William M. (William Mackergo) Taylor.

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

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turned him away from the work he was required to do.
The day that was passing over him only acquired new im-
portance in his eyes because of the revelation of the future
which had been given him ; and he was not the less watchful
as a shepherd, but rather the more, because he knew that
there was a throne before him.

How much is there in all this to instruct us who believe
in Jesus Christ ! By the holy anointing of the Spirit we
too have been designated for a throne, but let us not be
high-minded because of that. Let us rather continue here
at the daily work which he has set us, grappling manfully
with the spiritual enemies by whom we are beset, even as
David slew the lion and the bear that came to his flock,
and soothing our spirits the while with the music of a psalm,
even as David sang while following his sheep. Then, when
it is God's time for us to rise, we shall hear his voice saying
to us, " Come up hither," and shall discover that, by the daily
discipline of duty done in the name of the Lord Jesus, we


have been making ourselves ready for the throne on which
we shall be placed.

The narrative over which we have thus come, introducto-
ry though it be, is rich in practical suggestiveness ; but we
can stay now to give point to only two or three reflections.

We may see in the history of Saul, which we have briefly
summarized, how important it is that we should make the
most of the opportunities which God puts before us. There
came to the son of Kish a tidal time of favor, which, if he
had only recognized and improved it, might have carried
him, not only to greatness, but to goodness. But he proved
faithless to the trust which was committed to him, and be-
came in the end a worse man than he would have been, if
no such privileges had been conferred upon him. We can
not read his history without observing how, as his life wore
on, the good features in his character disappeared, and he
who once promised to bear much goodly fruit had in the
end " nothing but leaves," and was blighted by the curse of
barrenness. His career is a melancholy illustration of the
truth of the Saviour's words, " From him that hath not, shall
be taken away even that he hath." Let the young take note
of the lesson and the warning. Whether you know it or
not, God has given you special opportunities, and according
as you deal with these he will deal with you. There have
been times, mayhap, when you too were " among the proph-
ets," and felt within you the stirrings and strivings of the
Holy Spirit; but what has been the result? W T ere you
changed thereby merely into " other " men ; or did you be-
come " new creatures " in Christ Jesus ? Depend upon it,
after all such experiences you can not continue quite as you
were before. If you have not "been the better for them, you
must be the worse, and if they come again, beware how you
deal with them ! Once, long after, Saul came again under
influences and impressions similar to those which he felt at


the beginning of his career ; but he let that day of grace
also pass, and in the end he felt that God had departed
from him. Let it not be so with you. "Quench not the
Spirit " by your follies and your sins, but yield yourselves up
to God through Jesus Christ, and live always and only for
him ; so shall the opportunities which he has given you be-
come the steps on that great life-ladder up which you climb
to heaven. See that you know the " clay of your visitation ;"
and that you may make no mistake, where mistake is so fa-
tal, let every day be to you a day of grace. Determine by
the help of God's Spirit to make the best of it for the devel-
opment within you of a holy character, and for the promo-
tion around you of the good of souls. God has anointed
you to rule over your own spirits, and to bring them " into
captivity to the obedience of Christ ;" but if you despise
this glorious royalty, and give yourselves over to iniquity, he
will despise you, and give you over to destruction.

We may see, again, in Jehovah's expostulation with Sam-
uel concerning Eliab, the solemn truth that in the eye of the
All -seeing the heart is the man. "God looketh on the
heart." It makes little matter, therefore, what the outward
appearance is, while, if the heart be wrong, nothing can be
right. There is much, no doubt, in the bodily development
to attract the eye, and I would not undervalue attention to
the symmetrical discipline of the physical frame. Yet mus-
cularity is not Christianity, and bodily beauty is not holiness.
The character, therefore, ought to be the principal object of
your attention. Not how you look, but what you are, ought
to be the first care of your lives ; for if you have a selfish dis-
position, a sordid soul, or a sinful life, your outward beauty
will be like " a jewel in a swine's snout," and your bodily
vigor will only be like the strength of a safe in which noth-
ing worth preserving is locked up. Let your aim be to be
holy ; and if you will only turn in faith to Jesus, and follow


in the footsteps of his example, your soul will become beau-
tiful in Jehovah's eyes, and your life will become, even in the
view of your fellow-men, bright with a glory which is not of

We may see once more, from the anointing of David, that
we need a special preparation for the service of God. In the
old economy, the prophet, the priest, and the king were set
apart to their offices by the pouring of oil upon their heads ;
and this was, as the history before us makes apparent, the
symbol of the conferring upon them of the Holy Ghost.
Under the New Testament dispensation there are no such
offices, or, rather, every believer is himself, in a subordinate
sense, a king, priest, and prophet, all in one. Now, for the
services which we are as such to render to God and to our
fellow-men we need a special unction of the Holy Ghost.
Be it ours, therefore, to make earnest application for this su-
preme anointing. We have each his own work to do, but
we shall fail to do it rightly, unless the Spirit of glory and of
God do rest upon us. To-night, like another Samuel, I am
sent to tell you that God is willing to consecrate you as his
" kings and priests ;" that you may serve him in the Gospel
of his Son, alike in your daily labor and your sacred exer-
cises. Despise not, I pray you, this baptism of the Holy
Ghost. Uncover your heads for this heavenly oil ; open your
hearts for the admission of this celestial influence; and hear
these words from the mouth of Him who solemnly ordains
you to this ministry of life : " Know ye not that your body
is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye
have of God, and ye are not your own ? For ye are bought
with a price : therefore glorify God in your body, and in your
spirit, which are God's."


i SAMUEL xvi., 14-23.

AFTER Samuel's rebuke at Gilgal, Saul appears to have
become more abandoned than ever. He brooded
over his rejection as if it had been a wrong done to him ;
and though in his inmost heart he felt that he had sinned,
he would neither make acknowledgment of his transgression,
nor return to a proper mind. He became moody, irritable,
vindictive, and gloomy, a source of misery to himself, and a
cause of anxiety and terror to all who were around him.
The moral balance of his nature, weak and unsteady as it
had always been, seems now to have been almost destroyed,
and even his intellect became beclouded, for he exhibited
symptoms closely akin to those of mental aberration.

The cause and nature of the malady with which he was
afflicted are described in the narrative by these two phrases :
"The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul," and "An evil
spirit from the Lord troubled him." There is thus both a
privative and a positive proposition, and it is extremely dif-
ficult to determine what precisely is indicated by their com-
bination. In regard to the negative or privative declaration
to the effect that "the Spirit of the Lord had departed from
Saul," we may take it to mean that God withdrew from him
all those special aids which, in connection with his anointing
to the royal office, had been conferred upon him. Perhaps,
also, we may include in it the taking away from him of those
gracious influences of the Holy Spirit without which a man
becomes, in the saddest and solemnest of all senses, " aban-


doned." This is what Paul has described as a "being given
over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not
convenient ;" and what, in the simple Saxon of our common
speech, we call " a being left to one's self." The Saviour
has said, " From him that hath not shall be taken away even
that he hath." Now, in Saul, as we have already hinted, we
have a deeply suggestive instance of the execution of this
sentence. He had received not one talent only, but many ;
yet he failed to improve them, and so they were taken from
him, and he was left, in a large degree, the mental and moral
wreck of his former self. He was deprived of all the special
gifts which had been conferred upon him, and set free from
all those restraining influences which had been exerted upon
him, and which had kept him from those aggravated iniqui-
ties into which he aftenvard fell.

This was sad enough, for, as Delany says, "No man needs
a heavier chastisement from Almighty God than the letting
loose of his own passions upon him."* Still the positive ex-
pression, "An evil spirit from the Lord troubled him," would
appear to indicate that there was something more, and more
dreadful even than this, though what that something was, it is
not easy now to determine. On such a subject it would be
the height of folly for any man to dogmatize ; but just as in
the case of Job, the Lord permitted Satan to visit him with
calamity and evil, with the view of bringing out thereby more
vividly before men's eyes the saintliness of the patriarch's
character ; and as in that of Paul, a messenger of Satan, in
the shape of a thorn in the flesh, was permitted to buffet him
lest he should be exalted above measure ; so here, it seems
to me, that God made use of an evil spirit in order to inflict
judicial punishment upon Saul ; and, for my own part, I do

* " Historical Account of the Life and Reign of David, King of Israel,"
vol. i., p. 26.



not see any thing more mysterious in such an employment
of evil spirits in the present state, than there is in the idea
that these spirits shall in some terrible way intensify the mis-
ery of the lost in the world to come. We have here, then, as
we think, something like a case of demoniacal possession,
having its root and origin in the moral perversion of the soul
itself. It would be wrong, indeed, to assert that in all cases
of that sort described in Scripture, the malady was the con-
sequence of special sin in the individual afflicted by it ; nev-
ertheless, as Trench has remarked, " It should not be lost
sight of, that lavish sin, superinducing, as it often would, a
weakness of the nervous system, wherein is the special bond
between the body and the soul, may have laid open those un-
happy ones to the fearful incursions of the powers of dark-
ness."* And, from the peculiar language here employed,
there is hardly room for doubt that, by the mysterious judicial
permission of God, and as a punishment for his stubborn
rebellion, such a spirit now laid hold on Saul, widening and
deepening the gulf of separation which already existed be-
tween him and Jehovah. He that will do evil of his own
choice is ultimately given over to evil as his master. This is
the dreadful law, and in the present instance that mastery
was maintained by the personal agency of one of those spir-
itual beings which are subordinate to the prince of darkness.
Farther than this on such a subject we dare not venture, only
we may take to ourselves the lesson of warning with which it
is fraught, and learn to be on our guard, lest, refusing the
guiding influence of God's Holy Spirit, we too should be
given over to the dominion of Satan ; for though demoni-
acal possession in its ancient form has disappeared from
among us, it is yet too sadly possible for the prince of dark-
ness to hold us captives at his will, and to rule in those

* " Notes on the Miracles," p. 161.


high places within us, in which God alone should be en-

The servants of Saul, devoted to him by that personal at-
tachment, of which we have already seen a remarkable in-
stance in Samuel himself, were deeply concerned on his ac-
count, and did every thing that they could think of, to alle-
viate his misery and cheer his spirit. But it was of no avail.
At length, becoming convinced that the thing was of God,
they bethought themselves of some special remedy ; and one
would have imagined that, as they saw so clearly the divine
hand in the malady, they would have counseled Iheir lord
to return in submission to Jehovah, and to call in the aid
of Samuel. But, whether they feared that such advice would
have been unwelcome, and might therefore rather have
tended to aggravate the evil, or whether they were them-
selves so defiant of God as deliberately to pass him over in
their thoughts, we can not tell. All we know is, that they had
recourse not to a spiritual, but to a material remedy. They
suggested music ; and if the disease had been merely a phys-
ical thing, they had prescribed well, for there is a virtue in
" the concord of sweet sounds " to soothe the fretting brain
and calm the troubled nerves ; and men in every age, from the
invention of musical instruments till now, have in such cases
availed themselves of its aid with much effect. Interesting
instances in illustration of this are given in abundance, by
those who have made this subject a special study. We may
mention a few. Seneca tells us that Pythagoras quieted the
troubles of his mind with a harp ; and in Pindar ^Esculapius
figures as healing acute disorders with soothing songs. "A
story, too, is told of Farinelli, the famous singer, being sent
for express to Madrid, to try the effect of his magical voice
on the King of Spain (Philip the Fifth), who was then buried
in the profoundest melancholy, proof against every appeal to
exertion, living without signs of life in a darkened chamber,


the unresisting prey of dejection beyond relief. The vocal-
ist was desired by the physicians to sing in an outer room,
which for a day or two he did, without any effect upon the roy-
al patient. But at length it was noticed that the king seemed
partially roused from his stupor, and became an evident list-
ener ; next day tears were seen starting from his eyes ; the
day after he ordered the door of his chamber to be left open ;
and at last 'the perturbed spirit entirely left him, and the
medicinal voice of Farinelli effected what no other medicine
could.' Similarly, we find that in literature and the drama
kindred effects are ascribed to music." Readers of Scott will
remember how a frenzied Highlander is soothed into self-
restraint by the minstrelsy of Annot Lyle. Goethe makes
the first bar of an air by Gretchen suffice to lull the sorrows
of young Werther, who protests that "instantly the gloom
and madness which hung over him were dispersed, and he
breathed freely again." And Robert Browning has these
beautiful lines, as the utterance of one who is listening to
sweet sounds :

" My heart ! they loose my heart, those simple words ;
Its darkness passes, which naught else could touch,
Like some dank snake that force may not expel,
Which glideth out to music sweet and low."*

But it is more pertinent to our present purpose to remind
you that, when Elisha's spirit had been fretted and chafed
by the presence of the wicked Jehoram, he called for a min-
strel, and under the soothing strains of his music he so re-
gained his wonted composure that the Spirit of the Lord
came upon him. Now this last instance may fitly illustrate
all that music could do for Saul. It could not effect a per-
manent cure. It simply created a temporary alleviation.

* For these and many similar allusions, see "Scripture Texts Illus-
trated," by Francis Jacox. First series, pp. 55-60.


The words of Delaney here seem to me most judicious.
" We have reason," says he, " to believe, nor will the best
philosophy forbid us, that quieting the perturbations of the
mind is absolutely necessary toward receiving the sacred in-
fluences of the Spirit of God ; and if so, then we may fairly
conclude that the same state of mind which fats us for the
influence of good spirits as naturally unfits us for the influ-
ence of such as are evil ; and therefore the same power of
music which quieted Elisha's rage (and indignation against
the idolatrous Jehoram), and fitted him for the agency of
the Holy Spirit of God, might for the same reason, by quiet-
ing Saul's unruly passions, unfit him for the agency of the
evil spirit which troubled him, and of consequence work his
cure for that time."*. Hence, though it did not go to the root
of the evil, the suggestion of Saul's servants was valuable
so far as pointing to a temporary mitigation of the calamity.
Their advice seems to have been given in one of the mon-
arch's lucid intervals ; and it so met his approval that he at
once gave the command, " Provide me now a man that can
play well, and bring him to me." On making inquiry, it was
found that one of the servants of his house had met David,
and had either heard him play, or had heard of his great
musical ability, and on his report a messenger was at once
dispatched to Jesse desiring the immediate attendance of his
youngest son at Gibeah. Notice the description that is here
given of the youthful shepherd : " Cunning in playing, and a
mighty, valiant man, and prudent in matters (or, as the mar-
gin has it, in speech), and a comely person, and the Lord is
with him." We are not surprised to find here mention made
of his skill in music and his comeliness in person, but it
is not so easy to account for the fact that he is styled " a

* "Historical Account of the Life of David, King of Israel," vol i.,
p. 28.


mighty valiant man, and a man of war;" and from the diffi-
culty which these words present, it has been supposed that
by some accident there has been a transposition of two sec-
tions of the narrative at this particular portion of the book
of Samuel. To put the case clearly before you, we must an-
ticipate one or two of the incidents in the succeeding chap-
ter. Observe, then, that it is said that after David's perform-
ances on the harp, Saul made him his armor-bearer; and
again, that after the conflict between him and Goliath, Saul
asked, "Whose son is this youth?" as if he had been, up till
that moment, ignorant of every thing about him. It is hence
inferred by some that the narrative on which we are now
engaged has fallen out of its proper place, and that it should
be taken in after the next chapter, or rather between the
ninth and tenth verses of the eighteenth chapter. But this
seems to me to be a violent cutting of the knot, while, in re-
ality, it does not free us from the difficulty; for if the descrip-
tion of David by Saul's servant in the section before us were
given after the duel with the giant, it is inconceivable that
no mention should have been made of that great victorv ;
while again, after the events of that memorable day, it is im-
probable that Saul should not have known and recognized
who David was from his servant's description of him ; and
as after that deed of prowess David was the special object
of Saul's jealousy, his presence would have tended rather
to aggravate, than to mitigate, the malady from which he suf-
fered. On the whole, therefore, though the narrative is by
no means free from difficulties, I prefer to take it in the or-
der here given, the rather as there is nothing in any of the
Hebrew manuscripts, or in any of the ancient versions, to
indicate that a transposition has occurred.

But what, then, is the meaning of the words "a mighty
man of valor," and " a man of war," as applied to a youth
like David ? I answer that the reference may be to his sue-


cessful encounters with wild beasts in the keeping of his
flocks, or to his valiant resistance of the wandering Arabs,
who then, like the modern Bedouins, roamed through the
land, making prey of every thing on which they could lay
their hands. Stories of David's youthful prowess, as well
as of his skill in music and his pre-eminent piety, must have
been common in the neighborhood, so that already he had a
reputation for bravery before he faced Goliath ; and proba-
bly it is to his local renown for such encounters that Eliab
refers when, on David's appearance in the Valley of Elah,
he taunts him with having left his sheep, and upbraids him
with having come for no other purpose than to see the bat-
tle. The phrase "prudent in matters," means also, "skill-
ful in words ;" and so it may refer either to his signal sagac-
ity, or to his ability in the composition of extempore verses,
with which, like the Italian improvisator, and the minstrels
of the Scottish border of a later day, he accompanied the
music of his harp.

In any case, the description so pleased Saul that he sent a
messenger to Jesse forthwith, saying, " Send me David thy
son, which is with the sheep." We can not tell with what
feelings Jesse received this command. What could Saul
want with his son ? Could there be any eVil hanging over
his house ? or was it, that the visit of Samuel to him was now
about to bear visible fruits ? Between these two anticipations
of fear and hope his mind would vibrate ; and as he laded
the ass with the simple present that David was to bear to
Saul, we can imagine with what unwonted fervor he would
commend his youngest-born to the keeping of his God. But
who may describe the feelings that swelled up in the heart
of the young shepherd himself? When, as he followed his
sheep, he thrilled the strings of his much-loved lyre, he had
little idea that it was by his harp he was first to be brought
into prominence in the land and now as he sets out for Gib-


eah, and thinks of the anointing that he had received from
Samuel's hands, and of the future that lay all untrodden before
him, I can almost imagine him anticipating some of his later
strains, and saying, " Hold up my goings in thy paths, that
my footsteps slip not. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me :
for thou art the God of my salvation ; on thee do I wait all
the day."* "Truly," as Kitto says, "it is a pleasant picture
to conceive the future king of Israel stepping lightly along
behind the ass, with his shepherd staff and scrip, and en-
tertained as he went by the gambols of the kid. His light
harp was no doubt slung to his back ; and it is likely that
he now and then rested under a tree and solaced his soul
with its music. His fearless temper would not allow him to
look forward to the result of his journey with misgivings ;
or if a doubt crossed his mind, he found sufficient rest in
confidence in God."t

The distance from Bethlehem to Gibeah was a little short
of twelve miles, and the road lay down the valley of Reph-
aim, near to the stronghold of Zion, which was still held by
the Jebusites. As he passed Moriah's rocky ridge, did there
come into his young heart any premonition of the day when
his own palace should crown the hill of Zion, and the thresh-
ing-floor of Araunah should be consecrated for Jehovah's
temple ? We can not tell ; but often, I doubt not, in after
times, as he looked abroad from the heights of Jerusalem, or
from the roof of his palace, there would rise up before him
the remembrance of this early journey, when, with his lowly
present and his humble harp he went to begin the world at
the court of Saul ; and, as then, he thought of God's favor to
him through all the intervening years, I can almost hear
him saying, "O how great is thy goodness, which thou hast
laid up for them that fear thee ; which thou hast wrought for

* Psa. xvii., 5 ; xxv., 5. t " Daily Bible Illustrations," vol. iii., p. 229.


them that trust in thee before the sons of men ! Thou shalt
hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of
man : thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the
strife of tongues. Blessed be the Lord : for he hath showed
me his marvelous kindness in a strong city."*

Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 2 of 36)