shall send forth his mercy and
his truth. My soul is among lions : and I lie even among



Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 10 of 36)