William M. (William Mackergo) Taylor.

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

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the skillful allusion which she made to his revengeful pur-
pose, she deeply touched the conscience of David, and turn-
ed his gratitude to her into thanksgiving to God. Only a
woman could have managed such a negotiation as this so
smoothly and successfully; but only a God-fearing woman
would have managed it so as to bring David to a sense of the
sinfulness of the act which he had been about to commit.

Nabal, however, was not so much pleased with the result.
When Abigail went home, she found him so intoxicated that
she said nothing on the subject to him until the morning;
but then, when he heard her report, he was so enraged at the
loss of his property, or at the thought that his wife had done
what he had himself refused to do, that he went into a fit
of apoplexy a disease to which his dissipated habits and the
debauch of the previous night had predisposed him, and,
after lingering for ten days, he died.

When David heard of his fate, he was anew impelled to
express his gratitude to God for having withheld him from
the murder which it had been in his heart to commit. This
was well ; but we are not sure that he was equally to be com-
mended when, with the disposition to connect special calam-
ity with special sin, for which the Jews, as a whole, were dis-
tinguished, and against which the Saviour has warned us all,
he affected to see in the manner of Nabal's death a right-
eous retribution for his treatment of himself, and a pleading
of the cause of his reproach. For that we do not vindicate
him, any more than we do for the means which he employed
to console Abigail for her husband's loss, when " he com-
muned with her to take her to him to wife !" Already he


was the husband of Michal, and though she had been taken
from him by her father Saul, and given to another, that was
no excuse for his marrying Abigail now, especially as even
before his encounter with Nabal he had taken Ahin'oam of
Jezreel into a similar relationship. Probably he did this, as
Eastern chiefs do to this day, for the purpose of adding to
his importance in the estimation of the people ; but though
polygamy was rather regulated than forbidden by the law of
Moses, it is clearly contrary to the primal law of nature,
and in David's case, as in the cases of many others, it was
followed by disastrous consequences. We shall return to
this subject, ere we conclude ; meanwhile let us take out of
the history which we have to-night reviewed, one or two prac-
tical thoughts which may be useful to us in the ordering of
our daily lives.

Let us note, then, first, the suggestive contrast which is here
presented in the deaths of Samuel and Nabal. On the one
hand, we have a good man, taken to his reward after a long
life spent in the service of his God, and a whole nation gath-
ers to weep around his tomb. On the other, we have a sur-
ly, selfish, sottish man called to his account, and no tear is
shed over his grave ; but instead, a feeling of relief is expe-
rienced by all who were connected with him, for they are all
conscious that they will be the happier for his absence. In
the one case, the life on earth was but the prelude to a high-
er, holier, and more useful existence in the heavenly world ;
in the other, the earthly character was but the germ out of
which would spring, in the state beyond, a deeper, darker,
and more repulsive wickedness even than that which he had
manifested here. I do not think that David wrote the 37th
Psalm at this particular date, since, from one expression
which it contains, he seems to have penned that ode in his
old age ; but, whensoever it was written, it is hard for me to
believe that he had not before his mind at the time the con-

NABAL. 163

trast between Nabal and Samuel which this history so vivid-
ly presents. What could be more appropriate to Nabal than
these words : " I have seen the wicked in great power, and
spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed
away, and lo, he was not : yea, I sought him, but he could
not be found." And surely David thought of Samuel when
he wrote this verse : "Mark the perfect man, and behold the
upright : for the end of that man is peace."

Now, the practical question for us is, To which of these
two classes do we belong ? Alas ! there are many in these
clays whose lives are inflicting a constant martyrdom on all
who have the misfortune to be nearly related to them, and
whose deaths, while full of sadness to themselves, would yet
be a blessing and a relief to their friends as ridding them of
a constant and fearful misery. "A living cross is heavier
than a dead one ;" and there are few who have to carry a
weightier or sharper cross than the wives and families of
these Nabals, whose intemperance has brutified them into
harsh, unfeeling cruelty. How can you expect the woman
who has been beaten and abused by her drunkard husband
to feel otherwise than relieved, when death dissolves the
union which had brought her such abuse ? "I thought you
would have been glad when your husband came home," said
a little girl to a wife whose husband had just returned from
a twelve months' absence at sea ; " but instead of that, you
look so sad and anxious." Ah ! she knew not what a stab
her words were giving to her heart, for her husband had re-
turned only to fill her soul with deepest agony. Is there
one here to-night who is conscious that he is living such a
life as must make all around him miserable let him see
in Nabal how repulsive he looks, and let him turn from his
evil ways, and seek to minister to the happiness and holiness
of his home. Let him be no more a son of Belial, but indeed
a son of God, so that when he passes from the world he may


leave behind him those who sincerely mourn his loss, and
may himself enter into the enjoyment of heaven's own bless-

What a blank is created when the good man dies ! Men
miss his kindly presence, his wise counsel, his loving words,
his liberal deeds, his holy example, and his earnest prayers.
It is long before they can become accustomed to his ab-
sence ; and when some deep grief falls upon them, or some
great agony is to be passed through by them, they feel as if
they wished him back again to sustain them through the or-
deal. But all of him does not depart. He leaves behind
him an influence, which, long after he has gone, is active and
operative for good.

" Do you see that strip of green yonder ?" said one to his
companion, as they stood together on a height, surveying
the landscape ; " I wonder what has caused it ?" " I know,"
was the answer ; " there was a brook there once, and its old
course is lined with a richer verdure than the surrounding
district." Just so, the place where a good man has lived
and died is greener from the influence he has exerted over
it ; and even after his name may have been forgotten by the
inhabitants, they may be found in some way moulded by his
character. Let it be our aim, brethren, so to walk with Jesus
in our daily conduct, that we may have such a hallowed in-
fluence on all with whom we come into contact. Let us be
earnest in the service of our generation by the will of God.
Let us rouse ourselves to zealous activity for the honor of
Christ and the benefit of our fellow-men. " It were infamy
to die and not be missed." It were foul dishonor to be
buried in a grave over which no one cares to shed a tear.
But if we would have the death of Samuel, we must live his
life ; and if we would live his life, we must bear continually
in mind the words which Jehovah spoke to Eli by the man
of God when Samuel was a child : " Them that honor me

NABAL. 165

I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly es-

Note, in the second place, from this history, that little
things are more dangerous to the believer's life than great.
David could control himself when in the presence of Saul,
and again and again resisted the entreaties of his adherents
to put his adversary to death ; but when this churlish and
altogether contemptible Nabal speaks a few insulting words,
he is completely thrown off his guard, and gives way to the
most unhallowed ahger and blood-thirsty revenge. And it
is so with the people of God still. For great things a Chris-
tian braces himself up prayerfully, and so he meets them
calmly and patiently ; but a little thing frets him, and pro-
vokes him to testiness and rage, because he deems it too
trivial to go to God with, and seeks to encounter it only in
his own strength. How common is this experience among
us ! The loss of a large sum seriously affecting our comfort
will be borne with equanimity, for we are driven to meet that
upon our knees ; but if one should cheat us out of a paltry
amount, it will annoy us, and stir us up to envy and revenge,
and we will vent our spleen in all manner of attempts to
bear down with the full force of law upon our adversary.
The death of a child will fill us with sadness, but will be
borne by us with believing resignation, because we see God's
providence in that ; but the accidental upsetting of a tea-
urn, or the thoughtless stupidity of a servant, will produce in
us an explosion of temper sufficient to shake the whole es-
tablishment to its foundation. Is not this too largely the
case with us all ? and when it is so, how often are we be-
holden to the Abigail beside us for soothing us down to
reason and propriety ? Surely we ought to be on our guard
against such irritability. And that we may be so efficiently,
let us see God's hand in all things ; let us turn to God in
every thing ; and, far from despising small things, let us


watch them the more closely the smaller they are, since
their very minuteness makes them only the more dangerous.
Above all, let us think how unlike this temper- is to the
meekness of Him by whose name we have called ourselves !
Where is the image of Christ in such a disposition ? It is
only on the surface of the placid lake that you can see, un-
broken, the mirrored likeness of the sun ; but let it be ruf-
fled by the wind, and forthwith the full rounded image is
destroyed, and nowhere can you catch a glimpse of it com-
plete. Not otherwise is it here. The likeness of Christ
can be seen only while the Christian preserves his equanim-
ity. In the outburst of temper, the Christ-image is defaced,
and the wholesome influence of the character is neutralized.

Besides, how foolish it is to act under the influence of an-
ger ! What a dreadful sin David would have committed
here, if he had not been providentially restrained ! It would
be well for us, therefore, to resolve never to act in any mat-
ter while the heat of temper is upon us. That is a wise pre-
cept which the Chinese have crystallized into a proverb,
" Do nothing in a passion ; why wouldst thou put to sea in
the violence of a storm ?" But that is a still wiser of Paul,
" Be ye angry, and sin not : let not the sun go down upon
your wrath."

Finally, it is impossible to read this chapter without hav-
ing our minds directed to the whole question of marriage.
In the case of Nabal and Abigail we have an illustration of
the evils of ill-assorted wedlock ; while in the after-relation-
ship which she bore to David, taken in connection with the
manifold evils which we shall see resulted from his concu-
binage, we have a forcible exemplification of the mischiefs
and miseries which are always and everywhere the conse-
quences of polygamy. In the Divine intention at the first,
the wife was designed to be the helpmeet of the husband,
and this was the law, "Therefore shall a man leave his fa-

NABAL. 167

ther and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife : and they
shall be one flesh." Whenever and wherever this law has
been violated, discord and disaster, in greater or less meas-
ure, has been the result. We need only look to the house-
holds of Abraham, Jacob, Elkanah, and David to be con-
vinced of this, for if, in the cases of such men, the evils of
which we have a record in this book were the consequences
of polygamy, where is the man who may hope to be exempt-
ed from them, if he persists in following their example ?
It is nothing that in the law of Moses this sin was sought
to be regulated rather than eradicated ; for, as the Lord him-
self has said, Moses suffered this "for the hardness of the
hearts " of those over whom he was set ; and his laws in
this respect, like those of Solon were not absolutely the
best laws which could have been enacted, but they were the
best which the Israelites of his day would have accepted.
Now, however, under the Gospel, the sanctity and inviolabili-
ty of marriage have been re-enacted, and the Lord Jesus has
given to it a loftier holiness and a richer significance, by
using it as a symbolical illustration of his own relation to
" the Church which he hath purchased with his own blood."
Rightly viewed, therefore, the marriage of a man and wom-
an is, next after their union to God himself, the most impor-
tant connection which can be formed on earth, and should
not be entered into lightly and unadvisedly, but soberly, dis-
creetly, and in the fear of the Lord. Too often, however,
the whole subject is treated in common conversation with
the most profane levity, and every allusion which is made to
it is met with frivolity as if it were a good joke, instead of
being well-nigh the most sacred thing which can engage the
attention of the young. If it is not regarded -as an affair of
convenience or of commerce, it is talked of frequently as a
matter of fashion; and the making of a "good match," by
which is meant the securing of a fortune, or the entrance


upon a high social position, is regarded as of far more im-
portance than the selection of one \yho shall be a suitable
companion, or a daily helper in the Christian life. Even as
I speak, I am aware that many may resent my words, as if
they were going beyond the province within which multi-
tudes would restrict the proprieties of the pulpit ; but hav-
ing regard to the loose notions which are coming in upon
us on this subject, and knowing well how closely it concerns
the purity of the Church and the welfare of the nation that
the truth concerning it should be preached, I dare not hold
my peace. The law of the New Testament is clear, and as
one has well said, " the man who wishes to belong to the
flock of Christ owns neither Moses nor yet the civil magis-
trate for his master in this respect." The man and the wife
are united until God shall separate them by death. One
man to one wife. How .important, therefore, that the choice
on either side shall be wisely made ! It is right to look for
mutual adaptation in station, in temper, in education, and in
ability. These have all their own importance, but there are
two principles which should never be lost sight of. First,
let no one enter into this relationship where there is no true
love for him or her with whom it is to be formed. That is
the law of nature. Second, let no one who is a Christian be
united to another who is not also one with Christ. That is
the law of grace. " Be ye not unequally yoked together with
unbelievers : for what fellowship hath righteousness with un-
righteousness ? and what communion hath light with dark-
ness ? And what concord hath Christ with Belial ? or what
part hath he that believeth with an infidel ?" In a union so
close and intimate, it can not but be that an assimilating
process will continually go on ; and if either party be godless
and given to debasing pursuits, then we may say to the other,

" Thou shalt lower to his level day by day,
What is fine within thee growing coarse to sympathize with clay."

NABAL. 169

And who shall tell how many lives that might otherwise
have been beautiful, exalted, and benign, have been marred,
and blurred, and mutilated, and degraded, by an improper
marriage ! This union may be either the brightest blessing
or the darkest misery to those who enter into it. What need,
then, of care and prayer in the choice of ^a suitable compan-
ion for one's earthly lot ! The old Roman punishment which
bound to a living man a festering and corrupting corpse, and
compelled him to carry it with him wherever he went, was
nothing to the self-inflicted misery of those who bind them-
selves to husbands or to wives who are, like Nabal here,
surly, boorish, beastly, and degraded! "Ah, me!" says the
venerable Tholuck, " if our youth would but more deeply
ponder what it is to choose a partner, to be of one spirit
and one flesh with them for the whole of their pilgrimage on
earth, their choice would not be made in the false glare of
the theatre or the ball-room. Till death divide you, would
ring perpetually in their souls. In the light of day they
would choose, and by the light of God's Word they would
try their partner, seek the advice of Christian friends, and
not join hands until they were sure of the divine amen."*
God give you grace, my young friends, to ponder well these
weighty words !

* " Hours of Christian Devotion ; translated from the German of A.
Tholuck, D.D., by Robert Menzies, D.D.," p. 471.




i SAMUEL xxvii.-xxxi. ; 2 SAMUEL i.

AFTER his interview with Saul at Hachilah, David con-
tinued for a time his wandering life in the wilderness
of Judah, with his band of followers, which had gradually in-
creased to six hundred men. As originally composed, his
company consisted of " those who were in distress, and those
who were in debt, and those who were discontented." Yet
even among this motley troop, there were warriors of the
utmost bravery, who were destined afterward to be leaders
in his army. Such were those three who, on the memorable
occasion alluded to in chapter xi. of i Chronicles, verses 15-
19, while the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem, when Da-
vid thirsted for a draught from the well at the gate of that
city, from which, in his happy shepherd days, he had often
drank, dashed through the host of the enemy, and drew wa-
ter from the spring, and took it and brought it to their captain.
But he would not drink of it, after all ; for, with a spirit which
combined the purest piety and the loftiest chivalry, he pour-
ed it out before the Lord, saying, " My God forbid it me,
that I should do this thing : shall I drink the blood of these
men, that have put their lives in jeopardy ? for with the jeop-
ardy of their lives they brought it." We can not wonder
that men loved such a leader, nor is it strange that those
who did this daring deed were ever afterward referred to as
the three mightiest in his host.

While they were in the hold, others came to him from
among the children of Gad ; of whom eleven principal lead-


ers are named as " men of might, and men of war fit for
the battle, that could handle shield and buckler, whose faces
were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as the roes
upon the mountains ;" and of whom, "one of the least was
over a hundred, and the greatest over a thousand."* This
does not imply that they joined David, followed each by a
troop varying in number from a hundred to a thousand
men, but rather that, after David had come into his king-
dom, he promoted them to captaincies in his army. Still,
that they came in some considerable force is indicated in the
statement, " They went over Jordan in the first month, when
it had overflown all his banks ; and they put to flight all
them of the valleys, both toward the east and toward the

About the same time, also, and probably in the very in-
terval between the episode with Saul at Hachilah and the
flight of David to Gath, there came to his standard some of
the children of Judah, and some who were connected with
Saul's own tribe of Benjamin. When David saw them, he
was afraid of treachery, and went forth to meet them, saying,
" If ye be come peaceably unto me to help me, mine heart
shall be knit unto you : but if ye be come to betray me to
mine enemies, seeing there is no wrong in mine hands, the
God of our fathers look thereon, and rebuke it." To this
their captain, Amasai, made immediate response, " Thine are
we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse : peace, peace
be unto thee, and peace be to thine helpers ; for thy God
helpeth thee." $ And having received this assurance, he re-
ceived them gladly, and gave them posts of honor in his lit-
tle army.

But though thus encouraged with the accession of new ad-
herents, David appears shortly after this to have given way

* i Chron. xii., 8, 14. t I Chron. xii., 15. f i Chron. xii., 16-18.


to despondency, and almost to despair, for he said, " I shall
now perish one day by the hand of Saul ; there is nothing
better for me than that I should speedily escape into the
land of the Philistines ; and Saul shall despair of me to seek
me any more in the coast of Israel, so shall I escape out of
his hand." It is difficult to account for this transition in him
from confidence to fear. Something of it might be due to
those alternations of emotion which seem to be incidental to
our human constitution. We have ebbings and flovvings
within us like those of the tides ; and just as in nature the
lowest ebb is after the highest spring tide, so you frequently
see, even in the best of men, after some lofty experience of
spiritual elevation and noble self-command, an ebbing down
to the lowest depth of fear and flight. It was after his hap-
py sojourn in the school of the prophets at Ramah that Da-
vid went, on the former occasion, to the land of the Philis-
tines ; and now it was after he had risen above the cowardly
suggestion of his followers to murder Saul in cold blood, and
had indeed changed the curse of Saul's enmity into a bene-
diction, that he sinks again into despair.

Something of this change, too, might be owing to the re-
ports brought to him by his recent recruits of the persistent
efforts made to poison the mind of Saul against him by the
slanderer Cush, to whom we have already referred, But,
however it may be accounted for, this despair of David's was
deeply dishonoring to God, and full of danger to himself. It
was dishonoring to God; for had he not then, just as really as
he ever had, those promises which had so steadily sustained
him in former emergencies, and which had been so signally
fulfilled by former deliverances ? Had he forgotten the anoint-
ing which he received from the hands of Samuel ? Was his
victory over the giant now entirely ignored by him ? Surely
he was the very last man who ought to have allowed himself
to despair of the love and faithfulness of Jehovah ! Yet here


he is in the blankest darkness, brooding over his difficulties,
and seeking help from the heathen, as if there were no God
to call upon, no kingdom to win, no right to be adhered to,
and no wrong to be avoided. Still, let us not be too severe
on him, lest we thereby condemn ourselves ; for, bad as de-
spair was in David, with all his experiences of the goodness
of God, it is still worse in us, who have seen the marvelous
manifestations of his mercy in the cross of Jesus Christ. If
in our times of despondency we can not take hold of this
thought, " He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him
up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all
things ?" it ill becomes us to indulge in wholesale denun-
ciation of David here. He that is without sin among us, in
this respect, let him cast the first stone at him. For my
part, I have been myself so often in the same condemnation,
that I am disposed to place myself in the pillory by his side !

But this despair was also dangerous to himself; for, arising
as it did from his forgetfulness of God, it kept him from con-
sulting God about his plans. On other important occasions,
especially since Abiathar had joined his band, he was careful
to inquire at the mj'stic Urim and Thummim for direction.
But here we have no mention made of the sacred oracle, and
no record of a single prayer. Hence no good could be ex-
pected from an enterprise which was thus inaugurated. That
which is begun in prayerlessness must end in misery and hu-

Nor was this all. His despair, making him reckless,
blinded him to the dangers which he would incur by going
to the land of the Philistines. Had he not been panic-strick-
en, he would surely have remembered his former experiences
at the court of Achish, and would have reasoned that if, when
he was alone, he was in such peril, he would be much more

Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 13 of 36)