Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel.
1. The abject condition of the country when the War of Independence began.
2. The age of Jonathan. Jonathan appears in the War of Independence as the captain of a thousand and one of the most heroic warriors of the nation; and as such he could hardly have been less than twenty years of age. That would make him, if Saul had only reigned two years, eighteen years of age when his father was elected king.
3. The sad deterioration in the character of Saul. The character of Saul, as displayed in the War of Independence, is in marked contrast with that portrayed in the early part of his history. As a young man in the beginning of his career, he was meek, humble, considerate, and self-restrained; but in the War of Independence he is impatient, imperious, cruel, and rash. And according to the Latin proverb, Nemo repents turpissimus est — no one becomes wicked all at once — the period of little more than a year is much too short to account for this baleful and disastrous change. As the sacred writers are in the habit of giving the age of each king, and the length of his reign — there are no fewer than thirty-seven illustrations of this in the Old Testament — it seems extremely probable that this was what was actually done in this passage. And I am convinced that the passage originally stood thus: "Saul was thirty years old when he began to reign; and he reigned forty years over Israel." My reasons for thinking so are the following: —(1) The testimony of Paul. He said to the Jews in the synagogue at Antioch, in Pisidia: "And afterwards they asked for a king: and God gave unto them Saul, the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for the space of forty years" (Acts 13:21).(2) The simple way in which the text might be corrupted. There is the strongest ground for believing that the numbers wore originally written, not in words, but in letters which were used as numerals. (See Keil on Samuel in loc.) The Hebrew letter for forty was Mem, and for two Beth; and, as the two letters in the ancient Hebrew characters are not unlike, the copyist might easily mistake the one for the other, and put into the text the letter for two instead of the letter for forty.(3) The period of forty years seems needful to account for all the facts of the history. It seems to explain best the age of Jonathan, the deterioration in the character of Saul, the abject condition of the country under the Philistines when the War of Independence began, and the fact that Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, was forty years of age when he began to reign at Mahanaim (2 Samuel 2:10). Saul might marry Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz, shortly after his confirmation in the kingdom; and from this union Jonathan might be born towards the close of the second year haul, the abject condition of the country under the Philistines when the War of Independence began, this national struggle would take place in the twenty-third year of Saul's reign. The contrast between this national gathering at Gilgal and that which took place when Saul was anointed king is very striking. Then there was a full muster, but now it is comparatively meagre. Then the people were flushed with victory, but now they are trembling with fear. Then the future was all bright, but now it is all dark, with hardly one gleam of hope. The truth seems to be that Saul's difficulty lay, not in forcing himself to act, but in restraining himself from acting for nearly the whole of the seven days. Saul's justification of himself was plausible, and might be deemed satisfactory before an earthly tribunal; but Samuel, who was inspired by the All-seeing One, treated it as altogether worthless. The kingdom, instead of descending to his eldest son, as it would have done, had he been faithful, was to be given to another whom God had chosen, and who was to be a man after His own heart. And if we are right in supposing that the War of Independence occurred in the twenty-third year of Saul's reign, David would then be a boy at Bethlehem about thirteen years of age
Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed.1 Timothy 1:16): — The figure of Samuel is scarcely ever presented to us alone. In childhood it is ever set in contrast with the wicked practices of those sons of Eli. Those young men defiled with sin the sanctuary of God: that child adhered to duty in the very presence of their ill example. In manhood and old age, the prophet is ever confronted with the king; the messenger sent to select, to anoint, to counsel, at last to warn and to reprove, to judge and to condemn, with the unhappy object of all these ministrations; whose advancement seemed in the fore view so full of honour and of happiness, but was made by his ungoverned temper and perverse self-will so ruinous to his own peace and to his people's welfare. The king had been expressly charged to await the coming of the prophet to offer an offering in Gilgal. It was a trial of fidelity and obedience. If Saul really believed that the direction was from God, and if he was really anxious to obey God, he would wait. If he allowed any other considerations to come in, considerations of self-interest, of expediency, of what was reasonable or probable apart from the command, then, tried as he was to be, he would certainly anticipate the ceremony, and not wait. The seven days ran their course, and there was no sign of Samuel's approach. Meanwhile the people were discouraged. Accordingly the king's resolution gave way. There was some excuse, considerable temptation, no slight admixture of better motives, some superstition, some religion, some sense of the necessity of God's help, much neglect of God's directions as to the proper way of securing it. Saul's fell on this occasion through the operation of a principle (if so it can be called) which is natural to all of us, the principle of impatience. How many errors, faults, and sins, in our lives, spring out of this source! We scarcely ever do a thing (as we express it) in a hurry, without having afterwards to regret it. Nothing so done is likely to be well done. A thing may be done quickly, and well done, but not hurriedly, not in impatience. How many things have to be done twice over, because they were not done once quietly! Sometimes out of a little momentary act of haste springs a misunderstanding never to be cleared up, a quarrel never to be reconciled, an injustice never to be repaired. It is thus that impatience shows itself in the little daily acts of life: but it has a still more serious influence upon life's greater changes. Every condition of life has its less pleasant side: those who think they have a right to a portion wholly agreeable fret under these alloys of enjoyment, and can sea almost nothing else in the lot assigned to them. Every rank and every age is liable to this feeling. A servant has become dissatisfied with his present position, and in the hurry of his impatience he suddenly resolves to make a change: how often, how often, for the worse! He has changed perhaps a kind master for one cold and considerate, a Christian home for a worldly, a safe place for one full of temptation, and in point of comfort, meanwhile, he has gained nothing. He would fain have returned, but the door is closed, and even if he could, pride would not let him. And how often has a man of mature age erred, and marred his life, through the very same impatience! Keenly alive to the trials of his present position he has greedily seized some opening for change. Bitterly may he one day regret that unthankful spirit of human impatience, which doubled the aggravations of the then known and present, and blinded him to the certain dangers of the then untried and future. But most of all is the working of this mind seen, as it was seen in King Saul, when there is not only a lurking imprudence but also a lurking disobedience. It was not merely that Saul was too much in a hurry, and did that precipitately which he might have done quietly: he showed the strength of his impatience by letting it interfere with and overbear a plain command of God. And how often now is the same sin committed! A man impatient of what is, is in no safe state for choosing what shall be. To say nothing of things positively forbidden, choices which can only be made by absolute sin, there are many things wrong for the individual though not wrong for another, and of which God, in the manifold workings of conscience and of His Spirit, leaves us not in ignorance or forgetfulness. But, like all God's admonitions, these may be overborne, and often are so. There is yet, perhaps, a just application of the history before us to the subject of human impatience in matters more entirely and purely spiritual. There is a strong yearning in the heart of man for the realisation of God. We long, and it is right to do so, for something more than a mere book knowledge or a mere head knowledge of Christ and of His salvation. We would believe, not because of the saying of another, but because we have seen Him for ourselves, and know that He is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. But, O how many, in the sickness of a hope deferred, have at last discarded it; in the impatience of nature, they have said at last. The happiness, the blessedness, of a realised conviction is not for me: they have either ceased to look for it, and gone back into the world of sense and sin, or they have accepted some lie in its place; have put their trust in forms or in shadows, in things external and ceremonial. Thus, in one way or another, after waiting their seven days almost but not quite to a termination, they have despaired of the promised advent of comfort and illumination; they have seized some offering of their own, and offered it instead of that which God hath provided; they have satisfied conscience and stifled the Spirit. Human impatience has forced itself into things spiritual, and destroyed for the soul itself God's best and highest gift. I have reserved the last few words of my sermon for that beautiful and touching thought which should correct as well as contrast with the impatience of man, the thought, I mean, of the long suffering of Christ. St. Paul gives this as the object with which he, once a blasphemer and a persecutor, he the chief of sinners, had obtained mercy, that in him first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering for a pattern to those who should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting. If Jesus Christ were impatient like us, where should we be at this time — where, and what? His ways are not as our ways: if He dealt with us at all as the very best deal with one another, there is not a man upon earth who would live to grow up: one and twenty years of such provocation would be absolutely impossible. But to all things there is an end. A day of grace implies a morning, a mid-day, and an evening; implies too a deep dead midnight when all work has stood still, when all prayer is silent. Let patience have her perfect work, the patience of Christ which so long calls you to repentance.
(C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)
Plain Sermons by Contributors to the, Tracts for the Times.We are all on our trial. Every one who lives is on his trial, whether he will serve God or not. Saul is an instance of a man whom God blessed and proved, as Adam before him, whom He put on his trial, and who, like Adam, was found wanting. Before Saul went to battle, it was necessary to offer a burnt sacrifice to the Lord, and to beg of Him a blessing on the arms of Israel. He could have no hope of victory, unless this act of religious worship was performed. Now priests only and prophets were God's ministers, and they alone could offer sacrifice. Kings could not, unless they were specially commanded to do so by Almighty God. Saul bad no leave to offer sacrifice; yet a sacrifice must be offered before he could fight; what must he do? He must wait for Samuel, who had said that be would come to him for that purpose. What a great trial this must have been! Here was a king who had been made king for the express purpose of destroying the Philistines; he is in the presence of his powerful enemy; he is anxious to fulfil his commission; he fears to fail; his reputation is at stake; he has at best a most difficult task, as his soldiers are very bad ones, and are all afraid of the enemy. His only chance, humanly speaking, is to strike a blow; if he delays, he can expect nothing but total defeat. Yet he is told to wait seven days; seven long days must he wait; he does wait them; and to his great mortification and despair, his soldiers begin to desert. Yet does be govern his feelings so far, as to wait all through the seven days. So far he acquits himself well in the trial; he was told simply to wait seven days, and in spite of the risk, he does wait. Though he sees his army crumbling away, and the enemy ready to attack him, he obeys God; he obeys His prophet; he does nothing; he looks out for Samuel's coming. But now, when his trial seemed over, behold a second trial — Samuel comes not. The prophet of God said he would come; the prophet of God does not come as he said. Why Samuel did not come, we are not informed; except that we see it was God's will to try Saul still further. O that he had continued in his faith! but his faith gave way, when his trial was prolonged. When Samuel did not come, there was no one of course to offer sacrifice; what was to be done? Saul ought to have waited still longer, till Samuel did come. He had had faith in God hitherto, he should have had faith still. He who had kept him so safely for seven days, why should He not also on the eighth? however, he did not feel this, and so he took a very rash and fatal step. That step was as follows: since Samuel had not come, he determined to offer the burnt sacrifice instead of him; he determined to do what he could not do without a great sin; viz, intrude into a sacred office to which he was not called; nay, to do what he really could not do at all; for he might call it a sacrifice, but it would not be really such, unless a priest or prophet offered it. This is a crime often denounced in Scripture, as in the case of Korah, and Jeroboam, and Uzziah. Korah was swallowed up by the earth on account of it; Jeroboam had his hand withered, and was punished in his family; and Uzziah was smitten with leprosy. Yet this was Saul's sin. You see, if he had waited but one hour more, he would have been saved this sin; in other words, he would have succeeded in his trial instead of failing. But he failed, and the consequence was, he lost God's favour, and forfeited his kingdom. How much is there in this melancholy history which applies to us at this day, though it happened some thousand years ago! We are, like Saul, favoured by God's free grace; and in consequence we are put on our trial like Saul — we are all tried in one way or another; and now consider how many there are who fall like Saul.
1. How many are there who, when in distress of any kind, in want of means, or of necessaries, forget, like Saul, that their distress, whatever it is, comes from God; that God brings it on them, and that, God will remove it in His own way, if they trust in Him: but who, instead of waiting for His time, take their own way, their own bad ways, and impatiently hasten the time, and thus bring on themselves judgment! Sometimes, telling an untruth will bring them out of their difficulties, and they are tempted to do so. They make light of the sin; they say they cannot help themselves, that they are forced to it, as Saul said to Samuel; they make excuses to quiet their conscience; and instead of bearing the trial well, enduring their poverty, or whatever the trouble may be, they do not shrink from a deliberate lie, which God hears.
2. Again, how many are there who, when in unpleasant situations, are tempted to do what is wrong in order to get out of them, instead of patiently waiting God's time! What is this but to act like Saul? he had very little peace or quiet all the time he remained in presence of the enemy, with his own people falling away from him; and he, too, took an unlawful means to get out of his difficulty.
3. Again, how many are there who, though their hearts are not right before God, yet have some sort of religiousness, and by it deceive themselves into an idea that, they are religious! Observe, Saul in his way was a religious man; I say, in his way, but not in God's way; yet his very disobedience he might consider an act of religion, He offered sacrifice rather than go to battle without a sacrifice. An openly irreligious man would have drawn up his army and fallen upon the Philistines without any religious service at all. Saul did not do this; he desired to have God's blessing upon him; and, while he felt that blessing to be necessary, he did not feel that the only way of gaining it was seeking it in the way which God had appointed. Thus he deceived himself; and thus many men deceive themselves now; not casting off religion altogether, but choosing their religion for themselves, as Saul did, and fancying they can be religious without being obedient.
4. Again, how many are there, who bear half the trial God puts on them, but not the whole of it; who go on well for a time, and then fall away! Saul bore on for seven days, and fainted not; on the eighth day his faith failed him. O, may we persevere to the end! Many fall away. Let us watch and pray.
5. Once more, how many are there, who, in a narrow, grudging coldhearted way, go by the letter of God's commandments, while they neglect the spirit. Instead of considering what Christ wishes them to do, they take His words one by one, and will only accept them in their bare necessary meaning. They are wanting in love. Saul was told to wait seven days — he did wait seven days; and then he thought he might do what he chose. He, in effect, said to Samuel, "I have done just what you told me." And, in like manner, persona now-a-days, imitating him, too often say, when taxed with any offence, "Why is it wrong? Where is it so said in Scripture? Show us the text:" all which only shows that they obey carnally, in the letter and not in the spirit. How will all excuses, which sinners now make to blind and deaden their consciences, fail them in the Last Day! Saul had his excuses for disobedience. He did not confess be was wrong, but be argued; but Samuel with a word reproved, and convicted, and silenced, and sentenced him. And so in the Day of Judgment all our actions will be tried as by fire.
(Plain Sermons by Contributors to the "Tracts for the Times.)
I. THE NATURE OF THE SIN ITSELF DEMANDS EXPLANATION. We find Samuel saying to Saul, in prospect of the kingdom, "And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry till I come to thee, and show thee what thou shalt do." Now, from the whole tenor of the narrative, we conclude that this direction was not intended to apply to any one single occasion, but that it was to be a general rule for his guidance; that whenever a difficulty arose Saul was to proceed to Gilgal, as a place of religious resort, and to wait there for Samuel's arrival, which, he was given to understand, might not be until seven days had expired. Looking, then, at this requirement, we are at once struck with the abundant wisdom which is manifest in it. It was a simple but a very significant way of telling Saul that he was not an independent monarch — that he must not act as though he were — that as he was Divinely appointed, so he must consent to be Divinely guided — and that Samuel was to be the medium through which this guidance was go be obtained. This requirement, therefore, was a test by which it might be ascertained whether or not there existed in Saul's bosom an acquiescence in God's plan. In the same way, all Divine precepts become tests of character. If they are followed out, they afford the proof of a spirit of obedience; if they are neglected, they expose the lurking spirit of opposition. And now the time of emergency had come — the Philistines were up in arms — the public danger was great Saul is found at Gilgal — Samuel does not arrive — Saul is impatient Not a moment longer will he wait. He did not mind running the risk of offending God: and be sure, that when even the possibility of doing wrong can be lightly viewed — when, there being a doubt even, we take advantage of that doubt to gratify our own passions, rather than act on the principle of denying ourselves in case we should be wrong — be sure, that when we do this, our hearts have begun to be callous, the searing process on our conscience has already commenced. And then, as it often happens in such cases, Saul had scarcely committed himself to the wrong course before he was detected. It is clear that his conscience told him that he was wrong, from the vain excuses which he made. He told Samuel that he did it reluctantly — "I forced myself." He charges Samuel with delay and want of punctuality. "Thou camest, not within the days appointed." He assigned a religious motive — "I had not made my supplications to the Lord." Here we see that sort of special pleading which always shows a consciousness of guilt.
II. THIS FIRST WRONG STEP PROVED FATAL TO THE PROSPECTS OF SAUL. Is it objected that the penalty was severe, for not waiting a little longer than he did, till Samuel arrived? We answer, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" And though we should never volunteer a justification of the Divine proceedings as though they needed this, yet, we may find that there is a power in such thoughts as the following, to throw light on the Divine dealings in this case.
1. Sin is not estimated by God according to its outward form, but according to the amount and extent of the principle of evil embodied in that form. There may be as much of downright rebellion against God in what men would call a little sin, as in a series of what, they would describe as flagrant offences.
2. The first wrong step is always marked by a peculiarity of evil which does not attach to any subsequent offence. Men are accustomed to palliate the first offence, because it is the first: a more accurate estimate would show that this habit of judging is thoroughly erroneous and fallacious. There is more to keep a man from committing a first offence, than there is to keep him from committing a second or any subsequent criminal act. The impression of the command is at least one degree deeper than it can possibly be after it has been trifled with. The first sin involves the taking tip of a new position, and this is harder work than to maintain it. It is assuming a character of disobedience, and this requires more hardihood than to wear it when it has been once put on. It is breaking through consistency, which is a strong barrier so long as it is unbroken; but if once broken through, sin becomes easy. It is the first offence in any particular direction which Satan aims at inducing us to commit; that sin committed, the habit of doing right is broken through, and the next offence in the same direction will be easier. It is to this point that he addresses his most specious plea, "Only this once," — "The first time, and it will be the last." But did it ever prove to be the last? All history says, No; and loud, among other evidence, is the testimony of the narrative of Saul. Have we been brought into the right path, and tempted to forsake it, then be this our answer — "No! not even the first step will I venture again out of the path of duty."
(J. A. Miller.)
(H. O. Mackey.)
(H. O. Mackey.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed.
(W. O. Blaikie, D. D.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.Romans 12 fin.; 1 Corinthians 10:13.) The prophet was mouthpiece of Divine law: the king its administrator and executor. Prophet superior to king in respect of religious observances. Saul's difficulty continually recurs, plain commands of God not to be slighted or disobeyed for less plain ones. In this incident we find something right in Saul, and something wrong.
I. WHERE SAUL WAS RIGHT. He was in great distress, and felt need of Divine aid. (Psalm 60:11.) He was for seeking it in ordinances appointed. Christ's sacrifice on cross our great peace offering, to be presented in faithful, intelligent prayer. (St. John 14:6 fin.) Do not stay at a mere dull, diffused sense of wanting pardon. So, if need enlightenment, seek it in Holy Scripture (St. John 5:39); if spiritual refreshment, at Holy Communion. Ordinances have their proper value, rightly used. Thus Saul was right.
II. WHERE SAUL WAS WRONG. Elements of his fault: Want of faith; contrast Gideon (Isaiah 28:16); superstition as to sacrifice. Nowadays, many value ordinance of religion quite independently of state of heart in the person using it. Saul relied on the form only. "Sacrifice must be offered!" No! It is not the objective but the subjective that is of highest importance; the formal is useless without the spiritual. Heart first. (Isaiah 1:10-20; James 4:3; St. John 4:24; Psalm 51:9, 10.) Saul misapprehended the object and effect of religious ordinances. It is not the thing done, but the obedient spirit of the doer which obtains. (Psalm 50:18.) No mechanical influence upon God by prayer, etc. Ordinances are not charms, but channels of grace when rightly used. Therefore Saul disobeyed. Sin never necessary. Contrary notion arises from cowardice, or from superstition, or from some other want of intelligence Since Saul's fault was superstitious distrustfulness, seek from Holy Spirit an intelligent reliance on the general promises of God, and an intelligent obedience to the plain commands.
(Cornelius Witherby, M. A.)
And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord.
I. IN THE EARLY BEHAVIOUR OF SAUL, after the period when he is introduced in the Scriptures to our notice, THERE IS MUCH TO PREPOSSESS US IN HIS FAVOUR. The fruit, however, corresponds little with the blossom. The impressions produced by early symptoms in Saul of moderation end of respect for his sovereign Benefactor are soon to be effaced. Though Saul by his disobedience respecting the sacrifice has incurred the forfeiture of the kingdom, yet God, ever merciful and long-suffering, forbears to commission Samuel to anoint a successor to the throne, and is willing to grant to the unworthy prince an opportunity of reinstating himself in the Divine favour. Samuel, by the direction of the Most High, now commands Saul to execute the long predicted vengeance. To the conduct of Saul throughout the whole of this transaction can a name more appropriate than folly be ascribed? Can any fact be ascertained more clearly than the identity of folly and sin? Saul is now an outcast from the Divine favour. He is permitted to retain the kingdom during his life; but judgment in its most terrible form delays not to overtake him. The Spirit of the Lord departs from him. How shall the life of Saul be summarily described? I have sinned; I have played the fool; I have erred exceedingly. Whose are these words? The words of Saul himself in his latter days. Do you require stronger testimony to the identity of folly and sin?
II. From the foregoing history, SEVERAL IMPORTANT OBSERVATIONS MAY BE DERIVED.
1. We learn, in the first place, not to repose blind and premature confidence on some few promising appearances as to piety. Let every symptom favourable to the supposition that religion is the ruling principle in the character of another be cordially welcomed, and judiciously encouraged. But learn to guard your willing hopes from degenerating into sanguine credulity. Conceive not that examples of religious consideration on some particular occasions are proofs that religion is firmly and durably established in the bosom. Gold is not known to be genuine, until it has stood the test of fire. The crop is not estimated by the blade, but by the harvest. Wait until religion has for some time been tried by the temptations of life, before you pronounce on its reality.
2. Consider in the next place the guilt of impatiently endeavouring to attain a present good by departing from the way of God's commandments. Everything which is not conformable to His revealed will is evil. Are you involved in difficulty or trouble? Abide thou in the track of righteousness. This is the way. Walk thou in it. Turn not aside to the right hand or to the left. Abide thou in the track of righteousness: wait thou the time of the Most High, and in His Own time and by the track of righteousness the Most High shall guide thee to peace and to salvation.
3. Behold, thirdly, the guilt of rash resolutions and vows. In concerns of importance that which is resolved hastily is commonly resolved foolishly. But whenever, like Saul, a person forms a determination, or fetters himself by an engagement, under the precipitate impulse of passion, seldom shall a considerable time elapse before he perceives reason for deep and lasting regret.
4. Mark the heinousness of fearing man rather than God. What sin is more general? What sin is more conspicuously arrayed in the attributes of folly?
5. Lastly, let the example of Saul admonish you to frequent meditation on the consequences of disobeying God.
(Thomas Gisborne, M. A.)
2. He had acted foolishly. This was more than thoughtlessness. It was disobedience. "There are," says Dr. Kitto, "two kinds of fools prominently noticed in Scripture, — the fool who denies that there is any God, — the fool that saith in his heart, 'There is no God: — a text which suggests the remark, that if he is a fool who says this 'in his heart,' a much greater fool is he that utters the foolish thought. This is one. There is another, — the fool who does not obey God, though he does not deny His existence. And yet, after all, these are but one. If we probe the matter closely, we shall find that there is scarcely more than an impalpable film of real difference between the foolishness of the man who says in his heart there is no God, and that of the man who does not render Him obedience. One may as well believe that there is no God, as not obey Him.
3. The conduct of Saul was the test of his dynasty. He failed, therefore he was cut off. His house was doomed by reason of his sin. His kingdom could not be established. Samuel made the announcement of his fall to the guilty king: "Now thy kingdom shall not continue." It was not to be an absolute monarchy. It was to he dependent on the will of God, and thus far constitutional to the people. But Saul was not equal to the task of forming a model monarchy for the people of God. He had ability enough, but he lacked principle. He had advantages enough, but he lacked loyalty to God. Therefore, his dynasty was to cease in himself. On first sight, the offence seems small and the punishment heavy. And the question may arise, "Why did God so severely punish Saul for so small an offence, and that occasioned by great necessity, and done with an honest intention, as he professed?" Pool has given the following answer: "First, men are very incompetent judges of God's judgments." Men see nothing but Saul's outward act, which seems small; but God saw with how wicked a mind and heart he did this; with what rebellion against the light of his own conscience, as his own words imply; with what gross infidelity and distrust of God's Providence; with what contempt of God's authority and justice, — and many other wicked principles and motives of his heart, unknown to men. Besides, God saw all that wickedness that yet lay hid in his heart, and foresaw all his other crimes; and therefore had far more grounds for his sentence against him than we can imagine. Secondly, God doth sometimes punish small sins severely, and that for divers weighty reasons; as that all men may see what the least sin deserves, and how much they owe to God's free and rich mercy for passing by their great offences; and what need they have not to indulge themselves in any small sin, as men are very prose to do, upon vain presumptions of God's mercy, whereby they are easily and commonly drawn on to heinous crimes.
4. Conformity to the heart of God is necessary to the soul's blessedness. This was its original beatitude, and this is the result of regeneration. Without holiness we cannot see or enjoy God. The man after God's heart only can enjoy the bliss of fellowship with God. "This likeness is a vital image" — not the image only of Him that lives, the living God, but it is His living and soul-quickening image. It is the likeness of Him in that very respect, an imitation and participation of the life of God, by which, once revived, the soul lives that was dead before. It was not a dead picture, a dumb show, an unmoving statue; but a living, speaking, walking image, — that wherewith the child is like the Father, and by which it lives as God, speaks and acts conformably to him; an image, not such a one as is drawn with a pencil, that expresses only colour and figure, but such a one as is seen in a glass that represents life and motion. The hope of being thus like God gives energy to the Christian in his struggles with sin, and attraction to the many-mansioned home. This conformity is attainable in character, and it is more promotive of bliss than intellect or power. We can be born again. This experience is the introduction of the soul to the life of God. The man after God's own heart was to be the captain over His people. Saul was quite unfit for this. David was the elect of God. His heart was right.
But now thy kingdom shall not continue.
1. To teach us the heinous nature of sin in its self, so hateful to God, and so hurtful to men, that we may abhor all the degrees of it.
2. To show us, that indeed no sin can truly be called a little sin, because there is no little God to sin against; therefore to disobey the great God even in the smallest matters is a ground great enough, and a sin great enough to procure God's severity.
3. That we may not indulge ourselves in the least sin, as we are prone to do in presuming on God's mercy, lest God punish us for them, and lest little sins make way for greater, as little wedges make room for the more massive ones, and little thieves serve to open the doors for the grand crew.
4. That we may all learn the riches of Divine grace and free mercy, in passing by and pardoning such great iniquities in us, when we find the rigour of justice executed upon others for far lesser faults recorded in scripture.
5. That an honest intention will not warrant an unwarrantable action, as some suppose Saul had in sacrificing; two things make a godly man, good actions and good aims.
1. Are there then any tokens which specially mark out for us our appointed work? Now to answer this question we must glance at those distinctive features of our national life which sever us from other people. The first of these is our insular position; for this at once confines us within narrow bounds at home, and facilitates the formation of those distant settlements by which alone we can provide for increasing numbers. Further, the same cause makes it well-nigh impossible that we should be a great military nation, and naturally leads, as the condition of national defence, to our becoming strong in naval power: Further, the natural characteristics of our people tend to produce the same result. In many of the highest gifts bestowed on other tribes of men we are manifestly deficient. We have not the keen sense of beauty which has ere now enabled Greece and even Rome to exalt our race. But we have the gifts of a hardy, industrious, enterprising genius. We are fitted, apparently by innate disposition, to be great subduers of nature's rebellious and reluctant but conquerable powers. And when any external agency has threatened to destroy these powers, as when Spain and its Armada, or France at the head of a continual system of exclusion, would have destroyed our naval greatness, some direct interpositions of Providence have thwarted their designs. The natural course of such influences has led us on, first to the establishment of distant factories, and then to those factories growing into settlements, and from them turning into colonies, which hays sometimes grown into mighty nations. Now what special charge would such a national organisation seem naturally to suggest as having been providentially committed to our hands? Surely at once it suggests that we are to be employed by God as the bearers of some message to every race and tribe. Not more evidently does the possession of great military power wielded by a single despotic will, mark a people as charged with the avenger's office; not more evidently do eminent gifts of genius mark a nation as charged to educate its brethren, than do our special faculties, instincts, and relations to the great family of man mark us as the bearers of some message through the world. What then can be the message to bear which we have been so eminently fitted? Let the spiritual blessings God has given us supply the answer to this question.
2. And if here we pause but for one moment, to ask how we, as a nation, have fulfilled this our vocation, how appalling is the answer! Have we not encircled the earth with the girdle of our settlements? Is it not true that as from east to west the morning sun awakens to new life the successive nations, the drum roll of English soldiers follows round the world its rising light? And what, with all this, have we clone for God? Alas, how tardy, how scanty, how interrupted, how unsystematic, how timid, how faithless have been our services! How readily and how plentifully have we sown our vices and diseases broadcast over a suffering world! How feebly, alas, have we planted amongst its nations the living seed of God's truth in God's Church! if it be so with us, why tarries yet the day of retribution, why sleep the thunders of judgment? Is our present prosperity but the deep calm before the wild triumph of the hurricane? God only knows, my brethren, how close to us may be that fearful time of uttermost rejection. If to our startled gaze were now opened revelations such as those which fell at Patmos on the beloved St. John, we perhaps might see the mighty angels of vengeance withholding, but, as for a moment, the four winds of heaven, to see whether Britain would repent and do God's work. Here then plainly is our nation's calling and our nation's risk.
3. And if this indeed be our vocation, what are the especial duties binding upon us if we would rise up to its greatness? May it please God to bring them home in all their power to some who listen to them. Now beyond all question the first of all requisites for the delivery of such a message is that we have received it thoroughly ourselves. Here then, alike for the teacher and the taught, is our first, necessity; that the truth of God in all it, purity, with a loving spirit and a patient reiteration, be proclaimed and inculcated; that every lawful means be used, in season and out of season, to reproduce amongst, ourselves men of the true apostolic stamp. Next to this we need to learn to feel, and to make others feel, how mighty are the issues for our own people, and for a waiting world, which hang on our fidelity or faithlessness.
(Bishop Samuel Wilberforce.)
The Lord hath sought Him a man after His own heart.
(H. Goodwin, M. A.)
I. IT IS PLAIN BY A REFERENCE TO THE CONTEXT THAT THE TITLE "AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART" WAS ONLY COMPARATIVE, NOT ABSOLUTE. Meant that, by the side of Saul, David was the man who attracted favour and confidence of God. The faith by which he walked with God; gained the victory over Goliath; became at all worthy to be God's vicegerent; remained unconquered, though not unhurt, through many a defeat and fall, through a life-long struggle.
II. TITLE WAS GIVEN HIM IN EARLY DAYS, BEFORE HIS LIFE HAD BECOME OVERCAST WITH THE CLOUD OF SIN AND ERROR. "The Lord hath sought Him a man," etc. And when God found him he was still the David of the 23rd Psalm. Do not say that God did not love him after his fall, or did not give him large praise until his death, and after his death. But he is certainly never called the man after God's own heart again.
III. DAVID'S REPENTANCE WAS FAR MORE DEEP THAN APPEARS ON THE SURFACE OF THE NARRATIVE. How deep and true it was we know from 51st Psalm, which has supplied so many millions of penitent souls with very words they wanted.
IV. IT IS MOST NECESSARY TO BEAR IN MIND, IN CONSIDERING THE CAREER OF DAVID, THE SEVERITY OF PUNISHMENT WHICH FOLLOWED UPON DAVID'S SIN. Let anyone look at David's old age, and say whether the justice of God is not an inexorable and an awful thing. For every sin there is forgiveness, but for all that it may be that every sin leaves its mark, its effect for ill.
(R. Winterbotham, M. A.)
(J. C. Coghlan, D. D.)
I. AS A TYPE OF CHRIST.
3. Chosen out of the people (Psalm 89:19).
I. AS AN EXAMPLE TO US IN HIS OWN CHARACTER.
1. Two qualifications Godward.(1) Transparent. (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Chronicles 28:9; 1 Chronicles 29:17; John 1:47-50). This is the Old Testament grace of "perfectness," compatible with much failure and sudden falls, but implying a heart sincere in purpose and true to God. Perhaps the best illustration is the mariner's compass, the needle of which, under all circumstances, turns towards the pole.(2) Unobtrusive. 1 Samuel 16:11; Judges 6:13-16).
2. Five qualifications manward (1 Samuel 16:18).(1) Cunning in playing = talents improved.(2) A mighty, valiant man = energies developed.(3) Prudent in matters = common-sense exercised.(4) A comely person = graces manifested.(5) The Lord is with him = Godliness displayed This is how David struck a mere acquaintance. And yet he was the youngest, and occupied a lowly place in his own family. (Proverbs 15:38).
(R. E. Faulkner.)
1. First, his repentance. This we naturally look for after his fall with Bathsheba, and the attendant conspiracy against her husband's life. Immersed for a time in guilty indulgence, David seems to have been in that common state which sensuality produces, literally unaware of the extent of his crime. Suddenly, and in the midst of this fancied security, the Prophet Nathan stood before him, and, by a parable almost, unequalled for its truth and tenderness, recalled the king to his senses. Now, if any one of you wish to express his own repentance, or to test its reality, let him use such language as this, and try how far his feelings accord with it. If you can repent in this spirit, you know indeed what repentance is. In fact, the Bible affords no language for the broken and contrite heart equal to this, and other penitential Psalms by David.
2. Now, with regard to David's unwavering faith in God, I may say at once that it was the ruling principle of his life. Everything he deliberately undertook was in simple reliance upon Divine support. Faith with David really was "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen:" it supported him through all the vicissitudes of a strangely chequered life, and spread a halo of hope around his departing spirit. After making allowance for the minute record of his human failings — a publicity which most men happily escape — and for the partial revelations which visited the times in which he lived, we find no character in Scripture so full, perhaps, of unwavering faith in the goodness and promises of God as David!
3. The last point which I shall notice in the character of this extraordinary person is his generous and noble feelings; and most, strikingly were these displayed in David's connections both with Saul and his son Jonathan. The former regarded David as his deadliest enemy; the latter loved him as his bosom friend. In the study of the life of David the lesson which has struck me, and which I would inculcate upon you, is the extraordinary difference betwixt David and mankind in general, in all the good points for which he was eminent; for it would appear that, though we can imitate him in his crimes, in his faith and humility we widely differ from him: and thus we have a sort of prurient interest about all his weaknesses, fancying we see in them some justification for our own; whilst with his excellencies we are comparatively unacquainted, because they rebuke and cry shame to us at every step in life. Why David was the favourite of God rather than any of us, is, therefore, very clear: we partake the condemning sinfulness of his fallen nature; but we do not join him in penitence, in humility, and in faith. Our repentance is commonly mere shame and worldly discomfiture; no real change of mind, and therefore requiring to be repented of, our trust we give to the world and its trifles rather than to God. In business we are lively, earnest, and active; but in prayer we are cold and doubting. The records of David's piety are before us in the Psalms — compare with these the remembrance of your best devotional exercises, and you will see how we differ from him. If there be this difference betwixt you and David which I have attempted to show you, still delude not yourselves with the fancy that a higher standard of excellence was demanded from him than is expected from you. As to this matter there is but one rule — "Be ye perfect as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect," and for this every one of you must strive. The standard for all men is the highest possible. Finally, remember one other thing, which the example of David has taught us, with regard to progression upon the heavenly road: whatever be your peculiar temptations, or your besetting sins, you must commence a spiritual reformation — you must seek the renewing of your minds by prayer and spiritual exercises, or you will seek to grow better in vain. Our Lord enjoined the Pharisees to cleanse first the inside of the cup and the platter; and David, with the same conviction, prayed — "Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me." This, believe me, is the only way to become a Christian here, or to inherit glory, immortality, and icy hereafter.
(A. Gatty, M. A.)
Homilist.Was the character of David after God's own heart? Conventional pietists will to a man say, Yes. The most thoughtful, independent, and critical students of God's Book will to a man say, No. We say, No, for the following reasons: —
I. Because the affirmative is a REFLECTION OF GOD'S HOLINESS. Sin is the "abominable thing" which the Almighty hates, hates everywhere, and in every form David had his virtues, as most bad men have; but few men in history were guilty of more heinous crimes. He was guilty of falsehood, cruelties, adulteries, murders His whole nature at times seemed flooded and fired with the spirit of revenge. It is blasphemy to assert that such a character was after the heart of infinite purity We say, No.
II. Because the affirmative is UNSUSTAINED BY THE WORD OF GOD. The text which is the passage quoted in its favour does not mean it. The expression, "after His own heart," does not mean after His own approval, but after His own counsel. "He worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." Indeed, when these words were uttered David was not born. The Almighty used David as He used Cyrus, Alexander, Caesar, etc., after His own "heart," that is, after the counsel of His own will. We say, No.
III. Because the affirmative is FRAUGHT WITH MISCHIEF. The thoughtful worldling says, "All right; if God approves of a man whose history is so full of meanness, revenge deception, ungovernable lust, and bloodshed, we cannot be far wrong."
The spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies.
I. THAT IT IS WHEN MEN ARE UNPREPARED THAT TEMPTATIONS COME. When "there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people," that was the time that the spoilers came out. Temptations assail us on our weakest side, and at the most unexpected moment. The sin that most easily besets us is the sin that comes upon us when we are in idleness and ease, in no way prepared for a spiritual conflict.
II. THAT TEMPTATIONS, THOUGH VERY DISTINCT, ARE OFTEN DIFFICULT TO SEPARATE FROM EACH OTHER, AND TO INDIVIDUALISE. These spoilers came out of the camp in three companies, and they are not named nor individualised. Sins glide so into each other that it is frequently difficult to analyse any particular offence amidst so confused a mass. Lavish benefactions, for instance, may be given from thoughtless generosity, from true charity, or from ostentation. Who can tell which of these is the actuating motive in any particular case? Not even, often, the doer himself. It is the same with our sins and vices. It is difficult to assign the true place, and therefore the real guilt, of any particular one amongst them.
III. THAT TEMPTATIONS COME FROM THREE MAIN CAUSES, THE WORLD, THE FLESH, AND THE DEVIL. The spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies. "The world is too much with us;" its pleasures and its pains continually affect us. The lusts of the flesh unceasingly tend to drag us down. The temptations of Satan, too, are craftily devised to overwhelm us.
IV. THAT THESE TEMPTATIONS OFTEN ARISE FROM OUR SUPERABUNDANCE OF WORLDLY RICHES. These spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines, and this camp was situated at Michmash, which name means treasure. Money is useful if it be usefully employed. Wealth is a great trust, which, if a man employs rightly, he may be a benefactor to his fellow men, and may receive a blessing from God. But it is a great snare, more especially if it has been acquired without much personal merit or much personal exertion on the part of its possessor
V. THAT THESE TEMPTATIONS HAVE THEIR STARTING POINT FREQUENTLY FROM WILFUL AND CONCEITED IGNORANCE. The spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines. A modern author, Matt, hew Arnold, has taken the term Philistine as descriptive of self-satisfied and offensive want of culture. From the fields of ignorance and of thoughtlessness no harvest but a crop of tares can be expected. "Evil is wrought from want of thought, as well as want of heart."
VI. THAT OBEDIENCE IS THE GARRISON THAT KEEPS THESE COMPANIES OF EVIL PASSIONS IN CHECK. The spoilers did not come out of the camp of the Philistines to spread like devouring grasshoppers over the land of the children of Israel until Saul had disobeyed the Divine command given to him through Samuel. So, as long as we follow the plain line of duty, and act in obedience to the strict letter as well as to the real spirit of the law of God, we shall be little liable to the assaults of sin. It is when we palter with truth, equivocate with conscience, enter into dalliance with some evil passion, that we are ensnared by temptation. In the "Pilgrim's Progress," as long as Christian kept on the highway, he was safe; it was only when he strayed into the byways of error that he fell into the power of Giant Despair, and was immured in the dungeons of Doubting Castle.
(R. Young, M. A.)
Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel.
I. I learn first from this subject, HOW DANGEROUS IT IS FOR THE CHURCH OF GOD TO ALLOW ITS WEAPONS TO STAY IN THE HANDS OF ITS ENEMIES. We are too willing to give up our weapons to the enemy. The world boasts that it has gobbled up the schools, and the colleges, and the arts, and the sciences, and the literature, and the printing press. Infidelity is making a mighty attempt to get all our weapons in its hand, and then to keep them. You know it is making this boast all the time; and after a while, when the great battle between sin and righteousness has opened, if we do not look out we will be as badly off as these Israelites, without any swords to fight with, and without any sharpening instruments. I call upon the superintendents of literary institutions to see to it that the men who go into the class rooms to stand beside the Leyden jars and the electric batteries, and the microscopes and telescopes, be children of God not Philistines. We want to capture all the philosophical apparatus, and swing around the telescopes on the swivel, until through them we can see the morning star of the Redeemer, and with mineralogical hammer discover the "Rock of Ages," and amid the flora of all realms find the "Rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley." Recapture these weapons. Let men of God go out and take possession of the platform. Let the debauched printing press of this country he recaptured for Christ, and the reporters, and the type setters, and the editors, and publishers be made to swear allegiance to the Lord God of Truth.
II. Again, I learn from this subject WHAT A LARGE AMOUNT OF THE CHURCH'S RESOURCES IS ACTUALLY HIDDEN, AND BURIED, AND UNDEVELOPED. The Bible intimates that that was a very rich land — this land of Israel. It says: "The stones are iron, and out of the bills thou shalt dig brass," and yet hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of this metal was kept, under the hills. Well, that is the difficulty with the Church of God at this day. Its talent is not developed. The vast majority of Christians in this day are useless. The most of the Lord's battalion belong to the reserve corps. The most of the crew are asleep in the hammocks. The most of the metal is under the hills. O, is it not time for the Church of God to rouse up and understand that we want all the energies, all the talent, and all the wealth enlisted for Christ's sake? I like the nickname that the English soldiers gave to Blucher, the Commander. They called him "Old Forwards." We have had enough retreats in the Church of Christ; let us have a glorious advance. And I say to you tonight, as the General said when his troops were affrighted. Rising up in his stirrups, his hair flying in the wind, he lifted up his voice until 20,000 troops heard him, crying out: "Forward, the whole line!"
III. Again: I learn from this subject, THAT WE SOMETIMES DO WELL TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE WORLD'S SHARPENING INSTRUMENTS. Let us go over among sharp business men, and among sharp literary men, and find out what their tact is, and then transfer it to the cause of Christ. If they have science and art it will do us good to rub against it. In other words, let us employ the world's grindstones. We will listen to their music, and we will watch their acumen, and we will use their grindstones; and we will borrow their philosophical apparatus to make our experiments, and we will borrow their printing presses to publish our Bibles, and we will borrow their rail trains to carry our Christian literature, and we will borrow their ships to transport our missionaries. That was what made Paul such a master in his day. He not only got all the learning he could get of Doctor Gamaliel, but afterward, standing on Mars Hill, and in crowded thoroughfare, quoted their poetry, and grasped their logic, and wielded their eloquence, and employed their mythology, until Dionysius the Areopagite, learned in the schools of Athens and Heliopolis, went down under his tremendous powers. That was what gave Thomas Chalmers his power in his day. He conquered the world's astronomy and compelled it to ring out the wisdom and greatness of the Lord, until for the second time, the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.
IV. Again, my subject teaches us ON WHAT A SMALL ALLOWANCE PHILISTINE INIQUITY PUTS A MAN. Yes; these Philistines shut up the mines, and then they took the spears and the swords, then they took the blacksmiths, then they took the grindstones, and they took everything but a file. O, that is the way sin works; it grabs everything. It begins with robbery, and it ends with robbery. It despoils this faculty and that faculty, and keeps on until the whole nature is gone. Was the man eloquent before, it generally thickens his tongue. Was he fine in personal appearance, it mars his visage. Was he affluent, it sends the sheriff to sell him out. Was be influential, it destroys his popularity. Was be placid, and genial, and loving, it makes him splenetic and cross; and so utterly is he changed that you can see he is sarcastic and rasping, and that the Philistines have left him nothing but a file. So it was with Voltaire, the most applauded man of his day. Seized with hemorrhage of the lungs in Paris, where be had gone to be crowned in the theatre as the idol of all France, he sends a messenger to get a priest, that he may be reconciled to the Church before he dies A great terror falls upon him. He makes the place all round about him so dismal that the nurse declares that she would not for all the wealth of Europe see another infidel die. Philistine iniquity had promised him all the world's garlands, but in the last hour of his life, when he needed solacing, sent tearing across his conscience and his nerves a file, a file. So it was with Lord Byron. Is it not so, Herod? Is it not so, Hildebrand? Is it not so, Robespierre? Aye! aye! it is so; it is so. "The way of the wicked He turneth upside down." History tells us that when Rome was founded, on that day there were twelve vultures flying through the air; but when a transgressor dies, the sky is black with whole flocks of them. When I see sin robbing so many of my hearers, and I see them going down day by day, and week by week, I must give a plain warning.
V. I learn from this subject WHAT A SAD THING IT IS WHEN THE CHURCH OF GOD LOSES ITS METAL. These Philistines saw that if they could only get all the metallic weapons out of the hands of the Israelites all would be well, and, therefore, they took the swords and the spears. They did not want them to have a single metallic weapon. When the metal of the Israelites was gone their strength was gone. This is the trouble with the Church of God today. It is surrendering its courage It has not got enough metal
(T. De Witt Talmage.)