Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
1 Samuel 25:1. (RAMAH.)
1. The end of the great prophet's life is recorded in brief and simple words. This is according to the manner in which the death of men is usually spoken of in the Scriptures. Whilst their life is narrated at length, their death is either passed over in silence or mentioned only in a sentence, as of comparatively little consequence in relation to their character, work, and influence. There is one significant exception, viz., that of him "who once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God."
2. In the last glimpse afforded of him before his decease he is described as "standing as one appointed over the company of the prophets," and occupied with them in celebrating the praises of God (1 Samuel 19:20). During the years that had since elapsed he was left unmolested by Saul; and it is hardly likely that David ever ventured to Ramah again, although he probably kept up indirect intercourse with his aged and revered friend (1 Samuel 22:5), and was often in his thoughts.
3. In connection with the mention of his death it is stated that "David arose and went down" (from "the hold" in the hill of Hachilah, to which he had returned from Engedi) "to the wilderness of Paran." He may have done so for reasons independent of this event, or without the knowledge of it; or possibly because he feared that with the removal of Samuel's restraining influence Saul might renew his persecution. However it may have been, the melancholy intelligence would speedily reach him.
4. "Samuel died." Good and great as he was, he could not escape the common lot of men. "One event happeneth to them all." But that which comes as a judgment to "the fool" (ver. 38) comes as a blessing to the wise. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." The news of it came upon the people as a surprise and filled them with grief. "It was as if from that noble star, so long as it shone in the heaven of the holy land, though veiled by clouds, there streamed a mild beneficent light over all Israel. Now this star in Israel was extinguished" (Krummacher). "Another mighty one had passed away. The very heart of the nation sighed out its loving, weeping requiem. But who among them all mourned as that son of Jesse, on whose head he had at God's command poured the anointing oil, as he arose and went down to the wilderness of Paran? Doubtless in those waste places he heard again in living memory the echoes of the prevailing cry of him who was so great among those that call upon the name of the Lord. Doubtless his own discipline was perfected in this new sorrow, but he learnt in losing Samuel to lean more simply and alone on Samuel's God" ('Heroes of Hebrews Hist.'). We have here -
I. THE DECEASE OF AN ILLUSTRIOUS MAN: saint, prophet, intercessor, judge, restorer of the theocracy, founder of the monarchy. "He was a righteous man, and gentle in his nature; and on that account he was very dear to God" (Josephus). "Samuel, the prophet of the Lord, beloved of the Lord, established a kingdom and anointed princes over his people. And.before his long sleep he made protestations in the sight of the Lord, etc. And.after his death he prophesied, and showed the king his end" (Ecclesiastes 46:13-20). He died -
1. In a good old age. At what age we know not; but long ago he spoke of himself as "old and grayheaded" (1 Samuel 12:2). His protracted life was an evidence of his self-control and piety, a mark of Divine favour, and a means of extended usefulness. He was cut down not like "the flower of the field," which blooms for a day and is gone, nor like the spreading forest tree smitten by a sudden blast; but rather like the ripe corn, bending down beneath its golden burden and falling under the sickle of the reaper; arid "as shocks of corn are brought in in their season," so was he "gathered to his people."
2. At the proper time. When his appointed work was done, the new order of things firmly established, and he could by his continuance do little more for Israel, he was "taken away from the evil to come" through which the nation was to attain its highest glory. "He was the link which connected two very different periods, being the last representative of a past which could never come back, and seemed almost centuries behind, and also marking the commencement of a new period intended to develop into Israel's ideal future" (Edersheim). "If David's visible deeds were greater and more dazzling than Samuel's, there can be no doubt that David's blaze of glory would have been impossible without Samuel's less conspicuous but far more influential career, and that all the greatness of which the following century boasts goes back to him as its real author" (Ewald).
3. In peaceful retirement; removed from public strife, under Divine protection, surrounded by prophetic associates, reviewing the past, contemplating the present, and awaiting the final change. A holy and useful life is crowned with a peaceful and happy death.
4. In Divine communion, which constitutes the highest life of the good. In God (with whom he had walked from his childhood, and whose inward voice he had so often heard) he found his chief delight, to his will he cheerfully submitted, and into his hands he committed his spirit in hope of continued, perfect, and eternal fellowship. The ancient covenant to be "the God" of his people overshadowed the present and the future; nor did they suppose (however dim their views of another life) that he would suffer them to be deprived by death of his presence and love "All live unto him" and in him. He "died in faith." His decease was like a peaceful summer sunset.
"Not the last struggle of the sun
II. THE MOURNING OF A WHOLE PEOPLE. "And all Israel" (represented by their elders) "were gathered together" (out of common veneration and love), "and lamented him (whom all knew and none would see again), and buried him in his house at Ramah" ("the ancient and the manor house," so long his residence, and endeared to him by so many tender associations). It was "a grievous mourning," as when Jacob was buried at Machpelah (Genesis 1:11; Acts 8:2). The honour rendered to his memory was simple and sincere, very different from that which, it is said, was paid to his dust in later times, when "his remains were removed with incredible pomp and almost one continued train of attendants from Ramah to Constantinople by the Emperor Arcadius, A.D. 401" (Delany, 1:148). But "of Samuel, as of Moses, it may be said, 'No man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day'" (Stanley). The national mourning was an indication of -
1. The high esteem in which he was held, on account of his great ability, eminent piety, and beneficent activity - his integrity, firmness, gentleness, consistency, disinterestedness, adaptability, and living communion with God (1 Samuel 2:30; Psalm 112:6). "A true Christian. may travel in life under troubles and contempts; but mark his end, and you shall find (as peace, so) honour. Life is death's seed time; death life's harvest. As here we sow, so there we reap. He that spends himself upon God and man shall at last have all the honour that heaven and earth can cast upon him" (R. Harris).
2. The deplorable loss which had been sustained. "The men who had once rejected Samuel now lamented him; when the light of his presence was departed they felt the darkness which remained; when the actual energy of his example had ceased to act they remembered the strength of his principles, the consistency of its operation. There was a feeling common to man. Whilst we enjoy the gift we ofttimes forget the Giver, and are awakened only to the full consciousness of the value of that which we once possessed by finding that we possess it no longer" (Anderson).
3. The unjust treatment which he had received, and which was now regretted. His predictions had proved true (1 Samuel 8:11), and his course was fully vindicated. "The sorrow at his decease was the deeper, the more heavily the yoke of Saul's misgovernment pressed on them."
4. The continued influence he exerted upon the nation. "The holy expression stamped by him on the tribes of Benjamin and Judah remained for centuries uneffaced. Never was a single man more instrumental in sowing the soil of a district with the enduring seeds of goodness. It seems to have been mainly through his influence that piety found a home in Judah and Benjamin when it was banished from the rest of the country. Humanly speaking David could never have been king if Samuel had not prepared the way. He was to King David what John the Baptist was to Christ. Unquestionably he is to be ranked among the very greatest and best of the Hebrew worthies" (Blaikie). "And he being dead yet speaketh."
"O good gray head which all men knew,
1. Honour the memory of the good.
2. Praise God for their lives.
3. Imitate their example.
4. Carry out their purposes. - D.
1 Samuel 25:1-44. (THE WILDERNESS OF PARAN.)e.g. -
1. The strict discipline which he exercised among his men. Those 600 warriors dwelt in the neighbourhood of Nabal's shepherds, and could easily have supplied their wants from the flocks kept by the latter; but "the men were very good to us," said one of them, "and we were not hurt, neither missed we anything," etc. (ver. 15). "He was bringing his wild followers under a loving discipline and government which they had never experienced; he was teaching them to confess a law which no tyrant had created, no anarchy could set aside" (Maurice).
2. The valuable service which he rendered to his people. "They were a wall unto us both by night and day" (ver. 16). He employed his followers (whom he could not lead against Saul without incurring the charge of rebellion) in protecting those who were occupied in honest industry against the plundering Bedouin, and thus doing the work which had been left undone by the king. There is no place or position but affords opportunity for useful work. Even an outlaw may be serviceable to his country.
3. The perfect equity of the claim he made. His defence of the sheep gave him a right to some share in them; and he was justified in voluntarily undertaking it by the condition of society at the time and his own peculiar position. The reply of Nabal, in its application to David, was destitute of justice, truth, and charity (vers. 10, 11).
4. The respectful consideration he showed in urging his claim. He did not make it unseasonably, but waited till "a good day" (a festive occasion on which men were usually disposed to be generous), and then sent ten young men to offer him a courteous greeting, state the case, and humbly seek as a favour what might have been demanded as a right (vers. 6-8). He appealed to what was noblest and best in the man.
5. The conscious power which he displayed. "Greet him in my name" - a name well known in Israel as that of a faithful, though persecuted, servant of Jehovah. Not a word escaped his lips, indeed, on this or any other occasion concerning his royal destiny. But he knew the strength of his position (see ch. 26.), which was very different now from what it was at the beginning of his wanderings, was manifested in his whole bearing, and especially in the marriage relationships into which he entered (vers. 42 44).
6. The increased renown, which he bad acquired. The words of Abigail (vers. 28-31) expressed the growing conviction of the godly in Israel that David was destined to be their theocratic ruler. She may also have "received certain information of his anointing and destination through Samuel, or one of the pupils of the prophets" (Keil).
7. The Divine restraint by which he was kept from doing what would have imperilled or interfered with his future honour and happiness (ver. 26). When God has an important place for a man to fill, he prepares the way to it and prepares him for it, and a part of his preparation consists in his being taught faithful cooperation with the Divine purposes. - D.
1 Samuel 25:2-39. (MAON, CARMEL)i.e. a stupid, wicked, and godless man. "According to the Old Testament representation folly is a correlate of ungodliness which inevitably brings down punishment" (Keil). He is such an one as is described by the Psalmist (Psalm 14:1), often mentioned by the wise man (Proverbs 17:16; Proverbs 19:1; Proverbs 21:24), called a churl by the prophet (Isaiah 32:5-7), and referred to by our Lord in the parable (Luke 12:13-21). What a contrast between his appearance and that of Samuel!
I. HIS ADVANTAGES WERE GREAT.
1. He belonged to a good family. "He was of the house of Caleb," who "wholly followed Jehovah God of Israel," and had "a part among the children of Judah." But he inherited none of the better qualities of his illustrious ancestor. "A good extraction is a reproach to him who degenerates from it." Religious privileges also (such as he enjoyed from his connection with Israel), unless rightly used, only serve to increase condemnation.
2. He possessed an excellent wife; "a woman of good understanding and of a beautiful countenance," prudent, generous, and devout. "A prudent wife is from the Lord" (Proverbs 19:14). But many a man is little benefited by the gift. His worldly prosperity may be increased by her skilful management of his household (vers. 14, 25), whilst his spiritual condition is not improved by her example, counsel, and prayers. The persistently bad are hardened by their intimate intercourse with the good.
3. He enjoyed immense prosperity. "The man was very great (wealthy), and he had three thousand sheep, and a thousand goats," a palatial residence in Maon, and a house at Carmel (Kurmul), where his business lay (vers. 2, 36). He may have inherited his wealth, or he may have had wisdom enough to know how to make and keep it, industrious himself, and profiting by the industry of others; it is not improbable from his language concerning slaves (ver. 10) that he was one of those usurers and oppressors from whose exactions many of David's men sought to free themselves by flight (1 Samuel 22:2). "Here we may see the fickle and uncertain state of the world" (Willet); "the wicked in great power" (Psalm 37:35), and the good oppressed (Psalm 73:10). But "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15). His abundance should make him thankful to God and generous to men. It has often, however, the reverse effect, and "the prosperity of fools shall destroy them" (Deuteronomy 8:10-20; Proverbs 1:32).
II. HIS CHARACTER WAS WORTHLESS. "The man was churlish" (hard and harsh) and evil in his doings (ver. 3).
1. He had evidently no thought of God as the living, ever-present One, the true King of Israel, the Author and Preserver of his life, the Giver of all his blessings, the moral Ruler to whom he was responsible for their proper employment. What was material and sensible was to him the only reality. He recognised in practice no will superior to his own, and lived "without God in the world."
2. He was regardless of the claims of other people; despising those who were beneath him in social position, headstrong, and resentful of every word which his servants might say to him in opposition to his way and for his good (ver. 17); illiberal toward the needy, unjust and ungrateful, "requiting evil for good" (ver. 21); disparaging the character and conduct of others (vers. 10-12), and railing upon them (ver. 14) in coarse and insulting language. "His wealth had not endowed him with common sense; but, like many in our own day, he imagined that because he was in affluent circumstances he might with impunity indulge in rude, ill-mannered sneers at all who were around him" (W.M. Taylor).
3. He lived for himself alone; regarding his wealth as his own ("my bread and my water," etc.), using it only for himself; making an ostentatious display ("the feast of a king"), and indulging in intemperance, "the voluntary extinction of reason." "So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
III. HIS END WAS MISERABLE (vers. 36-39).
1. He was overtaken by death very suddenly and unexpectedly, and when he was unprepared for it. "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee," etc.
2. He suffered the natural penalty of the course which he had pursued.
3. He was consigned to his grave without honour. Whilst "all Israel mourned" for Samuel, none lamented him. Learn that -
1. The worth of a man consists not in what he has, but in what he is.
2. Wealth entails on its possessor a serious responsibility for its proper use.
3. The inequalities of men's earthly position disappear in the light of truth and eternity. - D.
1 Samuel 25:10. (CARMEL.)
I. THE NATURE OF THE RELATION. It has been aptly illustrated in the following language: - "A party of friends, setting out together upon a journey, soon find it to be the best for all sides that while they are upon the road one of the company should wait upon the rest, another ride forward to seek out lodging and entertainment, a third to carry the portmanteau, a fourth take charge of the horses, a fifth bear the purse, conduct, and direct the route; not forgetting, however, that as they were equal and independent when they set out, so they are all to return to a level again at the journey's end" (Paley, 'Mor. Philippians,' book 3.). The relation is confined to life's journey alone.
1. It is, in some form or other, necessary and mutually beneficial. The benefit received is really greater on the part of masters than servants.
2. It must of necessity vary with the circumstances of those among whom it exists. Hence the Mosaic law tolerated and regulated a species of slavery (though no Hebrew could become other than a "hired servant" for a specified lime); but "no other ancient religion was ever so emphatically opposed to it, or at least to all inhumanity connected with it, or made such sure preparations for its abolition" (Ewald, 'Antiquities').
3. It always involves mutual obligations. These "nowadays" are often neglected. The tie between master and servant (mistress and maid, employer and employed) is not what it once was. There is less dependence on the one hand, and less authority on the other. Each complains of the other: "servants are careless and too independent;" "masters are too exacting and selfish." And the relation can only be what it ought to be by their common submission to "the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).
1. Obedience - lowly, respectful, cheerful; always in subordination to the supreme will of God. This is the first duty of a servant.
2. Diligence in performing the work given them to do, with attention and earnestness, and in the best possible manner, "And be content with your wages" (Luke 3:14).
3. Faithfulness to the trust committed to them, seeking their masters' interests as their own; honesty, thorough sincerity, "as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart."
2. Consideration, respect, courtesy, kindness, seeking their physical, moral, and. spiritual welfare. "Thou shalt not rule over thy servant with rigour" (Leviticus 25:43). And a mere money payment is not all that a fellow creature is entitled to expect, or an adequate compensation for his services.
3. Consistency; acting in accordance with their position, reproving wrong doing, setting a good example, exercising their authority and influence as a trust committed to them by God and in obedience to his will. Those who expect to receive honour must seek to make themselves worthy of it. Let both learn -
1. To be less observant of the faults of others than of their own.
2. To be more concerned about fulfilling their duties than insisting on their rights.
3. To look for their chief reward in the approbation of God. - D.
1 Samuel 25:14-42. (CARMEL.)Proverbs 31:10-31). "Where do we find in all the heathen world a woman comparable with Abigail, the daughter of the wilderness?" She was a woman of -
1. Superior intelligence, practical wisdom, prudence, tact, and good management. "Of good understanding" (ver. 3). The part she took in the affairs of her husband is evident from the servants telling her of the threatening danger (ver. 17), and her apology (ver. 25). Her discretion was also shown in her reserve (ver. 19).
2. Prompt decision, energy, and activity. "Abigail made haste," etc. (ver. 18). Not a moment was lost, and she was promptly obeyed.
3. Unaffected humility, meekness, modesty, and self-devotion. "She fell before David on her face," etc. (vers. 23, 41). Her meekness and patience must have been greatly tried by the temper of Nabal, and had doubtless previously averted many a disaster.
4. Noble generosity and sacrifice. "Two hundred loaves," etc. (ver. 18). She felt that no sacrifice was too great to save her husband and his household. "David's men and David felt that these were not the gifts of a sordid calculation, but the offerings of a generous heart. And it won them, their gratitude, their enthusiasm, their unfeigned homage" (Robertson).
5. Conciliatory, faithful, eloquent speech, and pacifying, beneficent influence (vers. 24-31). Having taken the blame upon herself (as intercessor), and referred to her husband "with that union of playfulness and seriousness which above all things turns away wrath" (Stanley), she directed the thoughts of David to God, by the leadings of whose providence she had been sent to divert him from his purpose, utters the wish flint he to whom vengeance belongs would avenge him, humbly begs the acceptance of her offering for his young men, and beseeches his forgiveness. Then (assuming her prayer to be granted) she assures him of the brilliant future that awaited him, inasmuch as he would fulfil the purposes of Jehovah, and not his own; that, should any one seek to do him harm, Jehovah would preserve him in safety, and punish his adversaries; and that when he should be "ruler over Israel" it would be a source of comfort, and not of trouble, to him that he had not shed blood causelessly, nor taken vengeance into his own hand. Finally she says, "And Jehovah will do good to my lord, and thou wilt remember thine handmaid" (for good) - "remember the things which I have spoken" (Dathe). No dissuasions from revenge could be more effective.
"When a world of men 6. Exalted piety; faith in the righteousness and goodness of God, his overruling providence, and the establishment of his kingdom (see the song of Hannah), devotion, spiritual insight, manifested in this appeal, and in her whole conduct (Proverbs 31:26, 30). It is not surprising that, after the death of Nabal, "David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife" (ver. 39). - D.
6. Exalted piety; faith in the righteousness and goodness of God, his overruling providence, and the establishment of his kingdom (see the song of Hannah), devotion, spiritual insight, manifested in this appeal, and in her whole conduct (Proverbs 31:26, 30). It is not surprising that, after the death of Nabal, "David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife" (ver. 39). - D.
1 Samuel 25:29. (CARMEL.)
1. The bundle of life, or the living (the word bundle, tseror, being used once before of the bag or purse of money which each of Joseph's brethren found in his sack of corn, Genesis 42:35), signifies the society or congregation of the living out of which men are taken and cut off by death (Barrett, 'Synopsis of Criticisms'). It contains those who possess life, continued and prosperous life, in the present world in the midst of the dangers to which they are exposed, and by which others are taken away from "the land of the living" (Isaiah 4:3). Life is a gift of God, and its continuance is presumptive of his favour.
2. What is here desired and predicted concerning them is based upon their moral distinction from other men. They are, like David, servants of God, and differ from others, as David from Saul and Nabal, in their character and conduct. They constitute the community of the godly in "this present evil world," and "their names are written in heaven."
3. They are of inestimable worth in the sight of God. He values all men because of their capacity for goodness, but much more some on account of their actual possession of it. Their worth surpasses all earthly possessions and distinctions. "The whole system of bodies (the firmament, the stars, the earth, and the kingdoms of it) and spirits together is unequal to the least emotion of charity" (Pascal).
4. They are his special possession; belong to him in a peculiar manner, because of what he had done for them "above all people," and their own voluntary devotion to him. "Know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself." "The Lord taketh pleasure in his people," and calls them "my jewels" (Malachi 3:17).
5. They live in intimate communion with him. "A people near unto him" (Psalm 148:14); "bound up in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God."
6. They are preserved safely from the malicious designs of their enemies, and from all evil. "Should a man arise to pursue thee and seek thy soul," etc. The expression is derived from the common usage of men, who put valuable things together and keep them near their persons to prevent their being lost or injured. "Your life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3).
7. They have a common participation in the strength and blessedness afforded by his presence and favour. Their life is of the highest kind - life in the truest, fullest sense, directly derived from him who is "the Fountain of life," and involving all real good. "In thy presence," etc. (Psalm 16:11.) The life of others is but "a race to death," and they are "dead while they hive."
8. They are designed for useful service; not merely to be looked upon and admired, but employed according to the will of the owner. It is for this that they are preserved.
9. They have "the promise of eternal life." Their spiritual fellowship with God and with each other in this life is an earnest of its continuance and perfection in the life to come. "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." The pious Jew dies with the words of the text upon his lips, and has them inscribed upon his tomb. "Whosoever is so hidden in the gracious fellowship of the Lord in this life that no enemy can harm him or injure his life, the Lord will not allow to perish, even though temporal death should come, but will then receive him into eternal life" (Keil). "And so shall we ever be with the Lord."
10. Their destiny (like their character) is the opposite of that of the ungodly. "Concerning the bodies of the righteous it is said, 'He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds' (Isaiah 57:21); and of their souls it is said, 'And the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God.' But concerning the bodies of the wicked it is said, 'There is no peace, saith God, to the wicked.' And of their souls it is said, 'And the souls of thine enemies, them shall he sling out, as out of the middle of a sling'" (Talmud, quoted by Hurwitz). - D.
I. THE FIGURE OF SAFETY. A soul bound up in the bundle of life with Jehovah. What could a Nabal's churlishness, or even a Saul's pursuit, avail against a man whose life God guarded by night and day? If we use Abigail's phrase we extend its meaning. The question with her was of David's preservation to fill the throne of Israel; but it is not for us under the New Testament to set our hearts on earthly rank. Our treasure is in heaven. Our inheritance is reserved for us till our Lord's return. Our days are few and uncertain. But we have an eternal life, freely given to us in Christ Jesus; and the bundle of life means for us the unity of all the living ones in Christ, the totality of the life which "is hid with Christ in God." They who are bound up therein have been taken out of the bundles of sin and death, extricated from what is evil and therefore doomed to destruction, and have been by the power of the Holy Ghost joined to Christ and the Church. Happy day that sees this done! Strong security that follows! Who is he that can harm us if we are Christ's, bound up in the bundle of life with God our Saviour?
II. THE FIGURE OF REJECTION. Abigail made no further reference to Nabal. He was her husband, and in no case could he be formidable to David. All she asked was that the son of Jesse would magnanimously overlook his churlishness. But the whole country rang with reports of the angry pursuit of David by the king', and Abigail predicted that his enemies would have discomfiture and rejection from the Lord his God. With rare felicity of allusion she spoke of their souls as flung away, as a stone is cast "out of the middle of a sling." The very mention of the weapon with which David had gained his first great success must have stirred his faith and courage. The figure, as the history shows, was remarkably appropriate to the career of David's chief enemy, Saul. "As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool" (Proverbs 26:8). Now honour had been given to Saul. He was anointed and exalted to the throne, and yet was at heart unwise and disobedient. So was the stone laid in the pan of a sling. After a while we see the stone whirled round in the sling, i.e. we see Saul troubled and tossed - wayward, disturbed, passionate, insanely jealous. The end was now drawing near, and the stone was about to be east out of the sling in despair and death on Mount Gilboa. On vers. 32, 33 Dr. South has left us a sermon entitled, 'Prevention of sin an invaluable blessing.' In the "application" of it the preacher shows that a much higher satisfaction is to be found from a conquered than from a conquering passion. "Revenge is certainly the most luxurious morsel that the devil can put into a sinner's mouth. But do we think that David could have found half the pleasure in the execution of his revenge that he expresses here upon the disappointment of it? Possibly it might have pleased him in the present heat and hurry of his rage, but must have displeased him infinitely more in the cool, sedate reflections of his mind." Another point which South enforces is that the temper with which we receive providential prevention of sin is a criterion of the gracious or ungracious condition of our hearts. "Whosoever has anything of David's piety will be perpetually plying the throne of grace with such like acknowledgments as - Blessed be that Providence which delivered me from such a lewd company or such a vicious acquaintance! And blessed be that God who cast stops and hindrances in my way when I was attempting the commission of such and such a sin; who took me out of such a course of life, such a place, or such an employment, which was a continual snare and temptation to me! And blessed be such a preacher and such a friend whom God made use of to speak a word in season to my wicked heart, and so turned me out of the paths of death and destruction, and saved me in spite of the world, the devil, and myself!" - F.
1 Samuel 25:32, 33. (CARMEL.)
1. Between the purpose to transgress and the intended act of transgression there is usually an interval, and in that interval there may occur physical restraints, rendering the act impossible but not affecting the purpose or disposition; or moral restraints, affecting the purpose, and often altering it and thereby preventing the act. The latter alone truly tests and reveals the character. And of this nature was the restraint put upon David when he was on his way to inflict vengeance on Nabal and his household for the affront which he had received.
2. His terrible purpose seems surprising after his forbearance toward Saul (1 Samuel 24:7, 22). But the conquest of temptation is not unfrequently the occasion of subsequently succumbing to it. This happens when any one supposes that he is no longer in danger from it, and ceases to watch against it, and depend on God for his safe keeping. "David was not secure against the temptation to personal vengeance and to self-help, although he had previously resisted it. The lesson of his own weakness in that respect was all the more needed that this was one of the most obvious dangers to an ordinary Oriental ruler (1 Samuel 24:21). But David was not to be such, and when God in his good providence restrained him as he had almost fallen, he showed him the need of inward as well as of outward deliverance, and the sufficiency of his grace to preserve him from spiritual as from temporal dangers" (Edersheim). Consider special moral restraints as -
I. MUCH NEEDED EVEN BY A GOOD MAN, because of -
1. External incentives to sin. The language of Nabal was adapted to excite anger and revenge, as his servant plainly perceived (ver. 17).
2. Sudden impulses of passion, under which one of ardent temperament especially is in danger of taking a rash oath (ver. 22), and rushing towards its accomplishment without fully considering what he does, or "inquiring of the Lord" whether it is right.
3. Natural deficiency of strength to resist temptation, and natural liability to self-deception. Reason and conscience should always hold the rein, but how often is it torn from their grasp by fiery passions! David probably also thought for the moment that it was right to avenge the wrong which had been done; but even if Nabal's offence were the greatest conceivable, he was not yet constituted king and judge of the people, much less ought he to inflict so fearful a vengeance for a private offence. "Lord, what is man? What need have we to pray, Lord, lead us not into temptation!"
II. VARIOUSLY VOUCHSAFED ACCORDING TO HIS NEED. What is most needed is the restoration of reason and conscience to their proper place and power, and this is often brought about by -
1. Providential circumstances, leading to reflection and the recognition of the will of God.
2. Wise and faithful counsel (vers. 26-31), indicating that will, addressed to conscience, and persuading to the adoption of a worthier course.
3. Inward influence, exerted by the Spirit of God, giving the inclination and strength to walk in "the good and right way." "Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man," etc. (Job 33:29). And with him whose heart is not "fully set to do evil" he worketh not in vain.
III. GRATEFULLY ASCRIBED BY HIM TO GOD. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel," etc. He is grateful to the messenger of God, but first and chiefly to God himself; and his gratitude is sincere and fervent on account of ?
1. The evil which has been prevented.
2. The good which has been conferred.
3. The abounding mercy which has been experienced.
Do you think that any one will praise God in heaven with so loud a voice as I shall?" said one (who had been speaking of the course of flagrant transgression from which by Divine mercy he had been reclaimed). "Yes," was the reply, "I hope to do so, because by Divine mercy I have been kept from it." "It is not a converting, but a crowning grace; such an one as irradiates and puts a circle of glory about the head of him upon whom it descends; it is the Holy Ghost coming down upon him in the 'form of a dove,' and setting him triumphant above the necessity of tears and sorrow, mourning and repentance, the sad after-games of a lost innocence" (South, 'Prevention of Sin an Invaluable Mercy'). - D.