William M. (William Mackergo) Taylor.

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

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unto the other, " Thou shalt be king in Israel, and I shall
be next unto thee." But the reality was just the reverse of
all this. The absorbing selfishness of Saul embroiled the
land in civil discord, leaving it open as a prey to its ever-
watchful enemies. It imbittered his own heart ; it made
his home a scene of strife and debate ; it chased away from
him one of his most faithful servants and most daring cap-
tains ; and, in the end, it sent him forth in isolation, God-
deserted, to meet his doom on the field of battle by his own
hand. Behold the retribution ! The man who schemed and
planned so constantly for the pre-eminence and profit of
himself perishes at last by his own sword. But is it not al-
ways so, in a very real and solemn sense ? The selfish man
is ever a moral suicide. He poisons his own happiness ; he
kills his own joy ; he destroys his own soul. " Whosoever
will save his life shall lose it ; and whosoever will lose his
life for my sake shall find it." Behold here the far-reaching
character of the Saviour's words. He that is determined at
all hazards to seek only and always his own interests, shall
lose that to which he is so devoted ; but he that, for the Sav-
iour's sake, is willing to lose every thing, or to be any thing,
shall have the highest degree of honor, and his salvation too.
He who is always thinking of his own happiness and plan-
ning for it, is thereby doing his best to drive all happiness
from him. But he who, out of regard to God in Christ,
holds himself subordinate to the Master, and rejoices in the
prosperity of all around him, thinking nothing of himself,
shall have the highest happiness and the purest joy.

When, in the midnight hour, you lie awake and wish for
sleep, the more you try expedients to bring it to your pillow,
the more it seems to flee from your pursuit. But when you
turn your mind away from it altogether, and think on some-
thing quite apart from yourself, then with muffled footstep the


angel of the night steals into your chamber, and "steeps your
senses in forgetfulness." And so, like sleep, happiness and
pre-eminence, the more you seek them, and the more anx-
ious you are to obtain them, fly the farther away from you ;
but when, caring nothing for them, you seek the good of oth-
ers and the glory of God, they will come in unobserved and
wreathe you with their laurels. How deeply philosophical,
therefore, as a recipe for happiness, not to put it in a stronger
form, is the apostolic injunction, "Look not every man upon
his own things, but every man also upon the things of others."

But the Christian has a higher reason for obeying that com-
mand than any to which I have yet adverted. In Christ he
has himself an interest, and property in every other Christian.
Hence he may reasonably rejoice in the eminence of every
other believer, inasmuch as the greatness of one is the great-
ness of all. "All things are his, whether Paul, or Apollos, or
Cephas" and so he can rejoice in the distinctive excel-
lences of each. The man whose heart holds only himself is
not a Christian, and must be made miserable and wicked by
his devotion to himself; but he who has the Christian public
spirit to see and own that Christ and his cause are infinitely
greater than himself, will rejoice in the appearance of every
young David who comes forward to grapple with the gigantic
evils of his time, and will gladly bid him welcome to his heart
and home.

We may see here, in the second place, that the servant of
God may expect to encounter adversity in an early stage of
his career. David was not to be cradled for his future work
in the lap of luxury. He was " to learn in suffering what he
taught in song." He was not to be like " a bird on a bough,
singing forth free and off-hand, never knowing the troubles
of other men ;" but, led through trials of his own, he was
stimulated and inspired to sing of them in strains which, be-
cause they came "from the heart of man, speak to all men's


hearts." Early, therefore, was he brought into trial; and
there are not a few of his Psalms which seem to take their
tone from these first experiences of difficulty. Take, for ex-
ample, the following : " In the time of trouble he shall hide
me in his pavilion : in the secret of his tabernacle shall he
hide me ; he shall set me up upon a rock." " Pull me out
of the net that they have laid privily for me : for thou art my
strength." " For I have heard the slander of many : fear was
on every side : while they took counsel together against me,
they devised to take away my life. But I trusted in thee, O
Lord : I said, Thou art my God. My times are in thine hand :
deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that
persecute me."* From all this let us learn to prepare for trial.
It may come in unexpected forms, and from unexpected quar-
ters, but let us be always ready to meet it ; for he who is the
friend of God must lay his account with being treated as an
enemy by the ungodly.

Lastly, we may learn here that the wisest course in time
of danger is to do faithfully our daily duty, and leave our case
with God. David went about his work, behaved himself
wisely, and let God take care of him. On other occasions,
as we shall see, he had sometimes recourse to questionable
expedients, and sinful practices, for self-protection ; but in the
present instance he walked steadily on in the right path, and
we may rely that he verified the truth of the words which he
afterward wrote : " Trust in the Lord, and do good ; so shalt
thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight
thyself also in the Lord ; and he shall give thee the desires
of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord ; trust also
in him ; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring
forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the
noonday."t Let us follow this example when we are in trou-

* Psa..xxvii.,5 ; xxxi., 4, 13-15. t Psa. xxxvii., 3-5.



ble, and either God will protect us from our enemies, or he
will enable us so to meet their enmity as to glorify him. . On
no account let us compromise ourselves and dishonor him by
deserting our post, or employing questionable or sinful means
for preserving ourselves. Faith is not real within us unless
it develop courage ; and he who sins to save himself from
harm is lacking in boldness, because he is deficient in faith.
No matter what may come upon you, therefore, do what you
clearly see to be your duty, and take with you this song of
Norman M'Leod's to cheer you as you do it :

" Courage, brother ! do not stumble,

Though thy path is dark as night ;
There's a star to guide the humble
Trust in God, and do the right !

" Let the road be long and dreary,

And its ending out of sight,
Foot it bravely, never weary
Trust in God, and do the right !

" Perish policy and cunning ;

Perish all that fears the light,
Whether losing, whether winning,
Trust in God, and do the right !

" Some will hate thee, some will love thee,

Some will flatter, some will slight ;
Cease from man and look above thee
Trust in God, and do the right !

" Simple rule and safest guiding,

Inward peace and inward light :
Star upon our path abiding
Trust in God, and do the right !"*

* "A Life-Story, with Characters and Comments ;" a Lecture given by
the late Dr. Norman M'Leod, in Exeter Hall, London.


i SAMUEL xix.

BAFFLED in his schemes for bringing about indirectly
the death of David, Saiil aUength gave positive orders
to Jonathan, and to all his servants, that they should kill
him. But, in issuing these commands to Jonathan, he was
unwittingly taking the course which was most likely to de-
feat the end he had in view; for, in a way alike honorable
to his head and heart, that noble man set himself at once
to secure David's safety. He did not, indeed, stand forth at
the moment in open defense of his friend. He knew his
father too well to think of adopting such a course as that,
while David was unwarned ; for, in one of those sudden out-
bursts of temper to which he was so liable, Saul might, on
the instant of Jonathan's interference, have sent to order
David's execution. Accordingly, without speaking to any
one upon the subject, Jonathan went privately to David, and
put him on his guard. He requested him, moreover, to hide
in a certain secret place in the field well known to both of
them, and promised that he would lead his father out into the
same neighborhood in the morning, and would there engage
him in such a conversation as would reveal the state of his
heart regarding David. This arrangement was made, as it
would appear, not that David might overhear for himself the
words of Saul, but that he might be close at hand, so that,
if the worst should happen, no time should be lost in finding
him and sending him away to a place of safety.

True to his word, Jonathan brought Saul to the appointed


spot, and warmly expostulated with him on David's behalf.
He dwelt on his utter innocence of any disaffection toward
the king, alluded to the fact that, at the risk of his life, he
had rid the country of one of its most formidable enemies,
and referred in the most delicate manner to the joy which
had thrilled Saul's own heart on the memorable day in the
Valley of Elah. Nor was this all ; the piety of the chival-
rous prince comes out in his ascription to God of the glory
of David's exploit, and in his plain and thorough condemna-
tion of the sin which his father would commit, if he were to
shed the innocent blood of the young hero, to whom he and
the people owed so much.

This appeal so moved the heart of Saul that he swore,
apparently too with all sincerity, that David should not be
slain ; and so, for the time, David, to whom Jonathan at
once reported the substance of his conversation with the
king, was re-assured, and returned to his place at court. I
do not know many instances in which we have such a man-
ifestation of prudence and principle combined, as we have
in the case of this expostulation of Jonathan with his father.
Prudence did not go so far as to make him silent about the
sin which Saul was purposing to commit ; principle was not
so asserted as to arouse his father's indignation. Neither
was weakened by the other ; but both were so admirably
interblended as to produce the result on which his heart
was set.

Saul's good-will to David, however, was not of long con-
tinuance. His envy was soon renewed, and that in a way
which recalls the occasion of his first estrangement from
the shepherd hero. The Philistines had resumed hostilities
against the Israelites ; and in the battles which ensued, Da-
vid again so distinguished himself as to awaken the enthusi-
astic admiration of the people. This, coming to the ears of
Saul, stirred up the old jealousy of his disposition, and that,


in its turn, brought on a new attack of his mysterious mal-
ady. Again "the evil spirit from the Lord troubled him."
Sitting in his palace with his spear in his hand, he was a
source of terror to all around him ; but David, unhindered
by any recollection of former danger, and desirous only of
soothing the monarch's heart, went in as aforetime and play-
ed the harp before him. This time, however, music was of
no avail. Nay, it seemed only to rouse him to more vehe-
ment ferocity, for he attempted to smite David with his jave-
lin ; but, dexterously evading the blow, he slipped out of the
royal presence, leaving the spear quivering in the wall, to tell
of the danger from which he had escaped.

This incident opened David's eyes to the imminent peril
in which he stood, and he fled to his own house. But not
even there was he safe from the fury of his infatuated perse-
cutor, for Saul sent men to surround his dwelling and bring
him to him for destruction. This design, however, was de-
feated by Michal, who learning, probably from some inmate
of her father's house, what was in progress, or, perhaps,
knowing her father so well as to be sure of what he would
do next, insisted on sending David off at once. She let him
down from the window before Saul's messengers had arrived,
and then, that she might gain time for him before they start-
ed after him, she took an image and placed it in bed, cover-
ing its head with a goats'-hair veil, and lyingly told her fa-
ther's emissaries that David was sick. They returned with
this report to the king, who insisted that David should be
brought to him even on his bed. This, of course, led to the
discovery of the trick that Michal had played off upon them
all ; and Saul, turning upon her with the disappointed fury
of a wild beast which has been cheated of its prey, said to
her, "Why hast thou deceived me so, and sent away mine
enemy, that he is escaped ?" But her only reply was the ut-
terance of a lie, which came new-minted from her fertile


brain : " He said unto me, Let me go ; why should I kill
thee ?"

Now out of this narrative a curious question arises, not
only affecting the character of Michal, but also opening up
a subject which is closely connected with the domestic relig-
ion of the Jews. What was this image that Michal employed
to personate David ? and how are we to account for the pres-
ence of such a thing in David's house ? The word rendered
image is in the margin given in its Hebrew form, "teraphim ;"
and perhaps the best way to bring the whole subject before
you will be to put together the most important of those pas-
sages in which it occurs.

The first mention of it is in connection with the record of
Jacob's flight from the house of Laban, on which occasion
we are told that Rachel had stolen her father's images (or
teraphim), and concealed them in her tent ;* and it is prob-
able that Jacob referred to these and similar objects of su-
perstitious veneration, when he ordered all in his encamp-
ment to put away the strange gods that were among them.

The next time the word occurs is in the very singular his-
tory contained in the seventeenth and eighteenth chapters
of the book of Judges, which tells how Michah, an Ephraim-
ite, set up in his house a kind of domestic chapel, in which
were an ephod and teraphim ; how he got a Levite to be his
priest ; and how the Danites came and took away both his
priest and his images to Dan, where they set them up for
themselves, and where, in after-ages, this small seed of su-
perstitious error developed into the worship of the golden
calf set up by Jeroboam, the son of Nebat

The next passage in which the word occurs, and which
clearly shows that the use of such an image was sinful, is in
i Sam. xv., 23, where Samuel, in his denunciation of Saul,

* Gen. xxi., 25-35.


says : " Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubborn-
ness is as iniquity and idolatry " (or, as the term-is, teraphim).
The next, after the narrative that has been before us, is in
2 Kings xxiii., 24, where we are told that " the workers with
familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images (or tera-
phim), and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied
in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away."
The next is in the prophecies of Hosea iii., 4, where it is
said, " The children of Israel shall abide many days without
a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and with-
out an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim."
Some have supposed that here we have a kind of tacit ap-
proval of teraphim ; but when we read the following verse,
we discover that this is not the case, for it is there said, "Af-
terward shall the children of Israel return," intimating that
all the things enumerated belonged to a superstitious and
unspiritual worship. The last reference to teraphim which
I shall specify is in the tenth chapter of Zechariah, second
verse, " For the idols [teraphim] have spoken vanity, and the
diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams," etc.
From all these passages, then, it appears that the teraphim
were images having some sort of resemblance to the human
form ; that they are found as far back as the time of Jacob ;
that they were consulted oracularly; that their use contin-
ued down to the days of Zechariah at least ; and that, though
the more lax of the priests and rulers might tolerate their
existence, and even themselves employ them, the prophets
from Samuel downward denounced the employment of them
as inconsistent with a right idea of the spirituality of God.
Observe, however, wherein the special sin of the use of these
teraphim consisted. It was not polytheism, the worship of
gods many and lords many ; neither was it the worship of
a god other than the true God ; but it was the worship of the
true God, under and through the visible representation of an


image. In other words, it was not a violation of the first
commandment, which says, " Thou shalt have no other gods
before me ;" but it was a violation of the second, which for-
bids the use of any image, even in the worship of the true
God. The distinction may seem a subtle one, but all the
more on that account it needs to be accurately made, espe-
cially as it is one of the main points of difference between
the Protestant and the Romanist. Both of these alike pro-
fess to worship the one God Father, Son, and Holy Ghost ;
but the Protestant will have no visible teraphim, while the
Romanist employs them without scruple. Now, as the use
of such things was forbidden, even under the extremely rit-
ualistic system of Moses, it must be still more inconsistent
with the simplicity and spirituality of Gospel worship. The
employment of such images not only tends to idolatry, but,
indeed, partakes of it, and is altogether contrary to the dic-
tum of our Divine Master : " God is a spirit, and they that
worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."

But if this be so, if even in the Old Testament times the
employment of such factitious aids to devotion was forbid-
den, how comes it that we have here teraphim in David's
house ? Perhaps the history of Rachel and Jacob may fur-
nish the explanation. Jacob was entirely ignorant that his
wife had carried away Laban's teraphim ; and David here
may have been equally innocent of all complicity in this
kind of worship. In our domestic arrangements it would
not be possible, perhaps, for a wife to indulge in such a
mode of religious service without the cognizance of her hus-
band, but it might be quite easily managed in an Eastern
dwelling. Now, if this explanation be accepted, it will help
to account for the weakness which Michal here and at other
times in her history displayed. She was not like David in
the highest and most momentous things. She loved him,
indeed, and, as we see, was eager to save his life ; but her


love for him was earthly and selfish. She was captivated
by the brave and beautiful young warrior, but she had no
right appreciation of the best parts of David's character.
She had no oneness with him in his truest and noblest self.
Hence the deceitfulness which she manifested in the plan
she took to aid his escape and to expedite his flight ; hence
also, at a later day, her easy acquiescence in her father's ar-
rangement, which, in violation of the sanctity of marriage,
took her from David and gave her to another. No doubt
she loved David ; indeed, as one has said, her affection for
him had "started forth with what we might almost deem
an unmaidenly promptness." But her affection could not
stand the strain of trial. It was not like that of Jonathan,
because it had not, like Jonathan's, its root in devotion to
the Lord. She could not and did not follow her husband
through persecution and exile and danger, because she was
not one with him in God. She could tell lies for David,
but she had not the courage and the faith to go with him
into suffering, or to tell the truth for him. So long as for-
tune favored him, she was found beside him, helping him,
too, in her own way ; but when he went forth a fugitive, to
be hunted like a partridge upon the mountains, she did not
say to him, " Whither thou goest I. will go, and where thou
lodgest I will lodge," for she could not say, " Thy God shall
be my God." Want of sympathy in spiritual matters be-
tween husband and wife is always a painful thing, and fre-
quently a perilous. The noblest marriage is not that which
secures a great alliance, or a fashionable equipage, or an am-
ple fortune, but that which is made " in the Lord."

But we must resume the narrative. To this episode in
David's life the 59th Psalm, as we learn from its title, refers ;
and it is interesting to note, not only the strength of faith
which it evinces, but also the plea by which, in it, he en-
forces his petition for deliverance. Again and again he



calls God his " defense " and " shield," and asks that the
machinations of his enemies may be confounded, so that
" men may know that God ruleth in Jacob, unto the ends
of the earth." Very graphically, also, does he describe the
movements of Saul's messengers, comparing them as, under
the cloud of darkness, they went round and round his dwell-
ing, to the dogs, which, every Oriental traveler tells us, are
still the nuisance and the danger of all Eastern cities after
night-fall. And then, at the close of the ode, already antici-
pating his escape, he gives expression to joyful assurance in
these beautiful words : " I will sing of thy power ; yea, I will
sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning : for thou hast been
my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble. Unto thee,
O my strength, will I sing ; for God is my defense, and the
God of my mercy."

Leaving Gibeah, David made his way to Ramah, that he
might refresh his soul by converse with Samuel ; but the
prophet, thinking, perhaps, that his house would be no safe
retreat for one who was fleeing from Saul, took him with him
to Naioth in the immediate neighborhood, where there was
a school of the prophets, and where Saul would probably be
restrained from laying hands upon the fugitive. This school
had, in all likelihood, been instituted by Samuel himself, for
the purpose of training young men for becoming the instruct-
ors of the nation, and perhaps, also, under the idea that out
of the bands thus educated there might, from time to time,
arise some whom God might commission as his specially-
inspired messengers to his people. Similar establishments
we find at a later date in sacred history, at Bethel and Gil-
gal ; and it is supposed that in connection with the existence
of such seminaries there was maintained, from the days of
Samuel till the close of the Old Testament canon, a contin-
uous succession of prophets in the land. Not, indeed, that
God confined himself to those who were trained in these


schools. When he had a word to say to the people, or a
\vork to do among them, he was never circumscribed in the
area from which he took his instruments. But that he usu-
ally employed as his special messengers those who were ed-
ucated in these schools may, I think, be inferred from the
words of Amos, who speaks of it as a thing unusual and
strange, that he was no prophet, nor the son of a prophet,
but a plain herdman of Tekoah, taken from following the
flock. These ancient colleges were under the superintend-
ence of a recognized prophet, such as Samuel or Elisha,
who was called the father, while the students were styled
his children. They were places of study and devotion, yet
they were not monasteries, as we now understand that word,
seeing that the youths were allowed to marry. They seem
to me to have resembled rather the seminary of the ancient
Culdee Church, the ruins of which still awaken the interest
of the traveler in the island of lona, and which was not only
a place of retreat and study, but also a great missionary cen-
tre, from which laborers went forth in every direction to do
the work of God. The chief subject which engaged the at-
tention of the students was the law of Moses and its inter-
pretation, but along with that, though subsidiary to it, they
practiced music and sacred poetry. In such a place, there-
fore, David would find himself in congenial society, and the
influence of his sojourn there must have been both sooth-
ing and salutary to his spirit. We do not know that he
had ever met Samuel since the day when he was anoint-

Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 6 of 36)