William M. (William Mackergo) Taylor.

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

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dictated by a vindictive or personally revengeful spirit.

Again, we must remember that David was the anointed of
the Lord, and that rebellion against him was treason against
Jehovah. As I have often before said in these discourses, the
Lord was the true King of Israel, and David reigned by his
appointment. All, therefore, who rebelled against him were
guilty of treason against the Lord, and were not his personal
enemies, but the enemies of the Most High. Hence his
prayer for their punishment was a prayer that God would


vindicate the honor of his moral government by showing his
justice in their chastisement. But Paul prayed after that
fashion, as well as David, and no one will accuse him of act-
ing unworthily of the Gospel. Has he not written thus : "Al-
exander the coppersmith did me much evil. The Lord re-
ward him according to his works ?" and do we not find that
the sternest denunciations of judgment against God's ene-
mies came from the lips of the meek and holy Jesus him-
self? Hence we have no difficulty about these Psalms, more
than about any other passages of Scripture which declare
that God is set for the destruction of the wicked, and for the
maintenance of truth and righteousness ; for, as Dr. Alexan-
der has said, "Whatever it is right for God to do in judg-
ment may be properly enough asked from God in prayer by
his people, provided only they ask it from a regard to God's
honor and glory, and not out of personal resentment."*

Another feature of these Ahithophel Psalms must be spe-
cially alluded to. They are all Messianic, and are quoted
or referred to by the writers of the New Testament as pre-
dictions which had their complete fulfillment in the betrayal
and crucifixion of the Lord. Nor need we marvel at this :
for David was a typical person ; and in singing of his own
calamities, the Holy Ghost so guided his spirit that he em-
ployed language which, though in a lower sense appropriate
to himself, does yet find its highest significance in Jesus.
Whensoever, therefore, we sing them now, we can not but
feel that a greater than David is here.

During his sojourn at Mahanaim, ere yet he had been in-
vited back to Jerusalem, it is not unlikely that he composed
and sang the 42d and 43d Psalms, and perhaps also the 84th,
all of which refer to the privation which he experienced in
being cut off from God's sanctuary. We saw that when his

* Commentary on the Psalms, by J. A. Alexander, D.D.


infant was taken from him, he went first to the house of
God to worship ; and in the sad days which succeeded the
death of Absalom he must often have lamented that he was
unable to approach the place where God peculiarly dwelt,
and he might have said, "As the hart panteth after the
water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My
soul thirsteth for God, for the living God : when shall I
come and appear before God ?" If we are right in assign-
ing this date to that beautiful ode, what new significance is
thereby given to the words, " Deep calleth unto deep at the
noise of thy water-spouts : all thy waves and thy billows are
gone over me." Could we have a better description than
that of the agony in the chamber over Mahanaim's gate ? or
could we have a finer calm after that stormful experience
than that presented by the very next words : "Yet the Lord
will command his loving-kindness in the day-time, and in the
night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God
of my life ?" while the recurring refrain comes with its sooth-
ing cadence, and hushes the soul to peace: "Why art thou
cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within
me ? hope thou in God : for I shall yet praise him, who is
the health of my countenance, and my God." The 84th is
similar ; and as the lack of a blessing makes us value it the
more, we can well understand how the good man sings, "A
day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather
be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in
the tents of wickedness." The i44th Psalm, also, is held by
many to belong to this era, and was most probably written
after the entire suppression of Absalom's rebellion, and of the
revolt of Sheba, which followed so close upon it. He makes
public thanksgiving to God for his deliverance ; and after
dwelling minutely on the various elements of national pros-
perity, which he earnestly supplicates for his country, he
concludes in a fine spirit of patriotism, ripening into piety,


" Happy is that people, that is in such a case : yea, happy is
that people, whose God is the Lord."

Willingly would I have lingered longer over these sacred
lyrics, which acquire for us such new pathos when we
place them in the setting of the history out of which they
sprung, but I must forbear. Let me conclude, as usual, by
gleaning a few practical lessons from the incidents which
have this evening been before our attention.

Let us learn, in the first place, from Barzillai's answer to
the king, to test the allurements of the world by the ques-
tion, " How long have I to live ?" The venerable chief felt
that the life of the court was not for one like him, who had
already one foot in the grave ; and with a combination of
wisdom and courtesy which is far from common, he deter-
mined to remain in his old home, and, after a brief season,
to be buried in the sepulchre of his fathers. Now, though
we may not have reached the age of fourscore years, there
is much in his question which can not fail to be suggestive
to every one of us. The longest life is but brief, after all.

Can we afford, then, to fritter away our hours in idleness,
or to waste them in riot and dissipation ? Even if we were
sure that we should live to be of the age of Methusaleh, it
would still be criminal in us to allow our time to pass unim-
proved ; but how much more is this the case, when the utmost
limit of our days is fourscore years, and the average duration
of life much shorter ? Is it not true that, for any thing we
know, many among us may be to-night much nearer death
than was Barzillai when he spake thus pensively to David ?
and yet what are we doing with our days and nights ? What
have we to show for the years of the past ; and what prep-
aration have we made for eternity ? If we were to be here
forever ; if we were not moral and accountable beings ; or
if the present state of existence were not given to us to set-
tle our eternal destiny, we might have some excuse for de-


voting our entire energies to the making of mone)', or to the
indulgence of appetite, or to the eager chase after the bubble
reputation, which too often bursts in the hand that grasps it.
But as it is, have we any word expressive enough to describe
the folly of the man who is shutting his eyes to the future
life, and is taking no means whatever to train his soul for
everlasting fellowship with God ? " Art is long, and life is
brief," was the motto of the old masters as they painted
those great works which have made their names illustrious.
They felt that their moments were too precious to be wasted
in trifling or in sin, and they gave themselves entirely to that
labor which has made their works the models and the in-
spiration of artists in all succeeding ages. But what is the
work of the painter in comparison with that which God has
given each man to do, " the working out of his own salva-
tion with fear and trembling ;" the reproducing, not in col-
ors on canvas, but in living deeds of holiness and benevo-
lence, of the likeness of Jesus Christ ; the chiseling out, not
in cold marble, but in warm and breathing manhood, of a
Christian character? That is a work great enough for all
our energies, and needing the labor of every hour of every
day of our lives.

Shall we, then, abstract ourselves from this glorious life-
aim, and give ourselves to frivolity, dissipation, and iniquity ?
"How long have we to live," that we should squander thus not
merely the days that are passing over us, but the eternity
of holy happiness which God has offered us in Christ, and
which can only be secured by faithful obedience to him
here ? Let the time past of our lives suffice for all of us
"to have wrought the will of the Gentiles." From this night
let us begin anew. Let us, rinding pardon through the Re-
deemer's atonement, and regeneration by the power of the
Holy Ghost, go forward from this hour, to consecrate all our
powers, resources, and opportunities, and every hour of ev-


ery day, to the grand ambition of "attaining the measure of
the stature of the perfect man in Christ Jesus." And when
any one seeks to tempt us from this holy quest, let us re-
ply, "Life is too short for the work I have on hand. I
am doing a great work, and I can not come down. Why
should the work cease while I leave it and come down to
you ?"

But we may learn also, from the bearing of Mephibo-
sheth, how to be meek under a false accusation. We have
the deepest sympathy for the son of Jonathan in the circum-
stances in which here he was placed, and we can not help
feeling that David was not acting like his usual self when he
pronounced his hasty decision regarding him. He had forgot-
ten at the moment all that he had owed to his early friend.
He had lost sight, for the time, of his loving covenant by the
stone Ezel, when the two heroes wept so long upon each oth-
er's necks. Even if Mephibosheth had been guilty of all that
Ziba had laid to his charge, the memory of Jonathan might
have pleaded for forgiveness ; but when, as I think I have
satisfactorily shown, the crippled prince was really innocent,
David's treatment of him was in a marked degree ungener-
ous. Yet how nobly Mephibosheth behaves ! He does not
care for his own interests. He seeks no revenge on Ziba.
It is enough for him that the king has come to his own
again. He is even content to be under suspicion, if but Da-
vid may be prosperous. How beautiful is all this ! It re-
minds us of his father's nobleness in giving up all claim to
the throne, and being willing to be David's subordinate ; and
in similar circumstances we may imitate his demeanor with

We need not expect to pass through the world without be-
ing sometimes falsely accused, and wrongfully treated. He
who can not err has said to his followers, "Woe unto you
when all men speak well of you ;" and we have reason to


fear that there is something defective in us, or amiss with us,
if every body is on our side. Only let us see that, when we
are accused, we are accuse'd falsely ; and that, when we do
suffer, we suffer wrongfully, for Christ's sake ; and then we
may take it not only patiently, but joyfully. It will be right
and proper for us, like Mephibosheth here, to give the true
version of affairs ; but if after that injustice should come
upon us, let us bear it meekly, remembering Him who " when
he was reviled, reviled not again, and who when he suffered,
threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth
righteously." He who is always standing on his own vindi-
cation, and insisting on having himself put right, will do him-
self and the cause more harm than good. Let him be still,
and God will vindicate him. If men will not take his word,
let him wait until God proves his truthfulness. The Chris-
tian has always his court of appeal in heaven, and God will
vindicate him at length. Let him even consent to be de-
frauded, therefore, rather than insist on what would be only
justice. God will take care of him ; "for curses, like chick-
ens, go home to roost," and false accusations, like the boom-
erang, gojaack to the hand by which they have been flung.

From the Psalms which were written by David in this
crisis of his history, we may learn how precious a solace
communion with God is to the believer in the time of trial.
We have repeatedly seen how, in days of calamity and dark-
ness, it was the habit of David's soul to fall back into the
arms of Jehovah. At other times he might forget the Lord,
but in his hours of trouble, he was driven for shelter beneath
the shadow of the almighty wings ; ay, even when, on an oc-
casion like this, he could not but feel that his miseries were
the consequences of his own sins, he came, in humble peni-
tence and confidence, to Jehovah, and was "in no wise cast

I do not know if there be, even in the Word of God itself,


a more precious manifestation of the magnanimous mercy of
Jehovah to the penitent believer than that which is furnished
by his treatment of David at this time. Consider what this
man has done ; think that all the evils which he is now en-
during are the results of his own aggravated transgression ;
yet behold how God soothes, sustains, and restores him ; so
that he can sing, " Why art thou cast down, O my soul ? and
why art thou disquieted within me ? hope thou in God : for I
shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance,
and my God." Who dares to say after this that the Lord
is a hard master, or an austere one ? Or who needs despair,
after such an exhibition of his grace as this ? Is there a
backslider here to-night, who, in the thickening of calamities
around him, is made to remember his iniquities, and to groan
under the burden of his guilt, let him return unto the Lord
like David, and he will be received as David was. It is as
true now as it was of old, that " he giveth songs in the night,"
and, amidst the manifold music of this harmonious universe,
there is none so sweet in the ear of Jehovah as the night-
ingale song that comes trilling from a penitent heart in the
midnight of its tribulation. It is but natural for the prosper-
ous soul to sing when, like the lark, it is soaring up to the
very gate of heaven ; but when the spirit is in darkness, and
finds peace in penitence and trust, the gush of music that
comes welling up from its depths is more than natural it is
a triumph of grace ; and as such is ever sweater in the ears
of God. " The broken spirit is to him a pleasing sacrifice."
Will no repentant one offer such a sacrifice to him to-night ?
And thou, tempest-tossed and distracted brother, whose trials
have well-nigh overwhelmed thee, though thou canst not
trace them to any particular cause, take heart from David's
experience. He who sustained the Psalmist will never fail
thee, nor forsake thee. The sure anchorage on which David
rode out even this terrific storm will hold thee safe. Cheer


thee, then, for God is with thee ; and When the gale is ended,
and life's voyage over, thou shalt be with him.

In the English Channel there is a beneficent light-house,
which for more than a century has braved the storms of win-
ter. Many and many a time for days together, as the waves
broke completely over it, it has not been seen from the
shore, and men almost feared that it had been swept away ;
but when the storm was down, there it stood still, throwing
its light across the waters, because it is not only founded on,
but built into, the rock. Like that noble tower, my brother,
thou art built upon, and into, the Rock of Ages. Thou art
so one with him as to be a part of himself; and let the hur-
ricane howl its loudest, and the waves dash with their fiercest
might, no real harm can come to thee. They must sweep
him away if they would ingulf thee ; and no storm of pas-
sion, or persecution, or treachery, or antagonism of any kind
can shake his everlasting foundations.

Well might David sing when he was uphgld by such a
God ; and if but we had faith in him, we too might bid defi-
ance to the allied powers of earth and hell. "Lord, increase
our faith !" and then our power, our purity, and our peace
shall grow in like proportion. " Lord, increase our faith !"
and then,

" Though troubles rise, and terrors frown,

And days of darkness fall,
Through thee, all dangers we'll defy,
And more than conquer all."



2 SAMUEL xxii. ; xxiv.

AFTER David's restoration to the throne, Palestine was
desolated by a famine which lasted for three years.
From the peculiar character of our climate, we can scarcely
realize the magnitude of such a calamity, which was proba-
bly caused by drought ; but the description given of a simi-
lar visitation in the days of Elijah, as well as the accounts
which have been given within the last ten years, of the terri-
ble sufferings which were endured from the same cause by
the inhabitants of Orissa and Rajpootana, may help us some-
what to understand what an Eastern famine is. During these
weary years no rain had fallen to refresh the thirsty land ; no
fields had waved with rich luxuriance ; no barn-yards had
been filled with stores of grain. The shouting of the vint-
age, the song of the reaper, and the mirth of harvest-home
had not been heard in the land, and want had stamped each
human countenance with its sharp, deep die. Many of the
inhabitants had perished, and everywhere were weeping wid-
ows wringing their hands in despair, and orphaned children
mourning for parents whom they would see no more.

In the midst of this wide-spread desolation, the people
thought of God ; and David was only representing their deep
yearning of heart when he went to inquire of the Lord what
was the cause of the terrible calamity which had come upon
them. A proud philosophy, in these modern days, would
say that all this was the merest superstition ; inasmuch as
all such things as famine and pestilence make their appear-


ance in accordance with natural laws, and have no connec-
tion with the moral character of a community ; while prayer
for their removal, being a virtual request that God should in-
terfere with the operation of these laws and work a miracle in
their suspension, must ever be in vain. But there are things
deeper and truer than any such philosophy, and among these
I place the spiritual instincts of the human heart. Why is it,
we are disposed to ask, that in almost all languages pestilence
has been called by a name which like our own word plague,
which means a stroke directly points to God's agency in
its appearance ? and whence comes it that, when a people are
enduring such a calamity, there is a general thought of God
among them, and their resolution becomes that of Jeremiah :
"Let us search, and try our ways, and turn again unto the
Lord?" Do not these things, and others like them, point to
the fact that, by the mystic intuitions of the soul, God is rec-
ognized in all such visitations? and while we take into ac-
count the laws of external nature, shall we refuse to pay re-
gard to the nature that is within us ? Besides, this assertion
of the supremacy of law, which is so characteristic of some
schools of philosophy, is, after all, a virtual atheism. For if
we admit that there is a personal God, and that he is in any
real sense the moral governor of mankind, the conclusion is
irresistible, that he regulates the occurrences of the physical
universe with a view to the moral training of his human crea-
tures. How he does so, while yet the order of the physical
universe is maintained, we can not explain ; that he does so,
must be admitted by us frankly, unless we make his provi-
dence a nonentity, and his personal existence a delusion. As
Isaac Taylor has remarked, " This is, in fact, the great mira-
cle of providence, that no miracles are needed to accomplish
its purposes." It is all very well to say that there can be no
true nexus between a moral evil and a physical calamity, and
I grant at once that there is no such immediate sequence in



such a case, as there is between a physical cause and a phys-
ical effect ; but there is a very real connection for all that.
The disobedience of your child does not cause the infliction
of punishment on him by you in the same way that the fall-
ing of a spark on gunpowder causes an explosion. But there
is a very intimate relationship between the two, notwithstand-
ing ; and it is a relationship established by the moral char-
acter of the parental government. Now, the connection be-
tween men's disobedience and God's infliction of chastise-
ment upon them through his physical laws is of a similar
sort. Nor let any one say that moral evil should be visited
only with a punishment that shall tell only on the moral part
of man's nature. We reach the moral through the physical.
The punishment, to tell upon the individual, must be inflict-
ed where it will be most felt ; and just as the parent seeks to
benefit his child morally, by inflicting on him some physical
suffering, so God, in his government of the world, checks the
sins of men by sending upon communities the physical calam-
ities of pestilence, famine, and the like. I do not deny, of
course, that these calamities come through the ordinary op-
eration of law ; what I affirm is, that these laws have been so
adjusted by the Divine Governor of the world, that through
them, and -without any miraculous interference with them, he
visits moral evil with physical chastisement ; and so it is not
superstition, but rather the truest piety and the highest phi-
losophy, which leads a people, under such a visitation as that
of famine, to turn to Jehovah, saying, " Show us wherefore
thou contendest with us."

These general principles will hold in any country and in
any age, but they had special force among the Jews, from the
fact that the sanctions of the covenant, Jn terms of which
they held the land of promise, were mainly temporal and
physical. The blessings promised as the reward of their
obedience were principally such as could be enjoyed on


earth, and the penalties set forth as the consequences of
their disobedience were chiefly physical calamities. I would
be slow, indeed, to allege that, in the sanctions of the old
covenant, there was no allusion whatever to the future state ;
but, speaking generally, I would repeat that the promises
and threatenings of the Mosaic economy had special and
primary reference to earthly things. This is seen all through
the history of the Jewish nation ; but it comes out with pe-
culiar prominence in the terms of the covenant itself, as
these are given in the twenty -seventh and twenty-eighth
chapters of the book of Deuteronomy, where, among many
similar promises, we find this, conditioned on the obedience
of the people. "The Lord shall make thee plenteous in
goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle,
and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the Lord
sware unto thy fathers to give thee. The Lord shall open
unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto
thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine
hand." In like manner, among the threatenings denounced
against their unfaithfulness, these words occur : " Thy heav-
en that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that
is under thee shall be iron. The Lord shall make the rain
of thy land powder and dust : from heaven shall it come
down upon thee, until thou be destroyed." Now there is
nothing of miraculous intervention with nature's laws hinted
at in all this, for when these blessings and chastisements did
come, they came in the ordinary course of nature ; but with
such statements as these in the book of their law, it was not
only natural, but right, for David and the people to look for
a spiritual cause for all their sufferings, and to inquire why
such a prolonged famine had come upon them.

But while it is comparatively easy to vindicate David's
procedure in inquiring at the Lord from the sneers of a
proud and really atheistic philosophy, the reply which he


received from the sacred oracle, and the action which he
took thereon, introduce new questions whose solution is at-
tended with much greater difficulty. The Lord answered,
"It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew
the Gibeonites." The name of this people brings up the
old story of the deception which their fathers played on
Joshua and the tribes when they were taking possession of
the land of Canaan. Disguising themselves with old gar-
ments and clouty shoes, and taking old sacks upon their
asses, and wine -bottles, old and rent and bound up, they
came to Joshua at Gilgal ; and making it appear that they
had traveled a long distance, they desired to form a league
with him. The unsuspicious leader fell into the trap which

Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 28 of 36)