1 Samuel 16:21
When David came to Saul and entered his service, Saul admired him greatly, and David became his armor-bearer.
David Before the KingCanon Hutchings.1 Samuel 16:21
Life in a PalaceDavid Burns.1 Samuel 16:21
The Sweet Psalmist in the Court of SaulC. Bosanquet, M. A.1 Samuel 16:21
David's ReignD. Fraser 1 Samuel 16:1-23
1 Samuel 16:19, 20. (BETHLEHEM.)
David, setting out from his father's house at Bethlehem to go to the court of Saul at Gibeah (a distance of about ten miles), presents a picture of many a youth leaving home for more public life - to enter a profession, learn a business, or occupy a responsible position. Notice -


1. Some such step is necessary. A young man cannot always continue under the paternal roof. He must go forth into the world, be thrown on his own resources, and make his own way.

2. Its nature and direction are commonly determined by his ability and tastes, and the use he makes of early advantages (ver. 18).

3. It is also greatly influenced by the wishes of others. David was sent for by Saul, and sent to him by his father.

4. It is ordered by Divine providence. This was plainly the case with David. And we are as truly the children of providence as he was. God has a purpose concerning each of us.

"There's a Divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough hew them as we will."

5. It opens a wider field for the exercise of natural or acquired abilities, and the attainment of desired objects.

6. It determines in most instances, the subsequent course of life. It is like the commencement of a river; or like the rolling of a stone down the mountain side, the course of which is determined by the direction and impulse which it first receives.

II. THE PROPER SPIRIT in which it should be taken.

1. Due consideration; not thoughtlessly or rashly.

2. Lowly and loyal obedience to rightful claims.

3. Cheerful anticipation of new scenes, duties, and enjoyments.

4. Not unmingled with misgiving and self-distrust at the prospect of new difficulties and trials, and watchfulness against new and strong temptations.

5. Simple trust in God and fervent prayer for his guidance.

6. Firm determination to be true to oneself faithful to God, and useful to men.

"Now needs thy best of man;
For not on downy plumes, nor under shade
Of canopy reposing, fame is won;
Without which whosoe'er consumes his days
Leaveth such vestige of himself on earth
As smoke in air, or foam upon the wave"

(Dante, 'Inferno,' 24.) Consider -

1. That life itself is a setting out in a course which will never terminate.

2. That the manner in which this step is taken will decide your future destiny. - D.

And David came to Saul, and stood before him.
1. We see one seated on a throne, and yet not happy. We see his royal magnificence, and just as plainly we see his knitted brow and wild eye. Let our riches be ever so great, we are not rich enough to buy a house into which trouble cannot come. We wish, with a deep, restless eagerness, for more of the world. Our secret feeling is, that our pains are well spent if the outcome be that we stand higher in the world, or grasp more of it. We are sure that happy circumstances shall bring happiness into our heart. Let us but climb the throne, and we shall sit down pleased. Vain, then, were the lordliest mansion reared for us, and crowded with friends, and stored with plenty, if we already have not a happy heart. "The heart is its own place, and of itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." A heart at one with God, and like His, is the only spring of true joy. Such a heart has God's smile for its light. His praise and the hope of His glory make a music that never wearies us. All outward pleasure is brightened by the bliss within.

2. Once more we turn our eyes on the king, and we see one healed by the world and yet not cured. We see David as he lifts his harp and strikes the strings, and we mark how the music softens the hard lines in that troubled face, and brings a glint of pleasure into that gloomy eye. We see the world's medicine in conflict with man's worst ailment. For the king is not ill in body, but in spirit. His spiritual health is ruined, and the flickering goodness that is left only shows him what might have been, and what ought to be, without arousing any will or power to change He is fatally sick in spirit, but he does not seek a cure by returning to breathe the pure air of Divine truth, and to exercise himself in holy doings. He catches at the advice of his lords, and calls for music. Since the worldly pleasures he has do not please, he is fain to try yet another. And the harp in the skilful hand of David does drive away the throng of vexing thoughts. For the time he enjoys a higher and calmer mood. He indeed is healed by the world, but he is not cured. That is an instance of how the world treats its stricken ones. It can only prescribe the medicine which it has. It offers amusements, business, ambitions, and the like as the cure for ills that are in the spirit, and deeper than such things can go. It is successful in thrilling the nerves, in engrossing the energies, and in thus turning a man's thought away from himself. He is happy, as the sleeper is happy in his dreams. Let the young put themselves beforehand on guard against the world's nostrums for spiritual ills. A harp — a harp is the charm for a spirit in which heaven and hell are at war and eternity at stake! Go not to one who does but trifle with death. If no saintly Samuel is known to you, from whose goodly wisdom you may win guidance, then all the more keenly listen to God Himself, as at the very centre of your being He echoes the words of Jesus, and sends you to that sole Physician of the spirit. Face to face to the sated but unsatisfied man of the world there stands a robust youth. As yet he is fresh to the city and the court. He has been spoken of to the king as a brave and accomplished man. As we look further, and think of his life heretofore and its results, we see a like contrast to the history and character of Saul.

3. We see one who links lowly duty with lofty hope. David felt the stirrings of genius, and the anointing had confirmed him in high hopes, yet he did not despise his crook. He was not forever grumbling that such a clever fellow as he should be condemned to common toil. In the full expectancy of a great future he gave his best energy to the lowly business which now was duty. And the duty of today is ever God's apprenticeship of us for the greater things of the morrow. To kick at the lowly work set before us is to kick down the ladder God has brought to our feet. See how David rose by fidelity to the present. But, unfaltering in his hope, he was not hurried away by it. He did not let it carry him off to the court or the camp in chase of fortune. He bade his eager spirit bide its time. And now, in the due time of God's choosing, and still but following the duty of the hour, David has taken another step forward. He has come to be Saul's minstrel. Let us be faithful to the calls of each day as they come, and we too shall grow royal and reach our own throne. Jehovah is no respecter of persons, but deals with us as wisely and as lovingly as He dealt with His servant David.

4. We see one who links pleasant leisure with rich profit. The shepherd's day was long, but it was not without many spare moments. In that solitude which was full of God this man, like others called to lofty tasks, was made great. Slowly he was ennobled and made royal in heart. Without having seen the court he had a grace which indeed no earthly palace could have given. Not for David alone, but for every youth, fate lies hid in those leisure hours. As he deals with them he is dealing with his whole future. Out of them shall spring his fortune in this life and in the next. Who makes himself worthy of success shall find it at last coming to meet him by the way on which he journeys. And, just as surely, the time which is not filled with good is room kept for evil. It is not merely that the man robs himself of the accomplishments and character and capabilities which might have been his. For lack of noble interests and patient work he deteriorates. He falls beneath himself. And, looking back on this subject, let us be warned from Saul to distrust the world for our peace. Let us copy David and make the Lord our portion. Jehovah is now more easily known and more readily found than in those ancient, days.

(David Burns.)

1. This is a melancholy picture l The collapse of what gave promise of being a brilliant career is very affecting, particularly when it is the result of moral failure (1 Samuel 10:2). What contrast could be sharper than that, which is expressed by the words, "The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him" (ver 14)!

2. But to turn to the other side, how mysterious are the methods of Divine Providence! The successor of Saul is admitted into his presence on account of his musical capabilities Thus natural gifts were made to subserve Divine purposes. Little did David think, when he was playing in the tent of Jesse, that the pastime was a preparation for his future destiny; and evidently little did Jesse think that the youngest of his sons was the one who should be "taken from the sheepfolds" to feed Israel.


1. First he was in a state of dejection. I use the word "dejection," because it is a stronger term than "depression; depression is but a degree of dejection" (Crabb). Then dejection seems to be oftentimes measured by the height of previous exaltation, and so to be a very suitable term in the ease of Saul, Wordsworth says: —

"As high as we have mounted in delight,

In our dejection do we sink as low."

There are those who would go further than this, and describe the king as suffering from "melancholia," and the hypochondriacal term of it. Perhaps the tendency is too common to attribute moral disease to mental. Saul was a disappointed man, and became the prey of his evil passions.

2. But this is only a part of the matter Saul's miserable condition is attributed in the Bible to the workings of an "evil spirit." It is a very unwarrantable method of dealing with the statements of holy Scripture, to assert that this is only the Jewish way of saying Saul was mad. No one can read the New Testament accounts of demoniacs, or our Lord's words as to devil-possession, and be satisfied with such an explanation. The same words describe the departure of the Spirit of God, and the arrival of an evil spirit,.

3. Again, this spirit is said to be "from the Lord," for even over evil spirits God has sovereignty. Satan could not tempt Job without Divine permission and Divine restrictions; his emissaries must therefore be allowed by God to tempt or torment man. This was a part of Saul's punishment; as, bodily and mental disorders are often the penalties of personal sin.


1. Saul, when these spiritual paroxysms were upon him, was soothed and calmed by the sweet strains from David's harp. Commentators say, that this power of music is well known.

2. Such an effect bears testimony to the source from which music had been said to come — the land of peace. Newman could not believe that, such effects as music wrought could be produced by that which is "unsubstantial" and transitory. Similarly, Kingsley says, "Music has been called the speech of angels." Music is a language, a universal language, which appeals to the heart of man; and as it gives expression to every feeling and emotion, so it has the power of calling every movement of the soul into play.

3. But they were the strains of David's harp alone which allayed the commotion in Saul's spirit, and drove off the evil influence. There is music and music. There is music which elevates and calms and spiritualises, and there is music which stirs evil passions and excites sensuous impulses It is music which appeals to what is Divine in man, and lifts up his thoughts and affections to the "far-off land," which has the power by its stern sweetness of pacifying the passions, and dissipating the gloom which hides the face of God.


1. To take warning from the history of Saul, lest through unfaithfulness to God we should forfeit the opportunities of service which He gives us, and so through disappointment become the prey of evil passions and evil powers.

2. To realise the need of watchfulness (Ephesians 6:12).

3. That music in the service of the sanctuary is not for purposes of entertainment, but to lift up the soul to God.

4. Finally, we may surely, with the mystical interpreter, see an image in this incident of the work of Christ, the true David, the Prince of Peace, who came to deliver mankind from the tyranny of Satan, and to restore to peace and harmony those who were distracted by divers lusts and passions; and further, inquire whether we have obtained that peace which Christ came to bring.

(Canon Hutchings.)

The scene changes. "We are no longer sitting among the sheep with David, watching the departure of the prophet, and the dispersion of the guests; we are not now among the home circle in Jesse's house, but in the court of Gibeah. Here is state and grandeur and Eastern magnificence. The king has evidently all the absolute power of an Eastern monarch. But these things will make no man happy; for we read (ver. 24): "The Spirit, of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him." Is it so? that powers and talents are taken from one man and given to another? Are we so far stewards of all our faculties, that if we misuse or abuse them, God will transfer them to our neighbour? The kingdom was taken from Saul, so Samuel had told him, and was given to another. You recollect what our Lord says in the parable of the pounds: "And he said to them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. For I say unto you, That unto everyone which hath shall be given, and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him." The more you act as faithful stewards of your money, your talents, and your faculties, the more God will commit to your trust. But if, like the unjust steward, you "waste your Lord's goods," then you will lose what you have, and be no longer stewards. Sin draws after it many consequences. Little did Saul think that he should lose the kingdom, when he spared the king of the Amalekites; and he never could have foreseen that, fearful visitation that was coming on him. Boast not of your gifts or your mental powers, it needs but for God to remove His hand, and what a multitude of evil spirits may possess our souls! It is only by God's will that we live? What a contrast between Saul returning from the slaughter of the Ammonites, and Saul, as now, a prey to fits of mental derangement! Yes, we are in God's hands, and everything is at His disposal. Now we may be conscious of some power of mind and a consciousness of power, of course, gives pleasure. But a stroke of paralysis might lay us prostrate in a moment; the faculty of speech, the faculty of memory, might be taken from us, and we be enfeebled in mind for the rest of our days. This affliction of Saul's is called "an evil spirit from the Lord." The Spirit of the Lord was gone from Saul, gone because of his sin; and the evil spirit from God had come upon him. The servants prescribe only a half-remedy: the music may drive away his sadness, may restore the balance of his mind; but this, because it cannot bring back the favour of God, will not restore peace to his soul. Only the gospel can give real comfort. And now one of the servants of Saul, perhaps a man with more religious feeling than the rest, mentions David's name. And so David is sent for to the court of Saul. God's purposes are sure to come to pass. When Moses was forty years old, he thought the time had come for him to deliver his brethren; but there were to be forty years of discipline yet both for him and them. When Saul was arrested by the vision on the road to Damascus, he was told of God's designs about him; but many years passed before he was ordained to the apostleship David's faith and patience were put to the test in the interval that elapsed between his anointing and his summons to the court; and now, in a very humble capacity indeed, he enters the palace: he is nothing more than a musician, and afterwards made one of the bodyguard. Music has a wonderful power over the spirit. Saul felt its influence, and his spirit was "refreshed," but he remained the same character; his soul was in no way the better for it. It is very difficult to distinguish between natural sentiment and religious enthusiasm, between genuine spiritual ecstacy and mere sensuous delight. God forbid our church music should not be good of its kind! We ought to offer the best of everything to God; only with this passage in Saul's life before us, let us be careful that while we delight in the singing, we are not insensible to the deep meaning of the words. When you think that a musical service has really been a blessing to your soul, then ask yourself these questions: "Have I been humbled in my own eyes?" "Do I loathe myself?" Is Christ more precious to me as the Saviour who has died for me?" and "Do I feel more abhorrence of the sin that is close and natural to me?" For if you have been excited, but not really moved to humiliation and prayer, the musical service will only have strengthened your natural propensities; and though I say nothing against the singing of the Psalms of David, yet I say thin — and that in the face of the musical taste of the present day — that the effect of a high musical service upon soma natures may be baneful in the extreme. God has given to some of you great talents; mind that, like David, you use them to His glory. Have you beauty? Have you intellect? Have you musical talent? Thank God for every gift: but remember that it is a trust: you may use it in the service of God, or in the devil's service.

(C. Bosanquet, M. A.)

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