And from that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father's house.
1 Samuel 18:1-30. (GIBEAH.)1 Samuel 14:50) into the presence of Saul, "with the bead of the Philistine in his hand." He appears to have been unrecognised by the king, perhaps because of the alteration that had taken place in his personal appearance. Henceforth he resided at Gibeah (ver. 2), where he remained for two or three years. The court of Saul, while unlike that of Solomon, half a century later, was not destitute of worldly show, and was marked by the obsequiousness, self-seeking, emulation, and intrigue which too often prevail in such places, especially when the monarch is capricious, proud, and without the fear of God (1 Samuel 22:6, 7). David's connection with it was of great importance in relation to the position which he was destined by Divine providence to occupy; continued his education for it; and afforded (as every promotion to high place does in its measure a wider scope for -
I. THE EXERCISE OF ABILITY.
1. Outward circumstances, though they may not create eminent ability, serve to call it forth. Much excellence doubtless exists, but is never displayed on account of the absence of favourable conditions.
2. Great genius is shown in one who has the faculty of adapting himself to varied positions in life and their varied requirements.
3. The proper use of power strengthens it and develops it to perfection.
4. The humble, faithful, and efficient discharge of duty in one position prepares the way for another and a higher. It was thus with David, who passed from the narrow circle of private life to the wider one of public life, from the sheepfold to the palace, from contending against a lion and a bear to military expeditions (vers. 5, 13, 30) against the enemies of Israel, and ultimately from loyal obedience to royal rule.
II. ACQUAINTANCE WITH MEN, and the knowledge of human nature. David was familiar with "fields, and flocks, and silent stars," but needed training in another school.
1. There are few things more valuable than an accurate and extensive knowledge of men: their divers temperaments, tendencies, and capacities; their peculiar excellences and defects; their varied wishes and aims; and underneath all the great principles of humanity that are the same in all.
2. Some circumstances afford special opportunity for the attainment of such knowledge. What a field of observation were the court and camp of Saul to one of such mental activity and profound insight as David!
3. The knowledge of men produces in the heart that is sincere, devout, and acquainted with itself a large sympathy with them in their sorrows, joys, imperfections, and strivings after higher things. Of this sympathy the psalms of David are a wonderful expression.
4. It is necessary to the knowledge of the most effectual methods of dealing with them - one of the most needful and desirable qualifications in a ruler.
III. THE TRIAL OF PRINCIPLE. David, no less than Saul, must be put to the test, and his fidelity to Jehovah tried as silver "in a furnace of earth."
1. Trial is needful to prove the reality of principle, and manifest its strength and brightness.
2. One trial is often followed by another and a greater. The royal favour into which David was suddenly raised was as suddenly succeeded by royal jealousy, hatred, and craft. Surely no man was ever more fiercely assailed by temptation.
3. When endured aright, in faith and obedience, trial, however painful, is morally beneficial.
4. The victory which is gained over one temptation is an earnest of a victory over the next. The triumph of humility in David was followed by that of simplicity, patience, and forbearance.
IV. ADVANCEMENT IN POPULAR FAVOUR (vers. 7, 16, 30), which, in the case of David, paved his way to the throne; though he neither coveted nor, during the life of Saul, put forth any effort to gain that object.
1. A course of wise and prosperous action, as it well deserves, so it generally obtains the approbation of the people.
2. Such a course of action ought to be aimed at, rather than the popular favour with which it is attended.
3. The favour of the people is to be valued only in subordination to the favour of God, and in so far as it accords with it.
4. Popular favour should be regarded not as an end in itself, but as a means of promoting the Divine glory and human welfare. - D.
What is my life?
I. IS MY LIFE A NEW LIFE? Amongst the Hebrews the birth of a child was an occasion of gladdest joy. Its birthday was a festival. So now "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." If we are in Christ we are new creatures, old things are passed away; old ideas of life, old habits of life, old associations of life — all things are become new. Another world has come into sight, as clearly as this world came into the view of the blind man to whom Jesus gave sight. I do not say the old life is altogether gone. No. The silkworm's winter skin clings to the moth until it is ready to spread its wings and soar away, and much of the old nature clings to the Christian till he is ready to "depart and be with Christ, which is far better." Paul felt the old man still clinging to him. "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" So shall we. But for all this, the new life is there. We love prayer, we love God's house, we love to talk with Christ; we bear the blossoms in us of the better life — the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace.
II. IS MY LIFE A DIGNIFIED LIFE? Yes! Dignified! Have we come to this, that we think ermine-clad judges, and purple-clad rulers, alone have dignified estate? Let me hope not! It was once thought a great dignity to be a Roman citizen — but there was a greater dignity. I am a man! sounds a deeper depth of dignity than I am a Roman citizen. Yes, and what the world wants just now is to feel this: the dignity of life, as life. Why the greatest physical wonder in creation is man; and the greatest moral wonder is man. Do you think if men and women felt this, that our towns and cities would be disgraced as they are by lascivious songs and dances at our places of public entertainment, or by debasing drunkenness, or by hollow-hearted profanity, which misnames itself wit? Do you think, if the dignity of life itself was properly estimated, that men would not rather be bankrupt in cash, than bankrupt in character? Men would say, Think what manner of men we are; and pointing to the lofty hills, or the all-surrounding sea, they would say: these shall perish, but we shall remain.
III. IS MY LIFE A DIVINE VOCATION? I hold, with Mr. Ruskin, that we were never sent into this world to do anything into which we cannot put our hearts. That is a serious statement, and not to be adopted without reflection; but I for one believe it to be quits true. Now let us remember that every honourable vocation is a Divine vocation; that circumstances and fitnesses constitute the calling of God, the voice speaking to us and saying "Son, go there." If we miss this, we shall come to artificial ideas of vocation.
IV. IS MY LIFE A PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY? Is it like imprisoned air, that once released returns to the universal atmosphere? Is it like the tiny mountain rill which flows into the great river, and thence into the wide sea? Is it, that is to say, in any personal sense mine? Upon our answer to this depends our deliverance from all these Pantheistic ideas of God, which make Him the great Spirit of the Universe; all life being His life, and our own spirits only part of the great spirit, departing at death to its central source. Now the Bible declares emphatically our personal and unalterable individuality, and our consciousness accords with this. We are, in the strictest sense of the word, separate existences, and when we depart hence we shall be separate existences still. Any property we may possess, be it large or small, changes hands at death; we brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we shall carry nothing out. But we do not lose ourselves; thought, conscience, memory, remain the same, I cannot change my life for yours, nor can you change with your brother. "What is my life?" Is it a dreary fatalism? Our inner life answers with swift decision, — No! Is it the result of influences which have helplessly overborne us? No. The Spirit of the Living God has been nigh to every one of us. Had this poor man cried, the Lord would have heard him and delivered him out of all his troubles.
V. IS MY LIFE A REDEEMED LIFE? It depends upon which side of Redemption you look at it. In one sense, all lives are redeemed lives. Christ is "the propitiation not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world." Christ "died for all." So far then as the Great Atonement is concerned, the oblation was for all. "Once in the end of the world Christ appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." But on the other side of the Redemption comes in our personality again. "Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." Faith then, as you well know, is the condition of redemption, and faith is the trust of the soul in the redeeming Christ. Surely we know whether we have trust or not. In human affairs it is not so hard to tell. I saw a diamond this week, and held it in my hand, which at the African diggings was sold for three thousand five hundred pounds; it had been consigned to an agent here, far away from its finder and possessor. Could that man, across the seas, have any difficulty in deciding if he had trusted his agent here? I trow not And what does Paul say, "I know in whom I have believed, and that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him unto that day." Beautiful are human trusts — in love, in commerce, in friendship — there is poetry enough in human trusts. But there may be failure here. Alas, there often is! But Christ never deserted or failed the soul committed to Him. Never!
VI. IS MY LIFE A MORTAL LIFE. Here again it depends upon which side you study it. On one side it is, "For what is your life, it is even as a vapour which appeareth for a little time and then passeth away." Yes! "All flesh is grass." Yes! "The wind passeth over it and it is gone, and the place thereof shall know it no more." Sad enough on this side is human life. The fairest forms and faces lie tonight amid the clods of the valley. Tennyson's little May Queen sees the hawthorn blossom no more, and the Pride of the Village becomes the prey of worms. It has been ever so. The dark Egyptian beauties, the fair Grecian forms, the proud Roman damsels, descend to the dust. Pharoahs leave their palaces for the pyramids. Caesars leave their purples for the same chambers that their meanest slaves occupy. There, the rich and the poor — the strong and the weak — the servant and the master — all meet together. Few of us like to think of it. The tabernacles we have dwelt in so long, tended so carefully, adorned so constantly, and have come to consider part of our very selves — these must not only die, but become the subjects of corruption tool. "The grass withereth, the flower thereof falleth away." And is this, we may ask, all of life? Did God introduce us into this world, where temptation tries, care wearies, doubt perplexes, sorrow burdens, sickness weakens, bereavement embitters — only to pass through much tribulation to the tomb! Oh! it cannot be! All the teachings of Scripture, all the promises of Christ, all the undying hopes of the human heart, tell us it cannot be. Immortality is the birthright of humanity, and though, during long ages the light of this truth burned dimly, Christ "came to bring light and immortality to light through the Gospel." My life is mortal — and it is immortal too.
(W. H. Statham.)
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