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William M. (William Mackergo) Taylor.

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

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ed at Bethlehem, and we may be sure that the venerable
prophet, while comforting him under his present trials, would
give him many valuable instructions as to the principles
which should regulate his conduct when he should come
into the kingdom. As he had communed with Saul on the
house-top at the period of his anointing, so now again he
would enter with David into an ample explanation of the



84 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

terms on which the sceptre was given to him an explana-
tion made all the more sadly clear by allusion to the mis-
takes which Saul had committed, and the terrible conse-
quences to which these had led. In connection with this
matter, too, we may well suppose that Samuel would speak
of his own wide experience as a magistrate, giving him max-
ims and advice which would never be forgotten ; while, con-
tinually, the good old man would commend him to the keep-
ing of that God who, through his own long and active life,
had sustained and protected him.

Besides this intercourse with Samuel, the pursuits of the
sons of the prophets, alike in their practice of music and po-
etry, and in the study of the Word of God, were just such as
David would most thoroughly enjoy, and as would most ma-
terially tend to soothe his spirit after the trials through
which he had just passed, and brace it for the difficulties
which, lay before him. I do not presume to fix either the
date or the authorship of all the productions, which have
been brought together into the one book of the Psalms, but
if the iigth Psalm came from the pen of David, as multi-
tudes believe, then I do not wonder that many have con-
nected its composition, with his residence in the school of
the prophets at Naioth. The calm in which he then found
himself, and the studies which he then prosecuted, might
well have led his musings in the direction of that alphabetic
ode, while there are in it not a few expressions which, to
say the least, may have particular reference to the clangers
out of which he had so recently escaped, and by which he
was still threatened. Such, for example, are the following:
"Princes also did sit and speak against me : but thy servant
did meditate in thy statutes." " The proud have had me in
derision : yet have I not declined from thy law." "Trouble
and anguish have taken hold on me: yet thy commandments
are my delights." Then, in regard to his present enjoyment,-



THE ESCAPE FROM GIBEAH TO RAMAH. 85

we may quote these lines : " O how love I thy law ! it is my
meditation all the day." " The law of thy mouth is better
unto me than thousands of gold or silver;" and in refer-
ence to God's dealings with him, he says, " I know, O Lord,
that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness
hast afflicted me." " It is good for me that I have been af-
flicted ; that I might learn thy statutes." But why need I
enlarge here ? I might well quote the entire Psalm, per-
vaded as it is with love of the Word of God, and confidence
in God himself. Let me commend it to your prayerful study,
as a perfect store-house of suggestive thoughts and devout
aspirations. In allusion to its peculiarity of structure, in
accordance with which it is divided into as many parts as
there are letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and each verse of
every part begins, in the Hebrew, with the letter which marks
the part to which it belongs, Bishop Cowper has called it
" a holy alphabet, so plain that children may understand it,
and so rich and instructive that the wisest and most expe-
rienced may learn something from it."* This witness is
true, and if only each day of our lives we were to fix in our
memories one verse of this admirable production, and make
it the subject of our meditation in our intervals of rest, we
should grow in every thing that adorns the Christian char-
acter, and become both more devout in the closet, and more
holy in the transaction of our daily business.

But not even the sanctity that surrounded the residence
of the sons of the prophets could shield David from the ven-
geance of Saul, for so soon as he discovered where his son-
in-law had found an asylum, the king sent messengers to ap-
prehend him. By the mysterious power of God's Holy Spir-
it, however, when these men came to Naioth, and saw the
sons of the prophets at their daily service, they came under

* Quoted by Plumer, in " Studies in the Book of Psalms," p. 1018.



86 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

a peculiar influence, which impelled them to do as the stu-
dents did. This was told to the king, who sent others in
their stead, and to them it happened in like manner. The
same thing occurred with a third company of messengers ;
and at length, instead of learning from all this that God had
David under his special protection, and giving up his mad
intent, Saul became so exasperated that he set out himself
for Naioth, determined to be the executioner of his own
commands. But lo ! as he drew near the village, even be-
fore he came into the company of the prophets, he was him-
self laid hold of by the Spirit of God, and as in the early
days of his reign he prophesied yea, he was filled with the
Spirit so that he stripped off his outer garments, and lay
on the ground, as in a trance, until the following morning.
Thus, again, the proverb which had obtained currency at the
beginning of his reign was revived, and men said once more,
"Is Saul also among the prophets?" Thus, also, by the re-
straining might of God's Spirit, he was again kept from lay-
ing violent hands upon David.

In reviewing the narrative over which we have come, we
are impressed with the proof, which is here furnished, of the
diversified resources, which Jehovah has at command for the
protection of his people. Again and again Saul attempts
to take David's life, but always without success ; and each
time the means by which David was delivered are different.
At first he is defended by God's blessing on his own valor
against the Philistines ; then he is indebted for his safety to
the mediation of Jonathan ; then to the agency of Michal ;
and finally to the miraculous work of God's own Holy Spir-
it. In the subsequent portion of the history, we shall find
that the same principle holds, and that in each new peril
he is preserved by some new instrumentality. When God
purposes to protect a man, he is at no loss for the means of
carrying out his design. He may find them in what seems



THE ESCAPE FROM GIBEAH TO RAMAH. 87

to us mortals the most unexpected places, and they may
work in what appears to us to be a very strange it may be,
also, a very sinful manner ; yet the purpose is accomplished,
while yet the liberty of the different agents is not infringed.
David was at this time, in a very peculiar sense, the ward of
God's providence, and he was kept in safety. By the ex-
periences through which he had passed, he was able after-
ward to sing, " The angel of the Lord encampeth round about
them that fear him, and delivereth them ;" and from the oc-
currences which we have been considering, we may learn
that God will keep us alive, so long as we are needed in his
service. "A man is immortal till his work be done." If in
the purpose of God there is still something to be accom-
plished by any one, he bears a charmed life until that be ful-
filled. This, of course, must not be understood as implying
that we should use no means to insure our own safety, far
less that we should recklessly and wantonly rush into danger ;
but it does imply, that when we have taken all proper pre-
cautions, we are to trust in God, and wait the issue. Either
they will be fruitless, and then there will be the conscious-
ness that the end is come, and that our reward is near ; or
they will be successful, and anew the glorious truth shall
be demonstrated to every beholder, that man's extremity is
God's opportunity. The good man should never despair, for
either God will glorify himself in his protection, or he will
glorify God in suffering for his name's sake ; and in either
case the issue shall be well. "God's providence is his in-
heritance."

But our review leads us to remark further, on the foolish
and unbelieving deceit which Michal practiced for David's
deliverance. It was unbelieving, for it was equivalent to an
assertion on her part that God could not save her husband
except by her sin ; it was foolish, for, after all, it did not ac-
complish very much for David, and only exasperated Saul.



88 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

Having told one lie, she needed to give that probability, by
a clumsy piece of acting; and then she had to sustain the
whole by another falsehood, which contained in it such a re-
flection on her husband's character, as no true-hearted wife
would have allowed herself to make, even in jest. I can not
but think that Michal's deception here, taken in connection
with her possession of the image, as I suppose, in a clandes-
tine way, is an indication of a low moral tone ; and while she
is certainly to be commended for the promptitude with which
she urged David to flee, we must condemn her for the false-
hood which she told, and the deceit which she practiced in
connection with his flight. Some, indeed, may say that she
did no more than Rahab did for the spies at Jericho ; and
that since Rahab's faith is -praised, we are surely too severe
in condemning Michal. But then we must bear in mind that
Rahab was a heathen, and that her mode of life was such as
was fitted only to harden her in heathenism and sin ; while
Michal was brought up under all the privileges of the Mo-
saic law. What Rahab did in sending forth the spies in
peace, betokened that she had faith ; what she did in tell-
ing a lie for their sakes, showed how weak her fajth was,
after all ; but that she had any faith whatever was a marvel-
ous thing, considering her position. With Michal, on the
other hand, it was different, and she must be judged by a
different standard. To borrow an illustration from the his-
tory, on a part of which we are engaged when the Philis-
tines handled the sacred ark of the covenant, no death came
to them, for they knew no better ; but when the men of Beth-
shemish looked into it, they were smitten down by the out-
flashing of the sword of Jehovah even as Uzzah was at
a later date ; for they ought to have known its sanctity.*
And so there might be, comparatively speaking, little mor-

* i Sam. vi., 10-21.



THE ESCAPE FROM GIBEAH TO RAMAH. 89

al guilt in the doing by a heathen of a thing which, -when
done by a Jewess, was worthy of severe condemnation. I
know, indeed, that we must not judge Michal by the Gospel
standard. Still, even in the light of the law of Moses, she
was to blame for her deceit, and to us who have the cross of
Christ before us, and the Sermon on the Mount sounding in
our ears, nothing can be more evident than that it is never
necessary to commit sin. It is always wrong to do wrong.
No circumstances or motives, no extenuations or palliations,
can ever change wrong into right. There is no Darwinian-
ism in morals. There is here no transmutation possible.
Wrong is wrong, and right is right, for evermore. And if,
in criticising a character in real history it is warrantable to
refer to the creations of the novelist, I would place side by
side with Michal here, the Jeanie Deans of Walter Scott, that
you may see the contrast between cunning unscrupulousness
and inflexible integrity. I reckon that delineation, founded
as it is in its main outlines on fact, as one of the noblest that
ever came from the mind of its author ; and in the honor
which we are constrained to pay to her, who would not tell a
falsehood to save her sister's life, though she walked hundreds
of miles afterward to deliver her from the gallows, you may
see, also, how much we blame Michal for her unbelieving de-
ceit.* Be it ours, my brethren, to stand unflinchingly by the
right, for the sake of Him who is himself the right. Every
deceit is a dishonor to him, as well as to ourselves, and death
is preferable to such dishonor.

* The parallel here is scarcely perfect, since the heroine of the tale was
put upon her oath in a court of justice, while Michal was questioned only
in the ordinary manner. The casuistry of this and similar cases is can-
vassed in a note to Froude's " History of England," vol. ii., p. 65. That
author admits that he does not see his way to a conclusion as to the de-
gree of guilt attaching to such a kind of unveracity as this ; but he fails to
show, if falsehood be ever venial, within what limits it is to be restrained.



90 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

Again : in reviewing this chapter, we are impressed with
the gracious long-suffering of God with sinners. When Saul
.was laid hold of by God's Spirit, the desire of the Lord was
not merely to restrain him from injuring David, but also to
visit him again with that particular blessing which he had
received at the beginning of his reign. It was a gracious, as
well as a miraculous, visitation to him. Anew the Holy Ghost
was striving within him. Once again he had the opportu-
nity of turning to God. His heart was moved. He was al-
most persuaded ; the tide was at the flood again with him,
and if he had taken it, he might have finished his life in an-
other manner; but no: he allowed it to ebb, and it never
flowed again ! Yet see the goodness of God to him in giv-
ing him. this new opportunity, while, at the same time, you
observe the danger in which those are placed who let such
opportunities go unimproved.

There may be some within the sound of my voice to-night
whose experience is akin to Saul's. They, too, can look back
upon a former time some era of great revival, perhaps
when they were drawn to the truth, and took a prominent
place in the Church and its services ; but a sad declension
came, and for many years they had no care for any thing
spiritual or eternal. They were devoted to ease and self-in-
dulgence, making enjoyment their constant idol. But now,
again, in their riper years, with mayhap the hoary locks of
age beginning to appear upon them, their old feelings are
coming back upon them. They are attracted as of yore to
God's house ; they enjoy his ordinances ; they are moved
many times to tears by the preaching of his Word ; they are
disposed to serious devoutness in God's worship, and to ear-
nest holiness, in the family, and in the world. But as yet they
have gone no farther. Oh, let me beseech them to follow
all this up by taking the one decisive step of giving them-
selves unreservedly and at once to the Lord, lest, when the



THE ESCAPE FROM GIBEAH TO RAMAH. 91

fervor of their present enthusiasm shall have gone, they may
be left farther from God than they ever were before. Not
always will God forbear with the vacillations of a changeful
heart ; not always will his Spirit strive with men. Oh ! drive
him not away by your carelessness and self-will, but open
your soul to his influences, and yield yourself up to his loving
service. Ere this spring-tide of opportunity falls, it may be
never to rise again, let it carry you on its bosom into the har-
bor of salvation.

Finally, mark here, how men who are themselves godless
observe and criticise the characters of those who join them-
selves with the people of God. " Is Saul also among the
prophets ?" said the wits of Israel, when they heard of what
occurred at Naioth. Now this might have been as hon-
orable to Saul, as it came to be dishonorable to him, if
only he had in his after history proved himself sincerely
resolved to do the will of God. Thus, when we say of
another Saul, " Is Paul also among the apostles ?" we mean
no reproach to the man of Tarsus, but only desire thereby
to magnify the riches of divine grace, which transformed
him from a persecutor of the Church into a preacher of the
Gospel; and had this occasion been the turning-point in
the history of the King of Israel, as the prostration at Da-
mascus was the crisis in the life of the Christian apostle,
the proverb before us would have been one of honor, and
not of disgrace. Unhappily, however, by his after conduct
Saul gave occasion to men to speak of his insincerity and
wickedness, and so, " Saul among the prophets" is, even yet,
jeeringly said by us, when we mean to indicate that a god-
less, Christless man has found his way into the member-
ship or ministry of the Church. Now this proverb, thus
understood, is two-edged. It speaks to those who are as
yet outside of the Church, and says to them, " If you are
not really and truly Christ's ; if you do not love the Lord



92 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

and desire to serve him, then do not seek to enter the
Church." But it speaks also to those who are within, and
says to them, " If in your hearts you are conscious that you
are none of Christ's, and if in your conduct you are dishon-
oring his name, then go out from the Church. It is not for
such as you ; and your continuance in it will only make men
say, ' Is Saul also among the prophets ?' They who have
named the name of Christ should depart from iniquity."
The reputation of Christ, in the world of to-day, is very much
in the hands of those who profess to be his followers. Let
us see to it, that, so far from allowing it to suffer from our
conduct, we add new adornment to his Gospel by the saint-
liness of our lives, and compel men to take knowledge of us
that we have been with Jesus.



VI.

THE VALLEY OF DECEIT.
i SAMUEL xx.-xxii.

TAKING advantage of the miraculous restraint which
was put upon Saul at Naioth, David left the school of
the prophets, and hasted back to Gibeah.

Here, on the return of the monarch, it would seem that,
under the influence of his recent experiences, his heart was
somewhat softened toward his son-in-law ; for Jonathan, in
the interesting interview which is described so fully in the
twentieth chapter of i Samuel, speaks at first with the great-
est confidence of David's safety ; and David himself, even in
his distress, takes it for granted that his presence would be
expected at the customary banquet on new-moon. But he
had seen so many vacillations in Saul, that he was not dis-
posed to build much upon his present gracious mood. Nay,
rather, from brooding morbidly over Saul's treatment of him,
to the entire exclusion from his mind of God's constant care
over him, he fell into despair, and ran into a course of reck-
less deceit which brought the most fearful consequences in
its train.

It may appear strange, that all this should have happened
immediately after his pleasant and profitable sojourn with
Samuel, at the school of the prophets. But perhaps the very
contrast between his happiness at Naioth, and his continual
suspense at Gibeah, where he felt himself to be like one
standing on the very edge of an active volcano, may help to
account for his depression. In any case, it is by no means
an uncommon experience, that times of great spiritual ele- x



94 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

vation are followed by periods of deep dejection. Every
height has its hollow ; and as Peter went from the first
Lord's Supper to his denial of the Master, David went from
Naioth to Nob, and from Nob to Gath. It is a suggestive
incident, bidding us be always on our guard against tempta-
tion, and then, most of all, when we have been enjoying the
most exalted privileges.

In his distress David sought for Jonathan, and poured his
complaint into the ear of his friend, telling him that Saul
was seeking his life, with such sleepless assiduity, "that there
was but a step between him and death." The king's son
was taken by surprise, and expressed his belief that David
was allowing his fear to overmaster, not his faith only, but
his judgment also. Still, seeing how seriously his compan-
ion was taking matters, he offered to do any thing which he
could suggest, in the way either of discovering Saul's inten-
tions toward him, or of delivering him from any danger
which might be hanging over him. So an agreement was
made to the following effect : The next day was new-moon,
on which it was the regular custom for Saul to entertain the
captains of his host. On such an occasion it was David's
duty to be present; but this time he would take the op-
portunity of going to Bethlehem, to the yearly feast of his
father's household; and Jonathan would see, by Saul's re-
marks upon his absence, how he felt toward him. Then, on
the third day, David would return to a hiding-place, known
to both of them, by the stone Ezel in the field, where Jona-
than, under color of practicing his favorite sport of archery,
would let him know how matters were. If he said to the
boy who went with him to fetch his arrows, " See they are
beyond thee," David would know that mischief was deter-
mined against him by the king ; if he said, " They are on
this side of thee," he would understand that all was well,
and that he was perfectly safe.



THE VALLEY OF DECEIT. 95

In the formation of this agreement, the hearts of the two
friends were greatly moved ; and the faith which Jonathan
manifested in David's future, contrasts very strongly with
the despondency which was shown by David himself. How
deeply touching, for example, are these words of Jonathan :
"Thou shalt not v only while yet I live show me the kindness
of the Lord, that I die not : but also thou shalt not cut off
thy kindness from my house forever : no, not when the Lord
hath cut off the enemies of David every one from the face
of the earth. And Jonathan caused David to swear again, be-
cause he loved him : for he loved him as he loved his own
soul."

On the feast day, as David had anticipated, Saul observed
his absence ; but, imagining that it was caused by one or
other of those ceremonial defilements, which might make him
unclean until the evening, he made no remark. On the mor-
row, however, the absence being repeated, the king asked, in
a tone of displeasure, "Wherefore cometh not the son of
Jesse to meat, neither yesterday nor to-day ?" In reply, Jon-
athan stated that, with his permission, David had gone to
Bethlehem, to the annual home-feast of his family; where-
upon Saul went into a paroxysm of passion, saying, in the
most insulting and blood-thirsty manner, to Jonathan, "Thou
son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that
thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion,
and unto the confusion of thy mother's nakedness ? for as
long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt
not be established, nor thy kingdom. Wherefore now send
and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die." But though
Jonathan knew, as well as Saul, that David was destined to
sit upon the throne, he was not thereby either estranged from
him, or desirous of his death. So he stood up bravely in his
friend's defense, asserting his innocence, and asking why he
should be slain. This, however, only added fuel to the flame



96 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

of Saul's evil passion, for he made answer by hurling a jave-
lin at the head of his son. That was enough. Loving and
dutiful as Jonathan was, he could stand it no longer, but rose
in great indignation from the table, and at the appointed
time went, in bitter humiliation, to the trysting-stone, where
David lay concealed, to tell him what had occurred. By the
preconcerted signal, he let him know that all hope of recon-
ciliation with his father was at an end. But he could not
leave his friend without a parting embrace. So, giving his
bow and quiver to his attendant, with instructions to carry
them into the city, he remained behind, and David came forth
from his hiding-place, "and fell on his face to the ground,
and bowed himself three times : and they kissed one anoth-
er, and wept one with another, until David exceeded. And
Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have
sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, The Lord
be between me and thee, and between .my seed and thy seed
forever. And he arose and departed : and Jonathan went
into the city." We attempt no remark on this touching
scene, but content ourselves with setting it in vivid distinct-
ness before your view as one of the most thrilling illustra-
tions of devoted friendship that the world has ever witnessed.
The parting which we have just described occurred, most
probably, on the afternoon of the sixth day of the week, and
David, eager to enter at once into a secure asylum, employed
the brief season before the sunset should usher in the Sab-
bath, in hastening forward to Nob, where the Tabernacle at
that time was pitched. This place has not been certainly
identified by modern travelers. It is supposed by some to
have been on one of the shoulders of the Mount of Olives,



Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 7 of 36)