The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.The Reconciliation of Saul
WE have considered the discipline of the anointed man. Without attempting to cover the whole ground of David's trials, we laid down a few general principles showing that men need to be taught their weakness as well as their power. David, the deliverer of Israel, was hated and pursued by the very man who should have honoured and loved him most. "Saul said, I will smite David even to the wall;" "Saul said, Let the hand of the Philistines be upon him;" "Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines;" "Saul became David's enemy continually;" "Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David;" and whensoever Saul heard of the course of David's wandering, his heart burned with the fury of vengeance. This is a glimpse of the life of an anointed man. Truly, there be mysteries in human life which seem to shut out as with a wall of darkness the whole idea of God and spiritual government. In winter it is difficult to believe that in a few weeks the land will blush with the glowing colour of sweet flowers; in the blackness of night it is not easy to suppose that presently there will be a great flame in the heavens, and the sunny air will be full of singing birds. It is so with our poor life. God gives one great conquest into our hands, and then drives us away as with a furious wind of anger or contempt—a wind which often blows out the lamp of our hope, or throws down the tree whose shadow promised rest. It is in such hours that the heart's pain is turned into questions, and those questions are made bitter by the hopelessness, not of philosophical, but of experimental atheism. David says to us: Study my life; look how God dealt with me; put your trials into one scale, and mine into the other. "I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." Thus one man lives for many, and the sorrow of one soul gathers up the felt but unspoken woe of many generations. Let us try to find out something in the bitterness of David's experience which will help us more manfully and hopefully to live out our own few days.
1. Whilst the good man sees his own perils, let him also see the restraints which are put upon the wicked. Saul is mighty; Saul has servants; Saul is accustomed to dip his sword in human blood; yet he cannot hit David! Saul's javelin is shivering in the wall there. He meant it to pierce David's head. Saul was just on the point of slaying David, but that fact shows the nearer presence of spiritual defence. "When Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands." Why should we always look at the peril? Why not look at the escape, and find in its very narrowness the clearest proof of divine care?
2. Let the bad man put to himself some serious questions respecting the restraints which limit his power. Saul should have learned a good deal from the failures which followed each other in rapid succession. If enmity could have killed the Church, where would the Church have been this day? Fire, sword, bondage, hunger, torture, darkness—all have been tried. "Others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented." And still their life rose up before men, a temple of God's building, beautiful as light, high as heaven. Why do the heathen so furiously rage? Evil is a gigantic failure; is there not a cause?
3. Though mediation may fail in carrying out its purposes, yet let no wise mediator suppose that his work is in vain. Jonathan was mediator between Saul and David. Mark his repeated and severe discouragements. Looking at it on one side, he might well have abandoned his work as a failure. What of its influence upon David? How it cheered him like a light! How it soothed him like the music of a better world! Be some man's true friend. No word of love is lost. No true ministry is a failure, though it may have aspects which are discouraging.
4. Observe the infinite superiority of power that is moral, as compared with power that is physical. Saul went to seek David upon the rocks of the wild goats. In his pursuit he came to the sheepcotes where there was a cave, and into that cave he entered, little knowing who was there (chap. xxiv.). Read the story. Saul lifted up his voice, and wept. What a difference between this and a mere fight of hostile weapons! (1) In the worst men there is something that may be touched; (2) in every life there is at least one opportunity of showing the real quality of the heart. David seized it. This is the sublime appeal of the Gospel. God does not crush us by mere power. Love, truth, persuasion,—these are the weapons of God's warfare.
Day by day we are in the power of God. We enter no cave where he is not: on the high, silent mountain, in the deep, shadowy valley, in the den of the wild beast, and in the nest of the eagle, there he is. When the lightning flashes, he says to the wicked man, See, with this I could have struck thee blind. When the storm howls madly across sea and desert and forest, he says: See, with this I could throw down thy dwelling-place, and bury thee in its ruins. But "as I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?"
Almighty God, seeing that we are reconciled to thee by Jesus Christ, thy Son, our infinite Saviour, we will be glad in the house of thy choice, and sing aloud in the quiet sanctuary. Thy mercies surround us like a water of defence, and as streams that nourish the soul's life. Where they are, no drought can ever be. We praise thee for goodness upon goodness, higher than the great mountains; for blessing upon blessing, like the waves of the deep sea. Thou nourishest us; therefore are we strong: thou watchest us; therefore the enemy is kept at bay. When we sin against thee, thou dost weep over us like a grieved parent; and when we do that which is right, thou beamest upon our hearts more than the sun beameth in his strength. We praise thee; we love thee; our love is even deeper than our sin; purify us by the blood of the One Sacrifice, and fill our whole life with the sanctifying power of God the Holy Ghost Amen.