Monthly Archives: February 2014

1 Samuel 20

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1 Samuel 20 

1 Samuel 20 – JONATHAN’S FINAL ATTEMPT TO RECONCILE HIS FATHER AND DAVID

A. David, coming from Naioth, meets Jonathan.

1. (1 Samuel 20:1-4) David asks Jonathan about Saul’s intentions towards him; Jonathan promises his help to David.

Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and went and said to Jonathan, “What have I done? What is my iniquity, and what ismy sin before your father, that he seeks my life?” So Jonathan said to him, “By no means! You shall not die! Indeed, my father will do nothing either great or small without first telling me. And why should my father hide this thing from me? It is not so!” Then David took an oath again, and said, “Your father certainly knows that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said, ‘Do not let Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved.’ But truly, asthe LORD lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death.” So Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you yourself desire, I will do it for you.”

a. Then David fled from Naioth: Why? Why did David leave Naioth? The Spirit of God protected David there in a powerful way. He could have simply stayed there for however long it took Saul to give up or die. Yet David left for a good reason: He wanted to know if Saul’s heart had changed, and if there was still a chance to reconcile with King Saul.

b. When David left, he went to see his close friendJonathan. Jonathan was Saul’s son, and the crown prince of Israel. Everyone thought he would be the next son – everyone except David and Jonathan. Jonathan knew that David was called by God to be the next king, and he was willing to step aside so that he would not be resisting the will of the LORD.

c. What have I done? We should see in this that David is testing Jonathan’s loyalty. Of course, he wants to know what Saul thinks, but even more important to David is to know what Jonathan thinks. In asking, “What have I done?” David wants to know if Jonathan has come to a place of agreement with his father Saul.

d. So Jonathan said to him, “By no means!” This assures David that Jonathan is still his loyal friend, and that Jonathan hasn’t bought into Saul’s lies about David. Jonathan also assures David that he will protect him, by warning David of Saul’s intentions.

i. Why should my father hide this thing from me? It is not so! Apparently, David wondered why Jonathan didn’t tell him about the attempted arrest at Naioth. Jonathan expresses astonishment that his father did not tell him, but assures David of his heart towards him.

ii. Why did Jonathan seem slow to believe that his father still wanted to kill David? “For Jonathan gave credit to his father’s oath, chap. xix. 6; and the worthiest minds are least suspicious and most charitable in their opinions of others.” (Poole)

e. There is but a step between me and death: This reveals David’s discouragement. He knows that Saul has attempted to kill him many times, and it seems that Saul will not quit until David is gone. David feels that his death is inevitable, and that he is walking on a slippery plank over a great canyon.

i. “Poor David found the doing of anything or of nothing dangerous alike; such was the malice of his enemy, who was captain of the devil’s sworn swordmen.” (Trapp)

f. Whatever you yourself desire, I will do it for you: Jonathan continues to reassure David, bringing encouragement to a discouraged man.

i. Jonathan’s approach is to encourage David and to offer help to him. Conceivably, he could have said, “Where is your faith, brother? Why aren’t you just trusting God?” Instead, Jonathan knew David’s heart was pointed in the right direction, and he just offered to help.

2. (1 Samuel 20:5-11) David proposes to test Saul’s attitude.

And David said to Jonathan, “Indeed tomorrow is the New Moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king to eat. But let me go, that I may hide in the field until the third day at evening. If your father misses me at all, then say, ‘David earnestly asked permission of me that he might run over to Bethlehem, his city, for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family.’ If he says thus: ‘It is well,’ your servant will be safe. But if he is very angry, then be sure that evil is determined by him. Therefore you shall deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the LORD with you. Nevertheless, if there is iniquity in me, kill me yourself, for why should you bring me to your father?” But Jonathan said, “Far be it from you! For if I knew certainly that evil was determined by my father to come upon you, then would I not tell you?” Then David said to Jonathan, “Who will tell me, or what if your father answers you roughly?” And Jonathan said to David, “Come, and let us go out into the field.” So both of them went out into the field.

a. If your father misses me: David asks Jonathan to observe Saul’s reaction to David’s absence at an important feast held monthly for the high officials of state. Apparently, Saul hoped that David would be at this feast as expected, and David wondered how Saul would react to his presence. Would he take the opportunity to reconcile with David? Or, would he take the opportunity to kill him?

i. The New Moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king to eat: Special sacrifices were commanded for the new moon (Numbers 28:11-15).

b. If there is iniquity in me: Again, David seems somewhat shaken by the fact that Jonathan did not tell him about the attempted arrest at Naioth. David is asking Jonathan, “Am I in the wrong here? Are you still behind me?” Essentially, David says “If you really are working for your father, and agree with him that I deserve to die, then just kill me right now!”

i. We have to see all of this from David’s perspective. He remembers that Jonathan’s support for him is challenged by the fact that his father is against David. He also remembers that Jonathan’s support for him is challenged by the fact that Jonathan is next in line for the throne, and might perhaps have an interest in being against David.

ii. Jonathan’s response is the same as in 1 Samuel 20:2; he didn’t know that Saul set out to get David in Naioth, though previously to that point, his father would tell him everything.

c. Far be it from you! Jonathan, with encouragement, tells David to put away his doubts about Jonathan’s loyalty. Jonathan senses that David is in a vulnerable place, and he wants to give him encouragement in the midst of it.

d. Who will tell me? David now poses a practical problem. If Saul has determined evil against David, and Jonathan intends to warn him, how will he do it? How will Jonathan get the message to David?

B. Jonathan’s agreement.

1. (1 Samuel 20:12-13) Jonathan vows to find out the state of his father’s heart for David.

Then Jonathan said to David: “The LORD God of Israel is witness! When I have sounded out my father sometime tomorrow, or the third day, and indeed there is good toward David, and I do not send to you and tell you, may the LORD do so and much more to Jonathan. But if it pleases my father to do you evil, then I will report it to you and send you away, that you may go in safety. And the LORD be with you as He has been with my father.

a. When I have sounded out my father: Jonathan will find out his father’s heart, and will report it to David, if say if it is good or bad towards David.

b. And send you away, that you may go in safety: Jonathan knows that if his father Saul intends evil against David, it means that David must go away. He would not be welcome again in the palace, and he would not be safe again at home. By giving David early warning of this, he would help David go in safety.

c. And the LORD will be with you as He has been with my father: Jonathan wants to give David more than a warning. He wants to give him encouragement also. “David, even if you must leave the palace and your home behind, and flee as a fugitive, the LORD will be with you. You can be sure of it.”

i. We almost might think that Jonathan is being sarcastic when he says, “as He has been with my father,” because one might think that the LORD was reallyagainst Saul instead of for him. But Jonathan had enough wisdom in the LORD to know that the LORD was really for Saul, because the LORD was trying to lead Saul to repentance.

ii. In the spiritual relationship between David and Jonathan, sometimes David was stronger spiritually, and sometimes Jonathan was stronger. But there was a bond in the LORD between these men that could not be broken.

2. (1 Samuel 20:14-17) In response, Jonathan makes David commit himself in a covenant.

“And you shall not only show me the kindness of the LORD while I still live, that I may not die; but you shall not cut off your kindness from my house forever, no, not when the LORD has cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.” So Jonathan made a covenantwith the house of David, saying, “Let the LORD require it at the hand of David’s enemies.” Now Jonathan again caused David to vow, because he loved him; for he loved him as he loved his own soul.

a. You shall not cut off your kindness for my house forever: Jonathan was aware of the political dynamic between the family of David and the family of Jonathan. In that day, when one royal house replaced another, it was common for the new royal house to kill all the potential rulers from the old royal house. Jonathan knew that one day, David and his descendants would rule over Israel, and he wants David to promise that David and his descendants will not kill or mistreat the descendants of Jonathan.

b. So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David: Jonathan and David agreed to care for one another. Jonathan agreed to care for David in the face of Saul’s threat, and David agreed to care for Jonathan and his family in the future. David fulfilled this promise to Jonathan (2 Samuel 9:1-8 and 2 Samuel 21:7).

3. (1 Samuel 20:18-23) Jonathan proposes a signal to inform David of Saul’s reaction.

Then Jonathan said to David, “Tomorrow is the New Moon; and you will be missed, because your seat will be empty. And when you have stayed three days, go down quickly and come to the place where you hid on the day of the deed; and remain by the stone Ezel. Then I will shoot three arrows to the side, as though I shot at a target; and there I will send a lad, saying, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I expressly say to him, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you; get them and come’; then, as the LORD lives, there is safety for you and no harm. But if I say thus to the young man, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you’; go your way, for the LORD has sent you away. And as for the matter which you and I have spoken of, indeed the LORD be between you and me forever.”

a. I will shoot three arrows: After Jonathan learns his father’s heart and intention towards David, he will communicate to David through a signal. Jonathan will go out to take target practice, and where he shoots the arrows will tell David the answer.

b. The arrows will bring one of two messages. Either Saul’s heart has changed towards David, and there is safety for you and no harm, or Saul is still determined to kill David, and the LORD has sent you away.

i. This was a crucial time in David’s life. Either he would be welcomed back to the palace and his home, or he would be a fugitive until Saul gave up the hunt for David. A lot was riding on the message brought through a few arrows!

C. Saul’s settled hatred towards David.

1. (1 Samuel 20:24-34) Saul is enraged when he learns of David’s absence.

Then David hid in the field. And when the New Moon had come, the king sat down to eat the feast. Now the king sat on his seat, as at other times, on a seat by the wall. And Jonathan arose, and Abner sat by Saul’s side, but David’s place was empty. Nevertheless Saul did not say anything that day, for he thought, “Something has happened to him; he is unclean, surely he isunclean.” And it happened the next day, the second day of the month, that David’s place was empty. And Saul said to Jonathan his son, “Why has the son of Jesse not come to eat, either yesterday or today?” So Jonathan answered Saul, “David earnestly asked permission of me to goto Bethlehem. And he said, ‘Please let me go, for our family has a sacrifice in the city, and my brother has commanded me to be there. And now, if I have found favor in your eyes, please let me get away and see my brothers.’ Therefore he has not come to the king’s table.” Then Saul’s anger was aroused against Jonathan, and he said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebelliouswoman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, you shall not be established, nor your kingdom. Now therefore, send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.” And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said to him, “Why should he be killed? What has he done?” Then Saul cast a spear at him to kill him, by which Jonathan knew that it was determined by his father to kill David. So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had treated him shamefully.

a. But David’s place was empty: David was expected to be at this special feast of theNew Moon, and so he was conspicuous by his absence. At first, this did not trouble Saul greatly, because he thought, “Something has happened to him; he is unclean, surely he is unclean.” Ceremonial uncleanliness might cause a person to miss a feast such as this, but the ceremonial uncleanliness would only last a day (Leviticus 22:3-7). So, when it happened the next day . . . that David’s place was empty, Saul demanded an explanation.

i. Meyer on the son of Jesse: “Speaking of him derisively as ‘the son of Jesse,’ thus accentuating his lowly birth, and ignoring the relationship that bound him to the royal family.”

b. Jonathan answered Saul, “David earnestly asked permission of me to go to Bethlehem.” Jonathan is covering for David, trying to give Saul a plausible – and truthful – explanation for David’s absence.

i. “It seems probably that he went first to Bethlehem, as he bade Jonathan to tell his father, 1 Samuel 20:6, and thence returned to the field, when the occasion required; else we must charge him with a downright lie, which ought not to be imagined (without any apparent cause) concerning so good a man.” (Poole)

c. Saul’s anger was aroused . . . “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman!”Jonathan knew from this response that Saul’s heart was settled on evil against David. If Saul’s heart was different towards David, he might have been disappointed that he wasn’t there, but he wouldn’t have been furious.

i. Poole on to the shame of your mother’s nakedness: “Men will conclude, that thy mother was a whore, and thou a bastard; and that thou hast no royal blood in thy veins, that canst so tamely give up thy crown to so contemptible a person.”

d. In his anger, Saul accused Jonathan of siding with David (you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame). He tried to encourage Jonathan’s sense of hurt and self-interest against David (as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, you shall not be established, nor your kingdom). He tried to enlist Jonathan’s help in killing David (bring him to me, for he shall surely die).

i. These were “Taunts that were intended to instil into Jonathan’s heart the poison which was working in his own.” (Meyer)

ii. “Thus he grossly mistakes the cause of Jonathan’s loss of the kingdom, which was not David’s art, but Saul’s sin; and vainly endeavours to prevent God’s irrevocable sentence.” (Poole)

e. He shall surely die: Certainly, this was Saul’s intention, despite his previous oath (As the LORD lives, he shall not be killed1 Samuel 19:6). Apparently, Saul believed oaths were for other people, but not for him! Saul lived by what Trapp called “That Machiavellian maxim . . . It is for tradesmen, and not for kings to keep their oaths.” Yet, despite Saul’s intentions, David would not die at the hands of Saul or any other enemy. Man proposes, but God disposes.

f. Jonathan responds by defending not only David, but right in this cause: Why should he be killed? What has he done? Jonathan’s support of David wasn’t a blind support; it was a support based on what was right before the LORD. Jonathan’s support of David enraged Saul, and Saul cast a spear at him to kill him. This shows how deep Saul’s hatred of David is; he will kill his own son for siding with David.

i. “Jonathan made one vain attempt to reason with the furious monarch; he might as well have tried to arrest the swelling of Jordan in the time of flood.” (Meyer)

ii. Jonathan saw this at once; he knew that it was determined by his father to kill David. This made Jonathan very angry, and he refused to continue participating in the feast.

2. (1 Samuel 20:35-40) Jonathan tells David bout Saul’s state of mind through the pre-arranged signal of the arrows.

And so it was, in the morning, that Jonathan went out into the field at the time appointed with David, and a little lad was with him. Then he said to his lad, “Now run, find the arrows which I shoot.” As the lad ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. When the lad had come to the place where the arrow was which Jonathan had shot, Jonathan cried out after the lad and said, “Is not the arrow beyond you?” And Jonathan cried out after the lad, “Make haste, hurry, do not delay!” So Jonathan’s lad gathered up the arrows and came back to his master. But the lad did not know anything. Only Jonathan and David knew of the matter. Then Jonathan gave his weapons to his lad, and said to him, “Go, carry them to the city.”

a. Is not the arrow beyond you? In 1 Samuel 20:21-22, Jonathan and David determined that if the arrows were shot at a shorter distance, then David could know that Saul’s heart was favorable to him. If the arrows were shot further beyond, David could know that Saul’s heart was still hard and he determined to destroy David.

i. It took courage for Jonathan to communicate with David, even secretly – because he knew that if his father became aware of it, he would focus his murderous rage against Jonathan again. There was something noble in Jonathan’s commitment to David as a friend.

ii. “But there is something still nobler – when one dares in any company to avow his loyalty to the Lord Jesus. Like David, he is now in obscurity and disrepute; his name is not popular; his gospel is misrepresented; his followers are subjected to rebuke and scorn. These are days when to stand up for anything more than mere conventional religion must cost something; and for this reason let us never flinch.” (Meyer)

b. A small thing – the signal of a single arrow – told David his whole life was changed. He would no longer be welcome at the palace. He would no longer be welcome among the army of Israel. He would no longer be able to go home. David now knew he would have to live as a fugitive, on the run from an angry, jealous king determined to destroy him.

i. Sometimes our lives can turn on a small thing. One night of carelessness may change a girl’s life forever. One night with the wrong crowd may give a boy an arrest record. It often times does not seem fair that so much in life should turn on small moments, but a lifetime is made of nothing but many small moments!

ii. “You have hoped against hope; you have tried to keep your position; you have done your duty, pleaded your cause, sought the intercession of your friends, prayed, wept, agonized. But it is all in vain; the arrows’ flight proves you must go wither you may.” (Meyer)

3. (1 Samuel 20:41-42) The tearful farewell of David and Jonathan.

As soon as the lad had gone, David arose from a place toward the south, fell on his face to the ground, and bowed down three times. And they kissed one another; and they wept together, but David more so. Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘May the LORD be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever.’“ So he arose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.

a. They wept together: David and Jonathan loved each other, and had a strong bond of friendship. But David couldn’t stay, and Jonathan couldn’t go. They remembered their bond of friendship back in 1 Samuel 18:1-4, when Jonathan gave David his armor and princely robe. It was Jonathan’s way of saying, “David, I recognize that you are God’s choice to be the next king, not me. I’ll lay aside my right to the throne, and help you take it. This armor of a prince, and the robe of a prince, belongs to you now, not me.” Jonathan and David probably envisioned working together, as partners, as friends, both before and after the time David became king. But now all that was gone, so they wept together.

b. But David more so: If Jonathan had reason to weep, David had more so. The pain of being apart was bad enough, but it was worse for David because he was cut off from everything, and destined to live for many years the life of a fugitive.

i. “Behind you is the sunny morning, before you a lowering sky; behind you the blessed enjoyment of friendship, wife, home, royal favor, and popular adulation, before you an outcast’s life.” (Meyer)

c. Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the LORD: Jonathan knew he might never see David again. In fact, David and Jonathan will only meet once more, shortly before Jonathan’s death. But David now left for a life of hiding, secrecy, and danger. But Jonathan could send David away in peace, because they have both have agreed to honor each other not only in life, but to honor each other’s families beyond their own lifetimes.

i. Jonathan might have been threatened by David, but instead he loved him and was loyal to him. Jonathan, with his excellent character before God, served an important role in David’s life. David might have started to think that Saul was rejected simply because he was wicked, and David was chosen simply because he was godly. But if God just wanted a godly man to be king, why not Jonathan? God’s choice of David was a reminder that God has His own reasons for choosing, reasons we can’t always figure out.

d. So he arose and departed: David will not return to “normal life” until Saul is dead and David is king. This is a pretty bleak road for David to walk, but it is God’s road for him.

i. Was David in God’s will? How can anyone set out on such a bleak road and be in the will of God? Because God often has His people spend at least some time on a bleak road, and He appoints some of His favorites to spend a lot of time on that road – think of Job, Joseph, Paul, and even Jesus.

ii. This bleak road is important in David’s life, because if God will put David in a place where people must depend on him, God will teach David to depend upon God alone. Not himself, not Saul, not Jonathan, not anyone except God

iii. This bleak road is important in David’s life, because if David will be safe now and promoted to king later, David must learn to let God be his defense and his promoter.

iv. This bleak road is important in David’s life, because if David is to be set in such a great position of authority, David must learn to submit to God’s authority, even if it is in a man like Saul. David could have decided to challenge Saul’s authority, thinking “I’ll stay around here and gather loyal people away from Saul and to myself. I’ll start a campaign to bring me to the throne.” But David wouldn’t; he would submit to Saul’s authority, trust the Lord, and just leave.”

v. “Let God empty you out that He may save you from becoming spiritually stale, and lead you ever onward. He is always calling us to pass beyond the thing we know into the unknown. A throne is God’s purpose for you; a cross is God’s path for you; faith is God’s plan for you.” (Redpath)

 


 

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1 Samuel Chapter 19

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1 Samuel Chapter 19

Psalm relevant to this chapter: Psalm 59.

 

A. Jonathan defends David before his father Saul.

 

1. (1a) Saul plots the murder of David, attempting to enlist the help of Jonathan and his servants.

 

Now Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David.

 

a. After David killed Goliath, and was honored among the people for this, everything changed in his relationship with Saul. 1 Samuel 18:9 says, So Saul eyed David from that day forward. And since that time, Saul has repeatedly attacked David, with one persistent goal: to eliminate him.

 

i. Twice, Saul tried to kill David by pinning him to the wall with a spear as David played music for Saul (1 Samuel 18:11).

 

ii. Saul offered his oldest daughter Merab to David as a trap, hoping the dowry he would arrange would result in David’s death (1 Samuel 18:17).

 

iii. Saul tried to lead David into the sin of rebellion or treason by suddenly giving Merab to another man when she was promised to David (1 Samuel 18:19).

 

iv. Saul tried to put David in a place where the Philistines would kill him, in demanding a dowry of 100 Philistine foreskins for marriage to his other daughter, Michal (1 Samuel 18:21-25).

 

v. None of this worked, but none of it changed Saul’s heart. 1 Samuel 18:29 says, Saul was still more afraid of David. So Saul became David’s enemy continually.

 

b. Now, Saul persists in his efforts to eliminate David. Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. David was a marked man, and Saul’s staff was instructed to kill him.

 

c. What a difficult place for Jonathan his son! Jonathan loved David, and God had made a wonderful bond of friendship between them, sealed by a covenant (1 Samuel 18:1-4). Jonathan knew that David was destined to be the next king of Israel, even though Jonathan himself was officially the crown prince. At the same time, his father and king tells him to kill David!

 

i. We can see Saul quoting Scripture to Jonathan: “Jonathan, the Bible says Honor your father and mother in Exodus 20:12. I’m your father and your king. You must submit to me as father and king. Go kill David. You are in the perfect place to do it, because he trusts you. God has put you in that place so you can obey me now!” Was Jonathan supposed to submit?

 

d. What a difficult place for the servants of Saul! They all loved David (he was accepted in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants, 1 Samuel 18:5). Yet they are commanded by their king to kill David.

 

i. What of Saul’s servants? Trapp says they were, “Great admirers of David, but now cold friends at best; not one of them speaks for him, and not a few of them are ready to act against him.”

 

e. What a difficult place for David! Who can he trust? Even if he said, “I can trust Jonathan; I know he would never betray me.” Surely, he knows there is at least one sycophant on Saul’s staff who would do whatever Saul said, without regard to right or wrong.

 

2. (1b-3) In loyalty to David, Jonathan warns David.

 

But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted greatly in David. So Jonathan told David, saying, “My father Saul seeks to kill you. Therefore please be on your guard until morning, and stay in a secret placeand hide. “And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak with my father about you. Then what I observe, I will tell you.”

 

a. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David: We can know that Saul, and at least some on Saul’s staff, had criticized David a lot. They looked for any chink in David’s armor they could find. They looked for anything they could to bring against him, and if they could find nothing, they would twist or exaggerate something to make it seem something. You know Jonathan got an earful of this, but it didn’t change his opinion of David. He still delighted much in David.

 

b. So Jonathan told David: This would have made Saul furious, but Jonathan knew he was doing right.

 

i. How could Jonathan justify disobeying his father? Because Saul, his father and king, commanded him to do something that was clearly disobedient to God. This was an easy one, because Jonathan knew the Bible said, You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13). Jonathan didn’t have to spiritualize the meaning of murder, or consider this just a matter of disagreement. The Bible was clear, and Saul was on record as saying that they should kill David (1 Samuel 19:1).

 

ii. We are under authority, and commanded to submit to God’s order of authority in many different arenas. There is a Biblical, commanded submission from children to their parents, from citizens to their government, from employees to their employers, from Christians to their church leadership, and from wives to their husbands. Yet, even in all of those relationships, we are never excused from sin because we obeyed an authority that told us to sin. In this instance, it would have been wrong for Jonathan to obey his father and kill David.

 

iii. This was a case where Jonathan could say what the apostles said when they were told to stop preaching the gospel: We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). But Jonathan also had the heart of the apostles in Acts 5; they were beaten severely, and were willing to take their lumps for what was right before God, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for His name (Acts 5:40-41). Jonathan was willing to take his lumps for his obedience to God, and not whine about it.

 

c. My father Saul seeks to kill you. Therefore please be on your guard until morning, and stay in a secret place and hide: Jonathan did more than refuse to help Saul. He helped David. Jonathan could have said, “Look, I want no part of this. I’m not going to help my father do something I know is wrong. But I won’t try to stop it either. I’ll just be neutral and let God work it out.” But Jonathan didn’t take that attitude.

 

i. Certainly, that is right attitude to take sometimes. The Bible does say that we should aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business (1 Thessalonians 4:11). It is easy to get mixed up in things that are none of our business. But it is also wrong to stay “neutral” when God doesn’t want you to. It took courage for Jonathan to take David’s side in this matter, but he did. We often let others down because we lack the kind of courage Jonathan had.

 

ii. What made Jonathan put himself on David’s side? He delighted much in David. He trusted David, and was behind him all the way. He knew God was with David, so he wanted to be supporting David also.

 

iii. Do you wish someone would stick up for you like this, would love you, and be delighted much in you? Jesus Christ is delighted much in you. Not because of who you are or what you have done, but because He is full of grace and love and you have received it.

 

3. (4-5) In loyalty to David, Jonathan speaks to Saul.

 

Thus Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father, and said to him, “Let not the king sin against his servant, against David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his workshave been very good toward you. For he took his life in his hands and killed the Philistine, and the LORD brought about a great deliverance for all Israel. You saw it and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood, to kill David without a cause?”

 

a. Now Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father: Jonathan did more than secretly help David with information. He spoke well of David to Saul his father. Jonathan let Saul know, “Father you have a certain opinion of David. But I don’t share that opinion. I love and support David. You should also.” That took a lot of courage, but it was the right thing for Jonathan to do.

 

i. It was wonderful for Jonathan to support David secretly, when it was just him and David. That itself was a gift. It was another thing for Jonathan to support David before others, and before those who were against David. But that is what supporting someone is really all about. You can’t measure a person’s support by what they say about you to your face. You measure their support by how they back you when you aren’t around.

 

ii. “Jonathan spake good of David, which he could not do without hazard to himself. Herein therefore he performed the duty of a true friend, and of a valiant man.” (Poole)

 

b. Let not the king sin against his servant: Jonathan was bold enough to tell his father that his anger and jealousy against David was sin, and to say, “he has not sinned against you.” Saul felt that David had sinned against him in some manner and he felt righteous in his cause. But Jonathan delivers a needed word of correction.

 

c. For he took his life in his hands and killed the Philistine, and the LORD brought about a great salvation for all Israel: Why did Jonathan remind Saul of these events? It wasn’t because Saul had forgotten them. It was because Saul “spun” these events with a meaning that justified his jealous desire to murder David.

 

i. Saul knew that David killed the Philistine. But Saul could not believe that David did it for a righteous reason. In his mind, he thought “David did it just to become famous and to take my throne. He’s a grasping traitor. I’m justified in killing him, because I have to kill him before he kills me!”

 

ii. Jonathan is trying to bring Saul back to reality. He reminds his father: “You saw it and rejoiced.” “When David first killed Goliath, you rejoiced just like everyone. Now Satan has filled your mind with envy and jealousy. Go back to how it first was in your mind.”

 

d. Why then will you sin against innocent blood, to kill David without a cause? Again, in Saul’s mind, there was a cause. In Saul’s mind, David was not innocent. But the truth was that he was innocent, and there was no cause to kill him. Jonathan is calling Saul back to this reality.

 

4. (6-7) The reconciliation between Saul and David.

 

So Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan, and Saul swore, “As the LORD lives, he shall not be killed.” Then Jonathan called David, and Jonathan told him all these things. So Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as in times past.

 

a. So Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan: This took real humility for Saul. It would have been easy to say, “I’m the king and I’m right. I don’t care what you say.” But in this case, Saul heeded the voice of Jonathan.

 

b. Saul swore, “As the LORD lives, he shall not be killed.” This shows that the LORD had genuinely touched Saul’s heart. God used Jonathan, but it wasn’t the work of Jonathan. It was the work of the LORD, and Saul recognized by declaring this oath.

 

i. Knowing the end of the story, this seems like a pretty hollow promise. But Saul was more accurate than he perhaps knew. It was totally true that as the LORD lives, he shall not be killed. But that was no credit to Saul, who kept trying to kill David!

 

ii. “And it is very likely Saul now spake as he thought. But if good thoughts look at any time into a wicked heart, they stay not there, as those that like not their lodging. The flashes of lightning may be discerned in the darkest prisons, but they are soon gone thence again: so here.” (Trapp)

 

c. So Jonathan brought David to Saul and he was in his presence as in times past: It seems to have all worked! The command to kill David is revoked. Saul and David are together again as in the “good old days.”

 

5. (8-10) David escapes another attempt on His life.

 

And there was war again; and David went out and fought with the Philistines, and struck them with a mighty blow, and they fled from him. Now the distressing spirit from the LORD came upon Saul as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand. And David was playing music with his hand. Then Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away from Saul’s presence; and he drove the spear into the wall. So David fled and escaped that night.

 

a. And there was war again: In context, this speaks of more war between Israel and the Philistines. But it was also true spiritually. At the end of 1 Samuel 19:7, there was a truce in the spiritual war involving David and Saul. But whenever we are at a time of cease-fire in the spiritual war, we know the battle will begin again before long. It can always be said of our lives, and there was war again.

 

b. David went out and fought with the Philistines, and struck them with a mighty blow, and they fled from him: Spiritually, these are warning clouds of a coming storm. It was David’s success that aroused Saul’s jealousy before. When David was successful again, surely Saul would be tempted to jealousy again. What would Saul do with that temptation?

 

c. Now the distressing spirit from the LORD came upon Saul: Evil spirits were more than ready to attack Saul where he was most vulnerable. The attack was on the way; what would Saul do with this spiritual attack?

 

d. Saul . . . sat in his house with his spear in his hand: Saul is in a bad place. He is tempted and spiritually attacked, and now he has put himself in a potentially sinful situation. David was playing music with his hand, but Saul knew spears much better than music that praised God.

 

e. Then Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear: Here we go again! What happened to Saul’s change of heart? What happened to his oath that David would not be killed? All of that was thrown away as easily as the spear was thrown. But it didn’t “just happen.” Saul was unprepared to handle temptation, unprepared to handle spiritual attack, and had the opportunity to sin close at hand. Most people will trip up under those circumstances!

 

f. But he slipped away from Saul’s presence; and he drove the spear into the wall. David was gone, but the spear remained. The thing Saul didn’tneed – the spear – was left. The one Saul really did need – David – was gone. Saul was a loser on both counts.

 

i. Remember 1 Samuel 19:8: And there was war again. Saul lost the war, and lost it completely. But David won the war when he slipped away from Saul’s presence. Saul has just made another determined effort to kill him, and David could have returned the spear with fury. But David said what he said before: “LORD, you put that man on the throne. If he is going to be removed, You are going to have to do it, because I won’t.”

 

h. So David fled and escaped that night: David never returned to the palace until he was king of Israel – some 20 years later! From now until the day Saul dies and David is crowned, David lives his life as a fugitive.

 

i. David was probably scared, angry, and hurt when he left the palace. “LORD, I thought you would protect me. How could I have been so stupid? Where was Jonathan when I needed him? I should have killed Saul. I can’t believe I passed up the chance.” But if David thought any of those things, he did not cling to them.

 

ii. How could God allow this? It seems so unfair. It was unfair, from a human level. But God needed to make David into a man of God, so He allowed it. Saul meant it for evil, but the LORD meant it for good. God is big enough to work all things together for good in your life also.

 

B. David flees from Saul.

 

1. (11-12) David escapes with the help from his wife Michal.

 

Saul also sent messengers to David’s house to watch him and to kill him in the morning. And Michal, David’s wife, told him, saying, “If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” So Michal let David down through a window. And he went and fled and escaped.

 

a. Previously, Saul swore, “As the LORD lives, he shall not be killed.” (1 Samuel 19:6). Now, for the second time, Saul goes back on that oath. He now sends “hit men” to David’s house to watch him and to kill him.

 

b. But Michal, David’s wife saves the day. Michal was Saul’s daughter, so this was a conflict of loyalties for Michal. Should she act in her father’s interests or in her husband’s interests? Here, she makes the right choice and supports her husband David.

 

i. Michal is acting according to the principle of Genesis 2:24:Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Though the Genesis passage speaks specifically of the husband, it expresses a principle that applies to both partners in a marriage: that the former family loyalties and obligations take a back seat to the loyalty and obligation to the new family.

 

c. Michal helped by warning David. She perhaps saw the “hit men” coming before he did, and she also knew the character of her father better than David did. Michal was probably less surprised than David was to find “hit men” from Saul against him.

 

i. David did well to receive this warning from his wife. Sometimes men are so hard headed and so hard hearted that they never hear how God might warn them through their wives. If David would have ignored this warning because he didn’t like the source, he might have ended up dead.

 

ii. At the same time, Michal spoke to David wisely: If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed. She might have said, “David here’s the problem let me tell you what to do.” She might have said, “David I am here to save your life. Let me tell you what to do.” Instead, she simply told David, “This is what I see. Now it is up to you. I’m not going to try to save your life, but the way I see it, if you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.”

 

d. Michal helped by letting David down through a window. As David decided on a course of action, she was there to support and help him put it into practice. Michal’s help was successful, because David fled and escaped.

 

e. During this night, when men watched his house and David escaped, he composed a song unto the LORD, found in Psalm 59. The introduction of that Psalm says, when Saul sent men, and they watched the house in order to kill him.

 

i. In Psalm 59, David takes his case before God: Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; defend me from those rise up against me.(Psalm 59:1)

 

ii. In Psalm 59, David describes his attackers: They lie in wait for my life . . . they growl like a dog . . . they belch out with their mouth; swords are their lips. (Psalm 59:3, 6-7)

 

iii. In Psalm 59, David declares his innocence: Not for my transgression nor for my sin, O LORD. They run and prepare themselves through no fault of mine. (Psalm 59:3-4)

 

iv. In Psalm 59, David expresses his trust in God: You, O LORD, shall laugh at them . . . my merciful God shall come to meet me.(Psalm 59:8, 10)

 

v. In Psalm 59, David ends with triumphant confidence in God: But I will sing of Your power; yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; for You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble. To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; for God is my defense, My God of mercy. (Psalm 59:16-17)

 

vi. It shows a man or a woman after God’s own heart to sing unto the LORD at a time like this time in David’s life!

 

2. (13-17) Michal deceives the men who came to kill David.

 

And Michal took an image and laid it in the bed, put a cover of goats’ hair for his head, and covered it with clothes. So when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, “He is sick.” Then Saul sent the messengers back to see David, saying, “Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.” And when the messengers had come in, there was the image in the bed, with a cover of goats’hair for his head. Then Saul said to Michal, “Why have you deceived me like this, and sent my enemy away, so that he has escaped?” And Michal answered Saul, “He said to me, ‘Let me go! Why should I kill you?'”

 

a. Michal took an image: The image was a teraphim, a figurine used as a household idol, or as a fertility and good luck charm. In ancient Israel,teraphim were intended as helps in worshipping the true God. They didn’t think of the teraphim as other gods, but as representing the LORD God of Israel.

 

i. Rachel, the wife of Jacob, also had teraphim (called household idols in Genesis 31:19). The would-be priest Micah used household idols in his corrupt worship of God (Judges 17:5). In 1 Samuel 15:23, when Samuel said to Saul, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry,” the wordidolatry is the word teraphim. In the godly reforms of Josiah, he prohibited the use of household idols (1 Kings 23:24).

 

ii. Clearly, God’s people had no business having or using an image like this. We can’t imagine that this image, this household idol, belonged to David; so it shows that Michal’s didn’t have the kind of relationship with God she should have. And, this weak relationship with God will show up in Michal as the story of David’s life unfolds (2 Samuel 6:16-23). “When we read of these images we are not surprised by the defects of character which we see in Michal.” (Balikie)

 

iii. Saul probably knew something of this character of his daughter Michal, and that is one reason why he gave her to David as wife: I will give her to him, that she may be a snare to him (1 Samuel 18:21).

 

b. Saul doesn’t seem to be taken in by his daughter’s deception. She said David was sick, but Saul said “Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.” This also shows something of the depth of hatred Saul had for David, because he wanted to deliver the death-blow himself (bring him up to me . . . that I may kill him).

 

c. He said to me, “Let me go! Why should I kill you?” Michal was faithful to David with her actions, but not with her words. She told Saul that David had threatened to kill her, and that is why she let him escape.

 

i. Michal said this to protect herself. Perhaps she felt that she had to paint herself as the victim so that her father wouldn’t kill her also. If this is the case, it is hard to be judgmental towards Michal; she has just seen her husband escape as a fugitive, she doesn’t know if he will live or die or when she will see him again, and she may fear for her own life. At the same time, it is hard to honor Michal as she protects herself by lying about her husband, and painting him as a man who would cold-bloodedly murder his wife.

 

ii. It may be that Michal, from beginning to end, acted in her self-interest. She helped David because she wanted to do something against her father. When Saul asked “Why have you deceived me like this?” she might have honestly replied, “Because I was looking for an occasion to stick it to you, Dad!” Knowing Saul’s weak character and relationship with the LORD, it wouldn’t surprise us to have such a messed-up family. But when it came down to it, she picked defending herself instead of supporting her husband.

 

d. My enemy: These are the saddest words in this passage. Saul, when describing David, calls him my enemy. David was really Saul’s friend, and David had done more to help Saul than just about anyone else. David was only the enemy of Saul because Saul wanted to see him that way.

 

C. David, pursued by Saul, flees to Naioth.

 

1. (18) David visits Samuel at Ramah.

 

So David fled and escaped, and went to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and stayed in Naioth.

 

a. Went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him: David did the right thing when in a difficult and confusing situation. He spent some time with a godly man. We can imagine David pouring out his heart to the prophet: “Samuel, you anointed me king, and look at what is happening! I guess it isn’t time yet, but why is it so hard? Does God want me dead? Why is the LORD allowing this?”

 

b. Stayed in Naioth: The word Naioth comes from the Hebrew word forresidence. This may be speaking of Samuel’s home (which may have had “Naioth” title itself), or it may have been some landmark or specific place in Ramah. Whenever Naioth is mentioned, it is associated with Ramah.

 

2. (19-21) Saul sends messengers to capture David, but they are touched by the Holy Spirit and prophesy in the presence of Samuel and other prophets.

 

Now it was told Saul, saying, “Take note, David is at Naioth in Ramah!” Then Saul sent messengers to take David. And when they saw the group of prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing asleader over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. And when Saul was told, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. Then Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also.

 

a. Saul sent messengers to take David: Saul is wicked, but persistent. We can never admire the devil’s work, but we can admire the devil’s work ethic.

 

b. When they saw the group of prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as leader over them: When the messengers of Saul came to capture David, they came in the middle of a worship meeting. Samuel and his “students” (the group of prophets) were waiting on the LORD, worshipping Him, speaking to the LORD and hearing from Him.

 

i. When it says that they were all prophesying, it isn’t that they were all predicting the future. The Hebrew word simply has the idea of speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They were probably all giving spontaneous and inspired praise to God.

 

c. The Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied: They were caught up in the atmosphere of worship and devotion to God, and the Spirit of God came upon them.

 

i. Why did the Holy Spirit do this? These were not men who were seeking diligently after God, longing to be filled with the Spirit. Then why did the Holy Spirit come upon them? First, because God was protecting David, and this was His way of “disarming” those who came to capture David. We can just imagine the messengers coming, and seeing David with Samuel the prophet and all the other students of Samuel. They are having a worship meeting, and God’s Spirit is wonderfully poured out. The messengers thought, “This will be easy! Look at how defenseless David is! Look at how distracted he is! And none of these prophets can stop us!” But the Spirit of the LORD had other plans, and protected David. The Holy Spirit knows how to protect us! The safest place for us to be in the whole world is walking in the Spirit.

 

ii. Second, this was the Holy Spirit’s warning to these men and to Saul. It is as if the Spirit said “I don’t want David captured. I am sending these men home empty handed. Instead of seeking to kill David, you should seek to be filled with the Spirit of God.”

 

d. He sent other messengers: When the first messengers returned home empty handed and reported to Saul what happened, Saul didn’t get the message. So, he sent other messengers, but the same thing happened: they prophesied likewise. Saul still didn’t get the message, so he sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also.

 

i. How long until Saul listens to the Holy Spirit? Three sets of messengers come back, and God says the same thing each time through them.

 

3. (22-24) Saul pursues David himself, but he also prophesies in the presence of Samuel and the prophets.

 

Then he also went to Ramah, and came to the great well that is at Sechu. So he asked, and said, “Where are Samuel and David?” And someone said, “Indeed they are at Naioth in Ramah.” So he went there to Naioth in Ramah. Then the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on and prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he also stripped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

 

a. Then he also went to Ramah: Three times, the Holy Spirit said to Saul, “Leave David alone. My Spirit is stronger than you are. You will never win this battle against Me and against David.” But Saul didn’t listen. Instead, to an even greater degree, Saul took matters into his own hands: he also went to Ramah.

 

b. Then the Spirit of God was upon him also: Why did the Holy Spirit come upon Saul? For the same reasons He came upon the messengers Saul sent to capture David. First, to prevent David’s capture. Second, to tell Saul, “Hands off My servant David. I am in charge here.”

 

i. There may have been an additional message to Saul in this: “Saul, you are prophesying now, speaking beautiful words of praise and wonder to Me. This is how I could work in you all the time if you were humble and willing.”

 

c. He also stripped off his clothes and prophesied: The Spirit prompted Saul to do this as an expression of deep humility. Saul would not humble himself before God, and so God will find a way to humble him.

 

i. It is unlikely – though possible – that Saul stripped himself bare. The Hebrew word for naked can mean that a person has just stripped themselves down to their undergarments. Probably, Saul took off all of his royal robes that said “prestige” and “royalty,” and laid himself out before the LORD in his plain linen undergarments. It was a way for the LORD to say, “You really aren’t a king any more, Saul. I’ve stripped you of your royal glory.”

 

ii. Does this seem extreme? It is always extreme when God humbles us. That’s why God counsels us to humble ourselvesinstead of “making” Him do it: Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. (1 Peter 5:6)

 

iii. God showed much grace to Saul by putting him in a place where it would be easy to repent, easy to return to the LORD, and easy to stop his backsliding. He was right there! The LORD could not have made it any easier! Yet Saul still had to make a choice to surrender to the power of God.

 

iv. A person can be affected by the power of God (resulting in amazing experiences), but not surrendered to the power of God, which results in a change of life.

 

d. Is Saul also among the prophets? This phrase was first mentioned in 1 Samuel 10:10-12, and it expressed astonishment that someone had become a religious fanatic. As some used to say of someone who was not a religious person who became very religious, “He got religion?” Saul was an unspiritual man who became very spiritual at the time when the Spirit of the LORD came upon him.

 

e. The chapter ends with Saul’s plan completely frustrated. When David first came to Samuel, he probably thought he was really vulnerable there. “Samuel, Saul is after me! I need a sword! I need protection! I need soldiers! I need a guard!” The old prophet could have told David, “What you really need to do is worship the LORD and wait on Him. Let’s have a prayer meeting!” And David was indeed safe waiting on the LORD and worshipping Him.

 

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1 Samuel Chapter 18

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1 Samuel Chapter 18

A. David, Jonathan, and Saul.

1. (1-4) The friendship between David and Jonathan.

Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.

 

a. When he had finished speaking to Saul: When David finished the “after-killing-Goliath” conversation with Saul, his fame and renown in Israel was assured. He had performed a remarkably heroic deed, and was initially received by the leadership of Israel.

 

b. The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul: We have met Jonathan, the son of Saul, before in 1 Samuel. He is the remarkably brave man of faith who initiated a one-man war against the Philistines (1 Samuel 14).

 

i. Jonathan was a lot like David. They were approximately the same age, though Jonathan was probably at least five years older. They both were bold, they both were men of great trust in God, and they both were men of action. Most of all, they both were men who had a real relationship with God.

 

ii. At the same time, Jonathan and David were different. Jonathan was the first-born son of a king (1 Chronicles 9:39), and David was the last-born son of a farmer. This made Jonathan more than aprince, he was the crown prince. Jonathan would, by everyone’s expectation, be the next king of Israel.

 

c. What was it that knit their souls together? Notice that it happenedafter David had finished speaking to Saul. Jonathan heard David give an extended explanation of his heart, his faith in the living God, and Jonathan knew that he and David had the same heart. They could not be such close friends until Jonathan knew that about David.

 

i. Most people long for true, deep friendships, but give little heed to how they select their friends. Jonathan chose David for a friend because his words to Saul revealed David’s heart – and it was heart full of love, and trust, and joy in God. Probably, at that moment he heard David speaking to his father King Saul, God spoke to Jonathan’s heart and said, “This one will be the next king of Israel.”

 

ii. “No doubt but David spake much more than is here expressed, abasing himself, and exalting God, as sole Author of the victory over Goliath.” (Trapp)

 

iii. The way most people think, Jonathan was the one who had the most to fear from David’s success. Yet he loved David, because what they had in common – a real relationship with the LORD God – was bigger than any difference.

 

d. Saul took him that day: David would never again be “just” a shepherd. David still had a shepherd’s heart, but never again would heonly be a shepherd.

 

e. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant: Jonathan, by all human expectation, would be the next king. David was anointed by the LORD, through the prophet Samuel, to be the next king. Yet they made a covenant of friendship that would prove stronger than jealousy, stronger than envy, stronger than ambition.

 

i. Trapp on made a covenant: “Hebrew, Cut a covenant; for the covenanters first sware, and then cut a beast in twain, passing between the parts thereof, and wishing so to be cut in pieces if ever they falsified.”

 

f. Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt: When Jonathan gave David the robe and his armor, he said, “You will be the next king of Israel. You should be dressed and armed as the crown prince. God’s hand is one you, and these rightfully belong to you.” Because Jonathan surrendered to God, he could see the hand of the LORD upon David. He knew David’s destiny, and was perfectly willing to set aside his ambition to honor the LORD’s choice.

 

i. “In our political world, where power plays such an important role, what would be thought of a prince who voluntarily renounced his throne in favour of a friend whose character and godly faith he admired?” (Baldwin)

 

g. For his part, David received the robe and Jonathan’s armor. But he did not then say or think, “Good Jonathan. We all see who is boss around here. Now get out of my way because I’m going to replace your father as soon as I can.” It would be some 20 years until David took the throne of Israel and replaced Saul. If Jonathan was ready to recognize David as God’s choice for the next king, David was willing to let God put him on the throne, and in God’s timing. Both of these men were thoroughly submitted to the LORD!

 

i. David couldn’t receive Saul’s armor. It didn’t fit him physically, but more importantly it didn’t fit him spiritually. He and Saul lived for, and were trusting in, different things. But David could receive Jonathan’s armor, not only because they were more similar in size. More importantly, they shared the same soul. They both loved God, and lived more Him and for others more than themselves. David and Jonathan both knew that if the circumstances were reversed, David would do the exact same thing for Jonathan – because they had the same soul.

 

ii. If the issue of “who will be the next king?” were not settled in the hearts of Jonathan and David, they could never have had this kind of close love and friendship. They loved each other more than the throne of Israel, because they loved the LORD more than the throne of Israel.

 

h. The story of Jonathan and David shows many enduring principles about real love, love on a human level, and love between God and us.

 

i. Real love wants a commitment, and commitment will show itself in a covenant.

 

ii. Real love will not hide its covenant or commitment.

 

iii. Real love will give and receive gifts.

 

iv. Real love will clothe the poor with the robes of royalty.

 

v. Real love will give armor to fight with.

 

i. Some people read a homosexual relationship into the love between David and Jonathan. They suppose that two men can not love each other without it being what the Bible clearly says is immoral. But the relationship between David and Jonathan shows that the Bible doesn’t condemn real love between men, only a sexual relationship between men.

2. (5-9) Saul’s jealousy of David.

So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely. And Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants. Now it had happened as they were coming home, when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments. So the women sang as they danced, and said: “Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.” Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” So Saul eyed David from that day forward.

 

a. David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely: David was fully submitted to Saul, and sought to serve Saul wisely in every way. David knew the way to be blessed was to work hard to be a blessing to his boss, King Saul. He would not undercut Saul’s position or authority in any way.

 

i. Where did Saul send David? Saul set him over the men of war. This is a remarkable promotion – a man not older than his young twenties is now a “general” in the army of Israel.

 

b. He was accepted in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants: David quickly becomes popular, both among the people and among the leaders (Saul’s servants). This was not because David was a yes-man-people-pleaser-sycophant kind of man. David did notseek this popularity at all, and certainly did not depend on any of those carnal tools. David became popular because he was a man after God’s own heart and people could see the love, the wisdom, and the peace of God in him.

 

i. We might imagine that Saul’s initial reaction was positive. “Good,” he thought. “My new assistant is well received. Everyone will think I made a brilliant choice in bringing him on staff. This is working out well.”

 

c. But David had just begun to be popular. When the people of Israel started singing, Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands, both David and Saul knew David was more popular than Saul was.

 

i. When women sing and dance in your honor, you are popular. When it happens in all the cities of Israel, you are popular. This song was the number one hit in Israel!

 

d. How did David react to this sudden popularity? He received it well, because 1 Samuel 18:14 says of this period in David’s life, And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the LORD was with him. In this environment of praise and popularity, David behaved wisely in all his ways.

 

i. When you are praised and popular, it isn’t wise to let it go to your head. David was no doubt happy to hear these affirming words, but he didn’t let it dominate his thinking or change his opinion of himself. He kept the heart and the mind of a shepherd, even in a season of great success.

 

ii. This wasn’t easy. This was a test, one that the devil wanted to use to bring David down, and one that the LORD wanted to use to build David up. David never received this kind of affirmation when he was keeping the sheep. The sheep never danced and sang a song praising him! Now David faces the challenge of success. Many people who could handle adversity well enough fall under the challenge of success.

 

iii. But because David could be so content, and so happy before the LORD in keeping sheep with no praise or popularity, it put his heart in the right place to handle it when he received praise and popularity. Out in the shepherd’s field, David had his heart set: “I’m doing this for the LORD. I love the LORD, and my reward is from Him.” Because his heart was right in the shepherd’s field, Davidbehaved wisely in all his ways when praise and popularity came.

 

iv. We also see this by David’s reaction to the scorn and criticism from his brother Eliab (1 Samuel 17:28-30). When Eliab gave David the opposite of scorn and criticism, David didn’t like it, but it didn’t crush him. It didn’t deter him. Most people are corrupted by praise and popularity to the same degree they are crushed by scorn and criticism. Because of what God built in him out in the shepherd’s field, David could live his life more for the LORD than for people. It wasn’t that David didn’t care about people or what they thought, but he could put the opinion of man in the right perspective because he cared more about the opinion of God.

 

e. Then Saul was very angry: Knowing his character, we are not surprised by Saul’s reaction. Saul did not have a right relationship, or a close relationship, with the LORD. All he had to affirm his heart was the praise of man, so when David was more praised than he, it really bothered Saul.

 

i. It is a bad sign in a leader when they resent or feel threatened by the success of one of their subordinates. It is a certain sign of weakness in that leader.

 

ii. Now what more can he have but the kingdom? This is a typical kind of over-reaction seen in the proud and insecure. Saul could have thought, “David has done well, and he has his glory today. I’ll keep serving the LORD and I’ll have this kind of praise and popularity another day.” Instead, he over-reacts, and says “Now what more can he have but the kingdom?”

 

iii. However, there is another dynamic at work in Saul: a guilty conscience. He remembered the prophet Samuel told him, “The LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” Saul knew his sin had disqualified him from being king, and he was hanging on to the throne in the energy of his flesh. An honorable man would have stepped down, but if Saul were an honorable man, he wouldn’t be in this mess! Instead, Saul constantly worried, “When will God cast me off the throne? Who will He raise up to replace me?” This insecurity, borne of guilt, also made Saul over-react to the praise and popularity given to David.

 

iv. And what an over-reaction! The crowds did praise Saul. They didsing, “Saul has slain his thousands.” What’s wrong with that? Isn’t it enough to slay thousands? For Saul, it wasn’t enough as long as someone else was slaying his ten thousands.

 

v. In fact, Saul should have been grateful! Saul was treated betterthan he deserved, and he still resented it! He was angry “without cause: for as Chrysostom observeth, the women ascribed to Saul more than he deserved, – for he suffered the Philistine to vaunt himself forty days together, and yet cowardly sat still.” (Trapp)

 

f. So Saul eyed David from that day forward: Now Saul’s mind is filled with suspicion towards David. He will begin to hear most everything David says with suspicious ears. He will look at most all David’s actions with suspicious eyes. His thoughts about David will be twisted by suspicion.

 

i. “He gave way to that devilish vice of envy, which was henceforth as a fire in his bosom, as a worm continually gnawing upon his entrails . . . He looked upon him with an evil eye: prying into all his actions, and making the worst of everything.” (Trapp)

 

ii. “Among the most terrible of human sins is jealousy – the parent of the darkest and blackest crimes that have disgraced the annals of our race.” (Meyer)

 

iii. We can know that when a person in power has this mind and this heart against a person like David, it is going to be hard for David. But God will use it! God wasn’t on vacation when all this was going on in Saul’s mind. God had the power to either change Saul’s mind, or take him out of the way. But God allowed it all to do a special work in David and to accomplish His eternal purpose. We want to say to David, “Look out! Danger ahead! But trust in God, because He is still in control.”

 

B. Saul’s first attempt to kill David.

1. (10) The scene in Saul’s royal court.

And it happened on the next day that the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied inside the house. So David played music with his hand, as at other times; but there wasa spear in Saul’s hand.

 

a. And it happened on the next day: Saul had a suspicious heart towards David, and his suspicious heart lays the foundation for this attempt to kill David’s.

 

b. The distressing spirit from God came upon Saul: This distressing spirit was first mentioned in 1 Samuel 16:14. It came upon Saul, permitted by the LORD, when the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul (1 Samuel 16:14). David was brought into Saul’s royal court to play music, so that Saul would be ministered to and soothed when suffering from the distressing spirit.

 

c. And he prophesied inside the house: Why would a distressing spirit make Saul prophesy? Saul wasn’t speaking from the LORD at all, and prophesied is a bad translation here. The Hebrew grammar used here can be used of idle ravings as well as of prophecy from the LORD. Saul was simply babbling like a man not in his right mind.

 

i. “He was beside himself; made prayerssupplications, and incoherent imprecations: ‘God preserve my life,’ ‘Destroy my enemies,’ or such like prayers, might frequently escape from him in his agitated state. The Arabic intimates that he was actually possessed by an evil spirit, and tht through it he uttered a sort of demoniacal predictions.” (Clarke)

 

d. So David played music with his hand: The same hands that had killed Goliath, and carried the trophy of his severed head, were now sweetly playing music unto the LORD, ministering to a king troubled by a distressing spirit!

 

i. David obviously had skillful hands, both in war and in music ministry. But what a humble heart David has! Most men, after the fame that came to David, would consider this kind of service “beneath” them. David was a general in the army, famous in all Israel, and had women dancing and singing his praises. Yet he will perform this job of personally ministering to Saul in music.

 

e. But there was a spear in Saul’s hand: David held a harp, and played music with his hand. But there was violence in Saul’s hand. He held a spear. What a contrast between David and Saul!

2. (11) Saul throws a spear at David.

And Saul cast the spear, for he said, “I will pin David to the wall!” But David escaped his presence twice.

 

a. And Saul cast the spear: If a spear is in your hand, you’ll probably use it! As Saul held that spear, the distressing spirit moved upon him, and instead of receiving ministry from David’s music, the distressing spirit prompted Saul to strike out at David.

 

i. We must say that the distressing spirit did not “make” Saul do this. But the spirit prompted it. Saul was able to choose, “Will I do this or not?” and he chose to cast the spear.

 

ii. This same music ministry once soothed Saul, and made himrefreshed and well, giving him relief from the distressing spirit (1 Samuel 16:23). Now, it is of no effect at all, and Saul even responds to David’s music ministry with a murder attempt! What has changed? Was it David’s music, or David’s heart? No, it was Saul. Saul refused to receive from David’s ministry, and that refusal set the stage for this kind of violence.

 

b. For he said, “I will pin David to the wall with it.” This wasn’t an accident. As we will see, there’s little doubt that Saul wanted it to seem like an accident. Though he wouldn’t admit it, his heart was set on finishing off David. He didn’t want to just frighten David, or wound David. When you want to pin David to the wall, you want the spear to deliver a fatal blow, completely through the body.

 

c. But David escaped his presence: Saul threw the spear, and it missed David. Perhaps Saul’s aim was bad, affected by his poor mental and emotional state. Perhaps David saw the spear and ducked. Perhaps God simply supernaturally guided the spear to miss. However it happened, the spear missed and lay on the floor. And what did David do? David escaped his presence.

 

i. Of most of us, it would be written, “And so-and-so picked the spear up off the floor, went over to Saul, and said, ‘If Goliath couldn’t scare me, you sure can’t. If Goliath couldn’t kill me, you sure can’t.’ And with one thrust of the spear, so-and-so pinned Saul to the wall.”

 

ii. But David didn’t pick up the spear. He didn’t throw it back. He simply escaped his presence. No one could blame David if he struck back; it could easily be called self-defense. But David had a different heart. It wasn’t a matter of what he could get away with, but it was a matter of what God’s heart wanted. David was determined to leave the situation in God’s hands, and not take the throne himself. God would have to take care of Saul, because David wouldn’t do it!

 

iii. Why? Was it because David lacked courage? No, he demonstrated his courage in the battle against Goliath. You can bet that if almost anyone else had thrown a spear at David, he would have picked it up and killed the man who tried to kill him. But David knew the principle of Romans 13:1 before it was ever written: Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. David said, “LORD, you put Saul on the throne. And I know I’m supposed to the be next king, because You have given me Your promise and Your anointing. But getting Saul out of the way is Your business. I won’t touch it, because he is an authority appointed by You. You started his reign, so You have to end it.”

 

iv. Let Saul act in the flesh. Let Saul take matters into his own hands. Let Saul throw spears. David will have none of it. David will trust the LORD. In doing so, David will not only dodge the spear that could end his life. David will also dodge the spear that could ruin hissoul. When one is pinned to the wall with a physical spear, blood pours out and you die. When one is pinned to the wall with an intangible spear, bitterness pours out and you die. David dodged both kinds of spears.

 

v. Gene Edwards, in his wonderful book Tale of Three Kings, says that David understood something that few of even the wisest men in David’s day understood, and even fewer today. David understood that “God did not have, but wanted very much to have, men who would live in pain. God wanted a broken vessel.”

 

d. But David escaped his presence twice: Perhaps the most remarkable word in this chapter is twice. This means that Saul threw the spear twice. This means that Saul missed twice. This means that after the first miss, David came back and played again!

 

i. This is where many of us will draw the line. “Look, I’ll sit with the bulls-eye on my chest once, and I’ll dodge the spear. I’ll even leave the spear on floor and resist the temptation to throw it back. But one spear whizzing by my head is enough. One miss and I’ve paid my dues. Once is submission to the LORD. Twice is stupidity!”

 

ii. We might even say that David’s submission didn’t even begin until he sat back down to play for Saul again after the first attempt on his life. Now he knew the danger, now he knew Saul’s heart, andnow he had to trust God.

 

iii. What was at stake? What would have happened if David had struck back after resisting that temptation the first time? We can suppose that David still would have become king. We can suppose that we still would be admiring David’s heart in not throwing the spear back the first time, and we would have understood how he struck back the second time. But if David would have done this, he would have surrendered his destiny to be the greatest king of Israel.He still would be a king, but not the king the LORD destined him to be.

 

iv. “In doing this small feat of returning thrown spears, you will prove many things. You are courageous. You stand for the right. You boldly stand against the wrong. You are tough and can’t be pushed around. You will not stand for injustice or unfair treatment. You are the defender of the faith, the keeper of the flame, detector of all heresy. You will not be wronged. All of these attributes then combine to prove that you are also obviously a candidate for kingship. Yes, perhaps you are the Lord’s anointed. After the order of King Saul.” (Gene Edwards, Tale of Three Kings)

3. (12-16) David is transferred from the palace to the army.

Now Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him, but had departed from Saul. Therefore Saul removed him from his presence, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the LORD was with him. Therefore, when Saul saw that he behaved very wisely, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them.

 

a. Now Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him: Saul had the spear, but because David would not pick the spear up off the floor, David had the LORD. Saul knew he was outmatched. All the spears in the world couldn’t defeat David, because the LORD was with him. Somehow, Saul knew all this, and it made Saul afraid of David.

 

i. By all outward appearance, Saul is in control. Saul has the throne. Saul has the army. Saul has the spears. Yet Saul was afraid of David because the LORD was with him.

 

b. But it wasn’t only that the LORD was with David. It was also that the LORD had departed from Saul. This made Saul uncomfortable with David, and made it hard for Saul to have David around (Therefore Saul removed him from his presence).

 

c. In all this, Saul made him his captain. Here is your promotion, David! But Saul’s desire was not to bless David, but to set him up for harm. Saul’s jealousy has made him manipulative, working a hidden, secret agenda on David.

 

i. “This was under pretence of doing him honour, when it was in effect only to rid himself of the object of his envy.” (Clarke)

 

ii. “This seeming preferment was indeed a persecution; for hereby David, being valorous and venturous, was exposed to no small danger in fighting against the enemies. Uriah lost his life by such means.” (Trapp)

 

d. David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the LORD was with him: It isn’t easy to behave wisely when spears are being thrown at you. It isn’t easy to behave wisely when you are put out of the palace. It isn’t easy to behave wisely when you have powerful and determined enemies. But even in the midst of all those terrible circumstances, you can behave wisely in all your ways as the LORD is with you.

 

i. Again, it says Saul was afraid of him. Why wasn’t Saul happy that David behaved very wisely? Because Saul’s wisdom and David’s wisdom were very different. Saul was wise when it came to spears. David was wise when it came to trusting God. David’s wisdom seemed like foolishness to Saul, but it was real wisdom from God and something in Saul knew it and was afraid of it.

 

e. But all Israel and Judah loved David: Because God was with David, he became even more popular. David was tempted to use this popularity as a spear against Saul, but because he behaved wisely in all his ways, he refused.

 

i. “If only jealous people would ponder such a story as this, surely they would see the uselessness of their malignant attempts to injure those who may seem destined to take their place. It is not thus that the peril can be met.” (Meyer)

 

f. Because he went out and came in is a Hebrew figure of speech meaning, “David conducted successful military operations.” God’s hand of success was with David, even though Saul was against him. Saul might attack and pain David in any number of ways, but God would not allow Saul to have the victory.

 

i. David was never a victim. He looked like a victim, because he was attacked. When there are spears stuck in the wall behind you, and laying about on the floor, you sure look like a victim! But David behaved wisely in all his ways, so he did not give into the victim’s state of mind, thinking that his fate was in the hands of the one attacking him. David knew his fate was in God’s hands, and could have peace in that.

 

C. Saul sets a trap for David but he escapes and is blessed.

1. (17-19) Saul intends to kill David.

Then Saul said to David, “Here is my older daughter Merab; I will give her to you as a wife. Only be valiant for me, and fight the Lord’s battles.” For Saul thought, “Let my hand not be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.” So David said to Saul, “Who am I, and what is my life or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” But it happened at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, that she was given to Adriel the Meholathite as a wife.

 

a. Here is my older daughter Merab: Saul had promised to give . . . his daughter to the man who killed Goliath (1 Samuel 17:25). Now, Saul makes good on the promise, offering his older daughter Merab to David.

 

b. This seemed like a gesture of kindness and goodness on Saul’s part. David was supposed to believe, “Saul has forgiven. He has let bygones be bygones. He threw two spears at me before, but all of that is over now.” But Saul wasn’t thinking that way at all. In his heart was a different motive: Let my hand not be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.

 

i. How would taking Merab in marriage bring the Philistines against David? Because of the dowry that Saul would demand. In that day, a dowry was required whenever a man married. The dowry would be paid to the bride’s father, and the more important and prestigious the bride and her family, the higher the dowry price would be. The purpose of the dowry was twofold. First, it compensated the bride’s family for the loss of a family “worker.” Second, the father held a dowry as life insurance or “alimony in advance.” That is, if the husband died or divorced his wife, and she had to go back to her father’s household, there would be something to support her. Since David was a man from a humble family, there was no way he could pay the monetary value for a daughter of a king. Saul knew this, and would demand that David kill 100 Philistines as a dowry. Saul figured that the job was too big and dangerous for David, and he would be killed gaining the dowry to marry a king’s daughter.

 

ii. Saul still wanted David dead and gone. But now, instead of throwing spears himself, he will use cunning and manipulation to have David killed. He thought, “The Philistine spears and swords are just as sharp as mine. I can let them do the work for me.” From a fleshly standpoint, this was a pretty smart plan on Saul’s part!

 

iii. It was smart in the flesh, but God would not honor Saul’s manipulation. Manipulation uses hidden agendas and concealed motives. It is sneaky and secretive. Manipulation tries to maneuver people and events to accomplish this hidden agenda. It can be smart in the flesh, but will never be blessed by God.

 

c. Only be valiant for me, and fight the LORD’s battles: Saul is working as a clever manipulator. He takes advantage of David’s loyalty and patriotism (only be valiant for me). He takes advantage of David’s courage and heart for the LORD (fight the LORD’s battles).

 

i. In the flesh, Saul could even justify his manipulation. “I do want David to be valiant for me. I do want David to fight the LORD’s battles. There is nothing wrong in me asking for those things.” But that was dishonest, not because it was an outright lie, but because it didn’t tell the whole truth. Sure, Saul wanted David to be valiant for him and to fight the LORD’s battles. But more than that, he wanted David dead. That was his greater motivation than anything else was.

 

d. So David said to Saul, “Who am I . . . that I should be son-in-law to the king?” David was not out-maneuvering Saul. David had no idea what was going on in Saul’s heart. David simply had a humble heart before the LORD, and God protected him against Saul’s manipulation.

 

i. The question “Who am I?” shows David’s humble heart. He was nationally famous. All Israel loved him. All Saul’s staff loved him. The crown prince Jonathan loved him. All over Israel, women sang and danced in his honor. Yet when the hand of Merab is offered to David, he doesn’t think, “Well, this is about time. I’m glad someone noticed.”

 

ii. There was a time when Saul had a humble heart also. When Samuel first told him God had chosen him to be king, he said “Why then do you speak like this to me?” (1 Samuel 9:21). But that was a long time ago for Saul, and now his heart is hardened in pride.

 

iii. The Bible says God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. It says it three times! (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, and 1 Peter 5:5) God was showing His grace to the humble heart of David by protecting David.

 

iv. Though God could see Saul’s thoughts, David could not. And if he suspected it and confronted Saul, we can bet Saul would have denied it all. In the flesh, by all outward appearance, David is at a tremendous disadvantage. But as he kept a humble heart before the LORD, God protected him.

 

e. At the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, that she was given to Adriel: When David was initially hesitant to marry Merab, Saul tried another strategy. He suddenly gave her to another man, to try and make David angry or jealous.

 

i. David could have thought, “This was my woman to marry. She was promised to me because I beat Goliath. This was my way to marry into the royal family and get closer to the throne. This isn’t fair!” And it wasn’t fair. But the LORD had his hand in it and was watching out for David.

 

ii. Saul “treacherously withdrew the offer as the time of nuptials approached – the intention being to arouse his ardent spirit to retaliate, and so become liable to the charge of treason. But all his efforts failed to arouse even a transient impulse for revenge.” (Meyer)

 

iii. “This was an act of great injustice and perfidiousness; and accordingly this marriage was accursed by God, and the children of it were by God’s appointment cut off, 2 Samuel 21.” (Poole)

 

iv. “This affront and disgrace was done to David purposely to provoke him (as is probable) to do or say something that might bring him under censure, and give Saul some colour to cut him off. But David was too hard for him that way too: leaving it to God to right his wrongs.” (Trapp)

 

v. The plan failed. If David was angry or vengeful at losing Merab to another man, he just gave it to the LORD and went on. Since this didn’t succeed, we should understand this as a warning to Saul. In this failed plan, God told Saul, “Your manipulation will not work. My hand is on David. Stop trying to kill him or have him killed.” Would Saul listen?

2. (20-25) David’s agreement to marry Michal.

Now Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. So Saul said, “I will give her to him, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David a second time, “You shall be my son-in-law today.” And Saul commanded his servants, “Communicate with David secretly, and say, ‘Look, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you. Now therefore, become the king’s son-in-law.'” So Saul’s servants spoke those words in the hearing of David. And David said, “Does it seem to you a light thing to be a king’s son-in-law, seeing I ama poor and lightly esteemed man?” And the servants of Saul told him, saying, “In this manner David spoke.” Then Saul said, “Thus you shall say to David: ‘The king does not desire any dowry but one hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to take vengeance on the king’s enemies.'” But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.

 

a. Now Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David: Saul was happy to hear this (the thing pleased him). It doesn’t surprise us that Michal was attracted to David, because of his character, qualities, and fame. But as is evident later in David’s marriage to Michal, she was not really attracted to David’s heart for the LORD.

 

b. That she might be a snare to him: This may be meant in two ways. First, obviously Saul wanted David to be snared by the dowry. But it may also be that Saul knew Michal’s character and heart, and knew that she would be snare for him as a wife, as turned out to be the case in some regard (2 Samuel 6:16-23).

 

c. Therefore Saul said to David a second time, “You shall be my son-in-law today.” Saul did not receive God’s warning. He is rushing through the warning signs God gave him. He tries this manipulative plan again.

 

d. Communicate to David secretly: See how this reeks of manipulation! It is all about behind-the-back secret communication. It is all about hidden agendas and clever traps (the king has delight in you). But David still responded with humility (I am a poor and lightly esteemed man).

 

i. How could David say, “I am a poor and lightly esteemed man”? Because David didn’t believe all his press clippings. Because David knew there was a difference between fame and being truly esteemed. Because David was always more focused on where he was before God than where he was in the opinion polls.

 

e. The king does not desire any dowry but one hundred foreskins of the Philistines: Now, Saul builds on his clever plan. “David won’t marry Michal because he doesn’t have a big enough dowry. He’s too humble to ask me for terms, so I will suggest them.” Even the way he phrases it is clever: “The king does not desire any dowry.” That makes it sound like Saul doesn’t want anything from David. “But one hundred foreskins of the Philistines.” That makes it sound like Saul isn’t asking for much, when he is really asking for something far greater than a lot of money. He asks David to put his life in great jeopardy, because Saul wants him dead!

 

i. Even the specific request – one hundred foreskins of the Philistines – was manipulative. It was designed to goad David on (“Go get those uncircumcised Philistines”). It was designed to be difficult, because the Philistines would obviously have to be dead. And it was designed to make the Philistines completely outraged at David, because from their perspective, not only were their men killed, but their dead bodies were desecrated.

 

ii. “Here is a fair glove drawn upon a foul hand.” (Trapp)

3. (26-27) David fulfills Saul’s request for a dowry and marries Michal.

So when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to become the king’s son-in-law. Now the days had not expired; therefore David arose and went, he and his men, and killed two hundred men of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full count to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him Michal his daughter as a wife.

 

a. It pleased David well: David has such a pure, humble heart that he seems to be blind to Saul’s manipulation and cunning. How can a simple man like this ever survive? Because God is with him!

 

i. Again, notice David’s humble heart. Many men would have said, “Dowry? You want a dowry? You promised to give your daughter to the man who killed Goliath. If you want to see my dowry, go look at the ten-foot grave in the Valley of Elah. That’s enough of a dowry. I demand my rights!”

 

b. Therefore David arose and went, he and his men, and killed two hundred men of the Philistines: What did David do with Saul’s attempt at manipulation? He took control of the situation by being a humble servant, and by giving more than what was required.

 

i. We often think that being a humble servant and being in control contradict each other. We wrongly think that if you are a humble servant, then you must be at the mercy of events. But the example of Jesus, who was completely in control (always submitting that control to God the Father), yet always a humble servant shows us differently.

 

ii. Jesus told us how to take control in this kind of situation. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. (Matthew 5:40-41) In this, Jesus showed how to take command of evil impositions by making a deliberate choice to give more than we are required. Roman law commanded Jews to carry the pack of any Roman soldier, but only for one mile. Jesus is saying “Go beyond the one mile required by law and give another mile out of a free choice of love.” This is how we change someone’s attempt to manipulate us into our free act of love.

 

iii. The only limit to this kind of sacrifice is the limit that love itself will impose. It isn’t love to give into someone’s manipulation without our transforming it into a free act of love. It isn’t always love to give what is demanded.

 

c. And David brought their foreskins, and the gave them in full count to the king: There are many times we wish we had a visual Bible, or could see Biblical events exactly as they happened. This is one instance where we are happy the Bible is not illustrated.

4. (28-30) David’s constantly growing popularity.

Thus Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and thatMichal, Saul’s daughter, loved him; and Saul was still more afraid of David. So Saul became David’s enemy continually. Then the princes of the Philistines went out to war. And so it was, whenever they went out, that David behaved more wisely than all the servants of Saul, so that his name became highly esteemed.

 

a. Thus Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David: Having this understanding, how did Saul react? Did he stop trying to kill David, and leave it all in the LORD’s hands? Did he find it in his heart to respect David, and make a way for the LORD’s choice to smoothly come to the throne? No. The closer David got to the LORD, the further he got from Saul, and so Saul was still more afraid of David.

 

i. How tragic! So Saul became David’s enemy continually. He knew that the LORD was with David, yet because Saul was making himself the enemy of the LORD, he was also the enemy of David. It didn’thave to be like this, but Saul’s heart was set on this destructive course.

 

b. Then the princes of the Philistines went out to war: Saul’s cunning plan against David continues. No doubt, the Philistines went out to war against David in retaliation for what they felt was a terrible disgrace against the Philistine people. Saul wanted to make David a marked man, and he succeeded.

 

i. On a human level, David had a lot more to fear from Saul than he did from the Philistines! But David wasn’t walking on a human level. He was walking in the Spirit, walking with the LORD. So the LORD kept him safe from both the “attack you right up front” enemies like the Philistines, and kept him safe from the “manipulate and stab you in the back” enemies like Saul.

 

c. David behaved more wisely than all the servants of Saul, so that his name became highly esteemed: Saul’s plan has completely backfired. David is not only alive, but more popular and closer to the LORD than ever. But Saul isn’t finished, and will use more manipulation, cunning, and outright violence to attack David.

 

i. David’s wise behavior and high esteem were both closely connected to his humble heart. The same is true (in a far greater sense) of the Son of David, Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:9 says of Jesus, Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name. Why was it that the name of Jesus became highly esteemed? Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8) This mind, this heart, was in David. This mind, this heart, is in Jesus. God wants this mind, this heart, to be in each of us.

 

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1 Samuel Chapter 17

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1 Samuel Chapter 17

A. Goliath challenges Israel.

1. (1-10) The Philistine Goliath challenges Israel.

Now the Philistines gathered their armies together to battle, and were gathered together at Sochoh, which belongs to Judah; they encamped between Sochoh and Azekah, in Ephes Dammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and they encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in battle array against the Philistines. The Philistines stood on a mountain on one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders. Now the staff of his spearwas like a weaver’s beam, and his iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels; and a shield-bearer went before him. Then he stood and cried out to the armies of Israel, and said to them, “Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.”

 

a. They encamped in the Valley of Elah: The green, rolling hills surrounding the Valley of Elah still stand today, and witnessed one of the most remarkable battles in all the Bible. It began when the Philistines, constant enemies of Israel during this period, assembled their army on mountain, and on another mountain stood the army of Israel.

 

b. And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath: In their army, the Philistines had one particularly impressive soldier, named Goliath. He was a large man (six cubits and a span can be anywhere from 8’5″ to 9’2″), and he had armor and weapons to match his size.

 

i. Goliath was from Gath, and Joshua 11:22 says that a people known as the Anakim were still there in Joshua’s day. That was some 400 years before this, but it shows how there may have continued to be men of unusually large size coming from the city of Gath.

 

ii. Goliath was tall, but his height is not unheard of in history. Poole on Goliath’s height: “Which is not strange, for besides the giants mentioned in the Scriptures, Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and Pliny, and others, make mention of persons seven cubits high, which is near double to an ordinary man’s height.” Youngblood mentions the documented case of Robert Pershing Wadlow, who was eight feet eleven inches tall at the time of his death on July 15, 1940, at the age of twenty-two.

 

iii. “Men of an extraordinary size are not uncommon even in our own day: I knew two brothers of the name of Knight, who were born in the same township with myself, who were seven feet six inches high; and another, in the same place, Charles Burns, who was eight feet six! These men were well and proportionably made. (Clarke)

 

iv. Clarke says that the word champion really comes from the Hebrew word, “a middle man, the man between two.” The idea is that this was a man who stood between the two armies and fought as a representative of his army.

 

v. Different sources give different estimates, but Goliath’s armor and weapons together probably weighed somewhere between 150 and 200 pounds. This was a big man, and strong enough to carry and use these huge weapons.

 

c. Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me . . . I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together: Goliath issued a bold challenge to the army of Israel.

2. (11) The fear of Saul and all Israel.

When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

 

a. When they heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid: Of course, that was Goliath’s exact intention in issuing the challenge. The reason why he came out with full battle equipment and paraded in front of the Israelite army was because hewanted them to be dismayed and greatly afraid. Goliath was able to defeat the Israelites on fear alone.

 

i. In any contest, it’s always useful to demoralize your opponent, and strike fear in their heart. First, it may keep you from ever going to battle with them, because they are so afraid. Second, if it does come to battle, they will fight with fear and apprehension, and so with your words, you’ve done a lot to win the battle before it even begins!

 

ii. This, of course, is a significant strategy of the devil against us. We don’t battle against flesh and blood enemies like Goliath, but we have our “spiritual Giants” to battle against. The devil has a heavy interest in making you dismayed and greatly afraid before the battle ever begins.

 

b. When Saul . . . heard these words: Saul had special reason to be afraid. Goliath was the giant among the Philistines, and Saul was head and shoulder taller than other Israelite men (1 Samuel 9:2). Saul was the logical choice to square off against Goliath, and we can expect he knew others were expecting him to fight Goliath.

 

i. An old Jewish tradition says that this as part of Goliath’s taunting speech: “And ye, men of Israel, what noble exploit has Saul, the son of Kish, of Gibeah, done, that ye should have made him king over you? If he be a hero, let him come down himself and fight with me; but if he be a weak or cowardly man, then choose you out a man that he may come down to me.” (Cited in Clarke)

 

c. Yet, Saul is dismayed and greatly afraid. At one time, he was known as a fierce and successful military leader (1 Samuel 14:52). But that was before the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul (1 Samuel 16:14). As the Spirit of the LORD left Saul, so did his courage. It shouldn’t surprise us that a many filled with the Spirit of the LORD will have the courage to fight Goliath.

 

i. The Spirit of the LORD really can give us courage. When we are dismayed and greatly afraid, it isn’t the work of the Spirit of the LORD. God wants to give us a holy boldness and courage, not in ourselves, but in Him.

 

B. David comes to the camp of Israel.

1. (12-15) David, the youngest of eight brothers, splits his time between the palace and the pasture.

Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem Judah, whose name was Jesse, and who had eight sons. And the man was old, advanced in years, in the days of Saul. The three oldest sons of Jesse had gone to follow Saul to the battle. The names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. David was the youngest. And the three oldest followed Saul. But David occasionally went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.

 

a. David occasionally went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep: At this time, it seems that David was only called to the palace as needed, when Saul was afflicted by the distressing spirit.

 

b. David was the youngest: Notice that David is said to be the youngest of eight sons of Jesse. Yet Psalm 89:27 calls David God’s firstborn, demonstrating that “firstborn” is as much a title and a concept as a description of birth order. Therefore, when Paul calls Jesus firstborn over all creation in Colossians 1:15, he isn’t trying to say that Jesus is a created being who had a beginning. He is simply pointing to the prominence and preeminence of Jesus.

2. (16-21) David brings gifts from home and comes into Israel’s camp.

And the Philistine drew near and presented himself forty days, morning and evening. Then Jesse said to his son David, “Take now for your brothers an ephah of this dried grain and these ten loaves, and run to your brothers at the camp. And carry these ten cheeses to the captain of their thousand, and see how your brothers fare, and bring back news of them.” Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. So David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, and took the things and went as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the camp as the army was going out to the fight and shouting for the battle. For Israel and the Philistines had drawn up in battle array, army against army.

 

a. And the Philistine drew near and presented himself forty days: Day after day, Goliath would taunt and mock the armies of Israel, exposing them all (and especially Saul) as cowards who would run from a fight.

 

i. Significantly, forty days (or forty years) is used in the Scriptures rather consistently as a period of judgment and or testing. It rained for forty days in the time of Noah. Israel was in the wilderness forty years. Jesus fasted and was tempted of the devil for forty days before He began His public ministry. So here, Israel is also tested by Goliath’s mockery.

 

b. Left the sheep with a keeper: This little observation shows the shepherd’s heart of David. If he left the sheep to run an errand for his father, he made sure the sheep were still well taken care of.

 

c. And he came to the camp as the army was going out to the fight and shouting for the battle: This must have been the approximate scene for forty days. The armies would gather on each hillside, and scream and shout at each other across the valley. Goliath would make his parade and shout his insults, and after awhile the Israelites would slink away in shame.

3. (22-24) David sees Goliath make his arrogant challenge, and sees the fear of Israel’s soldiers.

And David left his supplies in the hand of the supply keeper, ran to the army, and came and greeted his brothers. Then as he talked with them, there was the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, coming up from the armies of the Philistines; and he spoke according to the same words. So David heard them. And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid.

 

a. Dreadfully afraid: All of the Israelite army was dreadfully afraid. There was not one man among them who would take on Goliath. Every one of them fled from him when Goliath came out.

4. (25-27) David hears of Saul’s reward to the man who beats Goliath, but hespeaks of God’s honor.

So the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel; and it shall be that the man who kills him the king will enrich with great riches, will give him his daughter, and give his father’s house exemption from taxes in Israel.” Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” And the people answered him in this manner, saying, “So shall it be done for the man who kills him.”

 

a. The man who kills him, the king will enrich: The situation had become so desperate, the Saul needed to offer a bribe – a cash award, a princess, and a tax exemption – to induce someone, anyone to fight and win against Goliath.

 

b. Who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel . . . who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? Other soldiers focused on the danger of the battle or thematerial rewards to be won. It seems that David alone focused on the reputation of Israel and the honor of the living God.

 

i. This truly shows David to be a man after God’s own heart. He cares about the things God cares about. He saw the problem in spiritual terms, not in material or fleshly terms.

 

ii. When the men of Israel said, “This man,” David said, “This uncircumcised Philistine.” When the men of Israel said, “Surely he has come up to defy Israel,” David said, “That he should defy the armies of the living God.” When the men of Israel said, “The man who kills him,” David said, “The man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel.” David saw things from the LORD’s perspective, but the men of Israel saw things only from man’s perspective.

5. (28-30) David is misunderstood and falsely accused by his brother.

Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger was aroused against David, and he said, “Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” And David said, “What have I done now? Is there not a cause?” Then he turned from him toward another and said the same thing; and these people answered him as the first ones did.

 

a. Eliab’s anger was aroused against David: We might have thought that David’s visit would have pleased Eliab, especially considering all the things he brought from home. But David’s words angered Eliab, and there were many reasons why:

 

i. First, he was angry because he felt David was an insignificant, worthless person who had no right to speak up, especially with such bold words (Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness?).

 

ii. Second, he was angry because he felt he knew David’s motivation (I know your pride and the insolence of your heart), but he didn’t really know David’s heart. “Here he taketh upon him that which belongeth to God alone (Jeremiah 17:10), and judgeth David’s heart by his own. Well might Augustine say that envy is vitium diabolicum, a devilish vice, such as wherein is found the venom of most other vices.” (Trapp)

 

iii. Third, he was angry because he thought David was trying to provoke someone else into fighting Goliath just so that he could see a battle (you have come down to see the battle). Eliab himself was a tall man of good appearance (1 Samuel 16:7), and he may have felt that David was trying to push him into battle.

 

iv. Finally, he was angry because David was right! When you aredismayed and greatly afraid or dreadfully afraid, the last thing in the world you want is someone telling you to be courageous.

 

b. What have I done now? Is there not a cause? David stuck to his position. There is no doubt that what his oldest brother Eliab said hurthim, but he would not let it hinder him.

 

i. What helped David to handle the hurt this way? He was more concerned with God’s cause (Is there not a cause?) than with his own feelings

 

c. Is there not a cause? David’s attitude is completely different than the other men of Israel, including King Saul. David is concerned with God’s cause before everything. Before his own personal safety, before his own personal glory, before his only personal honor, he has a passionate concern for God’s cause. Where did David get this perspective, this courage?

 

i. It had been born in secret and nursed in solitude. David had a real relationship with God. God was as real to him as his brothers were, or even as Goliath was. “There is no short cut to the life of faith, which is the all-vital condition of a holy and victorious life. We must have periods of lonely meditation and fellowship with God . . . Thus alone can the sense of God’s presence become the fixed possession of the soul, enabling it to say repeatedly, with the psalmist, ‘Thou art near, O God.'” (Meyer)

 

ii. It stood the test of daily life. David was following the simple, humble instructions of his father. “Go take these things to you brothers,” and he did just that. We often think that we must bedelivered from the normal cares of life before we can be used of God. But God wants to use us in and through the normal cares of life.

 

iii. It bore meekly misconstruction and rebuke. When David was misunderstood and rebuked, publicly, by his own brother, probably amid the laughs of the other soldiers, he could have blown it. But he showed the strength of the armor of God in his life, and replied rightly. He didn’t care about his glory or success, but only for the glory and success of the LORD’s cause. Goliath was a dead man right then! This is where the battle was won! If Eliab’s hurtful words can get David in the flesh, and out of the flow of the Spirit of the LORD, then David’s strength is gone. But when David ruled his spirit and answered softly, he was more in step with the Spirit of the LORD than ever. You could start digging Goliath’s grave right then!

 

iv. “Immediately before the encounter with the Philistine he fought a battle which cost him far more thought, prudence, and patience. The word-battle in which he had to engage with his brothers and with king Saul, was a more trying ordeal to him than going forth in the strength of the Lord to smite the uncircumcised boaster. Many a man meets with more trouble from his friends than from his enemies; and when he has learned to overcome the depressing influence of prudent friends, he makes short work of the opposition of avowed adversaries.” (Spurgeon)

 

C. David prepares to fight Goliath.

1. (31-32) David’s confident words become known to Saul.

Now when the words which David spoke were heard, they reportedthem to Saul; and he sent for him. Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

 

a. They reported him to Saul: David spoke boldly against Goliath. When others said, “This man,” David said, “This uncircumcised Philistine.” When the men of Israel said, “Surely he has come up to defy Israel,” David said, “That he should defy the armies of the living God.” When the men of Israel said, “The man who kills him,” David said, “The man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel.” (1 Samuel 17:25-26)

 

b. Now, these words of David are reported to Saul. It isn’t as if David’s words were all that bold. He never said, “Well, if I went out to fight against that Philistine, I would whip his tail. He’s nothing.” David didn’t talk like that, but he did at least stand up to Goliath. David didn’t show a lot of backbone, but he showed a lot more than anyone else in Israel, so it was worth reporting to Saul.

 

i. Perhaps this was the most significant thing David said: “Is there not a cause?” (1 Samuel 17:30) David was different from all the men of the army of Israel, because he saw the battle as a cause of the LORD.

 

c. Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Saul had waited a long time – at least 40 days – to hear someone say these words. But to hear them now, from the mouth of this boy, almost seemed like a cruel joke. “The good news is that some one finally wants to fight Goliath. The bad news is that it is a little shepherd boy.”

 

i. David’s words to Saul almost make the matter worse. “Let no man’s heart fail because of him” almost sounds like, “All right everyone, calm down, I’ve got the situation completely under control.” It would have seemed ridiculous coming from this teen-age boy. It would have seemed like youthful pride and overconfidence to the extreme. But it wasn’t; David really was trusting in God.

 

d. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine: These are bold words. This is the first time David specifically volunteers to battle Goliath. It is one thing to say, “Someone should do something about that.” It is entirely another thing to say, “I will do something about that.”

2. (33-37) David’s training as a shepherd prepared him.

And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” Moreover David said, “The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!”

 

a. You are not able . . . you are but a youth: Saul thought David was disqualified because of his young age, size, and inexperience. This shows that Saul was looking at the battle purely in natural, outward terms. The outward “tale of the tape” said there was no way David could win. The “tale of God’s tape” said there was no way David could lose.

 

i. Even if you are but a youth, God can really use you. But it’s up to you. Don’t expect God to use you just because you are a youth. Instead, receive what God said to Timothy: Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12) Paul was telling Timothy, “Live in such a way that on one will have occasion to despise your youth.” So God can use us when we are young, but we have to be serious about Him and serious about our Christian life.

 

b. You are but a youth and he a man of war from his youth: Saul essentially tells David, “He’s been a soldier longer than you have been alive! How could you ever overcome him?” Again, this shows that Saul is only looking at the outward, not the spiritual dimensions of this battle.

 

c. Your servant has killed both lion and bear: God prepared David for this exact battle when David was a lowly shepherd. A lion would attack the lambs, and David would battle the lion. A bear would come against the sheep, and David would battle the bear. All along, God was preparing David to fight Goliath. How long did David prepare to fight Goliath? All of his life, up to that day.

 

i. This is generally God’s pattern for preparation. He calls us to be faithful right where we are at, and then uses our faithfulness to accomplish greater things for Him. If David had run scared at the lion or the bear, he would never have been ready to fight Goliath now. But he had been faithful then, so he will be faithful now.

 

ii. Wasn’t this bragging? No, not at all. “David does not conceal the fact that he had given both lion and bear their due. There is neither modesty, humility, nor truthfulness in giving the lie to the grace of God within you. A holy act should not be repudiated by its author any more than a brave boy should be disowned by his father. If you did work valiantly by the help of the Spirit of God, you did do it, and should not refuse to say so. How are you to glorify God by denying the fruit of his Spirit?” (Spurgeon)

 

iii. How did David kill both lion and bear? He just did it as a faithful shepherd. “When he kept his sheep and the lion came, David did not raise the question whether he could kill the lion: he killed him, and then the question was settled. When the bear came, and was about to rob him of one of his lambs, he did not say to himself, ‘Have I a call to kill that bear?’ Not he; but he killed him, and then he knew he was called to do it.” (Spurgeon)

 

iv. “When David was young in years he was old in experience, because he had watched the hand of the Lord in its dealings with him. He had not been an idler among the hills, but a worshipper, a worker, a student, a practical, living man of God . . . thus he gained his experience by the active discharge of his duty as a shepherd. He did what he was called upon to do with holy daring, and in so doing he learned the faithfulness of God. Many men have lions and bears, but no experience.” (Spurgeon)

 

v. “I charge you, therefore, my beloved brethren and sisters, who know the Lord, be up and in earnest to slay your lions and your bears, that you may learn how to kill your Philistines: that is to say; — serve God with all your heart, and patiently bear the cross for his name’s sake, so that when the time shall come for you to stand as a lone man for Christ, you may do it gloriously, and may bring honor to your divine Leader.” (Spurgeon)

 

d. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God. David seems to be increasing in boldness as the story progresses. First, he said someone should fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17:26, 29). Then he said he would fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17:32). Now, he says he will beat Goliath!

 

e. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine: As a shepherd facing the lions and the bears, David had no idea he was being trained to fight a giant. When we are in the midst of our preparation, we rarely see how God is going to use it. We just entrust it to Him. Yet now, David can look back and know that the same God who delivered him before will also deliver him now. David knew that God’s help in times past is a prophecy of His help in the future.

 

i. He will deliver me: Do you believe it? Do you believe God will deliver you? God will deliver you. He has promised to get you to your destination: He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). God may deliver you from trials or deliver you in the midst of trials, but He will deliver you!

3. (38-40) David prepares to fight Goliath.

So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine.

 

a. So Saul clothed David with his armor: Saul was still in the natural, in the flesh, in the things that are merely outward. He figured that if this boy was going to beat Goliath, he would need the best armor in all Israel – the armor of the king.

 

b. He tried to walk . . . David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” Saul tried to put his armor on David, but it didn’t work. It didn’t work because Saul’s armor did not physically fitDavid. Everything was too big, and David could not move well with Saul’s armor. Also, it didn’t work because Saul’s armor did not spiritually fit David. Armor, military technology, or human wisdom would not win this battle. The LORD God of Israel would win this battle.

 

i. Often, people try to fight with another person’s armor. They see God do something wonderful through someone else, and they try to copy it without really making it their own. This is never how God’s work is most effectively done.

 

ii. David did not face Goliath unarmed. He had much better armor than Saul’s. Saul had a bronze helmet, but David had the helmet of salvation (Ephesians 6:17). Saul had a coat of mail, but David had abreastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14). Saul had a sword, but David had the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God(Ephesians 6:17). David had the whole armor of God! (Ephesians 6:11).

 

iii. That same armor was available to Saul. At one time he had it. But now, Saul only trusted in man’s armor. That’s why David is going out to face Goliath, and Saul is giving advice from the sideline.

 

iv. Sadly, many people would say the same about the armor of God: I cannot walk with these, because I have not tested them. Are you more used to the weapons and armor of the flesh, or the weapons and armor of the Spirit? “Press some people to their exercise of prayer, or any other piece of the armour of God, and they must say, if they say truly, as here, I cannot do withal, for I have not been accustomed to it.” (Trapp)

 

c. So David took them off: David had to renounce Saul’s armor. He had to vow, “I will not fight with man’s armor. I will trust in the LORD and His armor instead.” Often we want a safe “middle ground” where we try to wear both kinds of armor. But God wants us to trust in Him and Him alone.

 

i. “To me, it is a pathetic thing to find so many Christians believing that the best way to bear witness for the Lord is to imitate the devil’s methods, to try to resist Satan by the same kind of program and technique, ability and organization, which he himself has perfected.” (Redpath)

 

d. A staff in his hand . . . five smooth stones . . . a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand: David used the same things he had used before. These were the same tools he had used to kill the lion and the bear before. What God had used before, He would use again.

 

i. A charming – but purely legendary – Rabbinical story says these five particular stones called out to David from the brook and said, “By us you shall overcome the giant!

 

ii. They were five smooth stones. “Had they been rough or angular, they would not have easily passed through the air, and their asperities would, in the course of their passage, have given them afalse direction. Had they not been smooth, they could not have been readily despatched from the sling.” (Clarke)

 

iii. Why did David choose five stones? He only needed one to kill Goliath. Perhaps it was because Goliath had four brothers (1 Samuel 21:18-22).

 

e. And he drew near the Philistine: This is where it mattered. David could have said the bold words, renounced Saul’s armor, trusted in God’s armor, and gathered his shepherd’s tools. But if he never went into the battle, what would it matter? Ultimately, David had the faith not just to talk, not just to renounce, not just to prepare, but to actually draw near the Philistine. That’s real faith.

 

D. David defeats Goliath.

1. (41-44) Goliath curses David and his God.

So the Philistine came, and began drawing near to David, and the man who bore the shield went before him. And when the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained him; for he was only a youth, ruddy and good-looking. So the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!”

 

a. So the Philistine came . . . and the man who bore the shield went before him: Obviously, because of Goliath’s size and experience, it was not a “fair” fight. But to add to even that, it was two against one! Goliath had an armor bearer with him.

 

b. When the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained him: The idea behind looked about is almost that Goliath had to look around to find David. David was so small compared to this man, that Goliath had a hard time even seeing him. But when he did see him, he disdained him. There was nothing – nothing – in David that struck fear or respect in Goliath’s heart. Goliath felt insulted that the had even sent David! (Am I a dog that you come to me with sticks?)

 

i. When Goliath asked, “Am I a dog?” it was worse than it sounds. The Hebrew word for dog (kaleb) is used in passages like Deuteronomy 23:18 for male homosexual prostitutes.

 

c. And the Philistine cursed David by his gods: If it hadn’t been established before, it is certainly settled now. This is not a fair fight. It isn’t Goliath and his armor bearer against David. It is Goliath and his armor bearer against David and the LORD God of Israel. The battle is over. Anyone with any spiritual understanding could finish the story from here.

 

d. Come to me: “Bring it on, little boy!” David will be more than happy to oblige Goliath’s request.

2. (45-47) David, full of faith, replies to Goliath.

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.”

 

a. Then David said to the Philistine: We can imagine Goliath’s deep, deep, bass voice reverberating against the tall hills surrounding the Valley of Elah. It must have struck fear into the heart of every Israelite soldier, and probably even some of the Philistine soldiers! Then David answered with his teen-age voice; perhaps even with his voice cracking. The Philistines would have laughed when they heard David practically screaming in his cracking voice, and the Israelites would have been mortified.

 

b. You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied: David makes a contrast between himself and Goliath, without giving credit to Goliath himself. “Those are some pretty fancy weapons you’ve got there, mister. But I’ve got something far better than your weapons.”

 

i. To say, “I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts” is to say, “I come as a representative of the LORD of hosts, the God who has heavenly armies at His command. I am a sent man, on a mission from God.”

 

ii. Meyer lists some characteristics of those who truly battle as representatives of God, in the name of the LORD: Their motives are pure. Though David was accused of having evil motives, his motives were in fact pure. He was motivated by a true love for the LORD, and for the glory and honor of the LORD. They are willing to let the LORD lead the battle. David did this at the prompting of God, not his own flesh. They take no counsel with the flesh. David would not wear Saul’s armor. They are willing to stand alone. David was willing to fight all alone.

 

c. This day, the LORD will deliver you into my hand: David is bolder and bolder! It was one thing to tell Saul he would kill Goliath (1 Samuel 17:36). It was an entirely different thing to tell Goliath he would kill Goliath, and to say the LORD would do it this day. Adding I will strike you down and take your head from you was a nice, emphatic touch!

 

i. David was careful to say the LORD will deliver you into my hand. David was bold, but he was bold in God, not in himself. He knew that the battle belonged to the LORD.

 

d. That all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel: This whole incident made David famous. But that was not why he did it. He did it for the fame and the glory of the LORD, not his own name. He wanted all the earth to know that there is a God in Israel.

 

e. Then all this assembly shall know: At this point, it wasn’t enough for all the earth to know that there is a God in Israel. Israel needed to know that there was a God in Israel! They needed to know it also! Saul and the rest of the soldiers of Israel thought that the LORD only could save with sword and spear. They didn’t really believe that the battle is the LORD’s. David was about to give them some living proof!

 

f. He will give you into our hands: Again, notice David’s humility. It isn’t He will give you into my hands. David knows this was an “our” battle, but that he was fighting on behalf of all Israel. If they weren’t trusting in the LORD, David would trust for them!

3. (48-49) David kills Goliath.

So it was, when the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hastened and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth.

 

a. When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hastened and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine: What a scene! Goliath, enraged at David’s boldness, drew near to quickly kill David. David didn’t run away. He didn’t hide. He didn’t panic. He didn’t drop to his knees and pray. Instead, David hastened and ran . . . to meet the Philistine.

 

i. David knew that the battle belonged to the LORD (This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, 1 Samuel 17:46). But when Goliath ran at him, he didn’t just look up into heaven and say, “O.K. LORD, now is the time to do it.” David knew that it was the LORD’s battle, and the LORD’s victory, but that he had something he was supposed to do in the battle.

 

ii. Many Christians struggle at this very point. Is God supposed to do it or am I supposed to do it? The answer is, “Yes!” God does it and we do it. Trust God, rely on Him, and then get to work and work as hard as you can! That is how we see the work of God accomplished.

 

iii. “The lazy-bones of our orthodox churches cry, ‘God will do his own work’; and then they look out the softest pillow they can find, and put it under their heads, and say, ‘The eternal purposes will be carried out: God will be glorified.’ That is all very fine talk, but it can be used with the most mischievous design. You can make opium out of it, which will lull you into a deep and dreadful slumber, and prevent your being of any kind of use at all.” (Spurgeon)

 

b. He slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face: David had the calm hand and careful aim of someone who is really trusting in God. He used the sling – which was a leather strap with a pouch in the middle – to hurl a stone, killing Goliath.

 

i. It’s easy to see where this battle was won: out with the sheep of David’s father. In those lonely hours alone with the lambs, David would talk to God and take a lot of target practice with his sling. Now his communion with the LORD and his skill with the sling are both used by God! “In the use of the sling it requires much practiceto hit the mark; but when once this dexterity is acquired, the sling is nearly as fatal as the musket or bow.” (Clarke)

 

ii. Everyone else thought, “Goliath is so big, I can’t beat him.” David thought, “Goliath is so big, I can’t miss him.” “A man of less faith might have been too nervous to take the proper aim.” (Balikie)

 

c. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face: Just as the Philistine god Dagon had fallen on his face before the LORD (1 Samuel 5:2-5), so now the worshipper of Dagon falls on his face, being struck in the forehead.

 

i. Trapp calls the forehead, “The seat of pride and impudency; there being no other part of Goliath capable of danger; the rest of him was defenced with a brazen wall. This was the Lord’s own work, and it is justly marvelous in our eyes.”

4. (50-54) David beheads Goliath and Israel romps over the Philistines.

So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. Now the men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted, and pursued the Philistines as far as the entrance of the valley and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell along the road to Shaaraim, even as far as Gath and Ekron. Then the children of Israel returned from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their tents. And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.

 

a. David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it: First, Davidmade certain the job was dead. You can’t mess around with sin or your spiritual enemies; you must kill them dead. Second, David used Goliath’sown sword to cut off his head.

 

i. At a later time, David would write in Psalm 57:6: They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down; they have dug a pit before me; into the midst of it they themselves have fallen. God loves to use the devil’s own plan to entrap him!

 

b. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. Hadn’t they agreed before (1 Samuel 17:9) that if their champion lost, they would surrender to Israel? But they didn’t. We should never expect the devil to live up to his promises. But the soldiers of Israel pursued and defeated the Philistines. David’s example had given them great courage and faith in the LORD.

 

i. David never read 1 Timothy 4:12, but he lived it: Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. David led by example, and led Israel to a great victory.

 

c. David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent: Since it was many years later that Jerusalem was conquered (2 Samuel 5:6-10), it is likely that this means David eventually brought Goliath’s head to Jerusalem. But David will use the sword of Goliath later (1 Samuel 21:9). David had some enduring reminders of God’s great work.

 

i. “Presumably David had the head pickled and hung it in his banqueting hall after he had captured Jerusalem.” (Ellison)

 

ii. “I wish that young men here would aspire to brave lives for the God of Israel. I would that for truth, and goodness, and the eternal glory, they would be ready to rise to the measure of their destined hour. Why should we all be mean men? Is there not room for a few downright devoted beings, who will lift their hand unto the Lord, and never go back? If self-sacrifice is wanted, let us make it. If some one is needed for a heathen land, or to bear testimony for truth in this almost apostate nation, let us cry, ‘Here am I! Send me!’ God’s David will not hang back through cowardly fear or dread of consequences, but will take up his place as God shall help him, and say, like Martin Luther, ‘I can do no other: so help me, O my God.'” (Spurgeon)

 

d. David did it! He conquered the giant Goliath. Are there impossible victories God has waiting for you, if you will be like David?

 

i. “Ah,” one says. “That was fine for David. But you don’t know the trouble I’ve seen.” Let Spurgeon answer you: “‘Ah, you do not know my trouble, dear sir!’ True, my dear friend, and you do not know mine, and I am not going to tell you. It would not comfort you if I told you my distresses; and it certainly would not comfort me if you told me all your airings, and moanings, and sighings. I expect that we have each to suffer the best trouble that could have been appointed us. If you had my cross it would be an unsuitable burden for you; and if I had yours, it would be a grievous load for me.”

5. (55-58) Saul meets a victorious David.

When Saul saw David going out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is this youth?” And Abner said, “As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.” So the king said, “Inquire whose son this young man is.” Then, as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. And Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” So David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”

 

a. Inquire whose son this young man is: Does this mean that Saul did not recognize David, even though David had played for Saul in the palace, to soothe the king when the distressing spirit came upon him (1 Samuel 16:14-23)?

 

i. Perhaps Saul did recognize David, and he was simply asking about David’s family background (inquire whose son this young man is). After all, Saul had promised his daughter to the man who killed Goliath, and Saul wanted to know something about his future son-in-law.

 

ii. Or, it may be that Saul indeed did not recognized David. Some think that David played behind a screen or a curtain for Saul, and so Saul never saw his face. Others think that Saul was influenced by the distressing spirit at this time, and not entirely in his right mind. We also know that David had not spent all his time at the palace. He also would go home and tend the sheep, presumably for extended periods (1 Samuel 17:15). It’s possible that David’s appearance changed during a time when he was away from Saul, so Saul didn’t immediately recognize him. When Saul calls David a young man, the word means someone who is full grown, mature, and ready to marry.

 

b. David won a great victory, but not greater than the victory Jesus won on our behalf. David’s victory over Goliath is a “picture in advance” of the victory Jesus won for us.

 

i. Both David and Jesus represented their people. Whatever happened to the representative would happen to God’s people also.

 

ii. Both David and Jesus fought the battle on ground that rightfully belonged to God’s people, ground that they had lost.

 

iii. Both David and Jesus fought when their enemy was able to dominate the people of God through fear and intimidation alone.

 

iv. Both David and Jesus were sent to the battleground by their father (1 Samuel 17:17).

 

v. Both David and Jesus were scorned and rejected by their own brethren.

 

vi. Both David and Jesus fought the battle without concern with human strategies or conventional wisdom.

 

vii. Both David and Jesus won the battle, but saw that their enemies did not then give up willingly.

 

viii. Both David and Jesus fought a battle where the victory was assured even before it started.

 

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1 Samuel Chapter 16

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1 Samuel Chapter 16

A. Samuel anoints David as king.

 

Psalms that may go with this period: 8, 19, 23, and 29.

 

1. (1-3) God tells Samuel to go and anoint a new king over Israel.

 

Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.” And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you.”

 

a. How long will you mourn for Saul: There is a time to mourn, but there is also a time to move on and do what God wants us to do. Fill your horn with oil must have excited Samuel, because he knew that God wanted him to anoint someone else as king over Israel.

 

i. God will never allow His work to die with the death or failure of a man. If it is God’s work, it goes beyond any man. Perhaps Samuel was paralyzed with mourning because of Saul’s tragic rebellion, but God was not paralyzed.

 

ii. Surely, Satan wanted Samuel to remain trapped in mourning over the tragedies of the past. He wanted Samuel stuck there, unable to move on with the LORD. But there are times when God tells us to simply move on. This is what God told Moses at the shores of the Red Sea: Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. (Exodus 14:15) It was time for Samuel to go forward.

 

b. I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite: The new king for Israel would be found among his sons, the sons of Jesse. Jesse was the grandson of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 4:17, 22).

 

c. How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me: We can certainlyunderstand Samuel’s fear. There isn’t any doubt that Saul would consider this treason. At the same time, it shows a note of fear in Samuel we are almost surprised to see. Perhaps Samuel’s excessive mourning over Saul has introduced an element of fear and unbelief in his heart. In truth, Samuel didn’t have anything to worry about, because God promised I will show you what you shall do.

 

i. Was God telling Samuel to lie? Not at all. “This was strictly true; Samuel did offer a sacrifice; and it does not appear that he could have done the work which God designed, unless he had offered this sacrifice, and called the elders of the people together, and this collected Jesse’s sons. But he did not tell the principle design of his coming; had he done so, it would have produced evil and no good: and though no man, in any circumstances, should ever tell a lie, yet in all circumstances he is not obliged to tell the whole truth, though in every circumstance he must tell nothing but the truth, and in every case so tell the truth that the hearer shall not believe a lie by it.” (Clarke)

 

d. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons: Years before this, Israel rejected the LORD God as their king, and they wanted a human king instead. God gave them their human king, after their own desire (Saul), but God is still on the throne, crowning who He pleases, as He pleases.

 

i. The simple fact was that God was ruling Israel. They could recognize His rule, submit to it, and enjoy the benefits; or they could resist His reign over Israel, and suffer because of it. It does not matter what my attitude towards God is, as far as it affects His ultimate victory. The LORD is God and King, and will always triumph. But my attitude matters everything as it affects my ultimate destiny.

 

ii. Poole on I have provided Myself a king: “This phrase is very emphatical, and implies the difference between this and the former king. Saul was a king of the people’s providing, he was the product of their inordinate and sinful desires; they desired him for themselves, and for their own glory and safety, as they supposed; but this is a king of my own providing, one that I have spied out, one of that tribe to which I have allotted the kingdom.”

 

iii. We don’t have to fear for the future when we know God has provided for Himself leaders. In some unlikely place, God is raising up leaders for His people. He will keep them obscure and hidden until the right time, then God will raise them up. God will always provide for Himself leaders.

 

e. You shall anoint for Me the one I name to you: The first king of Israel was anointed for the people. He was the “king from central casting,” the kind of king the people wanted. Now, the “people’s choice” had failed and disqualified himself. Now, the LORD said, it’s time for a king for Me. God was going to show Israel His king.

 

i. Because Israel was not walking in God’s heart, and God’s mind, we should expect that God’s king would not look like the “people’s choice” king. God had no interest in bringing “Saul Number Two” to the throne of Israel. This would be a different kind of king, who would be unto the LORD a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

 

2. (4-5) Samuel comes to sacrifice at Bethlehem.

 

So Samuel did what the LORD said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice.

 

a. So Samuel did what the LORD said, and went to Bethlehem: Bethlehem was a small town, not very far from Jerusalem. It was the home of Ruth and Boaz, from whom the family of Jesse descended. It was a hilly grain-growing region, with many small grain fields carved into the hillsides.

 

b. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” Considering what Samuel had just done with the Amalekite king Agag (1 Samuel 15:33), it’s no wonder the elders of Bethlehem were afraid.

 

c. Come with me to the sacrifice: The idea was not that Jesse and his sons were to just watch Samuel sacrifice this heifer. They would watch the sacrifice, then they would share in a large ceremonial meal, eating the meat that came from the sacrificed animal.

 

i. When an animal was sacrificed to atone for sin, none of it was eaten and it was all burned before the LORD. But when an animal was sacrificed as a peace offering, a fellowship offering, or a consecration offering, then part of the animal was burnt before the LORD, and part of it was eaten in a special ceremonial meal.

 

3. (6-10) God doesn’t choose any of Jesse’s older sons.

 

So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen these.”

 

a. Surely the LORD’s anointed is before Him: As Samuel looked at Eliab, the oldest son of Jesse, he thought “This man sure looks like a king. This must be the one God will tell me to anoint. That’s a good choice, God!” Samuel saw a tall, good looking young man who looked like he would be a great king and leader.

 

b. Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him: Samuel made the mistake of judging Eliab based on his appearance. This was the same mistake Israel had made when it came to the failed king Saul. Saul looked the part of a king, but he didn’t have the heart a king of God’s people should have. It didn’t matter how good Eliab looked, because God said, “I have refused him.”

 

c. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. This was both a statement of fact, and an exhortation to godly thinking.

 

i. First, it was a statement of fact. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. Even the best of men will look at the outward appearance. Samuel was guilty of it right at that moment. We must understand that we can’t read the secrets of someone else’s heart, and we often do only judge on outward appearance. “The world is full of idolatries, but I question if any idolatry has been more extensively practices than the idolatry of the outward appearance.” (Blaikie)

 

ii. Second, it was an exhortation to godly thinking. God was telling Samuel, “Your natural inclination is to only judge on outward appearance. But I can judge the heart that you can’t see. So look to Me, and don’t be so quick to judge a person only on their outward appearance.” Samuel needed to know his natural inclination to judge only on outward appearance, but he didn’t have to give into it. He could seek the LORD and seek God’s heart and mind when looking at people.

 

d. The LORD has not chosen these: God told Samuel that He had not chosen any of the seven sons of Jesse who attended the sacrificial feast. It wasn’t that these sons of Jesse were bad men, but they were not God’s choice. God had a man in mind different from Samuel’s or Jesse’s expectation.

 

i. Eliab and the seven oldest sons of Jesse were perfect potential kings as far as the flesh is concerned. But God didn’t want a king after the flesh. Israel already had one of those! God needed to do more than fix up a fleshly king; God looked for a different kind of king. “To educate and refine the flesh so that it may become profitable in His service is never God’s plan. He insists on the sentence of death upon everything that you and I are in ourselves . . . There is only one place for all that is ‘self’ – on Calvary.” (Redpath)

 

ii. “All the things which men count as privileges, and therefore as creating fitness for position and high service, are in themselves of no value in the sight of God. He looketh on the heart. He considers the deepest fact in personality, the inner and hidden impulse, desire, affection.” (Morgan)

 

4. (11) Samuel asks about a missing son.

 

And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.”

 

a. Are all the young men here? Samuel had a problem. God had told him of Jesse, I have provided Myself a king among his sons (1 Samuel 16:1). Yet here were the seven sons of Jesse, and God had not chosen any of these. Since Samuel knew God’s word was true, he knew there must be another son of Jesse who was not at the sacrificial feast.

 

i. Samuel was a prophet, and knew how to trust the word of the LORD given to him. He might have said, “I guess the LORD was wrong when He told me it would be one of Jesse’s sons,” but he didn’t say that. He might have said, “It has to be one of these seven sons, so pass them by me again” but he didn’t say that. He had confidence in the word of the LORD when it came to the prophecy regarding Jesse’s sons, and he had confidence in the word of the LORD when it came to God’s rejection of each of the seven sons. We should trust God’s Word as much as Samuel trusted the word of the LORD!

 

b. There remains the youngest: This shows the low regard David had among his own family. First, his father doesn’t even mention him by name. Second, he wasn’t even invited to the sacrificial feast. Third, he would not have been brought unless Samuel insisted on it.

 

i. “So small was David in his father’s esteem that it wasn’t considered necessary to include him in the family when the prophet of God called them to sacrifice.” (Redpath)

 

ii. When we consider that David was the youngest of eight sons, we aren’t surprised at the low regard he had in his own family. It wasn’t because David’s character or conduct was unworthy, it was simply because he was the youngest of eight sons.

 

iii. This is often how God chooses. Paul wrote that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called(1 Corinthians 1:26). God often chooses unlikely people to do His work, so that all know the work is God’s work, not man’s work. He wants to work in a way so that people regard His servants as they regarded Samson: they wondered at the secret of his strength (Judges 16:5).

 

iv. “You may not be intellectual or well thought of in your family circle; you may be despised by others for your faith in Christ. Perhaps you had only a little share in the love of your parents, as David did. But remember that those who are rejected of men often become beloved of the Lord.” (Redpath)

 

v. “You may have nothing in your outward semblance, nothing in your surroundings or circumstances, to indicate the true royalty within; but if you bare your heart to God, you shall stand revealed as his son, as a priest and a king unto Himself.” (Meyer)

 

c. And there he is, keeping the sheep: When was David called for this great anointing? When he was out keeping the sheep. David was simply doing his job, being faithful in small things and doing what his father told him to do.

 

i. Keeping the sheep was a servant’s job. The fact that David was out keeping the sheep showed that the family of Jesse was not especially wealthy, because if they were, a servant would have been keeping the sheep. But they were not affluent enough to have servants. David was the servant, and keeping the sheep was a servant’s job. “David was none of your strutting peacocks who cannot be content unless all eyes are upon them; he sang God’s praises as the nightingale will sing in the dark when no human ear is listening and no eye is admiring. He was content to bloom unseen, knowing that the sweetness of a renewed heart is never wasted on the desert air. He was satisfied with God alone as his auditor, and he coveted not the high opinion of man.” (Spurgeon)

 

ii. Keeping the sheep meant you had time to think. David would spend a lot of time looking over the sheep and looking at the glory of God’s creation. God built in him the heart that would sing,

 

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4)

 

O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, who have set Your glory above the heavens! Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger. When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen; even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8)

 

iii. Keeping the sheep took a special heart, a special care. It meant you knew how sheep needed the care and help of a good shepherd. It meant that you knew you were a sheep and God was your shepherd. During these years, God built in David the heart that would sing,

 

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23)

 

iv. Keeping the sheep meant you had to trust God in the midst of danger. David had lions and bears and wolves to contend with, and the sheep had to be protected. “The country round Bethlehem was not a peaceful paradise, and the career of a shepherd was not the easy life of lovesick swains which poets dream.” (Blaikie)

 

v. Does God have you keeping the sheep right now? Are you in a humble, lowly, servant’s place, but feel that God has called you to greater things? If He has, it will only be fulfilled as you are faithful in keeping the sheep right where you are at. This isn’t waiting time, this is training time. David was a great man, and a great king over Israel, because he never lost his shepherd’s heart.

 

5. (12-13) David is chosen and anointed.

 

So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.

 

a. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking: The physical description of David tells us he was of fair complexion (this is probably the meaning of ruddy, and alight complexion was considered attractive in that culture). He had bright eyes, which speak of vitality and intelligence. And he was good-looking.

 

i. David had a pleasant appearance, but he did not look like Saul, who was a choice and handsome young man. There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people. (1 Samuel 9:2) David looked nice, but you didn’t look at him and say, “There’s a born leader. There is a king.” That is what people said when they looked at Saul. When they looked at David, they said “That’s a nice looking boy.”

 

ii. But look at what God said to Saul about David prophetically in 1 Samuel 15:28: The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. As unlikely as he appeared, David was better than Saul in the eyes of God.

 

iii. We don’t know how old David was at this time. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus says that David was ten years old. Others guess he was about fifteen years old. It’s safe to say he was somewhere in that range.

 

b. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” David’s seven brothers, by all outward appearance, seemed to be better material for royalty. David, as unlikely as he was, was the one.

 

i. If it was strange for God to find the king of Israel at the sheepfold, it was even stranger for the Savior of the World to come from a carpenter’s shop. God looks for different qualities in leaders than we normally look for.

 

ii. David was a shepherd, but there were a lot of shepherds. David was good-looking, but so were a lot of young men. David was young, but there were plenty of young men God could have chosen. God described what made David special in 1 Samuel 13:14: The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD had commanded him to be commander over His people. What made David the one was that he was a man after God’s own heart.

 

iii. God’s choice of David shows that we don’t have to quit our jobs and enter into full-time ministry to be people after God’s own heart. We don’t need to be famous or prominent to be people after God’s own heart. We don’t need to be respected or even liked by others to be people after God’s own heart. We don’t need status, influence, power, the respect or approval of men, or great responsibilities to be people after God’s own heart.

 

iv. Where did David get this heart? Obviously, from time spent with the LORD. But someone started him on that path. David says nothing of his father, but twice in the Psalms he refers to his mother as a maidservant of the LORD (Psalm 86:16 and 116:16). Probably, it was David’s godly mother who poured her heart and love and devotion of the LORD into him, and gave him a foundation to build on in his own walk with the LORD. Like Timothy, another young man used of the LORD, God used David’s mother to pour into him a godly faith (2 Timothy 1:5). Mothers, might God use you to raise up a David or a Timothy?

 

d. Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers: From the actions of David, Jesse, and David’s brothers from this point on, we can gather that only God and Samuel knew exactly what was happening here.

 

i. Everyone else probably thought that Samuel was just honoring David for some reason. Probably no one even dared to think that this was David’s anointing to be king over all Israel. But God knew, because He had been working in David’s heart for a long time. “The public anointing was the outcome of what had taken place in private between David and God long before.” (Redpath)

 

ii. In some ways, David’s anointing was similar to Saul’s (1 Samuel 10:1). Both were anointed in secret, and neither immediately took the throne. But over time, David responded to the anointing of God in a completely different way than Saul.

 

iii. There were three outward evidences of the destiny God had for David’s life. The first evidence was the anointing. He received that immediately. The second evidence was the spiritual battle he entered into with Saul. The final evidence was when he received the crown and was enthroned in Israel, some 25 years later. It was a long time between the time David was chosen and anointed to be a king and the time he was crowned. In our lives, it is a long time for most of us between when we are chosen and anointed, and the time when we receive our crowns (2 Timothy 4:8). In between, there is a lot of conflict and spiritual warfare God has for us. The spiritual warfare is just as much evidence of our destiny as the anointing and the crowning!

 

e. And the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward: The real anointing happened when the Holy Spirit came upon David. The oil on the head was just a sign of this inward reality.

 

i. The symbol of the Holy Spirit coming upon David was the anointing oil on his head. The symbol of the Holy Spirit coming upon Jesus was the dove that appeared from heaven. The symbol of the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples was the tongues of fire that appeared over their heads. The Holy Spirit loves to do His work asHe wills, in many different ways.

 

f. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah: What? Didn’t Samuel begin a “Let’s Enthrone David” political party? Didn’t he begin to undermine Saul’s throne, and look for a way to establish David as king? No. Samuel took one look at David, and reacted exactly the way God wanted him to: “LORD, I don’t know why You chose this kid. But You will have to put him on the throne. I can’t do it.”

 

i. And God would do it. 1 Samuel 16:13 is the first mention of the name David in the book of 1 Samuel. He has been prophetically referred to on several occasions before (1 Samuel 13:14, 15:28). But this is the first mention of his name, which means “Beloved” or “Loved One.”

 

ii. David will become one of the greatest men of the Bible, being mentioned more than 1,000 times in the pages of Scripture – more than Abraham, more than Moses, more than any man in the New Testament. It’s no accident that Jesus wasn’t known as the “Son of Abraham” or the “Follower of Moses,” but as the Son of David(Matthew 9:27 and at least a dozen other places).

 

iii. “From whatever side we view the life of David, it is remarkable. It may be that Abraham excelled him in faith, and Moses in the power of concentrated fellowship with God, and Elijah in the fiery force of his enthusiasm. But none of these was so many-sided as the richly gifted son of Jesse.” (Meyer)

 

iv. But it all began here – as David was keeping the sheep. No wonder the LORD would later say of David, in Psalm 78:70-72: He also chose David His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the ewes that had young He brought him, to shepherd Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance. So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.

 

B. Saul’s distressing spirit.

 

1. (14) Saul’s distressing spirit troubles him.

 

But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him.

 

a. In 1 Samuel 16:13, the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. As the Spirit of the LORD comes upon David, a distressing spirit came to Saul, and troubled him.

 

b. If God is all-good, why did He send a distressing spirit upon Saul? There are two senses in which God may send something. He may send something in the active sense, or He may send something in a passive sense. Actively, God never initiates or performs evil; He is the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning (James 1:17). Passively, God may withdraw the hand of His protection, and therefore allow evil to come, without being the source of the evil itself.

 

c. This is indicated by what happened with Saul. First, the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul. This meant Saul lost his spiritual “protection” and covering. So, Satan was more than ready to send a distressing spirit to fill the void in Saul.

 

i. “God seems to have taken what gifts he had, and given them to David; and then the evil spirit came upon Saul; for what God fills not, the devil will.” (Clarke)

 

ii. This is why the continual presence of the Holy Spirit for all Christians is such a comfort for us. We don’t have to fear that God will take the Holy Spirit from us (Romans 8:9-11, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

 

iii. Ellison on the distressing spirit: “With us it suggests a spirit that was morally evil . . . here it merely conveys the thought that the outcome of his working was calamitous for Saul.”

 

c. Why? Did God allow all this? Perhaps this was to judge Saul’s past wickedness and rebellion against the Holy Spirit’s guidance. This may be an example of God giving Saul over to his sin.

 

i. Saul clearly had the Spirit of the LORD upon him at one time (1 Samuel 10:10). Yet, as he showed himself proud and rebellious against God, Saul resisted the Holy Spirit. He told the Holy Spirit “No” and “Go away” so many times, that God finally gave Saul what he wanted. But Saul never realized the price he would pay when the Spirit of the LORD departed from him. Saul thought he would be more free to do his thing without the Spirit of the LORD “bugging” him. He didn’t realize he would be in even more bondage to a distressing spirit that troubled him.

 

ii. Even in this, Saul could have repented. He was not past the place of repentance and restoration before God. It was up to him to receive God’s correction and respond with a tender, repentant heart before the LORD.

 

d. A distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him: Today, Saul would probably be diagnosed as mentally ill. Yet his problem was spiritual in nature, not mental or psychological.

 

i. There are many people in mental hospitals today that are really suffering from spiritual problems. It is certainly wrong to assume that every case of mental distress is spiritual, because chemical imbalances and physiological problems are also real in our fallen world. Even so, there are certainly some that liberation from a distressing spirit, and may never find it in our modern mental health system.

 

ii. “I have considered his malady to be of a mixed kind, natural anddiabolical; there is too much of apparent nature in it to permit us to believe it was all spiritual, and there is too much of apparentsupernatural influence to suffer us to believe that it was all natural.” (Clarke)

 

2. (15-17) A solution suggested.

 

And Saul’s servants said to him, “Surely, a distressing spirit from God is troubling you. Let our master now command your servants,who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp; and it shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well.” So Saul said to his servants, “Provide me now a man who can play well, and bring him to me.”

 

a. Saul’s servants said to him, “Surely a distressing spirit from God is troubling you.” It was obvious to Saul’s servants, but it does not seem to have been obvious to Saul. Often our spiritual condition is far more apparent to others than it is to our selves.

 

b. Seek out man who is a skillful player: Essentially, Saul’s servants are advising that he find what we would call a “worship leader.” They will seek out a man who can, using music, bring the love, peace, and power of God to Saul.

 

i. God created music, and gave it the capability to touch people with great power. Music can be used for great good or for great evil, because it is such a power tool of communication to our inner being.

 

ii. Especially, God wants the power of music to be used in worshipping Him. In heaven, God’s people worship Him with music and singing (Revelation 14:2-3). On earth, we should worship God the same way (Psalm 150). Worship is, and should be, more than music and singing; but certainly music and singing are wonderful, God-appointed ways to worship the LORD!

 

iii. God wants His people to worship Him, and God can do a tremendous work in the hearts and lives of His people through worship. Because worship is so important, worship leaders are important. Saul needed to be led into worship, so it was important to seek out a man to do the job.

 

iv. There is a sense in which the worship minister is like a priest in the Old Testament, standing between God and the congregation. His job is not to entertain the people, or even to please the people, but to lead them into worshipping God in Spirit and in truth.

 

v. In describing the ministry of priests in Exodus 28:1-21, 29, the LORD repeatedly called them to minister to Me. Clearly, the job of the priests was to offer ministry unto God; yet at the same time, God wanted them to have a heart for the people. On their shoulders and over their hearts, God wanted to priests to have the names of the tribes of Israel. This shows both aspects of worship ministry – it has to be done unto the LORD, yet with the people on our hearts and shoulders. In worship ministry, there can be two harmful extremes. We can do ministry connected to the LORD, but not to the people; or we can do ministry connected to the people but not to the LORD. We have to be in close communion with God, and have the people on our hearts (loving them) and on our shoulders (working hard for them).

 

c. You shall be well: In the past, Saul received the Spirit of the LORD in the presence of music (1 Samuel 10:10). Perhaps this is an effort to recreate that experience.

 

3. (18) A man is nominated.

 

Then one of the servants answered and said, “Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the LORD is with him.”

 

a. Look, I have seen a son of Jesse: Saul’s servants suggested that Saul command a search; Saul commanded the search, and then one of Saul’s servants answered and said he had found a man to be Saul’s worship leader. What kind of man was this son of Jesse (David), to make him a fit worship leader for Saul?

 

b. Skillful in playing: To lead Saul in worship, and to minister to him in music, David had to be skillful in playing. The technical quality of music makes a difference in being an effective worship leader. The heart matters, but so does technical ability.

 

i. This doesn’t mean that a person has to be a virtuoso before they can be used of God. But it does mean that they cannot tolerate a too casual, unconcerned, lazy, “we don’t really need to practice” attitude. Skillful in playing reflects an attitude as much as it reflectsability.

 

c. A mighty man of valor, a man of war: Worship ministry is a constant battleground. There are often conflicts and contentions surrounding worship ministry, and if someone isn’t equipped and ready for spiritual warfare, they will probably be spiritually and emotionally “injured” in worship ministry, and probably “injure” others!

 

i. So much of what makes a person a good musician or a good artistgoes against true worship ministry. The desire for the spotlight, the desire for prominence, the desire for attention, the need for ego satisfaction, all work against effective worship.

 

ii. Worship ministers must make war against the world. Worldly ideas and approaches to music don’t belong in worship ministry. This isn’t to say that certain musical styles are off-limits; much of today’s “old fashioned gospel music” was cutting edge when first composed. But it does mean that the things that are important to the world in music shouldn’t be important in worship.

 

iii. Worship ministers must make war against the devil. He is constantly trying to stir up strife, jealousy, hurt feelings, pride, discouragement, and anything else he can find. Satan has a special “regard” for worship ministry, because before his fall, he was the “worship leader” of heaven (Ezekiel 28:12-15).

 

iv. Worship ministers must make war against the flesh. To be effective in worship ministry, or in any ministry, one must die to self. If you “must” be up on the platform, you need to die to self. If you “must” have a solo, you need to die to self. If you “must” have it your way, you need to die to self. Much of the conflict in worship ministry blamed on the devil really comes just from the flesh. The devil just doesn’t have the time to be the source of all the problems that can come up in worship ministry! Sometimes it is much more convenient to blame then devil than to die to self and crucify the flesh with its passions and desires.

 

d. Prudent in speech: Good worship ministry needs a lot of diplomacy. Everyone has an opinion on music, and everyone has a suggestion. Effective worship ministers know when to speak and when to be quiet on the platform, among the team, and in the congregation.

 

e. A handsome person: David was a good-looking young man (1 Samuel 16:12). An effective worship minister doesn’t need to be a fashion model, but their appearance is important. They need to present themselves so as to be invisible. If they are so dressed up, or so dressed down, that their appearance calls attention to themselves, it needs to change.

 

f. The LORD is with him: This is the most important attribute. The other measures will grow and develop, but it must be said of any worship minister, the LORD is with him. This means that they called by God, submitting to God, and submitting to whatever leadership the LORD has placed over them.

 

4. (19-23) David enters Saul’s court.

 

Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” And Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine, and a young goat, and sent them by his son David to Saul. So David came to Saul and stood before him. And he loved him greatly, and he became his armorbearer. Then Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Please let David stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight.” And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play itwith his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.

 

a. Send me your son David, who is with the sheep: Since this happened after Samuel anointed David, we know that he simply returned to the sheep after he was anointed king. Perhaps David didn’t understand the significance of what Samuel did yet. Or, if he did, he understood that it was God’s job to bring him to the throne. In the meantime, David would simply go back to the sheep.

 

b. David did not have to manipulate his way into the palace or into Saul’s favor. He allowed the LORD to open the doors for him. David didn’t have to wonder, “Is this of the LORD or is of me?” because he let the LORD open the doors for him.

 

i. “Wonder not that David was so suddenly advanced, from a poor contemptible shepherd, to so great a reputation; for these were the effects of that Spirit of the Lord, which he received when he was anointed.” (Poole)

 

c. And he loved him greatly, and he became his armorbearer: David was an outstanding young man who was worthy of his name (“Beloved” or “Loved One”). Saul took to him immediately, and gave him the important and trusted position of armorbearer, his chief assistant in battle. A soldier’s life would often depend on the courage and faithfulness of his armorbearer, and Saul knew David was worthy of this position.

 

i. This was an important time in David’s life and training for the destiny God had for him. For the first time, he was in a royal court, and began to learn the customs and manners that he would need to be a good king later in life.

 

d. David would take a harp and play it: A harp is a lyre, the ancient version of the guitar. This isn’t speaking of one of the big harps you might find in an orchestra.

 

e. Then Saul would become refreshed and well: God used David to minister to Saul. David was happy to be used. What seemed like a great arrangement would not stay great for very long.

 

i. God was at work in ways no one could see. It seems plain to us from our distant perspective, but at the time, perhaps only Samuel knew what was going on. “Unwittingly, Saul was becoming dependent on the one designated to succeed him.” (Baldwin)

 

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1 Samuel 15 – GOD REJECTS SAUL AS KING

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1 Samuel 15 – GOD REJECTS SAUL AS KING

A. Battle against the Amalekites.

1. (1 Samuel 15:1-3) A clear, radical command: destroy Amalek.

Samuel also said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’“

a. Samuel also said to Saul: This was a message from the spiritual leader of Israel to the political and military leader of Israel. The message was clear:punish what Amalek did to Israel . . . go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them.

i. The judgment Israel was to bring against Amalek was frighteningly complete: Kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey. God clearly told Samuel to tell Saul to bring a total judgment against the Amalekites.

ii. Utterly destroy: This Hebrew verb (heherim) is used seven times in this account. The idea of total, complete judgment is certainly stressed.

b. Why? What did the Amalekites do that was so bad? Samuel explained that to Saul also: how he laid wait for him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Centuries before this, the Amalekites were the first peoples to attack Israel after their escape from Egypt (Exodus 17:1-16).

i. Hundreds of years before, the LORD said He would bring this kind of judgment against Amalek: Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-LORD-Is-My-Banner; for he said, “Because the LORD has sworn: the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” (Exodus 17:14-16)

ii. Deuteronomy 25:17-19 repeats the point:Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God. Therefore, it shall be, when the LORD your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.

iii. The Amalekites committed a terrible sin against Israel. When the nation was weak and vulnerable, the Amalekites attacked the weakest and most vulnerable of the nation (attacked your rear ranks, all the strangers at your rear, when you were tired and weary). They did this with no provocation, no reason except violence and greed. God hates it when the strong take cruel advantage over the weak, especially when the weak are His people. So God promised to bring judgment against the Amalekites.

iv. But all this had happened more than four hundred years before! Why did God hold it against the Amalekites? This shows us an important principle: time does not erase sin before God. Before man, time should erase sin. The years should make us forgiving to one another. But before God, time cannot atone for sin. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can erase sin, not time. In fact, the time was time that the Amalekites were mercifully given opportunity to repent. And they did not repent! The hundreds of years of hardened unrepentant hearts made them more guilty, not less guilty! “Though it be four hundred years since, and I may seem to have forgotten it. It is ill angering the Ancient of Days; his forbearance is no quittance.” (Trapp)

v. “Nothing could justify such an exterminating decree but the absolute authority of God. This was given: all the reasons of it we do not know; but this we know well, The Judge of all the earth doth right. This war was not for plunder, for God commanded that all the property as well as the people should be destroyed.” (Clarke)

c. If God wanted to judge the Amalekites, why didn’t He just do it Himself? He complete destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah without any help from man. Why not just do the same here?

i. But God had a special purpose in this for His special nation, Israel. He wanted it to be a test of obedience for Saul, and all of Israel. Plus, since Amalek’s sin against Israel was a military attack, God wanted to make the judgment fit the sin.

d. Would God call His people today to fight such a war of judgment? Many today are afraid that this is the real agenda of the “religious right,” and they imagine that they want to rule the world according to the Bible, and at the end of a gun. But God has a completely different call for Christians under the New Covenant than He did for Israel under the Old Covenant.

i. Jesus made it clear that He was establishing a spiritual kingdom, not a political or a military kingdom. Jesus said in John 18:36 : My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here. Paul made it clear that the enemies of the church were not material, but spiritual: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12) Through the centuries, whenever the church has tried to rule the world politically or militarily, it has run into enormous trouble. We want to win the world for Jesus Christ, but we want to do it through the influence of individual lives, transformed one at a time by the spiritual power of Jesus Christ.

e. Though God no longer calls His people to take up arms as instruments of His judgment, it does not mean that God has stopped judging the nations. “But we cannot suppose, for a single moment, that the judgment of the nations is to be altogether relegated to that final day. Throughout the history of the world the nations have been standing before Christ’s bar. Nineveh stood there, Babylon stood there, Greece and Rome stood there, Spain and France stood there, and Great Britain is standing there to-day. One after another has had the solemn word – depart, and they have passed into a destruction which has been absolute and terrible.” (Meyer)

2. (1 Samuel 15:4-6) Saul prepares for the attack on the Amalekites.

So Saul gathered the people together and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand men of Judah. And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and lay in wait in the valley. Then Saul said to the Kenites, “Go, depart, get down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them. For you showed kindness to all the children of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.

a. So Saul gathered the people together and numbered them: Saul was certainly a capable military leader. He shows he has the ability to gather and organize a large army. He also knew how to time his attack properly; he lay in wait in the valley.

b. Saul said to the Kenites, “Go, depart”: Here, Saul shows wisdom and mercy in letting the Kenites go. God’s judgment was not upon them, so he did not want to destroy them with the Amalekites.

i. “And when the Kenites pack up their fardles, it is time to expect judgment.” (John Trapp. According to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, a fardle is “A bundle or little pack.”)

ii. The Kenites “were the posterity of Jethro (Judges 1:6), who, thought he went not with Israel, yet some of his children did, and were helpful.” (Trapp)

3. (1 Samuel 15:7-9) Saul attacks the Amalekites.

And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.

a. Saul attacked the Amalekites: This was good, and in obedience to the LORD. But it was a selective, incomplete obedience. First, Saul took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. God commanded Saul to bring His judgment on all the people, including the king.

i. Whey did Saul take Agag king of the Amalekites alive? “Saul spared Agag, either out of a foolish pit for the goodliness of his person, which Josephus notes; or for his respect to his royal majesty, in the preservation of which he thought himself concerned; or for the glory of his triumph.” (Poole)

ii. “If Saul spare Agag, the people will take liberty to spare the best of the spoil . . . the sins of the great command imitation.” (Trapp)

b. As well, Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. God had clearly commanded in 1 Samuel 15:3, that every ox and sheep, camel and donkey was to be destroyed also, and Saul didn’t do this.

i. In a normal war in the ancient world, armies were freely permitted to plunder their conquered foes. This is how the army was often paid. Why was it wrong here? It was wrong for anyone in Israel to benefit from the war against the Amalekites, because it was an appointed judgment from God. This was just as wrong if a hangman were to empty the pockets of the man he has just executed for murder.

c. As well, they were careful to keep the best for themselves, but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. They took the care to make sure that they took home the best, and we can imagine they were all pleased with what they had gained after the battle.

i. This perhaps was worst of all, because Israel was not reflecting God’s heart in His judgment. When they came home happy and excited because of what they gained from the battle, they implied there was something joyful or happy in the midst of God’s judgment. This dishonored God, who brings His judgment reluctantly and without pleasure, longing that men would have repented instead.

ii. “Partial obedience is complete disobedience. Saul and his men obeyed as far as suited them; that is to say, they did not obey God at all, but their own inclinations, both in sparing the good and destroying the worthless. What was not worth carrying off was destroyed, – not because of the command, but to save trouble.” (Maclaren)

iii. “We are prepared to obey the Divine commands up to a certain point, and there we stay. Just as soon as ‘the best and choicest’ begin to be touched, we draw the line and refuse further compliance. We listen to soft voices that bid us to stay our hand, when our Isaac is on the altar.” (Meyer)

iv. “But an even deeper reading of this story is permissible. Throughout the Bible Amalek stands for the flesh, having sprung from the stock of Esau, who, for a morsel of meat, steaming fragrantly in the air, sold his birthright. To spare the best of Amalek is surely equivalent to sparing some root of evil, some plausible indulgence, some favourite sin. For us, Agag must stand for that evil propensity, which exists in all of us, for self-gratification; and to spare Agag is to be merciful to ourselves, to exonerate and palliate our failures, and to condone our besetting sin.” (Meyer)

4. (1 Samuel 15:10-11) God’s word to Samuel.

Now the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul asking, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the LORD all night.

a. I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king: God’s heart was broken over Saul’s disobedience. The man who started out humble and submissive to God was now boldly going his own way in disobedience to God.

i. How can God say, “I greatly regret”? Does this mean that God did not know what would happen? That God wanted things to happen a certain way, but was powerless to make them come to pass? Not at all. This is the use ofanthropomorphism, when God explains Himself to man in human terms, so man can have some understanding of God’s heart. God knew from the beginning Saul’s heart, and Saul’s ways, and Saul’s destiny. He knew that He had alreadysought for Himself a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Yet, as all this unfolded, God’s heart was not emotionless. He didn’t sit in heaven with a clipboard, checking off boxes, coldly saying, “All according to plan.” Saul’s disobedience hurt God, and since we couldn’t understand what was really happening in God’s heart, the closest that we could come is for God to express it in the human terms of saying, “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king.”

ii. “Repentance properly notes grief of heart, and change of counsels, and therefore cannot be in God, who is unchangeable, most wise, and most blessed; but it is ascribed to God in such cases, when men give God cause to repent, and when God alters his course and method of dealing, and treats a person as if he did indeed repent of all the kindness he had showed to him.” (Poole)

iii. “God’s repentance is not a change of his will, but of his work. Repentance with man, is the changing of his will; repentance with God, is the willing of a change.” (Trapp)

b. And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the LORD all night: Samuel shows that he has God’s heart. It hurt God to reject Saul, and it hurt God’s prophet to see him rejected. We are close to God’s heart when the things that grieve Him grieve us, and the things that please God please us.

5. (1 Samuel 15:12-13) Saul greets Samuel.

So when Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul, it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul went to Carmel, and indeed, he set up a monument for himself; and he has gone on around, passed by, and gone down to Gilgal.” Then Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have performed the commandment of the LORD.”

a. So when Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul: Reluctantly, Samuel (who had anointed Saul as king years before) now comes to discipline the disobedient king.

b. Was Saul grieved over his sin? Not at all. Instead, he set up a monument for himself. Saul was quite pleased with himself! He felt he had done something good, and he believed he was totally justified in what he had done. There is not the slightest bit of shame or guilt in Saul, even though he had directly disobeyed the LORD.

i. In coming chapters, God will raise up another man to replace Saul as king. David, in contrast to Saul, was known as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Even thought David, as king of Israel, would also disobey God, the difference between him and Saul was great. David felt the guilt and shame one should feel when they sin. Saul didn’t feel it. His conscience was dead to shame and his heart was dead to God. Saul’s heart was so dead he could directly disobey God and set up a monument for himself on the occasion!

c. He set up a monument for himself also shows that Saul is not the same humble man who once had a humble opinion of himself (1 Samuel 9:21) and who once hid among the equipment out of shyness (1 Samuel 10:22). The years, the military victories, and prestige of the throne of Israel have all revealed the pride in Saul’s heart.

i. “But the truth is, he was zealous for his own honour and interest, but lukewarm where God only was concerned.” (Poole)

d. Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” How could Saul do this? How could he come to the prophet of God with such boldness, such confidence, and boast of his obedience? Because of his pride, Saul is self-deceived. He probably really believed what he told Samuel. He probably believed, “I have performed the commandment of the LORD.”Pride always leads us into self-deception!

i. Maclaren has an insightful comment on Saul’s statement, “I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” “That is more than true obedience is quick to say. If Saul had done it, he would have been slower to boast of it.”

6. (1 Samuel 15:14-16) Saul “explains” his sin to Samuel.

But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.” Then Samuel said to Saul, “Be quiet! And I will tell you what the LORD said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak on.”

a. What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? Saul had been proud of his accomplishments. He set up a monument for himself. He could openly – and in his own mind, honestly – say “I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” At the same time, the evidence of his disobedience was could be heard, even as he spoke! The livestock that God clearly commanded to be killed could be heard, seen, and even smelt even as Saul said, “I have performed the commandment of the LORD.”

i. Pride and disobedience make us blind – or deaf – to our sin. What was completely obvious to Samuel was invisible to Saul. We all have blind spots of sin in our lives, and we need to constantly ask God to show them to us. We need to sincerely pray the prayer of Psalms 139:23-24 : Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

ii. I heard one man say to another, “If you only knew how obvious it was to everyone else that you are in the flesh, you would be terribly embarrassed.” That could be said of almost any Christian at some time or another. We need to plead with God to reveal our blind spots to us!

b. Saul’s excuses are revealing. First, he blames the people, not himself (They have brought them . . . the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen). Second, he includes himself in the obedience (the rest we have utterly destroyed). Third, he justifies what he has kept because of its fine quality (the best of the sheep and the oxen). Fourth, he claims to have done it for a spiritual reason (to sacrifice to the LORD your God).

i. Of course, while all this made perfect sense to Saul (in his proud self-deception), it meant nothing to God and Samuel. In fact, it was worse than nothing – it showed that Saul was desperately trying to excuse his sin by word games and half-truths.

ii. But even in his excuse, Saul reveals the real problem: he has a poor relationship with God. Notice how he speaks of God to Samuel: “to sacrifice to the LORD your God.” The LORD was not Saul’s God. Saul was Saul’s God. The LORD was the God of Samuel, not Saul. In his pride, Saul has removed the LORD God from the throne of his heart.

iii. “O sinners, you do miscalculate fearfully when you give to God’s servants such false explanations of your sins!” (Blaikie)

c. The rest we have utterly destroyed: As it turned out, this was not even true. Saul, in fact, did not even do what he said he did. There were still Amalekites he left alive. David later had to deal with the Amalekites (1 Samuel 27:8; 1Sa_30:12 Samuel 8:12). Haman, the evil man who tried to wipe out all the Jewish people in the days of Esther, was in fact a descendant of Agag! (Esther 3:1). Most ironic of all, when Saul was killed on the field of battle, the final thrust of the sword was from the hand of an Amalekite! (2 Samuel 1:8-10). When we don’t obey God completely, the “left over” portion will surely come back and trouble us, if not kill us!

d. Then Samuel said to Saul, “Be quiet!” Samuel has had enough. He will listen to no more from Saul. The excuse was revealed for what it was – just a lame excuse. Now it is time for Saul to be quiet, and to listen to the word of the LORD through Samuel.

i. But even in this, Saul can’t shut up. He shows his proud desire to retain some control by replying, “Speak on.” As if the prophet of God Samuel needed Saul’s permission! He would speak on, but not because Saul had given him permission. He would speak on because he was a messenger of God.

B. Saul is rejected as king.

1. (1 Samuel 15:17-21) The charge against Saul, and his feeble defense.

So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel? Now the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the LORD?” And Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.”

a. Now the LORD sent you on a mission . . . Why did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the LORD? This was the most apparent of Saul’s sins. God had given him a specific command, and he had directly disobeyed it.

i. Though the disobedience was the most apparent sin, the root of Saul’s disobedience was far worse: pride. Samuel refers to this when he remembers when things were different with Saul: When you were little in your own eyes, were you not the head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the LORD anoint you king over Israel? Now, it could no longer be said of Saul, you are little in your own eyes. He was big in his own eyes, and that made the LORD small in his eyes!

b. But I have obeyed the voice of the LORD: Saul first insists that he is innocent. But he is so self-deceived, that he can say, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD and then immediately describe how he did not obey the voice of the LORD! (Saul admits that hebrought back Agag king of Amalek).

i. Saul’s claim, I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites is plain evidence of the power and depth of his self-deception. First, he admits that he brought back Agag king of Amalek. There was an Amalekite right in front of him whom was not utterly destroyed! Second, the Biblical record makes it clear that Saul had not even utterly destroyed the Amalekites, because later David fought them (1 Samuel 27:8; 1Sa_30:12 Samuel 8:12), Esther fought them (Esther 3:1), and Saul himself was killed by an Amalekite! (2 Samuel 1:8-10) Yet, Saul can “honestly” say, “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD” and “I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites” because he is self-deceived.

ii. “He addeth obstinacy and impenitency to his crime, and justifies his fact, though he hath nothing of any moment to say but what he said before. So he gives Samuel the lie, and reflects upon him as one that had falsely accused him.” (Poole)

c. But the people took of the plunder: After insisting he is innocent, Saul then blames the people for the sin. His statement is a half-truth that is a whole lie. It is true that the people took of the plunder. But they did so by following Saul’s example (he spared Agag king of Amalek), and with Saul’s allowance (he did nothing to stop or discourage them).

i. Saul certainly could be zealous in commanding his army when it suited him to be so. In the previous chapter, he commanded a death sentence on anyone who ate anything on the day of battle. He was willing to execute his own son in his zeal to have his command obeyed. Saul was full of fire and zeal when it came to his own will, but not when it came to the will of God.

ii. “But his crime was in consenting; had he not, the crime would have beentheirs alone.” (Clarke)

2. (1 Samuel 15:22-23) Samuel prophesies God’s judgment against King Saul.

Then Samuel said: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.”

a. Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. Religious observance without obedience is empty before God. The best sacrificial offering we could bring to God is a repentant heart (Psalms 51:16-17), and our bodies surrendered to His service for obedience (Romans 12:1).

i. One could make a thousand sacrifices unto God; work a thousand hours for God’s service; or give millions of dollars to His work. But all of those sacrifices mean little if there is not a surrendered heart to God, shown by simple obedience.

ii. In sacrifice we offer the flesh of another creature; in obedience we offer our own will before God. Luther used to say, “I had rather be obedient, than able to work miracles.” (Cited in Trapp)

iii. “In sacrifices a man offers only the strange flesh of irrational animals, whereas in obedience he offers his own will, which is rational or spiritual worship.” (Keil and Delitszch)

b. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry: A rebellious, stubborn heart rejects God just as certainly as someone rejects God by occult practices or idolatry.

i. Saul’s problem wasn’t just that he neglected some ceremony. That is how Saul thought of obedience to God. In today’s world, he might have said, “What? So God wants me to go to church more? All right, I’ll go.” But religious observance was not Saul’s problem; the problem was that his heart had become rebellious and stubborn against God. If religious observance was not helping thatproblem, then it was no good.

ii. It would have been easy for Saul to point his finger at the Amalekites or the Philistines and say, “Look at those Godless idolaters. They don’t worship the true God like I do.” But Saul didn’t worship the true God either, because the real worship of God begins with surrender.

iii. “Though not so great, yet as inexcusable and impudent a sin as witchcraft; as plainly condemned, and as certainly destructive and damnable.” (Poole)

iv. “All conscious disobedience is actually idolatry, because it makes self-will, the human I, into a god.” (Keil and Delitszch)

c. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king: In his empty religious practice, rebellion, and stubbornness against God, Saul was rejecting God’s word. So God rightly rejected him as king over Israel.

i. It would be easy to say, “What, Saul will be rejected as king because he spared a king and a few sheep and oxen? Later kings of Israel would do far worse, and not be rejected as king. Why is God being so tough on Saul?” But God saw Saul’s heart, and saw how rebellious and stubborn it was. Saul’s condition was like an iceberg: what was visible might be managable in size, but there was far more under the surface that couldn’t be seen. God could see it.

ii. So Saul was rejected . . . from being king. Yet, it would be almost 25 years before there was another king enthroned in Israel. Saul’s rejection was final, but it was not immediate. God needed almost 25 years to train up the right replacement for Saul!

3. (1 Samuel 15:24-25) Saul’s weak attempt to repent.

Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD.”

a. I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words: So far, so good. Saul’s statement begins like a genuine confession, reflecting a genuinely repentant heart. But that changes as he continues: because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. In this, Saul refuses to own up to his sin; instead he blames the people who “made him” do it.

i. Again, on the surface, this isn’t such a bad statement of repentance. It is better than most the confessions of sin one hears today! Yet, at the same time, these were only words for Saul. His heart wasn’t in them at all.

ii. “When he could deny it no longer, at length he maketh a forced and feigned confession; drawn thereto, more by the danger and damage of his sin, than by the offence; mincing and making the best of an ill matter.” (Trapp)

iii. Worst of all, he tries to justify one sin with another. Because I feared the people makes that clear. “This was to excuse one sin with another. He should have trusted in God, done his duty, and not feared what man could do unto him.” (Trapp) “This was the best excuse he could make for himself; but had he fearedGOD more, he need have feared the PEOPLE less.” (Clarke)

b. Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD: Instead of dealing with the deep issue of his heart of rebellion and stubbornness against God, Saul thinks that with a word from Samuel, everything can be fixed. But a word or two from Samuel will not change the settled nature of Saul’s heart.

i. God knew Saul’s heart. Not only did He know it was full of rebellion and stubbornness, but it was settled in that condition. That is something that no man could know with certainty, looking from the outside. But God knew it, and God had told Samuel the prophet this was the settled state of Saul’s heart. A simple “please pardon my sin” would not do when one’s heart is settled in rebellion and sin against the LORD.

4. (26-31) God’s rejection of Saul as king over Israel is final.

But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” And as Samuel turned around to go away, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. So Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.” Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD your God.” So Samuel turned back after Saul, and Saul worshipped the LORD.

a. I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel: Samuel has nothing more to say on this matter, other than what the LORD has already said through him previously (1 Samuel 15:23). That was all there was to talk about.

i. Why would Samuel say, “I will not return with you” when Saul just wanted him to worship with him? Because that worship would have no doubt also included sacrifices, and sacrifices of the animals that Saul and wickedly spared from the Amalekites. “This was a politic device of Saul’s that Samuel might at least seem to countenance his design, in reserving the cattle for sacrifice; which Samuel seeing, refused to do it.” (Poole)

b. Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. So Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today”: Saul’s desperate action provides a vivid object lesson on how the kingdom was torn away from him.

i. As useless as the torn piece of robe was in his hand, so now his leadership of the nation was futile. Now he was ruling against God, not for Him. And just as much as the robe tore because Saul grasped it too tightly, so his tight grip on his pride and stubbornness meant the kingdom would be taken away from him. In this respect, Saul was the opposite of Jesus, of whom it is said He had always been God by nature, did not cling to His prerogatives as God’s Equal, but stripped Himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as a mortal man (Philippians 2:6-7, J.B. Phillips translation). Jesus was willing to let go, but Saul insisted in clinging on. So Saul lost all, while Jesus gained all!

c. The Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent: Saul might have thought there was a way out of this. He was thinking of what he could do to “fix” this. Samuel let him know there was nothing he could do. This was permanent.

i. Samuel uses a title for the LORD found only here in the whole Bible: The Strength of Israel. This reminds Saul that the LORD is determined in His purpose, and is strong in His will. There will be no change.

ii. The title The Strength of Israel was also important, because at that time, Saul probably thought of himself as the strength of Israel. After all, 1 Samuel 14:47 says, So Saul established his sovereignty over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side. Saul was a mighty warrior, and it was easy for him to think, “I’m the strength of Israel.” But he wasn’t. The LORD God was The Strength of Israel!

d. I have sinned, yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel: Saul’s desperate plea shows the depths of his pride. He is far more concerned with his image than his soul.

i. “Here he plainly discovers his hypocrisy, and the true motive of this and his former confession; he was not solicitous for the favour of God, but for his honour and power with Israel.” (Poole)

e. So Samuel turned back after Saul: Why did Samuel do this? Why didn’t he lead an immediate rebellion against Saul, since God had rejected him as king? Because God had not raised up Saul’s replacement yet, and Saul was better than the anarchy that would come with no king.

i. “That people might not upon pretence of this sentence of rejection immediately withdraw all respect and obedience to their sovereign; whereby they would both have sinned against God, and have been as sheep without a shepherd.” (Poole)

f. So Samuel turned back after Saul, and Saul worshipped the LORD: Did this do any good? It did no “good” in gaining the kingdom back for Saul. That was a decision God had made, and He made it finally. But it may have done Saul good in moving his proud, stubborn heart closer to God for the sake of saving his soul. At least it had that opportunity, so Samuel allowed Saul to come with him and worship the LORD.

5. (1 Samuel 15:32-33) Samuel carries out God’s will.

Then Samuel said, “Bring Agag king of the Amalekites here to me.” So Agag came to him cautiously. And Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” But Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hacked Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.

a. Then Samuel said, “Bring Agag king of the Amalekites here to me.” For Samuel, the issue is not yet resolved. There is still the matter of Saul’s incomplete obedience. God’s command to utterly destroy all of Amalek still stood, even if Saul had not obeyed it.

b. And Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” As Agag came to the old prophet, he thought, “We will let bygones be bygones. I guess this old prophet will let me go home now.” The Living Bible expresses the thought well: Agag arrived all full of smiles, for he thought “surely the worst is over and I have been spared.”

i. “I who have escaped death from the hands of a warlike prince in the fury of battle, shall certainly never suffer death from an old prophet in time of peace.” (Poole)

c. As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women: Samuel makes it clear that Agag was not some innocent bystander when it came to the atrocities the Amalekites inflicted on Israel. Agag was the wicked, violent leader of a wicked, violent people. God’s judgment against him and the Amalekites was just.

d. And Samuel hacked Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal: Samuel was a priest, and had officiated at hundreds of animal sacrifices. He knew what it was like for the blade to cut into flesh; but he had never killed another person. Now, without hesitation, this old prophet raises a sword – or probably, a large knife, because that is what Samuel would have used in sacrifices – and brings it down upon this proud, violent king. Samuel hacked Agag in pieces.

i. Notably, Samuel did it before the LORD. This was not before Saul, to show him how weak and proud he was. This was not before Israel, to show them how strong and tough Samuel was. No; this was before the LORD, in tough obedience to the LORD God. This scene must have been shockingly violent; the stomachs of those watching must have turned. Yet Samuel did it all before the LORD.

ii. “But these are no precedents for private persons to take the sword of justice into their hands; for we must live by the laws of God, and not by extraordinary examples.” (Poole)

6. (1 Samuel 15:34-35) The tragic split between Samuel and Saul.

Then Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul. And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.

a. And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death: Samuel knew that it wasn’t his place to see Saul. It was Saul’s place to come to him in humble repentance before the LORD. If he did, it probably would not have restored the kingdom to Saul; but it could have restored his heart before God. But Saul never came to see Samuel. Ramah and Gibeah were less than ten miles apart, but they never saw each other again.

i. “But we read, 1 Samuel 19:22-24, that Saul went to see Samuel at Naioth, but this does not affect what is said here. From this time Samuel had no connectionwith Saul; he never more acknowledged him as king; he mourned and prayed for him.” (Clarke)

ii. The next time Saul and Samuel “meet” will be a strange situation in itself! (1 Samuel 28:1-25)

b. Nevertheless, Samuel mourned for Saul: Samuel was not a cold, dispassionate messenger of God’s word. He hurt for Saul. “For the hardness of his heart, and the hazard of his soul.” (Trapp)

 

 


 

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1 Samuel 14 – VICTORY OVER THE PHILISTINES

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1 Samuel 14 – VICTORY OVER THE PHILISTINES

A. Jonathan’s adventure in faith.

1. (1 Samuel 14:1-3) Jonathan’s proposal.

Now it happened one day that Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who bore his armor, “Come, let us go over to the Philistines’ garrison that is on the other side.” But he did not tell his father. And Saul was sitting in the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree which is in Migron. The people who werewith him were about six hundred men. Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh, was wearing an ephod. But the people did not know that Jonathan had gone.

a. It happened one day: At the beginning, there was nothing in this day that indicated it would be a remarkable day. But it would! On this day, God would win a great victory through the bold trust of Jonathan.

i. “God is ever on the outlook for believing souls, who will receive his power and grace on the one hand, and transmit them on the other. He chooses them, that by them he should make his mighty power known.” (Meyer)

b. Said to the young man who bore his armor: Every “officer” in the Israelite army had an “assistant” known as an armor bearer. The armor bearer would help the officer in fighting and administration of the army. They would often simply carry the armor and weapons of the officer, so they were known as armor bearers.

i. “Armor-bearers in ancient times had to be unusually brave and loyal, since the lives of their masters often depended on them.” (Youngblood) Later, God would raise up a special armor bearer for King Saul: a young man named David.

c. Come, let us go over to the Philistines garrison: The Israelites were in a military conflict were victory, from all outward appearance, was impossible. They were vastly outnumbered, and were greatly surpassed in military technology. Yet Jonathan is bold enough togo over to the Philistine garrison just to see what the LORD might want to do.

i. Jonathan probably was awake at night, offended and outraged at the way these godless Philistines were oppressing the Israelites. He was mad at the way it seemed so hopeless and how the people were just waiting around, discouraged. As he lay awake that night, perhaps a thought suddenly came into his mind: “Shamgar!” Shamgar? Jonathan probably remember him from his Bible. After all, Judges 3:31 describes how Shamgar killed 600 Philistines with a sharp stick. Jonathan probably thought, “Well, if God could do it through Shamgar, He could do it through me!”

ii. As Jonathan thought about it more, he considered there was no way the LORD had forsaken Israel. Sure, the odds were great against them. But God was greater than the odds. God had promised to do great things for Israel. He promised that Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you. (Leviticus 26:8) He had won great victories against great odds before, as in the days of Gideon or Samson. God gave this land to Israel, not to the Philistines. God could do it! Why not now? Why not today? Why not through me?

iii. “This was a rash and foolish attempt, if it be examined by common rules; but not so, if we consider the singular promises made to the Israelites, that one should chase a thousand, [and so forth], and especially the heroical and extraordinary motions which were then frequently put into the minds of gallant men by God’s Spirit, whereby they undertook and accomplished noble and wonderful things; as did Samson, and David, and his worthies.” (Poole )

d. He did not tell his father: Why not? It may have been just an oversight, or something easily and properly explained. Or, it may have been that Jonathan deliberately did not tell his father, because he believed his father would have simply said “no.”

e. Saul was sitting: What a contrast! The bold, brave, king is simply sitting . . . under a pomegranate tree while his son boldly goes over to the Philistine garrison. Saul is there, the priest with the ephod is there (as sort of an “army chaplain”). They sit back while Jonathan bravely trusts God.

f. The mention of Ichabod seems almost unnecessary. Why would we need to know that the priest with Saul, Ahijah, was the nephew of Ichabod? Probably, God wants us to associate the meaning of Ichabod’s name with where Saul is at spiritually. Saul’s royal glory is almost gone, and it is appropriate that he associates with a relative of “The Glory Has Departed.”

g. The people did not know that Jonathan was gone: This indicates that Jonathan did not go over to the Philistine garrison out of a desire for personal glory. If that was his motivation, he would have told at least a few people that he had gone over.

2. (1 Samuel 14:4-5) Jonathan finds a strategic position.

Between the passes, by which Jonathan sought to go over to the Philistines’ garrison, there wasa sharp rock on one side and a sharp rock on the other side. And the name of one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. The front of one faced northward opposite Michmash, and the other southward opposite Gibeah.

a. Between the passes . . . there was a sharp rock on one side and a sharp rock on the other side: On his way to the Philistine garrison, Jonathan sees something that any military man would notice. He sees a strategic position – a narrow path through a pass, with large, sharp rocks on either side. A few men could easily fight against a much larger number at this strategic place.

b. If Jonathan would have never decided, Come, let us go over to the Philistines’ garrison that is on the other side (1 Samuel 14:1) he would have never found this strategic place. God guided Jonathan as Jonathan was boldly trusting God, and acting on that bold trust.

3. (6-7) Jonathan’s bold proposal.

Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the LORD will work for us. For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few.” So his armorbearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart.”

a. It may be that the LORD will work for us: For Jonathan, this was more than a reconnaissance expedition. He wanted to see what God could do through two men who would trust him and step out boldly.

i. Jonathan knew the need was great. Israel was already hopelessly outnumbered and demoralized.

ii. Jonathan knew God wanted to use someone. His father, King Saul, just wanted to sit under a pomegranate tree. Something had to be done, and Jonathan was willing to be used by God to do it.

iii. Jonathan knew God wanted to work with someone. Jonathan could have justprayed that God would rain down fire from heaven on the Philistines. But Jonathan knew that God uses the bold action and fighting spirit of His people. “It was not Jonathan that was to work with some help from God; it was the Lord that was to work by Jonathan.” (Blaikie)

b. For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few: What wise courage in God! Many in Israel probably believed this as a theological truth. But few believed it enough to do something. Jonathan’s faith was demonstrated by his works.

i. Nothing restrains the LORD! Do we really believe it? Or does the title of J.B. Phillips’ book describe us: Your God is Too Small. We often feel that God is restrained in one way or another. In reality, the only thing that could be said to restrain God is our unbelief. In Matthew 13:58, it says of one time in Jesus’ ministry, He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief. God’s power is never restrained, but His will may be restrained by our unbelief. He may choose not to act until we partner with Him in trust. God had a trusting partner in Jonathan!

ii. By many or few: What did it matter? Who cares about the odds or the point spread when God is on your side? The odds were already against Israel. Did it matter if it was a million-to-one or a thousand-to-one? Numbers or odds did not restrain God, but unbelief could. Jonathan never read the New Testament, but he had a Romans 8:31 heart: If God be for us, who can be against us?

iii. Notice where Jonathan had the emphasis. He had little faith in himself, but great faith in God. It wasn’t “I can win a great victory with God’s help.” It was “God can win a great victory through even me.” As Meyer says, “He had the smallest possible faith in himself, and the greatest faith in God. His soul waited for the Lord; in Him was centred all his hope, and from his gracious help he expected great things. All he aspired to was to be humble vehicle through which the delivering grace of God might work.”

c. Go then; here I am with you: These words from Jonathan’s armor bearer must have cheered Jonathan greatly. When we step out in faith, encouragement can make all the difference for good. And discouragement can make all the difference for evil!

i. God was going to use Jonathan, but He wasn’t going to use Jonathan alone. Almost always, when God uses a man, he calls others around that man to support and help him. They are just as important in getting God’s work done as the man God uses. So, if you can’t be a Jonathan, then find a Jonathan – and attach yourself to him as like Jonathan’s armor bearer.

4. (1 Samuel 14:8-10) Jonathan proposes a test.

Then Jonathan said, “Very well, let us cross over to these men, and we will show ourselves to them. If they say thus to us, ‘Wait until we come to you,’ then we will stand still in our place and not go up to them. But if they say thus, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up. For the LORD has delivered them into our hand, and this will be a sign to us.”

a. Very well: This indicates that Jonathan took the support of his armor bearer as confirmation.

b. This will be a sign to us: In his step of faith, Jonathan wants to know he is really being led by God. So he proposes a test: they will show themselves to the Philistine guards. If they respond one way (“Come up to us”) Jonathan will know God wants them to fight and win the battle. If the guards respond another way (“Wait until we come to you”) Jonathan will know God does not want them to fight this day.

c. Jonathan is showing wisdom, not unbelief. To this point, he is not acting on a specific, confirmed word from God. Instead, he is following the bold hope and impression of his heart. He is humble enough to know his heart might be wrong on this day, so Jonathan asks God to guide him.

i. This is not the same as Gideon’s setting of a fleece (Judges 6:36-40). Gideon had a confirmed word of God to guide him, and he doubted God’s word. Jonathan was not doubting God’s word, he was doubting his own heart and mind.

ii. Jonathan is prompted by faith. Significantly, he does not demand to know the whole battle plan from God in advance. He is willing to take it one step at a time, and let God plan it out. Faith is willing to let God know the whole plan and know our part one step at a time.

5. (1 Samuel 14:11-14) Jonathan and his armor bearer attack the Philistines.

So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. And the Philistines said, “Look, the Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden.” Then the men of the garrison called to Jonathan and his armorbearer, and said, “Come up to us, and we will show you something.” Jonathan said to his armorbearer, “Come up after me, for the LORD has delivered them into the hand of Israel.” And Jonathan climbed up on his hands and knees with his armorbearer after him; and they fell before Jonathan. And as he came after him, his armorbearer killed them. That first slaughter which Jonathan and his armorbearer made was about twenty men within about half an acre of land.

a. Look, the Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden: At this time of crisis, the Israelites were hiding anywhere they could (1 Samuel 13:6). It was reasonable for the Philistines to think these were Hebrew deserters surrendering to the Philistines because they thought it was better than hiding in a hole!

b. Jonathan said to his armorbearer, “Come up after me, for the LORD had delivered them into the hand of Israel.” What an exciting moment this must have been for Jonathan! His bold trust in God had been confirmed by a sign, and now he knew God was going to do something great.

c. Jonathan climbed up on his hands and knees with his armorbearer after him: This was a difficult climb. Jonathan was not the kind to say, “Well, it would be nice to do this. But the rocks are steep and there are a lot of Philistines up there. Let’s just pray instead.” No; he got down on his hands and knees and climbed! If we only want victory, or want to be used by God when it is easy, we won’t see much victory and we won’t be used very much.

d. And they fell before Jonathan: Jonathan knew that the battle was the LORD’s, yet he knew God would use him to fight. When Jonathan saw God’s confirming sign, he didn’t lay down his sword and start praying that God would strike them all down. He prayed, made sure his sword was sharp, and trusted that God would use him to strike them all down!

e. And as he came after him, his armorbearer killed them: “Jonathan knocked them down, and the armour-bearer despatched them.” (Clarke)

6. (1 Samuel 14:15) God attacks the Philistines.

And there was trembling in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and the raiders also trembled; and the earth quaked, so that it was a very great trembling.

a. There was trembling in the camp, in the field, and among all the people: It seems that the Philistines, under a divine confusion, instantly awoke that early morning with the thought “We are attacked by enemies in our midst!” Then rushing about, they thought their fellow Philistines might be the enemy, so they began to fight one another, and kill one another!

i. It didn’t matter if the Philistines greatly outnumbered the Israelites, and had far better weapons. God was more than able to set the Philistines against each other. If the Israelites had no swords, the LORD would use the swords of the Philistines against the Philistines!

ii. “It is not strange if the Philistines were both astonished and intimidated; God also struck them with a panic terror; and withal, infatuated their minds, and possibly put an evil spirit among them, which in this universal confusion made them conceive that there was treachery amongst themselves, and therefore caused them to sheath their swords in one another’s bowels, as appears from1 Samuel 14:16 and 1 Samuel 14:20.” (Poole )

iii. “Possibly God blinded their eyes or their minds, that they could not distinguish friends from foes. Compare Judges 7:222 Kings 6:182 Chronicles 20:23.” (Poole) “But God, where he pleaseth, can easily trouble the fantasy, and make men to mistake; as we see daily in melancholy persons, who looking through a black cloud, as it were, see all things black, dark, cross and hurtful.” (Trapp)

iv. Trapp’s comment on this section seems good, if I could only understand it: “As anyone was in their way, they knocked him down: being smitten with such ascotama or acrisis, a giddiness of the brain, or blindness of judgment, that they knew not their friends from their foes in that distemper and hurrycomb.” What on earth is a hurrycomb?

b. The earth quaked, so that it was a very great trembling: Jonathan and his armor bearer had done their part. Now God was doing his part. Jonathan could use his heart and his sword, and he did. But what Jonathan could not do – send a great earthquake to terrify the Philistines – God did. Often we wait around for God to do what we can do. But God will often do miracles – what He alone can do – if we will do what we can do.

c. The very great trembling must have terrified the Philistines. But it would have comforted Jonathan and his armor bearer. They would have been confirmed in their confidence in such a great God.

7. (1 Samuel 14:16-19) Saul learns of the battle.

Now the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, and there was the multitude, melting away; and they went here and there. Then Saul said to the people who were with him, “Now call the roll and see who has gone from us.” And when they had called the roll, surprisingly, Jonathan and his armorbearer were not there. And Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God here” (for at that time the ark of God was with the children of Israel). Now it happened, while Saul talked to the priest, that the noise which was in the camp of the Philistines continued to increase; so Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.”

a. There was the multitude, melting away: Imagine how this must have looked to the watchmen of Israel! They were keeping an eye on the huge army of the Philistines, and the army starts to melt away before their eyes.

b. Call the roll: Why? Did it matter? What Saul should have done was go and fight the Philistines at this strategic moment. Instead, he was probably worried about who was leading the battle, and who would get the credit.

c. Bring the ark of God here: Why? What for? Saul is probably trying to look spiritual here, but what did he need to seek God about? There is a time to go aside and pray, and there is a time to get your sword out and fight. Saul didn’t know what time it was!

d. While Saul talked to the priest . . . the noise which was in the camp of the Philistines continued to increase; so Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.” It is strange that at this moment, Saul would not know what to do. His insecurity and fear and self-focus have paralyzed him. It was time to fight. But eventually, the noise of God and Jonathan fighting against the Philistines becomes so loud, that Saul knows he has to fight to. So, he tells the priest “Withdraw your hand.” This means, “Stop seeking and answer from God with the urim and thummin,” which were held in a pouch in the priest’s breastplate.

i. Trapp calls Saul’s words here “Words of profane impiety . . . it is now no time to consult with God, for we know well enough what we have to do, and will take our opportunity.”

8. (1 Samuel 14:20-23) Saul fights in the battle and a great victory is won.

Then Saul and all the people who were with him assembled, and they went to the battle; and indeed every man’s sword was against his neighbor, and there was very great confusion. Moreover the Hebrews who were with the Philistines before that time, who went up with them into the camp from the surrounding country, they also joined the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. Likewise all the men of Israel who had hidden in the mountains of Ephraim, when they heard that the Philistines fled, they also followed hard after them in the battle. So the LORD saved Israel that day, and the battle shifted to Beth Aven.

a. They went to the battle: It has taken a long time for Saul, the leader of Israel, to start leading. Now he is following God and Jonathan into battle.

i. Why was Saul just sitting . . . under a pomegranate tree when Jonathan was boldly trusting God for the victory? Probably Saul’s insecurity had made him so afraid to fail that he didn’t want to do anything. Now he will only go into battle because it seems like a “sure thing.” We are far from a bold trust in God when we will only do what seems to be a “sure thing.” Go out and do something bold. If you fail, and God wasn’t really with it the way you thought He would be, then you still have tried. The armchair quarterbacks and back seat drivers have nothing to say to you!

ii. These were the hold-backs, who were out there to fight the Philistines, but didn’t enter the battle until the odds were in their favor. Better to come out then than never, but how much better to have the bold trust of a Jonathan!

b. Moreover the Hebrews who were with the Philistines before that time . . . also joined the Israelites: It seems that many in Israel had the insecure heart of Saul. These Hebrew deserters to the Philistines probably hated their masters, but were afraid to stand free in the LORD. They would only come out for Israel when victory was assured.

i. These were the sell-outs, who had forsaken Israel and supported the Philistines when it seemed Israel was a “loser” and the Philistines were the “winners.” Better to come out then than never, but how much better to have the bold trust of a Jonathan!

c. Likewise all the men of Israel who had hidden in the mountains of Ephraim . . . they also followed hard after them in the battle: Others in Israel, when the Philistine oppression became severe, simply fled (1 Samuel 13:6-7). They were afraid to come out for Israel when things were bad, but now that victory seems assured they will join in the battle.

i. These were the hide-outs, who had left the scene of battle and stood on the sidelines until it seemed “safe.” They would not stand for the LORD until the odds seemed to be in their favor. Better to come out then than never, but how much better to have the bold trust of a Jonathan!

c. So the LORD saved Israel that day: God really used Jonathan, but it wasn’t Jonathan’s victory. It was the LORD’s victory. God was just waiting for someone with the bold trust of Jonathan!

i. Josephus says there were 6,000 Philistines killed in this rout. And all groups of people had a hand in the victory – the hold-backs, the sell-outs, and the hide-outs. But there was no doubt who led the battle: the boldly trusting Jonathan. Which of these groups of people are you most like?

d. God wins the same kind of victories today. In fact, one military man read this account and used Jonathan’s exact strategy to win an important battle. Here is the story from Major Vivian Gilbert, a British Army Officer:

In the First World War a brigade major in Allenby’s army in Palestine was on one occasion searching his Bible with the light of a candle, looking for a certain name. His brigade had received orders to take a village that stood on a rocky prominence on the other side of a deep valley. It was called Michmash and the name seemed somehow familiar. Eventually he found it in 1 Samuel 13:1-23 and read there: “And Saul, and Jonathan his son, and the people that were present with them, abode in Gibeah of Benjamin but the Philistines encamped in Michmash.” It then went on to tell how Jonathan and his armour-bearer crossed over during the night “to the Philistines’ garrison” on the other side, and how they passed two sharp rocks: “there was a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the other side: and the name of the one was Bozez and the name of the other Seneh.” They clambered up the cliff and overpowered the garrison, “within as it were a half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plough.” The main body of the enemy awakened by the melee thought they were surrounded by Saul’s troops and “melted away and they went on beating down one another.” Thereupon Saul attacked with his whole force and beat the enemy. “So the Lord saved Israel that day.”

The brigade major reflected that there must still be this narrow passage through the rocks, between two spurs, and at the end of it the “half acre of land.” He woke the commander and there read the passage through together once more. Patrols were sent out. They found the pass, which was thinly held by the Turks, and which led past two jagged rocks – obviously Bozez and Seneh. Up on top, beside Michmash, they could see by the light of the moon a small flat field. The brigadier altered his plan of attack. Instead of deploying the whole brigade he sent one company through the pass under cover of darkness. The few Turks whom they met were overpowered without a sound, the cliffs were scaled, and shortly before daybreak the company had taken up a position on “the half acre of land.”

The Turks woke up and took to their heels in disorder since they thought they were being surrounded by Allenby’s army. They were all killed or taken prisoner. And so, after thousands of years British troops successfully copied the tactics of Saul and Jonathan. (Keller, The Bible As History, pages 179-180)

B. Saul’s foolish oath and its consequences.

1. (1 Samuel 14:24) Saul compels the army of Israel under an oath.

And the men of Israel were distressed that day, for Saul had placed the people under oath, saying, “Cursed is the man who eats any food until evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies.” So none of the people tasted food.

a. Saul had placed the people under an oath: Jonathan, in his bold trust in the LORD, had just struck a mighty blow against the Philistines. God had totally routed and confused the Philistine army. Now it was the job of the army of Israel, under King Saul, to finish the job by striking down the fleeing Philistine army. And on this day of battle against the Philistines, Saul declared a curse. “Cursed is the man who eats any food until evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies.”

i. On the surface, this sounds so spiritual. “Let’s set today aside as a special day of fasting unto the LORD. We want God to do a great work, so we should fast today. And I should enforce this among the whole army with a curse.” What could be wrong with that?

b. It was wrong because Saul’s focus was wrong. Notice his focus: before I have taken vengeance on my enemies. Saul, don’t put the army of Israel under an oath so that youcan take vengeance on your enemies. If that is how you regard this battle, then just fast yourself! Saul shows that even in the midst of doing something spiritual like fasting, his focus is on himself, not the LORD.

i. Saul’s desire is not the glory of God. It is the glory of Saul. He was not the first one, nor the last one, to command “religious” or “spiritual” acts for his own glory, not the glory of God. The focus here is not on the LORD, or on the LORD’s victory, but on Saul’s commanded fast.

c. It was wrong because Saul’s motive was wrong. It is possible that Saul genuinely did something he thought would please God, but this is unlikely. It is more probable to see two darker motives behind Saul’s curse.

i. He may have been acting out of a false spirituality. Before, when he first learned that the Philistine army was melting away, he “acted spiritual” by calling for the priest to bring the Ark of the Covenant and inquiring of God through the priest (1 Samuel 14:16-19).

ii. Or, Saul may have been acting out of insecurity, doing this to draw the focus on himself. Saul had been concerned with just who it was leading this attack (1 Samuel 14:17), because he knew the army and the nation would cherish this person as a hero. Now, through this curse, he puts the focus back on himself. That day, no one would be thinking much about Jonathan, because their hunger would always remind them of Saul’s curse.

d. It was wrong because Saul’s sense of authority was wrong. Cursed is the man. Says who, Saul? Since when did you have the authority to proclaim such a curse? Are you now the spiritual leader of the nation? If any such fast was to be declared, and curse attached to it, the prophet Samuel had the spiritual authority to do it, not king Saul.

e. It was wrong because Saul’s promised punishment was wrong. Cursed is the man. That’s a little heavy handed, don’t you think? If Saul wanted to call for a voluntary fast, that was one thing. He might have said, “I’m fasting today before the LORD. I will not eatany food until evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies. If anyone wants to join me, they are welcome.” But instead of leading by example and inviting the army of Israel to follow, he placed the people under an oath.

i. This in itself has a bad taste to it. We can imagine Saul standing before the whole army of Israel, and saying, “All right everyone. Raise your right hand and swear an oath before God” and then leading them in this forced, manipulated promise. Saul had probably left that assembly of the army thinking he had really done something (“What a great promise they all made!”). He had really done something all right; he had done something really bad. It is always wrong to place someone else under a promise or under an oath. If it isn’t on their heart to put themselves under the oath, it doesn’t do any good to force them under it.

f. It was wrong because Saul’s timing was wrong. The day of decisive battle is not the day to command the troops that they do not eat. They need the energy, and they need the focus on the job at hand. They don’t need the discouragement and the distraction of a forced fast. It was more important to achieve a complete victory over the Philistines that day. It’s not that there was anything wrong with fasting itself, but that it wasn’t the right time. It was Saul’s day to fast, not the LORD’s day to fast.

g. It was wrong because the result among the army of Israel was wrong. No matter what Saul’s motive was, it was a foolish thing to do. On this day of battle when the morale of Israel should have been the highest, and when the physical energy of Israel should have the strongest, instead the men of Israel were distressed that day. Because none of the people tasted food, the army was weak and discouraged on a day when they should have been strong and excited.

2. (1 Samuel 14:25-30) Jonathan unknowingly breaks the oath and is told of his offense.

Now all the people of the land came to a forest; and there was honey on the ground. And when the people had come into the woods, there was the honey, dripping; but no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath. But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath; therefore he stretched out the end of the rod that was in his hand and dipped it in a honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his countenance brightened. Then one of the people said, “Your father strictly charged the people with an oath, saying, ‘Cursed isthe man who eats food this day.’ “ And the people were faint. But Jonathan said, “My father has troubled the land. Look now, how my countenance has brightened because I tasted a little of this honey. How much better if the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found! For now would there not have been a much greater slaughter among the Philistines?”

a. There was honey on the ground: This was provision from God! The Israeli army was hot on the pursuit of the fleeing Philistines. They were all tired and hungry. They needed energy to continue the pursuit and finish the battle. And here is honey on the ground!

i. “There were many wild bees in that country, and Judea is expressly said to be a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Clarke)

ii. They really did need the energy. “The mopping-up operations after a rout were all-important if the maximum benefit from the victory was to be reaped, but pursuit of the enemy involved an exhausting, unremitting journey over steep hills for hours on end.” (Baldwin)

iii. A taste of that honey would have given the soldiers the kind of sugar-rush energy they needed to carry on the battle.

b. No one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath: This group of soldiers all saw the honey. It was dripping, right in front of their eyes. Yet Saul’s foolish oath prevented them from receiving what God had put right in front of them!

i. This must have been torture for the soldiers. And there was the honey, dripping. Right in front of their eyes! They want the honey. They need the honey. God provided the honey. But a foolish, legalistic command from Saul kept it from them. How this must have discouraged and embittered the soldiers!

c. But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath: Jonathan ate some of that honey! Immediately, it did the weary soldier well: his countenance brightened. He needed the energy to fight, and here it was, provided by God.

i. We may wonder at what exactly is meant by Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath. Did this mean that Jonathan did not know of the oath? Or, did he hear of the oath from others, but say to himself, “Well, since I wasn’t there, my father never charged me with this oath. I never heard him say any such thing.”

d. My father has troubled the land: Perhaps Jonathan should not have said this. There was a sense in which he was undercutting his father’s authority before the troops here. If there were anything to say, it would have been best to say it to his father directly. However, despite all that, Jonathan was exactly right!

i. King Saul had indeed troubled the land with his pseudo-spiritual command to fast. Because of his command, the people were faint on a day when they should have been strong. They were weak and distracted. The victory could have been greater if the people could have eaten!

ii. You really can’t say it better than Jonathan did: How much better if the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found! For now would there not have been a much greater slaughter among the Philistines? (1 Samuel 14:30)

3. (1 Samuel 14:31-35) The soldiers of Israel sin because of Saul’s foolish command.

Now they had driven back the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon. So the people were very faint. And the people rushed on the spoil, and took sheep, oxen, and calves, and slaughtered them on the ground; and the people ate them with the blood. Then they told Saul, saying, “Look, the people are sinning against the LORD by eating with the blood!” So he said, “You have dealt treacherously; roll a large stone to me this day.” And Saul said, “Disperse yourselves among the people, and say to them, ‘Bring me here every man’s ox and every man’s sheep, slaughter them here, and eat; and do not sin against the LORD by eating with the blood.’“ So every one of the people brought his ox with him that night, and slaughtered it there. Then Saul built an altar to the LORD. This was the first altar that he built to the LORD.

a. The people rushed on the spoil . . . and the people ate them with the blood. God specifically commanded Israel that they should always properly drain the blood from an animal before they butchered it.

i. Deuteronomy 12:23-25 is one place where God commanded this: Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life; you may not eat the life with the meat. You shall not eat it; you shall pour it on the earth like water. You shall not eat it, that it may go well with you and your children after you, when you do what is right in the sight of the LORD. Since the blood was the picture of life in any animal or man (for the blood is the life), God would not allow Israel to eat meat that had not been properly bled. Instead, it was to be given to God by pouring it out on the earth. Life belongs to God, not man, and this was a way to declare that.

b. On this day of battle, because of Saul’s foolish command, the people were so hungry they broke this command. Their obedience to Saul’s foolish command led them to disobey God’s clearly declared command. This is always the result of legalism!

i. Jesus said it plainly to the legalists of His day: For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men . . . All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. (Mark 7:8)

ii. We often think that legalistic rules will keep people from sin. Actually, the opposite is true. Legalistic rules lead us into sin, because they either provoke our rebellion, or they lead us into legalistic pride.

iii. Paul said it powerfully in Colossians 2:23 : These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

c. You have dealt treacherously: Saul is blaming the people for what is really his own fault. He should have never made such a foolish commandment, and his commandment provoked the people into sin. But in his pride, insecurity, and foolishness, Saul set the people up to sin.

i. Of course, this does not excuse the sin of the people. They are accountable for their own sin before God. Yet Saul is also accountable. Jesus referred to this principle when He said, For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! (Matthew 18:7)

d. Slaughter them here, and eat; and do not sin against the LORD by eating with the blood: Saul set up a stone to properly butcher the animals, and also built an altar to the LORD. At least Saul is doing some of what is right after he had done what was wrong.

4. (1 Samuel 14:36-39) In response to God’s silence, Saul makes another foolish oath.

Now Saul said, “Let us go down after the Philistines by night, and plunder them until the morning light; and let us not leave a man of them.” And they said, “Do whatever seems good to you.” Then the priest said, “Let us draw near to God here.” So Saul asked counsel of God, “Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will You deliver them into the hand of Israel?” But He did not answer him that day. And Saul said, “Come over here, all you chiefs of the people, and know and see what this sin was today. For as the LORD lives, who saves Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die.” But not a man among all the people answered him.

a. So Saul asked counsel of God: This was good. Saul should have sought thecounsel of God. We shouldn’t think that everything Saul did was bad before the LORD.

b. He did not answer him that day: Saul inquired of the LORD through the priest. It is likely that the priest used the Urim and Thummim to inquire of the LORD.

i. The use of the discerning tools of Urim and Thummim is described on a few occasions (Exodus 28:30Numbers 27:211 Samuel 28:6Ezra 2:63Nehemiah 7:65) and their use may be implied in other passages (Judges 1:1; Jdg_20:18; Jdg_20:23).

ii. The names Urim and Thummim mean “Lights and Perfections.” We aren’t sure what they were or how they were used. Most think they were a pair of stones, one light and another dark, and each stone indicated a “yes” or “no” from God. The High Priest would ask God a question, reach into the breastplate, and pull our either a “yes” or a “no.”

iii. On this occasion, the priest would probably start inquiring of the LORD with this question: “LORD, do you want to speak to us today?” Because we are toldHe did not answer him that day, probably when this question was asked, the stone that indicated “no” kept being drawn out.

iv. Many would consider the Urim and Thummim as crude tools of discernment. In fact, they are better than the tools many Christians use today. It would be better to use the Urim and Thummim than rely on feelings, or outward appearances, or to simply use no discernment!

c. Why did the LORD not answer him that day? Saul was convinced the problem was that some violated his commanded oath. When he said, know and see what this sin was today, he was convinced the sin was among the people instead of in himself.

d. Saul was so sure of being right he pronounced another oath: For as the LORD lives, who saves Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die.

i. Of course, if Saul knew that it was Jonathan who had violated his oath, he would never had said this. But he was so caught up in being right, that he adds this foolish vow to his previous foolish commandment.

ii. Saul was very good at making religious oaths and promises. But that didn’t mean very much, because he was not good at having a heart after God, and he was not good at keeping the oaths he made.

iii. “Strange perverseness! He who was so indulgent as to spare wicked Agag, chapter 15, is now so severe as to destroy his own worthy son: he that could easily dispense with God’s righteous and reasonable command, will not bear the violation of his own rash and foolish command; because his own authority and power is concerned in this, and only God’s in the other.” (Poole)

e. Not a man among all the people answered him: The people knew that Jonathan had eaten of the honey, and Saul’s sentence of death on anyone who had eaten must have sent a chill up their back. All the people loved and respected Jonathan, and they knew that Saul was in the wrong. But no one wanted to answer Saul!

5. (1 Samuel 14:40-44) Jonathan is implicated by the casting of lots.

Then he said to all Israel, “You be on one side, and my son Jonathan and I will be on the other side.” And the people said to Saul, “Do what seems good to you.” Therefore Saul said to the LORD God of Israel, “Give a perfect lot.” So Saul and Jonathan were taken, but the people escaped. And Saul said, “Cast lots between my son Jonathan and me.” So Jonathan was taken. Then Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.” And Jonathan told him, and said, “I only tasted a little honey with the end of the rod that was in my hand. So now I must die!” And Saul answered, “God do so and more also; for you shall surely die, Jonathan.”

a. Saul and Jonathan were taken, but the people escaped: Saul wanted to find the wrong doer by the casting of lots. They would separate people into two groups, then select one group by a “low” or “high” roll of something like dice. You would continue to narrow the selected group until you found your man. First, Saul wants everyone to know that he and his son Jonathan are innocent, so that is the first division. Imagine Saul’s shock when the lot indicates that he and Jonathan are the guilty group!

b. So Jonathan was taken: This must have shaken Saul. He had pronounced a death sentence on whoever ate in violation of his forced vow. And Saul, instead of admitting that his commandment and his death sentence were foolish, hardens in his foolishness, and declares “God do so and more also; for you shall surely die, Jonathan.”

i. Saul was willing to kill his son rather than to humbly admit that he is really at fault. Saul started out as a humble man (1 Samuel 10:21), but his once impressive humility is being overtaken by pride. “But he that maketh so much ado about eating with the blood, makes nothing of spilling the blood of innocent Jonathan, and of swearing bloody oaths at the same time . . . Saul seemeth to have been a very great swearer, rapping out oath upon oath, which belike he thought he might do by authority.” (Trapp)

c. Why did God allow the lot to pick out Jonathan? “Not in answer to Saul’s prayers, which God valued not. But, (1.) To show that he is the dispenser of lots; (2.) To humble Jonathan, who was in danger of being puffed up too much with the joy of his victory; (3.) To discover Saul’s hypocrisy.” (Trapp)

i. “The holy oracle told the truth, but neither that oracle nor the God who gave it fixed any blame upon Jonathan, and his own conscience acquits him. He seeks not pardon from God, because he is conscious he had not transgressed.” (Clarke)

ii. Perfect lot in the Hebrew is very close to the word for Thummim. They no doubt used the Urim and Thummim as the way to cast the lot.

6. (1 Samuel 14:45-46) The people rescue Jonathan from execution.

But the people said to Saul, “Shall Jonathan die, who has accomplished this great deliverance in Israel? Certainly not! As the LORD lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” So the people rescued Jonathan, and he did not die. Then Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, and the Philistines went to their own place.

a. Certainly not! As the LORD lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day: Happily, the people finally stand up to Saul’s foolishness. They simply will not allow Jonathan to be executed. They knew that Jonathan was working for the LORD that day, not against the LORD.

b. Was this right? Should Jonathan have been executed? No; he should not have been executed for three reasons. First, the oath itself and the pronouncement of the death penalty on the oath breaker were simply bad and foolish laws, and should not have been enforced. Second, Jonathan broke the oath in ignorance. Finally, God’s approval was evident from His great blessing upon Jonathan (he has worked with God today).

i. Which had more to do with the victory won that day? Was it Saul’s foolish regulation or Jonathan’s bold faith in God?

c. And the Philistines went to their own place: The implication in this phrase is that the victory might have been much greater if not for Saul’s foolish oath.

7. (1 Samuel 14:47-52) Saul’s many wars and his family.

So Saul established his sovereignty over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, against the people of Ammon, against Edom, against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines. Wherever he turned, he harassed them. And he gathered an army and attacked the Amalekites, and delivered Israel from the hands of those who plundered them. The sons of Saul were Jonathan, Jishui and Malchishua. And the names of his two daughterswere these: the name of the firstborn Merab, and the name of the younger Michal. The name of Saul’s wife was Ahinoam the daughter of Ahimaaz. And the name of the commander of his armywas Abner the son of Ner, Saul’s uncle. Kish was the father of Saul, and Ner the father of Abnerwas the son of Abiel. Now there was fierce war with the Philistines all the days of Saul. And when Saul saw any strong man or any valiant man, he took him for himself.

a. So Saul established his sovereignty over Israel: This last passage in the chapter is all about Saul’s strength. And Saul was strong. He established his sovereignty over Israel. He fought many successful wars. He had a large and influential family. And the strength of his army grew (when Saul saw any strong man or any valiant man, he took him for himself). Saul’s strength was broad over many areas.

i. “Ishbosheth, Saul’s other son, is here omitted, because he intended to mention only those of his sons who went with him into the battles here mentioned, and who were afterwards slain with him.” (Poole)

b. Yet, if his strength was broad, it was shallow. Because Saul was not a man after God’s own heart, because his own relationship with God was more about image than substance, his kingdom cannot last. The weakness of Saul has been seen here and there; but in the next chapter it will be fully exposed.

i. “Saul alone was to blame. He had not only missed the greatest opportunity of his life, but he was already enwrapping himself in the unbelief, the jealousy, and moroseness of temper in which his sun was to be enshrouded while it was yet day.” (Meyer)

 

 

 

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