Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
1 Samuel 22:1, 2. (THE CAVE OF ADULLAM.)the good man under persecution, and as -
I. PROTECTED FROM THE VIOLENCE OF PERSECUTORS, with which the servants of God have been threatened in every age.
1. Underneath the personal and ostensible grounds of such violence lie the opposition of "the kingdom of darkness" to the kingdom of God, and the enmity of the evil heart against righteousness and goodness. David was "the representative of the theocratic principle for which he suffers and endures; Saul of the antitheocratic principle." Like Moses, David bore "the reproach of Christ," who was in him and suffered with him (Acts 9:4; Colossians 1:24; Hebrews 11:26, 32-38).
2. It is limited in its power, and is always ultimately defeated. "Be not afraid of them that kill the body," etc. (Luke 12:4).
3. God himself is the Refuge of the persecuted, and provides varied, wonderful, and effectual means for their deliverance. "Thou art my refuge" (Psalm 142:5). "Thou hast delivered my soul from death," etc. (Psalm 56:13). The operation of Divine providence was displayed in a remarkable manner in the preservation of David throughout the whole course of his persecution by Saul.
II. SYMPATHISING WITH THE MISERY OF THE OPPRESSED. "His brethren and all his father's house," endangered by Saul's jealousy as well as by the Philistine garrison at Bethlehem (2 Samuel 23:13, 14), "and every one that was in distress" (outwardly impoverished and harassed), "and in debt" (to avaricious usurers, and not necessarily through any fault of his own), "and discontented" (inwardly embittered and dissatisfied with the existing state of things), owing to bad government. "Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad" (Ecclesiastes 7:7), and incites and justifies the adoption of a course which, under other circumstances, would be highly culpable. They did not gather to David in vain.
1. Sympathy with suffering is usually felt in an eminent degree by those who have themselves suffered (Hebrews 2:18).
2. It is always shown, when it is genuine, in practical effort for its alleviation (2 Corinthians 1:4).
3. It generally produces in those toward whom it is shown a peculiarly strong and enduring attachment. "Pain is the deepest thing we have in our nature, and union through pain has always seemed more real and more holy than any other" (A.H. Hallam). "I do not know where a better home could have been provided for David than among those men in distress, in debt, in discontent. If it behoved a ruler to know the heart of his subjects, their sorrows, their wrongs, their crimes, - to know them and to sympathise with them, - this was surely as precious a part of his schooling as the solitude of his boyhood, or as any intercourse he had with men who had never faced the misery of the world, and never had any motive to quarrel with its laws. Through oppression, confusion, lawlessness he was learning the eternal, essential righteousness of God" (Maurice).
III. ASSUMING THE LEADERSHIP OF THE FAITHFUL. "He became captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men" - afterwards six hundred (1 Samuel 23:13); including his nephews, Abishai (1 Samuel 26:6), Joab, Asahel, and Amasa, Ahimelech the Hittite, the "three mighty men" who "broke through the host of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem" (2 Samuel 23:16), many of those whose names are recorded in the list of David's heroes (1 Chronicles 11:10 47), Gadites "whose faces were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as the roes upon the mountains," Benjamites and men of Judah, under Amasai, on whom "the Spirit came, and he said, Thine are we," etc.; "for thy God helpeth thee" (1 Chronicles 12:8-18). Some of them possessed, perhaps, little religious principle, and were ready for any adventurous enterprise; but most of them were young, free, noble spirits, resenting the tyranny of Saul, and sympathising with all that was best in the nation - "the unconscious materials out of which a new world was to be formed." David's leadership was -
1. Exercised by virtue of his peculiar position, eminent godliness, and surpassing ability.
2. Accepted by them voluntarily, and followed with fidelity and enthusiasm.
3. Contributed to their discipline, improvement (Psalm 34:11), and future service against the common enemy, as well as his own moral force and power of organisation and rule. "The effect of such a life on his spiritual nature was to deepen his unconditional dependence on God; by the alternations of heat and cold, fear and hope, danger and safety, to temper his soul and make it flexible, tough, and bright as steel. It evolved the qualities of a leader of men, teaching him command and forbearance, promptitude and patience, valour and gentleness. It won for him a name as a founder of a nation, and it gathered around him a force of men devoted to him by an enthusiastic attachment, bred by long years of common dangers and the hearty friendships of many a march by day and nightly encampment round the glimmering watchfires beneath the lucid stars" (Maclaren).
IV. DEVOTED TO THE SERVICE OF GOD. The effect of persecution on a good man is to cause him to draw nigh to God in -
1. Renewed confidence and hope.
2. Intense desire for the manifestation of his glory in "bringing the wickedness of the wicked to an end and establishing the just" (Psalm 7:9). He wishes above all things and strives for the setting up of the kingdom of God upon earth.
3. Earnest prayers and thanksgivings, such as are expressed in the "cave songs" of David. Psalm 142., 'A cry of the persecuted to God' (see inscription): -
"With my voice to Jehovah do I cry, "Be gracious unto me, O God, be gracious unto me,
"Be gracious unto me, O God, be gracious unto me,
I. THE CAPTAIN OF THE REFUGEES. No question arises here respecting the right of revolt against a perverse, tyrannical king. We entirely believe in such a right, because the king exists for the good of the people, not the people for the service of the king. We have no misgiving as to the right of the British nation to rid itself of King James II, or that of the people in the kingdom of the Two Sicilies to drive away King Francis II. But the case of Saul's royalty over Israel was unique. The people had chosen him by acclamation, and there was no proof as yet that the mass of the people wished to dethrone him. Even if they had so wished, David was not the man to lead their revolt; for it was one of the tests of his fitness for the succession that he should not snatch at the honour to which he was destined, but wait the evolution of the Divine purpose, recognising God only as the true and absolute King of Israel. Therefore, what he did at this period was simply for preservation of himself and his relatives. The times were "out of joint," and he had no protection of law or civil order against the mad suspicions of the king. So he took refuge in a cavern, waiting for God and hoping in his word. The hero raised no standard of revolt, and drew no followers by prospect of plunder or revenge. Yet he did draw hundreds of the men of Israel to his place of refuge. These must not be likened to the riotous and desperate followers of Catiline, or even to the "empty persons" who attached themselves to Jephthah. Doubtless there may have been among the young men some who were more adventurous than devout, and cared for their leader's sword and spear more than for his psalms; but they were in general young men of patriotic temper who had suffered damage through the misrule of the time, and found the public disorder and tyranny intolerable. They turned their wistful eyes towards one who had borne himself wisely in the station he had occupied, and from whom they hoped for a just and prudent administration of public affairs. There are parallels to this position in the history of other nations; but most worthy of our thought is the parallel of the great Son of David, our Lord Jesus Christ. When he was a young man in Galilee the people were distressed under their rulers. The civil government was oppressive; the religious surveillance by the chief priests and elders was worse. Heavy burdens were imposed without pity, and grievous abuses of power and office were committed. The eyes of many had failed them, looking long for a deliverer who should be the Consolation of Israel. Then appeared Jesus of Nazareth, raising no standard of revolt, indeed refusing to be made a king by the voice of the multitude, while himself under the evident displeasure of the authorities, and exposed to frequent risks of arrest and death. But to him followers repaired, and they were welcome. Jesus called to him the labouring and heavy laden. He had powerful attraction for all who were distressed. And from the day when he took up a position apart from the rulers of the Jews, though he headed no movement of resistance, it became more and more obvious that those rulers had lost the favour of Jehovah, and had nothing before them but thickening disaster and a final collapse of their power like that of Saul on Mount Gilboa. The only hope of Israel thenceforth was with and in the despised and rejected One who had been born in David's city and of David's line. So it is still. It is Jesus Christ, as rejected of men, humbled, crucified, who appeals to human hearts. Who will go out to him, "without the camp, bearing his reproach"? Who will repair to him at the cave of Adullam? Not the proud, nor the thoughtless, nor the self-satisfied; but the distressed, the ruined, and the bereaved will go; and over such he is willing to be Captain. Let them come to him, and his life is thenceforward bound up with theirs, and theirs with his. With him they are "in safeguard" till the end of the tribulation; and when the King appears in his great power these will appear with him in glory; the trials of Adullam more than recompensed by the joys of New Jerusalem.
II. THE POSITION OF SEPARATION. When is it justified? David and his followers went apart from the common life of their countrymen, and renounced all idea of rendering service or occupying any post of honour under Saul. Jesus Christ and his disciples broke with the course of the Jewish and Galilean world in which they lived, and took up a position quite aloof from the priests, elders, and scribes. What is the duty of modern Christians towards the society around them? Are they to come out and be separate? Some persons have almost a craze for separation, and support it on this story of Adullam. They hold it to be the duty of Christians to stand aloof from all the existing order of things, and all the plans and occupations of society; to accept no office in the State, and be subject to the powers that be only in the sense in which David continued subject to Saul; and to come out from all organised historical Churches, on the ground that they contain worldly elements and principles, and are therefore impure and ready to perish. All this seems to us extravagant in theory and uncharitable in spirit. Separation from evil does not mean alienation from every place and every institution in which a fault can be found. For good men to hold aloof from public affairs is simply to play into the hands of evil doers; and to separate from every Church that has a faulty element in it is to disintegrate Christian society, and miserably embitter it in the process. But we must hold the balance true. It may be one's duty to separate himself from institutions of both Church and State under which he was born. As to civil institutions, this is plain enough. As to ecclesiastical relations, there are critical times when, as it was right for Israelites to separate from Saul and go over to David, so it has been and is right for Christians to withdraw from positions which they could not correct or amend, and go over to some simpler and purer expression of their faith and hope. On this ground we justify without hesitation the erection of reformed Churches in the sixteenth century apart from the unreformed. The Papal system had a long trial, and was found wanting. Such men as Wickliffe, Savonarola, and Huss tried to correct its errors and rouse a new spirit within its pale, just as David played on his harp to cure the mania of King Saul. It was labour lost. That which was evil grew worse. The tyranny which hung over Western Christendom became intolerable. Then they did wisely and well who threw off the yoke and began afresh, with the word of God for their directory, and the Son of God, who became Son of David, for their Captain. On the same ground we justify those who now a days break away from the same Papal infallible, and therefore incurable, system to join or to organise a reformed Church. And we add that those who do so in a Roman Catholic country, like Spain or Italy, to worship with some small evangelical congregation in a hall, mocked and despised, show a courage not at all inferior to that of the four hundred who defied the power of Saul, and flocked around David in the cave of Adullam. Those men did not lift their swords against Saul. David did not desire them to do so. He saw something still to honour in that king, and knew that the throne would be vacated without any assistance from him. So, in that system of infatuation and spiritual tyranny which centres at Rome, there is something of that common Christianity which we must reverence, and against which we may not fight. While we expose its errors, let us always acknowledge whatever of the truth of God it contains, and be patient. Ultimately that system must perish. As the Philistines, and not the followers of David, made an end of Saul, so the democratic infidelity, not the reformed Church, is likely to make an end of the Papacy, and all the religious delusion and oppression of the Latin Church. Happy they who are in a fellowship which gives them direct access to the Lord Jesus, and has in him the living centre and the joy of all. O Saviour, draw us to thyself, and be thou a Captain over us! - F.
1 Samuel 22:3, 4. (MOAB.)
I. NEEDFUL. In early life we need the care of parents, in old age that of children.
1. Bodily weakness and failing health often render parents dependent for physical comforts and even necessaries (Genesis 47:12).
2. Increasing loneliness makes them desirous of the cheering presence and intercourse of their children; and much pain is naturally given by lack of respect, affection, confidence, and gentle ministrations.
3. Special emergencies, like those here alluded to, sometimes demand unusual efforts for their safety and happiness. Their condition appeals to the tenderest and best feelings of the heart, though, alas, it sometimes appeals in vain.
1. Arising out of natural relationship, the duties of which on the part of children, however imperfectly they may have been fulfilled on the part of parents, cannot be cancelled.
2. Required by the claims of gratitude for innumerable benefits received.
3. Enjoined by the Divine word in many precepts to which great promises are annexed. "The fifth commandment is the centre of all the others; for upwards it is the point of departure for Divine, and downwards for human duties" (Ephesians 6:1). "Despise not thy mother when she is old" (Proverbs 23:22). "God commanded, saying, Honour thy father," etc. (Matthew 15:4-9). "Let them learn first to show (filial) reverence to their own household, and to requite their parents," etc. (1 Timothy 5:4).
III. EXEMPLARY an the way in which it was displayed.
1. Thoughtful, affectionate, and tender.
2. Self-denying and self-sacrificing, with much effort and risk, and as was best suited to the circumstances of the case.
3. Religious: "Till I know what God will do to me;" where there is a recognition of his will as supreme, faith in his wise and gracious disposal (Psalm 27:10), and hope of his enabling him to see again his parents, from whom he parted with regret, and provide for their permanent welfare. Exhortation: -
1. To children. Be kind to your parents, though you no longer need their care, if you would not have your children be unkind to you.
2. To parents. Seek to gain the respect and affection of your children, and teach them to honour God, if you would have them to honour you.
3. To all. Be not like those of whom the heavenly Father said of old, "I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me" (Isaiah 1:2). - D.
1 Samuel 22:4. (MOAB.)
I. UNCERTAINTY about the events of the future - new positions, opportunities, advantages, trials, duties. "We know not with what we must serve the Lord until we come thither" (Exodus 10:26). "Ye have not passed this way heretofore" (Joshua 3:4), and cannot tell what may befall you therein. "Shadows, clouds, and darkness rest upon it." But the good man is not distracted by curiosity or anxiety, inasmuch as -
1. Neither is of any avail.
2. The Father has reserved the times and the seasons "in his own power" (Acts 1:7).
3. And he has done so wisely and for our good. "The veil that hides the future is woven by the hand of mercy."
1. His perfect knowledge, almighty power, and supreme control of all things, including the thoughts and purposes of men (1 Samuel 19:23).
2. His individual observation.
3. His beneficent operation. "Being well assured of the justice of his cause as contrasted with the insane persecutions of Saul, David confidently hoped that God would bring his flight to an end" (Keil).
"O Lord, how happy should we be,
III. READINESS for whatever may take place.
1. By watchful attention to every indication of the will of God, looking out for it as a watchman for the dawn of the morning. "I will stand upon my watch," etc. (Habakkuk 2:1).
2. By cherishing a spirit of humble submissiveness to what he may think fit to do and fixed determination to do what he may require.
3. By faithful fulfilment of the plain and immediate duty of the present time. "Let my father and mother come forth" (from the hold in Mizpeh) "and be with you, till," etc. Its performance is the best preparation for the events and duties of the future. - D.
1 Samuel 22:5. (MIZPEH OF MOAB.)1 Samuel 23:1). And the message furnished a test of his obedience to the will of God as declared by the prophets. "Immediately he conferred not with flesh and blood," but did as he was directed, and thereby afforded an instructive example to others. Consider the message as -
I. COMMUNICATED BY THE PROPHETIC WORD. This word is, for us, contained in the Scriptures of truth."
1. It speaks with authority.
2. It speaks plainly, "in divers manners," according to our need, and "for our good always."
3. It speaks in the reading of the Scriptures, in the voice of preachers and teachers, parents and friends, in the recollections of the memory, and often comes to the heart and conscience with peculiar force. "Believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper" (2 Chronicles 20:20).
II. CALLING TO UNEXPECTED DUTY; unexpected, inasmuch as, not unfrequently -
1. It is such as we should not naturally have supposed.
2. It differs from the course which we have chosen for ourselves. "Abide not in the hold."
3. It requires us to meet unusual difficulties and dangers. "Depart, and get thee into the land of Judah" (into the very presence of a deadly foe). "Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?" (John 11:8-10; Luke 9:51).
"Do thy duty; that is best; III. COMPLIED WITH IN A RIGHT MANNER. "And David departed," etc. 1. Without question, like a good soldier at the word of command. 2. Without hesitation or delay. IV. CONDUCTING TO SAFETY, USEFULNESS, AND HONOUR. 1. Safety; for he was "kept by the power of God." 2. Usefulness; for he "saved the inhabitants of Keilah" (1 Samuel 23:5). 3. Honour; for he was more fully recognised as the true defender of Israel against their enemies, and his heroic band was largely increased (1 Samuel 23:13). "Stern Lawgiver! yet thou dos, wear Flowers laugh before thee on their beds, Give unto me, made lowly wise,
III. COMPLIED WITH IN A RIGHT MANNER. "And David departed," etc.
1. Without question, like a good soldier at the word of command.
2. Without hesitation or delay.
IV. CONDUCTING TO SAFETY, USEFULNESS, AND HONOUR.
1. Safety; for he was "kept by the power of God."
2. Usefulness; for he "saved the inhabitants of Keilah" (1 Samuel 23:5).
3. Honour; for he was more fully recognised as the true defender of Israel against their enemies, and his heroic band was largely increased (1 Samuel 23:13).
"Stern Lawgiver! yet thou dos, wear Flowers laugh before thee on their beds, Give unto me, made lowly wise,
Flowers laugh before thee on their beds, Give unto me, made lowly wise,
1 Samuel 22:6-19. (GIBEAH.) -
1. The fulfilment of the prediction of Samuel concerning the course which would be pursued by a king such as the people desired (1 Samuel 8:11-18).
2. The moral deterioration of Saul since the day when they shouted "God save the king" in Mizpeh (1 Samuel 10:24), and "made him king before the Lord in Gilgal" (1 Samuel 11:15); and even since his rejection (1 Samuel 15:26).
3. The working out of the law of retribution in their chastisement through the king chosen by themselves and reflecting their own sin. The early brilliance of his reign had been long overcast, and the thunderstorm was approaching. Saul had ceased to be a servant of Jehovah. His government was the reverse of what it ought to have been. Although it had respect to the outward forms of religion, and displayed much zeal against irreligious practices, yet it did not really recognise the invisible King of Israel, obey his will, or observe "the manner of the kingdom" which had been ordained of old (Deuteronomy 17:14-20), and formally recorded as a permanent law and testimony (1 Samuel 10:25). It was essentially antitheocratic. The true theocracy was represented by Samuel and the prophets at Ramah, and David and his band at Adullam; and through them (in the wonderful working of Divine providence) the nation would be raised to power and glory, and the purposes of God concerning it accomplished. His character and rule were marked by -
I. MORBID SELFISHNESS. By constantly directing his thoughts toward himself, instead of toward God and his people, Saul had come to think of nothing else but his own safety, power, and honour. Selfishness appears in -
1. Pride and vainglory. Of this he had previously exhibited unmistakable signs (1 Samuel 15:12). Yet it was expressly required that his heart should not be "lifted up above his brethren" (Deuteronomy 17:20).
2. The use of power for personal ends. In contrast to charity, it seeketh its own. The king exists for the good of the people, not the people for the glory of the king. "Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is my own, and I have made it for myself" (Ezekiel 29:3).
3. The neglect of the performance of duty to others. Unlike Samuel, when he was judge, Saul had evidently, in his concern for himself, omitted to maintain law and order (ver. 2), and even to resist the encroachments of the Philistines; against whom he had formerly rendered signal service.
II. AVOWED MISGOVERNMENT (vers. 7-9).
1. Partisanship. He placed men of his own tribe in the chief offices of state, and this would not be conducive to the unity of the nation. "Hear now, ye Benjamites."
2. Mercenariness. He sought to attach them to his interest by the lowest motives. "He boasts that he has given fields and vineyards to all his Benjamite servants and accomplices; and what he gave to them he must have taken away from others" (Hengstenberg). His reign was oppressive, as it had been predicted.
3. Suspicion of disloyalty, and reproach for want of gratitude and sympathy. "All of you have conspired against me," etc. A man is apt to suspect in others the evil which exists in his own heart.
4. Falsehood. Having heard that a number of men had gathered around David, he said, "My son hath stirred up my servant against me," etc. "There is herein a twofold false accusation: as to David, that he was lying in wait to take his throne and his life; and as to Jonathan, that he was the cause of this insurrectionary and insidious conduct of David."
III. FLAGRANT INJUSTICE (vers. 9-16). The people desired a king that he might judge them (1 Samuel 8:20). But Saul abused his judicial office by -
1. Receiving and relying upon insufficient testimony. The law required the evidence of at least two witnesses; but he was satisfied with the information of one of his creatures - Doeg the Edomite.
2. A prejudiced prejudgment of the guilt of the accused. He sent for Ahimelech "and all his father's house," having already resolved, apparently, upon their destruction.
3. Utter disregard of the plainest proofs of innocence. The priest gave his evidence in a dignified, simple, and straightforward manner. In what he had done he was fully justified. And he had not done all that was attributed to him. "The force of the word begin lies in this, that it would have been his first act of allegiance to David and defection from Saul. This he strenuously repudiates" (Speaker's 'Com.') He was ignorant of any treason in others, guiltless of it himself, and had done no wrong.
4. A rash, precipitate, revengeful, and disproportionate sentence. "Thou shalt surely die, Ahimelech, thou, and all thy father's house" (ver. 16).
IV. PERSISTENT WILFULNESS (ver. 17). "Never was the command of a prince more barbarously given, never was the command of a prince more honourably disobeyed" (M. Henry). "We ought to obey God rather than man." The besetting sin of Saul received another cheek; and another merciful warning was given him, which should have made him pause and desist from his evil purpose. But, blinded by passion, and probably thinking (being turned aside by a deceived heart) that his course was justifiable, he heeded it not, outraged the public conscience, as expressed in the refusal of his own bodyguard, and gave the order for immediate execution to one of his vilest servants and accomplices. Wicked men generally find appropriate instruments for the accomplishment of their wickedness.
V. ATROCIOUS CRUELTY (vers. 18, 19). Impelled by the same self-will as formerly led him to spare Agag, he not only destroyed eighty-five "priests of the Lord," but also gave to the sword "the city of priests, both men and women, children and sucklings, and oxen, and asses, and sheep;" nor was he, as in his attack upon the prophets, restrained by the hand of God.
2. Those judgments, though startling in their immediate occasion, are connected with their main cause. If the house of Eli had not been reduced to a dependent and despised condition by notorious transgression, Saul would hardly have dared to commit this act.
3. The evil which men do lives after them in its effects, and one generation suffers for the preceding (Exodus 20:5).
4. Although men in doing wrong may execute the will of God, they are responsible for their own acts, and must sooner or later suffer the penalty due to them. Saul's reckless cruelty alienated the best of his subjects and hastened his doom. This was not the only instance in which it was displayed (see 2 Samuel 21:1-6).
VI. IMPIOUS REBELLION. In destroying the servants of God for imaginary rebellion against himself Saul was guilty of real rebellion against the Divine King of Israel. More fully than ever he renewed a conflict which could end only in his defeat. "Woe to him that striveth with his Maker." Reflections: -
1. How vast is the mischief which self-will works in the world!
2. How base do men sometimes become under its dominion!
3. How fearfully is the possession of power frequently misused!
4. "How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" - D.
1 Samuel 22:18, 19. (GIBEAH.)
I. A HEARTLESS WORSHIPPER; "detained before Jehovah" (1 Samuel 21:7). Whatever may have been the reason of his detention, there can be no doubt that he was present in the sacred place either unwillingly and by constraint, or offering a formal and hypocritical worship. "He concealed his heathen heart under Israelitish forms." He was more observant of the conduct of others in the house of God than careful to correct his own. He cherished "a wicked mind," and perhaps revolved therein how he could turn what he saw to his own advantage, or employ it for the gratification of his hatred and enmity. All who join in the outward forms of worship do not "lift up holy hands without wrath and disputation."
II. A MALICIOUS INFORMER (vers. 9, 10). His immediate purpose in giving information may have been to avert the reproaches of the king from his courtiers; but he must have known what its effect would be with respect to the high priest, and doubtless deliberately aimed at producing it. He also appears to have gone beyond the truth; perchance supposing that when he saw the priest take "the sword of Goliath" from behind the ephod, he used the latter for the purpose of "inquiring of the Lord." "Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue" (Psalm 52:3, 4).
III. A RUTHLESS EXECUTIONER (vers. 18, 19). What others, whose consciences were not hardened, refused to do he willingly and readily accomplished, and probably found therein a gratification of the enmity of his race against Israel. The command of the king could not relieve him of his responsibility for his deed of blood. "Louis XIV., who had sanctioned the Dragonades, died declaring to the cardinals Rohan and Bissy, and to his confessor, that, being himself altogether ignorant of ecclesiastical questions, he had acted under their guidance and as their agent in all that he had done against the Jansenists or the Protestant heretics, and on those his spiritual advisers he devolved the responsibility to the supreme Judge" (Stephen, 'Lect;. on the Hist. of France').
IV. A RETRIBUTORY INSTRUMENT (see last homily). When the great wickedness of men like Doeg is considered, it is not surprising that David (living under the former dispensation) should predict and desire their due punishment as public enemies; "not in a spirit of revenge, but rather in a spirit of zeal for the glory of God, desire for the vindication of right, and regard for the peace and purity of society" ('Expositor,' 4:56), as he does in Psalm 52, "The punishment of an evil tongue" (see inscription): -
"Why boastest thou thyself in wickedness, O mighty man?
(1) the furious king;
(2) the cruel officer;
(3) the innocent priest;
(4) the self-reproaching hero.
I. SAUL AND HIS MAD TYRANNY. How much allowance may be made for actual insanity in the king God only knows. But it must not be forgotten that the disorder of his mind was largely due to his own indulgence of fierce and arrogant passions, and his wilful refusal to obey the commands of the Lord and the guidance of his prophet. He had now become quite furious in his jealousy of David and in his suspicion of all around him as plotting his downfall. Unable to capture David, he turned fiercely on those whom he supposed to be aiding and abetting him in rebellion; and the homicidal mania which he had already betrayed in hurling his javelin at David, and even at Jonathan, now broke out against the innocent priests. When one begins to indulge a bad passion, how little he can tell the length to which it may carry him! We remember how Saul at the outset of his reign would not have a man in Israel put to death on his account. But now he had no pity on the innocent. Nothing can be more shocking than the hardness of heart which disregarded the noble defence of the priests against unjust accusation, and condemned them and their families to immediate death. By this Saul forfeits all claim to our sympathy. He is a bloodstained tyrant. Nero on his accession to the imperial dignity at Rome showed a similar reluctance to sign a legal sentence of death on a criminal, and yet broke forth into horrid cruelty at the age of seventeen. Saul was not so precocious in cruelty, and seems to have been free from other vices that made Nero infamous. But it should be considered, on the other hand, that Saul had knowledge of Jehovah, while Nero knew only the gods of Rome; and that though Nero had a great teacher in Seneca, Saul had a still greater in Samuel. There is no palliation of his conduct admissible unless on the plea of disease of the brain - an excuse which may also be advanced in behalf of such wretches as Antiochus Epiphanes and the Emperor Caligula. The lesson of admonition is that wickedness has horrible abysses unseen at first. Stop short at the beginnings of evil. Check your peril, calm your anger, correct your suspicions, hold back your hasty javelin; for if you lose self-control and a good conscience there is hardly any depth of injustice and infatuation to which you may not fall.
II. DOEG AND HIS RUTHLESS SWORD. Cruel masters make cruel servants. Tyrants never lack convenient instruments. Caligula, Nero, and Domitian had favourites and freedmen ready to stimulate their jealous passions and carry out their merciless commands. At Saul's elbow stood such a wretch, Doeg the Edomite. The repeated mention of this officer's extraction seems to imply that he was actuated by the hereditary jealousy of Israel which filled the descendants of Esau, and took a malicious pleasure in widening the gulf between Saul and David and slaying the priests of Israel's God. With his own hand he cut them down, when the Israelite officers shrank from the bloody deed; and no doubt it was he who executed the inhuman sentence against the women and children at Nob, and smote the very "oxen, asses, and sheep with the edge of the sword." Doeg has had many followers in those who have with fiendish relish tortured and slain the servants of our Lord and of his Christ. And indeed all who, without raising the hand of violence, take part with malicious purpose against servants of God, who misrepresent them and stab their reputations,, are of one spirit with this Edomite whose memory is cursed.
III. AHIMELECH IN HIS INTEGRITY. How fine the contrast between the calm bearing of the chief priest on the one hand, and the unreasoning fury of Saul and truculent temper of Doeg on the other! How straightforward was the vindication of Ahimelech! If Saul had not been blind with passion he must have seen its transparent truth and noble candour. When it became known through the land that Ahimelech and the priests had been killed by the king's order on a mere suspicion of disaffection which was false, a thrill of horror must; have run through many bosoms, and those who feared the Lord must have had sore misgiving that he had forsaken his people and his land. Under such mishaps in later times similar fears have been awakened. Indeed men have been tempted to question whether there be any God of righteousness and truth actually governing the world; for the virtuous suffer, the innocent are crushed, might overrules right, victory seems to he to the proud and not the lowly. It is useless to deny that there are strange defeats of goodness and truth, and that blows fall on heads that seem least to deserve them. All that we can do is to cleave to our belief, firm on its own grounds, that God is, and to say that the calamities complained of have his permission for some good ends in his far reaching purpose. At all events we can go no further into the mystery on a survey of this present life. But there is another, and in it lies the abundant recompense for present wrongs. It seems strange that a life so precious as that of Paul should have been assailed, bruised, and finally taken by violence for no crime, but for the name of Jesus. But Paul himself has given us some clue to the compensation: "our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Ahimelech and the priests, we may be sure, though they suffered not directly for Christ, but on account of his human ancestor, lost nothing, but gained much, by forfeiting their lives in innocence.
IV. DAVID AND HIS SELF-REPROACH. News of this massacre must have shocked all thoughtful men in Israel, and deepened the distrust with which Saul was now regarded. David, when he heard of it, felt, besides horror and indignation, a bitter pang of self-reproach. It was he who had played on the simplicity of the priests at Nob, and so had given occasion to Doeg to accuse them. Would that he had gone without bread, whatever the consequence to himself, rather than have exposed so many innocent persons to such a cruel fate! And now the horrid deed was done, and quite past remedy. What a lesson against crafty strokes and plausible pretexts! One may gain his point at the time by such devices, but after consequences little expected may fall on some innocent head; and surely there is no sting so sharp in the conscience of an honourable man as the feeling that, for his own safety or interest, he has misled his own friends, and unwittingly brought disaster on them. We can believe that David, on hearing what Abiathar told him, was bowed down with shame such as he never yet had needed to feel. In this respect he failed to typify Christ. Our Lord had no self-reproach to bear. He never had recourse to subterfuge, and no guile was found in his mouth. Those who have suffered for his sake have not been led into the risk of death unwittingly. It was of some comfort to David that he could give protection to Abiathar. "He that seeketh my life seeketh thy life." We have a common enemy. Thy life is in peril on my account; therefore stay with me; "thou shalt be in safeguard." Here we do seem to hear the voice of Christ in a figure. "If the world hate you, ye know," etc. (John 15:18-20). Our Lord gives his people safeguard with himself. "Abide in me." "Continue in my love." Such words are dear to mourners. As David gave to Abiathar immediate and sympathetic attention, so the Son of David hearkens at once to those who repair to him with the tale of their mishap and grief. He will take them all under the guarantee of his faithful safeguard. Whatever solace it is possible to have in this world they have who abide with him. And no one can pluck them out of his hand. - F.
1 Samuel 22:20-22. (THE FOREST OF HARETH.)
1. Uttering a warning against sin. "I knew it that day," etc. Conscience is not only reflective, but prospective in its operations. The sight of Doeg led him to see and feel that the course which he was about to take in deceiving Ahimelech was wrong, and would be productive of evil consequences. But under the pressure of urgent need he neglected the premonition.
2. Inflicting remorse on account of sin. "I am guilty as to every soul (life) of the house of thy father." The information he received called his conscience into the highest activity. He judged himself strictly. He felt his sin deeply. And most gladly would he recall the evil he had done if he could. But that was impossible. "The lie had gone forth from him; and having done so, it was no longer under his control, but would go on producing its diabolical fruits" (W.M. Taylor).
3. Constraining to the confession of sin. He did not (as Saul had done) seek to conceal or palliate his transgression, but freely and fully acknowledged it, renounced it, and sought its forgiveness (Psalm 32:5).
4. Inciting to reparation for sin. "Abide thou with me," etc. It was little that he could do for this purpose: but what was in his power he did. It is evident that, notwithstanding he had yielded to temptation, he possessed a tender conscience (Acts 24:16). "And wouldst thou be faithful to that work which God hath appointed thee to do in this world for his name? Then make much of a trembling heart and conscience; for although the word be the line and rule whereby we must govern and order all our actions, yet a breaking heart and tender conscience is of absolute necessity for so doing. A hard heart can do nothing with the word of Jesus Christ. Keep then thy conscience awake with wrath and grace, with heaven and hell. But let grace and heaven bear sway" (Bunyan).
"O clear conscience and upright!
1 Samuel 22:23. (HARETH.) -
I. ENDURE PERSECUTION FOR HIS SAKE. "He that seeketh my life seeketh thy life." They do so -
1. Because of their union with him, and partaking of his life and righteousness, to which "this present evil world" is opposed.
2. Because of their love to him, which will not suffer them to leave him, or be unfaithful to him for the sake of gaining the favour of the world.
II. MUST ABIDE IN HIS FELLOWSHIP. "Abide thou with me."
2. By intimate intercourse with him.
3. By constant obedience to him.
III. FIND SAFETY UNDER HIS PROTECTION. "Fear not; with me thou art in safe guard." "David spoke thus in the firm belief that the Lord would deliver him from his foe and give him the kingdom" (Keil). Christ has "all power in heaven and in earth," and he will assuredly be "a hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest."
1. Because of his love to them.
2. Because of his regard for his kingdom, to which they belong, and which they represent.
3. Because of his express and faithful promise. "Fear not." If the worst that can befall them should happen, even then
"Thou, Saviour, art their charmed Bower,