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William M. (William Mackergo) Taylor.

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

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selves sorrows in the days that are to come. The calf that
Jeroboam set up gave an idolatrous cast to all the after-his-
tory of Israel, and wrought the nation's undoing at the last ;
and could he, perchance, have foreseen the misery of the
captives long years after, when, in consequence of his sin,
they were led away to privation and exile, we may well be-
lieve that he would sooner have suffered martyrdom himself
than have caused such distress to others. Those who heard
the lectures of the greatest living English historian, during
his recent visit to these shores, will not soon forget how sol-
emnly he said, " that often, in the providence of God, the full
consequences of an evil course fall not upon the head of him
who was guilty of it, but on those who in after-days are his
representatives," and added, amidst a stillness which showed
how fully his audience understood his reference, " If Sir John
Hawkins, in the day when he went negro-hunting on the
coast of Africa, could have foreseen Gettysburg, he would
sooner that his ship and all on board had gone to the bot-
tom, than that he should have done any thing to produce
such a terrible result." But this holds spiritually as well.
The one sin of a Christian, in a moment of unbelief and
temptation, may be the ruin of many souls. And when it is
once committed, its consequences can not be arrested. In-
view of this awful consideration, and reflecting on the issues
that may already have come from some action of our own,
or that may hang on some individual transgression in the



no DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

future, which of us is not constrained to offer these petitions :
" Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my
salvation." " Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my foot-
steps slip not."

Finally, behold in David's tender provision for his parents
an example of the care which we ought to have for father
and mother. There are few things more delightful than to see
a son or a daughter lovingly supporting an aged parent ; and,
on the other hand, there is nothing more worthy of our scorn
and reprobation than the conduct of those who leave their
parents to the cold charity of an unfeeling world. " He that
provideth not for his own, and especially for those of his own
house, hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."
If you have a father or mother in circumstances that require
your assistance, count it a high honor and glorious privilege
to render it. Never think that they are a burden, or allow
yourself to grudge what you are doing for them. Consider
how much you have owed in earlier days to them, and do not
be ashamed of them. They may not be quite so polished in
their manners as those are among whom now you move ;
they may not be so correct in their speech as those are with
whom you are meeting every day; but if you are a son
worthy of the name, you will give them the post of honor
when they come to your home, and you will count it the hap-
piest thing in your lot that you are able to lighten for them
the load of years. It is a poor, paltry, pityful puppyism
that is ashamed of a parent a feeling unworthy of a man,
not to say of a Christian.

Nor is it only in the matter of support that we should
show our regard to our parents. We should reverence them
when we are beside them, and when we go to a distance from
them we should be regular and full in our correspondence
with them, letting them know all about us, and making them
feel that we appreciate their interest in us. Is there a son



THE VALLEY OF DECEIT. m

here, to-night, who has allowed many months to roll past
without sending a single line to his father or his mother, to
tell how he fares ? Let the blush of shame suffuse his face
as he thinks of his thoughtlessness. You may not have
much occasion to remember your home. In the bustle of
the workshop, or of the store, or of the counting-room, many
things force themselves upon your attention, and you do not
miss your home. But your mother, having no such multi-
plicity of things to divert her mind, is thinking upon you all
the day long ; and as the postman goes his round each morn-
ing, she looks out expecting a note from you. But, alas !
each day she turns away disappointed, saying, with a heavy
heart, " Can he have forgotten his mother ?" Don't let this
occur again. Go at once and send her a cheery, hearty let-
ter, if possible with a check or a post-office order in it, as a
tangible evidence of your affection. Her loneliness will be
irradiated by the sunshine of your kindness ; her heart will
be warmed by the assurance of your continued love ; and
your own soul will be benefited by the doing of a filial deed.
" Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be
long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."



VII.

SONGS IN THE NIGHT.
i SAMUEL xxii., 5 xxiii., 1-28.

DURING the days of his outlawry at the hands of Saul,
David was specially guarded and guided by Jehovah.
Indeed, in so far as the direction of his movements was con-
cerned, he enjoyed at this time very peculiar privileges. As
we have already seen, Gad the seer was among his adher-
ents ; and when Abiathar, the high -priest, joined his stand-
ard, he brought with him the Urim and Thummim, those
mystic treasures of the ephod which were the means by
which the answers of the sacred oracle were given. David
had thus two distinct channels of direct communication with
Jehovah ; and whenever the mind of God was made known
to him, either through the one or the other, he set himself to
obey it. Sometimes, indeed, as we shall see with regret, he
allowed himself to be carried away by his own evil inclina-
tions, but these were exceptions to the general tenor of his
life like the backward eddies of the Niagara whirlpool in a
river whose course, as a whole, is still toward the sea for his
habit was to follow where Jehovah led.

It is to be noted here as an interesting fact, that in the
hold of Adullam and in the wilderness of Judah, we have,
side by side, representatives of the oracular and the pro-
phetical methods of the communication of the will of God to
men ; and that, in the life of David, as a whole, we have the
era of the transition from the one to the other. Up till this
time the priest had been the most important personage in
the nation, and the only recognized channel through which



SONGS IN THE NIGHT. 113

God indicated his will to the people. True, there had been
great outstanding prophets, like Moses and Samuel; but the
former was an exception to all rules as being the leader of
the Exodus ; and the latter, from his training under Eli, was
as much a priest as he was a prophet. True, again, in the
time of the Judges there was Deborah, the prophetess ; but
she was raised up, in connection with a particular crisis in
the history of her people. The general system, however,
was, that when the head of the nation, whether judge or
king, wished, at any special emergency, to ask counsel of
the Lord, the inquiry was made through the priest, and the
answer was given by the Urim and Thummim. But now
the prophet, as a standing official personage, comes into
prominence, and the mind of God begins to be made known
through his human individuality, and not through any such
visible media as those which were connected with the priest-
ly breastplate.

In the hold and in the wilderness, David received divine
directions through both channels, but gradually, even in his
life, the breastplate oracle disappears or falls into desuetude ;
and from the reign of Solomon downward we have no men-
tion made of its employment in the Jewish annals. In the
same gradual manner the prophet waxes into pre-eminence,
Gad and Nathan preparing the way for Elijah and Elisha,
and these, in their turn, giving place to Isaiah and Jeremiah,
who were succeeded, in the days of the exile, by Ezekiel and
Daniel ; and in the era of the Restoration by Haggai, Zecha-
riah, and Malachi.

Now, if we think out this subject a little more fully, we
shall see that in the life of David a distinct forward step was
taken in the education of the people of God, from the first
rudiments of external symbolism, on toward that system of
spiritual simplicity under which we now live in the Gospel
dispensation. In that course of education, the Urim and



ii4 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

Thummim were themselves an advance on what had gone
before. It is not easy, indeed, to say definitely what the
Urim and Thummim were. The words denote " Light and
Perfection," and they were the names given to some things
connected with the dress of the Jewish high-priest. Over
the white tunic which he wore when he came nigh to the
shekinah, he had the blue robe of the ephod ; then, over
that he wore the ephod itself, made of white twined linen, in-
wrought with blue, and purple, and scarlet, and gold ; then,
over the ephod he placed the breastplate, on which were
twelve precious stones, corresponding to the tribes of Israel ;
then, in the breastplate, apparently as something different
from it, were put the Urim and Thummim. But what these
were whether other precious stones, or, as some sup-
pose, symbolic figures of truth and righteousness, like those
which were worn by the Egyptian judges we are nowhere
informed. Still, whatever they were, through them, in some
visible manner, God gave his answer to the head of the na-
tion, when he was specially applied to in any time of per-
plexity. In almost all the recorded cases of the use of the
Urim and Thummim, the questions which were put were
military or strategical ; one question only was answered at
a time, and the response, in every instance, was very brief,
amounting frequently to little more than "Yes " or " No."

There was in all this, of course, much of the visible and
material. Yet there was in it, also, a distinct advance, in so
far as the demand for faith was concerned, over that which
was made by the pillar and the cloud in the Arabian desert.
These latter symbols were always before the eyes of all the
people. While following them, therefore, they were walking
not so much by faith as by sight ; but when these were with-
drawn, and the glory of the shekinah hid from view, the
media of communication were concealed beneath the high-
priest's breastplate, and there was more occasion for faith.



SONGS IN THE NIGHT. 115

This call for faith was increased when the Urim and Thum-
mini ceased, and the prophets came speaking in God's
name, giving gradually fewer and fewer specific directions
as to particular matters, and more and more proclaiming
great spiritual principles. And now there is, more than
ever, a demand for faith, when, under the New Testament
economy, the way into the holiest is made manifest to every
believer, and the answers to the soul's inquiries are given
not by any objective oracle, but by the Christian's study of
God's Word, as that is interpreted by the providences that
are without him, and the Spirit of God that is dwelling with-
in him. Hence, when we read the history of David's sojourn
in the cave, or of his wanderings in the wilderness, and see
the priest Abiathar on his right hand, and the prophet Gad
on his left, we feel that we are standing on one of the great
landing-places of that stairway of education, up which God
led his people from the childhood of walking by sight, to the
glorious liberty, and graceful movement, of that spiritual man-
hood which walks continually by faith.

These considerations, interesting as they are in a mere
historical point of view, are valuable also as tending to keep
us from regretting that now we have no such oracle as
that which, as we shall see to-night, David consulted again
and again with signal advantage to himself. Some may
think that it would have been better had the Urim and
Thummim held their place till now ! And, I suppose, we can
all look back on critical times in our history, when we would
have given all we had in the world for some such infallible
indication of God's will as to our duty, as that which David
received. But we had the throne of grace to go to in prayer ;
and as we gathered what God's mind was, from the consid-
eration of his Word, the leadings of his Spirit, and the indi-
cations of his providence, we were guided as truly as David
was : and, now that we have passed the crisis, and can look



n6 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

at it from the other side, we feel that we were benefited by
the experience, and that we are to-day stronger in all the el-
ements of Christian manhood, than we should have been if,
without any mental or spiritual activity of our own, God had
told us, in so many words, what we were to do. When Jesus
said to his followers, " It is expedient for you that I go away,"
he meant that they would become in every respect nobler
men, if they went forward believing in the unseen Christ
whose Spirit was in their hearts, than they would have been
if he had remained beside them saying to each one, " Do this."
In the one case they would have been merely his servants,
doing his commands in so many individual directions. In
the other case he would be, if I may so say, repeating or in-
carnating himself anew in every one of them; and they
would become, each one in his own measure, another repre-
sentative of Christ, working as he would have wrought, speak-
ing as he would have spoken, and acting as he would have
acted. Now similarly here, we have lost the external Urim
and Thummim ; but we have in its stead the internal and
indwelling Holy Ghost, by whose agency within us, supple-
mented and interpreted by God's' Word, and providence with-
out us, our prayers are answered as really as David's were
by the mystic oracle.

I have dwelt thus long on this subject, both because of its
connection with the history that is before us, and because of
its importance from its bearing on the gradual preparation
which, all through the Jewish history, God was making for
the introduction of the Gospel of Christ but I hasten now
to the incidents recorded in the chapter of David's life to
which we have this evening come.

When he was in the hold of Adullam, as we learn from
the fifth verse of the twenty-second chapter, David was rec-
ommended by Gad to betake himself to the territory of Ju-
dah, and he went immediately to the forest of Hareth ; but



SONGS IN THE NIGHT. 117

as every trace of this forest has disappeared, we have now no
means of identifying its locality. More interesting to us by
far than any mere question of topography, however, is the fact
that in connection with his wanderings at this time David
composed that exquisitely beautiful Psalm, which has been a
song to the people of God in the house of their pilgrimage
ever since, and which is numbered as the 63d in the sacred
Psalter. Pvead it in the light of the circumstances out of
which it sprung, and you will see in it new loveliness, and
feel a new power coming from it. Mark the intense longing
for a closer fellowship with God with which it begins : " O
God, thou art my God ; early will I seek thee : my soul thirst-
eth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty
land, where no water is ; to see thy power and thy glory, so
as I have seen thee in the sanctuary." Behold how even
in his desolation perhaps just because of his desolation
he feels the value of spiritual blessings, and praises God for
them : " Because thy loving-kindness is better than life, my
lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live : I
will lift up my hands in thy name." Then, in the sleepless-
ness of the night, as the wind sighs through the forest trees,
and the dreariness of his position is apt to sink him into de-
spondency, observe the antidote which he employs to coun-
teract those influences : " My soul shall be satisfied as with
marrow and fatness ; and my mouth shall praise thee with
joyful lips : when I remember thee upon my bed, and medi-
tate on thee in the nightwatches." And in the final strain,
see how, reasoning from the past, already rich to him, young
though he still was, in memories of deliverance, he looks for-
ward with confidence to the future, when he should be set
free from all his enemies, and, as the king upon the throne,
should rejoice in God, " Because thou hast been my help,
therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice. My
soul followeth hard after thee : thy right hand upholdeth



n8 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

me. But those that seek my soul to destroy it, shall go into
the lower parts of the earth. They shall fall by the sword ;
they shall be a portion for foxes. But the king shall rejoice
in God ; every one that sweareth by him shall glory : but
the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped." Hap-
py they, who in their trials find such consolations as David
then experienced ; for, even in the midst of their troubles, they
are more to be envied than the men of the world when their
"corn and their wine do most abound."

While the outlawed leader and his band were at Hareth,
some messengers came to tell that the Philistines had re-
sumed their marauding practices at Keilah, where they were
carrying away the grain, night after night, from the threshing-
floors. This gives us a glimpse into the state of the coun-
try at the time, and shows us also the nature of the position
which David and his men occupied in the estimation of their
fellow-countrymen. The Philistines, as we have repeatedly
seen, were by no means subdued by the Israelites. They
were still able to harass and annoy them ; and watching
their opportunity, they came down in the harvest-time upon
the threshing-floors, killing the sentinels, and carrying off
the spoil. Now that the people applied to David in such an
emergency was a token of their confidence in him. It has
been affirmed by many, indeed, that he was at this time a free-
booter, living by his sword, and helping himself without scru-
ple to the property of his neighbors ; that, in fact, he was a
Jewish Robin Hood, or an Israelitish Rob Roy ; and that, as
Wordsworth sings concerning the Scottish Macgregor,

" The good old rule
Sufficed him ; the simple plan,
That they should take who have the power,
And they should keep who can."

But there is no evidence in support of this, so far, at least,
as his position at this time in Judah is concerned. Rather,



SONGS IN THE NIGHT. 119

the fact that, in a crisis like that which came upon the men
of Keilah, information of their calamity was at once conveyed
to him, seems to indicate that he was recognized as a kind
of protector of the people, against the enemies by whom they
were so frequently invaded. It is probable, therefore, that he
made it a great part of his business, at this time, to defend the
lives and property of his fellow-countrymen from the assaults
of those unscrupulous robbers, who, like the modern Bedou-
in, had no regard either for the rights or the existence of oth-
ers. For this service he naturally expected, and cheerfully
received, a recompense from those to whom it was rendered.
This recompense came, generally, in the shape of supplies for
himself and his men ; but the acceptance of such bounty, so
rendered, was a very different thing from compelling them to
give him a certain tribute, or black-mail, on condition that
he should not steal from them himself, and that he should
restore what others pilfered.

The view which I have given of David's position at this
time is strengthened by the circumstances, which are nar-
rated in connection with Nabal, and which will be consid-
ered more fully hereafter. I may only at present quote,
in corroboration of my theory, the words of Nabal's servants
to Abigail, when describing David and his men. They say,
" The men were very good unto us, and we were not hurt ;
neither missed we any thing as long as we were conversant
with them, when we were in the fields. They were a wall
unto us both by night and day, all the while we were with
them keeping the sheep."

Now, if this be a correct account of the matter, we can
easily understand why David was told of the outrage which
had been committed upon Keilah, and why the impulse of
his heart was to go at once to their assistance. But he
would not move without consulting the oracle, both because
he wished to be himself quite certain that he was taking the



120 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

path of duty, and because he was desirous of securing the
confidence of his men. The reply of the Urim and Thum-
mim wa"s favorable to his undertaking the expedition, but
still the hearts of his followers failed, for they said, " Behold,
we be afraid here in Judah : how much more then if we come
to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines." Judah here
means the mountain district of that tribal territory, since
Keilah was a city in the plain. The confidence of David's
men was in the hills, but he himself looked higher, even to
Him " who made the heavens and the earth." So, to re-as-
sure them, he inquired again at the oracle, and having re-
ceived the same answer, only with added emphasis in regard
to success, he went down to save the city, and recover the
property of its inhabitants.

The expedition was crowned with decisive success, and,
relying on the gratitude of those whom he had served, he
went with his men into the city. It was a fortified place
with walls and gates, and when Saul heard that he had
taken up his abode in it, he immediately conceived the plan
of laying siege to it, and Catching David in it as in a trap.
He said, " God hath delivered him into mine hand " (so pi-
ously sometimes can people speak, even when they are plot-
ting blackest crimes), "for he is shut in, by entering into a
town that hath gates and bars." But not thus was David to
be destroyed ; for by some means he had received informa-
tion as to Saul's intentions, and he had recourse at once to
the oracle on the breastplate of Abiathar. He put two
questions, from the answers to which he learned that Saul
would besiege the city, and that the men of Keilah would
deliver him up into the hands of his persecutor. Therefore,
leaving Keilah, he and his company went forth " whitherso-
ever they could go." One is disposed to be very bitter and
indignant at the ingratitude of those whom David had so sig-
nally befriended ; yet we must not forget that Saul was still



SONGS IN THE NIGHT. 121

the king, that he had many resources at his command, and
that, with the massacre of Nob before their minds, the peo-
ple of Keilah had nothing but destruction to expect, if they
showed any kindness whatever to the son of Jesse. Even
with all these risks, however, a chivalrous and grateful people
would have suffered any thing rather than give their de-
liverer up. But the men of Keilah were neither chivalrous
nor grateful. They regarded their own interests as supreme.
Like many in our own day, they might profess to aim after
the greatest happiness of the greatest number, but when you
came to analyze their views, you would find that with them,
to use the words of Joseph Hume, " the greatest number was
number one !" It was not for their advantage to serve Da-
vid, and they did not serve him ; and I am free to say, that
all my observation and experience convince me that a large
proportion of the present generation would have done as
they were willing to do. Of course that does not excuse
them, but it should make us cautious as to what we say in
their condemnation, lest, haply, we may some day be judged
out of our own mouths. Gratitude, chivalry, enthusiasm
for the cause of the wronged what are these words in the
mouths of many to - day but words ? they sound well, and
they are very fine so long as they cost nothing; but let ad-
herence to them put property or life in peril, and too many
would cling to the property and the life, and let the others
go. Ye who condemn the inhabitants of Keilah because
they were willing to betray David, how long would you show
gratitude at the risk of the loss of all things ? It was a dis-
grace to them that they would not stand by him who had
delivered them ; but is it any thing less to us, when we allow
our worldly interests to blind us to the obligations under
which we lie to those who befriended us in our time of need ?
Is it any thing less to us when, for the sake of fashion, or
fortune, or fame, we turn our backs upon the Christ, who

6



122 DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL.

has borne the agony of Gethsemane and Calvary on our be-
half? Idolatry of self is as hideous now as it was in David's
time. Let those who are guilty of it, therefore, look here,
and, in the pitiful poltroonery of the men of Keilah, they will



Online LibraryWilliam M. (William Mackergo) TaylorDavid, king of Israel: his life and its lessons → online text (page 9 of 36)